Player: Sam Huff
Height: 6’1” Weight: 181 lbs.
Team: Maple Grove(MN) High School
Final NHL Central Scouting Rank: 131st among North American skaters
What I Like
Lots of speed
Huff’s skating is an asset. He accelerates well for his size, and when he hits his top gear, he can blow past defenders one-on-one off the rush. That’s an area where he has really improved over the past few years.
I was watching a camp once and the rosters they had photocopied to hand out included somebody’s notes from the day prior. Next to Huff’s name it just said ‘Beast,’ which I thought was a fairly accurate description. Huff is listed at 181 lbs. and that doesn’t feel inflated. He’s a strong kid and when you combine that with his speed, and the fact that he isn’t afraid of physical contact, he can lay some heavy hits. He necessarily had to focus on the offensive side of the game a little more in high school, but he could be a physical presence that is tough to play against at the next level.
One area that can never be questioned with Huff is his effort. He’s a remarkably consistent player that shows up and competes every game, and in most every shift. He’s always active and involved, driving the play rather than letting it come to him. He plays with a great motor.
What I Don’t Like
Older player/Low level of competition
Huff was eligible for the 2016 Draft, making the cut-off by four days, though didn’t get serious draft consideration because much of his high school season was lost due to injury.
He was terrific during the high school season as a senior, but it has to be taken into account that he was an older player playing against younger, and in most cases, much less physically mature competition. He was able to outskate and overpower players in a way that he likely couldn’t playing against his peers at the junior level. Without any sort of track record at the junior level—Huff played two games in the NAHL after the high school season—there’s a lot more unknown in terms of his ability.
Huff creates a lot of scoring opportunities with his speed and strength, but his ability to finish off plays isn’t spectacular. He generates a ton of quality chances, but the percentage of those that turn into actual goals has always been low. Even nights I watched him score a goal or two, I walked away thinking he could have had three or four had he converted his chances a little better. Creating scoring chances is super valuable, but when he reaches a level where everybody is strong and everybody can skate, he may not have the skills to separate himself from the pack and still be an effective offensive player.
I’ve liked Huff as a player a long time. As a 15-year-old, I had him as one of the best players in the state of Minnesota ahead of guys like Kieffer Bellows and Riley Tufte. I was one of the few people that nominated him for Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Award this year too.
But as an NHL Draft pick? I’m not 100% sold. Central Scouting has him ranked in a position to be drafted, but they’re generally much more favorable towards Minnesota high school players than NHL teams are, and I don’t think there’s a lot of consensus about later round guys. I expect things to be wide open this year with a lot of “off-the-board” type picks, even in the earlier rounds of Day 2. Maybe that works in Huff’s favor. I could see a team taking a chance on him late in the Draft in hopes that with time, the offensive side of his game develops a little bit more. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if he went unpicked.
If Huff is selected in the later rounds of the Draft, the team that picks will have the benefit of allowing him to take the long road to the pros. He’ll play for the Waterloo Black Hawks in the USHL for at least one season, before heading to the University of Minnesota for up to four years of college hockey. If Huff is able to develop to the point that he gets a pro opportunity, barring some huge surge in development, it will most likely be as a third or fourth line energy player whose speed and physical play can be disruptive defensively.