Three Future Huskies Selected in the NHL Draft

Northeastern had one of the best NHL Draft performances in school history over this past weekend, as incoming freshmen Tyler Madden and Jordan Harris were both selected in the third round of the draft while 2019 commit Riley Hughes went in round seven. This is just the second time in school history that Northeastern has had two players picked within the first three rounds, after Justin Daniels and Steve Quailer were both third round selections in 2008. It’s the first time that NU has ever had two top-75 picks in the same draft, and the second time in three years that NU has had three players selected, after Matt Filipe, Nolan Stevens, and Jeremy Davies were all drafted in 2016. Prior to Jim Madigan’s tenure at NU, there was only one occasion in school history where three players had been selected in the NHL draft (or the first 7 rounds, in years with more than 7.)

Tyler Madden led off the party when he was selected 68th overall by the Vancouver Canucks, home of Northeastern legend Adam Gaudette. The selection was right in line with his projection as the #39 North American skater by CSS and the #62 player in the draft by TSN and Bob McKenzie. Madden was praised by the scouts, who cite his stickhandling, an elite Hockey IQ (Tyler has his father, NHL legend John Madden, to thank for helping to develop that) and “extraordinary” speed, especially while skating with the puck. They think he’ll need to work on the defensive responsibility of playing center and finding his shot (although he scored 15 goals in 46 USHL games in his draft year, so I’m not sure that second one is a concern for NU’s purposes). Madden said in an interview that he models his game after Patrice Bergeron, scouts say he plays with a physical edge despite his smaller frame, and John was known for his hard-hitting defense too, so if that’s the main strike against him it certainly seems like it’s going to work out just fine for both the Huskies and the Canucks. And again, the last right handed center Vancouver drafted out of Northeastern did alright for himself.

Jordan Harris, not to be upstaged, was selected just moments later when the Montreal Canadiens spent the 71st overall pick to bring him from the Bruins backyard to Quebec. Harris is one of the youngest players who was eligible for the draft this year (he’s still 17) but that didn’t slow him down, as he was ranked 44th by CSS, 74th by Future Considerations, and 76th by TSN/McKenzie. Harris is part of the new era of small, puck moving defensemen that Erik Karlsson taught NHL teams to value. Reading the reports on him might give you the impression that he’s small, but Harris checks in at 5’11” tall and 180 pounds. As a 17 year old. In high school. He may not be Chris Pronger, but he’s not exactly Torey Krug out there either. Scouts cite Harris’ ability to drive possession, skate with the puck, and transition successfully from defense to attack. The word that constantly comes up in descriptions of him is “skill.” He’ll have a pretty good teacher to learn from in Quebec native Jeremy Davies too, but Jim Madigan already believes Harris is the best skater on the team, so Davies may have to watch out or Harris could quickly surpass even him, a thought that seems equal parts exciting and impossible.

Riley Hughes looked to be on the outside looking in, but at the last possible moment, the New York Rangers gave up a 2019 draft pick to get back into the draft and select Hughes at 216th overall. Hughes was ranked the 113th NA Skater by CSS and 122nd by Future Considerations. He likely fell a bit because he spent his draft year in prep school, but like Harris, he’s among the youngest players in the draft and still a 17 year old. NU was expected to send both Hughes and Harris to the USHL for a year of adjustment to the higher level of play before bringing them in next summer, but Harris wound up being accelerated to fill the hole left by the three graduating defensemen. Regardless, the fact that he’s not coming in straight from prep is in no way a knock on Hughes. The Athletic’s Corey Pronman listed Hughes among his favorite sleepers in the draft and had him much higher on his personal list than his draft projections indicated. Hughes is a player who could make a name for himself and an impact in the USHL next year, as he has all of the skill to be an impact forward with both his speed and his stick and the size to make his presence known anywhere on the ice. Look for both Riley and his younger brother Jack to make an impact for NU for years to come.

Some players who were draft eligible but didn’t get selected for various reasons include:

Zach Solow– While Solow was ranked this year, his best chance to get picked was last summer coming off of a great USHL season. His play at NU was fine, but it takes a Nolan Stevens type of season to get drafted as an overage player, and Solow was far from that. Unfortunately, his birthdate puts Solow among a minority of players who only get two shots at the draft instead of three, so he won’t be eligible to be drafted after his sophomore year as Stevens was.

Aidan McDonough– McDonough is another player who was in prep for his draft year, and he made the most of it, scoring 25 goals and 59 points in 29 games this season. That kind of production almost certainly warrants further consideration, but Thayer was loaded with talent this year, including first round pick Jay O’Brien, so McDonough likely needs to show a year of production somewhere else before scouts will take notice. Like Solow, his birthday means he only gets two cracks at the draft, so next year in the USHL will be his shot to prove them wrong, because he won’t be eligible to be taken once he arrives at NU.

Neil Shea– Shea is an interesting case. This was his second year eligible for the draft, as he was actually available in 2017. As a junior in high school. This system could really use some fine-tuning. Shea has been ranked both years, but his ranking slipped considerably this year because he was considered “overage”. As a senior in high school. Seriously. His production exploded from a respectable 33 points in 24 games as a junior to 24-34-58 in 32 games this year, with a goal and three points in the USHL on top of it and no Jay O’Brien lining up beside him, but that wasn’t enough to get him noticed on his second time through. I have no doubt that if Shea was born two months later and this was his first time eligible for the draft, somebody would have taken a shot on him. Because he’s still so young he does get a third shot next year, and he was a second round pick in the USHL draft last month, where he’ll get another chance to show what he can do.

Jeremie Bucheler was highly regarded when he committed to NU but never really seemed to find a role with a deep Chicago team in the USHL last year. He was described as raw with considerable upside, so hopefully another year gives him time to find it. Tyler Spott played a full USHL season at 17 as a defenseman and put up decent numbers (11 points, +8) which I thought may be enough with his NHL pedigree, but it doesn’t seem he was seriously considered. Both are eligible for the draft through 2020.

Looking ahead to next year, it should be another great draft for the Huskies, as it’s hard to imagine a scenario where less than 4 players get drafted in a class headlined by Robby Griffin, Jayden Struble, and twins Ty and Dylan Jackson, in addition to another chance for those mentioned above. As always, the recruiting page will have the latest draft projections as they start coming in this fall.

One final note, Montreal traded the rights to Providence goaltender Hayden Hawkey for a future draft pick last night, opening the door for Cayden Primeau to be the heir to the throne after the Carey Price era comes to an end. Not sure if Montreal made their choice or if they simply wanted to get back value for the rising senior Hawkey in case he can’t be signed next summer, but either way, the result is big for Primeau.