Matt Killian: 2011 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

Welcome to the first of what should be many 2011 NHL Entry Draft prospect profiles.  As of this writing, the New Jersey Devils have the fourth overall pick by way winning the lottery, no second round pick, Dallas' third round pick from the Jamie Langenbrunner trade, and then the eighth highest pick in the remaining four rounds.  For these profiles, we'll be hitting on the big names for fourth overall, of course.  That's probably the most interesting. 

However, many of them will be more like this first one.  Someone who didn't get the limelight.  Someone who, in all likelihood, will not be drafted until the later rounds. Since most of their draft will be in these later rounds, it's still important to get an idea of what to expect.  And if the Devils pick a few of them, then we'll know a little something about them.

Ultimately, that's the main idea of these profiles.  To compile what information is out there, understand a little something about what experts have said, and come to some opinion about him.  The first one is about Matt Killian, defenseman from Delbarton.   This is not the first time Killian's been mentioned on ILWT; I highlighted the fact he was listed as an "A" level prospect on Central Scouting Services' watch list back in October.   He's not as highly touted as he was thought of then, but he'll certainly be drafted in Minnesota.  Let's learn more about him after the jump.

Who Is Matt Killian?

Matt Killian is a defenseman coming out of Delbarton, a non-public high school hockey powerhouse in New Jersey.  Delbarton won their fourth straight state non-public championship in March, defeating St. Augustine 3-2 in overtime in the final.  The Star Ledger has this recap of the final at NJ.com.  As further evidence of Killian being a stand-out defender for Delbarton, the Star Ledger named him to the all-state first team for the second straight season:

Matt Killian, Delbarton, 6-2, 190, Senior
A repeat All-State honoree, the Yale-bound Killian was the perfect combination of skill and ruggedness. The defenseman led an outstanding blue line corps and finished with 27 points on eight goals and 19 assists and was a team-leading plus-42.

Delbarton isn't the only place Killian plied his trade last season.  He did get some experience with the Under-18 United States National Developmental Team Program in the USHL, as noted in this New York Hockey Journal article by Kirk Luedeke.

According to Central Scouting Services list at NHL.com, Killian is listed at 6'1", 191 pounds; and he scored 7 goals and 19 assists in 28 games with Delbarton last season.  CSS ranked him 99th overall among North American skaters, a drop of 20 spots from their mid-term rank.  Killian is committed to Yale for 2011-12.

A Little Video

Killian played a crucial role in that non-public state championship final between Delbarton and St. Augustine.  Late in the third period, Killian jumped up on the rush and eventually banged home a rebound to tie the game at 2-2 for Delbarton. This set the stage for an overtime period that Delbarton eventually won.   Here's a highlight video of that game, including Killian's goal, a replay of Killian's goal, and even a little discussion about the equalizer by the team captain himself. 

What Experts Have Said About Matt Killian

Since Killian has been mostly playing prep hockey in New Jersey, there hasn't been a lot of interest.  There's still a few eyewitness accounts of Killian doing work for the Green Wave.   First, there's this December post at the Scouting Report by Shawn Reznik that focused on Killian and teammate Tommy Davis.    Reznik liked what he saw against Bishop Eustace: his skating, his size, his vision, and his positioning among other things, though his summation was interesting:

He did not truly stand out in the game and there wasn’t a single facet to his play that jumped out at you, but he was good at everything he did.

This can be taken as a pretty good compliment for a defenseman.  It's better to be solid than to stand out for making a few errors.  It can also be taken as a criticism for a prospect, since someone looking to get drafted should stand out in a positive fashion.  It is just one game, though.

Kirk Luedeke of the NY Hockey Journal, the New England Hockey Journal, Bruins 2011 Draft Watch, and the subject of an interview with Tom here on this very site (Part 1, Part 2), got a chance to check him out live in February. Unfortunately, Luedeke saw a 10-0 blowout by Delbarton against Seton Hall Prep - not exactly the best game to watch a prospect.  All the same, Luedeke had plenty of complimentary things to say about Killian with an important caveat.

The good news is that defenseman Matt Killian played pretty well and looks like an NHL draft prospect. Not sure where the Yale recruit will end up going in Minnesota, but he should be picked somewhere in the middle I would think because he has good size (6-2) is a very good skater and is an aggressive, attacking defender.

Of course, it's virtually impossible to really gauge the players in a game like this one because they simply weren't challenged. And that's the bugaboo with scouting and observing the high school and prep ranks of hockey in the U.S. To the untrained eye, Killian was a beast, but he had plenty of time and space to make plays because the opposition didn't have the skill to disrupt his game in any way, shape or form.

That the praise for his skating and size comes from a second party makes me believe it's a real plus. However, I cannot emphasize that second paragraph from Luedeke enough.  Like Kenneth Agostino last year, the fact that Killian has gone up against high school competition really hurts in terms of getting a grasp on how he'll develop. That doesn't mean he won't get drafted, just not as high as suggested by CSS back in October.

Fortunately, according to this Luedeke article in the NY Hockey Journal, Killian can boast having some experience against some better competition with an eight-week stint with the U.S. NTDP. It didn't get unnoticed by scouts, as Luedeke passed along this quote from a NHL scout in that NY Hockey Journal article:

"I saw him in New England earlier and thought he was thinking too much and trying too hard," said an NHL scout for a Western Conference team. "He had a better run in Minnesota against some pretty good competition and was effective at using his mobility at both ends of the ice. There’s some upside with him, but the level of competition is going to factor into where he goes (in the draft)."

That the scout appreciated his movement will definitely help his stock; but the scout reinforces the biggest question mark surrounding Killian.  That being, can he do what he did in Delbarton at a higher level? The reality is that he did most of his work against relatively weak competition and that makes him more of a project than a similar prospect playing in juniors in Canada or Europe.

Finally, at Bruins 2011 Draft Watch, Luedeke ranked Killian 12th among all high school players in the country.  In the list, Luedeke felt Killian was more "steady" and "unspectacular" as a defender; and that he's a project as a prospect.  It's a good summation as any as how Killian is viewed with respect to the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

An Opinion of Sorts

What's good to read about Killian is that he's apparently a good skater, he's mobile, and he had a taste of the "next level" with some time with the USNTDP in addition to winning a fourth straight title with Delbarton and being an all-state defenseman again.  These are pluses, in my view.  I'm very glad to read about how good of a skater he is, as that should be able to carry over to the proverbial next level.  Not to mention it's a relief from reading about prospects where scouts are concerned about one's skating and mobility.

However, like Kenny Agostino, his stock is held back by the fact he played high school hockey on a powerhouse team in New Jersey.  Are his offensive skills the result of his opponents just not being good enough to challenge? Would he be as effective if he wasn't a strong team among his peers?  Would he be as poised in his own end when the forwards become significantly better in a season?  Most of all: Is there a reason to believe he'll prosper and blossom at Yale?  These are all legitimate questions. I would guess his fall in the rankings by CSS may have something to do said questions along with others' reports on how he did in a game.   

That all said, Killian will be drafted in June.  With respect to New Jersey, I would not mind if he turned out to be the team's fourth round pick.  I think it's appropriate for a team to draft a player who has such questions surrounding their potential, who didn't play at a high level such as high school or Junior A players, who are listed as "projects," and so forth.  From the fourth round and onward, it's a defensible pick.  It's not unheard of for the Devils to select such a player in the draft (e.g. Derek Rodwell and Curtis Gedig from Junior A leagues in 2009, Joe Faust from high school in 2010), and they definitely will let a player develop at college for all four years if necessary (e.g. 2005 fifth rounder Mark Fayne, who also was drafted out of high school).

Your Opinions

Now that you've read all of this on Matt Killian, I want to know what you think of him as a prospect.  Are you pleased to read that he's a good skater?  Would you mind if the Devils drafted him in the fourth round like I do? More importantly, did you see Killian play or know other sources online who have?  If so, then please share your views about him so we all can learn more about Killian as a prospect.  Please leave your answers and other thoughts on Matt Killian in the comments.  Thanks for reading.

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