It is time for the final instalment of our 5-part Development Camp Invitees posts. Part one of the defencemen was posted earlier today. Here are the final four invitees, including an intriguing prospect whose season was cut short by a brutal injury, a behemoth with a great name, and the brother of an NHLer.
Evan McEneny – Defence
6’2″ – 205 lbs – May 22, 1994
McEneny suffered a devastating season-ending injury in his first draft-eligible season, tearing his ACL just two games in. His skills, along with his size, still caught scouts attention, however, and he was listed on Central Scouting’s midterm rankings for 2012. Admittedly, he was listed 211th out of 211 North American skaters, but appearing on the list at all after only playing 2 games was a surprise.
As a 16-year-old, McEneny played 44 games for the Rangers and, while he only scored 4 points, he held his own against older competition. McEneny has been praised for his offensive instincts, first pass, and his hockey IQ.
McEneny was the youngest player at camp and, with a good third season in Kitchener, will likely get picked in next year’s draft. Whether the Canucks, who have shown a willingness to draft older players, will pick him is another question.
Cooper Rush – Defence
6’7″ – 228 lbs – June 30, 1993
The invitee with the best name is also the tallest player at camp. Hockey players with his reach are always intriguing because, if they can skate and have a modicum of skill, they generally have a future in hockey. It’s up in the air whether Rush will develop that ability to go with his size, however. He scored 16 points in 35 games for the OJHL Otters and added 2 goals in 3 playoff games and, according to his former coach, has “very good mobility.”
Shayne Taker – Defence
6’4″ – 190 lbs – February 12, 1990
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Taker was an all-star in the BCHL prior to heading to Notre Dame, scoring 37 points in 59 games for the Cowichan Valley Capitals in 2009-10. Points haven’t come easily in the NCAA, however, as he has just 16 over two seasons with the Fighting Irish.
Jeff Jackson, Notre Dame’s head coach, describes Taker as “a kid with good size, good skating ability, who makes good decisions with the puck.” The consensus is that he has unrealized offensive potential, which, when combined with his size and skating, makes him one to watch out for. He’ll need to realize that potential, however, over the next two years with Notre Dame.
Nolan Zajac – Defence
5’10″ – 186 lbs – August 1, 1992
Nolan is the brother of Travis Zajac of the New Jersey Devils. Nolan is 7 years younger and, unlike Travis, his two other brothers, and his dad, is a defenceman. He has spent the last three years in the USHL with the Cedar Rapids Roughriders and the Omaha Lancers, but has committed to the University of Denver in the Fall. He was the shortest defenceman at camp by 3 inches, but while he lacks size, he has sweet hands.
In Midget AAA, Zajac impressed at the Telus Cup, particularly in 2009, when he scored 13 points in 7 games to tie for the lead in scoring. At that time, he was described as a “talented two-way defenceman” with the ability to make “quick and smart decisions at high speed.” In his final year in the USHL, he scored 38 points in 53 games for the Lancers as well as 1 point in 7 games for the Roughriders, finishing fourth amongst USHL defencemen in scoring.
Undersized defencemen generally have an uphill climb when it comes to making the NHL and Nolan may end up wishing he had become a forward like the rest of his family. Still, he has several years ahead of him at the University of Denver to develop his game and he’ll be playing in a big and tough league. The NCAA is probably the right way to go for him, where he’ll have plenty of training to bulk up and larger competition to practice dodging.Tags: 2012 Development Camp, Invitees, Prospects