The Saints 2019 Draft class was one of the most fruitful the team has seen in their nine seasons since returning to Dubuque. The five selections tie the most Dubuque has had in a single draft, matching the 2012 and 2016 draft years.
Erik Portillo- 6’6’’ 209 lbs, G (3rd round, 67th overall, Buffalo Sabres)
Portillo was the first player off the board with Fighting Saints ties, having recently been drafted by Dubuque in the 2019 USHL Phase II Draft. Portillo was the fifth overall selection in the Phase II Draft and the 67th overall in the NHL Draft. Portillo was selected much higher than he was projected on many boards, suggesting that his time at the Sabres Camp was not only beneficial for him, but also for the Sabres in determining the goalie’s worth to their future. Portillo spent his last season with the junior program of Frolunda in the SuperElit league. In that span, Portillo recorded a 1.99 GAA and a .931 save percentage. The Saints draft pick is also committed to Michigan, adding to his impressive resume.
What immediately jumps out at people in regard to Portillo is his size. At 6’6’’ he is on the same level (pun intended) as goalies like Devin Dubnyk and Ben Bishop. More and more goalies are popping up who are over 6’5’’. The question for all of them is can they move quick enough to succeed in the NHL. Portillo, in short, can. He moves very well for his size and is agile despite a larger frame. Many different scouting reports on Portillo all note something that has nothing to do with his stature and that is how poised his is between the pipes. Poise never hurts at any position, but for a goaltender it can be especially critical.
Portillo becomes the highest drafted goalie the Fighting Saints have had in their program. Matthew Thiessen, the starter on last season’s team, was a seventh-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks.
Tyce Thompson- 6’0’’ 160lbs, C (4th round, 96th overall, New Jersey Devils)
Thompson was selected shortly after Portillo, marking the first and only Saints alumn who was selected in the 2019 NHL Draft. Thompson played for the Fighting Saints during the 2017-18 season and in his first USHL season made an immediate impact. The centerman had 32 points and played all 60 regular season games for Dubuque. He followed up that impressive campaign with another solid season at Providence. Thompson and the Friars made an unlikely run to the 2019 Frozen Four and Thompson recorded 25 points in 42 games during his freshman season.
Tyce is the younger brother of Tage Thompson, who plays for the Buffalo Sabres. The biggest knock on Thompson has always been his size. He is often described as a late bloomer. However, Thompson has continued to have success at every level despite his perceived lack of size. Lance Lysowski of the Buffalo News said, “I think he’s about as complete a freshman as I’ve seen as far as understanding all aspects of the game.”
Dubuque fans can likely relate to the work ethic and determination that others who have seen Thompson play continually harp on. As mentioned before, his lack of NHL size was the main deterrent for his not being selected in either of the last two drafts. However, Thompson continues to progress as a late bloomer and with more time at Providence, should make it very tough for the Devils not to give him a shot.
Matias Maccelli- 5’11’’ 170lbs, LW (4th round, 98th overall, Arizona Coyotes)
Just two picks after Thompson, Maccelli was selected as the second of three Fighting Saints in the fourth round. All Maccelli did this season with the Fighting Saints was set records and put up points. The Finnish forward totaled 72 regular season points and five playoff points. The 72 points were tied for the most by a Finnish-born player in the USHL Tier-1 era, matching current NHLer Erik Haula’s mark. Maccelli also produced the third most points in a single season in Dubuque history, the second longest point streak in Fighting Saints history and the fourth most goals in a single season for Dubuque.
Maccelli has a well above average hockey IQ. He sees and thinks the game at the NHL level. He is a playmaker, but as was suggested by the 31 goals this past season, he can also deposit the puck in the back of the net. The biggest knock on Maccelli has been his lack of NHL speed. However, a few years of pro hockey in Finland, where Maccelli is slated to play next season, should be able to help that case.
According to the Coyotes director of scouting, Lindsay Hofford, they had Maccelli ranked as high as 49th on their board during the season. However, he said he tailed off later in the season due to the possibility of fatigue from a longer season in the USHL. Hofford would later go on to say, “I’ve seen guys obviously bounce back from that. He’s going to the Finnish league next year to play pro. So, he’s another guy with really high skill and really good vision, so we were really happy to get him, as well.”
Maccelli was one of the elite talents in the USHL this season, finishing in the top five in goals, points and assists. His skill and upside are tremendous, and the Coyotes will keep a close eye on his progression over in Finland.
Ryder Donovan- 6’3’’, 183lbs, C (4th round, 110th overall, Vegas Golden Knights)
Duluth, Minnesota native and future Wisconsin Badger Ryder Donovan was the next Saint off the board. Donovan did not see that much time with Dubuque over his two years, opting to chase a state title with his hometown Duluth East High School team. Donovan is an incredibly skilled, power forward who has been on the radar of NHL teams for a few years. Donovan produced 37 points during the regular season for Duluth and nine points in just five playoff games.
Donovan possess the size and speed that NHL teams covet. He will likely have to spend multiple years at Wisconsin to develop other aspects of his game, but the way the Badgers are trending that will only be beneficial for Donovan. Tony Granato has put together an exceptional draft class which includes NTDP players Cole Caufield and Alex Turcotte.
Donovan is a power forward by all accounts, but as noted by McKeen’s hockey he also is a “solid skater for his size, with impressive acceleration and agility helping the package.” Donovan can prove that his skills translate to the college hockey game as he is slated to head to Wisconsin for the 2019-20 season.
Braden Doyle- 6’0’’, 168lbs, D (6th round, 157th overall, Los Angeles Kings)
Doyle, who saw limited time with the Fighting Saints this last season, was the final player selected in the 2019 Draft with Fighting Saints ties. Doyle is a great example of what the new-wave of NHL defensemen look like; slightly undersized but with the ability to skate and move the puck well. Doyle played five games with Dubuque, pitching in an assist. He played the majority of the year with Lawrence Academy, where he was able to total 29 points in 28 games. He is scheduled to head to Boston University for the 2020-21 season.
As mentioned before, Doyle has good speed and passing ability. He showcased much of that during the Fighting Saints 2019 Main Camp. Doyle consistently hopped up in the rush, made good first passes and showcased an ability to get back after jumping in to the rush. His skating is already well above most of the other defensemen he will play against. Doyle is the 2019 recipient of the John Carlton Memorial Trophy which is given annually by the Boston Bruins to the top senior class student-athletes in Eastern Massachusetts.
Future Considerations, a site dedicated to the NHL Draft had this to say about Doyle: “His ability to start the attack from his own end is impressive and he can dish out breakout passes to quickly start the attack. He possesses slick hands and he’s able to pull off some impressive dangles.” It also noted that he has to work on his defensive positioning but that he has such great skating ability that he can recover even if he puts himself in an awkward position.