The Canadiens have been happy to draft players from the US Development Program with previous first round picks. If Jack Dougherty is still on the board, they may do so again.
Dougherty split time between the USHL and USDP where he improved his offensive game. The 6'1, 186 pound defenseman picked up six goals and 22 points through 55 games with the U.S. National U18 Team this year. He will continue his career at the University of Wisconsin in 2014-15.
With strong showings at the Hlinka Memorial and WJC under-18 tournaments, the 18-year-old raised his stock heading into the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. At the NHL scouting combine last month, Dougherty commented on the reception he received from team representatives, including NHL Hall of Famers Patrick Roy and Steve Yzerman:
The feedback he got from NHL personnel was nothing he hadn’t heard before. Scouts love his all-around game – especially his assertiveness, awareness and situational IQ – while stressing Dougherty needs to become stronger and a more polished skater.
"I know pretty much who I am as a player,’’ Dougherty said.
The confidence Dougherty has in his game and who he is as a player is a great sign. If he can already begin playing with maturity at 18-years of age, he place himself in a great position to transition smoothly into an NHL role when the time comes.
In an interview with Hockey's Future at the conclusion of the Ivan Hlinka tournament (below), Dougherty shared, "I gained 21 new brothers. I'd take a bullet for all of them."
Who wouldn't want a guy like that on their team?
[A] substance over flash type of defender who brings a calming-businesslike approach to the backend [...] his play saw vast improvement with each passing game becoming more comfortable in all areas of the ice, most notably his ability to log the puck up ice [...] keeps his game with the puck simple and jumps into the action when he sees an opening [...] showcased layers of toughness and exhibited a nasty streak as it was not uncommon for him to look to land a big hit.
Dougherty doesn't have the speed that most NHL teams are looking for in a top pick as a top-four defenseman, but he has improved over the course of the season. He looks to be limited offensively as he does not possess the top-level creativity with the puck needed to generate consistent offensive chances or to lead the rush.
Physicality is certainly in his recipe. He finishes his checks and is a heavy hitter. Passing up a hit isn't in his vocabulary. Defensive zone awareness is a strong suit, as Dougherty is always in position and doesn't drift or get caught day dreaming. He always makes a good first pass and protects the puck well in the defensive zone. Dependable, smart, simple hockey in the defensive zone is his game.
Dougherty has made great strides the past couple of seasons — steadily progressing from a defensive defenseman to a confident puck handler and someone with a great ability to read the play. Has the size and skating ability that attracts scouts and has not let his offensive play diminish his defensive game.
Average Ranking: 39
An efficient defenseman, Dougherty may not have the upside to become a top pairing defenseman in the NHL, but he has the tools and skill set to secure a top six role.
Jack Dougherty would be a relatively safe pick late in the first round, which leads me to believe that they could very well take him if he's still available when their turn comes.
The Habs are rather thin on the right-handed defensemen, which also makes Dougherty and attractive prospect. He could look good playing alongside either Nathan Beaulieu or Jarred Tinordi in three or four years.
Follow him on Twitter for career updates and Happy Gilmore references:
Off to Madison to start the next chapter of my life and hockey career. Thankful for everyone who has helped me get to this point! #Badgers— Jack Dougherty (@jackdougherty2) June 14, 2014