This is, for now, the last draft profile I'll be doing. I by no means covered every interesting player within the range of the Rangers' 59th overall pick. However, I do feel I gave a good assortment of guys whom particularly interest me. I qualify this with "for now" because it depends on if/when certain trades happen. If Cam Talbot is traded in the middle of the draft then there's not much I can do. If he is traded before, however, then I'll try rush articles on a few prospects within range of wherever the Rangers would be picking.
Blake Speers, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Ontario Hockey League)
Position: Right Wing
Age: 18 Years Old
Height/Weight: 5'11, 180 lbs
2014-2015 Stats (Including Playoffs): 71 GP, 27 G, 49 A, 16 PIM, +23 +/-
NHL Central Scouting: 49th (NA Skaters)
Future Considerations: 61st
Craig Button (TSN): 61st
Corey Pronman (ESPN): 68th
Bob McKenzie (TSN): 72nd
Hockey Prospect: 90th
International Scouting Service: 105th
I'm starting to feel like the description of a "two-way forward" is becoming cliché in scouting circles to the point that it doesn't really indicate much of anything. Though Speers played on the wing, mostly, this season, he is capable of playing all three forward spots. However, it's probably the best way to describe Blake Speers. In the offensive zone, he has a pretty high IQ and can make plays. Nobody's going to accuse him of possessing an elite skillset by any means but he does have a few moves up his sleeve against a defender one-on-one. He's a guy who, despite his size, battles (successfully) for positioning in in the slot and gets in a good stance for deflections and screens.
Though Speers had a good offensive game, it's on the defensive end where he really stands out. He possesses tremendous awareness in his own end and doesn't get caught out of position very often. He's a guy with the combination of smarts and an engine that make him qualified for a legitimate role on the penalty kill.
That "engine" sticks out in all respects to his game, honestly. He's the first guy in deep on the forecheck always. He's tenacious in chasing puck carries and trying to prevent outlet passes. He backchecks hard even at the end of his shifts. This works particularly well for him because he is a very good skater. He's a player who just constantly works hard and has the skill set to make it worthwhile.
The problem with Speers is that he is an enigma, through no fault of his own. The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds were absolutely loaded this season and as a result Speers was not particularly high on the depth chart. Was Speers' production inflated because of all the talent around him? Or is he a better player than he was able to prove this past season because of all the bodies ahead of him? This is something we're going to likely find out next season, as the Greyhounds are set to lose a number of their older forwards and Speers will have a prime spot on top of the lineup.
Back when I spoke to Brandon Halverson about his season with the Greyhounds, I asked him for some thoughts on Speers, and here is what he had to say.
"He’s a hard worker. He probably works the hardest out of everybody. Some guys are lax at the gym and don’t do too much, but he comes early every day and gets his workout done every day. We have optional ice every other day or something, and he’s out there every time shooting or skating or doing little drills. Most of the time he’s out there by himself. He’s always working his balls off. During the game the kid just works really hard. He doesn’t make mistakes. Probably one of our best defensive guys on our team. He thinks defense first. If he’s third guy high he never dives in. He stays above and protects our house."
I'm not sure Speers has the upside to justify a selection in the top-60. I do, however, think he's a good bet (relative to other 18-year-old's) to make the NHL in some capacity. He's a player who could peak out as a second-third line tweener who plays both sides of special teams but, if not, has the skillset necessary to be a very good bottom-six forward. He's a player who, if available would be a solid pickup in the third round.
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