Pennsylvania native Brandon Saad's impressive play in the Ontario Hockey League gives rise to the strong possibility an American will crack the top five in the NHL draft next summer for the first time in three years.
Although a record 11 Americans were taken in the first round in June, none went in the top 10. Starting in 2004, an American was selected in the top five in five consecutive drafts. The last U.S.-born top-five draft pick was Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Zach Bogosian, who was chosen third overall in 2008.
"Brandon is a classic power forward with size, strength and finishing abilities," USA Hockey assistant executive director Jim Johannson said. "He projects to be a steady, producing scorer at the NHL level."
Saad (6-2, 200) has 13 points in his first 12 games for Saginaw in the OHL.
Other top American prospects:
2. Right wing Seth Ambroz (Omaha, United States Hockey League): He could end up being a Dustin Brown-type player, physical with the ability to score goals. He has the potential to crack the top 10 in the draft.
3. Center Rocco Grimaldi (U.S. National Team Development Program under-18 team): Brian Gionta. Tyler Ennis. Corey Millen. Take your pick for an apt comparison for a dynamic, 5-7 scorer. He'll play at North Dakota.
4. Center J.T. Miller (U.S. NTDP U-18 team): He is considered an enticing project because he has size (6-1, 198) and skill and can skate.
5. Right wing Tyler Biggs (U.S. NTDP U-18 team): He is 6-2, 205, a physical force and a solid net-front presence. "He's an in-the-trench player," Johannson said.
6. Defenseman Adam Clendening (Boston University): He's 5-11, 190, and he can move the puck effectively.
7. Right wing Shane McColgan (Kelowna, Western Hockey League): The flashy 5-10 Californian is close to being a point-per-game player in the WHL. He had 25 goals and 44 assists in 71 games last season and is off to a great start this season.
8. Left wing Matt Nieto (Boston University): He's an excellent skater with exceptional offensive instincts.
9. Defenseman Mike Paliotta (U.S. NTDP U-18 team): He's a steady, versatile, 6-4 puck-mover with solid fundamentals. He'll play at Vermont.
10. Defenseman Scott Mayfield (Youngstown, USHL): The St. Louis native is a 6-3 offensive defenseman who had 10 goals and 145 penalty minutes last season.
Thanks to Kevin Allen of USA Today