Not everyone gets drafted at 18. It's not uncommon for players who otherwise were passed over in their first year of eligibility get picked later in drafts. Why this happens can be for multiple reasons. Perhaps the prospective player was injured and therefore didn't get a chance to show what he can do in his first year. Maybe the player wasn't in a good situation early on but moved on and displayed some upside. It could be that they weren't noticed earlier in their careers; but someone happened to see enough of him later and figured taking a (low-risk) chance on him. In several cases, some players just develop a bit later than others. They're commonly known as "late bloomers" and that's a best-case scenario. The goal is to get a player who can contribute someday; they don't necessarily need to demonstrate a NHL future at age 17 or 18. The hope is that the New Jersey Devils found such a player in Blake Coleman.
#17 - Blake Coleman - Height: 5'10" - Weight: 201 lbs. - Age: 20 - 2012-13 Team: Miami (CCHA)
Coleman didn't get picked in his first year of eligibility when he was essentially a role player in the USHL. He wasn't particularly big (he still isn't in height), he didn't light up the league, and he didn't demonstrate a skillset that could be developed for a higher level of play. However, that wouldn't be the end for Coleman. His second season in the junior league was simply magnificient. Suiting up for the Indiana Ice, Coleman led the entire USHL in assists and points. He was named to the league's first all-star team, the Best Forward and Best Player in the USHL in 2010-11, and was awarded as the USA Hockey Junior Player. He turned enough heads to get picked in 2011.
However, the big caveat with all of those glorious numbers is his age. He was 19 when he did all that in the USHL. It's expected that an older player beats up on his mostly younger peers - even though he was named the Best Player in the USHL. The good news is that it appears that his first season in college has gone well. He joined a strong Miami team in the CCHA and put up a decent amount of production. He finished second on his team in goals and sixth in points. That's a good sign as he's playing against guys his age and already developed physically. Now he just has to take it further: get more points, get more minutes, and become an important player for Miami. The farther he goes here, the better his chances turn out as a professional.
The good news is that his strengths as a player lend themselves to offensive results. Back when he was drafted and I wrote up the pick, that the word on him is that he can skate, he's got good hands, he's strong, and he fights to get to the net. He can perform at both center and wing, which is also a plus. He's not just a gritty guy, he's got some skill to go with it too. These are all good traits that one would want in a forward. This makes it reasonable. However, such opinions were quick to point out that his defensive game was lacking. The biggest area he can improve upon is his defensive game. Defense is difficult to objectively identify already but more so with prospects, where we're usually relying on other people's accounts. Yet, when multiple people quickly state that needed to work on his defense, then I'm inclined to believe him. Presumably, he's worked on this so far in Miami - I'm assuming Enrico Blasi won't tolerate a lack of it. He'll likely need to keep improving in that regard too.
As far as upside is concerned, there's a possibilty that he could be more than just a bottom-six forward. Hockey's Future profile calls him a possible "tweener" between the second and third line based on what he can bring to the table. There's going to be quite some time before we'll see if that prediction holds up. I expect that he'll play all four years with Miami. He'll be 23 (and soon be 24) when he gets to play his first pro season, but if he can prove he can contribute at the next level, then that advanced age won't matter so much. After all, the Devils could use a few forwards develop into contributing players at the highest level.
That all said, almost all of us (Nate is the exception) rated Coleman in the middle spots on our list. We like what he's been doing and that he has the traits that he does have are favorable. It's not so much the age that keeps him down (it matters a little bit) as much as wanting to see what's next. Can he build on his freshman season? Can he improve on defense? Can he continue to develop at both ends? If all of those are affirmative, then he's going to shoot up this list. We just need to wait and see.
In the meantime, let's talk about where he ended up right now. Do you think #17 is a fair spot for Coleman? Or do you think it's too high or low? What do you expect out of Coleman at Miami in this season? What do you think his future lies as a professional hockey player? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Blake Coleman in the comments. Thank you for reading.