Earlier in the week, I talked about the development of defenseman Austin Levi and how he was a very raw talent when the Hurricanes selected him. He was a phenomenal athlete but a lot of scouts questioned whether or not he could put his talent together and turn into a great a player. A similar criticism was directed towards today's player of focus and #15 in our Top 25 Under 25, Mark Alt. When the Hurricanes selected Alt in the second round of the 2010 draft, it was a bit of an interesting pick because Alt spent most of his high school career playing both football and hockey. In fact, Alt may have been better known for being an all-state quarterback in high school instead of being a hockey player but he is now 100% dedicated to the rink and he has turned into quite a good defenseman during his two years at the University of Minnesota.
The one thing no one ever doubted about Alt is that he is a terrific athlete and possesses a pretty big frame at 6'3" and 202 lbs. He's been able to use this frame to become an effective, physical shutdown defenseman for the Golden Gophers during his time there. He began to play a much bigger role last season as he was used heavily on Minnesota's penalty kill and was also trusted with playing tougher assignments than their other defense pairings. Alt was also second on the team in blocked shots (51) and was very effective at making things difficult for opposing forwards.
Alt is also similar to Levi in the sense that he has proven to be a terrific defensive player but the offensive side of his game is still a work in progress. Scoring isn't exactly his top priority but defensemen who can contribute well at both ends generally are more valuable and are projected to do more in the long-run. For Alt, the offense is starting to come around. He set career highs in goals and points last season and finished second among Gopher defensemen with 22 points in 43 games. Those numbers aren't going to blow away anyone but Alt was only a sophomore last year and was playing some pretty big minutes in a very difficult conference. He may have not been the team's MVP but it is fair to say that Alt played a role in the Gophers reaching the Frozen Four last season.
Thanks to the Big Ten Network and Minnesota having a very successful season, I got to see Alt play on several occasions last year and I liked what I saw for the most part. His play wasn't as impessive as say, Dumoulin's, but Alt is a very stout defensive defenseman and I could see him having a future in the NHL. Alt's size, physical edge and decent puck-moving skills could make him a good second pairing option in the NHL, but he is only 20 so things might change once he starts playing outside the college level. However, something that might keep Alt from excelling at the pro level is his skating, which is detailed by college hockey expert Nathan Wells in this post. It is something that he can improve on during his next year at The U but it might keep him from being an effective top-four defenseman at the NHL level.
I think Alt is one of the more underrated prospects in the Hurricanes system because he has been consistently good and was somewhat of a standout on a very strong Minnesota squad last season. He was able to do it despite being only a sophomore who was only 19 when the season began. It definitely raises expectations for his junior year at Minnesota and the Canes might have him signed to a contract by this time next year if he has a good enough season. Alt has always had the athleticism to reach his potential, so it's been a matter of putting it all together and he has definitely been coming along nicely ever since committing to Minnesota. Alt could find himself much higher on this list next year if he continues to improve.