Who do you tend to take a shot at late in a draft? A prospect who impressed but at a relatively low level of competition? Someone who just blew up near the end of the season but not enough to get noticed? Perhaps a player who's really young and is essentially a project? Maybe an over-aged junior who was once touted to be a prospect but had it drop for one reason or another? The New Jersey Devils have went in those directions in the past. With two picks in the sixth round, they'll have to choose one again. Maybe they will consider someone like United States National Team Developmental Program forward Shane Gersich.
Who is Shane Gersich?
According to his profile at Elite Prospects, Shane Gersich was born on July 10, 1996 and hails from Minnesota. He's young and not particularly big as Elite Prospects lists him at 5'11" and 174 pounds. After crushing it at the high school level with Holy Family Catholic (and making a brief appearance with the Omaha Lancers), he joined the USNTDP in his draft year. This meant plenty of exhibitions, games in the USHL, and he was a part of the gold medal winning U-18 team at this year's World U-18 Championships. However, the production was modest:
Averaging about a point every other game is not at all bad rate on it's own. For a prospect, though, it doesn't suggest he's ready for the next level. His production rate was better in the USHL though. Plus, as per the USHL's site, he did average just over two shots per game too. Fortunately for Gersich, he won't have to go a tougher league just yet. He committed to North Dakota for the 2015-16 season. Brad Schlossman, who covers the Fighting Sioux at the Grand Forks Herald, recently tweeted out that Gersich will play for Omaha for the 2014-15 season. Omaha drafted Gersich first overall in the 2012 future draft so it makes sense he'll go there. It can be his place to grow as a player as college hockey awaits.
What Others Have Said About Gersich
Believe it or not, there was a bit of hype prior to the 2013-14 season for Gersich. After all, he was making the jump from parochial high school hockey in Minnesota to the USHL to join the mighty USNTDP program. He garnered some notice for that. This blurb in his prospect profile at Elite Prospects from August 2013 speaks to that:
Gersich is a game breaking talent with incredible speed, agility and first step quickness. He needs just three steps and he is gone and uses his speed as he looks to take the puck wide and beat defenders to the outside. He also displays a strong shot that absolutely jumps off his stick in the blink of an eye. (August 2013)
Additionally, Nick Perri listed Gersich as a player to watch back in August at The Scouting Report. He then thought that Gerisch would get an opportunity to get significant minutes and rise over the course of the season. Later in October, Perri praised Gersich's performance at the USA All American Game. Here's what he had to say about the forward:
He was by far the most active forward on Team Mullen. He created several chances in the opening period using his speed and puck skills to bust down the wing and get to the net for chances. He was all over the puck during the game, playing strong and aggressively and trying hard to gain possession of the puck. He moved the puck off his stick quickly and made good decisions to beat the Team Johnson defense. His three-zone effort was consistent and impressive.
He didn’t let up as the game moved along and he remained one of the better players in the game until his final shift of the night. The USNDP forward deserved to get on the board on several occasions, but could not. He did, however, show that he could be amongst the elite USHL prospects entering the 2014 draft.
What's consistent between the EP blurb and Perri's thoughts is that Gersich demonstrated he was fast and can battle for pucks in spite of his size. However, what was thought back then didn't turn out to be the case. Gersich did play for the USNTDP but he wasn't one of the top scorers. He did go to the World U-18s, but he produced nothing. Central Scouting Services never ranked him highly and dropped him further in their final rankings. While production isn't everything, a forward cannot be a top prospect without the numbers justifying the skills to some degree. It's one thing if it's from playing at a much higher level, like prospects playing in European pro leagues. Not so when it's against your peers.
What is the culprit? It could be something as simple as Gersich just developing at his own pace. Prior to the World U-18s, Chris Peters of United States of Hockey summarized Gersich after his season as such:
After making the jump from high school to the NTDP this year, Gersich’s season ebbed and flowed, which can be pretty typical as a player builds strength. There’s no question he has some serious skill, though, and he should thrive on the bigger ice surfaces in Finland. With good speed and quickness, he has really good offensive-zone sense and vision to find plays. He put up 32 points in 54 games and will need to bring scoring depth to Team USA. Gersich will look to bring home some gold to compare with the one his uncle Neal Broten won in Lake Placid.
He didn't end up bringing much scoring depth at all with no points, but making the roster in of itself is an accomplishment. As with the praise prior to the season, Peters notes his speed was an asset along with the fact that he's trying to get stronger. He will likely have to do so, but perhaps then he'll really break through.
Over at The Hockey Writers, Shanw Reznik has a positive opinion of Gersich. He noted that while he didn't meet expectations, he certainly could. Here's how Reznik summarized Gersich in his profile:
Gersich can bolt around the ice with immense speed and quickness. A shorter player, he has some of the best agility I’ve seen and rarely loses momentum in his turns. In the offensive zone, Gersich is a scoring threat when he has possession of the puck. Even for his size, he doesn’t mind driving the net or getting creative in tight.
His speed lends him to be a great forechecker and backchecker as well. Gersich developed his defensive game quite nicely with the NTDP season this year, but could stand to buffer it a bit more when he goes to North Dakota.
Again, Gersich's skating is the key asset with him. I can agree that this would make him a threat when coming into either zone with speed. The defensive aspect needing improvement seems to me to be another area for him to work on, along with strength and his overall offensive game.
Lastly, I turn to a profile on our network. Chris Dilks runs SBN College Hockey and he recently profiled the North Dakota-committed forward. He has a very good profile that answers all of the key questions regarding a prospect. Here's what Dilks wrote about Gersich's strengths and weaknesses:
Gersich is a magnificent skater, maybe one of the best in the draft. He's got a great combination of speed and strength on his skates. The problem is that Gersich's hands and hockey sense have never quite been able to keep up with his feet, and he struggles using that speed to amount to much offensive production on the ice. He's too easily knocked off the puck, and is an average passer. His work in the defensive zone has improved over the past year.
Interesting. Gersich may be too swift for the rest of him and his game. That would account (at least in part) for the production and the fact he hasn't been considered higher in spite of being so, so good at skating. Later in the profile, Dilks also noted that since his scoring doesn't project well now, his future may be in being an energy player. Given how so many have noted his skating and speed as his best traits, I think that's a fair assessment.
A Little Video
There's not much video of Gersich. In fact, this video of his first USHL goal comes from the 2012-13 season. This is his first USHL goal, a consolation goal for the Lancers. He drives to the net and gets rewarded with a rebound to put home. It's not much, but it's a little video.
An Opinon of Sorts
As mentioned earlier, Dilks' assessment is one I agree with. Gersich's speed and skating could be exceptional enough for him to get considered at the next level. However, I get the impression that those may be the only traits in his game that standout. I'm sure he has some skill since he did stick with the USNTDP, played in the World U-18s, and will go to a strong college. He's not just a fast guy who just gets a few bounces and puts them in. But a prospect generally needs to show considerable potential to be drafted and that usually means being able to do more than one thing exceptionally well among his peers. Now, that's not a slight on Gersich at all. A NHL job is a NHL job, even if it's as a role player. Since it is likely he's going to be available through the final few rounds, that would be a massive achievement.
It's also worth noting that Gersich will be one of the younger prospects in this draft class. He'll get another year in the USHL before he goes to college. It's possible that the rest of his skills catch up with his quickness then, which would not only get him really ready for college but improve his chances playing beyond there. That's the hopeful possibility, of course. It's just as likely that he may be fast but if he can't perform while being that fast, then he'd bring little of value in tougher leagues. Personally, and going back to the starting question, I would like it if the Devils would use one of their sixth round picks on Gersich. I think, as a prospect, he's a project worth undertaking. Having a notable part of a game is better than none. He can take his time developing. I would think that's a reasonable use of one of their late picks. Anything gained would be better than what they've done so far with them, anyway.
Now that you've read all this, what's your opinion of Shane Gersich as a prospect? What do you make of his 2013-14 season with the USNTDP? Did you catch him playing for the United States at the World U-18 tournament? Do you think his skating and speed could be strong enough assets to get him interest later on? Or do you think he really needs to develop quite a bit to have a future? Would you want the Devils to draft him if he's available late in the draft? Do you think any team will draft him this year? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Shane Gersich in the comments. Thank you for reading.