Harvard has some New York, New Jersey area representation in John Farinacci (Chatham, NJ) Nick Abruzzese (Slate Hill, NY) Alex Laferriere (Chatham, NJ), Alex Gaffney (West Orange, NJ), and Matt Coronato (Greenlawn, NY). In a game I took in against Princeton, that’s five of their top six. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen that before and it shows how New Jersey is still growing as a hockey hot spot. Laferriere has had a great year and his points aside, there has been a big improvement in his skating.
“Tyler Toffoli isn’t a great comp, but I’m using him to show how guys get better,” Los Angeles Kings Director of Amateur Scouting, Mark Yannetti said talking about Laferriere who went in the third round. “Toffoli had a small technical flaw in his skating, and he didn’t train very well or often, and he was physically weak.”
Yannetti then talked about three ways a prospect can overcome a skating deficiency, “The first way is fixing that small technical flaw. The second is if the kid buys in. The kid matures is the third way. If you watch Toffoli now you wouldn’t call him a below-average skater. In his draft year, he was a well below-average skater. Others questioned his dedication, and that’s fine too.”
Here’s what Yannetti says about skating. And how the Kings quantify it.
“We used to go under the mantra that any skating can be fixed. And we drafted guys based on that. We’ve since learned that not all skating can be fixed. That’s ok too,” Yannetti revealed. “Let’s say there is a player whose skating can’t be fixed or he’s a below-average skater and it’s not good enough to play in the NHL. Then you have to factor in the compete and hockey sense. If your compete or hockey sense is at the highest level, you can get away with some skating issues.
“I believe there is skating you can’t fix and can’t overcome. I still think far too much focus is put on it. Perceived below-average skating….In Laferriere’s draft year we rated him an above-average skater. Just that one notch above. Nothing that would distinguish him. He was so weak. He had just started working out. He then started to buy in more and more when our development staff started to talk to him.”
Laferriere ended up with 27 points in 29 games tied for the team lead in points. That’s a great start to his college career.
“This kid now is a full point a half above scale depending on how you look at it. He distinguishes himself by skating now,” Yannetti stated.
When I said he was faster than Coronato, he quickly responded with “Coronato has more agility. Laferriere is around four inches taller than Abruzzese who is 5-9. And his skating is still improving.
One last thing. Yannetti said they first scouted Laferriere at the USHL Fall Classic. Then when I said maybe he could win the ECAC Rookie of the Year Award. He then had more to say.
“It means something. It doesn’t mean f-ing anything where you are drafted other than it validates all the years of work as a top pick and puts you in a position to get more early. There are little victories and validations along the way,” Yannetti added. “I’d like all our prospects to win awards every step of the way because it validates them. It’s a carrot. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter. Getting to play on Harvard’s first line matters because he’s playing with better players. You get in last-minute of the game situations and things like that. I would rather have him playing with their best players with the highest minutes. It means something that way. There will be 15 guys in that league (NCAA) that don’t win Rookie of the Year that will have high-level NHL success.”
What I saw in a game against Princeton was a player who was the second-fastest there behind Abruzzese. He had a goal taken off the board and still scored one on the power play with a nice wrist shot. His passing was very accurate, and he was able to operate in traffic without any issues.
This is why I write about prospects. There’s so much to learn.