Hired To Be Fired
With the USHL winding up its regular season tonight, a long six-and-a-half months since it started, it’s fair to say there probably won’t be another head coach fired in the league – at least until the off-season.
On the other hand, it wouldn’t be too surprising if it did happen, as it’s been a bloody year in the league, with five coaches getting the axe. Given that there are 15 franchises in the USHL (team #16, the NTDP, exists in its own parallel universe), that means one-third of the coaches who started the season are now gone.
The latest firing came earlier this week, on Monday, when Indiana Ice owner Paul Skjodt gave head coach/GM Kyle Wallack the pink slip -- even though the Indiana Ice held the second-best record in the league at 34-15-9 and are set up for a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Could it have been that the two-game losing streak (both losses came in OT) was just too much for Skjodt?
“There’s been a lot of unrest,” the owner told the Indianapolis Star.
“We can agree to disagree,” replied Wallack.
Wallack’s replacement? That would be Charlie Skjodt, the owner’s brother, back behind Indiana’s bench for the third time in the last five years.
And there’s not a thing the league can do about the whole situation because, at bottom, it’s an owners’ league with a commissioner, Skip Prince, whose job is to represent their interests. The owners can fire head coaches for any reason great or small, with no regard for how it impacts the league as a whole.
The primary repercussion is that high-caliber coaches are now going to think harder before allowing themselves to be lured to the flatlands. Top college assistants might be hesitant to leave where they are for a one-in-three chance of getting axed in-season. And those that do take the chance will probably be closely checking out the owners, and asking for a few more guarantees and a bit more cash. Note that the three most recent firings – all since Christmas, and two over the last few weeks -- have been of former college assistants. Kevin Patrick left a position at Wisconsin to go to Muskegon; Regg Simon left his alma mater, Alaska Anchorage, to return for a second stint at Des Moines (a once-proud franchise, by the way); and Wallack left Yale University.
In addition, no parents like sending their children – and no family advisors like sending their top prospects -- into a situation where there is a one-in-three chance that the coach who is doing the recruiting could be quickly cashiered. All of a sudden the stability of New England prep schools, the EJHL, or Minnesota high schools looks pretty darn good.
For purposes of comparison, there has been a slew of coaches fired in the NHL this season, the most in 30 years actually. But in the NHL the rate of fired coaches this season is approximately one in four. The USHL still has ‘em beat, a dubious achievement for an amateur league.
This could be a one-year aberration, but it might be a good idea if the owners of the league’s stable franchises, which get devalued by this kind of stuff, step up and take a pre-emptive stance. What is going on right now has gong show elements to it. And all that does is provide ammo to other leagues – the CHL included.
Buddy Taft Retiring
Buddy Taft, the head coach at the Pingree School for the past 29 years, has announced that he is stepping out from behind the bench.
The new coach at Pingree will be Gino Khachadourian, an assistant to Taft for the last 15 years. Khachadourian has an extensive coaching background. In addition to his work at Pingree, he has been very active in USA Hockey and the Mass Satellite Program. He has also taught skills for numerous town hockey programs, including Winchester, Stoneham, East Boston, Cambridge, and Lexington youth hockey. Before he came to Pingree in 1997, Khachadourian was an assistant hockey coach at Malden Catholic (’92-94).
Khachadourian, who played his college hockey at Salem State, lives in Winchester, Mass. with his wife and three children.
Taft, along with John Gardner (Avon Old Farms), Mo Randall (Roxbury Latin), and Matt Corkery (formerly head coach, now an assistant at Salisbury), is one of the true veteran coaches of prep hockey. He will continue to teach and serve as Dean of Students at Pingree, and coach in the spring in fall.
Major Changes for Conn. Fall Prep League
The Western New England Fall Prep League has some major changes in place for Year Four, with a new format featuring separate divisions, a visit from the newly-formed United States Elite Hockey League (USEHL), a skills competition Oct. 20-21, and a trip to the Beantown Fall Classic on October 27-28.
The league, which will open play on Sun. Sept. 16 and run through playoffs on Sun. Nov. 4, will again be based out of the Newington Ice Arena, a two-sheet building in Newington, Conn., about 15 minutes south of Hartford.
There will be two divisions -- a six-team Pro-Draft Division (’94, ’95, ’96 birthdates), and a four-team Prep Division (’97, ’98 birthdates). By trimming the number of teams from years past, it is expected that the pace of games will be faster. There will be no tryouts, and players will be pre-selected. Each coach has been asked to nominate his team’s top six players for inclusion in the league.
The league has approached NHL Central Scouting and there may be something formalized there in the areas of player evaluation, and gathering heights and weights. “We want to help the league get the best players there,” says scout – and Connecticut resident -- Dave Gregory.
As mentioned above, the league is also working on bringing in the newly formed United States Elite Hockey League U18s and U16s for a weekend in Newington. You may have read about the formation of this league in this space a few weeks ago (April 6th, to be precise). Member clubs include the Junior Bruins, Middlesex Islanders, Jersey Hitmen, South Shore Kings, Connecticut Yankees, Suffolk PAL, and Selects Academy at South Kent.
The league will have a new website for the upcoming year and it can be found here:
’96 World Selects: Our Top 35
The U.S. Hockey Report spent last weekend (April 12-15) in Saco, Maine at the ’96 World Selects Invitational hosted by Selects Hockey Academy. The tournament was predominantly comprised of players born in 1996. For spring hockey, this event gets high marks across the board. It was well organized, programs were free and of high quality, and there was no entry fee (shocking in this day and age). There were some very good select teams put together composed of North American kids, but the real treat was the talent brought in from overseas. AK Bars (Russia) and CSKA (Russia) were as good as any team we have seen in this age group, right there with the highly-regarded Toronto Marlies. The Sweden Selects were also very good—not quite as good as the Russian teams, but darn good. CSKA won the tournament, defeating the Sweden Selects in the finals by a score of 4-1. The ‘real final’ was in the semis, though, as AK Bars and CSKA squared off with CSKA edging the highly-skilled AK Bars squad 4-2. Interestingly enough, those same teams met in the Russian National tournament just a couple of weeks ago in St. Petersburg with AK Bars coming out on top. Metallurg (Russia), Latvia Selects, and the Czech Selects were the other European teams rounding out the field. It should be noted that many of the players from the U.S., particularly those who participated in Nationals a couple weeks ago, really lacked a step and played with less energy than we have seen in the past, though that is not unexpected with spring hockey.
Below are the players we felt were the top prospects.
*Some of the teams did not include height/weight in the program.
1. Maksim Tretiak, G (CSKA) 6-2/198— Is the grandson of possibly the greatest goaltender of all time, Vladislav Tretiak, now the President of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation. Maksim wears #20, just like his grandfather once did. A massive kid, Tretiak could be the best ’96 we have seen at his position in the ’96 age group (his competition for the top spot would be Liam Herbst of the Mississauga Rebels). Tretiak, who led Russia to a silver medal at the 2012 Youth Olympics, is a flawless goalie in terms of technique. Add in his size and you have a goalie who is incredibly hard to beat. If there was one player here we feel will become a first round NHL draft pick it would have to be Tretiak. Led his team to a championship over the weekend in Maine, giving up only three goals total in the semifinals and finals against two very good teams in Ak Bars and the Sweden Selects. Tretiak is a franchise goalie in the making and is a name we will all be hearing again the future, as we once did in the past.
2. Radel Fazleev, F (AK Bars) 6-0/160— (#19) Exciting and fun to watch. Is incredibly intelligent and poised with the puck in the mold of a Pavel Datsyuk. Was the second leading scorer in the tournament, producing a 7-8-15 scoring line in seven games played. Is not a burner, but is extremely agile and as slippery as they come. Never throws the puck away and makes a play every time he has it on his stick. There were times he found his way out of situations that had everyone in the building raising their eyebrows. Excellent in high-traffic areas and dangerous on the PP. Another player with first round NHL draft potential.
3. Dima Timashov, F (Sweden Selects) 5-8/170—(#11) A player you want on your team. Has a high skill level and a compete level to match. Wants the puck on his stick at all times and is relentless in retrieving loose pucks. Is very dangerous in the offensive zone and is a marksman rolling off the half wall. We are told he is the top forward in his homeland and will compete for a spot on the Swedish World Junior Team as a 16 year old. Led the tournament in scoring with a 9-8-17 scoring line.
4. Evgeniy Svechnikov, F (AK Bars) 6-1/180—(#7) Tall forward who is a good skater and a bull on the puck. Played on line with Fazleev, and the two regularly dominated entire shifts. Projects nicely and is another player who could be a high draft pick. Is not as flashy as his linemate, but is equally productive and plays more of a North American style. Produced a 5-7-12 scoring line, good for sixth in the tournament scoring race.
5. Andrey Kuzmenko, F (CSKA) 5-8/143—(#10) Small, but extremely quick. Bobs and weaves through traffic with alluring grace. Is a shark in water in the offensive zone as the diminutive Russian pounces on loose pucks. Hard to contain in the corners as he can turn on a dime. 5-4-9 scoring line.
6. Egor Orlov, D (CSKA) 6-0/165—(#55) Smooth, puck-moving defender is typical of a European defenseman in that he is very good with the puck, but not as effective under physical duress. Played this past season for Moscow Dynamo, but was picked up by CSKA for this tournament —and made a difference too, as CSKA topped AK Bars, something they were unable to do in Russia. Was the top-scoring defender for his team, striking for a 2-4-6 scoring line.
7. Maxim Lazarev, F (AK Bars) 5-9/152—(#23) Dangerous. You sleep on this player for a second in the offensive zone and he will bury the puck in the back of the net. Is enjoyable to watch as he has game-breaking ability displayed by many Europeans (Radulov, Bure, Gaborik, etc). Is not very big, nor is he a complete player. Doesn’t do a lot of competing defensively, but loves scoring goals and displayed a quick release, which he used often on the PP in one-time situations. Makes himself available on the back door often. 7-6-13 scoring line.
8. Kyle Connor, F (Belle Tire) 6-0/160—The Michigan recruit is a complete player, and versatile as well. He’s skilled enough to be in the top six and gritty/defensively-aware enough to be a good checking line forward at the highest of levels. We feel he has the ability to be effective internationally for the US. Is being considered for a spot on the NTDP. 4-1-5 in six games played.
9. Gustav Bouramann, D (Sweden Selects) 5-11/172—(#97) An elite talent. Is a 1/24/97 DOB making him the youngest player on his team. Playing a year up does not faze the puck-moving defenseman one bit. Has a gifted set of hands and makes good, sound decisions under pressure. Likely is one of the top ’97 defenseman in Europe.
10. Ivan Nikolishin, F (CSKA) 5-9/157—(#11) Excellent stick; makes eye-popping plays. Thinks the game at a high level and possesses exceptional vision. Is not very big or very fast, but understands how to create scoring chances. Is strong on his skates and is excellent making plays while protecting the puck. 7-5-12 in eight games played.
11. Eduard Nasybullin, D (AK Bars) 5-8/152—(#18) If this kid were an American he would be a top college prospect. Very likely will have a long career overseas, but do not know that he has the size to be effective in the North American pro game. Intelligent and slick with the puck. Slides through the opposition and is very elusive in traffic. Top scoring defenseman for AK Bars—2-4-6.
12. JJ Piccinich, F (Junior Bruins)—Gritty forward does nothing but create offense. Everywhere he goes he is productive—Nationals, Select Festivals, league play, NTDP Tryout Camp and here. Put up a 5-5-10 scoring line through five games played. Is relentless on loose pucks, has a quick shot release and is able to make plays in tight spaces. If he does not make the NTDP he will either be in the USHL or in the EJHL with the Jersey Hitmen.
13. Ryan Donato, F (Boston Advantage)—Really starting to come along. Has a lot of hockey sense, and the natural center has good presence in the middle of the ice. Appears to be around 6’0” and is very thick, which enables the son of Harvard head coach Ted Donato to be strong on the puck. Has a good sense of where to be on the ice and is establishing himself as a top D-I prospect.
14. Haralds Egle, F (Latvia Selects) 5-8/185—Skilled Latvian is attempting to follow in the footsteps of UVM recruit Zemgus Girgensons, his fellow countryman. Played this past season for the Green Mountain Glades of the Empire League and led his team in scoring with an 18-29-47 scoring line in only 32 games played. Had an excellent weekend and produced a lot of offense, finishing tied for second in tournament scoring with a 7-8-15 line in only six games played.
15. Stanislav Kondratyev, F (CSKA) 5-9/161—(#96) Having a difficult time figuring out why the electric Russian produced a paltry 3-0-3 scoring line in eight games played. Was one of the most skilled offensive players on hand. Has a quick first step and is incredibly hard to contain in 1x1 situations. Has – like most of the forwards on CSKA -- outstanding puck skills and vision.
16. Blake Siebenaler, D (Belle Tire) 5-11/175—Played this past season for the Cleveland Barons U16 team and was also included in the NTDP Tryout Camp. Intelligent defender who is a gifted skater and has excellent hips—pivots are done quickly and flawlessly. Can handle the puck and has offensive upside.
17. Brandon Fortunato, D (Junior Bruins) 5-8/145—Harvard recruit is one of our favorite Americans to watch in the ’96 age group. Is amazingly intelligent and processes the game like a point guard. Is a hot commodity and is being recruited by many teams for next season. We are told he has narrowed his decision down to the Junior Bruins (EJHL) or the Cleveland Barons U18 team.
18. Connor Sundquist, F (Selects Hockey Academy) 6-0/155—’97 born forward is one to keep an eye on. We liked him at the Yankee Festival a couple weeks ago, but he showed more puck savvy here—has some hockey sense to go along with explosive speed. Has played his youth hockey for the Connecticut Wolves, but will be making the move to South Kent/SHA next season. His father was a big 6’3” defenseman for the Providence Friars in the mid ‘90s. Connor is a good player right now, but if he grows to his father’s height he could be big time.
19. Bryan Lemos, F (Junior Bruins) 5-10/155—Saw the Rhode Island native playing at nationals and liked his game, but we like it a lot more after this past weekend. Lemos, the top prospect to come from the state of Rhode Island in quite some time, plays the game hard and with a lot of energy, but he also makes skilled plays and has the ability to retrieve loose pucks and get them to skilled shooters. Will be playing next season for the Junior Bruins Empire team. Is being recruited by a number of D-I schools, but we know Brown University will do everything in their power to keep him in-state.
20. Christian Dvorak, F (Junior Bruins) 5-11/150—Played with less urgency than we have seen from him in the past. Nonetheless, the Chicago Mission sniper has top notch vision and a great mind for the game. The Mission were the most talented U16 team in the country this past season, losing in the semifinals at nationals to a much older Long Island Royals team – and Dvorak was their leading scorer. Was at the NTDP tryout camp and is being considered for a roster spot.
21. Ara Nazarian, F (East Coast Selects) 5-10/180—The Malden Catholic forward has a nose for the net and has been productive at every level. Will secure a commitment to a top D-I program once he shows college coaches that he has top six potential – and can also fill an energy role if called upon. Led the East Coast Selects in scoring with a 4-4-8 line in seven games played.
22. Artem Rasulov, F (AK Bars) 5-11/150—(#22) Does not play like a stereotypical Russian. An unselfish center who is effective in the dirty areas of the ice. Is strong on the puck and is solid in the faceoff circle. Will be a much different player when he fills out. 2-6-8 in seven games played.
23. Andrey Svetlakov, F (CSKA) 5-11/170—(#87) Top offensive talent. Creative with the puck on his stick and extremely dangerous on the man advantage. Fun to watch. 6-5-11 in eight games played.
24. Dennis Sergushkin, F (Metallurg) 6-0/148—Metallurg was nowhere near as good as the other two Russian teams, but Sergushkin, a tall, slender forward who is a strong skater with a good stick, was a standout. Was constantly creating scoring chances, but was also kind of alone. We feel he would take a great leap in effectiveness if he were put with other top players. Tied for the team lead in scoring with a 5-3-8 scoring line in six games played.
25. Oscar Nord, F (Sweden Selects) 6-2/172—Big Swede has a strong shot and a lot of skill. Played on a line with Timashov and did a good job drawing defenders to him before distributing the puck. Had an excellent weekend and finished tied for second in scoring with a 3-12-15 scoring line.
26. Christian Meike, D (Selects Hockey Academy) 5-10/145—Played this past season for the DC Capitals U16 team and will be headed to SHA next fall. Sound defensively and intelligent with the puck. Has a slick set of hands and makes a good first pass. Has the skill level to play on the PP, but will likely not be the shooter. Is very thin and frail right now, but if he fills out – and we are told his older brother is well over 6’0” -- he could be a D-I prospect.
27. Joe Snively, F (Selects Hockey Academy) 5-7/145—Small forward generates a lot of offense and always seems to be around the puck. In spring hockey, where the ice is more wide open, he can really turn it on. Is very shifty and tough to contain below the tops of the circles. Has to bulk up and develop pull-away speed. Is the top forward for SHA.
28. Jeremy Bracco, F (Boston Advantage)—’97 born forward has great vision and the ability to find the open man on a regular basis. Is developing a strong shot. Right now “dynamic” is not a word we would use to describe the Long Island native. That’s an aspect of his game he will need to develop in order to remain amongst the top ’97 forwards. We are told he will play for the New Jersey Rockets (MET) next season.
29. Cal Burke, F (Junior Bruins) 5-10/160—Nobles freshman is going to be a very good player. The ’97 born forward has not gotten the recognition that some of the other top ’97 Massachusetts forwards – i.e., Colin White, Cam Askew and Lincoln Griffin -- have, but he has yet to physically mature and he also played on the third line on a very good Nobles team. We feel after a good summer of training and an expanded role he could be the breakout player of the year in prep hockey next season.
30. George Mika, F (East Coast Selects) 5-8/150—Naples, Florida native played last season for the Toronto Junior Canadians midget minor team in the GTHL. Plays the game with a lot of pace and has a quick stick which enables him to make plays in traffic. Played on a line with Nazarian here and the two were clearly the top line for ECS.
31. Nick Ratigliano, D (Boston Advantage)—Good-sized defender keeps things simple and is reliable with the puck on his stick. Possesses an effective poke check and is difficult for forwards to beat. Needs to open up his skating stride and improve on the making his pivots more quickly. Could develop into a D-I player. Playing next season for the Boston Advantage U16 team.
32. Travis Dermott, D (Selects Hockey Academy) 5-9/170—Has the ability to become a puck moving, PP defender at the higher levels. We saw him play over the course of the winter for the York Simcoe Express and loved his game. Makes smart decisions and moves the puck up the ice effectively. Here he played much more wildly, trying to accomplish a lot on his own and thus making some poor reads while jumping up into the play. The simplified Travis Dermott is a high-end player.
33. Garrett Jenkins, F (Belle Tire) 5-7/135—Late ’97 forward played last season for the Compuware bantam minor team. Has slick hands and makes plays. Works hard and plays bigger than his size. Brother of Ian Jenkins who was the top ’95 goaltender in the US before passing away last summer.
34. Nick Sanchez, F (East Coast Selects) 6-0/185—Plays the game hard and is not someone the opposition enjoys playing against. In one of the games we saw Sanchez matched up against the AK Bars top line -- and he was very effective in taking away their time and space. Is physically mature already so we question how much better he can get. Played this past season for Brunswick, but is transferring to Choate.
35. Tucker White, D (Junior Bruins) 6-4/185—Enormous defenseman is a project right now, but has some appealing pieces of the puzzle. Someone to watch over the next couple of seasons.
All-American Prospects Game Announced
Today, USA Hockey announced they will be hosting the first-ever All-American Prospects Game, on Sat. Sept. 29, 2012 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY.
The 40 invited players will consist of the top American-born prospects eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft.
USA Hockey plans to release the rosters in late June or early July. Coaches will also be announced later.
“Players will come from junior hockey and college hockey, as well as the high school and prep school ranks,” says Jim Johannson, assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey. “We’ll be in contact with NHL Central Scouting as we build the final list of players invited to compete in the inaugural event.”
To give you a rough idea of the “Top 40” here is where the Top 40 Americans in the June 2011 draft came from:
USHL – 9
US Under-18 Team – 9
NCAA – 6
OHL – 6
Minnesota High Schools – 5
WHL – 2
New England Prep Schools – 1
Shattuck-St. Mary’s – 1
QMJHL – 1
Diminutive Defender for the Crimson
5’8” 140 lb. Long Island Royals U16/Portledge School left-shot defenseman Brandon Fortunato has committed to Harvard University for the fall of 2014. The diminutive defender recently won a USA Hockey National Championship for the Royals.
We have written much about the Long Island native on these pages and feel this is a significant get for the Crimson. In Fortunato, Harvard gets a quick, highly-skilled, puck-moving D with vision and the stick to match – i.e. someone who can QB a powerplay. In addition, given his size, he’s likely to stay at school for the full four years. A 6/7/96 birthdate, Fortunato is one of the top college prospects in his birth year.
Fortunato, who had a 10-20-30 line in 17 games at Portledge, wanted to go to an Ivy League school all along, and Harvard was the first to make a move. We feel that, given Ted Donato’s deep knowledge of the ’96 age group (his son, Ryan, is a top ’96 center at the Dexter School), that Fortunato might be the first of a strong group from that birth year to make their way to Harvard.
Big Center for the Eagles
6’2”, 193 lb. Noble & Greenough junior RC Adam Gilmour has committed to Boston College for the fall of ’13.
A native of Hanover, Mass., Gilmour had originally committed to Quinnipiac in the fall of 2010, before the start of his sophomore season. He decommitted this past February.
A 1/29/94 birthdate, Gilmour is eligible for this June’s NHL draft and, in NHL Central’s Final Ranking, released last week, was at #101 among North American skaters.
A lanky centerman with excellent size, good hands, and good vision, Gilmour was the leading scorer at Nobles this season, with a 26-30-56 line in 28 games played. Right behind him were his Nobles linemates – and fellow future Eagles – Chris Calnan, a junior with 55 points, and Colin White, an 8th grader who finished with 40 points.
Gilmour had offers from about a dozen schools, including most Hockey East schools, but also western schools such as Michigan State, Ohio State, and Notre Dame. He made his final pick from among Providence, Ohio State, and BC.
Gilmour is undecided as to whether he will return to Nobles or play junior hockey next season.
Haven’t We Met Before?
The Vancouver Canucks, down 2-0 to Jon Quick and the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, have pulled the plug on Roberto Luongo and will be going with Cory Schneider tonight in Game 3 at the Staples Center in LA.
This is not the first time Quick and Schneider have met in a big game. A little over eight years ago, on Saturday, March 6, 2004, the two went head-to-head in the New England Prep Semifinals at the Icenter in Salem, NH. For Schneider, an Andover senior who would finish the season with a 1.42 GAA, it was the last game of his storied prep career, and he came out on the short end of a 4-1 loss to a much deeper Avon Old Farms squad. Schneider, a Marblehead, Mass. native, kicked out 27 of 31 shots but gave up first period goals to Rob Tesar and Chris Davis and, after keeping Avon off the board in the second, was beat in the third by Augie DiMarzo and Sean Backman (Quick’s brother-in-law).
Quick, an 11th grader from Hamden, Conn., stopped 18 of 19 shots at the other end. After allowing a goal 43 seconds into the game off the stick of Steve Rolocek, he slammed the door the rest of the afternoon.
The following day, Avon Old Farms, on a DiMarzo goal at 1:43 of OT, edged Tabor 3-2 for the NEPSAC Championship. You may recall the goal. The puck got stuck in a puddle at the top of the left faceoff circle in the Tabor zone, causing the Seawolves defenseman, whose momentum was carrying him up ice, to overskate the puck. DiMarzo swooped in, scooped it up and rifled it past Tabor junior goaltender Stephen Ritter.
The following year, as a senior, Quick led Avon to a second consecutive prep title, this time blanking Cushing 3-0. In net for Cushing that day was Richard Bachman, currently with the Dallas Stars. The big man on the Penguins blue line was senior Keith Yandle (Phoenix Coyotes). Also on the Penguins blue line was freshman Zach Bogosian (Winnipeg Jets).
Quick and Schneider – both ‘86s (Quick is actually a couple months older) -- overlapped for a couple of years in college (’05-06, ’06-07) but would never face each other in a playoff again – until tonight.
An Early Look: Middlesex Islanders Camp
This past weekend, USHR made the trip to a spiffed-up Skate 3 in Tyngsboro, Mass. for the Middlesex Islanders (EJHL) tryout camp. Right up front, we can report that Sean Tremblay, hired last month to take over the former New England Jr. Huskies franchise, will have a very good team next season, one we expect will challenge for the league title. Tremblay is bringing in some of his players from this season’s Monarchs championship squad – e.g. Derek Stahl, Michael Jamieson, Connor Anthoine, Ryan Callahan, and Connor MacPhee – and mixing in a couple of players from the New England Huskies in ’92-born forward Ian McGilvrey, a 31 goal scorer this past season, and Brendan Robbins, a ’95. What follows are our observations of new players we feel will help make the Islanders a handful for opponents in the ’12-13 season.
Tyler Whitney, F, ’94 – The Lawrence Academy grad, a standout in this year’s prep playoffs, looks to be the key to the Islanders’ fortunes. Whitney, one of the top uncommitted college prospects in the Northeast, is, as many readers of these pages know, the younger brother of Joe Whitney (Albany – AHL) and Steven Whitney (Boston College). We feel the younger Whitney is a bit of a “tweener” in that he may not be dynamic enough to play in the top six group of forwards at a Hockey East school, but also may not be big and gritty enough to play as a third/fourth line energy guy. And that’s really the reason he remains uncommitted. We also feel that after a season of juniors where he can focus strictly on hockey and becoming faster and stronger that he will emerge as a top college prospect and ready to contribute at the Div. I level right off the bat. Whitney has exceptional vision and processes the game at a fast pace. Will center the Islanders top line – and make players around him better.
Luke Kirwin, F, ’97 -- Played last season for the Syracuse Stars (Empire League) where the 14 year old finished sixth in league scoring after compiling a 43-36-79 scoring line. Has good size at 6’0”, 200 lbs. and appears to be physically mature for his age, hence will be prepared to immediately contribute in the EJHL. Is certainly one of the elite ’97 forwards in the country right now, though we are curious to see if he will be in the same position in two years time. Kirwin is a gifted player with elite hockey sense and a mind for creating offense. Will be pursued hard next season by the NTDP, OHL, NCAA schools and USHL teams.
Zach Sanford, F, ’94 -- Late ’94 is a sleeper who will garner the attention of NHL scouts and agents over the course of the next year. This past season the 11th grader played for Pinkerton Academy where he was named the New Hampshire Player of the Year en route to leading the Astros (yep, that’s what they are called) to a state title. Stands at 6’3” and is a fluid skater with a slick set of hands. His compete level will have to be raised, but he has all the earmarks of one who could develop into a high-end prospect.
Chris Izmirlian, F, ’92 -- Will be an excellent player in the EJHL, fitting in nicely on one of the top two lines. Led Westminster in scoring this past season with a 20-28-48 scoring line in only 27 games played. Needless to say, the Boca, Raton, Fla. native can make plays and finish. Will need to get stronger and add a step to his skating in order to secure a D-I commitment, but as it stands he would be an impact player on any D-III team.
Colton Phinney, ’93, G -- 6’1”, 170 lb. Delbarton alum Colten Phinney, a Princeton recruit, is a huge piece of the puzzle. Was excellent last season as he sported a .942 save percentage and gave up only 20 goals 1206 minutes of hockey. Tremblay, a former goaltender himself, expects big the things from the New Jersey native and felt he was the prospect.
Robby Klein, D, ’95 -- The massive defender was a teammate of Tyler Whitney’s on the championship Lawrence Academy squad. The difference is that Klein is jumping to juniors after only his sophomore season in prep school. There were times when we watched the huge rearguard and felt he could someday be a pro, but there were also times in which we felt he would struggle at any level of college hockey. At the end of the day, though, Klein has a lot of upside and is at his best when he keeps things simple and moves the puck quickly to the most sensible option. With continued improvement on his skating he could turn out to be a high reward type player for the Islanders.
Tommy Muratore, D, ’94 -- Was the top-scoring defenseman for the 28-1 Delbarton Green Wave accumulating a 2-31-33 scoring line in 28 games played during the 2011-12 season. Moves puck and will look to play a Thomas Parisi role for Coach Tremblay. Is on the smaller side and will need to add a dynamic element to his game to garner the attention of D-I schools.
Teddy McCarran, F, ’93 -- 6’2”, 190 lb. forward can really shoot a puck and knows how to score goals, something he did a lot of last season on his way to potting 46 in 39 games played for the NH Jr. Monarchs Empire team. If he gets an opportunity out of the gates he could be someone who finds his way onto the radar of college coaches.
Garret Cox, F, ’93 -- Played last season for the Dallas Stars of the Tier 1 Elite League where he posted a 18-34-52 scoring line in 40 games played. A north/south winger with good size (6’1”, 180 lbs.), Cox takes the puck hard to the net and is good along the walls. Will be a difficult player to play against as he has a high compete level.
William Clark, F, ’93 -- Played last season with Cox on the Dallas Stars where he finished seventh in league scoring off the back of a 26-28-54 scoring line in 39 games played. The 6’6”, 210 lb. forward is a project who has yet to fully find his coordination. That said, the Texas native knows how to score goals and use his big body around the net.
With the players mentioned above the Islanders will be vying for the top spot in the league, but Tremblay is still working on adding two more pieces to the puzzle.
Sam Kurker, F, ’94 -- The St. John’s Prep star was on hand this weekend which would indicate that if he chooses to play in the EJHL, it will be with the Islanders. The USHL, though, remains an option for the 36th ranked player on NHL Central Scouting’s Final Rankings. Kurker will likely make his decision in the coming weeks. The BU recruit would be a top line winger in the EJHL and could put the Islanders over the top.
Michael Doherty, ’93, F -- The Yale recruit was not at the Islanders camp over the weekend, but that does not mean they are out of the picture. While the scoring machine from Groton is being courted by a number of contenders, we are hearing that the Valley Junior Warriors hold the inside track. Will be a top six forward capable of producing over a point a game.
Wildcats Land Offensive Blueliner for ‘14
The University of New Hampshire has received a commitment from 5’11”, 165 lb. defenseman Cam Marks of the Vancouver Northwest Giants (BC Midget AAA). Marks is the second defenseman from British Columbia to commit to the Wildcats, joining Dylan Chanter of the Merritt Centennials (BCHL).
A North Vancouver, BC native, Marks was the top scoring defenseman at the Telus Cup, Canada’s midget nationals, last spring, producing a 1-8-9 scoring line in only seven games played. This past season, the future power play quarterback posted a 1-16-17 in scoring line in 25 games while fighting through an injury-plagued season.
A 3/9/95 birthdate, Marks is in the mold of Denver’s WCHA Rookie of the Year Joey LaLeggia (originally committed to UNH, and, like Marks, a former member of the Northwest Giants).
Marks will arrive in the fall of 2014 and join an already impressive class at UNH, one that includes likely NHL draft picks Chanter and Shane Eiserman (Cushing Academy) as well as highly-skilled forward Michael McNicholas (Muskegon --USHL). Next season Marks will move up to the BCHL and play for either Penticton or Coquitlam.
Gicewicz Chooses Saints
6’1”, 180 lb. Nichols School sophomore defenseman R.J. Gicewicz has committed to St. Lawrence University for the fall of ’14 or ’15.
An 11/13/95 birthdate, Gicewicz was a member of the US Under-17 Select Team that went undefeated last summer at the Five Nations Tournament in Ann Arbor, Michigan last August.
In addition to playing at Nichols, where he had a 3-6-9 line in 25 games, the left shot from Orchard Park, NY, played for the Buffalo Saints U18 squad, posting a 4-4-18 line in 25 games.
Minutemen Land Hamilton
6’3”, 215 lb. Salisbury School junior defenseman Mark Hamilton has committed to UMass for the fall of 2013.
A 1/3/94 birthdate, Hamilton, a left-shot, has made great improvements under Salisbury head coach Andrew Will, a former defenseman at Union College. Hamilton, a native of Winthrop, Mass., is a big, strong, steady, and fundamentally sound defenseman who plays a strong all-around game.
NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings
NHL Central Scouting released its Final Rankings on Monday, and Russian RW Nail Yakupov (Sarnia-OHL) remains at #1 overall. The top-ranked American, at #4 overall, is Alex Galchenyuk (Sarnia -- OHL). It continues to look like a strong draft for defensemen, as eight of the top 12 slots go to blueliners. The top-ranked goaltender is Malcolm Subban (Belleville-OHL), who was also #1 on January’s Midterm Rankings. The top-ranked U.S. goalie, at #4 overall, is Anthony Stolarz (Corpus Christi -- NAHL).
The draft will be held June 22-23 in Pittsburgh, PA.
All the files below are PDF files, easy to open and print out. They contain birthdates, heights/weights, and full stats.
North American Skaters
North American Goaltenders
U16 Nationals Reviewed
The Long Island Royals were the first U16 team to really grab our attention this season and, not surprisingly, the last. All season long, television crews followed the Royals and Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine, their head coach, for the NHL Network’s “Making of a Royal.” The team cooperated, too, providing a climatic finish with the Royals claiming the U16 National Championship with a decisive 5-1 win over the Dallas Stars. That said, we felt the most-skilled U16 team here was the Chicago Mission, who lost to the Royals 5-4 in OT in the semi-finals. The Royals benefitted from having a predominantly ’95 team while the Mission was comprised of all ‘96s. Below are the players who, in our opinion, stood out most in the U16 division. Following the U16 division is a short – and far from comprehensive review -- of the U12s (!).
1. Justin Bailey, F, ’95 (Long Island Royals) -- We have been Bailey’s biggest advocates over the course of the season, and he did not let us down here. Led the tournament in scoring with a 6-5-11 line in six games played, including a dominant performance in the championship game. The Michigan State recruit projects as a physical, north/south winger with the ability to make a play and score goals. Is a physical specimen who is explosive and plays the game at a fast pace. When we watch him we cannot help picturing him as a 220 pound winger, which we think he will eventually be. He is not going to be a friendly individual to play against, and will certainly make life difficult for defensemen when he arrives in the Big 10. Will be watched closely by NHL scouts next season, and is likely draft pick in 2013.
2. Nicholas Schmaltz, F, ’96 (Chicago Mission) -- High-octane forward who has already played 11 games in the USHL for Green Bay, where he intends to play the 2012-13 season, passing up an invitation to join the USNTDP. Possesses a high skill level, makes exciting plays, and is not shy about playing in traffic. Lacks size and physical strength right now, but his game-breaking abilities will likely stick with as he moves up the ranks. A top recruit for North Dakota, he will likely make an immediate impact in the USHL next season as a 16 year old. 5-3-8 in five games played.
3. Nolan Stevens, F, ’96 (LA Jr. Kings) -- The more we watch the son of LA Kings Asst. Coach John Stevens, the more we like him. Has a lot of physical tools. He’s about 6’2” with a long wingspan, but the most attractive quality he possesses is his intelligence and hockey IQ. Can make high-end plays -- which he did here -- but he also plays the game the proper way and always seems to be in the proper position, and on the right side of the puck. Has an offer on the table to join the NTDP, where we think he projects as a first or second line center.
4. Ryan Tait, F, ’96 (Shattuck-St. Mary’s) -- Did not break free here as the Santa Clara, California native was only able to muster two assists in four games played, but he sure can create offense. Always seems to be around the puck and has a very quick set of hands. Our guess is that -- given the right situation and the right linemates -- he could be a point machine. We do not think he projects as a pure finisher, though he will make a lot of things happen. A top D-I recruit.
5. Brandon Fortunato, D, ’96 (Long Island Royals) -- The top defenseman on the top team here. If we were scouting for an NHL team, the 5’8”, 140 lb. Fortunato might not be on our radar, but in terms of the top ’96 defenders right now, it is very tough not to include him in that group. Has a mind for the game that you cannot teach and makes plays that very few defenseman make on a consistent basis. Is the hockey equivalent of Rajon Rondo-- a point guard on ice. Fortunato was not invited to the NTDP tryout camp, likely due to his diminutiveness. We feel, though, that it would be far easier for the NTDP and their top-flight strength and conditioning program to make Fortunato bigger and stronger than it would be to scour the country looking for a defenseman who can do the same things with the puck that he can.
6. Nick Magyar, F, ’96 (Cleveland Barons) -- Solidly-built player who is learning how to use his body to his advantage. Is really competitive, especially with the puck on his stick or in a scoring area. Is a finisher who is deceptively fast. Recently committed to Ohio State where he will be a blue-chip recruit for the fall of 2014. The Cleveland Barons were somewhat disappointing here as they only won one of their four games and only scored 11 goals; Magyar had five of them and assisted on a couple of others.
7. Jonathon MacLeod, D, ’96 (Cleveland Barons) -- Was a freshman this season with the Kimball Union Wildcats, but played just enough games with the Barons to qualify for Nationals. A very complete defender who is downright mean. Has good size – 6’2” -- skates well and makes a good first pass. However, it is his competitive nature that sets him apart from his peers. Recently committed to the NTDP for next season. He is exactly the type of shutdown defenseman they will need when playing big, strong teams. Is committed to Boston University where he will matriculate in either 2014 or ‘15. Not only does he have All-American potential, but he could also be captain material.
8. Blake Weyrick, G, ’96 (Shattuck-St. Mary’s) -- Will be the goalie for the NTDP next season and it is very easy to see why. Is technically sound and makes difficult saves look easy. Shattuck was not particularly strong, but Weyrick gave them a chance to win every game. In three games played he went 2-1 with a .923 save percentage and a 1.97 GAA.
9. Seamus Malone, F, ’96 (Chicago Mission) -- The Wisconsin recruit is one of the most skilled players in the ’96 age group. Is as intelligent as they come and rarely makes poor decisions with the puck. Is not particularly big or strong, but simply outthinks/outskills his opponents. Is very lethal in 1x1 situations and with the man advantage. Will be a nice player for the Badgers and will spend the majority of his college career as a top six forward.
10. Sonny Milano, F, ’96 (Cleveland Barons) -- The Long Island native plays with a lot of energy and has a quick stick which enables him to make a ton of plays in tight spaces. Has grown over the course of the season and is probably 5’10” or 5’11” now. Led the MWEHL in scoring this season, but by his standard was just OK here, posting a 1-4-5 scoring line in four games played. He was excellent at the NTDP tryout camp, and has committed to them for next year. Has yet to commit to a college, but is being heavily recruited by a lot of top schools. We have to wonder if there is a part of him that wishes he stayed on Long Island this winter to play for the national champions Long Island Royals. It appears that he travelled an awful long way to play for a team that wasn’t as good as one right in his backyard.
11. Josh Jacobs, D, ’96 (Honeybaked) -- Well-rounded defender who is strong in 1x1 situations. Is not dynamic offensively, but makes smart decisions with puck. At 6’3”, he’s a big kid who projects as a steady, shutdown defenseman. The Michigan State recruit will be joining the Spartans in 2014.
12. Connor Wynne, D, ’95 (NJ Avalanche) -- An elite skater who has the ability to play a lot of minutes without breaking a sweat. Is probably about 5’10”, 155 lbs. and we think when he puts weight on his frame he will be a ball player who Division 1 schools will be attracted to. Makes skilled plays with the puck – and we think there is more there, but he appears to play a conservative game as he is heavily relied on to eat up minutes. Posted a 1-3-4 scoring line in four games played—all while battling flu-like symptoms. Headed to Milton Academy this fall.
13. JJ Piccinich, F, ’96 (NJ Avalanche) -- A competitive kid who is constantly creating scoring chances. You could watch the NJ Avalanche practice for two hours and Piccinich would probably never catch your eye because he is not big or fast, nor does he have that great of a shot. But he’s a gamer who is at his best with the game on the line. Is always around the puck and appears to be involved in every goal his team scores. 2-6-8 in four games played. Was out at the NTDP tryout camp and had a strong showing.
14. Bryan Lemos, F, ’96 (Rhode Island Saints) -- High-energy forward who has good puck skills and plays with a lot of pace. Is not very big at 5’9” but is strong on his skates and tenacious, especially in the offensive zone. Was his team’s best player here -- by a substantial margin. Was heavily recruited by New England prep schools, but has decided to play for the Junior Bruins Empire – or U18 – team.
15. Jacob Linhart, D, ’96 (Chicago Mission) -- Skilled, puck-moving defender who is excellent quarterbacking the PP. Is not big -- 5’9” -- but makes up for his lack of height with quickness and intelligence. Is able to defend against bigger players because he positions himself properly — stick on puck. A Wisconsin recruit who produced a 1-2-3 scoring line in five games played.
16. Garrett Gamez, F, ’95 (LA Jr. Kings) -- Quick release to his shot. Finds a way to be successful in the dirty areas of the ice. Plays with some jam and is effective at finding his way to loose pucks. Showed a lot of heart here as he played the final day of the tournament with a fractured wrist. Compiled a 2-3-5 scoring line through five games.
17. Christian Dvorak, F, ’96 (Chicago Mission) -- Offensive threat who is slippery in traffic and has a creative stick. Usually plays on a line with Schmaltz and the two are fun to watch -- they tend to be on a different skill level than the majority of the competition. Needs to get bigger and stronger to withstand the attention he will get as he moves up the hockey ladder. Was ineffective in the semifinals against an older Long Island Royals team.
18. Michael Marnell, F, ’95 (Long Island Royals) -- Came through with his best weekend of the season when it mattered most. Was productive posting a 4-4-8 scoring line through six games played—including scoring his team’s 4th and 5th goals in an exciting 5-4 OT win vs. the Chicago Mission in the semifinals. Is on the small side, but has a quick first step, above-average vision and the ability to make plays at top speed.
19. Chris Birdsall, G, ’96 (NJ Avalanche) -- A competitive goalie who gets the most out of what he has to work with. Is probably about 5’10”, but he positions himself well in the net and makes himself look bigger than he is. Is aggressive and challenges shooters on a regular basis. Was at the NTDP tryout camp and is being considered for the final goalie position.
20. Johan Steen, D, ’96 (Dallas Stars) -- Dallas lost in the final game and it was difficult for us to pinpoint exactly which of their players were making them so successful. It was a strong collective effort. That said, we felt their top prospect was Steen, a big 6’2” defender who handles the puck well and makes a good first pass. Nothing too flashy; just someone who consistently makes the good play.
21. Joey Caffrey, F, ’95 (NJ Avalanche) -- We have tracked Caffrey throughout the year, but he was at his best here in Buffalo. Was not new to Nationals as he played for the powerhouse Westchester Express ’95 squad which featured the likes of Steve Santini (NTDP), John Hayden (NTDP), and Anthony DeAngelo (Sarnia-OHL). An intelligent center who distributes the puck well, but also has finishing capabilities which he displayed while scoring a highlight reel goal in a round-robin game against Honeybaked. Headed to Choate next fall where he will team up with Alex Rauter (Cornell) and form a formidable duo.
22. Adam Baughman, D, ’96 (Chicago Mission) -- Big defender is a safe pick to develop into a shutdown defenseman at the higher levels. Does not complicate the game, just makes the easy play and defends well. He’s a piece of the puzzle which all good teams have. Skates well for someone his size; has great gap control.
23. Nicholas Hutchinson, F, ’95 (Long Island Royals) -- There is something really interesting about Hutchinson. He’s a tall 6’2” kid who has great offensive instincts, but lacks an explosive first step and pull away speed. If he develops the leg strength needed to explode out of the gates he could turn into a very attractive prospect. Already has a mind for the game and makes plays – something much harder to teach than skating. Posted a 2-3-5 scoring line in six games played.
24. Charlie Pelnik, D, ’95 (Shattuck-St. Mary’s) -- The big 6’3” defenseman from North Carolina had a ton of buzz about his game after the Select 15 festival two years ago, but since then scouts have cooled on him a bit. We like the North Dakota recruit and think he will fit in well with David Hakstol’s coaching philosophy. Is a big, physical defender who still has a lot of potential. The best-case scenario is that he develops a serious mean streak and emulates UND grad Mike Greene. We think an NHL team will take a shot on him at next year’s draft.
25. Anderson Bjork, F, ’96 (Chicago Mission) -- Just a good hockey player. Plays the game hard -- and the way it was meant to be played. Gives an honest effort every shift and has enough skill to be an excellent complimentary player. Is versatile in that he is effective at making plays on the PP, but could also be the team’s best penalty killer. Headed to Notre Dame in the fall of 2015.
26. Robert Nardella, D, ’96 (Chicago Mission) -- Cool, calm and collected under duress. Puck is on his stick, puck is off his stick. Finds the open man and moves the puck up the ice with ease. Is on the smaller side, but is strong enough to physically defend and skilled enough to be effective.
27. Dennis Gilbert, D, ’96 (Amherst Knights) -- Did not get to watch as much of the Knights as we would have liked as they were quickly eliminated here. With that being said, Gilbert caught our eye as he has some intriguing physical tools. Is very tall – 6’2” or 6’3” -- and skates well for someone of his stature. Is a late ’96 and is someone to put on your radar.
28. Zach Pittman, D, ’95 (Honeybaked) -- We liked Pittman at the Bauer Invite and after watching him this weekend we left feeling the same way. Has size at 6’3” and is confident with the puck. Is a good skater who is gaining confidence offensively. A USHL team would be wise to get him under their umbrella.
29. Keanu Yamamoto, F, ’96 (LA Jr. Kings) -- Stands out because he is so small (5’5”), but has a high compete level and is fun to watch. Controls the puck with confidence and makes plays. Was on a line with Nolan Stevens and the two created a lot. Will likely always be short, but if he can fill out he could become dynamic enough to compete at the D-I level.
30. Ryan Siroky, F, ’95 (LA Jr. Kings) -- Good stick and knows how to score goals, which he did on a regular basis here, posting a 5-2-7 scoring line. Headed to Miami of Ohio.
A Peek Into The Future
As mentioned above, we decided to take a peek in on semifinal action at the U12 level. The Chicago Mission, who have a fabulous and exciting team, defeated the NJ Colonials, 4-3 in OT, to claim the national championship. We realize this is all very premature, but these kids can play! Here are some names to tuck away.
-- Sean Dhooghe, F, ’99 (Chicago Mission) -- Was an absolute machine here, posting an eye-popping 10-10-20 scoring line in only six games played. Was by far the leading scorer in the tournament. Is not someone who will immediately jump out at you as he is no bigger or stronger than his peers, but his vision, hockey sense and stick skills are all top notch.
-- Ivan Lognia, F, ’99 (LA Selects) -- Pure skill. A fluid skater who is very dangerous in transition. Not particularly big, but his talent level is so high that he will remain a top player for years to come. Finished second in scoring after posting a 5-8-13 scoring line in five games played.
-- Alexander Chmelevski, F, ’99 (Compuware) -- The top player for Compuware. Is not small and is very dangerous with the puck. Is not a burner, but is certainly not slow. Skates with a wide base and is very strong on the puck. Put up a 4-6-10 scoring line in only five games played.
-- Graham Slaggert, F, ’99 (Chicago Mission) -- The son of Notre Dame Asst. Coach Andy Slaggert is going to be a very good player. Has an excellent stick and is very poised in the offensive zone. Is a good skater who is strong on the puck. 3-7-10 in six games played.
-- Thomas Altoutian, F, ’99 (Chicago Mission) -- Bigger, stronger and faster than the other kids his age – and has skill. A power forward in the making. Posted a 3-4-7 scoring line in six games played.
-- Graham Lillbridge, D, ’99 (Chicago Mission) -- Miniature defenseman is a lot of fun to watch. Is so small, but is also so skilled that you can just tell he is going to be a great player. Handles the puck with such confidence. Makes plays that not many 12 year olds would think to make. Vas Kolias is a top ’97 d-man in the Mission organization, and we feel Lillbridge is coming right behind him.
-- Cole Edgerton, F, ’99 (NJ Colonials) -- Intelligent center who is capable of creating offense all by himself. Is a graceful skater with top-notch puck skills.
… And Watch Her Too!
-- Cayla Barnes, D, ’99 (LA Selects) -- Not only is Barnes a girl -- and playing at a very high level -- but she is the captain of the team! Says an awful lot about her character. The top defender for one of the top teams in the country has a good head for the game and makes a lot of plays from the back end. Produced six assists in five games played.
’96 World Selects Invitational Schedule/Rosters
Here is a link to the rosters and schedule for the ’96 World Selects Invitational Tournament Thurs-Sun. April 12-15 in the Portland, Maine area. Fourteen squads, including five from the U.S., three from Russia, three from Canada, as well as teams from the Czech Republic, Sweden, and Latvia, will be on hand.
The tournament is being posted by the Portland Jr. Pirates (EJHL) and Selects Sports Management.
Schedule and Rosters
A New Midget AAA League For the Northeast
The details of a new elite midget AAA league – the first to be based exclusively in the northeast – were announced this week.
The league, named the United States Elite Hockey League (USEHL), will be the first east coast based full-season midget league and will have both U16 and U18 divisions.
The league has eight entries, though there is room for 2-4 more, perhaps even before the start of the season.
The teams as of now are:
Islanders Hockey Club
South Shore Kings U16 only – at least for now
Connecticut Yankees (Stamford, Conn.)
Suffolk PAL (Long Island)
Selects Academy (at South Kent School)
Hill Academy (Toronto, Ontario)
Some of the coaches are:
Junior Bruins -- Chris Masters (U18), Craig Falite and Topher Bevis (U16)
Islanders – Nate Bostic (both U16 and U18), Leigh Dean (U16), Phil Rose (U18). Sean Tremblay will assist at practices.
South Shore Kings – Danny Panciocco (U16).
Hitmen – Mark Lotito (U18) and Bill Thompson (U16).
Connecticut Yankees – Geoff Marottolo will reportedly coach one of the teams.
No EJHL teams are dumping their Empire teams. However, they’ll be a little older than they have been heretofore.
The Connecticut Yankees will be playing out of the new Chelsea Piers – Connecticut rink in Stamford.
Matthews Moving On
Citing a desire to return to college hockey, Northwood School head coach Jeff Matthews will be leaving his current post at the end of the academic year.
Matthews, a ’95 RPI grad, was an assistant at his alma mater from ’04-06 before taking over at Northwood, where he has coached for the last six seasons.
Taking over for Matthews will be Josh LeRoy, the former St. Lawrence defenseman (class of ’01) who, after coaching at Cardigan Mountain, came over to Northwood where he has been for the last seven years.
“He’ll do a good job, and he’s excited about the opportunity,” said Matthews.
As for Matthews, he had been a finalist at Hamilton College last summer, and also interviewed for the Colby job in September. He wishes to devote his efforts toward the next opportunity.
“This was actually a decision I made in early September,” Matthews said. “I am pursuing leads, though I don’t have anything yet. I have learned a ton here and developed a lot as a coach, but the time is perfect for my wife and kids, and we’re excited – and also a little nervous because we don’t know yet where we are going to end up.”
Matthews, before returning to RPI in the fall of ’04, was the head coach at Northfield-Mt. Hermon.
Some of the Div. I players at Northwood during Matthews’ tenure include Alex Chiasson (BU), Raphael Girard (Harvard), Travis Jeke (BC incoming), and Nik Pokulok, Julien Cayer, and Richie Laveau (all Clarkson).
U14 Nationals Reviewed
USHR jumped on I-90 this past weekend and headed west eight hours to Buffalo, NY for the Tier 1 Nationals. Not surprisingly, there was some great hockey -- plenty of high-end talent and compelling matchups. We spent the majority of our time watching the U14 and U16 divisions and will have reports on both. They’re long, though, so we’re going to break it up and start with the U14s today.
Not surprisingly, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Jr. Knights took home the hardware, defeating a highly-skilled St. Louis Blues squad, 4-2 in Sunday’s championship game. The Jr. Knights, whom we wrote about at length last fall (see USHR News, A Bantam Powerhouse in PA, from 10/12/11) had no chinks in their armor. They had the best forwards, the best defensemen, and the best goalie. The success of the squad, comprised almost entirely of imported players from Russia, Holland, the Ukraine, and Canada, leads one to question whether or not a team consisting mostly of imports should be allowed to compete for a USA Hockey National title. This is an issue we dealt with at length in the earlier article, so we don’t want to rehash all of that here. Suffice to say, USA Hockey, as of now, has no rules in place limiting imports at the youth levels – only juniors – so what Wilkes-Barre did is perfectly within the rules. However, we wouldn’t be surprised to see USA Hockey address this in the near future -- if they haven’t started doing so already. But should they? We’re all about seeing the American player get better, and one way to achieve that goal is to play against the best competition available, without regard for where on the planet they joined the human race. We think it’s a win-win. On the other hand, we understand those who would argue that a team in which Americans are in the distinct minority might be pushing the concept a little far. That said, rather than making rash decisions that might have unintended consequences, we’d leave things as they are, and see how everything plays out over a period of a few years.
Here are the U14 players who grabbed our attention:
1. Daniel Sprong, F, ’97 (Wilkes-Barre)—With the exception of Connor McDavid, the Toronto Marlies center recently granted exceptional player status in Ontario, Sprong is the best ’97 forward we have seen this year. A dynamic talent, Sprong hits an entirely different gear when he touches the puck. His skill level is top-end and we are not going out on a limb when we state that he could be playing in the NHL in the not too distant future. A native of Holland, Sprong had moved to Canada where this fall he was playing for the Ile-Bizard Dauphins in the Quebec Bantam AA loop, notching 36 goals in 21 games prior to jumping ship and heading to Pennsylvania just before the New Year – and the roster freeze. When we first saw Wilkes-Barre in October at the Bauer Invite in Chicago, Sprong was not yet part of the team. Here at Nationals he dazzled with his speed, agility and high-end puck skills, producing a 4-11-15 scoring line in only six games played, good for tops in the tournament. Sprong, who’s about 5’9” now, had a hand in all four of his team’s goals in the championship game. He’s a lot of fun to watch; perhaps a touch one-dimensional. A good NHL comparison would be Tyler Seguin of the Boston Bruins.
2. Denis Smirnov, F, ’97 (Wilkes-Barre)—An exciting forward who does nothing but make plays. Is on the small side at 5’6”, but is well put together and very strong on the puck. The Russian import produced a 5-6-11 scoring line in six games played. Is excellent on the power play as he has elite vision and is a threat to score or thread the needle to a wide open player. The Wilkes-Barre power play was something else -- their top-end players made good competition look totally ordinary.
3. Noah Hanifin, D, ’97 (Valley Junior Warriors)—The big defender out of St. Sebastian’s School has “can’t miss” potential, but here – granted, we have the bar set high for him – he was just OK. There is no doubt that Hanifin will be a top player in his age group for a long time, but he did not dominate here which, given his size and skill set, he should have. This, of course, illustrates the point that learning how to single-handedly take over games is something only a very few players master. Hanifin produced a 1-1-2 scoring line in four games played and, while we know junior teams have been beating down his door, in our opinion a return to St. Seb’s, where he can work on being a game-changer on a daily basis, is his best option at this point in his young career.
4. Grant Gabriele, D, ’97 (Belle Tire)—An outstanding skater with big-time pro potential. Just floats around the ice effortlessly. Was the most noticeable player on a very strong Belle Tire team that gave Wilkes-Barre a good game. Gets the puck up ice with ease and actively engages in the offense. Is difficult to cover as he is constantly in motion. Has good size at 5’11” and looks to have a couple inches left in him. Probably the most natural, fluid skater we saw all weekend. Kind of a cross between Green Bay Gambler’s Jordan Schmaltz and a young Keith Ballard.
5. Michael Davies, D, ’97 (St. Louis Blues)—Exciting, flashy defenseman. It took us all of one shift for him to catch our eye. The St. Louis product is a nimble skater who is capable of making a good first pass or skating the puck out of his defensive zone on his own. Is not very big at 5’9”, but certainly projects to be a top college recruit.
6. Colin White, F, ’97 (Valley Junior Warriors)—We have written a lot about the 8th grader from Nobles, but man is he fast. An explosive skater, White resembles a race horse coming out of the gate. Has the speed to get to the net or push defenders back so far that he has time and space with the puck. With his skating, he will make a seamless transition to higher levels – he’ll just never be a step behind. Right now, White projects as a north/south winger with dangerous speed. However, given time, physical development, and maturity his game could blossom into much more. Posted a 4-5-9 scoring line in four games played.
7. Casey Fitzgerald, D, ’97 (Valley Junior Warriors)—Will not spill a ton of ink on the Malden Catholic blueliner as we have written about him a lot in the past, thus USHR readers know he has a great mind for the game coupled with exceptional poise and vision. Here, he tried to beat guys a lot, though we prefer the simple version of his game, which really comes out playing with older players -- and at a higher level.
8. Jordan Greenaway, F, ’97 (Shattuck)—Massive power forward from Potsdam, NY. Skates well for his size and makes plays. Is already roughly 6’3”, 200 lbs. A top prospect who will only get better as he gets stronger and faster. A strong presence down low and in front of the net.
9. Ivan Provorov, D, ’97 (Wilkes-Barre)—A man among boys. A good skater who is physically strong and often freewheeled coast to coast. Because the Russian defenseman plays on such a good team he did not have to dominate games, but he probably could have. Was just a piece of the puzzle on Wilkes-Barre! The top scoring defenseman in the tournament, Provorov finished up with a 4-6-10 scoring line in six games played.
10. Nikita Pavlychev, F, ’97 (Wilkes-Barre)—A lot of potential here – a 6’3” frame along with a great mind for the game and a slick set of hands. With the exception of Sprong, the Russian center could have more upside than any other player on the Wilkes-Barre roster. Skating still has a ways to go, but the shortcomings of his stride are more the result of a lack of strength as opposed to poor mechanics. Possesses a lot of the same traits as Hart Trophy candidate Evgeny Malkin.
11. Cam Askew, F, ’97 (Valley Junior Warriors)—The Valley Warriors scored 13 goals over the weekend—and White and Askew accounted for nine of them. The top line of White-Askew-Lincoln Griffin was heavily relied on, but also heavily focused on by the opposition. The St. Sebastian’s center was asked to not only finish, but create as well— and the latter is not his forte. Is at his best when playing with players who get him the puck in scoring areas. The South Boston native knows what do with it from there.
12. Nicholas Vilardo, G, ’97 (Wilkes-Barre)—Clarence, NY native is the real deal and probably the top ’97 goalie in the U.S. right now. Not very big, but has a lot of skill. Gave up only 13 goals in six games played. One and done elimination games are filled with pressure—and Vilardo was rock solid in the playoffs.
13. Luke Opilka, G, ’97 (St. Louis Jr. Blues)—While it is our opinion that Vilardo is the top guy right now, Opilka has a good chance to become the best goalie in the long run. He oozes with potential. Is tall and makes himself big in the net—just very good presence. Is also athletic and able to get from post to post quickly.
14. Matthew Tkachuk, F, ’97 (St. Louis Blues)—The son of Keith Tkachuk is a gamer who is dangerous in the scoring areas. Is not very big or fast, but is intelligent and knows how to score. In an exciting semi-final matchup vs. the Long Island Gulls which went to OT, you just knew there was a good chance the goal was going to come from Tkachuk—and it did. One would think he has a lot of growing left to do as his father is a big guy. And when that size and strength come together with his skill, look out. Finished with a 4-7-11 scoring line in six games played.
15. Chase Pearson, F, ’97 (Atlanta Fire)—The son of Scott Pearson, who was drafted by Toronto in the first round (#6 overall) of the 1988 NHL draft and went on to play nearly 300 games in the NHL. Chase, a tall, lanky center, protects the puck well and is excellent distributing it from the middle of the ice. Just a pure centerman. While his skating lacks explosiveness, he’s also around 6’2” so his body will eventually catch up. Was one of the top scorers here with a 2-6-8 scoring line in only four games played.
16. Jeremy Bracco, F, ’97 (Long Island Gulls)—Bracco always finds his way onto the score sheet and produces offense everywhere he goes. Was one of the top scorers at the Select 14 Festival last summer, led the Gulls in scoring this season, and was also one of the top scorers at the Portledge School this winter. Here, he put up an eye-popping 6-5-11 scoring line in four games. Has topflight vision and is a chess player on ice, plotting his moves two steps ahead of everyone else. If he can overcome his shortcomings – i.e., size, speed and strength -- he could become a great college player, if not more. His coach and father, Mike Bracco, was a goaltender at Dartmouth in the early ‘90s.
17. McKay Flanagan, D, ’97 (Mid Fairfield Blues)—We just saw Flanagan last week at the Yankee Festival in Burlington, Vt. and believe we provided an accurate description of him in our report from there. Defends with an edge, has good size, and makes simple, skilled plays with the puck on his stick. Skates with a wide base and is very sturdy and difficult to knock off the puck.
18. Luke Radetic, F, ’97 (St. Louis Blues)—Extremely exciting player with a dazzling stick. Can handle the puck and make plays in a phone booth. Very dangerous in tight spaces. Is not big – 5’6” or so -- but is also only 14 years old. We feel that next season he will be heavily recruited by top NCAA programs. Had a 4-1-5 scoring line in six games played.
19. Caleb Jones, D, ’97 (Dallas Stars)—Son of former NBA player Popeye Jones and the brother of Seth Jones, the likely #1 overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft. Not as elite as Seth was at the same age, but an intriguing prospect in his own right. As you can imagine, Jones is big and will likely continue growing. His skating has come a long way over the last couple of years and his game is starting to gel. Has a good stick and showed that he is capable of making plays against top-end competition. He’s someone to track closely over the next couple of seasons.
20. Jake Henderson, F, ’97 (St. Louis Blues)—6’2” and he can really snap the puck off. Is a bit of a project right now, but could turn out to be very good. Has yet to figure out how to utilize his size to full advantage. Finished second in scoring with a 3-9-12 scoring line in six games played.
21. Ryan Moore, F, ’97 (Belle Tire)—A pure skater with an explosive first step. Has a knack around the net and is a bona fide sniper. Scored a goal against Wilkes-Barre that had every scout in the building circling his name. Not very big right now – he’s around 5’7” -- but will undoubtedly be a top college recruit in the coming years. Led Belle Tire in scoring after producing 5-4-9 in five games played.
22. John McDermott, F, ’97 (Mid Fairfield Blues)—Played really well here; was the most noticeable forward on Mid-Fairfield. A 6’2” power forward who protects the puck well and has good stick skills, McDermott reminds us of former University of Maine forward Greg Moore at the same age.
23. Adam Fox, D, ’98 (Long Island Gulls)— Only a ’98, Fox thinks the game at an extremely high level. Because of his young age, he probably flies under the radar a bit, but once you realize he is a ’98 you begin to watch him in a whole new light. The Gulls have a very good team, and who do you think head coach Mike Bracco had quarterbacking his PP? Adam Fox. This kid will be a name you will hear about often over the years to come. Is not flashy or big, but if you watch the decisions he makes with the puck it is easy to project him as a special defenseman. Had a 1-4-5 scoring line in four games played—not too shabby for a ’98!
24. Rem Pitlick, F, ’97 (Shattuck)— A diminutive forward who is a hoot to watch. Really gets after it and does not shy away from playing in traffic. Makes a lot of plays and is difficult to contain in transition and below the tops of the circles. Played on a line with Jordan Greenway and the two created a lot of offense. Similar to BU forward Cason Hohmann. Produced a 1-4-5 scoring line through five games played.
25. Jack Roslovic, F, ’97 (Ohio Blue Jackets)—Does not play on a strong team and we were only able to see him play one game, but it was very evident that Roslovic has a lot of skill and is someone to pay attention to. Ohio only scored seven goals in three games, but Roslovic, their star forward, accounted for nearly half of them. Led the Tier 1 Elite League in scoring this season with a 20-21-41 scoring line in only 24 games played.
26. Doug Blaisdell, D, ’97 (Belle Tire)—Defenseman brings a lot of different elements to the table. Has size, defends well, and exhibits a certain cool with the puck. Put up a point a game here and looked confident on the PP. As he matures and fills out, he will be watched closely.
27. Jared Dempsey, G, ’97 (Belle Tire)—Did not really hone in on Dempsey, but we had multiple check marks in our notebook next to his name, which leads us to believe he made more than a few big saves. Was statistically the top goalie here as he stopped 37 of 39 shots faced, good for a .949 save percentage and a 1.02 GAA.
28. Alex King, F, ’97 (Belle Tire)—Complete player who plays the game hard and with an edge. Someone you want on your team. Complements highly skilled forwards such as Ryan Moore very well. Has a quick release and is competitive in the tough areas of the ice. 2-3-5 scoring line in five games played.
29. Louis DeNaples, F, ’97 (Wilkes-Barre)—The DeNaples name was mentioned often in Buffalo over the weekend as Louis’s father is the power and money behind the Jr. Knights organization. Having said that, his son is a darn good hockey player. This is not a case of a wealthy man’s child not being able to make the top team around, thus he goes out and buys one of his own. Louis DeNaples would have been a top player on any team here. A very smooth skater who plays with energy and has good hockey sense, DeNaples scored the game winning goal of the semi-final match up against Belle Tire.
30. Connor Moore, D, ’97 (Atlanta Fire)—Offensive defenseman produced a goal per game from the backend, finishing with a 4-2-6 scoring line in four games played. The only defender to out produce him was Provorov. This Atlanta team was fun to watch, and it is always exciting when legitimate prospects come out of unconventional hockey areas such as Atlanta.
31. Alex Rowella, F, ’97 (Wilkes-Barre)—Big, strong power forward had an excellent weekend and created a lot of time and space for his line mates. Right now, he is physically developed and is probably 6’1”, 190 lbs. which gives him a huge advantage at this level. In order to sustain his success he will have to get faster. Finished seventh in scoring with a 2-8-10 scoring line in six games played.
32. Derek Hamelin, D, ’97 (Wilkes-Barre)—Montreal native is light on his feet and smooth with the puck on his stick. Would like to see him on a different team in a leading role. Provorov runs the PP, but we think Hamelin would look very good in that position. Will certainly be interesting to track his progress, but if we could pick one sleeper on the powerhouse Knights squad Hamelin would be the guy.
33. Sterling Bray, F, ’97 (Atlanta Fire)—Smaller forward with an excellent hockey IQ. Makes a lot of plays and has a nice, quick stick. Plays on a line with Pearson and the two were both impressive. Had a 4-4-8 scoring line in only four games played.
34. Patrick Khodorenko, F, ’98 (LA Selects)—A top prospect who is not only a ’98, but a late ’98 at that (10/13/98). A gifted offensive player who produced a 3-3-6 scoring in four games played. Is another player who will not “wow” you playing with ’97s, but the more you watch the more you can see his exemplary offensive instincts shining through.
35. Nolan Aibel, F, ’97 (Long Island Gulls)—An excellent skater and an intelligent playmaker. One of the best games we saw over the weekend was the quarterfinal matchup between the St. Louis Jr. Blues and the Gulls, a game in which Aibel scored the game-tying goal with eight seconds remaining to send it to OT. Finished the tournament with a 4-3-7 scoring line in four games played. Will be a top recruit among Ivy League schools as he carries a 4.0 GPA.
36. Luke Kunin, F, ’97 (St. Louis Blues)—Fast skater who is very good with puck. Has the ability to invent offense from scratch. Is a December ’97 birth date and would be a dominant player at the ’98 level. 1-5-6 in six games played.
37. Keoni Texeira, D, ’97 (LA Selects)—One of the better defenseman at this age group right now, but will have to become more dynamic to have continued success at higher levels. Has always been one the bigger and stronger players, but hopefully hasn’t topped out at around 5-10. Defends well, but tries to do too much on his own offensively.
38. Harrison Markell, D, ’97 (Valley Junior Warriors)—Good sized defenseman at 6’0”. Is reliable, consistent, and efficient with the puck. Does not complicate the game. Is a calming presence on the ice. A freshman at the Middlesex School.
39. Marcus Joseph, D, ’97 (Wilkes-Barre)—One of the only a few local players on the Knights. Stocky, well put-together defender makes a good, hard, crisp first pass.
40. Lincoln Griffin, F, ’97 (Valley Junior Warriors)—We know the Thayer Academy forward’s game well—and he did not bring his best to Buffalo. Was effective this season playing against much older competition because he played a dirty, gritty game and has a nice touch around the net. Here he tried to play more of a skill game and, while he has skill, he’s a skilled grinder—grinder first.
And Watch Her!
* Jincy Dunne, D, ’97 (St. Louis Blues)—If we are talking about Div. I prospects than Dunne should be at the top of the list. A girl who was not only playing at a high level, but holding her own and making plays. Was often inserted at the quarterback position on the St. Louis power play where she displayed great vision and quick-twitch reflexes. If we were judging her as a male we would say skating could become an issue, but in our opinion she is a no-brainer to be a special player in women’s college hockey.
Coming Shortly in USHR: the U16s Review.
A Recruiting Coup for the Valley Jr. Warriors
The Malden Catholic dynamic duo of Ryan Fitzgerald (BC) and Brendan Collier (BU), and Lawrence Academy star Devin Tringale (Harvard) have committed to the Valley Jr. Warriors for the ’12-13 season.
This is a feather in the cap for Valley Jr. Warriors head coach/GM Andy Heinze who this past season was named EJHL Coach of the Year after the Valley Warriors improved by 10 wins and finished with the league’s fifth-best regular-season record, trailing only the Junior Bruins, South Shore Kings, New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, and Jersey Hitmen.
Fitzgerald, Collier, and Tringale have what the ability to turn the Valley Warriors into one of the league’s true elite teams next season. “They are really good players who I am excited to have, and they are all really good kids, too,” says Heinze. “I am excited to have the opportunity to work with them every day.”
Asked if Fitzgerald and Collier would continue to be linemates, Heinze said, “Why not? They certainly play pretty well together. But it’s something that hasn’t even been discussed yet.”
Heinze, who has been behind the Valley Jr. Warriors bench for 12 years, suggested that his team may have a couple more top recruits shortly. “We had a good season this year and we want to continue that. Fitzgerald, Collier, and Tringale are really going to help. It’s also really good in that they are all local kids who will be playing at top local colleges so having them play their junior hockey in their backyard is huge for us – and the league as a whole.”
Heinze says that one of the reasons he was able to attract the trio was the fact that strength and conditioning guru Mike Boyle opened a third facility last fall – and it’s in the Valley Junior Warriors home at the Haverhill Valley Forum. (Boyle’s other gyms are in Woburn and North Andover.)
Collier and Fitzgerald were co-captains of the Malden Catholic team that two weeks ago tonight won its second consecutive Super 8 title, finishing up with a 21-1-2 record. Collier, a senior left wing and late ’93 birthdate, was named co-MVP (with St. John’s Prep forward Sam Kurker) of the Catholic Conference. He finished with a 26-39-65 line. Fitzgerald, a junior center and a late ’94, missed most of December but still posted a 31-21-52 line.
Tringale, a late ’93 left wing, had a 19-27-46 line and was the key to Lawrence’s 25-3-3 season which culminated four weeks ago today with the school’s first prep crown. In the title game Tringale, a co-captain at Lawrence, came up huge, notching the game-winning goal and adding an assist in his team’s 3-2 win over Nobles.
All three forwards will be matriculating at college in the fall of ’13.