• Nate Winans

National Team Development Program Top NHL Prospects

The National Team Development Program (NTDP) is the elite team for USHL players. Loaded with talent on a yearly basis, the NTDP has had five or more first-round picks in each of the last six NHL Drafts and this year is no different. They're projected to have another five first-round picks which will be accompanied by several second and third-round picks as well. In addition, they have the highest rated NTDP player ever on their roster in Jake Sanderson.

Jake Sanderson - Defenseman

When scouts say the sky's the limit for Jake, it's because it's true. The Montana native was ranked fourth in the NHL Central Scouting Report for North American skaters, #10 by McKeen's Hockey, #11 by ISS Hockey, #12 by eliteprospects.com, #17 by Future Considerations, and #22 by Hockeyprospects.com.

When his coach from the NTDP was asked about Jake being selected in this year's NHL Draft, he had this to say, "I'd be shocked if Jake isn't selected top 10 in the draft. He plays the game so efficiently, defends so hard, and can jump into the play and add offense... he's the prototypical modern-age defenseman. I know other defensemen get more notoriety because of the points they put up, but the beauty of Jake is the more you watch him, the more you start to appreciate what an unbelievable defender he is."

Projected to be selected in the top ten, North Dakota may not have Jake for all four years of his collegiate career.

Ty Smilanic - Center

For Ty, stardom may be closer than he ever expected after the NHL Draft. Considered to be one of, if not the best, forward in this year's draft, injuries and his strength are the two main concerns scouts have for Ty. The majority of scouts tout his raw talent, speed, and playmaking ability but wish they had more time to watch him on the ice instead of speculating his potential.

Given an "A" rank in the last NHL Central Scouting Combine, he's also ranked #19 by ISS Hockey, #24 in the NHL Central Scouting Report for North American Skaters, #27 by Mckeen's Hockey, #33 by eliteprospects.com, and #50 by Future Considerations.

Many draft boards have Ty being selected anywhere from the top 30 to top 50.No matter where he goes, he'll use his years at Quinnipiac to hopefully prove more scouts wrong than right.

Thomas Bordeleau - Center

Thomas is extremely crafty and strong for someone with his height of 5'9". His ability to push through stick obstructions and win battles in the trenches is extremely impressive. His speed and stick handling skills are what really draw scouts to him and his finishing ability is second to none.

He's ranked #23 by eliteprospects.com, #26 by hockeyprospect.com, #29 in the NHL Central Scouting Report for North American Skaters, and #38 by Future Considerations. The "B" ranked skater is projected to be selected between picks 30 and 50. He's committed to the University of Michigan for the 20-21 season.

Luke Tuch - Left Wing

Currently, Luke is referred to as Alex Tuch's (Vegas Golden Knights) younger brother. While it's great to have that exposure to the NHL and the talent, Luke wants to make a name for himself.

"Luke plays a physical power-forward game with smarts, skills, and competitiveness. He plays a similar style as his older brother Alex in that they both get results by playing the game the correct way and don't take ant short cuts. They give all they have when on the ice," said Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting.

Luke is an "A" ranked skater and is ranked #40 by the NHL Central Scouting Report for North American Skaters and #53 by Future Considerations.

Projected to be selected between the 40 and 55 picks, he'll continue to improve his skills while playing at Boston University next season.

The NTDP roster is loaded with talent but these are the top four highest projected players on the team. Jake is projected to be one of if not the highest-drafted skater the NTDP has ever had and the future is bright for all players on this list.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Nwinansw and @JRHockeyPodcast for all your junior hockey news. Check back next week when we take a look at the Lincoln Stars.

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