Miami could have 3 taken in NHL draft
The past two Junes, just one Miami player has had his name called on NHL draft weekend.
But in the next couple of days, as many as three RedHawks-to-be could be selected prior to their freshman seasons.
Carson Meyer was taken in the sixth round by Columbus last summer, and 2016 was the first draft in which Miami was not represented since the NHL dropped to seven rounds.
Since the program’s inception, 62 Miami players have been drafted.
A quick look at this year’s potential draftees:
Birthplace: Rochester Hills, Mich.
Position: Center/left wing.
2017-18 team: U.S. National Development.
2017-18 stats: 86 GP, 43 goals, 51 assists, 94 points, 66 PIMs.
Skinny: Coming off an outstanding season with the U.S. Under-18 team, Gruden will likely be the highest pick among this group. After scoring 43 goals with the U.S. National Development Team – including 15 in 25 games vs. USHL opponents – Gruden’s already-healthy stock rose slightly.
He jumped from No. 48 to No. 46 among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting rankings from the mid-term rankings until the final edition, and with an allegedly strong European class this year, Gruden may be picked in the third round or fourth rounds.
Gruden is six feet tall, but at 170 pounds he knows he needs to add weight.
His father is John Gruden, a former defenseman who logged 92 NHL games over parts of six seasons with Boston, Ottawa and Washington.
That’s where it gets interesting. John Gruden previously coached Team USA before accepting a job with Flint of the OHL. He was fired in his first season for not playing the owner’s son enough then hired back after the players protested. Then he was fired again three months later. He got the last laugh, accepting a job with the OHL team in Hamilton and winning that league’s championship last month.
So it’s unusual that a successful OHL coach would have a son playing in the NCAA, although John Gruden attended Ferris State.
Anyway, Gruden could be the next major points producer on a Miami team has been short on offense the past couple of seasons, and he’s impressed with his defense.
He can play multiple forward positions and will likely excel at all of them when he takes the ice in Oxford this fall.
Birthplace: Turnov, Czech Replublic.
Position: Center/right wing.
2017-18 team: Muskegon.
2017-18 stats: 56 GP, 14 goals, 40 assists, 54 points, 36 PIMs.
Skinny: When Miami hired Nebraska-Omaha assistant Peter Mannino this spring, he came bearing gifts. Pekar almost immediately changed his commitment from UNO to Miami, and he is headed to Oxford this fall.
The Czech-born forward will be entering his fourth season of hockey in North America, and he earned Rookie of the Year honors in the USHL last season by averaging a point a game.
He is known for his intelligent play, versatility and a missile of a shot.
Similar to Gruden, Pekar earns high marks for his two-way play and could thrive on both the penalty kill and power play.
He has impressed with his ability to win battles for loose pucks, both in front of the net and along the boards, but he will need to add muscle to compete with NCHC foes physically.
Pekar rose 32 spots among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting rankings, up from 87th to No. 55. The means, like Gruden, he projects as a third- or fourth-round pick.
Birthplace: Montreal, Canada.
Position: Right wing.
2017-18 teams: Fargo/Omaha.
2017-18 stats: 48 GP, 8 goals, 7 assists, 15 points, 14 PIMs.
Skinny: Savage’s first full season in the USHL did not go well, and he slipped from 149th among North American skaters in the mid-terms to not ranked as a result.
Despite the setback, NHL teams love pedigree and take more chances late in drafts, so Savage could still be selected.
Savage will be another second-generation Hawk – he is the son of former Miami standout and NHL forward Brian Savage. Ryan Savage’s younger brother – Red Savage – is also committed to the RedHawks, so it’s likely Miami will have a Savage on the ice for a number of seasons.
Brian Savage played 12 seasons in the NHL, going 192-167-359 for Montreal, Phoenix, St. Louis and Philadelphia. He scored 37 goals in 38 games his final season in Oxford as he led MU to its first-ever NCAA Tournament contest.
It’s possible Savage returns to the USHL this fall. His stats were underwhelming last season, and another season of development in juniors could vault Savage back onto the fast track to draftee status.
Another two-generation Miami hockey family is the Kuralys, and son Sean benefited tremendously from another season in the USHL.