Score it a positive review for Vancouver Giants defenceman Colton Roberts.
An NHL scout, who wished to remain anonymous, tagged Roberts as “one of the standout blueliners at the Top Prospects game” that took place last Wednesday in Moncton, N.B., and added that, “I think there’s a good chance he goes pretty early on Day 2” of this summer’s NHL Draft in Las Vegas.
That’s longhand for believing the 17-year-old from Maple Ridge will be a second or third rounder.
“He’s improved a lot since the start of the season,” the scout continued of Roberts. “He’s really smart.”
The 6-foot-4, 198-pound Roberts had two assists — including one on a clever cross-crease feed to Ben Danford after Roberts had snuck down the right boards — and was plus-three in Team Red’s 3-1 win over Team White at the Prospects.
The players were also run through 10 different drills in on-ice testing, and Roberts finished third overall amongst the WHL players participating.
There has not been a lot of extended draft rankings just yet, so it’s hard to get a feel for how early most hockey folk think Roberts will be drafted.
The NHL Scouting Bureau gave him a B grade for the preliminary players to watch back in October, which meant they thought he will be a second or third rounder in Las Vegas.
Sportsnet’s Bob McKenzie slotted Roberts among several honourable mentions after his top-80 players on his mid-season list that came out last week. That would have Roberts going in the later third round or beyond.
The 40 draft-eligible players from the WHL, OHL and QMJHL for the Top Prospects game were picked by the NHL’s 32 teams.
Roberts says that being picked for the game was a confidence boost.
Vancouver forwards Jaden Lipinski and Samuel Honzek were both selected for the Top Prospects last year. Honzek didn’t play due to an injury. Roberts says he asked teammates for advice on the event.
He hasn’t quizzed any of them yet on the draft. The draft remains “in the back of my head,” he says.
“I feel like I’ll be thinking about it more when our season ends. Right now, my focus is on our season and our team,” Roberts added.
He has looked more comfortable and poised as the Vancouver season has played out, and especially when handling the puck and getting it up the ice. He’s at seven goals and 21 points through 46 games. He put up three goals and 11 points in 62 games last season as a rookie. He was a first-round pick, No. 11 overall, by the Giants in the 2021 WHL Draft out of the Delta Hockey Academy.
“I think I’m getting a little more confident. It starts in practice. Practice has been better and it leads into games,” he said.
It’s another strong year for B.C. talent in the draft overall.
North Vancouver centre Macklin Celebrini was No. 1 on the McKenzie list and various others rankings. He has 18 goals and 35 points in 22 games with the Boston University Terriers, where he’s teammates with older brother Aiden Celebrini, a defenceman who was a sixth-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks last summer.
The Terriers also include defenceman Tom Willander, who was the Canucks first-round pick, No. 11 overall, last summer.
McKenzie has Chetwynd centre Cayden Lindstrom, who’s with the Medicine Hat Tigers, at No. 5. TSN colleague Craig Button had him at No. 10 in his most recent ranking, Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino slotted him at No. 7 and Elite Prospects put him at No. 4
Lindstrom missed the Top Prospects due to a hand injury he suffered in December that required surgery. The Tigers are listing him as sidelined week-to-week.
He’s at 27 goals and 46 points through 32 games.
McKenzie also has Lake Country forward Tij Iginla, who’s with the Kelowna Rockets, at No. 16. Iginla comes in at No .16 for Button, No. 12 for Cosentino and No. 14 for Elite Prospects.
The son of Hockey Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla was at 32 goals and 57 points through 42 games with the Rockets. He was player of the game for Team White at the Top Prospects.
The 2023 NHL Draft featured North Vancouver centre Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats going No. 1 overall to the Chicago Blackhawks, Chilliwack winger Zach Benson of the Winnipeg Ice going No. 13 to Buffalo Sabres, Nanaimo winger Matthew Wood of the University of Connecticut going No. 15 to the Nashville Predators and McBride defenceman Tanner Molendyk of the Saskatoon Blades going No. 24 to Nashville.
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