Photo Credit: Rena Laverty
Scouting Report written by Austin Garrett
The USNTDP was a force to be reckoned with this year. Every game there was a new player I was making a note about, going back to watch shifts of, and honestly having a hard time ranking forwards and defensemen within the program let alone against the 2022 draft. One of the players that played a lot on the third and fourth lines this past year that continually caught my eye was Devin Kaplan.
Devin Kaplan hails from Bridgewater, NJ and played for the North Jersey Avalanche AAA program before joining the USNTDP program. He’s played primarily with Charlie Stramel and Rutger McGroarty in the games I’ve watched.
There are a few players I’ve profiled that I really enjoy watching, but when it comes to the player I think will far outperform their draft position in the 2022 draft I’d be betting on Devin Kaplan.
D.O.B – January 10, 2004
Nationality – USA
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –198 lbs
Position – Right Wing
Handedness – Right
Kaplan’s Style Of Play
Devin Kaplan’s strength is his transition game. He has very good small area puck handling ability and good edges to maneuver through the neutral zone. He was the catalyst for transition on the McGroarty/Stramel line for the games that I tracked which included two games against Big 10 NCAA teams and two USHL games. During those games he was a part of 51% of all successful transitions for his line which is an astounding percentage of involvement. Even crazier: he was successful on almost 83% of those transitions. It is rare for Devin Kaplan to have an opportunity to enter/exit the zone and for the USNTDP to not do it with possession.
Let’s take this clip below as a perfect example of Devin Kaplan’s offensive game:
You see first that Kaplan loses the puck on a touch and then backchecks at the blue line and is part of the turnover that occurs as 27 in blue retrieves the puck in the defensive zone. Kaplan gets a puck in his skates and is able to maintain control on a soft forecheck coming at him at the defensive blue line with a quick move. Then the hallmark of Kaplan’s transition game occurs with one quick deceptive fake on #56 in white and he’s now created a 3-on-2 entering the offensive blue line. After gaining the zone he sees he’s on a 2-on-2 with #13 dropping back and #28 not really a passing option on the wing, so he drops it back and #13 take a low danger shot attempt.
This isn’t just a one off type of event for Kaplan. He is consistently gaining the zone and then dropping the puck back to trailing forwards or defensemen, or making a move himself to get into dangerous areas of the ice. His hands for being 6’3 are top-end in this draft
Kaplan is just such a smart and controlled offensive zone player. Take this shift below:
Kaplan reads the defenseman’s pass as he tries to go d-to-d behind the net and turns the puck over on his forecheck. Going into the corner he picks his head up to scan his outlet as he has two players coming in to pressure him and gets the puck out to the point for a low-to-high cycle start. A bad pass/first touch back to him and he still is able to feed #24 behind the net who is then setting up #10 for a high danger shot. Kaplan then supports the forecheck across the ice, picks up loose puck, and feeds a beautiful high danger pass for USA’s first goal in the Gold medal game.
He has the ability to forecheck hard as the F1, is smart on the wall as the F2, and possesses the brain and the hand-eye coordination to really excel as an F3 forechecker as well. His speed allows him to suffocate space and he’s not afraid to use his size and physicality to separate players off the puck.
Another example of his amazing ability to turnover a puck on the forecheck and then the beautiful backhand pass to #5 for him to activate off the wall.
Kaplan’s offensive data just screams a player that needs more opportunities with the elite players on the NTDP and we’d be talking about a mid-late first round pick. He completed 77% of all of his passing attempts including 57% of his dangerous pass attempts in the offensive zone. He shoots from dangerous areas of the ice almost 70% of the time and scored on 12.5% of his shot attempts. There’s a lot of good processing indicators from his passing decisions to his shot selection to his success rate in transition.
Offensively I think there are two areas of improvement that could be a catalyst for him breaking out as a scoring winger in the NHL. The first is working on accuracy with his wrist shot and getting more power behind it so he can beat goalies from distance. His shot really wasn’t a weapon, especially from outside high dangerous areas of the ice. The second area is just a more aggressive nature when he enters the offensive zone with the puck. I think he was too deferential, playing a low-to-high type structure and not attacking as much as he could have off the rush. He’s great at keeping plays moving, but sometimes I wish he’d have looked to make a more risky play that would’ve had a higher reward if he connected than the safer plays of chipping it behind the net or sending it back to the point.
Defense and Skating
Kaplan shows very good effort in his pursuit of the puck, especially as a primary forechecker. While he is often successful using his size, other times he can turn completely to the side trying to pin a guy on the boards and get out maneuvered by his opponents. He is better using his stick first when being physical to try to break up the puck, and when playing just the body can put himself into low-leverage positions to not be able to stop an oncoming forward. However, when he is able to get on top of a player he is able to turn the puck over with ease and is exceptionally dangerous at taking loose pucks off the forecheck and creating opportunities offensively for his team which is why this was mentioned often in the offensive section.
As a winger Kaplan shows exceptional awareness and closing speed to mitigate pressure from the points in the defensive zone. He scans constantly and earned a role as a penalty kill defender as well on the USNTDP. Rarely is he caught out of position and has a very good motor in puck pursuit and backchecking. More than a couple of times he’s chased people down after being caught deep in the offensive zone in my viewings.
Kaplan can be caught scanning the ice without moving his feet and engaging in what he’s reading. Sometimes he’s looking at multiple scans/options and doesn’t commit to a space or player and can have a puck move past him. Other times, since he’s the team’s primary transition option at forward on his line, he can fly out of the zone a little too early and if the first pass doesn’t connect or get out of the zone he can create an odd-man situation on the turnover. This is a rare occurrence.
He moves well up and down the ice for being a 6’3 forward. His north/south speed is above average and his lateral mobility is superb compared to a lot of players his size. I don’t see any real concerns about his mobility projecting him to the NHL, and at times I thought he was among the best skaters on the ice against good competition.
We have Devin Kaplan ranked 36th overall and I’d honestly pound the table to push him higher if I could. I know we’re probably amongst the highest on him in the scouting community, and in my opinion this is THE player in North America who has the ability to way outperform their draft position due to a lack of opportunity in playing time/role in the 2022 draft.
I say this because, for instance, let’s take the eye test: he’s 6’3, moves well, has a motor defensively, has really good puck skill/transitional ability/passing ability, has a great brain, and uses his size to be physical. I would describe him, without data, as the type of player I’d expect administrators in the NHL to drool over. With data? My goodness is Kaplan just screaming upside. So many great indicators outside of his point total including shot differentials, work rates, passing data, transition data, and defensive blue line data in my data set. Even better microstats with some of the public sphere scouts who have tracked Kaplan as well.
I’m not going to sit here and promise he’s going to be a top-6 winger. However, if it happens I’m not going to be shocked at all. I think Kaplan projects conservatively as a middle-six, transitional winger who will be hard on pucks and a great facilitator at starting or managing chain-linked plays in the offensive zone for an NHL club. I think an aggressive projection would be a top 6 winger who can carry the puck and feed pucks to your scorers as well as score around the net. If he is able to develop a shot that can beat goalies from medium distance; we might be talking about a top 10-15 player in a redraft in 5 years.
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Austin Garrett. If you would like to follow Austin on Twitter, his handle is @BMaster716.
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