Physically, JT Compher doesn't quite have the same skillset as the other candidates likely to be picked in the first round of the NHL Draft. He measured in at the NHL Combine at 5'11" and 177 lbs., just barely big enough to avoid the dreaded "under-sized" label. His skating is considered good enough, but not necessarily great. He put up good statistics with the NTDP, but isn't regarded as a prolific scorer.
So why is Compher considered a candidate to be selected late in the first round of the NHL Draft? Compher's NTDP coach Don Granato summed it up pretty well in Compher's hometown newspaper: ""Anything intangible, as far as an attribute, that I’ve mentioned, he’s a 10."
The phrase "two-way forward" is often the polite cliche for a player with not a lot of offensive talent, but in Compher's case, it's not used in a derogatory fashion. Compher is one of the rare skilled players that exhibits the same effort and enthusiasm without the puck that he does with the puck. He's a tenacious, sometimes nasty, defender that makes life difficult for opponents. His compete level all over the ice is among the best in the draft.
Adding to his positives, Compher showed excellent leadership abilities, being voted as a captain of the NTDP team in international play this year, and really raising his level of play at key times for the US team. Off the ice, Compher is regarded as an excellent student.
Offensively, Compher more than holds his own as well. He finished third on the NTDP-U18 team in scoring this year with 50 points, though because he missed a handful of games due to injury this year, he was tops on the team in point-per-game average. The last impression he left with scouts was a good one, as well, when he put up 7 points in 7 games at the World U18 championships, including a lot of very big, important goals for the US team.
As far as pro potential, Compher projects as a relatively safe bet to fill a second or third line role at the NHL level given his tenacity and attention to detail on the defensive end. Given the right circumstances, he could possibly fill a first line role for a team, provided his offensive play improves.
In terms of the draft, Compher has usually been ranked anywhere from about 20th overall on the high end to about 40th overall on the low-end. The ceiling for Compher isn't necessarily as high as some other prospects available. Somewhat paradoxically, an outstanding work ethic can almost be a drawback when it comes to the NHL Draft, because a player already maxing out his abilities might not be seen as much room to grow and improve in the future. But he's also one of the safer bets in the draft, because he's already achieved at such a high level, and he's a player that is going to get the best out of his abilities, whatever they may be. That combination might end up pushing him towards the lower end of that projection into the early second round, but whichever teams selects him could end up with a very valuable player.