Player: Steve Santini
Drafted By: New Jersey Devils (42nd overall)
Final Central Scouting Ranking: No. 47 North American skater
Height/Weight: 6'2'', 205 lbs
DOB: March 7, 1995 (18 years old)
Most Recent Affiliation: U.S. National Development Team
Steve Santini has spent the past two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team based in Ann Arbor, Mich. He is primarily a defensive specialist. In his first campaign with the development squad, Santini scored one goal and five points in 36 games.
Last season, Santini played in 25 games and added five assists. His plus/minus improved from a minus-28 in his first season to a plus-six in 2012-13.
Full Scouting Report
Santini's lack of offensive production has hurt his grade with some teams, but the Mahopac, N.Y. native is one of the smartest and most effective defensive defensemen in this draft. Santini has good size at 6'2", 205 pounds. He plays a physical game and functions as a shutdown defenseman coaches could confidently put on the ice against opposing clubs' top scorers.
How good is Santini defensively? He was voted the best defenseman at the 2013 IIHF Under-18 World Championship this past year despite the fact that he didn't register a single point in the tournament. Santini was a plus-eight, however, and did a great job of keeping opposing forwards off the scoreboard.
Henry Lazar, the general manager of the New York Apple Core hockey club, raved about his former player. "Steven is a dedicated, hard-working defenseman who can play the game any way he has to. He is mobile, a big hitter and extremely smart with the puck."
Kris Baker of SabresProspects.com is impressed with Santini's abilities. "He gives little room to forwards on the rush, intimidates with his hitting game and quickly moves the puck out of trouble," the scouting report said.
Some scouts see some offensive potential in Santini because of his hockey sense and vision, while others point to his low offensive production thus far and think he will continue to produce little offensively.
NHL Player Comparison
Brooks Orpik of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Like Orpik, Santini is smart in his own zone but not flashy offensively. They also have similar size and a lot of hockey sense.
Santini has committed to Boston College this season. While he may have the physical size and hockey sense to play in the NHL this season, he will probably spend a year or two at BC before turning pro. The most likely timetable for Santini is that he reaches the NHL full-time by the 2015-16 season. Once he gets there, expect him to be very mature and ready to perform.
Santini is physical and smart, and that's a great combination for a defenseman. His top-end potential would be a top-pairing defenseman opposite an offensive defenseman like a Brian Leetch or a Kris Letang. Look for Santini to log major minutes and be a shutdown defenseman who is put on the ice to slow down the top scoring threats his club faces every night and to kill penalties. Even if he fails to develop at all offensively, he is at worst a reliable, second-pairing defenseman.