Wednesday, January 16, 2013

UNH's Brett Pesce Emerges as a Top NHL Prospect

UNH Defenseman Brett Pesce (Photo: College Hockey Inc.)

According to the Central Scouting Service (CSS) of the National Hockey League, UNH freshman defenseman Brett Pesce has advanced to the upper echelon of draft eligible players. Yesterday, the CSS released it's Midterm Rankings for the 2013 NHL draft to be held in the home of the New Jersey Devils on June 28th. Brett Pesce has risen all the way to #36 among all North American born skaters eligible for the draft. He is the top-ranked player currently playing in NCAA Division I.

The 2013 NHL Draft will involve 7 rounds with 30 players drafted in each round. Draft-eligible skaters and goalies from North American and Europe will be selected by the 30 NHL clubs. If the draft was held today, Pesce's 36th ranking would likely translate into a selection in the 2nd or 3rd round.

Ever since the regular season began in an early October series against St. Cloud, UNH has been drawing big crowds both home and away. Sprinkled among the fans have been numerous NHL scouts intent on evaluating the progress of potential draft picks. Before the season began, Brett Pesce was on the Central Scouting's radar but further out on the periphery. In September, the CSS preliminary "Players to Watch" rated Pesce as a "C" prospect meaning he was a candidate to be drafted somewhere in the 4th to 7th round.

Coach Umile has shown confidence in Brett Pesce's ability from the outset of the season. Though Pesce was still only 17-years-old - up until November 15th - he was a regular in UNH's six-man defensive rotation. In my game report following the preseason match against St. Francis Xavier, I noted a number of Pesce's strengths:
"Showing adept skating and agile stickwork, Pesce brought the puck into the offensive zone on a few occasions. Early in the 3rd period, Pesce rushed through the neutral zone and around the back of the St.FX goal before making a soft pass. In the defensive end, Pesce relied on his quick feet and stick in 1-on-1 situations - he didn't throw his body around."
Paired with second-year defenseman Eric Knodel, a 5th-round draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pesce played solidly through mid-November. Up until the trip out west to Colorado, Pesce had a +/- rating of 0 and had registered two shots on goal. On November 20th, the CSS released its "Preliminary Rankings" for the 2013 draft. Pesce was still listed as a "C" prospect.

After a tie against Colorado College and a dramatic come-from-behind win over 2nd-ranked Denver, UNH gained recognition on the national stage. Pesce's poised play was also being noticed. He posted his first assist in the NCAA against Colorado College and began to consistently register a shot on goal in each game. He scored his first college goal in UNH's third win of the season over UMass-Lowell.

Brett Pesce's confidence in his offensive abilities at the college level has grown throughout the first half of the season. When the opportunity arises, he doesn't hesitate to carry the puck out of the defensive zone and into the offensive end. When he is playing defense, Pesce demonstrates an uncanny ability to steal pucks and intercept passes with his stick. As Pesce continues to grow into his 6'3" frame, he is likely to become more of a physical player - just the type of prospect NHL teams covet.


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