Ranked 47thamong North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, defenseman Steven Santini seems to check off a lot of the boxes that one would expect the Calgary Flames look for in a prospect: he’s American. He’s decently big. He’s heading to the NCAA. He’s a defenseman. Depending on how other teams rank him, he may be available in the late first round or, perhaps, when Calgary picks in the third round.
Santini’s a March 1995 birthday, so he’s smack-dab in the middle of this draft class in terms of age. He played the last two seasons with the U.S. National Development Team in the USHL, where he had 5 points in 36 games two years ago and 5 points in 25 games this year, so he’s no offensive dynamo.
Defensive play is obviously his bread and butter – he had zero points for the silver medal-winning Team USA at the World Under-18s this year, but was named the best blueliner in the tournament. He’s 6’2” and over 205 pounds and appears to be physically mature. Notably, he’ll be joining Johnny Gaudreau and Bill Arnold at Boston College in the fall.
A lot of people like Santini. But he’s the kind of player that appears all over the damn place in scouting lists thanks to having a lackluster offensive ceiling.
Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus has him at 28. He praises his skating, physical play and defensive abilities. According to Pronman, things get hairy regarding his offensive play:
Santini’s area of dispute lies in his offensive upside. He shows good abilities on the power play, but scouts have given me divided opinions on his puck moving, ranging anywhere from it being one of his best qualities to being just average. I tend to lean toward the latter, despite the occasional flashes of puck rushing Santini shows. One source praised his shot, although I am not as convinced that it is a strength.
Future Considerations has Santini at 34. The Hockey Writers’ rankings have him at 45. My personal rankings have him at 35. It’s likely that a lot of teams have him similarly all over the place in their rankings. But he brings things to the table – notably physicality and strong defensive play – that teams tend to really like. They may simply choose players with more offensive upside ahead of him, which means he may slide anywhere from the late first round to the early third.
The Flames have a decent cluster of recent defenseman from the draft in Brett Kulak, Patrick Sieloff, Ryan Culkin and Tyler Wotherspoon. Steven Santini is a little bit different from all of these guys (though he’s closer to Sieloff than any of the others if we’re making comparisons), and he’s headed to college for a few years. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see the Flames continue to draft college-bound players – you keep their rights for awhile and they can develop at their own pace – and Santini is headed to a college where two Flames prospects already play.
Flames First Round Targets
- Steven Santini
- Valery Nichushkin
- Nicolas Petan
- Josh Morrissey
- Elias Lindholm
- Aleksandr Barkov
- Sean Monahan