If the 2015 NHL Draft were any indication, the Toronto Maple Leafs have no reservations when drafting smaller, skilled players. The selections of Mitch Marner, Jeremy Bracco, Dmytro Timashov and Martins Dzierkals highlighted a new approach to drafting in the Leafs organization.
This year, there are a handful of players ranked lower than they should be due to their size. Adam Mascherin, Bracco's teammate with the Kitchener Rangers, is the poster boy of that group of players.
When Mascherin was left out of the BMO Top Prospects Game in January, it was without question the biggest omission of this year's event.
Ranked in my top-10 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) prospects for the 2016 class ahead of the likes of Max Jones, Victor Mete, Cam Dineen, Taylor Raddysh, Logan Stanley and others, Mascherin was one of the OHL's top shooters this season.
Second among draft-eligible OHL forwards in shots behind only Alex DeBrincat of the Erie Otters, Mascherin registered 258 shots on goal and covered 35 times with one of the most unique releases in the class (not quite a wrist shot, not quite a snapshot, but he can score under the bar in tight and it's as heavy as you'll find at the junior level).
After going second overall in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection, Mascherin was named to the OHL's Second All-Star Team as a rookie one year removed from GTHL Player of the Year honours. This year, Mashcerin got better as the season progressed before registering 12 points and 33 shots in nine playoff games ahead of Kitchener's second round exit at the hands of Marner and the London Knights.
During the top prospects game selection process and announcement, Mascherin was playing his way to a 15-game point streak that saw him pick up 27 points. He finished the year with 93 points across 74 combined regular season and playoff games.
Among draft-eligible OHL forwards, Mascherin finished third in primary points with 64 and primary points per game at 0985, behind only DeBrincat and Knights forward Matthew Tkachuk and ahead of top prospects like Alex Nylander (0.965) and Logan Brown (0.864).
An excellent, explosive skater, Mascherin is strong on his feet, which allows him to lean on defenders and cut past them to the inside on the rush. Despite standing just 5-9, he now weighs over 200 Ibs and is hard to knock off the puck.
From the slot, he can beat goalies cleanly and doesn't need any time to get his shot off.
Defensively, he offers versatility as someone who has played all three forward positions (though primarily left wing and that's where he'll end up at the next level) and who has played in all situations. In the defensive zone, he works to get back deep and make body-on-body plays on the puck with energy.
What separates Mascherin from many of the other smaller scorers in the draft is that his size doesn't force him into a role where he is a complimentary player and feeds off of his linemates. Mascherin drives possession and generates offence himself as a puck handler. In fact, while Bracco served a five-game suspension earlier this year, Mascherin stepped up with nine points.
With Bracco in the lineup, Mascherin fed off of his linemate's ability as a passer by finding open space in the slot or going to the net.
Watch below, as Mascherin receives a pass from Bracco, pivots, and scores cleanly with his shot.
When his shot isn't open, watch him go to the far-side post and get to the inside of the defender to open up a lane for Bracco to find him.
Next year, Mascherin should return to Kitchener for his post-draft season on a team that is expected to compete for the OHL title. It's not out of the question to expect him to push 100 points next year, and blossom into a scoring threat with energy at the next level.
At 31st overall, if he's available, he'll be among the best players available.
"Mascherin continues to impress, and has developed into an absolute force offensively," Future Considerations’ Scott Wheeler said. "More and more he’s demonstrating his 5-foot-9 frame isn’t going to impede his progression. He just keeps creating, and has led all draft eligible OHL players in shots for most of the season." - Prospects making final pushes as season's enter stretch | Future Considerations