Colorado, Utah well represented at NHL draft
Brandon Carlo was just the beginning of a banner weekend in late June for Colorado and Utah at the NHL Entry Draft in Sunrise, Fla.
The former Colorado Thunderbirds and Colorado Hockey Club defenseman was a second-round pick of the Boston Bruins (37th overall) after playing the past two seasons for the Tri-City (Wash.) Americans of the Western Hockey League (WHL) and playing for Team USA at the World Junior Championship over the holidays.
Five more players with ties to the region joined Carlo (Colorado Springs) in hearing their names called by an NHL team.
Former Littleton Hawks defenseman Caleb Jones was selected in the fourth round (117th overall) by the Edmonton Oilers; center Troy Terry (Highlands Ranch), a former Thunderbird and Hawk who is committed to the University of Denver, went off the board next in the fifth round (148th overall) to the Anaheim Ducks; and center David Cotton, who played for the Thunderbirds during the 2012-13 season, was selected by the Carolina Hurricanes in the sixth round (169th overall).
Two goalies were then selected: Former Colorado Rampage and Utah Jr. Grizzlies netminder Garrett Metcalf (Salt Lake City) was a sixth-round pick (179th overall) of the Ducks, and Evan Smith, who played for the Hawks, Thunderbirds and Pikes Peak Miners, was taken in the seventh round (205th overall) by the Nashville Predators.
Here’s a closer look at the five players selected after Carlo:
One of the youngest players in the draft, Terry (Highlands Ranch, 1997-born) continued his meteoric rise from the Hawks to the Thunderbirds, landing on the U.S. National Team Development Program’s (NTDP) Under-18 Team this past season before the Ducks selected him.
“Troy is a tremendously skilled and extremely intelligent hockey player,” said Angelo Ricci, the Thunderbirds’ director of hockey operations and 16U National coach. “He’s a young man who’s not even come close to reaching his potential as a player.”
The 5-foot-11, 160-pounder’s transition to the NTDP halfway through the two-year program caught the attention of Ducks director of professional/amateur scouting Martin Madden.
“He came in as a 17-year-old. That’s a tight-knit group, and that first year is huge. Troy had to come in and fit in as an outsider and earn the trust of his teammates and his coach,” Madden said. “As the season progressed, his responsibilities increased and he continued to grow physically as well. He’s a really smart kid.”
The Ducks also are adding a first-line citizen in the Pioneers commit, according to Littleton hockey director Brian TenEyck.
“Not only was he very difficult to stop as a young player, he was a great leader, on and off the ice,” TenEyck said. “He comes from a great family and is always very respectful. He’s the type of player you want representing your team.”
Upside and commitment were the words scouts and coaches used most in describing the 6-foot-6 netminder from Parker whose journey has taken him from the Arapahoe Warriors to the Hawks to the Thunderbirds to Pikes Peak, then to the Western Hockey League (WHL) and North American Hockey League (NAHL).
Once healthy, the ‘97-born worked his way into the draft conversation.
“I got wind of him early in the season with (the) Victoria (Royals of the WHL), then he got hurt,” said Nashville amateur scout Ryan Rezmierski. “I tracked him once he got in the (NAHL with the Austin Bruins) and each time I saw him he was better, more complete.
“What impressed me, besides his physical gifts, was that he’s really focused on what he needs to do. He has such big upside, but he was well aware of his deficiencies. This kid could be a home run pick in time.”
TenEyck said Smith’s dedication to improve has been evident for years, as has his commitment to give back to younger players.
“He was always the biggest kid on the ice, and as a goalie, it took him a while to master body control,” TenEyck said. “He worked very hard. He would find ice to work by himself if he had to.
“He hasn’t taken anything for granted. He’ll come back and work goalie camps because he wants to give back.”
Smith, who went 16-2-2 with a 1.85 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage for Austin, is on track to return to Victoria next season.
Like Terry and Smith, Metcalf earned an opportunity this past season and ran with it, emerging for the Madison Capitols of the United States Hockey League (USHL) after making the team at an open tryout.
“He told me he expected to come back and play Midget hockey, then he made their team,” said Rampage chairman and 18U coach Andrew Sherman. “The No. 1 thing with Garrett is his incredibly optimistic, positive attitude.
“He’s very, very supportive of his teammates. When Jacob Weatherly (now with the Amarillo Bulls of the NAHL) got more starts one season for us, Garrett was his No. 1 supporter.”
The 6-foor-3 Metcalf, a ’96-born, went 10-12-4 with a 3.26 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage for Madison – a USHL expansion team.
Size is not the only component in his game, Sherman said.
“He has great athleticism and moves very well for a 6-3, 6-4 guy. He’s late maturing and looks light (181 pounds), but the potential is there.”
Metcalf has committed to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
The transformation of Jones, a ’97-born, from forward to defense took place while he played for the Hawks as a young child before his family moved to Texas – a point he referenced when meeting with the Edmonton media after the draft.
An extremely hard worker, the 6-foot, 194-pound blueliner pulled no punches about his game.
“I think I play a bit like my brother (Seth, a Nashville Predators defenseman); we’re both two-way defensemen,” he said. “I think I’m a little more physical and aggressive player than he is.”
Caleb spent this past season with the NTDP as well, picking up eight points in 25 games, and intends to play for the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks this coming season.
After a brief stop with the Rampage, Cotton, a ’97-born, played the 2012-13 season with the Thunderbirds after growing up in Texas.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder has spent the past two seasons at Cushing Academy in Massachusetts where he netted 27 points in 33 games last season.
“David is very skilled with a high hockey IQ,” Ricci said. “He has good size and the ability to make plays. He also has a very quick release. He was a good teammate.”
Cotton is committed to Boston College.
– Chris Bayee