Green Bay Gamblers center Anders Lee looked good in the preseason and led the team in preseason scoring with 3 goals and 3 assists in 4 games. A quarter into the regular season, he's looking fantastic.
The New York Islander prospect's 10 goals and 7 assists in Green Bay's first 15 games was impressive, but more impressive is how dominant he is along the boards. The 6-foot-2, 216-pound pivot looks calm and poised with the puck at all times and seems to always be the player emerging with the puck out of extended puck battles. Consistently winning those battles adds up on the scoreboard and in the win column, and Lee's helping keep Green Bay toward the top of the USHL's East Division standings.
McKeen's correspondent Kevin Wey was able to catch the Green Bay Gamblers in action once in late October and once in early November and enters notes on Anders Lee and a few Gambler prospects looking to deal themselves into the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
Anders Lee (NYI), C, Green Bay
Picking up where he left off in preseason, leading Green Bay in scoring .. 6-foot-2, 216-pound pivot is dominant along the boards .. very adept at maintaining possession of the puck along the boards and being the one to emerge from puck battles with the puck, including prolonged battles along the boards .. just seems to always win battles along the boards and does so with little effort, whether it be through positioning his body, using his feet, or his stick .. very calm with the puck, be it open ice or along the boards .. a confident, heads-up stickhandler, which gives his superior offensive vision in finding teammates with him on the attack, as trailers, or when already established in the offensive zone .. also has good offensive awareness without the puck, circling his zone to be an open option or in driving the net at the right time .. reads the opponent's transition well, be it where the goaltender is going to move the puck or a defenseman .. able to use his reach well in open ice to keep the puck away from opponents .. makes crisp, accurate passes .. able to roof shots from in close .. able to fire a hard backhander with very little sweep .. has fairly powerful acceleration, which helps him get loose pucks .. also has good cruising speed with the puck .. very impressed with his play along the boards and very, very impressed with the poise and efficiency in which he does it .. Atlanta Thrashers prospect Michael Forney led Green Bay in scoring in 2008-09 and now plays in the ECHL, but, for some comparison, Lee is definitely the superior prospect .. no way Lee doesn't become at least a second-line AHL center one day (barring career-ending injury), at the least.. committed to Notre Dame .. as of Nov. 15, he had 10 goals and 7 assists in 15 games.
Aaron Harstad (2010), D, Green Bay
Has a lot of the tools, but was failing to establish himself as one of Green Bay's top-four defensemen while Nick Jensen and Kevin Albers were at the World Junior A Challenge simultaneous to Max Hartner being out due to injury .. defensively, he minimizes crossovers backwards and has smooth lateral movement backwards and able to keep gaps short due to mobility .. also demonstrates strong agility with the puck .. has quick lateral movement at the point .. able to make tight turns with the puck to evade forecheckers and skate the puck from deep in the defensive zone .. able to execute video-game-like jukes that utilize both skating and dangling .. able to make powerful stops .. has a hard, crisp wristshot from the point, although he needs to keep it lower .. able to make hard, crisp, accurate passes .. decision-making is where Harstad struggles .. makes too many blind passes, many of which result in turnovers .. also turns the puck over too often trying to get too fancy skating the puck out of his zone and not making the simple play .. has the skating and stick skills to be every bit as good as teammate Nick Jensen, but hasn't adapted his game from Wisconsin high school hockey to the USHL yet .. also has not shown the penchant for consistently effective physical play that Jensen showed early in his USHL tenure .. has the tools to be a fifth or sixth-round pick, maybe higher given initial success of defensemen recently drafted out of the USHL who were probably underrated by most, but may go undrafted if questions regarding hockey sense persist deeper into his first full season in the USHL .. committed to Colorado College .. as of Nov. 15 he had 1 assist in 10 games.
2010 Draft Grade: C- (Possible)
Ryan McKay (2010), G, Green Bay
Limited viewing of McKay, as he was pulled midway through late-October viewing (through little fault of his own) .. still displayed the compact butterfly he showed at the Fall Classic and allowed few rebounds .. pad slides were smooth, quick, and controlled .. able to make quick kick saves with nice extension .. did a better job of staying square to the shooter than at the Fall Classic .. despite seeing McKay pulled, it was actually a positive viewing that demonstrated progress since the preseason .. not prohibitively small at 6-foot-0, 196 pounds .. as a backup, McKay is a long shot for the 2010 Draft, but injuries to number one goaltenders can happen and opportunities can arise .. no college commitment of yet .. as of Nov. 15 and played 310:56 over 6 games, had a 2-3-1 record, 1 shutout, a 3.09 G.AA, and a .881 save percentage.
2010 Draft Grade: D+ (Long shot)
William Kessel (2010), LW, Green Bay
Caught Kessel in a viewing where he made a bigger impact offensively than I saw him make in midgets with Honeybaked .. appears to be becoming more comfortable with the pace of the USHL game .. demonstrated some sniping abilities with hard wristshots .. also able to get off an impressive backhand .. showed a little playmaking, particularly with a nifty backhand drop-pass across his body, but at times, he does still fail to take a look before he passes and thus creates easy turnovers .. does create some positive turnovers with his backchecking efforts .. speed with the puck is only average, but shows decent speed and hustle going for loose pucks or on the backcheck .. 6-foot-2, 185-pounder finishes his checks and can do so with some force .. also uses his size to drive the net, doing so with more success and with more confidence now at the USHL level .. he's still a long shot to be selected in the 2010 Draft at this point, but he's already made significant progress since the preseason .. looking like the type of player that will be in position to make a strong push for draft selection in his second year of eligibility, 2011 .. no college commitment of yet .. as of Nov. 15 had 4 goals and 1 assist in 13 games.
2010 Draft Grade: D+ (Long shot)
Ludwig Karlsson (2010), LW, Green Bay
Karlsson has some hands, but he just isn't scoring goals .. 6-foot-2, 200-pound winger able to protect the puck well with smooth swivels and with his long reach .. also able to swivel speedily and get off smooth shots quickly after receiving passes, giving him a rapid release .. has quick hands to pull the puck back in toward his body .. maintains poise with the puck even when tripped and can make plays from his knees .. as at the Fall Classic, he can be invisible for large portions of the game .. no doubting Karlsson is skilled, he just needs to be more proactively involved in the game .. second year of draft eligibility .. an extreme long shot to be drafted at a pace of 0 goals for the season .. no college commitment of yet .. as of Nov 15. he had 6 assists in 15 games.
2010 Draft Grade: D (Extreme long shot)
Sam Alfieri (2010), RW, Green Bay
Lulls opponents into a sense of security, then strikes coming off the boards .. can be shifty with the puck coming off the half boards .. has good offensive vision to catch teammates with passes from the half boards .. a threat coming out of the corner on the cycle .. despite not being overwhelmingly fast, he can undress opposing defensemen with slick stickhandling, even if the opponent keeps his head up and doesn't lunge for the puck .. shows a bit of a two-way game .. hustles to man the point and will block shots .. also steps up for some hits in open ice .. not big, but not prohibitively small at 5-foot-11, 176 pounds .. talented, but will need to average closer to a point per game to garner real draft consideration in his second year of eligibility, and that won't be enough without a college commitment .. no college commitment of yet .. as of Nov. 15 had 5 goals and 3 assists in 14 games.
2010 Draft Grade: D (Extreme long shot)
Brett Chartier (2010), RW, Green Bay
Acquired by Lincoln on Oct. 26 and enjoying a new start .. displays some speed and quickness with the puck .. utilizes quick feet over power in his crossovers and is a bit upright making them .. makes crisp, accurate passes .. able to fire a hard wristshot and also has a decent slapshot .. plays with a little physicality and will lay out some hits but also take hits to make the play .. 5-foot-9, 180-pounder is an extreme long shot to be drafted in his second year of eligibility even if he puts up big numbers .. securing a college commitment and acceptance would definitely boost Chartier's stock .. no college commitment of yet .. as Nov. 15, he had 5 goals and 2 assists in 8 total games between Lincoln and Green Bay (played 1 game with Lincoln and had 2 assists).
2010 Draft Grade: D (Extreme long shot)
Given the dates of these late October and early November viewings, McKeen's was unable to catch Detroit Red Wings draft pick Nick Jensen and 2010-eligible Chris Crane in action, because both were at the World Junior A Challenge in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, helping Team USA win the gold medal.
Jensen scored 1 goal and 2 assists in 5 games at the WJAC and finished ninth in tournament scoring amongst defensemen. In USHL action, Jensen had 5 assists in 10 games as of Nov. 15. This McKeen's correspondent still believes that Jensen is one of the top contenders for USHL Defenseman of the Year, especially if he can up his point totals some. He's incredibly mobile and plays a fine two-way game. Put simply, Jensen has no major weaknesses in his game and was a great selection by the Red Wings (but this McKeen's correspondent may be partial because he was touting Jensen early last season).
Crane tallied 1 assist in 5 games at the WJAC and had 2 goals and 4 assists in 11 games for Green Bay as of Nov. 15, in addition to the 40 penalty minutes he had amassed playing his physical game and dropping the gloves. An energy forward for the Gamblers for most of 2008-09, the Ohio State recruit has established himself as a top-nine forward for Green Bay in 2009-10 and should still stay such after the acquisition of right-winger Brett Chartier from Lincoln. At this point, Crane's Draft Grade is a C-, meaning there's a legitimate possibility he could be selected in the 2010 Draft, but he's going to need to average over a point every other game and upgrade his speed and quickness with the puck to push himself into firmer draft consideration.
McKeen's had also hoped to watch Green Bay defenseman Max Hartner in these two viewings, but Hartner was out with a high ankle sprain and was put on the 45-day IR on Oct. 29. Given such, McKeen's won't be surprised if Hartner is held out of the lineup until after the Christmas break so as not to rush him back from an injury that is easy to re-injure. As of Nov. 15, Hartner had tallied 1 goal and 1 assist in 6 games. Since he's committed to Air Force, which will necessitate service in the U.S. Air Force upon graduation, Hartner's Draft Grade is a D (extreme long shot). Based purely upon his play at the 2009 USHL Fall Classic, this McKeen's correspondent would be inclined to give him a C-, on par with teammate Aaron Harstad.