Something that I realized I didn't make more clear in the previous draft profiles is the inspiration and "plan," if you will, for these articles. These are all players that I personally believe would be good fits for the Rangers and who I think are in realistic reach (to varying degrees) of where the Rangers will/could be picking. Obviously, I started off with a guys who are probably reaches. As I do more and more, they'll be moving closer and closer in how realistic they are. Though the second-rounder is obviously the most notable selection (as of now) the Rangers will be making, I'll also be profiling players projected to be available in the third-through-seventh rounds. Of course, I won't be able to get to every player whom the Rangers could potentially take, but this should give us a decent sampling of players who could be on their radar.
Vince Dunn, Niagara IceDogs (Ontario Hockey League)
Position: Left Defenseman
Age: 18 Years Old
Height/Weight: 6'0, 187 Pounds
2014-2015 Stats (Including Playoffs): 76 GP, 24 G, 42 A, 81 PIM, +9 +/-
NHL Central Scouting: 34th (NA Skaters)
Sportsnet: "First-round possibility"
Craig Button (TSN): 54th
Corey Pronman (ESPN): 79th
Bob McKenzie (TSN): 36th
Future Considerations: 34th
As was the case with Daniel Sprong, Vince Dunn came on to my radar while I was scouting a Rangers' prospect. Dunn is a teammate of 2014 fourth-round pick Ryan Mantha, and in fact that two spent some time as defensive partners throughout this past season.
I'm going to start this scouting report differently than the others by focusing on his negatives first. Dunn in not particularly great defensive defenseman. He's not a disaster in his own end, by any means, but he needs work. He has decent size and will use it. He's active with his stick. It's not that Dunn's defense is particularly problematic, but rather that no good scoring forward is going to be upset that he's the one defending him.
However - and I've preached on this topic before - it's better to have a defensemen who is mediocre defensively but doesn't spend much time in the defensive zone than a good defensive defenseman who is there constantly. Dunn absolutely drives possession, and as a result he doesn't need to do very much defending in the first place. Here's an example of what I mean.
This should have been, at minimum, a clearance to the neutral zone for Ottawa, if not a full-out counter-attack the other way. But Dunn reads the play well and uses his great acceleration to get to the puck first and keep it in Niagara's possession. The scoring chance on the wraparound is a bonus.
Skating ability is Dunn's strength. He's able to win races to loose pucks and keep plays alive in the offensive zone in doing so. He's able to track back and prevent odd-man rushes with his closing speed on the backcheck. In general, he's able to skate his way out of problems he's created for himself. It matters a lot less how well Dunn can defend a three-on-two rush if he makes a play like that to prevent one from happening in the first place, right? Here's another example of him winning a race to a loose puck and keeping the play alive in the offensive zone.
Skating is truly Dunn's best asset, and it allows him to make offensive plays in a variety of ways. Quick accelerating speed allows him to activate and give Niagara odd-man rushes. Watch as he does exactly that after forcing a turnover, then eventually scoring.
Dunn also uses that speed to carry the puck up the ice, particularly on the power play. This next gif should speak for itself in that regard.
That's quite the shot there from Dunn, and I think where he separates himself from most defensemen in this draft is his goalscoring ability; he might be the best in the draft in that area. He's very good at finding soft spots in the opposing defense and sneaking into those areas undetected. From there, a quality wrist shot takes over.
The extra savvy readers will have noticed that all of these clips came from the same game. Evaluating any player, prospects especially, on a one-game sample is an awful idea. I can promise my evaluation of him is based on numerous viewings. That being said, in over the last two seasons I have only seen one CHL defenseman give a better single-game performance than Dunn did in this particular game, and it was Aaron Ekblad. Niagara struggled hard in this playoff battle against the Ottawa 67's, but Dunn nearly carried the team to victory. Dunn has some bouts with inconsistency, but that's the case for most defensemen the year of draft eligibility. What most defensemen can't do is put forward an effort like this one.
If I was forced to cite one concern for Dunn offensively, then I would point out that Niagara's top line of Perlini, Ho-Sang, and Verhaeghe was one the best in the CHL last season. It's fair to wonder if Dunn doesn't produce 66 points in 76 games without them. But that's a relatively minor concern. One could equally point out Niagara's inability to provide Dunn a great defensive partner and Dunn's play despite that. In general, while Dunn might have benefited from Niagara's top line, it did not by any means make him look like something he is not.
In most drafts there's a lot of uncertainty after the first 20-25 picks, but that's particularly the case with this draft because of how much talent there is. Dunn could be selected in the first round, or he could drop all the way into the early third round. A safe bet would be 30th-45th overall, and so while there's a chance he could fall to the Rangers, they likely would have to trade up to grab Dunn.
It's a move I would certainly applaud. The only defenseman in the Rangers' system who is similar to Dunn is Tyler Nanne, and he's a project with a long road ahead of him to make the NHL. Dunn has upside as a top-pairing defenseman, but his drafting team would still be content with him as a second-pairing, offensive defenseman and power play quarterback. For those reasons, he would fill a big need in the Rangers' system.