After having written similar pieces for some noteworthy prospects from the CHL leagues, Europe, and the USHL that I have added to my watch list this season, I was left in an awkward spot to deal with one further league: the NCAA.
There are only three prospects in the NCAA this year who are first time draft eligibles, and one of them is the presumptive first overall pick. Not much point in talking about him when it comes to the Leafs without something extremely bizarre, terrible, and/or miraculous happening.
So what I decided to do was to combine the two other NCAA prospects with a re-entry that I've seen a lot of this year while watching Hudson Malinoski play in Providence.
Levshunov entered this season with the assumption he would wind up as one of the top defensemen prospects in the draft. He's from Belarus but has played in America the past two years. Last year, he had 42 points in 62 games in the USHL as a D-1 prospect. This year, he is one of the youngest players in the whole NCAA but has produced at a point per game (18 in 18 games). That's tied for 7th in the entire league for defensemen of all ages.
So he's definitely an offensive minded defenseman, but is also a 6'2" right handed shot. That combination always grabs a lot of attention. His scouting reports are a bit of a mixed bag. Most scouts will agree he's worth a first round pick, but there is a debate on his long-term projection as an all-around defender. He certainly has the offense to generate points, and his defense is okay but hasn't necessarily taken a step this year that some wanted. And offensively, he seems more like a guy who excels once his team is set up in the offensive zone, with more questionable ability to drive play to get to that point. So whether he winds up being one of the top defensemen taken this year or not will come down to the teams at the top of the draft and what they think of his all around projection.
Buium entered this season as one of the myriad of defensemen who I saw scouts rate on the outside of the very top guys, but who they were interested enough to keenly observe before any games were played. And so far, he's pushing himself up into that top tier. He played last year as part of the US National Development Team, and like Levshunov is one of only three players who are first time draft eligibles in the entire NCAA this year. But he's been even more productive, with 25 points in 18 games which is tied for 3rd best among all players, all ages, and all positions in the entire NCAA.
Buium has a lot more going for him than just his points. He started this year listed as 5'11" and 165 lbs, he's now at 6'2" and 180 lbs giving him a much better physical projection than he had before. He's also playing a top role on one of the best teams in the NCAA so far this year, and is getting rave reviews for his all-around play on transitions and defense. He does not profile as an extremely flashy guy, just someone who is smart and has solid all around skills and physical abilities to make good things happen. Buium has at least pushed himself into the same conversation as Levshunov and could wind up as the top defenseman taken.
I want to talk a bit about Hudson Malinoski's on Providence teammate Tanner Adams. Unlike the baove two, Adams is a re-entry. He went undrafted last year out of the USHL with pretty good but not spectacular numbers — 33 points in 49 games. His tracking data was similarly good but not spectacular:
But this year, Adams has some things going for him. First, his birthday is September 2nd, making him very young for last year's draft – if he had been born two weeks later, he wouldn't have been eligible until this coming draft. Second, I've watched a lot of Adams this year since he has not only been Malinoski's teammate, but also one of his most common linemates. Adams, more than a year younger than Malinoski, has 4 goals and 12 points in 16 games this year, which is third on the team and four more points than Malinoski has.
Adams plays a high pressure, pursuit-heavy game without the game. He is a pretty strong two-way forward, who can play in all situations and both at center and on the wing. He is not the biggest guy (5'11" and 183 lbs) but isn't small either, and he works hard. His offensive skill is better on the playmaking front than anything else, but he seems more like a Tverberg guy as far as being an energetic support player than an offensive force. I doubt he'll be a high pick, and may not get picked at all. But I've liked what I've seen from him – I'd say he's been at worst as good as Malinoski, who is a year older and was drafted in the later rounds.