By: Patrick Donnelly
After months of delay and uncertainty, the 2020 National Hockey League Entry Draft, originally slated to be hosted in Montreal in June, will be held virtually on Tuesday (Round One) and Wednesday (Rounds Two through Seven). Boston University has been particularly successful at recruiting and producing NHL talent over the years, and this season looks to be no exception, with a slew of returning skaters already in pro systems and some freshman head-turners poised to go in this week’s draft.
Last season, 2019 draftees Trevor Zegras (7th overall to Anaheim), Alex Vlasic (43rd overall to Chicago), Robert Mastrosimone (54th overall to Detroit), Dom Fensore (90th overall to Carolina), Ethan Phillips (97th overall to DET), and Case McCarthy (148th overall to New Jersey) headlined the freshman class for the Terriers. This year, sophomore transfer Jay O’Brien, who was selected 19th overall by Philadelphia in 2018, as well as draft hopefuls like freshmen goaltender Drew Commesso and forwards Dylan Peterson and Luke Tuch, add to an impressive talent pool.
The latter three are likely to hear their names called on Wednesday during the early middle rounds.
“I think you’ve got three kids who are highly motivated, first and foremost,” Terrier head coach Albie O’Connell said. “They’re all very reasonable and mature for their age.”
Here’s what you need to know on the draft hopefuls:
F Luke Tuch: 40th-ranked North American skater (Central Scouting)
After two seasons of growth with the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP), Tuch is poised to follow his brother Alex (18th overall to Minnesota in 2014), a former Boston College Eagle and now an NHL standout with Vegas.
During his age-17 season in 2018-19, Tuch posted 15 goals and 24 assists for 39 points in 78 total games between the USDP and the USHL. The left-winger took a step forward in his age-18 season last year with 23-21-44 in 66 total contests. Had the season not been cut off due to the pandemic, Tuch was on pace to post around 27 goals, 25 assists, and 52 points over a 78-game schedule. Overall, his goals-per-game jumped from .192 to .334, while his shooting percentage improved to 15.8%.
The book on Tuch is that he plays an intelligent, powerful game at both ends of the ice. The 6-foot-2, 203-pound power forward is able to use his size and strength to his advantage as an imposing forechecker and presence in front of the net and along the boards. Offensively, Tuch excels in the cycle and when driving to the net. Widely regarded as having a high hockey IQ and being able to see the ice exceptionally, Tuch is reliable on the backcheck and in his own zone as he anticipates the play well. The knock against the Baldwinsville, NY native for some is that he does not display a “wow” factor in his game, but there’s no denying the upside.
“Tuch is a horse,” O’Connell said. “He’s different than a lot of freshmen. He looks like a junior or senior, physically. He’s a very powerful, smart player. When you had up all the things that he can do, you’ve got a pretty elite player, from competitiveness to skillset to skating to wanting the puck and using his body, you’ve got a pretty elite player.
“He’s a different type of player, more of a Joran Greenway or Brady Tkachuk type of player. He’s got toughness and puck-protection. We’re excited about what he can bring us.”
Ranked 40th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Tuch likely projects to land in the second or early third round. TSN’s Bob McKenzie has him listed 43rd, while Craig Button ranks him 67th. In his latest mock draft Corey Pronman of The Athletic projects Tuch to go 52nd overall to the Ottawa Senators.
F Dylan Peterson: 43rd-ranked NA skater (Central Scouting)
An intriguing prospect, Peterson boasts a lot of skills found in elite players to go along with impressive size at 6-foot-4, 193 pounds.
During his 17-year-old season with the USNTDP the power forward registered 11 goals and 29 assists for 40 points in 84 total games between the USHL and the USDP. However, 2019-20 saw his production dip to 12-24-36 numbers in 64 total games, but that is with the season being cut short in mind. Peterson was on track to pot about 16 goals and 32 assists 47 points, give or take, over an 84-game pace.
What jumps off the page with Peterson is his skating ability and his hands, considering his size. He’s certainly got the all the tools to translate his success to the next level, but the knock on him is an apparent lack of consistency. Skating can always use work and be improved on, no matter who you are, and his hockey sense is something that can be brought along with more experience and time to develop at BU. The Roseville, Calif., native can make plays, and certainly has the physical mold to potentially dominate games once he grows into his body. It also helps that he can play both wing and center.
“Peterson is pretty unique,” O’Connell noted. “He’s not as physically advanced as some of the guys who have come in from a weight standpoint because he’s kind of grown tall. He’s really athletic and has a nice set of hands. He’s just a good kid – pretty quiet and wants to be good. Very eager to learn.
“He’s got a great future ahead of him. He’s got a lot of things that he can do with that size, it’s just putting it all together and letting his body fill out. Strength and conditioning are going to be very important for him as he stops growing vertically. As he gets stronger he’ll be very hard to deal with.”
Ranked 43rd among North American skaters by Central Scouting, Peterson will likely go early in the third round, but finding his way into the second round is not totally out of the realm of possibility either. The skilled forward comes in at No. 47 in McKenzie’s rankings, Button ranks him 76th, and Pronman has him going 58th overall to the Boston Bruins in the second round.
G Drew Commesso: 2nd-ranked NA goaltender (Central Scouting)
The Terriers have been anticipating Commesso’s arrival for what seems like forever — perhaps magnified by the departure of Jake Oettinger in 2019 and the subsequent up-and-down 2019-20 for BU goaltenders. Regardless, the freshman has a chance to be a real difference-maker for BU this season, just like Tuch and Peterson.
During the 2018-19 campaign with the U-17 team, his first with the USNTDP, Commesso did not boast the most glamorous numbers: an .888 save percentage and a 3.36 goals-against average (GAA) in 61 games between the USHL and USDP. However, last season, he saw a remarkable improvement more characteristic of his two strong seasons in prep school at St. Sebastian’s. In 38 appearances before the pandemic ended the season, the young netminder notched extremely strong stats with a .918 save percentage to go along with a 2.03 GAA.
The Norwell, Mass., native has the frame of an NHL-caliber goaltender at 6-foot-2, 181 pounds, and has a strong hockey sense and puck-tracking ability that many like to see in goaltending prospects. Commesso’s intangibles project well with his calm, composed demeanor in the crease. He’s got strong fundamentals and solid athleticism, although his rebound control could use some work. Time to develop both in the gym and on the ice at BU could prove wonders for his growth.
“Commesso has a calmness and competitiveness about him,” O’Connell said. “He’s pretty sure of how he has to play to be successful. He’s turned some eyes and guys are having a tough time scoring on him, which is a positive sign for a young goalie.
“He’s been pretty good so far from what we’ve seen. In the past he’s obviously had a great career to this point, so we’re excited to see what he can do In live action.”
Realistically Commesso could go as high as the second round or as low as the fourth round – it is always tough to project where goaltenders will go in the draft. Ranked second among North American netminders by Central Scouting, Commesso is one of the top goaltending prospects available in the draft this season. Button ranks him 83rd overall, McKenzie has him at 87th, and Pronman projects him to go 75th overall in the third round to the Colorado Avalanche.
Once these three promising Terriers hear their names called this week, they will be one step further along in their development. Before they can truly set their sights on the professional ranks though, they will look to grow and continue their development with Boston University, beginning this season.