The New Jersey Devils selected Blake Coleman with their third round pick, 75th overall, in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. If you're like me, you're first reaction was, "Who?" Let's learn a little bit more about him.
Per Elite Prospects page on him, Coleman stands at 5'10", weighs 198 pounds, was born in Plano, Texas, listed as a center, shoots left, and played for the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League last season. That's not entirely accurate. He had a big break out season with Indiana. He won a lot of awards in 2010-11: the USHL Player of the Year, named a First Team All-Star, named the league's top forward, led the league in points and assists, and was even named the USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year. That's a lot of accolades in one season. This article at the USHL's website details his rise from "role player" to "ace scorer" last season pretty well.
Accolades aside, this selection may be a reach. According to his NHL.com prospect page, was ranked 198th among North American skaters by Central Scouting Services at their midterm and was unranked in their final rankings. That's rather odd for a guy who sparkled in the USHL regular season. Of course, we can't complain. The name didn't really come up when we were figuring out who to profile. This is definitely a surprise from our standpoint.
So there's at least some mystery around the pick. Since he'll be going to a strong CCHA team in Miami in the fall, there's no reason to think he's - he'll get the chance to up his game at the next level. As to what that could be, who knows? Clearly, the Devils scouts liked what they saw enough to take him this high.
I'll be updating this post later with more information on Coleman as time permits (Updates all after the jump). In the meantime, please let me know what you think of Blake Coleman and this pick in the comments. Feel free to add any additional information or links in the comments as well.
Here's a short video from USA Hockey where Blake Coleman talks about winning the USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year award and the USHL.
Back on December 2010, Blake Coleman was interviewed on This Week in the USHL. Check that out here. Now here's a highlight from Coleman scoring a power play goal in February against Dubuque with no audio and a celebratory fall.
The New Jersey Devils just put up this interview with Coleman just after his selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Opinions on Blake Coleman
Shortly after he was drafted, Ryan Clark offered two short takes on Coleman on Twitter. Clark follows the Minnesota high school scene and the USHL, so he's seen plenty of Blake Coleman in this past season. When I asked him what were Coleman's strengths, here's what he had to say:
Great scorer, great skater and a strong player. Just needs work defensively.
He's not kidding about defense being an issue. Earlier, Clark had this in response to a question from Jared Ramsden, who covers the Devils over at Hockey's Future:
His defense needs work. Indiana was a offense team that lost a lot of games by not playing defense.
Finally from Clark's tweets, he referenced this quote from a NHL scout about Coleman:
Brian Bates, a Columbus scout said of him, "I think he's the best player in the USHL."
That shouldn't come as much of a surprise since the league named Coleman their top player last season.
As for additional opinions, Kirk Luedeke did mention him at the end of May as a "Guy You Should Know." That is, a prospect who wasn't going to be drafted very high, but is of interest for one reason or another. As far as opinions go, this is comprehensive in it's brevity. It spells out why he wasn't a recognized prospect in this draft, despite having a monster season with Indiana in the USHL.
Blake Coleman, C Indiana (USHL)- Late '91 from Dallas suburb of Plano put up an eye-popping 34 goals and 92 points in just 59 games for the Ice this season after 28 a year ago. Talk about an under-the-radar guy! His height is pretty average, but he's thick and strong and fights his way to the net. Has a quick stick and powerful shot with nice vision and hockey sense to set up the play.
One scout was pretty candid in his assessment: "Coleman could get drafted. Some think he has to play with Mike Richards-like intensity (to be successful) but doesn't always, and some question his character. He needs to be Matt Cooke if he's going to make it to the NHL- it's up to him." There is no arguing the production, but if the off-ice stuff is going around the grapevine, it could account for why the buzz on him compared to Green Bay defenseman Andy Welinski has been virtually nonexistent. It could also signal that NHL teams are refusing to discuss him in hopes of stealing him late, too. Will be interesting to see if/where he goes.
The perceived lack of intensity along with character issues makes for a pretty big warning sign, and that could explain. After all, who wants to take a prospect who isn't going to put in a full effort and let their potential talent go to waste? I certainly wouldn't. However, that's only a perception, who knows if it's reality. Can someone who isn't always "bringing it" put up 92 points in 59 games? If it comes up while he's at Miami, then I would be concerned. Now, It's not clear what the "off-ice stuff" is, but as proven by Mike
Jefferson Danton, Matt Corrente, and Jon Merrill, the Devils weren't put off by it to let it be an issue.
Either way, it's all up to Coleman. The next step is to go to Miami, earn a spot on the team, and show that this past USHL season wasn't just a fluke. If he can do that, then the Devils could have an interesting prospect in their system. Best of luck to him.