Welcome to the first of this year’s series of prospect profiles for the 2023 NHL Draft. As the New Jersey Devils do not have a first round pick in this year’s loaded draft class, these profiles will look at players that could be had on the second day of the draft. My experience has taught me that projected second rounders could slip further and further from that projection on draft day. And with the Devils having five picks with four after the third round, to borrow a phrase from Will Scouch, the Devils are going to take some swings on some guys they like and hope for the best down the line.
To that end, this series begins with a look at a somewhat local talent. Unless there is another Jersey guy that I have overlooked, I am confident this player is the Garden State’s top prospect this year. From Woodcliff Lake to Bergen Catholic to Plymouth, Michigan and soon to be in Boston, this first profile is about United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) defenseman Aram Minnetian.
Who is Aram Minnetian?
As stated, Aram Minnetian is a Jersey-born USNTDP defenseman. Per his profile at Elite Prospects, he was born on March 19, 2005 in Woodcliff Lake. Minnetian is listed at 6’0” and 170 pounds and has a right-handed shot. He definitely stayed around the area as he played two seasons at New Jersey prep-school powerhouse Bergen Catholic before joining the USNTDP U-17 team in 2021-22. Incidentally, he was a forward for the Crusaders after previously being a defenseman in his youth. However, when the USNTDP brought him in, they moved him back to the blueline. He has remained there since with the U-17 and U-18 teams over the last two seasons, culminating at the 2023 World Under-18 Championships.
The World U-18 tourney was definitely a place where Minnetian shined. Sure, 31 points in 62 games with the program is pretty good. And a goal, three assists, and fourteen shots on net at the tourney America won is also good, even though Cole Hutson turned a lot of heads with 12 points from the back-end. What made him stand out to me was how much he played in that tournament. On a very, very good American squad, Minnetian finished second on the team in total and average ice time with 132:23 played for an average of 18:54. He finished behind Zeev Buium for the most minutes among skaters. This means that Minnetian was likely on America’s top pairing. Given how loaded the squad, getting a lot of minutes at the one tournament the U-18 team prepares all season to perform in is a really big accomplishment. It speaks to how much responsibility he carried on what was the team that won the Gold medal this year in Basel.
Minnetian will move on to college after the 2023 NHL Draft. Per his EP profile, he is committed to Boston College for the 2023-24 season. He will see quite a few familiar faces from the USNTDP on that roster. Will Smith, Ryan Leonard, Gabe Perreault, Will Vote, and Drew Fortescue are also joining BC next season. Those first three names led the USNTDP U-18 team in scoring this season and could really bolster the Eagles. Do not be surprised if Minnetian also hits the rink skating well with his fellow teammates. If, for whatever reason, he decides to spurn the NCAA for major junior hockey, then London of the OHL has his rights. I doubt that will happen but who knows.
Still, Woodcliff Lake’s own is very likely to be drafted relatively early on the second day of the draft. A big-minutes right-handed defenseman from a successful team is going to be drafted. Especially in a draft class not exactly teeming with defensive talent. The question, as ever, will be where.
Where is Aram Minnetian Ranked?
The rankings indicate that, yes, Minnetian is a second day selection.
- #78 North American skaters - NHL Central Scouting (Final Ranking)
- #46 - Elite Prospects (March, #46 is from his profile page)
- #77 - Craig Button, TSN (May 15, 2023 ranking)
- #56 - Steven Ellis, Daily Faceoff (May 5, 2023 ranking)
- #60 - FC Hockey (Spring ranking)
- #44 - Gabriel Foley, Recruit Scouting (Final ranking)
- #57 - Dobber Prospects (Spring ranking)
- #66 - Draft Prospects Hockey (Spring ranking)
- #66 - The Hockey Writers - Peter Baracchini (April 4, 2022 ranking)
- #83 - The Hockey Writers - Logan Horn (May 12, 2022 ranking)
Minnetian’s rankings are all over for what you would expect from a second day draft pick. Those who like him think he is a solid candidate for a second round position. Those who were not as impressed think he is more suitable for the third round. The Central Scouting ranking is especially rough as his 78th position in their final rankings comes after a fall from 54th in their mid-season rankings. The 77th ranking from Craig Button may be somewhat of a tell of how NHL scouts regard the player since the TSN rankings from Button and Bob McKenzie (his was just a mid-season ranking) tend to be informed by what they are being told from their contacts in team organizations. That said, he does have some favorable opinions from Foley at Recruit Scouting and I am curious as to where the next EP ranking places him since it would include the World U-18s.
What Others Say About Aram Minnetian
Minnetian has been profiled by Alex Chauvancy at The Hockey Writers back in April ahead of the Would U-18s. Chauvancy gets right to the point: Minnetian skates well. Here’s a quote:
The best part of Minnetian’s game is his skating. He uses that to his advantage in transition, where he excels on the rush because of his high-end skating ability. Once he gains the offensive zone, he’s not afraid to jump into the play with speed and create scoring chances.
And he handles the puck well. Per Chauvancy:
While Minnetian’s skating is one of his best attributes, it’s not the only tool in his kit. He’s a good stickhandler, which likely comes from his time playing forward, and he has a decent shot too.
Why is he not touted more? Namely: production. While points are not everything, you would expect a converted forward with an offensive skillset as a defenseman to put up a good amount of points. Averaging half a point per game with the USNTDP is not bad on its own but it is not impressive from the perspective of a prospect. If he is not producing much at this level, then why believe he will at the next ones? Chauvancy suggests the team is not as good, but I would disagree given the talents of Will Smith, Ryan Leonard, Gabe Perreault, and Olivier Moore. In defense of Chauvancy, this profile was written before the World U-18s that America did win.
Further to back up Chauvancy’s observations about skating, Sebastian High had plenty to write about Minnetian in the Doober Prospects Spring Ranking. While he was ranked 57th, High’s explanation is more detailed than most others in this range and even invokes a Devil:
Sebastian High: The crop of defensemen out of the USNTDP in 2023 is significantly weaker than in past years, but there is one very intriguing player in that group who could slip under the radar on draft day and fall to the middle rounds. Aram Minnetian is a tremendous skater. The right-shot defenseman has great stride and crossover mechanics, he moves with great fluidity, and he layers deception into every motion with the puck on his stick. The production doesn’t reflect his skill, dynamism, or playmaking ability, but he is poised for a breakout with Boston College next season. His on-puck game has some impressive flashes that are reminiscent of Seamus Casey, but he also has more developmental question marks than Casey did. He has a tendency to rush plays under pressure, which all effective offensive defensemen in the NHL have grown out of, and he will need to do the same. He’s also quite a passive transition defender, his gaps are typically loose and he often gives up zone entries without much contest. His in-zone defending is defined by generally good scanning habits and the very same passiveness that is so visible in his transition defending. Minnetian is far from a sure thing, but his foundation of strong tools and deception gives him a very interesting upside that will likely trump most alternatives as of the third round of the draft.
It is encouraging to read two different people coming up with the same observation about a player. It further supports that idea that skating will be one of Minnetian’s main features as a player. And as far as features go, that is an important one. It is hard to do anything in hockey at any level without skating well. The reference to Seamus Casey is an intriguing one to me. While High is careful to not just say he is like Casey - and provides a good example by noting his transition-defense needing work, it is a favorable comparison for Minnetian. It not only speaks to what kind of player he could be come with some work, but that he has an intriguing upside - like Casey. It is also worth noting that Casey was a second round pick in 2022 at 46th overall. Minnetian may not go that high but I can see why it helped High and the rest of the Dobber Prospects staff rank him inside their Top 64.
Both of those posts went up before the World U-18s ended. I noted that I was impressed with how much ice time Minnetian played at the tournament. What did others who cover tourneys like that one and prospects like Minnetian say about it? Good things. Brock Otten, writing for McKeen’s Hockey, noted him as a rising prospect from the tournament. Here is what he wrote:
All season long the question has been, who is the top draft eligible defender on this NTDP team? We have always felt it to be Minnetian, but he did a lot at this tournament to prove to everyone else that he is the answer to the question. He was a remarkable +16 and was a force at both ends of the ice. There is a lot to like here with his plus mobility, quick hands, vision, and improving physicality.
While the plus/minus does not tell me much, I do appreciate Otten’s statement at the start. That he and, presumably the others at McKeen’s, think Minnetian is the best among the USNTDP defensemen. Which is an achievement since the USNTDP is a literal collection of top American prospects playing together to win tournaments like the World U-18s. And this is in spite of Cole Hutson - not noted in the post at all - putting up a heap of points. If Otten and his fellows at McKeen’s see this, then I would think NHL scouts have seen it too. Once again, the mobility is a plus - which further justifies the skating praise from others.
Otten was not the only one with plenty of praise for Minnetian at the World U-18s. Steven Ellis of Daily Faceoff has been a fan of Minnetian throughout 2022-23 and had a positive summary of time at Basel. Here is what he wrote:
Minnetian has been my favorite defenseman all season long. He’s got a good baseline in shooting, skating, puckhandling and decision-making. Minnetian is not spectacular in anything specific, but he was a grounded piece of the non-stop American attack. He can make life a bit miserable in front of the net, and his confidence seemed to only improve as the season went on.
It is a solid write up for a player that he sees as solid. Which may point to why he is not ranked any higher or talked about more. Minnetian could very well be a jack-of-all-trades player. Someone is good at a lot of things but not exceptional in any one thing; and teams are looking for exceptional talents early in drafts. That could be what keeps Minnetian to the back end of the second round or the front end of the third round instead of anyone higher.
I am curious about the last sentence given that Minnetian is listed at 6’0” and 170 pounds. Did Ellis mean that for his own net or the opposition’s level? I ask because, at the U-18 level, his may be fine and the frame is OK for the future. Yes, he has to get stronger and beefier but that can be said for the vast majority of 17 and 18 year old prospective athletes. I wonder if this means Minnetian has more fight in him than it seems. Likewise, it could be in reference to how Minnetian can activate from the blueline to make life difficult for an opposition’s defense. Maybe it is even both.
A Little Video
For a player expected to go as late as he does, there is more video on Minnetian than I certainly expected when I started to put this post together. The most impressive piece comes from The Hockey News. Tony Ferrari sat down with Minnetian for a 31 minute conversation from the personal to going over hockey plays. It is part of a series called Game Tape and it is the kind of thing that The Hockey News, TSN, ESPN, etc. should be doing given their levels of access, talent, and production. Credit to Ferrari and THN for making this happen. If you do nothing else from this prospect profile, then make some time to watch that.
If you need to see more of Minnetian, then Sullivan Hockey has you covered. The Youtube channel has not just one, not just two, not just, three but four highlight videos about Minnetian.
- This 4:51 video is titled for 2020-21, where he played for Bergen Catholic, but it includes even younger clips from his time with the Mid Fairfield Rangers AAA squad. Unless he played for them in 2020-21 for a bit as EP lists his time with Mid Fairfield in 2019-20.
- This 9:51 video is titled for 2021-22, where Minnetian was with the USNTDP U-17 team. It is a good mix of USHL, exhibition, and tournament play. It also opens with him winning a puck on a backcheck in overtime to deny a breakaway and then flying forward to lead a 2-on-1 for a winning goal against Chicago.
- This 8:55 video is titled for 2022-23, where Minnetian was with the USNTDP U-18 team. Again, it is a mix of USHL, exhibition, and tournament play.
- This 3:14 video is just a mix of Minnetian activating on offense. These clips are from the other videos, but that there is a specific video of Minnetian joining the attack with and without the puck means Sullivan Hockey really wanted you to know he can do this. Which is important because the game has trended towards defensemen going deeper than the points on offense when the space is available.
In all four videos, you can see a lot of what Chauvancy, High, Otten, and Ellis have spoke about. Minnetian’s skating strides are smooth, they appear efficient, and he just keeps gliding. I am sure some one more knowledgeable about skating than I do can find things Minnetian may need to adjust, but I can definitely see why his movement is seen as a positive. I can also get to what Ellis noted in his blurb that he has a solid baseline for the other areas of his game. Sure, these videos are meant to show Minnetian at his best, yet you can see against various levels of competition of Minnetian making the right moves, hustling to make something right, or both. I can better understand why those four regard Minnetian as an offensive or more of a two-way defenseman. These videos show a player who could project to be one in the future. I can better see the Casey reference point that High spoke about in his ranking thanks to these clips.
I also want to thank Sullivan Hockey for putting the videos the way he (she? it?) did it. A lot of these videos feature goals and assists, and those are all well and good. There are also including plenty of clips across all videos where there is no point earned for Minnetian. Clips of the player winning a puck, jumping up on offense for a pass or to take a shot, driving the puck deep on offense (and in one case, draw an obvious tripping penalty), backchecking to make a play on defense, leading a breakout, and making a pass under pressure. For a prospect video it is important to see the player succeed at what they are trying to do in various situations. Just because the puck did not end up in the net does not mean the player faltered or it is not worth observing. I appreciate the work on these videos. And thanks to the fourth one, I almost want Minnetian to follow EPMD’s example and yell “I’m in your area” when he activates.
An Opinion of Sorts
Barring any new draft picks, the Devils’ first pick in the 2023 NHL Draft will be late in the second round. It is a point of the draft where it is less about finding a prospect the pool needs or a prospect too good to pass up on, and more about finding a prospect with any kind of NHL upside. Someone that would need direction and time to develop, but someone that could be a pro of some significance in multiple years. With that in mind, the question about whether or not I want the Devils to draft him is really: Do I think Aram Minnetian is worth the effort to develop for the Devils?
I think so, with a but. The concern I have with prospects that are good at a lot of things but not great in any of them is that they have a tendency to stall out. That next step in development does not happen. The player may be great for the level they are at, but they run into issues when the talent and effort levels of the competition ramp up. This is why production cannot be fully discarded when it comes to prospects. It is a visible and easy way to see if their efforts and talents are providing value on the scoreboard. It is often that we put more value on points than what the player does in the process, especially when there is no scoring - which is not necessarily a bad thing for a defenseman. But it does matter and I have the same question Chauvancy brought up: Where were the points? If Minnetian and the other defensmen needed a forward group on par with the legendary 2018-19 squad to produce, then it does not speak well for those blueliners.
That stated, there is a lot to like from a development standpoint. Being mobile is a big plus. Being able to pick his spots when activating is a plus. Being comfortable in playing with and without the puck is a plus. The passing and the shooting seem fine; he may need to do the latter more often, but that will depend on what he is being asked to do. Does he need to work on his game overall and in handling oppositions rushing back? Yes, but again, every prospect defenseman needs to do that. Minnetian will get plenty opportunities to hone and refine these skills off the puck with Boston College. He will get the chance to play for at least a couple years, get direction from the Devils, possibly even attend development camps since he’s from Woodcliff Lake and therefore can be local, and keep working at it. It may seem too simple, but if the Devils can guide Casey while at Michigan, then I think they can do the same with Minnetian. Again, the goal is to find future pros and I think a selection of Minnetian would work out from that perspective. If not, then that is fine.
The larger good news for Minnetian is that he will be drafted. The Woodcliff Lake-born will hear his name called in June. That is an achievement all to itself and another point of inspiration for New Jersey-born and/or raised players.
Minnetian’s name will be called out in late June, but in the meantime, I would love to know your take on Aram Minnetian in the comments. What do you think of Minnetian’s time with the USNTDP? What did you like reading about him? What did you not like reading about him? Would you want the Devils to take him in the second round? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Hutson in the comments. Thank you for reading.