Monday, June 27, 2011

Focus on Prospects: Travis Boyd

photo by Dan Hickling

Name: Travis Boyd
Position: LW
Shoots: Left
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 185 lbs
Birthdate: 1993-09-14
Hometown: Hopkins, MN

With their sixth round selection (177th), the Washington Capitals selected Travis Boyd of the U.S. National Development Team Program (NDTP). In 60 games this past season with USA, he scored 13 goals and 25 assists for a total of 38 points. His discipline is beyond compare with just 16 PIMs in those 60 games. He also participated in April's IIHF U18 tournament, with six points in six games, earning a gold medal with the USA team. 

Boyd is committed to attending the University of Minnesota beginning next year.

Boyd began drawing buzz as an 8th grader playing on his high school's hockey team in Hopkins, Minnesota. After leading his team in scoring with 46 points his first year, he was invited to join the U.S. NTDP. He couldn't turn down the invitation, considering the opportunity to play for his country the chance of a lifetime.

In post-selection interviews, Boyd compared himself to Claude Giroux. Scouting reports wouldn't disagree, saying he's a "shifty player that has great hands and a keen ability to read the play in front of him." While he doesn't have a very heavy shot, it is accurate. He has good vision, great playmaking ability, and is a skilled passer.

He showed off those exact talents in one game during the U18 tournament, an 8-1 USA win over Slovakia. Boyd scored a shorthanded goal during the game, and one observer marveled at the play that led to it.
Travis Boyd’s shorthanded tally was a thing of beauty. He out-raced a defenseman to the puck in the Slovakian zone, out-muscled said defender, put the puck to his backhand, and with one hand on his stick let it glide right into the net. It was a great goal and that was probably the straw that broke the Slovakian camel’s back.
As he prepares to head to Minnesota, Boyd says his main focus is getting stronger and faster. One weakness scouts see is his skating. While he does have maneuverability on the ice, his speed could use some work. He needs to put some weight on his relatively small frame, and he plans to work on skating with training coaches to improve his speed. 

Minnesota coach Don Lucia agrees with Boyd's conditioning plans. "He can play on the power play on the half wall and can kill penalties," Lucia says. "I think as he adds strength that he will be able to play in any situation that we have going into the next few years."

When his name was called on Saturday, Boyd was thrown for a loop. "I didn't really expect Washington, I never talked to them." Not that he's not happy to come to DC and be a part of the Capitals organization. "It's awesome because Washington's a great place, good team, I'm happy to go there."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Focus on Prospects: Patrick Koudys

photo by Sara Melikian/RPI

Name: Patrick Koudys
Position: D
Shoots: Left
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 210 lbs
Birthdate: 1992-11-15
Hometown: Smithville, ON

With their fifth round pick at 147th, the Washington Capitals selected Patrick Koudys, a defenseman currently studying civil engineering and playing hockey at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), in the ECAC of Division I college hockey. RPI has produced NHL talent such as Adam Oates and Joe Juneau (incidentally, both former Capitals).

Koudys just completed his freshman year at RPI, scoring one goal and two assists in 31 games as an Engineer. Prior to his freshman year, Inside College Hockey (INCH) named him 11th on their Top 20 list of Incoming Freshman Defensemen.

He compares his game to that of Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa, who actually has a very similar background to Koudys. "He is from Smithville right now, even though he was originally from Grimsby," Koudys says of Bieksa. "He went to Blessed Trinity like I did. He played Junior A in Burlington, and was drafted to the [OHL] and went to school - so was I."

He plays like Bieksa as well, considering himself a "solid two-way defenseman." He points to his vision as being an asset, saying, "I can read the play well and see the game, overall, pretty well." Earlier this June, he spoke with about his flexibility as a player. "If a team needs a defensive-defenseman, I'm that guy," he says. "An offensive guy, physical presence or a fighter … I can do that, too."

At 6'4" and 210 lbs, he's nearly at NHL-ready size. "I think my size is a big thing, too," Koudys says. "Not too many guys are as big as I am right now, and I see myself filling in lots this summer, and a lot more over the next couple of years before I make my big push for the NHL."

Father Jim, also a defenseman, was drafted by the New York Islanders with the very last pick of the 1982 NHL Entry Draft, 252nd, in the 12th round. He honed his skills with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL for three seasons. Though he never played an NHL game, he spent several seasons in the AHL and IHL. 

Patrick says his father actually inspired him to go the college route instead of going straight from the CHL to professional hockey as his father did. After getting picked by the Oshawa Generals in the 7th round of the 2009 OHL Draft, RPI offered him a scholarship, and Koudys accepted the chance to get an education and play college hockey. "It was a no-brainer for me," Koudys says of his decision. Koudys points out that if professional hockey doesn't work out for him, he'll have a degree to fall back on.

However, after invites to last summer's NHL Research, Development, and Orientation camp as well as the recent NHL combine, scouts clearly see talent and he should enjoy some sort of professional career. Ranked 76th among North American skaters in the Central Scouting Services (CSS) final rankings, CSS scouts see Koudys as a player who can and will improve as he continues to develop with RPI's program. 

"He has really good upside, a really strong skater, good defensively," says CSS scout Gary Eggleston. "He was a little bit restrained offensively, but I think he can still go with the puck and contribute to the offense. He's a pretty physical kid, strong in the corners and capable of moving to the puck quickly. He played with a lot of poise for a freshman."

It was at this month's combine that Koudys first met with the Washington Capitals and spoke with management. He felt his interview went well, and was happy to hear his name called by the Capitals on the second day of this weekend's draft. 

In an interview with the media after his selection, Koudys expressed his excitement, saying, "They're obviously a great organization and really excited that I got drafted there."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Focus on Prospects: Steffen Søberg

 photo from Manglerud Star team website

Name: Steffen Søberg
Position: G
Catches: Left
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 176 lbs
Birthdate: 1993-08-06
Hometown: Oslo, Norway

After trading their first round pick for Troy Brouwer, the Capitals first available draft pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft was 117th, in the fourth round. With it, the team surprised analysts and fans by selecting a sleeper, Norwegian goaltender Steffen Søberg of the Manglerud Stars.

Some were quick to judge the pick, considering Søberg's statistics from last season with the Stars. A 4.17 GAA and .884 save percentage in 27 games doesn't inspire much confidence, but his Norwegian league team performance is not why the Capitals drafted him.

Søberg made a name for himself in Norway after showings in the World Junior Championships (U20) in December 2010/January 2011, then the IIHF U18 tournament in April 2011.

Søberg made his first international tournament appearance in the 2011 World Juniors. Taking place several months before U18, Søberg was not the starting goaltender, and played less than half of Norway's goaltending minutes. But in the time he did see on the ice, he posted a .913 save percentage and a 3.57 GAA.

It was the later tournament (U18) in which Søberg particularly made his presence known to International Scouting Services scouts. Søberg played behind a weak Norway team, and the team won just one game in the tournament.

Despite that, Søberg had the second-best statistics of any goaltender in the tournament, with a .930 save percentage and a 3.90 GAA. He alone kept Norway from being blown out every game.

ISS Head Scout Ross MacLean noted that he was extremely impressed by Søberg at the U18 tournament. Norway was considered an effective team, and MacLean says that fact was "99% due to the play of Søberg," who he thought was "without a doubt the most impressive goaltender in the tournament so far."

ISS also spoke to Hockey's Future about Søberg's U18 play, calling it "simply astounding." His high GAA could be accounted for by how many shots he faced - Søberg made 295 saves on 317 shots in just six games, including a 5-0 loss to Canada in which he made 58 saves on a tournament-high 63 shots.

ISS spoke of Søberg's composure in the crease, saying that he made saving so many shots look easy. "Few U18 goaltenders have ever shown the poise displayed by Søberg during this tournament and with the other top goaltending prospects faltering a bit, the excitement around Søberg could go a long way come draft day."

Just a month after the tournament, ISS named Søberg the top European goaltending prospect in their May ranking. He was also named Rookie of the Year by his Norwegian league.

Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report spoke of Søberg in a column he wrote for USA Today. A Google translation of a Swedish article on Søberg quotes Woodlief as saying, "Søberg stood on his head and made hundreds of incredible saves that allowed Norway to keep themselves alive in almost every game."

The Hockey News too took notice as the draft approached, calling Søberg one of the draft's "dark horses."

Now a Washington Capitals prospect, goaltending coach Dave Prior indicated that, hopefully, Søberg will play in the CHL next year. The CHL Import Draft takes place in just a few days (June 29), and if all goes according to plan, Søberg will be selected and play for a CHL team next season.

Michael Neuvirth took a similar path, developing for three years in the OHL before landing with Capitals ECHL affiliate South Carolina Stingrays, and working his way up to the NHL.

Søberg is expected to attend the Capitals' development camp, beginning July 11.