Stars in the Making | A Look at VHLM’s Fresh Faces
In recent days and weeks, we have seen some new faces join the VHLM. Some through the S67 VHLM Dispersal Draft and some through VHLM free agency, as they entered the league after the draft. The Season 68 Draft crop seems to be a very strong one headlined by defensemen Connor Adrienne, Lance Flowers and Wolf Stansson Jr. We’ll be covering the class, the VHLM and the top prospects throughout the season on VSN, but today we shift our focus to some of the fresh faces of the VHLM. After rigorously scouring the S68 class, I have identified a handful of new players that have caught my eye early on. These players all declared for the draft just days before it took place or signed with the VHLM after; these could be stars in the making.
Luciano Valentino – D – Halifax 21st @Kekzkrieg
VHLM Drafted: 53rd Overall
The first player on my list is a defenseman drafted by Halifax in the late rounds, Luciano Valentino. The Italian-born defenseman has really burst on to the scene in his first week in the VHLM. The 6’3 defenseman is primarily a defensive-minded defenseman. In his Italian junior hockey league, he was seen as one of the more sound defensive defenseman in the league. He uses his big body to be a presence in the defensive zone, including blocking shots. Valentino is also a very good skater and passer; he is built for the VHLM game. He’ll likely see second-pairing minutes to start the season for Halifax, but this is a player to keep tabs on as the season progresses. This is my Lincoln Tate-esque riser to keep an eye on.
Raymond Bernard – G – Ottawa Lynx @Mr_Hatter
VHLM Drafted: 40th Overall
The only goalie that made this initial list was Ottawa Lynx draft pick, Raymond Bernard. Ottawa picked Bernard with the 40th overall pick and I expect this to look like a value pick when we reflect back on this draft. In the pre-draft interview process, Bernard reportedly performed very well and was spoke highly of by VHLM executives. His biggest asset, which really sticks out when you watch him, is his reaction time. It’s likely due to his great athletic ability, but he can react to a quik deflection in the slot with ease. He makes it look easy. There’s a good chance we see Bernard as the day one starter for Ottawa.
Willie Dredge – RW – Yukon Rush @sjs88speed
Signed with Yukon
The player that has the freshest face on this list is Willie Dredge, a winger who signed with Yukon just a couple days ago. There are three main things Dredge brings to the table: speed, speed and speed. He possesses tremendous footspeed, acceleration and edgework. The question for Dredge moving forward is, can the mitts match the feet? His pick skills and scoring ability, at this point in his career, are slightly lacking behind his skating ability. I do believe like he will continue to work on those aspects of his game and develop them. The former Massachusetts high school hockey standout, will have to adjust to the VHLM game, but he has all the tools to be an impact player in this league. I see Dredge stepping into a Top-6 role for Yukon at the back half of the season.
Owen Nolan – RW – Halifax 21st @studentized
VHLM Drafted: 64th Overall
Another Halifax late round draft pick enters the fold as an under the radar player to watch. Nolan is a relatively raw player out of Belfast, Ireland. He played junior hockey there until the age of 15, quickly rising above his peers to become one of the top prospects of the nation. He provides a mix of natural goal scoring talent and a big-bodied power forward. I think he will develop one of the more lethal shots in this draft class and maybe in the entire VHLM this season. He’ll be a presence in front of the net as well. I’m not sure Nolan has the high, high upside of some of the other players on this list, but given where he was drafted in the VHLM Draft I think he could be a steal.
Micha Sage – LW – Ottawa Lynx @AcousticKazoo
VHLM Drafted: 32nd Overall
TPE: 99 TPE
The highest 67 draft pick in this article is Micha Sage, a winger drafted to the Ottawa Lynx by first-year GM Acyd Burn. Sage hails from Ontario and is described by scouts as a power-forward that has an innate ability to put the puck in the net. He plays a smart game, knows how to find the soft spots in the defense and possesses a pretty deadly shot. He will need to bulk up a little bit to be a power forward force in the VHLM, but that is something the Ottawa trainers will focus on early on. The Lynx do have some veteran wingers on the roster right now with Hunter Wagner and Michael Rasmussen, but Sage is impressive and can make a pretty immediate impact.