The New Jersey Devils have the lowest possible first round pick and a fairly high second round pick. With the Devils having two picks in this range, they will have plenty of prospects to pick from. While this is true in most drafts, it may be especially true this year. I get the sense that the 2014 NHL Entry Draft will be very open. A player tagged for the early second may be going first if a team really likes him. Someone thought to go in the top thirty may fall out and a bit further than thought. With that in mind, expect plenty of profiles this year about players that could be a late first or an early second rounder. One such player is United States National Developmental Program defenseman Jack Dougherty.
Who is Jack Dougherty?
Dougherty hails from Minnesota and is a product of St. Thomas Academy. His performance got the notice of USNTDP and has plied his trade with them in the 2013-14 season. As a result, it's no surprise that he has represented the United States at the international U-18 level. The defender was a part of the team that went to the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament last summer and the gold medal winning squad at this year's World U-18 Tournament. He is listed at Elite Prospects at 6'2", 185 pounds. Dougherty will turn 18 later this month so it's possible he grows a little a more.
Based on his basic stats at EP, my first thought was that he has a little offense in him. And I do mean little. While the USDP doesn't count shots on it's stats page, the USHL league site does. From the 2013-14 season stats, Dougherty did get a few power play points which tells me the coaches felt he wasn't so devoid of offense to not use him on that end of special teams. Yet, he only took 27 shots on net in 23 games. That doesn't coincide with the notion of a very offensive player. Still, he did get a couple of goals and his shot could be good; it may be a matter of using it more often.
Like many USNTDP players, Dougherty will go to the NCAA for his next stage of his hockey career. He's committed to Wisconsin, as per this report by Andy Baggot at Madison.com, but that wasn't his original plan. Dougherty originally stated that he would go to Ohio State. However, when the Ohio State coach at the time got fired, he looked elsewhere. Now, it's clear that if you want to find out how he's doing, then you probably want to become familiar with Bucky's 5th Quarter, the University of Wisconsin blog on SBN.
What Others Have Said About Jack Dougherty
There is a short description of Doughtry's prospects in his EP profile. It's a good place as any as to start:
Dougherty is an intelligent defenseman who tries to blend strong positioning while trying to inflict a physical dimension on his opponent. He isn't the fleetest of foot, but does get where he needs to go. He also makes a strong first pass and has solid offensive instincts.
Since Dougherty has performed throughout 2013-14 with the United States, there's plenty of opinion over that timeframe. For starters, Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News happened to get a few words with the defenseman before the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament back in July. The prospect described his own game as the following:
I’d say I’m pretty smart, know my position, play defense pretty well," Dougherty said. "I like to play physical, get into guys’ heads. I think I’m an OK skater…I get by."
I think that last part raises an eyebrow. At least, it's something that will be looked at closely to see if it improved. Speaking of the Hlinka tournament, it apparently went well for him. At least, it did the eyes of one viewer. U.S. Hockey Report got in touch with a veteran NHL scout, who rated his performance at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament quite highly:
A : Jack Dougherty, RD, 6-1/190 – Also possesses great hockey sense. Add in good passing skills and good skating ability. Tough to get around. Was the top-scoring U.S. d-man with a 1-2-3 line. Decommitted from Ohio State after Mark Osiecki was let go in the spring. Going to NTDP U-18 Team this fall. Played at St. Thomas Academy last winter.
Interesting - maybe his skating isn't such an issue? In any case, Lesile Fraff of Hockey Prospectus listed ten notable prospects in the USHL back in January. She rated him fourth and as the highest defenseman on her list:
People may be surprised that I have Dougherty ahead of the more highly-touted Jack Glover, but I really like Dougherty’s puck-moving abilities, positioning, and decision making. I also believe that he will become more of a two-way blueliner than Glover over the course of his career. Considered to have only average skating skills, Dougherty is expected to be a second round selection in Philadelphia, but he had no trouble keeping up in the All-American Prospects Game in September and continues to improve in all aspects of his game during the 2013-14 season.
This is certainly encouraging to read; especially in line with the various blurbs put in chronological order. I know it's different views from different people, but there's plenty of positives. I mean, who wouldn't like a defenseman who's good at making the right reads and being in the right place in defensive situations?
In any case, prior to the World U-18 tournament, Chris Peters weighed in on each of the U.S. players at United States of Hockey. He had this to say about Dougherty:
Jack Dougherty (Wisconsin) — Cottage Grove, Minn. — A tough two-way defenseman with some good offensive abilities, Dougherty can do a little bit of everything for Team USA. He should draw top-four minutes at the U18WC with his solid skating and he should be able to exploit the big ice a bit. Dougherty has gotten his fair share of draft buzz this year, even being floated as a first-round possibility, but that may be a little lofty. Either way, there’s some real talent here and he should be an important player at the Worlds.
From the player saying "I get by" at skating to someone thinking the big ice is something he could thrive in is at least a little impressive. Maybe only to me. Dougherty was featured in the United States' gold medal performance. Based on the IIHF stats, He had a power play goal, an even strength goal, two assists, and twelve shots in seven games. Points from the American blueline were spread out, but Dougherty did finish only behind future 2015 draft pick Noah Hanifin in defensemen scoring on the team. That's certainly not bad at all.
Lastly, I want to give the last word for this section to Ben Kerr of Last Word on Sports. He named Dougherty his 34th ranked prospect and provided a rather detailed profile of what he's all about. If nothing else in this preview, you should take the time read this profile. Here's a little bit from it that focuses on his defensive work. Since he is a defenseman, I figure that's rather important:
Defensively, Dougherty is very strong positionally, and maintains excellent gap control. He loves to play physical and can throw his weight around with a big hit, or battling in front of the net or in the corners. Speaking of weight, Dougherty will need to add some weight to his frame to continue to play that game at the next level.
All good things; I'm not put off by the weight. Again, he's not even 18 and that can be addressed accordingly. Kerr does note that he does possess a good shot and can pinch in really well. He also notes that Dougherty's skating has improved but remains an issue of sorts. From my reading, I don't get the sense that it's the sort of thing that should be frightening. But it may make a difference as to what kind of defenseman he becomes as opposed to what he could be. Improvement is good, but improvement to average makes me wonder how it was before 2013-14 began. Perhaps Dougherty was more honest about his own skating than I thought? Still, do read Kerr's
A Little Video
Dougherty scored one goal at the Hlinka tourney. Here it is!
He also scored this goal at the U-18s against the Czech Republic. Well, the IIHF thinks he scored it. I think the goal should have been credited to Alex Tuch. It appears to have been tipped by him. So I see why the Youtube uploader, bigwhite06, put two players in the title.
An Opinion of Sorts
Independent of the Devils, I get the impression that Dougherty would make a fine pick for any team interested in a defenseman. What I like to read about a defenseman is that he's smart, he's able to make good decisions, and he's got other tools to go with it. Dougherty fits all of that. He's still relatively young, so there's plenty of room for him to grow to go with the experience he's had with the USNTDP last season. Apparently, his skating has improved. Assuming that was his biggest issue, then that's another plus. He'll also be attending a good university, one that will likely have a spot for him on defense right away. I'm still a bit skeptical about his offensive abilities given that he hasn't been a prolific shooter or producer at his age group. However, I don't get the sense that he has none at all either.
I can see why some Devils fans wouldn't be that interested in Dougherty since he is a defenseman and the Devils have a lot of them in their system. I would agree that with their 30th and 41st picks, they should pick up a forward with at least one of them. But if they decide to go defense, then I wouldn't mind a prospect like Dougherty at all. With him going to college, it's likely he'll be there for a few years if not the full four. By then, the Devils may not be so deep in defense and they need a quality defensive prospect in the system. I'd support it. Then again, who knows if he'll even be available by the time the Devils get to pick in this draft.
Now that you've read all this about Jack Dougherty, what do you think of him as a prospect? What about him impressed you the most? What about him concerns you, if anything? If the Devils do choose a defenseman, would you want him to be the one? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Jack Dougherty in the comments. Thank you for reading.