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Top 25 under 25 number 24 is Frank Vatrano

Sometimes it can be a long, winding road just to get to the NCAA

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
  • Position: C/LW
  • Height: 5'9''
  • Weight: 201 lbs
  • League Last Year: NCAA, AHL
  • Age This Year: 21
  • Acquired: Undrafted free agent, signed out of college in 2015

Apparently Vatrano has been flying under the radar among Bruins fans, at least up until the prospect tournament in Buffalo. I had him pegged to go in the high teams in this list. I've been on the Vatrano hype train since well before he was signed to the Bruins. Most others boarded the train some time this weekend, as Vatrano scored half of all the Bruins goals during the weekend's Prospect Challenge tournament in Buffalo. He had 3 goals on 10 shots in 2 games, with one being the OT game winner on Sunday night. If you've been paying attention to Vatrano, his performance over the weekend wasn't all that surprising.

It's also safe to say that Frank Vatrano also flew under the radar during his first two years in the NCAA. Mostly because he played only a single NCAA game prior to his junior year. Here's a write up from SBN College Hockey on his journey. He played 0 games for BC as a freshman, and only got to play one playoff game at the end of his sophomore year at Umass. So it's not all that surprising that he went into his breakout junior year undrafted. After signing with the Bruins, a lot of teams were shaking their heads. The Flames even had him on an amateur try out agreement. Hah! Take that, Calgary! How's it feel to know your team gave up an awesome 21 year old player for nothing?

Vatrano is, to put it lightly, a volume shooter. According to College Hockey News, in the 2014-15 season at Umass, Vatrano took 194 shots in all situations in 36 games. That's about 5.39 shots per game. At any level, that's pretty ridiculous. It's more than leading NCAA goal scorer Jimmy Vesey or Hobey Baker winner Jack Eichel. For comparison, Alexander Ovechken led the NHL with 4.85 shots per game, which is over half a shot less than what Vatrano took per game. In the prospects game against NJ, he was the hero, scoring his second goal of the night on his freaking 7th shot of the night. The remarkable part of his performance is that 7 shots in one game is not really much of an outlier for this kid.

On the flip side, Vatrano had no where near an elite NCAA shooting percentage, shooting at 9.3%. That's lower than his teams total shooting percentage of 9.4%, and it's nearly half of what most high end NCAA forwards shoot at. Danton Heinen, a comparable prospect who's only 10 months younger than Vatrano, shot at 18.8%. That's over twice as much as Vatrano's shooting percentage. However, Vatrano still managed to score 25% more goals per game than Heinen, by virtue of his ability to just get the puck on net.

I'm no NHL scout, but I saw Vatrano in action at Umass. He's built kinda like Brad Marchand. He's not the biggest guy out there, but his long wingspan and ability to get down low mean he can protect the puck and throw hits better than a guy his size has any right to. That ability to protect the puck helps him get a lot of goals from just crashing the net. This bodes well for Vatrano's chances of making the big club, as the Bruins tend to overvalue these traits.

He's also got a freaking wicked wrist shot. It's not the hardest shot, or the quickest, but it's got enough of both too fool goal tenders. It allows him to score goals at the NCAA level in the way Kessel scores them at the NHL level. Like lots of quick shooters, he can score many breakaway goals, but his shot also enables some tricky powerplay tactics as well. Because his wind up is so quick, he doesn't need to telegraph his intention to shoot prior to receiving a pass. Often while on the powerplay, he'll receive the puck while in a very innocent position, one where 99% of players would choose to hold on to the puck and then pass. In that situation, Vatrano would snap the puck towards the net as soon as it's anywhere near his stick.

That last bit is probably where he needs the most work in his game. Vatrano took over 5 shots per game and ended up with almost twice as many goals as he had assists. It's not a coincidence that he had a relatively low shooting percentage. If his stats don't scream "needs to pass more", then I don't know what does. There's nothing wrong with being the triggerman on a line, but Vatrano is pretty extreme.

He's playing in the AHL next year, so he'll most likely play on a line with Koko or Czarnik. Both of those guys are better play makers than the team mates he had in Umass, so that may be enough to turn him from a volume shooter into a volume scorer. It worked for him in the prospect tournament. I'd pencil Vatrano in for 20-30 goals in Providence, provided he plays a full season.

Also, here's a sweet highlight reel

Box Score:

Social Media Minute:

And the list so far, as picked by you, the reader:

  1. David Pastrnak (63%)
  2. Torey Krug (47%)
  3. Ryan Spooner (60%)
  4. Zach Trotman (40%)
  5. Brett Connolly (46%)
  6. Colin Miller (21%)
  7. Alexander Khokhlachev (27%)
  8. Jesse Gabrielle (29%)
  9. Zach Senyshyn (20%)
  10. Joe Morrow (17%)
  11. Zane McIntyre (25%)
  12. Malcolm Subban (37%)
  13. Seth Griffith (27%)
  14. Danton Heinen (25%)
  15. Jakub Zboril (39%)
  16. Jake Debrusk (24%)
  17. Matt Grzelcyk (27%)
  18. Linus Arnesson (35%)
  19. Brian Ferlin (25%)
  20. Brandon Carlo (22%)
  21. Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (16%)
  22. Rob O'Gara (22%)
  23. Ryan Fitzgerald (16%)
  24. Frank Vatrano (42%)

Who's going to be 25?