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COLUMN: Some locals could hear names called early at NHL Draft

High expectations for Colts' Cole Beaudoin after stellar season

Given what will happen in Sunrise, Fla., on Monday night, it may be hard to wrap your head around a touchstone National Hockey League event on the other side of the U.S. a few days later.

The NHL Draft will be held in-person for the final time starting Friday at The Sphere in Vegas — the league is moving to a virtual format in 2025 — and Colts forward Cole Beaudoin is considered one of the fastest risers in this year’s class.

The Colts centre, coming off a 62-point season that was sandwiched around twice helping Canada win gold at two separate U18 competitions, has moved into first-round contention that goes on Friday night.

The remaining six rounds will be held on Saturday.

Asking around about Beaudoin this week, there were two overarching themes: Everyone loves the way the Colts centre plays, but it’s uncertain whether he will be picked in the first 32 picks.

“It could go either way,” said one scout, listing off variables affecting decision making at the draft table once the proceedings meander down to the final dozen-or-so picks on opening night.

“I wouldn’t (take Beaudoin in the first round), but I’ve seen far dumber picks.”

As odd as that comment comes across when it was meant as a compliment, it illustrates the fact Beaudoin could go as high as 23rd or 24th on Friday night, or slip down to the high 30s, or low 40s, on Saturday.

Kyle Woodlief is a Canadian who now lives in upstate New York and is chief scout for Red Line Report, an independent scouting newsletter he has operated for more than 25 years. Woodlief, who counts most NHL teams as clients and works on behalf of several major junior clubs in assessing imports, offered a more detailed perspective on Beaudoin.

“There is a lot to like about him,” he said of Beaudoin. “He’s already a great junior, he’s probably going to play (in the NHL), but I don’t see him in a top-six role in the NHL. Should you use a first-round pick on a player who you don’t ever see playing in your top six?”

Whatever the case, there is little doubt the Colts have a keeper in Beaudoin. He’s a workhorse, posting some astonishing numbers in testing while blossoming into one of the league’s most effective two-way forwards with still two more years to go in his junior eligibility.

Those two years coincide, in no small part because of the player Beaudoin has become, with what should be strong Colts teams. His play with Team Canada at the U18 level means Beaudoin should also factor into its plans for the next two World Junior tournaments, the first of which takes place in Ottawa, where he grew up after returning from Europe, where his father, Eric, played professionally.

In addition to Beaudoin, Colts forward Riley Patterson should earn a selection, with another Colts winger, Bode Stewart, figuring into the conversation as well. Patterson led the OHL in rookie goal scoring (29), while adding 33 assists. (Both he and Beaudoin were tied second on the Colts with 62 points, behind captain Beau Jelsma’s 81.)

It’s hard to argue with Patterson’s numbers, especially after starting slow, but the scouting community has cast a wary eye toward him at times. His play was inconsistent and there could also be draft blowback from backing out of a commitment to attend Michigan State.

Stewart, while vastly improved after coming over in a trade from Saginaw, also leaves scouts questioning his consistency and intensity. Despite flashes of elite play, Stewart gets far less premium ice time on special teams and top-six forward units, making it difficult to compare his play with other high-end players.

Among players with local connections, North Bay Battalion forward Ethan Procyszyn will be drafted after a season that included an invite to the CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game and helping his team to its second consecutive appearance in the Eastern Conference final.

Playing on a talented club with older, more accomplished forwards, Procyszyn performed admirably in a secondary role. But scouts are unsure how steep of a learning/improvement curve the Wasaga Beach native, who played for the Orillia-based North Central minor hockey program, will be able to travel moving forward.

On balance, and for different reasons, Patterson and Procyszyn are both considered mid-round prospects.

Barrie native Max Dirracolo is a true darkhorse. Plucked by the Kitchener Rangers from Jr. A mid-season, the defenceman played well right off the hop and his development was part of what made Blair Scott expendable. Scott was then dealt to the Colts as part of the Eduard Sale/Olivier Savard trade. Dirracolo took a regular shift throughout 31 regular-season and 10 playoff games and often showed veteran poise in his first half-season in the OHL.

Newmarket native John Mustard, who the Colts took in the most recent OHL draft but who is headed to Providence College, is another name to watch. Mustard cut a swath through the United States Hockey League this season and should be taken in the first two rounds.

There is little indication Mustard has any interest in playing in the OHL, but with roots nearby and the Colts expected to be a strong team for the next two seasons, stranger things have happened.

Next year, the Colts will have another candidate to hear his name in the first 60-or-so picks in Kashawn Aitcheson. The defenceman teamed up with Beaudoin on Team Canada to win gold at the World U18 Championship. As a late-born 2006, Aitcheson is not eligible until the 2025 proceedings.

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Peter Robinson

About the Author: Peter Robinson

Barrie's Peter Robinson is a sports columnist for BarrieToday. He is the author of Hope and Heartbreak in Toronto, his take on living with the disease of being a Leafs fan.
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