Checking in at number nine is our top American prospect who doesn’t have a Russian name.
Born: February 26, 1994
The big, mean, punishing defenseman is an asset to be valued. They make your opponents tense up as they cross your blueline, they make teammates stand a bit taller knowing they have the guy they want on their side, they make fans come out of their seats as bones crunch and skates achieve lift. Every team could use one and the ones that don’t are desperately seeking them.
In the 2012 draft, Jacob Trouba is that defenseman. At 6-foot-2, 196 pounds he is still growing, and growing into his body, but that hasn’t stopped him from throwing the weight he currently has all over the place. While he brings plenty of skill to the table, he has one asset above all else that will have NHL executives vying for his services.
Now, in day-to-day life, Trouba is more than likely a nice enough fellow, it’s just when the skates come on that the snarl comes out. But that edge puts his name among the top prospects that will be finding new homes over the weekend, and he is only just beginning to scratch the surface.
As a current member of the US NTDP, Trouba showed off his raw, physical skills. He can lay the body and he can skate as well as anyone. He brings one of the strongest defense-first games available to this year’s draft class. The aspects of his game which need some refinement are his puck handling skills and play making ability if he is to fully round out his game.
“He was good at the World Junior, the US didn’t do well, but he had good performances there,” said Neate Sager, editor of Yahoo!’s Buzzing the Net. ”He can carry the puck, he has a decent shot, the lateral mobility is what is lacking, just pivoting when people are trying to go down the wing, but that’s not uncommon for an 18 year old who’s as big as he is, he still needs to grow into his body.”
There’s no rush to get Trouba right from the development squad to the NHL as he’ll be guaranteed to make a stop in one of two NHL factories. While Trouba is currently committed to the Michigan Wolverines program, the Kitchener Rangers hold his CHL rights.
Whichever path he ends up on will put him in a pipeline to the NHL and right now it appears to be the maize and blue of Michigan.
“Having spoken with him he’s pretty excited about going to Michigan. He’s buddies with Jon Merrill who will be a junior there next season and can show him the ropes,” said Kennedy. “I think with Trouba, again, you have this great physical package, he hits really hard, he can fight if he needs to — though that won’t help him at Michigan — he’ll be playing for Red Berenson, he’ll be playing for a program that churns out NHLers. So, whatever offensive upside he might have, I think it’s going to get honed there.”
The offensive upside will be the key to how far Trouba can take his NHL career. Currently he projects as a more than capable defensive defenseman with a big shot from the point, but there’s nothing stopping him from developing into a solid secondary offensive option from the blueline.
“He’s going to go to Michigan and from there he’s probably most like a Jack Johnson,” said Sager. “It wouldn’t surprise me if he needed a couple years at Michigan before he signs.”
With many players using their time in the NCAA ranks to develop their size and strength due to the less intensive game schedule, Trouba will likely be ready for the professional ranks in two years time after some seasoning under the Wolverines system. He’ll be more comfortable using his frame and will ideally be much more consistent with his decision making.
When the skills catch up to the snarl NHL forwards will have yet another reason to keep their heads up.