Each day in the lead-up to the NHL Draft on June 25-26 in Los Angeles, Yahoo! Sports will feature one of the Central Scouting Bureau’s Top 100 North American prospects from the Canadian Hockey League.
Stephen Silas should have a memorable 18th birthday. The Belleville Bulls defenceman turns 18 on June 26, when he should hear his name called on the second day of the NHL draft at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Silas, who represented Canada in 2009 at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka under-18 tournament, had to mature fast on a rebuilding Belleville team this season. The Bulls cleaned out the cupboard after successive runs to the Ontario Hockey League's final four and dropped from 98 points to 48 as they went with a younger team. Silas wore the expanded role well, finishing 60th in NHL Central Scouting's rankings of North American skaters. (He was 51st in the midterm rankings issued in January.) He represented Canada again at the world under-18 championship in Belarus.
A native of Georgetown, Ont., Silas projects as a second-pair defenceman in the NHL. He doesn't have the highest ceiling, perhaps since he only has average size (6-foot, 183 pounds). Two seasons on Belleville's Olympic-sized rink (15 feet wider than NHL regulation) have helped him show off a smooth stride and an ability to get puck up ice. The main question might be whether he can suppress bigger, faster NHL forwards.
Seven teams interviewed Silas at the NHL Scouting Combine. "My agent always says it only takes one," he said.
1. How would you say your past season progressed, from start to finish?
"Coming into the year, we knew we were going to be a young team after peaking with back-to-back trips to the conference finals. I knew I was going to have a huge role, especially for a second-year guy. I took it as a challenge to be the best I could be and show the young guys on our team the ropes. I felt I did a good job with that and was happy how the season turned out, even though we had ours ups and downs. A lot of young guys progressed, which will be good moving forward into next year."
2. In your mind, what would scouts say you have to work on between now and when you'll be on the cusp of turning pro?
"My skating. Everyone in the NHL has always been the best skater out there. Being physical and intense not game in and game out but on every shift is also big."
3. Whom in the NHL do you look at and say, 'That's someone I need to be playing like?'
"There are superstars like [Chicago Blackhawks defenceman] Duncan Keith. I don't think I have anywhere near his upside, but there are other guys like [Dennis] Wideman from Boston and [Keith] Yandle from Phoenix. They are both solid guys who can log a lot of minutes in all situations, do the little things. You need them on your team to win. Just guys who can help on the offensive and defensive end, a solid No. 3 or 4 on the defensive charts, guys you need to win a Cup."
4. Whom do you consider your biggest hockey influence?
"The coaching staffs. My minor hockey coach, Scott Melee, had a huge influence on me getting to the OHL and now [Bulls coach-GM] George Burnett has shown me the ropes and what to expect and how to get to the next level. My family and agent [Kyle Dubas] have always been there to get me through the tough times. "Scott Melee used to coach Burlington Junior A, so he knew what it took and always said I had the ability to get to the OHL."
5. What was the most surprising question you were asked when you interviewed with teams at the NHL Scouting Combine?
"I won't say the team that asked it, but I had one ask me, 'At a party, are you the guy upstairs with your girlfriend or the one sitting on the couch?' That threw me off-guard, but they just want to get to know your personality ... they're just doing their job."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.