Fri Jun 17 01:20pm EDT
Indiana Ice centre Sean Kuraly would be an elite prospect if he had shook a few more goals out of his stick this season.
Kuraly, 18, likely stands to be a late second or third-round pick next week at the NHL Draft since he possesses most of the attributes desirous in a centre. The Dublin, Ohio native, who is committed to become part of the first father-son tandem to play for the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks, plays a sound defensive game and also qualifies as rangy at 6-foot-2 and 192 pounds. He counted eight goals and 29 points in 51 games in his first USHL season with Indiana, where he will be returning for further seasoning before joining Miami, which was the NCAA Frozen Four runner-up in 2009.
"I want the offensive side of my game to be more fine-tuned before I go to college," says Kuraly, 18, who is NHL Central Scouting's 50th-ranked North American prospect. "I'm looking forward to a big year next year with Indiana and I can't wait to get back to that team."
"I try to model my game after someone like [Nashville Predators centre] Mike Fisher," adds Kuraly, whose parents, Jane and Rick, the latter a Miami of Ohio alum, originally hail from the Toronto area. "I watch him and I like the way he plays both ends of the ice — hard, physical and a character guy."
Kuraly is also on the cusp of growing talent pool that has expanded in the Buckeye State since the Columbus Blue Jackets took wing in 2000. He played in the same Ohio Blue Jackets AAA program which recently produced an Ontario Hockey League first-round selection when Cole Cassels (son of ex-NHLer Andrew Cassels) was taken by the Oshawa Generals.
"You see the kids coming from the Columbus area, it's completely changed," Kuraly says. "There's so many more playing now. I've been going to games since the inaugural season in Columbus."
"It was a good season. I had a lot of fun there. Obviously, it started off a bit slow after moving away from home and being in a new league with a lot of older guys. I pulled it together and at the end of the year I played a lot closer to where I wanted to. I'm excited for next year and what it holds for me."
2. In your mind, what would scouts say is the biggest thing you have to work on between now and when you'll be on the cusp of turning pro?
"My offensive awareness is something I am trying to work on. Last year I was put into a bit of a different role. I'm looking forward to a bigger offensive year and getting back to what I used to."
3. What is something you need to do before a game or else you might not feel ready to play?
"All the guys tease me for this but I always bring a little bag of trail mix. I'm always munching on that before the game and between periods, honestly I don't even like it that much anymore. I just bring it and I'm always eating it. It helps me, gives me a little energy boost, a little sugar and a couple nuts. It's just more superstition at this point."
4. What is the biggest asset you bring to a team?
"I'd say a little bit of character and leadership in the locker room, that's definitely something I bring. A pretty dynamic skill set, hopefully — a solid two-way centreman who can put some pucks in the back of the net and help the team win."
5. Favourite TV show or movie?
"Favourite movie? Gladiator."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: Whiteshark Photography).