Top Minnesotan a Spartan
6'3" LD A.J. Thelen of Savage, Minnesota and the U.S. National Team Development Program has made a verbal commitment to Michigan State University.
Thelen, who visited the university over the weekend, will be accelerating his studies and will arrive in East Lansing 11 months from now.
He will receive a full scholarship.
Thelen was watched closely by head coach Rick Comley and assistants Dave McAuliffe and Tom Newton at the NAHL season-opening tournament at Lansing's Capital Center earlier this month. At the time, Thelen, rostered on the Under-17 team, was playing with the Under-18 team due to injuries. Thelen is the first defenseman Comley has recruited since taking over from Ron Mason in March
Michigan State has two defensemen graduating after this season: Brad Fast and John-Michael Liles.
Thelen, a 3/11/86 birthdate, played youth hockey in Prior Lakes, Minn. Two years ago, he went to Shattuck-St. Mary's, playing for J.P. Parisé on the bantam team his first year, and for Murray Eaves on the Midget AA squad his second year.
The only other school Thelen visited was the University of Minnesota. A.J. -- short for Anthony James -- took an unofficial there in August. Numerous other schools contacted him, too.
In August 2001, The U.S. Hockey Report ranked Thelen #3 among all defensemen at the U.S. Select 15 Festival. Eleven months later, at the Select 16 Festival, we had in the #1 slot. We described him as "a big, physical, prototypical pro-style d-man. Good north-south, but needs work on lateral movement."
In May, Thelen was drafted by Prince Albert in the third round of the WHL bantam draft.
As many of you know, Minnesota hockey players don't often wind up at Michigan State. Thelen, according to our crack research department, will be the first Minnesotan to suit up for the Spartans in 12 years. Between 1988-90, Craig Shepherd, a forward from Edina who'd transferred from the now-defunct U.S. International University program in San Diego, California, scored six goals in two years. The most prominent recent Minnesotan was forward Jeff Parker of White Bear Lake, a key member of the 1986 NCAA championship squad. Other prominent Minnesotans to lace 'em up for the Spartans include current Hastings HS coach Russ Welch, a Spartan from 1977-80, and, going back a bit farther, goalie James Watt, a Duluth native who was an All-America in 1972.
In 52 years, 25 Minnesotans have won letters playing hockey at Michigan State. The only one who reached the NHL was Parker, who played for Buffalo and, briefly, Hartford. Thelen is likely to be the next one.
The Games Count Now
The USHL regular season opens tonight with Lincoln Stars playing at the Sioux City Musketeers and the Waterloo Balckhawks visiting the Tri-City Storm. The rest of the teams get underway tomorrow night, the marquee game being Green Bay vs. the Chicago Steel at the Resch Center, the Gamblers' impressive new home. Look for a new single-game USHL attendance record to be set. The old one was 6,202 at Omaha during the '98-99 season.
Cedar Rapids Wrap
Neither the Lincoln Stars nor the Green Bay Gamblers appeared at the Buc Bowl, choosing to wait a week and play at the Cedar Rapids Tournament, which wound up on Sunday.
The two teams finished at the bottom of the standings, coming up with just one win between them. However, these are pre-season games.
We'll take a look at those two teams, but first we should point out that overall scoring was down here, just as it was in Des Moines. Quite simply, it's a weak year up front. There's also a lot of parity in the league, meaning it could be mid-season before things shake out.
As for players at Cedar Rapids, young Green Bay defenseman Wes O'Neill, a Notre Dame recruit and a likely high first-round pick in the 2004 NHL draft, was the buzz. Actually, Green Bay's corps of defenseman was top notch. In terms of their overall game, we actually felt that Minnesota recruit Jake Taylor and former Shattuck standout Jonathon Ralph each played a better overall game than the rookie. O'Neill, though, has the great high-end potential.
Green Bay Gamblers
Jake Taylor, RD, 6'4", 205, 8/1/83 -- First off, his skating has improved, and he's adept at doing things at top sped. His poise is impressive. He's physical, even getting into a fight that got him tossed from the game. Taylor is the anchor of the Gamblers' blue line, and is progressing well. A Rochester Lourdes grad from Byron, Minn., this is Taylor's second year in the league. He's the team captain -- and a University of Minnesota recruit.
Jonathan Ralph, RD, 6'1", 190, 10/25/84 -- A New Jersey native and former Shattuck player, Ralph is explosive, highly mobile, a smooth skater with very good instincts, and a lot of jump to his game.
Wes O'Neill, LD, 6'4", 200, 3/3/86 -- An Essex, Ontario native who played for the Chatham Maroons last season, O'Neill was the second overall pick in the OHL draft, held on May 4th. Here, O'Neill looked far more like a veteran than a rookie. Not only is he 6'4", but he's also a very smooth skater, especially so when factoring in his age and size. He's physically involved, He works hard. He's solid defensive defenseman, but he also has offensive instincts. In short, he's an excellent prospect.
Dan Venard, LD, 6'0", 170, 10/5/85 -- Does everything well, though nothing extraordinary. He plays a simple game, and does that well. Second year with the Gamblers. An Illinois native, he played for the CYA midget squad before that.
Noah Babin, RD, 6'1", 185, 3/11/84 -- Seemed a bit out of sync. Made some questionable decisions. Forced plays. A Palm Beach Gardens, Florida native who's played the last two years in the NTDP, Babin is a better player than he showed here. He's committed to Notre Dame.
Kyle Klubertanz, RD, 6'0", 170, 9/23/85 -- Good skater. Solid stride. Needs work on his decision-making and, for this league, he has to get stronger. However, he's a late '85. Excellent upside. From Sun Prairie, Wisc. Played for the Chicago Chill Midgets last season.
Jimmy Kilpatrick, RC, 5'11", 170, 1/27/85 -- Smooth skater. Smooth hands. Agile, too. From the stands, it all looks effortless. Will need to become more dynamic. From Holy Angels HS.
Alex Semenov, RW, 6'1", 175, '84 -- Smooth skater who plays a strong two-way game. Lanky. Moves around the ice well. From California, but we don't know much else about his background.
Corey Couturier, RW, 6'1", 175, 2/2/85 -- Nice wide-based stride. Works hard. Fights through checks. Can make plays in tight areas. From Traverse City, Michigan and the midget AAA Marquette Electricians.
Ryan Carter, LC, 6'1", 180, 8/3/83 -- A power forward type from White Bear Lake HS. Effective in front of net. Gets involved. Decent overall skills, but still raw.
Casey Parenteau, C/RW. 5'10", 175 lbs., 5/19/86 -- The fact that he's an '86 and new to junior hockey, plus the fact that he's not a big player, means it may take a little while to adjust to the league. He's going to be a good one, though. Has decent speed, but his main attribute is his knack for finding ways to score. Was on the U.S. Under-17 Select Team that won gold in the Czech Republic in August. From the Twin Cities area; played for the Breck School last year.
Eric Pfligler, G, 5'8", 170, 5/22/85 -- He just stops the puck, that's all. Plays his angles well and knows when to go down and when to keep on his feet. From Palatine, Ill. Only an '85, but is now in his third year in the USHL.
Just as Green Bay had a slew of top defensemen, Lincoln has a slew of top forwards. If they could merge into one team, they'd take the league without breaking a sweat.
Ryan Potulny, LC, 6'0", 185, 9/5/84 -- Good speed. Physically involved. Good hands. Makes plays at top speed. Competes. This is his second year with Lincoln; before that he played for Red River HS in his hometown of Grand Forks, ND. A Gopher recruit.
David Backes, RC, 6'2", 200, 5/1/84 -- Soft hands plus great size = excellent pro prospect. Has average quickness. Very physical, with good hockey sense. Will just keep getting better. A Mankato State recruit from Blaine, Minn.
John Snowden, LC, 6'0, 200, 1/12/82 -- Former NTDP player now in his third USHL campaign is the oldest player in the league. Hasn't improved as much as we expected. Nonetheless, he's a solid power forward type who's physically involved, has an excellent shot, skates well, and fights through checks. From Snohomish, Wash. A Mankato State recruit.
Ben Gordon, LW, 5'10", 155, 1/31/85 -- Good feet. Good quickness. Soft hands. Good playmaking skills. At times seemed a little lost, probably due to inexperience in the USHL and a lack of size and strength to accomplish more. Gopher recruit from International Falls HS.
Chris Porter, LW, 6'1", 210, 5/29/84 -- Big, strong power forward who can grind it out. Only player on team with more than one goal here (he had two). From Sioux City, Iowa, he formerly played at Shattuck-St. Mary's. A North Dakota recruit.
Danny Irmen, RC, 6'0", 190, 9/6/84 -- Works hard. Good scoring touch, though he only notched one point here. Feet could be quicker. Like Potulny, Irmen is a Gopher recruit and second-year player from Red River HS in Grand Forks, ND..
Matt Hayek, RW, 6'3", 185, 3/27/84 -- Rookie from Moorhead (Minn.) HS showed good speed for his size, especially once he got going. Top end speed is good. Lacks quickness, but that should come. Has good on-ice presence and can play physically -- a good thing considering he's 6'3".
Brent Borgen, LW, 5'11", 170, 5/8/85 -- Good puck skills. Good sense. Good speed. Competes. Not overly noticeable here, but that will likely change before long. Rookie from Mahtomedi HS. A Gopher recruit.
Michael Nesdill, RD, 6'2", 175, 2/3/84 -- Had a good tournament, skating well and doing everything at top speed. Decent hands. A reaction-type player who relies a lot on his instincts. Hence his decisions can be a little hit-or-miss at times. Lincoln's top defenseman here. From Phoenix, AZ. Played the last two season in the NTDP.
Ethan Graham, LD, 6'1", 185, 8/1/82 -- Good all-around skills. Physical, but not overly so. A leader on the blue line. Very solid. From Xenia, Ohio. Second year in the league.
Last week, in our story on the Buc Bowl, we mentioned numerous players on the rosters of the other four teams here (Chicago, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Waterloo). Of those we did not mention, a few caught our attention this time.
Joe Piskula, LD, Chicago, 6'2", 200, 7/5/84 -- Good skater with excellent size. Makes smart decisions, crisp passes. Plays with an edge, too. From Antigo, Wisc. Played midget AAA with Team Wisconsin last season
Joel Kitchen, LC, Des Moines, 6'0", 180, 7/22/83 -- Good speed and good puck skills. Had four points here (2-2-4). An Ontario native, he played last season for Couchiching (OPJHL).
Billy Bagron, C, 5'9", 180, 5/18/82 -- Leading point-getter here, with a 1-4-5 line. Chicago had its offensive game in gear here, scoring nearly twice as much as any other team. Bagron showed speed and energy. Could finish among the league's leading scorers, so he's a player to watch. From Eagle River, Alaska, he played for the Rochester Mustangs last year.
Rene Gauthier, R shot F, 5-10, 177, 11/11/82 -- Only player in tournament to score three goals. Like Bagron, a smallish skilled forward, who'll draw interest if he can put up numbers over the whole season. From Tecumseh, Ontario.
Chris Snavely, D, Cedar Rapids, 5'9", 175, 12/4/82 -- Good small offensive D from Lancaster, Penn. is in his third USHL campaign. Makes good decisions. Distributes puck very well. A wide-open skating game suits his style.
Two Silverbacks Heading South
Two forwards from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks have committed to U.S. colleges this week -- Adrian Veideman to Denver and Mitch Carefoot to Cornell.
-- Veideman, a LW on the line centered by former Shattuck and future UND Fighting Sioux Brady Murray, is a 6'1", 180 lb. native of Sicamous, BC, where he played his Jr. B hockey before moving on to Salmon Arm. Last year, as a BCHL rookie, Veideman posted a 23-32-55 line. A strong-skating two-way forward, Veideman has strong passing skills and a good head for the game.
-- Carefoot, a 6'1", 200 lb. RW who can also play center, is always around the puck and likes to shoot it -- a lot. A 2/2/85 birthdate, Carefoot played for the Dauphin Kings (MJHL) the past two seasons. Last winter, he also played for Team West at the World Under-17 Challenge, held over the holidays in Winnipeg and Selkirk, Manitoba. Right now, he's a rookie in the BCHL, so still on the unproven side. Carefoot is a native of Dauphin, Manitoba. His father, Brad, played for Denver in the early '70s.
Salmon Arm's coach is Garry Davidson, a long-time head coach in the BCHL, where he's also run the show at Nanaimo, Victoria, Trail, and Penticton (where he coached former Maine star Paul Kariya). Davidson, who played for Brandon, is a good friend of LA Kings (and former Shattuck) coach Andy Murray, who's part owner of the Silverbacks, and the father of Brady.
Raduns Makes His Pick
6'3", 200 lb. right-shot center Nate Raduns, the fifth-leading scorer on the NTDP last season, has committed to the St. Cloud State Huskies.
Right now, Raduns, who's from Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, across the Mississippi River from St. Cloud, is playing football at Sauk Rapids HS. As soon as the season ends, though, he'll report to the River City Lancers (USHL) and play out the remainder of the 2002-03 season.
Raduns was a one-year player for the NTDP, stepping out of Sauk Rapids HS (Class A) and into the National Program. where he posted an 8-17-25 line in the regular season. In April, he won gold as the US beat Russia in the final game of the IIHF World Under-18 championship in Slovakia.
Raduns made unofficial visits to Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, Michigan Tech, and St. Cloud State over the summer. He had officials planned at several of those schools and Notre Dame. However, St. Cloud State, which will need centers after this season, stepped up with an excellent offer, which sealed the deal.
If Dahl and staff feel Raduns needs an extra year in the USHL, the big center will matriculate in the fall of '04.
Raduns, a 5/17/84 birthdate, is eligible for June's NHL draft.
McCabe Returns to School
6'2" Taft defenseman J.D. McCabe is on his way back to the Watertown, Conn. boarding school today after missing the first two weeks of classes while recuperating from an auto accident five weeks ago.
McCabe, who fractured his L5 vertebrae in an Aug 19 crash, will meet with Taft's athletic trainer when he arrives at school in order to set up a rehab program. An '85 and a Div. I prospect, McCabe expects to be suiting up for the Rhinos after the Christmas break.
Right now, though, he's wearing a molded two-piece back brace that is removable for sleeping, etc. The brace is expected to come off in two weeks.
The crash occurred Aug. 19 when McCabe, behind the wheel of his Honda Civic, lost control on a road in his hometown of Jamison, Penn., about 45 miles north of Philadelphia, and plowed into a tree. No alcohol or drugs were involved and McCabe was able to crawl from the wreckage and immediately call his parents on his cell phone.
"I'm lucky to be alive," McCabe said. "I definitely had a guardian angel on my shoulder."
Right now, McCabe says, "I'm way behind in his school work." He also misses his car and wonders what will happen to his auto insurance rates.
Stanieich to Lowell
5'11", 195 lb. Boston Junior Bruins (EJHL) RD Adam Stanieich committed to UMass-Lowell today.
Stanieich, who's from Stoneham, Mass., 25 minutes south of Lowell on Rte. 93, played for two years at St. John's Prep and is now in his third year with the Junior Bruins.
An '84, Stanieich graduated from high school last spring. A good skater and a hard worker with excellent strength, Stanieich has steadily improved his offensive skills while with the Junior Bruins, last year posting a 10-30-40 line. For the last two years he's been captain of the team, so he has leadership abilities, too.
Stanieich is the second player to commit to Lowell in the past few days, following behind Danville Wings (NAHL) center Jason Tejchma, who committed before the weekend.
Spade, Gravelding Recovering
On the same week McCabe was injured in Pennsylvania, 6'2", 185 lb. late '87 RD Steven Spade of Rochester, NY, playing for the Georgetown Raiders (OPJHL) in a pre-season game against the Hamilton Kealtys, dislocated his right wrist (bottom hand). The injury occurred when Spade found his right arm caught under him in routine contact along the boards. According to onlookers, the injury looked like a serious one, and there was immediate talk that he may have shattered the growth plate. However, tests later showed the wrist to be merely dislocated.
The cast comes off a week from this Friday and the young defensemen, who's still 14, could be back in action around the middle of October.
Spade, who won't turn 15 until Dec.10, was our pick as the #1 defenseman at this summer's Select 15 Festival in St. Cloud. Besides his great size, Spade showed a long stride, poise, and an ability to hit in a controlled, purposeful manner. In other words, he doesn't run around trying to rub guys out. He plays a prototypical pro-style game -- even if he is just 14.
Spade, a good student who has been invited to the NTDP for next fall, is likely to hold off on a final decision until after next spring's OHL draft.
Defenseman Chris Gravelding -- coincidentally, another 12/87 birthdate from upstate New York -- is also on the mend. Gravelding, who's playing for the Syracuse Jr. B Stars (Empire League), recently broke his hand in a fight. and is expected to be out until November. Gravelding, one of the better blueliners at the Select 15s, is a right shot from Clinton, NY who moves very well with the puck, works hard, and has a good sense of the game.
Tejchma to Lowell
5'10", 180 lb. LC Jason Tejchma, who has three goals and an assist in the Danville Wings (NAHL) first five games, has accepted a full scholarship to UMass-Lowell.
Tejchma, who missed the second half of last season with a shoulder injury, is a 5/13/83 birthdate from Muskegon, Mich. This will be his second year in Danville. Previously he played for the HoneyBaked Midgets.
Tejchma, whom we've watched for several years now, is a smart, savvy centerman who sees the ice very well, has a good stick, and is equally adept as a scorer or distributor. He's a good get for Lowell.
-- 6'3" RD Steven Later of the Winnipeg South Blues (MJHL), who appeared ticketed to Michigan State last year before State cooled on him, will be playing at Ferris State next year. Later, a second team MJHL All-Star who played for Team Manitoba in the Viking Cup, is an aggressive, involved offensive-minded blueliner.
The Opt-in Rule Change
U.S.-based NHL scouts will be scrambling this winter because of a new NCAA rule change that will allow players who are not yet in college and who have reached their 18th birthday on or before Sept. 15, 2003 to opt in to the NHL draft.
All prospects born between 9/16/84 and 9/15/85 are immediately covered under this rule change. The rule is permanent, so the same scenario will repeat itself in subsequent years.
To give an example, a prospect such as NTDP defenseman Ryan Suter, a January '85 birthdate and a senior in high school, would, until now, have had to opt in, thus forgoing his NCAA eligiblity, in order to be drafted as an 18-year-old. Now, if he wishes, he can opt in, be selected in the NHL draft in Nashville June 21-22, 2003, go to a pro camp if he wishes, and then afterward enroll in his freshman year at Wisconsin. We are not suggesting that Suter will opt in, just that he can -- and all without losing his college eligibility.
To give another example, Governor Dummer Academy RW Brian McGuirk, a 7/11/85 birthdate and a BU recruit for the fall of 2004, is currently in his junior year of prep school. He could, if he wishes, opt in and then, if selected in June, play his whole senior year in prep school as a drafted player.
Players who accelerate will be affected in a different way. Goaltender Al Montoya, a 2/13/85 birthdate and a teammate of Suter's at the NTDP, accelerated last year and is now a freshman at the University of Michigan. Montoya, despite falling in the 9/16/84 to 9/15/85 time range, will not be allowed to opt-in without forgoing his NCAA eligibility.
The number for this NCAA rule is 18.104.22.168, if you need to get a full printed version. The NCAA made the change on the basis of the "competitive advantage" criteria. In other words, they felt, in making the change, that having a drafted player on a NCAA team offers no clear-cut on-ice advantage to the team on which he plays. To that could be added the possibility that it was also just a matter of time before the old rule was challenged in court. (To us, it now looks likely that excluding players in Montoya's situation could present a legal challenge as well, should someone bother pursuing it.)
What are the ramifications of this rule change? It's a little hard to say, other than the obvious fact that U.S.-based NHL scouts will now have to cover the NTDP, prep schools, and high schools far more closely than in recent years. With one stroke of a pen, the rule adds at least 30 legitimate pro prospects to the pool of players for June's draft, already shaping up as one of the deepest drafts in several years.
For the players, they can now sit back and study the situation, trying to determine whether they will be drafted higher in the 2003 or 2004 draft. They can then use that info in the process of deciding whether or not to opt in.
With changes such as this, there are always unintended consequences, whether for good or bad. What those might be is anybody's guess. This typist thinks the 20-year-old draft made the most sense, but would probably settle for a straight 19-year-old draft. Of course, time marches on, every 'advance' is simply a more complicated version of what already exists, and the chances of going back are very, very slim.
Cook, Vicari Shine at Buc Bowl
Des Moines, IA -- The name of the game at last weekend's Buc Bowl was defense -- half the games featured an average of four goals total and only four players averaged more than a point per game, though barely. Because of a huge rate of attrition between last season and this, the overall talent level up front is down significantly. Our choices, then, for top players at the tournament are exclusively d-men and goalies. On the blue line, our #1 prospect was River City's 6'5" RD Tim Cook and, close behind him, Tri-City's 6'6" Thomas Morrow. Both have the size and skill to be college stars and high NHL draft picks. Others d-men who excelled here included, in no particular order, Matt Carle and Jason Dest (River City); Derek Peltier (Cedar Rapids); Evan Stoftlet (Des Moines); and Lee Sweat and Brady Greco (Chicago). In net, Dominic Vicari (River City) was the #1 guy, picking up right where he left off last season. Behind him we liked big Joe Pearce (Chicago), A.J. Bucchino (Des Moines); Joe Fallon (Cedar Rapids); and Layne Sedevie (Topeka).
The two best teams here were the River City Lancers and the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. (The Lincoln Stars and the Green Bay Gamblers were not here, though they will be appearing at this weekend's Cedar Rapids Tournament. And Lincoln, with guys like David Backes, Dan Irmen, Ryan Potulny, and John Snowden, has by far the best group of returning forwards in the the league,
Dominic Vicari, River City, 5-10/180, 10/30/84 -- Closes down angles well, knows when to go down or stay on his feet, quick, His intelligence and athletic ability are both first rate. There is room for improvement in his glove and playing the puck. Vicari, who had seven shutouts and a 1.78 gaa/.926 save percentage last season, committed to Michigan State over the summer.
Joe Pearce, Chicago, 6-5/215, 6/29/82 -- At 6'5", he gives an unmistakable appearance of grandeur. And he moves well for a big guy. Going to BC. Played last year for the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (EJHL). Fifth round draft pick of Tampa Bay.
A.J. Bucchino, Des Moines, 5-10/160, 5/8/84 -- Quick post-to-post, follows puck well, v-style goalie. Is going to UNH. From Bow, NH and Avon Old Farms.
Joe Fallon, Cedar Rapids, 6-3/182, 2/1/85 --Quick feet, cuts down angles, smooth on skates, agile for a big young goalie. Bemidji, Minn. native played for the Rochester Mustangs last year.
Layne Sedevie, Topeka, 5-9/173, 1/18/83 -- Was traded from Sioux Falls to Topeka. Is committed to North Dakota. Had 54 saves on 56 shots in his team's two wins.
Wes Russell, Cedar Rapids, 6-1/180, 1/7/85 -- Butterfly goalie. Athletic and composed. Very good rebound control. Played for the Chicago Flames Midgets last season
The two Sioux City goaltenders, Eric Aarnio, an '83, and Jimmy Spratt, an '85, were very good, too.
Tim Cook, River City, 6-5/204, 3/13/84 -- Best d-man here. He skates well, handles the puck well, and makes intelligent, simple plays. Played with an edge; was physically involved in scuffles. Still lanky at 6-5/204. Could put on another 20 lbs. A right shot. Doesn't shoot the puck much. A New Jersey native who played at Hotchkiss before heading to the Lancers last year. Can go to any college he wants to. Excellent student.
Thomas Morrow, Tri-City, 6-6/205, 10/21/83 -- Is 6'6", can skate like the wind, and can turn on a dime -- rare in a player his size. Morrow has a nice touch, nice hands, and can make a pass. Generally made conservative, smart decisions. However, he's still rough, and his game needs fine-tuning. His shot is average. Right now, he's just throwing it on the net. Needs work on his gaps. A left shot who played at Hill-Murray HS last winter, Morrow was a major surprise here.
Derek Peltier, Cedar Rapids, 6-0/175, 3/14/85 -- Good skater, good puck skills, very solid on skates, makes very good decisions and provides a calm steadiness on the blue line. Not a flashy type, just extremely well-rounded. Played last year for Armstrong HS in Robbinsdale, Minn.
Jason Dest, River City, 6-0, 175, 10/26/84 -- Tremendous speed. A high tempo player who competes, fights through checks and is now unveiling a change of pace, slowing things down when called for. Really coming into his game. A Michigan native who'll be playing for the Wolverines next season, Dest is in his second year with the Lancers.
Evan Stoftlet, Des Moines, 6-1/185, 5/16/84 -- Good skater, good speed, good puck skills, and he competes. Des Moines' anchor on the blue line. A Madison, Wisc. native, he's in his second year with the Buccaneers.
Matt Carle, River City, 6-0/190, 9/25/84 -- Skates and handles puck well, excellent touch passer, great in transitions. However, he didn't have his A game here. As a former NTDP player accustomed to big sheets, it looked like he was a little out of sync on the smaller ice surface here (he'll hate Sioux City). It showed in his inability to get things done quickly enough. At any rate, he was still very good. A bunch of the top scholarship schools are onto him. He visited Denver on Monday. St. Cloud, Wisconsin, CC, and, reportedly, Minnesota and Michigan State are all in the running too.
Brady Greco, Chicago, 6-3/190, 3/4/83 --Right shot from Wisconsin played for Michigan Tech last year. However, he had off-ice difficulties and is now back in juniors. Greco is tough, strong, and steady. Has good feet, and offensive ability. He makes plays and has a good shot. Very involved. Wants puck.
Lee Sweatt, Chicago, 5-10/180, 8/13/85 -- Illinois native has lightning speed, much like Notre Dame defenseman Brett Lebda, another Illinois native. He's solid in all areas of his game, but it all comes back to his speed and quickness. Had to operate with less room here than he did at the 17s, and managed well. Played last year for Chicago Mission Midgets. Will be going to CC.
Mike Vanelli, Sioux Falls, 6-2/190, 10/2/83 -- Big right-shot D was rugged, tough, showed good hands, made good decisions, and was his team's anchor on the blue line. Sometimes his feet would get tangled up with his hands. Overall, Vanelli was a little inconsistent here, but showed flashes of what his future holds. A University of Minnesota recruit, Vanelli, after splitting between Sioux Falls and Cretin- Derham Hall HS last year, has graduated and will be a full-timer in the USHL this year.
Arthur Femenella, Sioux City, 6-7/247, 6/6/82 -- We think that scouts and recruiters have seen so much of Femenella for so long that some have become over-critical to the point of looking for weaknesses where none exist. Yes, Femenella does make bad decisions, errant passes, etc., a tendency that has scared off colleges in the past. However, that is really the only thing holding him back. At 6'7", 247 lbs., he has tremendous size and uses it. He's also a great skater for his size, smooth on his edges. Femenella just needs to play a little more conservatively and not try to do it all. If he shows he can do that consistently over a whole season, he could be a player yet. Led the Musketeers, the USHL's most-penalized team last year, with 215 pims, making himself the second-most penalized player in league, not too far behind Cedar Rapids' Nate Meyers. Femenella, a New Jersey native who played in the NTDP, is in his third year with the Musketeers. He was the sixth round pick of Tampa Bay in the 2001 NHL draft.
Luke Lucyk, Tri-City, 6-0/185, 5/5/86 -- Young left-shot D from the University School (Milwaukee). Has good feet, good sense, and good mobility.
Grant Clafton, River City, 5-11/170, 4/15/83 -- An intelligent player. Always had good stride, but is now quicker and faster. Mobile and moves puck well. In his second season with the Lancers. Last season, he posted a 6-28-34 line, putting him among the top-scoring defensemen in the league . A Grand Rapids, Minn. native, he'll be playing at St. Cloud State next fall.
Matt Olinger, Cedar Rapids, 6-1/200, 4/3/83 -- Offensive left-shot D who likes to lead rush and has good skills and vision. From Madison, Wisc. and is in his second year with Cedar Rapids.
Nick Schaus, River City, 5-11/175, 7/3/86 --Young right-shot D from Buffalo, NY. Good skater with excellent mobility. Makes good plays, too. First year in USHL.
Jacob Schuster, Cedar Rapids, 6-2/200, 2/5/85 -- Played as well as we've ever seen him play. A good skater who kept things simple, made good decisions, and threw his body around too. First year in league. From Hopkinton, Mass. Played at Lawrence Academy last year.
Chris Nathe, Tri-City, 5-11/170, 10/21/82 -- The cousin of Northeastern defenseman Bryan Nathe is a smooth skater and excellent offensive d-man who showed good passing skills. Needs to tighten up his game in his own end. Played at Elk River HS. Now in his second year in the USHL.
Brent Cummings, Topeka, 6-4/204, 4/17/83 -- Has potential because of size. Hands are OK; feet decent. From Austin (Minn.) HS. This is his second season with Topeka.
Others who played well included Chad Anderson (Tri-City), Alex Spezia (Chicago), Brian Kilburg (Tri-City), and Jim Jensen (Waterloo). But we're also getting into the area in which there are likely another dozen or so players who could just as easily be mentioned.
Since there was so much parity up front, we have decided to just list the players who showed a little something here -- there are 45 -- in alphabetical order. Veterans expected to put up points include Jacob Micflikier, Travis Morin, Kevin Brooks, Joel Hanson, Jordan Black, Chase Watson, David Boguslawski, Jason Moul, and Ryan Dingle.
Brett Beckfield, RW, Cedar Rapids, 6-1/180, 1/31/85 -- Lanky, skilled, and can make a play. Split season between the RoughRiders and Armstrong HS last year.
Jordan Black, LW, Chicago, 5-10/175, 2/21/83 -- Decent speed, works hard, fights through checks. Was with Topeka last year and put up good numbers -- 16-26-42 line in 55 games.
David Boguslawski, C, Tri-City, 5-9/185, 9/6/83 -- Small, but has speed and puck skills. A second year player. In 61 games last year, he posted a 15-15-30 line.
Pat Borgestad, RW, Tri-City, 6-3/190, 3/23/84 -- Big, rugged power forward is in second season in league and needs to improve his offensive touch. From Como Park (Minn.) HS. 6-10-16 in 47 games last season.
Kevin Brooks, LW, Cedar Rapids, 5-10/180, 5/28/82 --Good straightaway speed. Shoots the puck hard. A good energy guy. Second year in league. Previously played at Lawrence Academy. Could challenge for league scoring title this season. Last season, in 60 games, he had a 25-21-46 line.
Matt Burto, RW, Des Moines, 5-10/185, 7/29/84 -- Very good speed -- he just goes. Total energy guy. A Connecticut native, he played last year at Avon Old Farms.
Anthony Cosmano, RW, Sioux Falls, 5-8/170, 1/13/85 -- An intelligent player with good speed, good shot, and good hockey sense. He's not a burner, but does have good feet and quickness. Works hard, too. Played last year for the Chicago Chill Midgets.
Mike Curry, LW, Sioux City, 6-3/181, 9/20/84 -- Right shot playing the off-wing showed poise, hockey sense and decent playmaking skills. He's also 6'3" and rugged. From Eagle River, Alaska.
Ryan Dingle, LW, Des Moines, 5-10/170, 4/4/84 -- Good speed, good puck skills, and a good shot. The leading scorer in the tournament with five points in four games. A Colorado kid, he's long-since committed to the Denver Pioneers. In 61 games for the Bucs last season, he had a 7-10-17 line.
Jon Erickson, RW, Chicago, 6-3/195, 8/23/83 -- Big power forward type from Eden Prairie HS. While the play is a little fast-paced for him right now, he's an intriguing prospect.
Erik Fabian, LW, Topeka, 6-2/195, 5/28/83 -- A big power forward type with decent hands. Needs to improve skating. Had a scoring line of 11-8-19 in 56 games last season. Committed to North Dakota.
Jordan Friedman, R C, Cedar Rapids, 5-10/170, 7/27/84 -- A sniper. One of his goals was on a shot fired from the face off dot that tucked inside the far post, upper corner. Played last season for the Chicago Chill Midgets.
Dustin Fulton, C, Waterloo, 6-0/185, 2/20/86 -- Smooth, with good feet and good puck skills. Played very well here. An '86, he may play a split season and return to Breck.
A.J. Greco, LW, Sioux Falls, 6-3/200, 3/7/83 -- Big winger from Miami University has size, grit, good wheels, and pretty good puck skills. He's a hard worker. Isn't always able to complete with his hands what he sees in his mind.
Joel Hanson, LW, 6-2/205, 6/20/83 -- A big tough power forward with good skills. In 61 games last season, Hanson posted a 14-16-30 line.
Matt Hartman, RW, Sioux City, 6-1/183, 8/4/84 -- Prototypical power forward is well-suited to the style of play in the USHL. Works hard. Digs for puck. Fights through checks. First year player from St. Cloud Apollo HS. Committed to St. Cloud State.
Mike Howe, LW, River City, 5-11/175, 9/5/84 -- A speedster, he just flies. Good hands, too. Needs to pace himself, though. First year player from St. Cloud Apollo HS, where he was a linemate of Hartman's..
Tyler Howells, RW, Cedar Rapids, 5-8/170, 10/20/83 -- Left shot from Holy Angels played the off wing. Fast, small player had some nice give-and-goes with his center, Chase Watson.
Matt Jackson, RW, River City, 5-11/170, 9/23/83 -- Good stride. Played with energy. First year player from Apple Valley (Minn.) HS.
Tommy Kolar, C, Des Moines, 5-11/170, 7/22/83 -- Good skater, good playmaking skills, tends to overhandle the puck at times, but can find teammates through traffic.
Charlie Kronschnabel, RW, River City, 6-3/195, 2/8/83 --Heads-up player with size and awareness needs to continue work on his skating. Has a nice quick release. Was with the Tulsa Crude last year and posted a 7-5-12 line in 58 games.
Yale Lewis, LW, River City, 6-2/210, 7/17/82 -- A major surprise. His stride and his overall agility have improved. since last year and it's made his overall game better. 8-13-21 in 58 games last season.
Jeff Lovecchio, LW, River City, 6-2/175, 8/26/85 -- His stride is a little choppy and he tends to overhandle puck at times, but he has size, a good work ethic and hockey sense. Played last season for the Chicago Chill Midgets.
Jeff McFarland, RW, Topeka, 5-10/168, 2/24/83 -- Good speed, fights through checks, good hands. From Wayzata HS, he is in his second year in the league. Last year, had a 2-12-14 line in 55 games.
Jim McKenzie, RW, Sioux Falls, 6-2/205, 6/10/84 -- He's big and has good skills, but his effort here wasn't consistent. Started last season with the NTDP, but that didn't work out too well. Went to Green Bay and, in 17 games, posted a 1-2-3 line.
Jacob Micflikier, RW, 5-7/170, 7/11/84 -- A skilled player who can really go. However, he didn't have a great tournament. A second year player who was previously at Shattuck, Micflikier has committed to UNH. Could challenge for league scoring title this season. Last season, in 61 games, he had a 24-20-44 line.
Nick Miller, C, Topeka, 6-2/203, 10/31/83 -- A good skater with good hands. Needs to be grittier.
Travis Morin, C, Chicago, 6-2/170, 1/9/84 -- Last year, he left the Steel in mid-season to return to Osseo, which didn't do much for his development. Didn't really jump out at us here. It's true that he had four points, but we nonetheless expected to see more. In 20 games last season, he had a 5-8-13 line. Committed to Mankato State.
Jason Moul, RW, Sioux Falls, 5-8/170, 3/7/83 -- A second year player in the league, Moul, a HoneyBaked product, has speed and hands. Last season, in 61 games, he had a 15-36-51 line. Look for him among the league scoring leaders this time around.
Derek Patrosso, RW, Sioux Falls, 6-1/170, 10/23/84 --Good around net. Good straightaway speed. From Novi, Mich., he played for the Michigan Ice Dogs Midgets last season.
J.P. Platischa, C, Topeka, 5-10/177, 1/24/84 -- Good solid center from Brainerd, Minn. Works hard.
Tom Pohl, LW, Tri-City, 6-0/172, 12/19/84 -- Average skater, but has good playmaking skills. The brother of ex-Gopher Johnny Pohl, he's a first year player out of Red Wing HS.
Mike Radja, RW, Waterloo, 6-0/175, 3/7/85 -- Good speed, decent sense. From Team Illinois Midgets.
Rob Rankin, RW, Topeka, 6-0/167, 4/27/82 -- Good skater with good hands. Played at Michigan Tech last year, but is using the 4-2-4 rule to transfer to another college in the fall of '03.
Garrett Regan, LW, Waterloo, 5-11/180, 4/23/85 -- Good speed and skills. Needs time to adjust to the pace. Played for Hill Murray HS last season.
Matt Scherer, RW, Tri-City, 6-0/195, 4/19/82 -- Has a good shot. Last season, he posted a 13-7-20 line in 55 games.
Topher Scott, C, Chicago, 5-6/155, 7/23/85 -- A human buzzsaw. Just an '85, he's already in his third year in the league. In 59 games last season, Scott posted a 10-17-27 line.
Eric Slais, LW, Chicago, 6-1/170, 8/6/85 -- Good skating stride, works hard and, though he needs work on his overall game, he has potential. From Fenton, NJ, he played Jr. B in St. Louis last year.
Paul Stastny, C, River City, 5-11/185, 12/27/85 -- A good skater and playmaker. Son of ex-NHLer Peter Stastny.
Bill Thomas, LW, Tri-City, 6-1/180, 6/20/83 -- Decent speed and a hard worker. Up-and-down-the-wing type should make a good, solid third or fourth line type in college. Second year in league. Formerly with Cleveland (NAHL).
Marco Trevino, C, Waterloo, 6-0/200, 3/1/84 -- Big kid with tools. Not outstanding, but very solid.
Matt Tyree, LW, Cedar Rapids, 6-0/170, 3/29/83 -- Good finisher uses long stick and has good release. Works hard. Good stickhandler. Played at Great Falls (AWHL) last season.
James Unger, C, Topeka, 6-2/187, 1/8/85 -- A hard worker with size, decent hands, and good speed despite a somewhat choppy stride. 4-3-7 in 43 games last season.
Mark Van Guilder, RW, Tri-City, 6-2/185, 1/17/84 -- Big, rugged power forward from Roseville (Minn.) HS
Chase Watson, LC, Cedar Rapids, 5-11/187, 10/23/82 -- A veteran now in fourth year in league, Watson is an excellent playmaker, a true distributor. He plays both ends of the ice, is excellent on draws, and will take a hit to make a play. 9-18-27 line in 46 games last season.
Raygor Hired at Wayne State
Green Bay Gamblers assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Eric Raygor has been hired as the new assistant at Wayne State University, taking over the spot vacated when Danny Brooks was hired at Brown last month.
Raygor, 29, was a forward and two-year captain for the Wisconsin Badgers, graduating in '98. Last season was his second with the Gamblers. Head coach/GM Mark Osiecki, who described Raygor as a "phenomenal" assistant and encouraged the Wisconsin native to grab the Div. I post, is now searching for a new assistant coach.
Despite the late date, he didn't sound fazed by the task, saying he'd take his time and get it right. Osiecki, who'll be looking for someone with both on-ice and recruiting skills, has now had three assistants in his six years in Green Bay. Two, BGSU's Kevin Patrick and Raygor, have moved on to assistants positions in the Div. I ranks while one, Ian Kallay, is now head coach/GM of Drayton Valley (AJHL).
In the meantime, Layne LeBel, the second assistant at Green Bay, will have a larger work load.
The Gamblers, who'll be sporting spiffy new unis this season, will open at their new home, the 8,500 seat Resch Center, on Sat. Sept. 28.
In other recent coaching news, Mike Bois is back for his second tour as an assistant on Len Quesnelle's staff at Princeton. Bois, who played at Princeton from 1993-97 and was an assistant in 2000-01 before working for a year in the arena management business in Chicago, will be taking over for Bob Prier, who took a post with St. Lawrence, his alma mater, over the summer.
One of the better teams in the Bantam/Midget Labor Day Classic in Marlboro, Mass, was the New Jersey Junior Devils Bantams, featuring a large number of players from the team that won the North American title at February's Quebec City International Pee-Wee tournament back in February. Head coach John DiNorcia coached them then, and this season is sticking with them at the bantam level.
Leading the way for the Devils, at least in the one game we watched them in, was '88-born Greg Squires, a 5'5" RW from White Plains, NY. Squires, who's strong on his skates and shifty, set up some great chances. He's a terrific passer for his age, and can shoot it, too.
Chris Atkinson, an '88 birthdate from Sparta, NJ, is similar in style to Squires, but, at 5'9" and 152 lbs., is bigger. The younger brother of Salisbury forward Mike Atkinson, he's a strong skater who's flashy with the puck.
Other forwards who impressed were 5'8" Rich Falasca of Monroe, NY, who scored three nice goals in one ten-minute stretch; 5'8" Cory Callen of Annandale, NJ; and 5'7" Adam Houli of Howell, NJ. That trio was the team's top line at Quebec City.
On defense, 5'8" RD Kevin Shattenkirk of New Rochelle, NY was the standout. He's both smooth on his skates and smooth with the puck. He's the younger brother of Taft junior forward Keith Shattenkirk.
5'10" Gerry Pollastrone of the the Central Mass. Outlaws Midget Minors had it going, using his superior skating skills to take the puck end-to-end without opponents laying a hand on him. An '86 from Revere, Mass., Pollastrone played at Eaglebrook last year, and is now at Salisbury.
Jayson Lee, Pollastrone's former Eaglebrook teammate, also had a good tournament.
The Outlaws Bantams featured 5'6" Milton Lyles, an '88 forward from Florida who was also one of the top forwards at the National 14 Festival.
The Apple Core Midgets featured '86 forwards Mike Karwoski and Rich Purslow. Karwoski, a standout at the 16 Festival who went to the Czech Republic with the U.S. Under-17 Select Team, is small at 5'5", 125 lbs., but was the best player on his team. A center, Karwoski just gets his legs going a mile a minute, leaving opponents flailing in his wake. 5'8" Purslow, the younger brother of former NTDP and St. Cloud State forward Chris Purslow, is also an '86. He was solid at both ends, and set up plays well.
Pittsburgh Hornets Midget minor coach Jim Lilja got an outstanding performances from forward Chris Clackson, a 5'11" '87 who was involved all over the ice, had the puck a lot, and made things happen. A center whose skating could improve a bit, Clackson was also strong at this summer's Select 15 Festival. He's the son of former NHL defenseman Kim Clackson, who in 106 games had 0 goals and 370 pims.
6'0", 145 lbs (feed this boy!) Pittsburgh LD Kevin Miller, an '87 LD, is a strong skater with a good frame, who could be something when he starts to fill out. He skates with the puck well, and is very mobile.
The Boston Little Bruins got a standout performance from 5'8", 145 lb. LC Ryan Ginand, an '86 from Milford, Mass. who'll be playing the other half of his split season with St. John's-Shrewsbury. Ginand, is quick and a pure point machine. In his first four games, he had ten goals.
'87 forward Jason Lawrence, a 5'10", 185 lb. center who's also playing a split season (Austin Prep) had two huge goals, one a game-tying tally with 15 seconds remaining in Sunday's game, then an OT game-winner in the semis on Monday.
6'0" Goaltender Jeff Mansfield, an '84 from Arlington, Mass. was outstanding all weekend.
As mentioned above, there were a lot of teams and players we were unable to see, so please bear that in mind.
One for Harvard, One for Yale
5'10", 177 lb. RW Steve Mandes of the US Under-18 Team has committed to Harvard University.
Mandes, who had a pair of goals for the Under-18 Team last weekend in Lansing, has average size, above-average skills, and is a good skater. But he's more than the sum of his parts, mainly because he's physical, smart, makes plays, has excellent hockey sense, and is a natural-born leader who flat-out competes.
Harvard is the school he always wanted to go to (though Yale made a last-minute pitch for him). He's accelerating his studies, which will enable him to arrive in Cambridge next fall.
Harvard head coach Mark Mazzoleni was in Michigan a couple weeks ago watching Mandes in practice.
Mandes, a native of Doylestown, Penn., played at Hotchkiss for one season (9th grade) before coming to Ann Arbor. Before that, he played for the Valley Forge Minutemen team that won the U.S. National Pee Wee Championship in 1999. In 2001, Mandes, playing hurt (hip) helped lead the New Jersey Devils Bantams to a National Championship.
We dug the following out of the USHR archives:
As for Yale, they have received a commitment from 6'1", 175 lb. LD Shawn Mole of the Milton Merchants (OPJHL).
Mole is a strong skater who can handle the puck and looks to be an impact player for the Bulldogs. A second round draft pick (39th overall) by Sarnia in the 2001 OHL Draft, Mole should be able to run Yale's power play, at least in time.
Mole, who previously played for the Toronto Marlboros Midgets in 2000-01 before joining Milton last season, is a true senior in high school. Milton opens their season tonight with a game at Brampton.
Mole made his final decision from between Cornell and Yale.
Sweatt to CC
5'10", 179 lb. RD Lee Sweatt of the Chicago Steel (USHL) has committed to Colorado College.
Sweatt, who was a standout at the Select 17 Festival in late June, has played both in-line hockey and ice hockey since early childhood. Last month, he was on the U.S. Under-18 Select Team that went to the Czech Republic, where he had a strong showing, scoring the only U.S. goal against the Russians, and notching the OT game winner in the fifth place game. Among those watching him over there was CC coach Scott Owens.
Sweatt, who is a top-flight skater, actually made two trips to Europe over the summer, also going to Germany with the U.S. National In-line team, on which he was the youngest player.
While training with the in-line team in Colorado Springs earlier in the summer, Sweatt took an unofficial visit to CC. He then took his official visit there two weeks ago. CC was the only school that Sweatt, a 4.0 student, took an offiical to, citing comfort with the coaching staff, the school, as well as the fact that so many WCHA schools play on Olympic sheets as major factors in his final decision. Denver, and Ivies such as Yale and Cornell were all very interested in him as well.
At the 17 Festival we rated Sweatt the fifth-best d-man, primarily on the strength of his pure athleticism and his skating. We also noted that he tended to run around and would need to be reined in a bit when he moves to the USHL this season. The Steel leave for the Buc Bowl Friday and face Des Moines that night, so we'll soon see how all that shakes out.
Sweatt, an 8/13/85 birthdate, played for the Chicago Mission Midgets last season. He's from Elburn, Ill., a far western suburb of Chicago, out where the corn grows
Sweatt has a younger brother, Billy Sweatt, who plays for the Team Illinois '88s. Billy played at the 14 Festival and was the best pure skater in the camp. He's someone to keep an eye on for the future.
Goebel, Reese, Smith Tops at the Summit
The Faceoff at the Summit, the NAHL's season-opening tournament held last weekend at Lansing, Mich., showed that the Compuware Ambassadors, who went 3-0, are again the team to beat, primarily because of their depth. The Texas Tornado will have something to say about that, though, as will the Pittsburgh Forge, Danville Wings, and Cleveland Barons.
The top prospects in the tourney -- not counting NTDP kids -- were Cleveland's Tommy Goebel, who was the consensus MVP here; Pittsburgh's Dylan Reese; and the Texas Tornado's Geoff Smith.
Goebel, who's already committed to Michigan State, is a 5'7", 153 lb. RW from Parma, Ohio. A late '84 and a RW, Goebel scored a highlight film goal in a come-from-behind win over the U.S. Under-18 Team on Sunday night, skating through his opponents like they weren't even there and then beating Chris Holt top shelf with a backhander. Goebel, the fifth-leading scorer in the league with 71 points last season, should rip it up this year. You may recall that Goebel missed nearly the whole season two years ago with a badly-broken leg.
Reese, who notched five assists vs. the Springfield Jr. Blues on Saturday, is a 6'0", 187 lb. '84 RD who plays with speed and is quick to the puck. If opponents let him join the rush too often, they're toast. At Lansing, Reese not only led all defensemen in scoring , but all players (1-7-8). Harvard, Yale, and Michigan State are all in the hunt for the Pittsburgh native.
5'10", 170 lb. left-shot forward Smith, already committed to Miami, was very good, too. An '83, he's a strong skater, handles the puck well, and is a heady player. He'll finish among the league leaders in scoring.
Going through it team-by-team, this is what we saw:
CHICAGO struggled a bit, losing to Cleveland and Lansing, but beating the Under-17 team. A standout Div. I prospect, however, was right-shot forward Matt McIlvane, a 6'2", 205 lb. late '85 who's physical, competes hard, grinds it out, and is also good with the puck in tight spaces. He's a power forward and at his best when staying with that style. If he strays and tries to get fancy, he disappears. McIlvane is an intriguing player. Here, he showed sporadic flashes of the player he could become as the season goes along.
5'11" goaltender Matt Modelski, an '82, was unbelievable on Sunday, stoning the U.S. Under-17 Team and causing youngsters like Brandon Scero and Matt Auffrey, who were both robbed on great scoring chances, to skate away, shaking their heads in disbelief. .
5'11" '84 forward Kyle Gourgon, formerly of the Kanata Valley Lasers, played well. So did 5'9", 180 lb. Andrew Burkholder, a waterbug forward from St. Catharines, Ontario. The Freeze's best d-man was Evan Salmela, a 5'11" right-shot who played for the Green Bay Gamblers last season. Salmela is an '83.
CLEVELAND, in addition to Goebel, got a good effort from 5'8", 160 lb. LC Jared Allison, a small guy with skill who scored the winning goal with 39 seconds left against the US Under-18 Team; and Carmen Posteraro, an '82 center who's 6'0", can skate, win draws, and score.
But if you're looking for a power forward, Cleveland's Mikka Jouhkimainen, a 6'1", 190 lb. LW from HIFK Helsinki, an '85, would be your man. He's a strong skater -- and he hits. On top of that, he's still young and filled with potential.
Pat Henk was a standout on D, a 5'9" skilled guy who can run the power play ( and spends a bit of time in the box himself.)
6'2" goaltender Greg Barrett, a late '85 from Troy, Michigan, could develop into one of the league's better goaltenders.
This year, COMPUWARE lacks a top-end scorer like Danny Knapp (now at Ohio State), but they do have a lot of depth. As is the case every year, Compuware has most of the top players from Michigan and can just plug them into the lineup and contend for a league title. Centers Jason Paige, a 6'0" right shot and '84 birthdate, and Dan Peace, also 6'0" and an '84, both work hard. Matt Shouneyia, a 5'9", 167 lb late '85, is a high-energy guy with excellent speed. 5'10" Matt Rutkowkski has skill and, as an '82, is experienced. A Ferris State recruit, Rutkowski will be the team leader up front. A player to watch is 6'2", 215 lb. RW David Rohlfs, a big, strong power forward who could have a breakout year. He appears to be the sleeper on this team.
On defense, 5'10", 175 lb. right-shot Andy Bozoian, a once and present Compuware player who was at Niagara University last year, is the top guy on a corps of defenseman who all play well.
In net, 6'2" Larry Sterling was excellent. An '82, Sterling bounced around last year, going from Cleveland (NAHL) to Pittsburgh (NAHL) to the Tri-City Storm (USHL).
TEXAS went 2-1 on the weekend and looks like a team that could contend for the league title. In addition to Smith, mentioned above, 5'11" Bill McCreary is a guy with decent size and an ability to put up numbers. McCreary plays an aggressive game, goes to the net hard, and finishes his checks. A former Shattuck player, McCreary raised his stock with the Div. I guys here.
5'9" Brian Esner, an '83 from Arizona, is quick and uses his speed to get scoring opportunities. He didn't put up much in the way of points, but will in time.
Texas, like Compuware, has a solid group of d-men. Matt Nickerson, who stands, 6'5" is getting a lot of the attention, but he wasn't the best D over the weekend. That prize goes to former NY Apple Core blueliner Dinos Stamoulis, an '83 from Long Island.
Goaltender Dave McKee, who played last year for the Dallas Stars Midget AAA squad, sparkled. An '83 from Irving Texas, McKee, who's 6'1", does a good job filling up the net. On top of that, he's quick and athletic. He's one to follow.
DANVILLE, which had just shipped top D Greg Tam to St. Cloud State earlier in the week, got so-so performances from two of their go-to guys, 6'0" Bryan Marshall (who nonetheless scored a hat trick on Saturday) and 5'10" Jason Tejchma, and came out of the weekend without a win.
Impressive, though, was 6'4" RW Ted Bickel, an '83 out of Minnetonka (Minn.) HS who's always around the net and always making good plays. He's getting some strong Div. I interest, and certainly didn't hurt himself here.
Other forwards who played well were LW Jeremy Hall, who played for the Wings last season; 5'8" Andrew Panchenko, who played for Eastview (Minn.) HS; and 5'11" Kevin Sheehan, an '84 who played for the Chicago Chill Midgets.
The Danville staff is very high on Tomas Klempa, a 5'8" LW from Slovakia who is cut from the same cloth as St. Cloud State's Peter Szabo, who played for Danville two years ago. Klempa arrived Saturday night and played in Sunday's game.
Of Danville's six D, three are rookies. Top d-man was '85 Chris Robinson, a 5'11", 200 lb. right shot who's solid, dependable, and physical. BGSU and Ferris State are both reported to be interested in him.
Danville played all three of their goaltenders here, and it looks like the #1 guy could turn out to be Craig Vardy, a 6'4" '84 from Virginia who played last year for the Washington Little Caps. Vardy was outstanding in his start on Sunday, kicking out 35 of 37 shot in a 2-1 OT loss to Lansing.
LANSING got a great performance out of 6'2" LW Drew Miller, a Michigan State recruit and the younger brother of former Spartans goaltender Ryan Miller. The younger Miller, an '84 who comes from East Lansing, has really improved. He just keeps coming on. A valid argument could be made for including him in the elite group we mentioned at the top of the article here. Miller scored a hat trick in the first eight minutes of Saturday's 4-3 win over Chicago.
Miller's linemates, 5'9" center Eric Ehn and 5'9" RW Aaron McCloy, showed something, too.
On defense, 6'2" Kyle Larman, an '82 from Michigan who played for Cedar Rapids last season, had good weekend, as did 5'10" Sean O'Connell, an '82 who played for the Freeze last season.
The SOO were OK, but will likely have trouble with the speed and skill teams. Speaking of skill, 5'10" Eric Sargent, an '84 with good mitts who played for the NTDP a couple of years ago, has more of that than any other player on the Indians.
6'4" New Hampshire native Tim Morrison, an '82 winger who played for the Soo last year, is back and showed decent hands for a big guy. Maine is reportedly on him.
The SPRINGFIELD (Mo.) SPIRIT was led by Tony Zancanaro, the twin brother of BU freshman Brad Zancanaro and a 5'6", 165 lb. native of Trenton, Michigan. An '82, Zancanaro works extremely hard, and creates a ton of scoring opportunities. Several recruiters felt he also could have been included among the handful of top prospects here. Forwards Adam Krug, an '83, and Jordan Fox, an '84. are both 5'11", both returnees from last year, and both solid players. Overall, though, this is a team that lacks scoring punch, and it could be a long year for them.
Key defenseman Mitch Ganzak, an '84 from Michigan, sprained his ankle in the first game and was out for the duration.
Players who stood out on SPRINGFIELD (Ill.) Jr. BLUES were Hank Carisio, a 6'1", 205 lb. late '83 forward from Cheshire, Conn who played for the Jr. Blues last season. A former Jr. B player with the Connecticut Clippers, Carisio has size, skill, and gets around the ice well.
5'10" RW Danny Riedle, an '85, may have the most upside on the team. A Michigan native, he scored 70 goals for the Mid South Storm, a Louisville-based Midget AAA program.
Forward Steve Kinnie, an '84 who played last winter with the Michigan Ice Dogs Midgets, was out with an injury.
On defense, the guy to follow is 6'1", 175 lb. '85 Andy Meyer, a left-shot who played for the Springfield Jr. Sting last season.
PITTSBURGH was led by '84 RD Dylan Reese, as mentioned above.
Up front 5'11, 170 lb. RC Chris Lawrence, an '82 from the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers organization, played very well, scoring a couple of goals, and showing strong passing skills. Lawrence also plays the point on the PP. 5'10" Ryan Webb, an '82 who previously played for Compuware and Cedar Rapids (USHL), stood out, scoring a pair of goals (though he could have had a couple more). 6'0", 165 lb. Mike Handza, who is being counted on to put up numbers for the Forge, didn't put up any points. 6'1", 175 lb. Andy Brandt, an '83-born Wisconsin native who was one of the top scorers for the Forge last year and this year's captain, played well, showing confidence, good speed, and a hard shot. Jim Gehring, a 5'11" late '83 from Apple Core who can skate and make a play, showed promise.
On defense, 6'0, 170 lb. Brandon Warner, an '83 who plays with poise and has an offensive dimension, played well. He's best described as a poor man's Peter Harrold.
In net, 6'1" Peter Mannino is a player to follow. An '84 from W. Bloomfield, Mich., this is his second season in Pittsburgh.
NTDP kids are a different kettle of fish, as every one of them is a Div. I prospect. The UNDER-17 TEAM impressed observers, considering they are composed primarily of '86 born prep/HS/bantam players dipping their toes into junior hockey for the first time.
Virtually every Div. I recruiter was raving about 5'10" Chad Kolarik, who played for Deerfield last season. Kolarik's overall skills are second to none -- and he was flying all weekend. 5'11" Kevin Porter, who played for the Michigan Ice Dogs last winter, is another fast high-skill player -- and drew an equally high number of raves. Right behind them was 5'9" Todd McIllrath, a former HoneyBaked Bantam. McIllrath scored a highlight film goal, going top shelf vs. the Soo on Friday. Other forwards looking good included 5'9" Tommy Fritsche, a late '86 and 5'11" Nathan Davis, linemates last season on the Cleveland Barons Bantams; and 6'1" Matt Auffrey of the Syracuse Jr. Crunch.
On defense, 5'11" Joe Grimaldi, who was with the NY Bobcats Jr. B last year, was a standout, playing hard, physically, and with attitude. Observers were split on 6'1" former Avon Old Farms blueliner Matt Lashoff. Some felt the late '86 (he's still 15) was peerless, while others felt the BU recruit struggled a bit.
In net, 5'10" Chris Carlson, erstwhile Chicago Chill Midget AAA backstop, was excellent, posting a 2.00 gaa and .947 save percentage.
On the UNDER-18 TEAM, which didn't play as well as the younger team, 5'9" Michigan recruit TJ Hensick picked up where he left off last spring, notching a hat trick vs. the Soo on Saturday. 5'11" Robbie Earl, a Wisconsin recruit, was flying all weekend; and 5'10" Steven Mandes had two goals in three games, playing with his customary jam.
The Under-18s were undermanned on the blue line, as Ryan Suter was out with mono, and David Robertson broke his arm in the first period of the first game. 6'3" LD A.J. Thelen came up from the younger team to fill in on Saturday and Sunday.
Michigan recruit Matt Hunwick, a 5'11", 191 lb. left shot, was the strongest all-around D over the course of the weekend. 6'1", 198 lb. Northern Michigan recruit Bobby Selden scored a pair of goals on Friday (that's two more than he scored all last season). 6'2" Casey Borer and 5'11" Wisconsin-bound Jeff Likens also impressed the scouts and recruiters.
Bear in mind that, in comments on all teams and players above, that it's very, very early in the season.
NAHL Gets Underway
The North American Hockey League's season-opening tournament -- the Faceoff at the Summit -- gets underway at 10:30 am today with the Cleveland Barons facing the Chicago Freeze. All games, except for three involving the U.S. Under-18 team, will count in the league standings. The tournament, as always, will be well-scouted by Div. I recruiters, and the players noted below will be watched closely.
Compuware, the defending Robertson Cup champions, has several players already committed in forwards Jason Paige (Notre Dame), Matt Rutkowski (Ferris State), and Nino Musitelli (Miami). An uncommitted player to watch is late '85 forward Matt Shouneyia, a 5'9, 167 pounder with wheels, much like his older brother John, a senior at the University of Michigan. Shouneyia played for the Compuware Midgets last season.
The Pittsburgh Forge, an expansion team that made it all the way to the Robertson Cup finals, starts year two with at least three solid Div. I prospects, the most sought-after being Dylan Reese, the league's top defenseman. Reese, an '84 who's 6'0", 187 lbs., is a RD who produced 32 points last year. He's a top student who has both Ivies and the top scholarship schools closely watching him. 6'2", 180 lb. forward Mike Handza, an '83 who, like Reese, is from the Pittsburgh area, is another who'll be watched closely. Last season, Handza led the Forge in scoring. Right behind Handza is 6'0", 180 lb. Andy Brandt, who returns for his second year with the Forge. Brandt, an '83, is from Wisconsin.
The Danville Wings' Ted Bickel, a 6'3" RW from Minnetonka (Minn.) HS, has been getting a lot of attention from the top Ivies as well as several WCHA schools. Bickel, an '83, is a good skater for his size, and could be a sleeper for the pro scouts.
Bryan Marshall, a 5'10" LC from Livonia, Michigan and the HoneyBaked organization, was Danville's leading scorer last season. He's been a scorer wherever he goes -- and he will be in college, too.
LC Jason Tejchma is another HoneyBaked '83 in his second year with Danville. A shoulder injury limited him to 37 games last year, but he still wound up averaging better than a point a game.
LC Jeremy Hall, a 5'10", 185 left-shot forward from New Jersey has been coming on and has Div. I potential. He, too, is an '83.
On defense, keep an eye on 6'0", 200 lb. Chris Robinson, a rock-solid defensive defenseman. An '85 from Pittsburgh, Robinson was playing for the HoneyBaked Bantams two years ago.
The Chicago Freeze will be closely watched because of 6'1", 200 lb. Matt McIlvane, a big RC from the TI midgets, a power forward type with a lot of upside. McIlvane, who opened eyes at the Select 17 Festival and with the Under-18 Select Team that went to the Czech Republic next month, is a late '85, and a junior in high school.
The Freeze also have a pair of first-year players worth following in 5'10", 190 lb. forward Greg Brown, an '84 from the Buffalo Saints Midgets who can score (and rack up penalty minutes); and 5'10", 175 lb. forward Kyle Gourgon, an '84 from Stittsville, Ontario and the Kanata Valley Lasers.
The Cleveland Barons have 5'8", 160 lb. late '84 forward Tommy Goebel, the team' s leading returning scorer from last season.
The Capital Center Pride are named after a building, an unfortunate development we sure hope doesn't take firm hold in the sports world. Naming buildings after corporations is bad enough, but naming teams after buildings is absurd. How does a building acquire pride, anyway? It's an inanimate object. Wait until the building's naming rights get sold to Rent-a-Wreck.
So much for the editorializing.
Getting back to the Pride, they have 6'1" forward Drew Miller, a Michigan State recruit and the brother of Ryan Miller. Another player to keep an eye on is 5'9" left-shot forward Joey Olson, a tough '82 from Peoria, Ill. who can muck and grind.
The Soo has Eric Sargent, a 5-10, 170 lb. former NTDP player who has great hands and can skate. An '84, he averaged nearly a point a game last season.
The Texas Tornado have a couple of their top scorers back. Already committed is center Geoff Smith (Miami), a 5'10", 175 lb. '83 birthdate. However, Michigan native Bill McCreary, who's the same height/weight and put up nearly the same point totals as Smith (but with a lot more penalty minutes) is still available. McCreary, who's from Michigan, played for Shattuck a couple of years ago. He's the son of the former Colgate forward of the same name.
On defense, 6'5", 225 right-shot Matt Nickerson is coming along. He's a 1/1/85 birthdate and a Connecticut native who played for the Whalers Jr. B before joining the Tornado last season.
The Springfield Spirit have 5'6", 160 lb. forward Tony Zancanaro, who led his team in scoring last season with 61 points in 54 games. Zancanaro, an '82 birthdate, is the twin brother of BU freshman Brad Zancanaro. Another Springfield forward to keep an eye on is 5'11" Jordan Fox, an '84 from Kirkwood, Missouri.
On defense, the Spirit's best prospect is 6'2", 195 lb. LD Mitch Ganzak, an '84 from Redford, Mich who finished last season with 28 points and 137 penalty minutes.
So there you go -- 20 players to watch. We hope we didn't miss anyone obvious. If we did, you'll know about it in a matter of days.
As for the U.S. Under-17 and Under-18 team, we didn't include them in the above, mainly because they're all Div. I prospects. Over half of the Under-18 team is already committed, and we expect the same will be true of the younger team before long.
Notre Dame's Big Haul
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have commitments from Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) defenseman Wes O'Neill and NTDP forward Josh Sciba. Both will arrive at South Bend twelve months from now, with O'Neill accelerating in order to do so.
** O'Neill is a superstar in the making, a 6'4", 195 lb. Chris Pronger type of d-man who would have been the #1 overall pick in May's OHL draft. However, O'Neill's "family advisor", Steve Mountain, indicated that the 16-year-old would not play for Mississauga, which held the #1 pick, or Kingston, which had the #2 pick. However, O'Neill indicated he might play for the Brampton Battalion and coach Stan Butler, holders of the #3 overall pick.
But Kingston took him with the #2 pick anyway, with hopes -- despite talk of the boy possibly opting for the NCAA route -- of signing him. However, they were unable to, and in mid-June O'Neill took his first official step toward the NCAA route by signing on with Green Bay, coached by former University of Wisconsin and NHL defenseman Mark Osiecki, who has developed a strong reputation as a developer of top-quality defensemen.
Last season, O'Neill, who's a 3/3/86 birthdate from Essex, Ont., played for the Chatham Maroons in the Western (Ontario) Jr. B League. In 52 games he posted a 9-32-41 scoring line with 59 pims. Chatham won the league's regular-season title but lost a seven-game playoff final to the Sarnia Blast.
O'Neill is not only big and mobile, but he makes good decisions with the puck and, though not a huge point-producing type, will put up some numbers.
O'Neill made his final choice from between Michigan, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame.
** Sciba, a 5'11", 191 lb. LW from Westland, Mich., will be playing for the U.S. Under-18 team this season. A smart player with excellent stick skills, Sciba played last season for the U.S. Under-17 Team on a line with Michigan bound center T.J. Hensick and Wisconsin-bound RW Robbie Earl. Sciba was the second-leading scorer on the team last year, behind Hensick. In 43 NAHL games he had a 16-13-29 line. In international games, he posted a 4-6-10 line.
Before coming to the NTDP, Sciba, a 2/6/ 85 birthdate, played for HoneyBaked '85 as a ninth grader, and then the Compuware Ambassadors (NAHL) as a tenth grader.
Other schools in the final hunt for Sciba were Harvard, Wisconsin, and Maine. Notre Dame had been on Sciba for quite a while, and had him in for an unofficial visit last year.
Wings Rescue St. Cloud -- Again
St. Cloud State will begin the season down three blueliners, as senior Derek Eastman and junior Joel Peterson have been declared academically ineligible for the fall semester, and junior Ryan LaMere is coming off shoulder surgery and will be out until mid-October at the earliest.
In a step to rectify the situation, Danville Wings (NAHL) RD Greg Tam will arrive on campus today, enroll in classes, and play for the Huskies this season.
It's the second straight year that a Danville Wings player has arrived at St. Cloud State at the 24th hour. Last year, it was Slovakian forward Peter Szabo, who was set to matriculate at Maine, but was tripped up by that school's TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) requirements.
Danville GM Josh Mervis and his 27-year-old assistant coach Andy Vicari, a former defensemen for the Huskies, helped get Szabo from Maine to St. Cloud (see USHR News, 9/06/01).
When the above-mentioned upperclassmen were scratched for the beginning of the season, St. Cloud tried to get Omaha Lancers LD Grant Clafton, scheduled to arrive in the fall of '03, to come in a year early. That didn't work out so the Huskies staff went to plan B and came up with Tam.
Tam was on a visit to UMass-Lowell yesterday when he learned of St. Cloud's offer to play Div. I right away. He would likely have been playing college hockey this season anyway, except he blew out his knee late last November -- just before the Top Prospects Tournament -- and had season-ending surgery.
A 5/28/82 birthdate, Tam is from Willow Springs, Ill., a southwest Chicago suburb, and played for the Chicago Chill Midgets before signing on with Danville two years ago. He's a mobile, agile d-man with very good stick skills.
5'11", 170 lb. LC Brent Borgen, a senior at Mahtomedi (Minn.) HS, has committed to the University of Minnesota for the fall of 2004.
A 1/17/85 birthdate, Borgen will play juniors in the 2003-04 season. Last May, he was drafted by the Lincoln Stars.
A hard worker with skill to match, Borgen posted a 39-26-65 line for Mahtomedi last winter. He was the leading scorer on the U.S. Under-18 Select Team which finished fifth last month in the Czech Republic.
Borgen is the second Gopher commitment for the fall of '04, joining International Falls senior LW Ben Gordon, who will spend next season with Lincoln. Gordon and Borgen were also teammates in the Czech Republic last month.
Buddy Powers, recently named to the U.S. Under-17 team coaching staff, will be driving 140 miles to get to and from work each day, traveling from his home in Bowling Green, Ohio to Ann Arbor, 70 miles to the north.
Powers, who spent the last eight seasons as the head coach at BGSU, will be working with head coach David Quinn and assistant coach John Lilley. Powers has known Quinn since the latter was working as an assistant at Northeastern in the mid-90s. Over the summer, Powers, who was let go by Bowling Green in March after a 9-25-6 season, had applied at UNO to fill the assistant's spot that Quinn was vacating in order to join the NTDP.
However, as Powers said, "Nothing really broke for me over the summer."
The opportunity to help out at Ann Arbor, Powers said, "is a good situation all the way around. The players are fun to work with and it's also an opportunity for me to continue to grow as a coach. It's what I love to do."
Powers, who has a year left on his contract at Bowling Green, is a volunteer -- albeit one with 22 years of college coaching experience (14 as head coach) -- with the NTDP.
All three coaches with the Under-17 team played at BU. Powers, of course, is the elder statesman of the bunch, having played left wing for the Terriers from 1972-75.
Powers, 50, is a Hyde Park, Mass native who played his high school hockey at Catholic Memorial.
Notes: Both the Under-17 and Under-18 teams begin their regular season this Friday, when the NAHL's season-opening tournament gets underway in Lansing, Michigan. The Under-17s will play the Soo at 11 am. The Under-18 team will play the Junior Blues at 3 pm. All games in the tournament -- with the exception of the three games involving the Under-18 Team -- will count in the league standings.