The BCHL Showcase
USHR traveled 3,159 miles to Chilliwack, British Columbia for the First Annual BCHL Showcase last weekend (Sept. 7-9). Never before had the league gathered all 16 of its teams to play a season-opening three-day showcase in one location. And these weren’t exhibition games either. The games – each team played twice -- counted in the league standings. Not surprisingly, the event was a success – 95 percent of NCAA schools were represented and over 120 scouts in total attended the event. The menu at the scouts' buffet could use an upgrade for next year, and the sight lines in one of the two rinks weren’t very good, but, apart from that, no complaints.
The level of play in the BCHL is very good, the general consensus being that the only Tier I junior league that trumps it is the USHL – a sentiment we line up with. Nonetheless, the BCHL has made positive strides in the last 10-15 years and there are five or six teams that would do quite well in the USHL.
Ten years ago you could count the number of Americans playing in western Canada on your fingers, but that is no longer the case. The league is now littered with Americans from all over the country, hailing from states such as New Jersey, Massachusetts, Minnesota and California. What is even more telling is the number of NCAA schools that are now sending their committed players to the BCHL. The thought appears to be that it is more beneficial to send a player out to BC and play on the first line vs. placing him in the USHL in a second or third line role.
Each year the BCHL has between 40 to 60 players commit to D-I colleges. Those numbers are about equal to the EJHL, and half as much as the USHL. The significant difference lies in the amount of scholarship money given out. Many of the EJHL and USHL committed players are walk-ons or on partial scholarships. The committed players in the BCHL tend to be full scholarship players, or close to it. D-I schools have a recruiting budget and it does not make financial sense to mine the BCHL for a recruited walk-on when you can spend far less money scouting the USHL, EJHL, or high school hockey for a player of equal skill.
Now that we have given you some background on the league, let’s discuss the play. First off, the league's top player, Alex Kerfoot of the Coquitlam Express, sat out the weekend (a minor shoulder injury; he’ll be ready to play Friday). The New Jersey Devils draft pick – and Harvard recruit -- is said to have the makings of a Hobey Baker candidate. Last season, in 51 games with Coquitlam, Kerfoot put up a 25-44-69 scoring line. Another top NCAA recruit on Coquitlam who was also injured was Adam Rockwood. The late ’95 forward played for the Vancouver NE Chiefs last season and put up a 16-70-86 scoring line in 40 games played, leading the BC Midget Major League in scoring. The 5’10”, 160 lb. Rockwood, a Coquitlam native, will be able to pick his college – the top college suitors are all lined up. Coquitlam, coached by Jon Calvano, is loaded with talent and our pick to win the Mainland Division. The Penticton Vees will once again be the team to beat in the Interior Division. Last season, the Vees set a junior hockey record by winning 42 straight games en route to a National Championship. While Freddie Harbinson’s squad will be good again this season, we do not expect them to be as dominant as last season's team, mainly because the Vernon Vipers and the West Kelowna Warriors have narrowed the gap.
Below are our rankings of the top players in the Showcase. While the league is stronger and deeper up front, we also saw some very good d-men – about ten are probably full scholarship guys, and several are potential NHL draft picks. After that, however, there is a bit of a drop off on the blue line. As for the goaltenders, the best were older and seasoned, and some are ready – or nearly ready -- to play in college. (Note: Since we have not scouted the BCHL in the past we have included players in our rankings who are already committed to colleges. Our aim in doing this is to give U.S. college hockey fans a good sense of the players who will be heading south in the next year or two.)
1. Ryan Gropp, F, ’96 (Penticton) 6-2/175 — Has the earmarks of a first round NHL draft pick. Is a 9/16/96 birthdate, so his draft year is not until 2015. Was the top pick (#6 overall) of the Seattle Thunderbirds in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft. Finished third in scoring at the Youth Olympic Games last winter, posting a 6-3-9 scoring line in just six games played. His father, Brent Gropp, played for Colorado College in the ‘80s. Is playing on Penticton’s top line and he is still just 15 years old. Is the complete package -- a tall, lanky fluid skater with a smooth set of hands and a scoring touch. Once the Kamloops, BC native fills out he will be a force. It appears that he will go the NCAA route and whichever school lands him will be getting one of the top ‘96’s in the world.
2. Mathew Barzal, F, ’97 (Coquitlam) 5-9/152 — Is listed as an AP (affiliate player) with Coquitlam, but there is no denying that his skill level is tops in the league. Was the first overall pick in the 2012 WHL draft by the Seattle Thunderbirds, though he has yet to sign with the club. That said, the consensus opinion is that the Coquitlam, BC native will indeed end up playing in the CHL. Barzal has elite vision, is strong on his feet, and has a nose for the net. Played last season for the Burnaby Winter Club and put up a 38-63-101 scoring line. Is also a 2016 draft prospect. We have said this before, but with the likes of Gropp, Barzal, Noah Hanifin (St. Sebastian’s), Jack Eichel (NTDP), Connor McDavid (Erie-OHL), Daniel Sprong (Wilkes-Barre U16) and whatever talent lies across the puddle, the 2016 NHL draft is going to be an extremely strong one.
3. Wade Murphy, F, ’93 (Penticton) 6-0/180 — The most college-ready player we saw here, Murphy, who decommitted from Merrimack just two weeks ago, is now an extremely hot commodity. There were whispers in Chilliwack that a certain WCHA school may have nudged the Victoria, BC native to decommit. Murphy has good speed, is gritty and can really shoot a puck. Will make an immediate impact in college hockey. Played on Penticton’s National Championship team last season, finishing fourth in league scoring with a 36-55-91 scoring line in 56 games played. Will contend for the league scoring title.
4. Adam Tambellini, F, ’94 (Vernon) 6-4/177 — Listed at 6’4”, but we think he's probably closer to 6’2.5” or so. The North Dakota recruit, the son of Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini and the younger brother of former Michigan forward Jeff Tambellini, is a pro prospect who should hear his name called in the first half of the NHL draft in June. For a big kid he can really skate and is strong in scoring areas. Is Vernon’s first line center and the Vipers will be leaning on him this season as he looks to improve on his 56 points from a year ago.
5. Evan Richardson, F, ’94 (Powell River) 5-8/170 — The Boston College recruit makes a ton of plays and is very dangerous when given time and space. Will put up a lot of points this season and could challenge for the scoring title. Has a great stick, high-end vision and is strong on his feet. Is short, but very stocky. We feel Richardson’s game needs to take another step forward before we can comfortably say he will be a top six forward at BC.
6. Dexter Dancs, F, ’95 (Penticton) 6-2/190 — Michigan recruit is in his rookie season on a very deep team and will have to battle to get into a top six role, which could impact his statistics. That said, we are confident he will get there. The Vancouver, BC native is a big, fast, strong power forward who is not afraid to mix it up. Thrives in the dirty areas of the ice, but also has a high skill level. Is playing on the fourth line right now, but we believe his game will take off once that changes. Is in his draft year and there is a good chance he will hear his name called.
7. David Pope, F, ’94 (West Kelowna) 6-2/193 — Really opened some eyes here over the weekend. A 9/27/94 birthdate entering his draft year, Pope is a tall, lanky forward just coming into his own. Has a slick set of hands and makes a lot of plays. Is uncommitted, but our guess is that a number of schools watching him at the Showcase are on him now. West Kelowna traded for the Edmonton native last season and in the final 20 games of the Warriors’ season, Pope put up a 6-12-18 scoring line.
8. Demico Hannoun, F, ’95 (Surrey) 5-11/175 — Another top uncommitted prospect. The late ’95 is in his second full year of BCHL play. Last season, in 49 games, the North Delta, BC native produced a 12-14-26 scoring line. A gritty goal scorer with skill, Hannoun is playing on Surrey’s top line and we feel he will produce accordingly. We only got to see him play one game as he did not dress for the Eagles' second game. In the game we did see he was very impressive. Scored the OT winner on an absolute bomb of a one-timer from the top of the left faceoff circle.
9. Craig Martin, F, ’95 (Vernon) 5-11/165—The Vipers top recruit is skilled and intelligent. Knows his way around the offensive zone and has a lot of hockey sense. Scored a nice goal in Vernon’s first game. Played Junior B for the Beaver Valley Night Hawks (KIJHL) last season and finished second in league scoring with a 48-48-96 scoring line in 50 games played. Also dressed for nine games as an AP for Trail (BCHL) and compiled a 2-5-7 scoring line. Almost a year ago we had Martin on our list of “Top Uncommitted ‘95s.” He was an unknown then. That is no longer the case.
10. Zack Pryzbek, F, ’94 (Coquitlam) 6-4/205 — The big Brown recruit looked fantastic over the weekend. A Niagara on the Lake, Ontario native, Pryzbek was passed over in June’s NHL draft, but we do not think that will happen twice. The former Salisbury School winger just keeps getting better – he’s particularly difficult to deal with in front of the net and in the corners. It is our guess that Pryzbek will play with Kerfoot once the latter returns to the lineup. If so, Pryzbek will get more than enough opportunities to work on his finishing abilities.
11. Brandon Morley, F, ’94 (Surrey) 5-9/160 — Another top uncommitted forward who was once committed to Merrimack. A Burnaby, BC native and Surrey’s captain, Morley is in his third season in the BCHL. The shifty center is ultra-competitive and will certainly play a role in D-I hockey. The question is, does he have enough skill to be a top six forward, or will he be a third line player?
12. Seb Lloyd, F, ’94 (West Kelowna) 5-10/185 — Shifty and crafty. Highly skilled center. Played on a line with David Pope and the two created a lot of offense. Is a top student and will be a targeted recruit among ECAC schools.
13. Sam Mellor, F, ’92 (Penticton) 5-10/180 — Centers the top line in the league with Ryan Gropp and Wade Murphy on his wings. Will not blow you away with speed, but manages the middle of the ice very well and is skilled enough to distribute the puck. Played last season for Alaska-Anchorage in the WCHA and was a regular in the line-up, producing a 5-4-9 scoring line in 33 games played as a freshman. Before going to Alaska-Anchorage, Mellor played for Trail (BCHL) as a 17 and 18 year old and compiled a 61-69-130 scoring line in 104 games played. Still has three remaining years of eligibility. Will be ready to contribute immediately at whichever school he winds up at next fall.
14. Brad McClure, F, ’93 (Penticton) 5-11/175 — Created a nice buzz over the weekend. Plays on a very deep team, but the Stratford, Ontario native made his presence felt right out of the gate. A quick skater, McClure has a high-end release to his shot. Gets it off in a hurry and has already displayed a goal scorer’s pedigree. Last season, playing in Ontario for the Stratford Cullitons, McClure torched the league for 45 goals in just 51 games played. It will not be long before a school grabs him.
15. Louie Nanne, F, ’94 (Penticton) 5-11/175 — The grandson of former Minnesota North Stars player/coach/GM Lou Nanne. Played last season for Edina HS. Was a seventh round pick of the Minnesota Wild in June’s NHL draft. Is deceptively fast and shows intelligence with the puck on his stick. The Gopher recruit played the point on the PP and looked good doing so. Has some filling out to do.
16. Michael McNicholas, F, ’94 (Nanaimo) 5-10/175 — The UNH recruit played last season for Muskegon (USHL) where he had a difficult time finding a spot on the top two lines, thus made the move to the BCHL. The El Segundo, California native settled in over the weekend and by his second game displayed the stick skills that enabled him to lead USA Hockey’s Select 17 Festival in scoring just two years ago. Needs to play with more of an edge, but those who know the BC loop know that when it comes to adding grit there is no better coach to play for than Nanaimo bench boss Mike Vandekamp.
17. Aaron Hadley, F, ’93 (Vernon) 6-3/200 — Western Michigan recruit will make his way south and be college ready and prepared to contribute. Is a gritty, two-way power forward who has some versatility, and is not pleasant to play against. Projects as a second or third line forward at the next level.
18. Matthew Grant, F, ’93 (Cowichan Valley) 6-3/207 — Big, skilled power forward is the top player for the Capitals. Played a season in the WHL back in 2010-2011 thus is off the board for NCAA schools. That said, we feel he will be a top player in the BCHL for the next couple of seasons.
19. Cody Depourcq, F, ’95 (Penticton) 5-6/160 — Small energy forward plays much bigger than he is. Does not shy away from traffic and is a bit of an agitator. The Denver recruit has a good stick and will need to rediscover his scoring touch in order to make an impact in the Mile High City. Still has two full seasons in the BCHL.
20. Jace Henning, F, ’95 (Coquitlam) 5-10/175 — Merrimack may have lost some recruits out in BC, but they have also landed quite a few good ones – Henning, for example. The Coquitlam, BC native played last season with Adam Rockwood for the Vancouver NE Chiefs and put up a 24-28-52 scoring line in 25 games played before finishing the season in the BCHL for Coquitlam. Will likely put up big numbers this season, but will benefit from being the go-to-guy for the Express in 2013-14.
21. Jedd Soleway, F, ’94 (Vernon) 6-2/208 — Very powerful center. Strong as an ox on the puck and a good skater for someone so thick. Is Vernon’s second line center and will look to improve on his 25 point rookie season. Uncommitted.
22. Austin Plevy, F, ’94 (Chilliwack) 5-10/175 — Merrimack recruit has a high skill level and is crafty with the puck. Will need to get stronger in order to make an impact in Hockey East, but his skill level is evident. Handles the puck well and makes plays at full speed. Does not have a lot of help on the Chiefs offensively as he is clearly the top forward. Played last season for Langley and produced a 13-30-43 scoring line in 58 games played.
23, 24 and 25. Myles, Leo and Gerry Fitzgerald, F, ’93 (Victoria) 5-8/170—There is no point in writing the Fitzgerald triplets up separately as they are all virtually the same exact player. The only difference is that Myles and Gerry shoot right and Leo is a lefty. It is almost as if their father knew one of them needed to play the back door on the PP and thus made Leo a lefty. We are told the triplets are not strong students and thus Ivy League schools are out – otherwise, these guys would be committed. The rest of the schools only get 18 scholarships and it is difficult to give 1/6 out in one shot. The triplets are fun and exiting to watch and – as you probably guessed -- play together on Victoria’s first line. We feel someone will step up and take these guys, even if it is a top D-III school like Norwich or St. Norbert.
26. Dante Hahn, F, ’95 (Victoria) 6-1/190 — This will either turn out to be a feel-good story, or show us to be totally wrong, but we felt Hahn looked like a D-I prospect here. The Victoria, BC native was at Shattuck-St. Mary’s last season where he did not make the prep team (he played on the second midget team). In 18 games played he put up a 2-0-2 scoring line; we couldn’t quite figure out why as he looked big, fast and skilled here. Either we are wrong on him, or Shattuck was. Time will tell.
27. Evan Tironesi, F, ’95 (Alberni Valley) 5-9/163 — RPI recruit has excellent vision and high-end hockey sense. Last season the Qualicum Beach, BC native compiled a 14-28-42 scoring line in 60 games played — impressive numbers for a 16-year-old rookie. We only got to see him play one game this weekend and it was on the rink with the poor sight lines, thus we did not get a great feel for his game. He could end up being much higher on this list.
28. Steen Cooper, F, ’95 (Cowichan Valley) 5-9/170 — A late ’95 who is still just 16 years old, Cooper plays a large role for the Capitals. A small, quick forward who projects as an energy player at the next level.
29. John Siemer, F, ’92 (Coquitlam) 5-9/175 — Glendora, California native will look to build on his 59 points in just 50 games played last season. Is a gritty forward with a good stick who really gets after it. Could play a role on a D-I team.
30. Max French, F, ’92 (West Kelowna) 5-10/180—Had a huge weekend, scoring four goals in two games. Will be a good player for Bentley University. Works extremely hard and thrives in the tough ice. Is the captain of the Warriors and leads by example. Is physically limited in terms of upside.
31. Ryan Lough, F, ’93 (Alberni Valley) 6-0/170 — St. Lawrence recruit will be effective in college because he gets around the ice so well. That said, we did not see him make a ton of plays, and have a difficult time projecting the Bulldogs captain as a top six forward.
32. Brady Shaw, F, ’92 (Coquitlam) 6-2/200 — Ottawa, Ontario native is big, strong and knows how to score goals. Would have a difficult time at the D-I level right now because his feet are pretty heavy, but if he can fix that problem he could turn into a steal. Scored 33 goals last year for Coquitlam.
33. Shawn Hochhausen, F, ’92 (West Kelowna) 6-1/185 — A smart, intelligent center. Has a good stick and is an all-around player. West Kelowna bench boss Rylan Ferster can’t say enough good things about the Kelowna, BC product.
34. Michael Rebry, F, ’93 (Penticton) 5-11/175 — Scored the OT winner against Vernon in the weekend’s marquee matchup. Played for Brantford (GOJHL) last season and put up a 28-30-58 scoring line in 48 games played. Someone to play close attention to. Uncommitted.
35T. Brett Mckinnon, F, ’92 (West Kelowna) 5-11/180 — Plays the game hard. A tough player who is tenacious on the puck. Had a monster weekend and currently leads the league in scoring with a 2-4-6 scoring line in two games played. Will have a hard time keeping his current scoring pace up.
35T. Lars Hespo, F, ’92 (Alberni Valley) 6-0/170 — We may have the Penticton, BC native low on the list as he has the potential to turn out to be a steal. Has a feel for the net and is strong on the puck. Scored four goals over the weekend.
1. Troy Stecher, D, ’94 (Penticton) 5-11/180 — The Nebraska-Omaha recruit is the most college-ready defenseman in the league. Could play in the WCHA this season with no problem. Will be an immediate contributor for the Mavericks next fall. Does it all for Penticton in the sense that he is the team’s #1 defender, the captain, and runs the PP. The third-year player from Richmond, BC was a big cog on last season’s national championship team, posting a 5-37-42 scoring line in 53 games played.
2. Adam Plant, D, ’95 (West Kelowna) 5-9/155 — The Harvard recruit is a lot of fun to watch. He is a small, puck-moving defender who can effectively run a PP. Has excellent feet and does not think twice about joining the offense. It is scary to think what the Crimson will do when Plant and NTDP defenseman Brandon Fortunato are paired together on the PP. Plant, through three games played, already has five points. For a rookie defender in such a good league, Plant just oozes with confidence. Is not slated to come to Cambridge until the fall of 2014, but if the Penticton, BC native keeps up his current pace the Harvard coaching staff may, with Danny Biega graduating, have no choice but to bring him in a year early.
3. Bo Pellah, D, ’95 (Langley) 6-1/165 — An effortless skater who, with the puck on his stick, exhibits no shortage of confidence. Is capable of being a one-man breakout as he takes the puck coast-to-coast with regularity. When Penn State landed ’96 born defenseman Kevin Kerr we felt he was the program’s most significant recruit, but that is no longer our opinion: Pellah is the man. The Hornets’ top player does have some filling out to do and also needs to gain a better understanding of the defensive side of things, but there is no denying the natural talent he possesses. Will improve on his 3-22-25 scoring line in 57 games played that he posted as a 16-year-old rookie. There is a strong possibility that the New Westminster, BC product will be selected in next June’s NHL draft.
4. Nolan Dejong, D, ’95 (Victoria) 6-2/180 — A Cornell recruit and Victoria, BC native, Dejong is big and has an excellent stick -- he delivers the puck with authority and could be running the Big Red’s PP in the not too distant future. An adequate skater, he still has a lot of filling out to do. He could also be the first BCHL defenseman to hear his name called at the 2013 NHL draft (he’s a slightly safer pro prospect than Pellah).
5. Brett Corkey, D, ’92 (Vernon) 5-11/192 — The Vipers’ captain is in his third year of BCHL play and his experience really shows. The Calgary native has a lot of poise to his game and looked good on the PP. Is committed to Colgate where we feel he will step right into the lineup and play a large role, most likely along the lines of current Colgate senior Jeremy Price.
6. Dylan Chanter, D, ’95 (Merritt) 6-3/195 — UNH has a stereotype of being a highly skilled team, but a touch on the soft side. Chanter will change that. The big, tough defender plays hard and is very effective in the defensive zone. Is at his best when he keeps things simple and quickly moves the puck up the ice. His skating keeps improving which, combined with his size, makes him a pro prospect. His offensive play is still a work in progress and definitely not his forte. That said, he will likely not play on the PP at UNH. Rather, he will be relied upon to be a big, mean, shutdown defenseman who plays against the opposition’s top lines. Brooks Orpik is a good comp. Chanter is not draft-eligible until 2014.
7. Luke Ripley, D, ’94 (Powell River) 6-3/195 — The top uncommitted defenseman in the BCHL. However, after last weekend, it is our guess that the Kitimat, BC native will be heavily recruited. The bottom line is that it is very challenging to find a defenseman who is 6’3”, can skate and can make a heads-up play — and Ripley can do that. Played for Dawson Creek (NAHL) last season, posting a 2-11-13 scoring line in 56 games played. Will likely surface on NHL Central Scouting’s players to watch list.
8. Marc Biega, D, ’94 (Coquitlam) 6-0/192 — The former Salisbury School captain looked really impressive at the showcase. His first couple of shifts were shaky, but after that he really settled in and got back to doing what he does — making plays and moving the puck up ice. The Pointe-Claire, Quebec native has seen his three older brothers move on to Harvard and it is no secret that he would like to do the same. We have heard from sources that his SAT score needs to come up quite a bit, but also that Biega is doing everything he can to get the score he needs. If he comes up short he will become a hot commodity for other schools.
9. Cam Marks, D, ’95 (Coquitlam) 6-0/175 — Rookie defenseman is still gaining confidence, but at times shows flashes of brilliance. Does a lot of things you can’t teach. The UNH recruit has high-end vision and will run the Wildcats’ PP at some point in his college career. Will benefit from playing two more seasons of junior hockey as the North Vancouver native needs to get bigger, stronger, and faster. By the end of his first game he was moved on to Coquitlam’s top PP unit, paired with Marc Biega.
10. Jordan Klimek, D, ’95 (Surrey) 5-11/165 — An offensive defenseman who is a good skater and makes an excellent first pass. Is in his first season of play in the BCHL. Played for the Valley West Hawks (BCMML) last season and put up an 8-34-42 scoring line in just 40 games played, finishing as the top scoring defenseman in the league. Uncommitted.
11. Sean Flanagan, D, ’92 (Salmon Arm) 6-1/170 — The Minnesota State recruit is a bright spot on a weak Salmon Arm team. The 20-year-old defenseman is an elite skater who has excellent gap control and likes to jump into the rush. Some of the top teams in the league will likely look to acquire the Kindersley, Saskatchewan native as they begin to build for a playoff push.
12. Alexandre Perron-Fontaine, D, ’92 (Chilliwack) 5-10/185 — RIT recruit was great here as he displayed poise and vision, especially in the offensive zone. 5’10” may be a bit of a stretch, but for an undersized defenseman he is strong on his skates and defends well. A good get for the Tigers.
13. James De Haas, D, ’94 (Penticton) 6-4/210 — Big, strong and reliable. Keeps things simple and does his job. The sixth round pick of the Detroit Red Wings was partnered up with Troy Stecher over the weekend and proved to be efficient on the PP. Headed to Clarkson next fall.
14. Ryan Renz, D, ’93 (Vernon) 6-3/205 — The big, stay-at-home defenseman committed to Northeastern a couple of years ago, but reneged on his commitment when the entire coaching staff that recruited him departed. Won a national title with the Vipers back in 2011 and is the type of defenseman that all successful teams have. Uncommitted.
15. DJ Jones, D, ’92 (Victoria) 5-8/170 — Plymouth, Minnesota native was solid as a rock here. One of those defenseman that you love having on your team. Strong, smart and reliable — eats up minutes and plays textbook defense. Does not get beat in 1x1 situations and makes a good, strong first pass. Headed to Army next fall.
16. Devon Toews, D, ’94 (Surrey) 5-11/165 — Quinnipiac recruit grew on us the more we watched him. Makes good decisions every time the puck is on his stick. Capable of playing the power play at the D-I level. Has talent, but we would like to see him step up and be a bit more assertive.
17. Jared Wilson, D, ’94 (Alberni Valley) 6-2/187 — Did not get a good feel for his game, but the Calgary Royals product is intriguing. Certainly has size, and is also getting a good opportunity to play on the Bulldogs PP – he has four points through his first four games. Last year he put up a 12-20-32 scoring line in 34 games played for the Royals Midget AAA squad. Someone to keep an eye on.
18. Kevin Guiltinan, D, ’95 (Vernon) 6-3/205 — Harvard recruit is still finding his way in his first season of junior hockey. Is young (17) and very raw, but he plays with an edge and will fill a role for the Crimson when he arrives in Cambridge. Right now, though, he’s a bull in a china shop. We were told that he made his presence felt throughout training camp and has already built a reputation around the league as someone you do not want to be on the ice with.
19. Craig Wyszomirski, D, ’92 (Surrey) 6-4/215 — The former Providence College defenseman looked good in his BCHL debut, scoring one of the weekend’s nicest goals. Will need to improve his composure and decision making, but the Gunnery School grad has a lot of positive physical attributes.
20T. Noah Henry, D, ’94 (Penticton) 6-0/185 — An excellent skater who is very athletic. Played for Shattuck St. Mary’s last season and won a national title. His skating allows him to defend at a high level, but we did not see much sizzle on the offensive side of his game. The Seattle, Wash. native is uncommitted.
20T. Blake Thompson, D, ’92 (Victoria) 6-1/185 — Great feet for a big guy. Listowel, Ontario native makes some questionable decisions, but at times looks really good. Was partnered with DJ King at the showcase and the two developed some chemistry.
20T. Dan O’Keefe, D, ’94 (Surrey) 6-2/200 — The Team Comcast product looked much improved. Will greatly benefit from two seasons of junior hockey before arriving at Yale. A big defenseman who can skate, O’Keefe is getting better at defending. Could be a solid, consistent presence for the Bulldogs in the future.
20T. Chase Van Allen, D, ’92 (Alberni Valley) 5-10/190 — Smallish, undersized defender has a good stick and makes a lot of plays happen on the offensive blue line. Playing D-I hockey could be a challenge, but the Anchorage, Alaska native should be at the top of the charts for D-III schools.
It should be noted that there were some top 16-year-old defenders omitted from this list. Both Victor Dombrovsky (Langley), who recently committed to Yale, and Mike Meetch (Victoria) will eventually be standouts in the league. However, it was difficult to get a good sense of what they could do given their limited playing time and lack of play on special teams, thus they are not ranked.
1. Mitch Gillam, G, late ’92 (Chilliwack) 5-11/181 — Has improved dramatically since his days at the Berkshire School. It is not like the Peterborough, Ontario native was bad while playing prep hockey, it’s just that he has become infinitely more consistent. Cornell has had a lot of success at the goaltending position as David LeNevue, Mike McKee, Ben Scrivens (all signed NHL contracts) and current netminder Andy Iles have been the last four starting goaltenders. It would appear that Gillam, now in his second year at Chilliwack, is the heir apparent in the crease in Ithaca, NY.
2. Cole Huggins, G, ’92 (Coquitlam) 6-0/180 — It would be difficult for us not to put the Express backstop near the top of our list: he did not let in a single goal during the showcase. It appears that, in his third season of BCHL play, Huggins is well on his way to having a career year. The uncommitted Englewood, Colorado native put up very respectable numbers last season, posting a 2.99 GAA and a .918 save percentage while going 21-6-2. Coquitlam has a shot to win the league this year and if they do Huggins will play a starring role.
3. Brady Rouleau, G, ’93 (Victoria) 6-2/180 — The journeyman goaltender appears to be settling into his new digs nicely. Only played one of two games at the showcase, but he was excellent in his Grizzlies debut. In two games thus far the former Canmore Eagle (AJHL) has posted a 1.49 GAA and a .934 save percentage. Is a college free agent.
4. Tyler Steel, G, ’93 (Merritt) 6-2/175 — Has a bit of a buzz surrounding him as he finished last season on a high note. Did not look particularly strong at the showcase, but it is evident that the Vernon, BC product is big and athletic. Will look to earn a scholarship in his third season of junior hockey.
5T. Chad Katunar, G, ’93 (Penticton) 6-4/215 — The massive tender was the backup last season for the Vees and is now moving into the spotlight. He is off to a good start too, going 3-0 with a .939 save percentage and a 1.86 GAA. It is no secret that he plays on the top team in the league and may not be asked to do the work of some of the other goaltenders, but there is something to be said for someone who delivers when asked. Is very raw right now, but at 6’4” there is a lot to like about where his game could go. Uncommitted.
5T. Jayson Argue, G, ’93 (Nanaimo) 6-0/175 — Veteran goaltender was excellent in the Manitoba junior loop in Swan Valley and will now look to conquer the BCHL. Is off to a good start going 2-1 in his first three starts and posting a .953 save percentage and a 1.34 GAA. Competes very hard; has a strong drive to win games.
Hey Ho, Let's Go: Part III
#11 Tri-City Storm
The Storm have a strong chance to finish much higher than this, but a #1 goalie will have to step forward (four goalies were rostered at the Fall Classic). And young players will be counted on to score a lot, which is not something you want to hang your hat on. Nonetheless, head coach Josh Hauge could have a lot of fun coaching this group as his squad will be fast, skilled and upbeat. T
Trevor Moore, F, 3/31/95 (Denver) 5-9170-Produced a 12-20-32 scoring line in 49 games played last season, which is extremely impressive for a 16 year old. This season, we expect Moore to explode. Every time he steps on the ice the former LA Selects star creates offense. He plays hard and excels in traffic and, because his skill level is so high, we wouldn't be surprised to see the 5'9" Californian get his name called at the NHL draft.
Dylan Maller, D, 4/15/94 (New Hampshire) 6-1/185-An effortless skater who gets up and down the ice very quickly. His feet will carry him a long way. The Team Maryland product needs to improve his play with the puck, but should have no problem transitioning to higher levels.
Garrett Gamez, F, 2/17/95 (Denver) 6-1/175-It did not take the coaching staff long to combine Gamez and Moore, their two most skilled players. The former LA Junior King was quiet in his first game at the Fall Classic, but looked much improved in the second, a 3-0 loss to Cedar Rapids. Will score a lot of goals at Denver. Has a great shot release and is intelligent with his puck decisions.
Garett Cecere, D, 1/5/95 (Colorado College) 5-10/175-Played last season for the Janesville Jets (NAHL) and has already established himself as Tri-City's PP quarterback. The West Des Moines, Iowa native is slick and creative with puck. Will have to get stronger to have an impact at CC, but his offensive instincts will make him an asset immediately.
Brian Ward, F, 2/14/92 (Uncommitted) 6-1/195-Was the final member on the Moore/Gamez line. Do not know if he projects as a finisher at the D-I level, but the Haverhill, Mass native has a heavy shot and will likely pot quite a few goals if he sticks on that line. Scored 26 goals in 28 games as a senior at Governor's Academy.
Joel L'Esperance, F, 8/18/95 (Michigan Tech) 6-2/195-Big, strong power forward is a bull on the puck and like an ox in front of the net. His feet need to get quicker, but the Brighton, Michigan native will likely be playing a large role in his rookie season.
Top Uncommitted Players
Josh McCardle, D, 5/8/94, 6-1/190 - #18 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Roscoe, Illinois native is in his second year with the Storm. A no-nonsense, meat-and- potatoes, workmanlike defender, he is a good skater who keeps things simple and plays with an edge.
Nolan Gluchowski, D, 1/24/94, 5-11/185 - #19 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Played for Detroit Catholic Central HS last season. Is confident on the offensive side of the puck and looks good on the PP. Will have to tighten up his d-zone play, but has good hands and a head for the game, so the rest should come with seasoning.
#12 Fargo Force
John Marks has a big, strong group, but we felt there were pieces missing. We did not see a dynamic, offensive defenseman who will run their PP or a forward ready to be a difference-maker and compete for the scoring title. That said, there is talent in this bunch and certain players will likely prove us wrong.
Justin Wade, D, 4/13/94 (Notre Dame) 6-2/210-Meat and potatoes defenseman who is rock solid in his own end. Will likely never put up big numbers, but at the end of the day the Chicago Mission alum will likely lead the team in minutes played. Has good feet for someone his size and does not try to do too much. A pro prospect.
Gabe Guertler, F, 5/3/95 (Minnesota) 5-9/175-Has a lot of expectations on his shoulders. Some have suggested that the Plantation, Florida native has the talent to lead the league in points. However, Guertler did not demonstrate that game-breaking ability over the course of the pre-season or at the Select 17 festival over the summer though that could change as he adjusts to the bigger role and higher expectations.
David Gust, F, 2/21/94 (Ohio State) 5-8/168-Skilled and crafty playmaker. Was called up last season from midget hockey and immediately contributed, posting a 14-16-30 scoring line in 43 games played. Has been combined with Guertler and rookie Michael Booth on the top line.
Taylor Fleming, D, 2/17/93 (Air Force) 5-10/185- A player who we had planned to rank in our list of top 25 uncommitted USHL players - but then he committed to Air Force over the weekend. The Waconia, Minn. native will QB Fargo's PP. He's smart, he's intelligent, and he has a good stick.
Jordan Nelson, F, 4/16/92 (Uncommitted) 6-0/185-Williston, North Dakota native plays with a ton of energy and competes hard. Could play a role at the next level.
Victor Bjorkung, D, 4/7/93 (Maine) 6-0/170-Swedish defenseman is a powerful skater with excellent feet -- his skating really stands out. A Stockholm native, Bjorkung is being asked to run the PP, a role he did not seem totally comfortable with. Played last season in the top junior league in his native country.
Dominic Toninato, F, 3/9/94 (Minnesota-Duluth) 6-1/170- A fifth round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in June. Has skill and will be called up to produce right away. Played for Duluth East HS last year, posting a 27-34-61 scoring line in just 25 games played.
Top Uncommitted Players
Michael Booth, F, 3/20/96, 5-10/172 - #9 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. We have been watching the former Team Illinois forward for quite a while and he keeps improving. A Cary, Illinois native, Booth is developing into one of the top NCAA prospects in the '96 age group. At the Fall Classic, Booth was on Fargo's top line with Gabe Guertler (Minnesota) and David Gust (Ohio State) and he did not look one bit out of place. Is fast and quick enough to be a PK/energy forward at the next level, but is also skilled and poised enough to play in the top six.
#13 Indiana Ice
Indiana has a lot of unproven players and first-year head coach Ron Gay faces a challenge in building an identity for his squad. Many players will have to take huge steps forward in their development for the Ice to contend. That said, they are one of the better teams to watch, as some of their players are exciting.
Robbie Baillargeon, F, 11/26/93 (Boston University) 6-0/175-The Ottawa Senators (NHL) draft pick is one of the most talented players in the league and will put up a lot of points. However, for the Ice to be successful the former Cushing Academy star will have to do more than just put up points-he will have to be responsible in all three zones, create his own opportunities and lead by example.
Woody Hudson, F, 8/10/92 (Cornell) 6-3/225-Will not be a prolific scorer or put up a lot of points, but the former Milton Academy forward impacts the game in a positive fashion when he is on his game. With the possible exception of McKee, also a former New England prep school player, there is not a more intimidating physical presence in the league. When the Rochester Alliance product gets to the ECAC and plays in some of those small barns he will make life difficult on the opposition.
Joshua Jacobs, D, 2/15/96 (Michigan State) 6-2/194-Looked excellent in his USHL debut. A complete defenseman who can skate, make a solid first pass and defend with the best of them. Does not project as an offensive PP type, but does have pro upside. Played for Honeybaked U16 team last year.
Joshua Shellman, D, 4/26/94 (Uncommitted) 5-7/202-A pleasant surprise. Short and stocky defender has excellent feet and can really zip the puck around.
Top Uncommitted Players
We didn't rank any Indiana player among the top 25 uncommitted players in the league.
#14 Sioux Falls Stampede
It is only a matter of time before Cary Eades has the Stampede contending for a title. However, based solely on talent alone we think that immediate success might be difficult to attain. Still, there are positives here and it starts with goaltending. Charlie Lindgren and Jan Obernesser both have the ability to steal games. In addition, Sioux Falls has a good stock of young prospects who, as they become acclimated to the league, will make their presence felt.
Charlie Lindgren, G, 12/18/93 (St. Cloud) 6-3/180-Has the tools to be a pro -- when he's on his game he is as good as anyone. Lakeville North HS alum is big, athletic and technically sound. Could be a difference-maker for St. Cloud.
Matt Van Voorhis, D, 1/19/93 (Denver) 5-7/170-19-year-old defender has been committed to Denver since he was 16. The NTDP grad has a lot of experience in junior hockey and - as he should -- looked confident over the weekend. The Grand Forks, North Dakota native may never be the defenseman the Pioneers envisioned years ago, but that doesn't mean he won't help the cause.
Cody Milan, F, 4/11/96 (Michigan State) 6-1/166-The 16-year-old Orchard Lake, Michigan native did not look young and inexperienced over the weekend. Played with confidence in his abilities. Milan, who will be an NHL draft prospect next season, skates well, has quick hands, and, for a big kid, is shifty and difficult to hit.
Ryan Siiro, F, 2/12/93 (Princeton) 6-2/212-Has improved by leaps and bounds over the last couple of seasons. Is still a project, but his upside is higher than most and he will be given an opportunity this season to play in a scoring role.
Top Uncommitted Players
Sam Rothstein, F, 8/31/93, 5-9/162 - #8 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Quick, smart and productive. Is slippery in traffic and is especially tough to contain in transition. Played last year for Minnetonka HS, producing a two-points-per-game pace, and finished last season with Sioux Falls compiling a 3-4-7 line in 14 games. Will be one the Stampede's most consistent offensive threats from Day 1.
Jan Obernessor, G, 12/3/92, 6-1/170 - #12 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Originally from Homberg, Germany; has since relocated to Calgary. Played the last couple of seasons in the AJHL, where he led the Brooks Bandit to a league title last season. Is athletic, moves fluidly, and has good posture in the net. His game could really take off in the USHL.
Connor Valesano, F, 2/10/95, 5-10/165 - #20 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Will need some time to settle into the USHL, but the skill is there. Posted a 12-24-36 scoring line in 31 games played last season for Duluth East HS.
#15 Des Moines Buccaneers
Our gut tells us this will be a long season for the Buccaneers. The first game of the Fall Classic featured Des Moines vs. Cedar Rapids and the difference between the two teams was substantial. Jon Rogger does have some skilled players and some exciting recruits, but their chances of making noise in the playoffs are slim.
Luke Voltin, F, 4/13/95 (North Dakota) 6-0/195-It was difficult for the Blaine, Minnesota native to generate much offense in the games we saw, but his talent is obvious. Would like to see him play with more pace and intensity because his hands and feet are both high-end.
Zach Saar, F, 6/22/93 (Penn State) 6-5/205-Not really sure what type of player he will become for the Nittany Lions, but we are certain the Richland, Michigan native will be very important to the Bucs this season. Will be called upon to stand up for his teammates as well as bang in goals in front of the net. Like most big men he needs to work on his feet and overall coordination.
Luke Shiplo, D, 5/31/95 (Western Michigan) 5-9/170-Skilled, heady defenseman. Will likely see a lot of the time on the power play. Played last season for the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots (OJHL).
Michael Marnell, F, 5/18/95 (Uncommitted) 5-10/165-Has really quick hands and is a dangerous player in tight spaces. Played last season for the Long Island Royals U16 team where he played a large role in their winning a National Championship. Needs to get bigger, stronger and more explosive.
Top Uncommitted Players
Nolan Valleau, D, 11/15/92, 6-2/180 - #17 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. The Novi, Michigan native put himself on the map at the Fall Classic. Has good size, pretty good feet, and a really good stick. Will need to learn to defend better, but that is coachable -- the other things he brings to the table are not.
Hey Ho, Let's Go: Part II
#6 Sioux City Musketeers
We may be picking the Musketeers a touch low - they definitely have some firepower and we envision them going deep into the post-season. Our only real question mark surrounding Brett Larson's squad is between the pipes. Neither Kyle Hayton (Shattuck) or Joe Ballmer (Jamestown-NAHL) have USHL experience and in their 5-4 loss to the Under-18 team at the Fall Classic goaltending was an issue. If one of their new netminders steps up they could move into the top four.
David Goodwin, F, 2/27/92 (Penn State) 5-10/180-Our bet to take home league MVP honors. Was certainly the most impressive player at the Fall Classic. Has this league figured out and would make an impact in D1 hockey this season. The Des Peres, Missouri native makes the players around him better. Every time he was out there the ice appeared tilted. Will be an immediate contributor at Penn State.
Jordan Boucher-Gould, F, 2/21/94 (Clarkson) 6-0/170-Is a fast skater with good stick skills. Was playing on the top line with Goodwin and the two fed off each other's skills. The St. Therese, Quebec native is especially effective on the PP. Looked confident over the weekend and could have a big year.
Dan Molenaar, D, 7/5/3 (Minnesota-Duluth) 5-11/185-Solid, veteran defender brings a lot of everything to the table. Is a strong skater who defends well and is comfortable on the PP. Committed last weekend to play college hockey for the Bulldogs.
Cliff Watson, D, 12/21/93 (Ohio State) 6-2/210-Appleton, Wisconsin native is in his second season with the Musketeers and looked very good here. Is still a bit of a project, but the San Jose (NHL) draft pick has a strong chance to be a pro. Skates well for such a big body. Could develop into a force for the Buckeyes.
Ryan Mantha, D, 6/18/96 (North Dakota) 6-5/210- We saw him last winter playing forward for Belle Tire's U16 team and can report that his future lies on the back end. The nephew of NHL veteran Moe Mantha is a man-child, one the biggest players in the league at just 16 years old. Is a perfect fit for North Dakota as he really fits their mold of defenseman - big and mean. His feet have a long way to go, but the Clarkston, Michigan native is still young and has an ultra-high upside. Very well could be a top two round NHL draft pick in 2014.
Cam Brown, F, 3/25/93 (Maine) 5-7/150-Tiny, super-skilled forward will make an immediate impact. Is technically a rookie, but has already played a couple seasons of junior hockey in the EJHL and we are certain he would do just fine at Maine right now. Works hard, is tenacious, and could be the most agile player in the league. Is a product of Tim Lovell's Boston Advantage organization.
Blake Heinrich, D, 2/17/95 (Minnesota-Duluth) 6-0/185-Hill-Murray product looked mature beyond his years. The Cambridge, Minn. native is more of an offensive d-man, but his skating is so good that it makes defending an easier task for him. Heinrich is a player we feel NHL scouts will be taking a long look at.
Jake Guentzel, F, 10/6/94 (Nebraska-Omaha) 5-9/155-An Intelligent player who is responsible in all three zones. The son of University of Minnesota associate head coach Mike Guentzel. Played the point on the PP here and showed top-notch vision and poise. Lit up Minnesota high school last season posting a 21-46-67 scoring line in only 25 games played.
Top Uncommitted Players
Michael Kapla, D, 9/19/94, 6-1/195 - #6 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Has an exceptional stick and a great mind for the game. Last season he played for Eau Claire (Wisc.) Memorial HS - ‘the Old Abes' -- and posted a 4-34-38 scoring line in just 21 games played. His skating is not very good, but his hands and PP skills more than compensate.
Tanner Pond, F, 5/31/93, 5-11/182 - #24 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Plays the game hard and with a lot of energy. Makes a living in the tough ice. Commerce, Michigan native has played for Cedar Rapids the last two seasons.
#7 Chicago Steel
Steel head coach Scott McConnell has a sound, solid lineup loaded with 18 and 19 year olds - generally a recipe for success in this league. The Steel also have two goaltenders capable of seeing a lot of minutes, a talented group of defenseman, and a lot of forwards who can make plays.
Jacob Slavin, D, 5/1/94 (Colorado College) 6-2/170-Would be surprised if the Carolina Hurricanes (NHL) draft pick is not named the team's MVP at season's end. The Colorado Thunderbirds product will eat up a lot of minutes in all situations. The CC recruit will be on the first PP, top PK, will play against the opposition's top lines, and will be on the ice when his team is down a goal. A huge get for the Tigers.
Christian Heil, F, 3/25/94 (Colorado College) 6-1/180- We feel Heil's best hockey is ahead of him and that he is poised for a breakout season. The Westminster, Colorado native has a long reach and smooth hands. There's upside here and Heil is someone NHL scouts will pay close attention to.
Phillip Marinaccio, F, 4/14/93 (Bemidji State) 5-11/180-A complete player who should finish atop the team's scoring charts. Last season the Woodbridge, Ontario native produced a 10-28-38 scoring line in 44 games played. The former Vaughan Viper (GTHL) is an absolute steal for the Beavers.
Mackenzie MacEachern, F, 3/9/94 (Michigan State) 6-3/180-A year in the USHL will serve the future Spartan well. Was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 NHL draft by the St. Louis Blues. Absolutely dominated Michigan high school hockey for Brother Rice, compiling a 42-48-90 scoring line in 29 games played. Has a boatload of offensive ability.
Johnny Wingels, D, 2/2/94, 5-10/185 - A defender who brings a lot of positives to the table, Wingels is a strong skater who is versatile and extremely smart with the puck on his stick. In his first week of play is already looking like a seasoned USHL veteran. Is the younger brother of former Miami-Ohio captain and current San Jose (NHL) forward Tommy Wingels. Played for Team Illinois U18s last season. Was #7 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List earlier in the week, but then, a few days ago, he followed in his brother's footsteps and committed to Miami-Ohio.
Chris Nell, G, 4/24/93 (Uncommitted) 6-3/165-Was the Steel's 1st round draft pick (6th overall) last year. The gangly, athletic tender was rock solid playing Wisconsin high school hockey at Notre Dame Academy last season, posting 1.58 GAA and a .923 save percentage. Missed making our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List but could get there before long.
Top Uncommitted Players
Jeff Kubiak, F, 1/18/94, 6-3/205 - #23 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Is tall, rangy, and has a lot of upside. Is still pretty young and we feel the Chicago Fury product, a native of Tinley Park, Ill., is poised for a breakout season.
#8 Lincoln Stars
We envision Lincoln getting better as the season moves along, but there will certainly be some growing pains as the Stars have a young, inexperienced group of defensemen. Head coach Chad Johnson has a lot of firepower up front, which will win him games. The "X" factor for the Stars will be between the pipes. If rookie Michael Bitzer can perform like he did at Moorhead HS, where he posted a 2.06 GAA and a .930 save percentage, Lincoln might have something. However, third-year veteran Jackson Teichroeb will likely start the season.
Luke Johnson, F, 9/19/94 (North Dakota) 6-0/175-The Grand Forks, North Dakota native -- and son of Steve Johnson -- will be expected to compete for the league scoring title before he departs to play for his hometown team. Was rated an "A" player by NHL Central Scouting, meaning their staff feels he has the potential to be a 1st round pick. That may be a bit lofty in our opinion, but he's definitely a ballplayer. Can skate, competes, plays in all situations and can really shoot it.
Mike McKee, D, 8/17/93 (Western Michigan) 6-4/230-Say what you want about the former Kent School defender, but the bottom line is that his presence is felt every time he is on the ice. Is a feared player in this league. Yes, he will struggle at first at Western. Yes, his skating and agility need a lot of work. That said, his hands and head are both assets. Could play in the NHL should he choose to get there using his fists.
Dominik Shine, F, 4/18/93 (Ohio State) 5-11/180-Savvy veteran is entering his fourth season in Lincoln and will eclipse the 100 career point total this season. Has been a constant producer over the years. Only played in 32 games last year and managed to post an 11-21-31 scoring line. Has quick hands and will feed Johnson a lot of goals. Is ready to play for Ohio State.
Will Suter, F, 1/22/92 (Uncommitted) 5-10/180-The Omaha, Nebraska native will probably never be a prolific point producer, but we feel he would be a nice addition for the right D-I program. Really plays the game hard. Pays attention to detail and appears to be someone you might want on your team.
Daniel Willet, D, 2/23/96 (Northeastern) 5-6/150-We were shocked by how comfortable the Long Island Gulls product looked. Really made an impact and is arguably Lincoln's top defenseman at just 16 years of age. Ran the PP with a lot of confidence and got a lot of pucks on net. We have been guilty of questioning how the Bayville, NY native will ever defend and have an impact at his size, but that his no longer a concern of ours. Willet will be an impact player for the Huskies when he arrives on St. Botolph Street.
Vinni Lettieri, F, 2/6/95 (Minnesota) 5-9/170-Not very big or fast, but his stick skills are elite - right near the top of the league. Has a quick release combined with lethal accuracy. It's a sure thing that he will score -- a lot. The Excelsior, Minnesota native made a smooth transition to the USHL at the end of last season posting a 4-4-8 scoring line in 15 games played.
Top Uncommitted Players
We didn't rank any Lincoln player among the top 25 uncommitted players in the league
#9 Muskegon Lumberjacks
Jim McKenzie has one of the top group of defensemen in the league, which can carry a team deep into the post-season. Some younger, inexperienced players will have to play a big role in order for the Lumberjacks to actually compete for a title. As for scoring, a lot of responsibility will fall on the young shoulders of rookie Frederick Tiffels. The Lumberjacaks will have to win the low-scoring battles.
Rasmus Bengtsson, D, 5/14/93 (Florida Panthers-NHL) 6-2/195-If we were building a USHL team from scratch and were able to pick one single player to build around the Panthers 2nd round pick in 2011 would be our guy. For our money the Lanskrona, Sweden native is the top player in the league - as he should be. Bengtsson has already competed on the international level for Sweden at the Under-17s and Under-18s and he stands a good chance of making ttheir World Junior team this year. Will almost surely sign with the Panthers at the end of the season.
Mason Jobst, F, 2/17/94 (Uncommitted) 5-7/160-We expect to see the Speedway, Indiana native improve on last year's numbers -- 2-8-10 in 32 games played. He's crafty, skilled and can fill a top six role and make a difference on the power play.
Patrick Koudys, D, 11/15/92 (Uncommitted) 6-3/200-Has already played two seasons at RPI. A 5th round pick of the Washington, Capitals, Koudys will need some time to regain the confidence he had while playing for the Burlington Cougars (OJHL) two years ago, but once he does he could be a force. The Smithville, Ontario native is big, strong, skates well and is difficult for forwards to avoid in the defensive zone. Not someone who is enjoyable to play against.
Adam Gilmour, F, 1/29/94 (Boston College) 6-3/190-The Minnesota Wild's fourth round pick has a ton of pro potential, but it will take the former Noble & Greenough star some time to adjust to the speed of the USHL. Once the Hanover, Mass native does adjust to the pace his play will take off. The Boston College recruit has that rare combination of size and skill. Needs to add some sandpaper to his game, though.
Ben Foster, F, 5/27/93 (Princeton) 6-0/187 - Choate graduate is a smart, reliable, two-way centerman who is capable of making plays and creating offense. Not many 19 year olds play as consistently as Darien, Conn. native. You know exactly what you are getting out of the future Tiger every night. Was slotted in as the Lumberjacks first line center at the Fall Classic.
Mike Brodzinski, D, 5/28/95 (Minnesota) 5-11/190- An all-purpose defender. Can play the game anyway you want. Has a nice blend of skill and toughness. Is still just 17 years old, but we envision him logging a lot of minutes as the season progresses.
Top Uncommitted Players
Frederik Tiffels, F, 5/20/95, 6-0/190 - #3 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. We wrote about him at length Monday (see Tiffels Shines at Fall Classic, USHR News, 9/24/12) yesterday, so don't have too much to add. But we will reiterate: Tiffels has an extremely high skill level coupled with a strong desire to create offense. The Cologne, Germany native has a quick set of hands and slips checks neatly. Will be an impact player at the NCAA level playing a top six role as early as next season. Our one knock on him is that he does not shoot the puck much nor does he engage in physical battles as often as we'd like.
#10 Youngstown Phantoms
Youngstown coaches Anthony Noreen and Rob Rassey have a group that is well coached, competes, and will never quit on a game. This team is built from the net out as Sean Romeo and Patrick Spano are a fantastic combination to have. In addition, there is a solid core of returners and enough skill to score go als. The challenge in Youngstown will be getting 16 and 17 year olds to play like men.
Austin Cangelosi, F, 8/27/94 (Boston College) 5-7/170-When you ask scouts who they feel will win the scoring title this season Cangelosi's name is always in the conversation. The Estero, Florida native is dynamic, skilled, and competitive. The Florida Everblades product and former Northfield-Mt. Hermon star will replace Steven Whitney in the BC lineup next season. The two are very comparable.
Todd Koritzinsky, F, 9/1/93 (Uncommitted) 5-10/175-Quick and shifty forward played with a lot of pace and energy. Was consistently noticeable. Will be interesting to see how the Verona, Wisconsin native responds to a larger role this season. Posted a 5-6-11 scoring line in 37 games last year.
Kyle Conner, F, 12/9/96 (Michigan) 6-0/165-The high school sophomore is a high-end college/pro prospect. We felt he should have been named to NTDP for this season. Is not eligible for the NHL draft until 2015, but all indications are that he will be ranked very high. At the Fall Classic, Conner, a Belle Tire product, adapted quickly to the pace of the USHL as he consistently created offense. The best part of his game is how reliable he is in his own zone. At 15 years of age, the Shelby Township, Michigan native could play against other teams' top lines and hold his own.
Patrick Spano, G, 3/9/93 (Yale) 6-1/180-Big, athletic netminder from Montreal, Quebec. Graduated from Westminster last year after an impressive prep school career. The Yale recruit plays his angles well and takes away most options. It will be interesting to see which goaltender in Youngstown is the guy come playoff time.
JJ Piccinich, F, 6/12/96 (Boston University) 5-11/175-Did not stand out in his first weekend of junior hockey. However, we know his game well and feel confident the Paramus, NJ native will make his presence felt before long. Piccinich is a complete, highly-competitive player who will chew your leg off to score a goal.
Top Uncommitted Players
Sean Romeo, G, 11/7/94, 6-1/165 - #22 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Some scouts feel the Cary, North Carolina native is ready to step into NCAA action next season and make an impact.
James Mazza, D, 7/7/94, 6-2/185 - Tied for the #25 slot on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Intriguing player who could blossom this season. Has a good stick and the makeup of a PP quarterback type. Will be someone to watch closely. Kings Park, NY native played last season for the NY Bobcats (AJHL).
Hey Ho, Let's Go: Part I
It's opening weekend in the USHL and, just for fun, we've ranked the league's teams. We've done this before, with varying degrees of success. And here's the one thing we've learned: it's a long haul in the USHL, and the teams you see at the Fall Classic look very different by the time April comes around. Why? These are teenage athletes playing a sport in which the group dynamic plays a key role -- and many of the most skilled are, for the first time in their life, far from home, getting pushed outside their comfort zones.
That's the macro viewpoint, and it applies to pro athletes, too, but not to the same degree as it does to younger athletes. (Sharp readers will now see that we're just pointing all this out so that, when April comes, and we're off the mark on anything, we have a handy out.)
Of far greater importance to us than which team wins the Clark Cup is the fact that we have watched the bulk of this league's players for a long time, in many different settings, and at many different levels. We've taken that knowledge, combined it with what we saw at the USHL Fall Classic, and have identified those players we feel will go on to become top college and pro players.
For purposes of classification, we've broken those players down into three categories: returning players, newcomers, and top uncommitted players.
The first two categories are pretty self-explanatory, but the last one -- uncommitted players -- begs for an explanation, this because we wrote extensively about those uncommitted players on Tuesday, when ranking our Top 25. Naturally, all of those players would also fall into one or the other of the first two categories.
Still, they have their own grouping, which is a bit of an artificial construct. And, in an effort to avoid repeating ourselves word for word, yet also provide a handy guide to the league, we edited down our Tuesday report, thus cannibalizing some of our own work.
We did this in order to present a concise picture of the league, and keep it all within one article that, while lengthy, is hopefully informative enough to keep you, the reader, entertained.
We hope you enjoy it. And by all means, haul it out again at the end of the season. We always do that ourselves, to see where we hit the mark -- and where we missed.
#1 Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
Our pick to take home the Clark Cup. The RoughRiders are just solid throughout the lineup. We see no chinks in their armor. They have an older, mature team that is well coached and disciplined. Look for Mark Carlson's squad to sit near the top of the division all season long and turn it on down the stretch.
Landon Smith, F, 10/18/93 (Denver) 5-11/178 - Played a limited role last year as an energy/PK guy. That will not be the case this season. The future Pioneer, who really explodes out of the gate, created a ton of scoring opportunities at the Fall Classic. Look for the Greenwood Village, Colorado native to emerge as one of the league's stars.
Ian Brady, D, 5/22/94 (Nebraska-Omaha) 6-0/194 - In his third season with the RoughRiders, Brady has blossomed into one of the league's smartest, most consistent defenders. Is reliable on the PP, PK and 5x5 situations. Will make a smooth transition to D-I hockey next season.
Gerald Mayhew, F, 12/31/92 (Ferris State) 5-9/157 - Scored 20 goals last season and will be a consistent scorer this season as well. The Wyandotte, Michigan native is the type of player that the Ferris State staff has made a living off of recruiting.
Gavin Bayreuther, D, 5/12/94 (St. Lawrence) 6-0/184 - Looked really, really good at the Fall Classic. The Holderness School product was confident, poised, and decisive. In our opinion the Canaan, NH native is among the top five defenseman in the entire league. Will only get better as this will be the first year of his life that hockey is his sole focus (Bayreuther was a lacrosse star at both Cardigan Mountain and Holderness). Was passed over in June's NHL Draft, but we do not think it will happen twice.
Andrew Poturalski, F, 1/14/94 (New Hampshire) 5-10/176 - Did not play this past weekend, but that does not mean the Williamsville, New York native will not make an immediate impact. Those who know Mark Carlson know that he is not a man of many words. Indeed, he holds his cards so tight to his chest that it's remarkable that he can even breathe. This summer we asked Carlson who he was impressed by at camp/tryouts and he was only willing to give us one name: Poturalski.
Chris Birdsall, G, 11/24/96 (Boston College) 5-11/160 - Stopped 27 of 30 shots in a 4-3 win over Lincoln. At just 15 years old the Glen Rock, NJ native is mature beyond his years. It is not out of the question that the Long Island Gulls product will emerge as the RoughRiders starting goaltender. Is the top '96 goalie in the country right now.
Corey Petrash, F, 12/29/94 (Bemidji State) 5-10/164-Fits perfectly into the mold of a Cedar Rapids player. Plays the game fast, hard and is a pest to play against. Will likely not light it up this season, but you will always notice him. Played last season for the Winnipeg Saints (MJHL).
Top Uncommitted Players
Davey Middleton, F, 5/21/92, 6-3/202 - #10 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Could be a classic late bloomer. Hit his stride last year after a mid-season trade from Tri-City to the RoughRiders. Is a big kid with soft hands, a hard shot, and pretty good feet. Would not be the least bit surprised if the former Detroit Catholic Central HS player got some NHL free-agent interest down the line.
Dylan McLaughlin, F, 6/5/95, 5-11/172 - #11 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Was committed to Northeastern, but has since decided to test the college free agency market. The former Buffalo Regal played a limited role last season as a 16 year old for Sioux Falls (USHL). We feel this season will be a breakout year for the talented centerman with high-end vision. Is a hockey player, someone you can put on the ice in any situation and know he will get the job done for you.
#2 Green Bay Gamblers
It is truly a coin flip as to who we think the top USHL team is: Green Bay or Cedar Rapids. Derek Lalonde will be looking to go 2-for-2 as a USHL head coach, and he has a really good chance to make it happen. The Gamblers return nine players from their championship team and have brought in a slew of USHL-ready recruits.
Sheldon Dries, F, 4/23/94 (Western Michigan) 5-10/170-Our guess is that the Western Michigan recruit will finish in the top 10 in league scoring. Has the skill level to be a special player in college. Will shine when he is pushed into a leading role with the departures of Alex Broadhurst (London-OHL), Nolan Laporte (Western Michigan) and Sam Herr (Notre Dame). Has All-America potential.
Kyle Novak, F, 10/13/92 (Western Michigan) 5-10/178-Not sure why the St. Louis, Missouri native is still in the league -- he is clearly college ready. Will pile on the points this season, and make an immediate impact at the NCAA level next fall.
Nicholas Schilkey, F, 5/12/94 (Ohio State) 5-10/175-The Honeybaked product is primed for a breakout season. Is one the most underappreciated skill guys in the league. Does not have a lot of cachet surrounding his name, but we think he should. Does nothing but make plays. A good get for the Buckeyes.
Nick Schmaltz, F, 2/23/96 (North Dakota) 5-11/170-There might not be a player with more skill in the entire league than the Verona, Wisconsin native. Is in a good situation for a 16 year old as he is on a veteran team and will not be relied too heavily. Has all the flash and dash in the world. If the Chicago Mission product would like to get 1st round consideration for the 2014 NHL draft he will have to round out his game. Got his toes wet playing 11 games for Green Bay last season.
Gustov Oloffson, D, 12/1/94 (Colorado College) 6-2/190-An NHL draft prospect from the Colorado Thunderbirds organization. For a big man he skates well and has a good stick. The Boras, Sweden native has been stateside for two years now and will be a nice addition to the Tigers' blue line in 2014.
Jake Linehart, D, 1/17/96 (Wisconsin) 5-10/160-One of many young players oozing with confidence at the Fall Classic. The Brookfield, Wisconsin native has great feet and really quick hands. At just 16 the Chicago Mission product already seems like the logical choice to run the Gamblers PP.
Brendan Lemieux, F, 3/15/96 (North Dakota) 6-0/190-Would you be surprised if we told you that the son of NHL veteran Claude Lemieux played a gritty game with a mix of skill? Has already developed a reputation as someone who is willing to take on all challengers. Our guess is that he finishes up near the top of the league in fighting majors. But by no means is he just a goon. The former Toronto Red Wing is a strong skater who thrives in the tough ice. He's someone you want on your team come playoff time.
Top Uncommitted Players
Cameron Hackett, G, 6/1/96, 6-2/200 - #5 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Played for the Gamblers in the preseason, but will be furthering his development back in Ontario at Ridley College this season. Excellent prospect played for the Vaughn Kings (GTHL) last season. Is a fourth round pick of the Owen Sound Attack (OHL) but Hackett has done everything to prove he is serious about playing US college hockey. Was at the Road to College Showcase this summer. Is big, technically sound, and really competes in the net.
Christian Wolanin, D, 3/17/95, 6-1/175 - #13 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Rochester, Michigan native is tall, slender, has a good reach and a little bit of offensive sizzle to his game. If he can get a step faster he may begin to attract the interest of pro scouts. Played last season for Little Caesar's U18 team.
#3 Waterloo Black Hawks
Will be a priority team for NHL scouts to watch this season as the Black Hawks are stocked with NHL prospects. No team will get a free pass against Waterloo as they have two top tier goaltenders in Eamon McAdam and Cal Peterson, both of whom -- along with Ian McCoshen and Taylor Cammarata -- will appear in USA Hockey's Top Prospects game on Saturday. After losing in the finals last season PK O'Handley's bunch will challenge for their first title since 2004.
Taylor Cammarata, F, 5/13/95 (Minnesota) 5-8/160-The league's top returning scorer posted a 27-42-69 scoring line in 60 games last season and will look to improve on those already-impressive numbers. Has a great mind for the game and the skill set to execute high-level plays. Will make for a really great college player. The Vegas odds are certainly on the Plymouth, Minnesota native taking the league scoring title. He's listed at 5'8", but we'd knock an inch off that.
Vince Hinostroza, F, 4/3/94 (Notre Dame) 5-10/170- Hinostroza, along with Cammarata, comprise the most dynamic duo in the league - hands down. The Chicago Blackhawks (NHL) draft pick has an elite skill level and plays with an edge. We feel the Bartlett, Illinois native would make an impact this year for the Irish.
Eamon McAdam, G, 9/24/94 (Penn State) 6-2/190-Over the last two seasons the Team Comcast alum has developed into an NHL prospect. Was excellent this summer at the Junior Club World Cup, leading the Black Hawks to the final game, only to lose to Sudbury 2-0. The Nittany Lions will look to the Perkasie, PA native to keep them competitive as they enter the Big Ten conference.
Justin Kloos, F, 11/30/93 (Minnesota) 5-9/177-The Lakeville South HS product is not big, not particularly fast, nor does he have a good shot, but somehow the puck is always on his stick. May have the highest hockey IQ in the league - and a lot of poise to go with it. For an undersized forward the Gopher recruit is excellent at protecting the puck. Was Mr. Hockey last year in Minnesota. In three seasons at Lakeville South, Kloos compiled a 97-122-219 scoring line in just 75 games played.
Zach Stepan, F, 1/6/94 (Ohio State) 6-0/170- A 4th round pick of the Nashville Predators (NHL) and the cousin of New York Rangers forward Derek Stepan. And just like his cousin the Hastings, Minnesota native played for Shattuck-St. Mary's, last season helping lead them to a national championship. Will play in the Black Hawks top six and will be a constant presence on both sides of the puck.
Top Uncommitted Players
Ian McCoshen, D, 8/5/95, 6-3/205 - #1 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Hudson, Wisconsin native has a good chance to be selected in the first round of the 2013 NHL draft. Is not likely to be a PP defenseman at the NHL level, but will log a lot of minutes, play against the opposition's top lines and be a mainstay on the PK. Has good hockey sense, doesn't complicate the game, and would be a top four d-man on any college roster next fall. Like Seth Jones (Everett-WHL) last year, he's leaving the major junior option open.
John Wiitala, F, 3/27/95, 5-11/155 - #21 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Quick and shifty. Protects the puck well and has the ability to beat defenders 1x1. Played on Lakeville South HS last year.
#4 Omaha Lancers
Top to bottom there is not a single team in the league with a deeper group of forwards. Fifteen players on their current roster have already secured D-I commitments (only Cedar Rapids, with 17, has more). Head coach Mike Aikens, who took over behind the bench early last season, has his troops from the get-go this time around. And he has a lot of talent at his disposal. The challenge, as most of the top players are newcomers, will be getting them to gel.
Victor Newell, D, 2/23/93 (Harvard) 5-10/177-Is entering his fourth season of junior hockey-two years in Nanaimo (BCHL) and two in Omaha. Will be very prepared to contribute next year when puts on the Crimson uniform. The Burnaby, BC native is on the small side, but his feet and stick are both outstanding. Will run the Lancers PP this season and will likely play a similar role at Harvard.
Phillip Zielonka, F, 1/28/93 (Harvard) 5-11/180-The Salisbury School graduate is a goal scorer, no doubt about it. Has made a seamless transition to USHL play. Has a great stick and will look to be the Lancers' leading scorer.
Alex Rauter, F, 6/17/94 (Cornell) 6-1/185-Played the wing on Zielonka's line in the Fall Classic and the two Founders' League rivals worked nicely together. Rauter, who played at Choate, led Omaha in scoring through the preseason and should put up big numbers throughout the regular season. The Cornell recruit has high-end offensive skills, but needs to work on developing a defensive conscience.
Jake Bishoff, D, 7/25/94 (Minnesota) 6-0/185-New York Islanders (NHL) draft pick starred at Grand Rapids HS last season posting an 11-27-38 scoring line in just 24 games played. The Gopher recruit brings a little bit of everything to the table as he is strong on the offensive and defensive side of the puck. An all-around, puck-moving defender.
Kyle Osterberg, F, 9/5/94 (Minnesota-Duluth) 5-8/170-The NTDP product will make an immediate impact for the Lancers. The former Lakeville South HS star is dynamic, quick, and makes plays. Will log minutes in every situation this season.
Top Uncommitted Players
Ryan Tait, F, 6/1/96, 5-10/170 - #14 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Is quick, shifty and can turn on a dime. The Santa Clara, California native is more of a passer than a goal scorer. Darts in and out of holes very quickly. Played last season for Shattuck's U16 team.
Ben Ostlie, D, 4/2/93, 6-1/195 - Tied for the #25 slot on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Second-year Lancer defenseman plays a simple, efficient game. Skates well, defends well and makes a good first pass. Edina HS product projects as a tough, shutdown defender at the next level.
#5 Dubuque Fighting Saints
The Fighting Saints certainly have the talent to make some noise in the league, but with only five returning players, head coach/GM Jim Montgomery's job will not be an easy one. That said, we are talking about the same coach who won a title with an expansion team just two years ago. The Saints recruiting class competes for tops in the league, so we look for them to be competitive night in and night out and hover around the top of the pack.
Mike Downing, D, 5/19/95 (Michigan) 6-3/185-All eyes will be on the Canton, Michigan native this season. Entering his draft year the Michigan recruit is projected as a top two round guy. We believe that the former Detroit Catholic Central star has more natural ability than any other '95 born defender in the US. That said, his game is raw and some of his decisions are risky and questionable.
Shane Sooth, F, 4/18/92 (Northern Michigan) 6-1/197-Yes, the Canyon Country, California native is still in the league. Over the last five years Sooth has been to the Salisbury School, the NTDP, Sioux City (USHL), Texas Tornado (NAHL) and, for the last two seasons, Dubuque. With all that adversity the Saints' captain has remained productive, posting 87 points over his last two years in the league.
Seamus Malone, F, 5/6/96 (Wisconsin) 5-10/170-We wrote about his performance a couple of days ago, but man was he good at the Fall Classic. The Chicago Mission product was lights out, just as he was at Nationals and the Select 16 Festival. Will be a point machine in this league.
Mike Szmatula, F, 8/10/92 (Sacred Heart University) 5-10/183 -- Sacred Heart dug up a diamond in the rough in Szmatula who, last winter, was plying his trade way up on Prince Edward Island, playing for the Summerside Western Capitals of the Maritime Junior Hockey League where he led the league in scoring with a 36-51-87 line in 52 games played. (For more on Szmatula, a '92 from Commerce Township, Michigan, see the USHR News of this past Monday.)
Peter Quenneville, F, 3/9/94 (Quinnipiac) 5-11/176-Lit up the Alberta Junior Hockey League last year posting a 31-50-81 scoring line in just 53 games played for Sherwood Park. The Bobcats have a good one here as the Edmonton native is a constant scoring threat who explodes out of the gate. Will pot a ton of goals in the ECAC.
Jeff Taylor, D, 4/13/94 (Union) 6-0/160-The Albany Academy grad looked like a seasoned veteran in his first weekend of junior hockey. A real steal for the Dutchmen. Does everything really well. A fluid skater with a good stick and a good sense of where to be in his own end, Taylor is a touch underappreciated. We feel he could get consideration on the NHL draft floor in June.
Top Uncommitted Players
Matt Benning, D, 5/24/94, 6-0/218 - #4 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. The sixth round pick of the Boston Bruins (NHL) has played the last two seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League for Spruce Grove. Does everything well. Plays solid defense, but also has a good stick and makes a hard, tape-to-tape first pass. Is the son of former NHLer Brian Benning, and the nephew of Jim Benning, also a former NHLer and now the assistant GM of the...Boston Bruins.
Arthur Brey, G, 2/13/94, 6-1/154 - #15 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. Came into camp undrafted and could end up being the Saints' go-to guy in net. It's a great story: the Yorba Linda, California native played last season for Orange County (NAPHL) and has come out of nowhere. Brey is no longer a secret and will be watched closely early in the season.
Frankie DiChiara, F, 9/22/93, 6-2/215 - #16 on our Top 25 USHL Uncommitted Player List. DiChiara is a big, strong power forward with a heavy shot who recently decommited from Princeton. When he is playing hard and getting his nose dirty the Ronkokoma, NY native is very effective. The pace of his game can tail off -- the hulking winger may be carrying a touch too much weight.
Vatrano’s Uncertain Future
Forward Frankie Vatrano, who earlier this week withdrew from Boston College due to NCAA Clearinghouse issues less than a month into his freshman year, will be playing in USA Hockey’s Top Prospects game in Buffalo, NY Saturday night.
What he does after that, though, is up in the air.
What is known for certain is that Vatrano will not be returning to Boston College this year -- or any other year.
However, he still wishes to play college hockey next year. UMass wants him, and Providence has interest, too.
To get to another college, though, will require a lot of paperwork, requests for waivers, and jumping through hoops. The kid’s head has to be spinning.
When schools were recruiting Vatrano a couple of years ago it was well known that he was a less-than-stellar student, but the connection between a student’s academic ability and his making it through the Clearinghouse can be tenuous. (Remember last season, when Brown’s Greg Tang, a top student, failed to get through the NCAA Clearinghouse?)
Part of the problem can be clerical. Players lack complete control over when the Clearinghouse gets the material they need in order to make a decision by the time the student-athlete matriculates in college. Sometimes the player’s high school fails to submit the info in a timely manner; other times, kids lack core credits, or have to retake ACTs or SATs – there are myriad reasons things can go awry, and we don’t pretend to be specialists in this complicated arena.
However, we know it’s not uncommon for players to arrive at college as freshmen with their NCAA status ‘pending.’ Usually, though, those players are deemed ‘close enough’ and everything gets happily cobbled together before the season begins. If we recall correctly, in 2005 Nathan Gerbe got through the Clearinghouse at the last minute – like around Labor Day. Vatrano, however, was not among the fortunate ones and, though we’ve tried, we cannot recall a situation totally analogous to his – and we’ve been doing this gig for a long time now.
Being unable to get through the Clearinghouse didn’t necessarily preclude Vatrano, an admitted student, from staying at BC. He probably could have, but as a ‘non qualifier’ he would not have been able to play hockey, and he would not have had an athletic scholarship. He could only have continued as a regular student, and his family would have been on the hook for up to $55,000.
That’s a major part of the reason why UMass, near the Vatrano’s East Longmeadow, Mass. home, looms as a possibility.
Vatrano could enter there in January, get the clock moving as a student paying in-state tuition, sit out a year, and then be eligible to suit up with the Minutemen in Jan. ’14. Sitting out is grim, though. Vatrano would not be allowed to play junior hockey, nor would he be allowed to practice with the Minutemen. Ineligible players are not even allowed to have contact with anyone in the athletic department.
It’s almost certain that Vatrano and his advisors, Global Hockey Consultants, are working on getting a waiver from the NCAA that seeks to wipe the slate of the two weeks he was enrolled at BC, thus setting up a situation where the clock would start a semester earlier and he could play next fall after spending the spring semester in college. It’s even possible that the NCAA might grant a waiver allowing him to play NCAA hockey next year without sitting out at all, thus allowing him to play a full year of juniors – that’s certainly the best-case scenario. We are unaware of any pertaining precedent, but again, this is an odd case, and we have a strong hunch that the possibility is being pursued.
Nobody appears to have any answers right now. There is a lot of conjecture, and people are working to get things to a point where they fall in place for the kid, who is well-liked and can obviously help a D-I team.
Also up in the air is where Vatrano will play right now. He is practicing with the Junior Bruins but hasn’t played a game with them yet. He obviously won’t be playing with them on Saturday, but he would be able to join then for their following game on Wed. Oct. 3 – if he isn’t in the USHL playing with the Dubuque Fighting Saints, that is.
On Tues. night Sept. 25, Dubuque head coach Jim Montgomery, on learning that Vatrano was leaving BC, added him to the Fighting Saints’ protected list.
“When we claimed him,” Mongomery told USHR. “I thought we had a twenty percent chance of getting him. We’ve had healthy conversations since then. Now I’d say it’s sixty percent in our favor.”
“I think,” Montgomery added, “that with everything that’s happened, they are probably saying ‘Let’s stay close to home while figuring things out.’ We counter with ‘Why not do that figuring out here in Dubuque, playing a key role in a higher-level league?’”
If the NCAA situation looks dim, Vatrano can always fall back on the Q. Moncton, one of the well-heeled teams in the league, owns his rights. We don’t like to see that, not at all, but we can also see that sitting out a year is a tough thing to ask of a kid who has played hockey every winter of his life, especially one who has hopes of perhaps making a little money playing the pro game some day.
A Big Sleeper for the Warriors
6’4”, 205 lb. South Shore Kings (EJHL) RC Chris LeBlanc has committed to Merrimack for next fall (’13).
LeBlanc, a 9/12/93 birthdate, has been flying under the radar for the last four years, playing at Winthrop (Mass.) High School. Winthrop’s head coach is Dale Dunbar, a Winthrop native who went on to play defense at BU, as well as some minor pro (and a few NHL games). Dunbar has also coached in the OHL, worked as a D-I assistant, and is an agent.
“Dale sold him to me,” says South Shore head coach Scott Harlow. “I took him and he had a good summer camp with us and a good start and (Merrimack head coach) Mark Dennehy jumped on him. (LeBlanc) has unbelievable offensive ability, great vision, and can really shoot it for a big guy. He’s kind of a late bloomer. Coming from Winthrop High he wasn’t exactly on the map. He’s kind of an unknown. But even the NHL scouts are watching now.”
Harlow has LeBlanc centering South Shore’s top line, with Chicago Blackhawks third round pick Chris Calnan on his wing. Neither has great numbers so far in the young season. In five games, LeBlanc has an 1-0-1 line, while Calnan is 0-1-1.
Harlow also wanted to announce that Nobles senior goalie Connor Maher, who recently committed to Brown for the fall of ’14, will be playing for South Shore next season.
Go Big Or Go Home
The University of Notre Dame has received a commitment from 6’4”, 215 lb. goaltender Chad Katunar of the Penticton Vees (BCHL) for next fall.
We stated in our review of BCHL goaltenders (USHR News, 9/14/12) that there were some that are college ready. Well, schools are picking them off like flies, with Katunar being the second BCHL goalie to commit this week. We ranked the Victoria, BC native #5 among goalies and had this to say about him: “The massive tender was the backup last season for the Vees and is now moving into the spotlight. He is off to a good start too, going 3-0 with a .939 save percentage and a 1.86 GAA. It is no secret that he plays on the top team in the league and may not be asked to do the work of some of the other goaltenders, but there is something to be said for someone who delivers when asked. Is very raw right now, but at 6’4” there is a lot to like about where his game could go. Uncommitted.”
Last season with the Vees the 8/14/93 birthdate compiled a 12-2-0-1 record with a 1.73 GAA and a .938 save percentage. Penticton head coach Freddie Harbinson had this to say about his starting netminder via press release, “Chad competes extremely hard day in and day out; he showed great patience throughout last season and excelled when called upon. Chad has now solidified himself as one of the top goaltenders in Jr. ‘A’ hockey.”
Clearinghouse KOs Vatrano at BC
Incoming Boston College freshman LW Frankie Vatrano has left the Heights after learning that he had failed to get through the NCAA Clearinghouse.
Whether the 5’10”, 216 lb. native of East Longmeadow, Mass. returns to Boston College next fall would, assuming he gets through the Clearinghouse in the meantime, be up to the school. However, college hockey is reportedly still in his future plans, whether it is at BC or elsewhere.
Vatrano, who was added last night to the Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL) protected list and whose major junior rights are held by Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL), will be playing this season for the Boston Jr. Bruins (EJHL), the organization for which he played before heading out to the National Team Development Program two years ago.
Chris Masters , who coached Vatrano with the Junior Bruins Empire Team for two years, reports that Vatrano dropped off his equipment at Marlborough, Mass. this morning and “looked really good, like he’d lost 12-15 pounds.”
Masters said Vatrano was “bummed” that he wouldn’t be playing at BC this year, but will suit up and be at practice with the Junior Bruins this afternoon. Vatrano, a ’94, was bypassed in the NHL Draft in June but is listed as a “C” prospect for next year’s draft.
Vatrano will miss the Junior Bruins game this Saturday as he will be playing in USA Hockey’s Top Prospects game in Buffalo, NY that night.
The Boston College coaching staff can’t talk about a student’s academic situation.
We’ve put in a call to Vatrano, but haven’t yet heard back from him.
The USHL's Top 25 Uncommitted Players
As you know, USHR was in Sioux City, Iowa for the 2012 USHL Fall Classic. Before we provide a detailed review of the top players in league -- the majority of whom are well known and already verbally committed to colleges -- we felt it best to assess those players we feel comprise the top uncommitted prospects in the league. With that in mind, here is our Top 25. We feel all will be committed by the season’s end -- some much sooner. Enjoy!
1. Ian McCoshen, D, 8/5/95 (Waterloo) 6-3/205 — What more can we say about the Black Hawk’s franchise defender that has not been said already? Is arguably the most coveted college prospect in the world. Has a good chance to be selected in the first round of the 2013 NHL draft. Is not likely to be a PP defenseman at the NHL level, but what he will do is log a lot of minutes, play against the opposition’s top lines and be a mainstay on the PK. Has good hockey sense, doesn’t complicate the game, and would be a top four defenseman on any college roster next fall. For our money he is the top ’95 defenseman in the US and could compete for a World Junior roster spot. We are told he has not selected an NCAA school because, much like Seth Jones (Everett-WHL) last year, he’s leaving the major junior option open. As a Hudson, Wisconsin native he is also a top OHL recruit.
2. Thatcher Demko, G, 12/8/95 (NTDP) 6-3/190 — Regarded as the top ’95 goalie in the country. Has colleges lined up for his services. Last season, the San Diego, Calif. native played for the LA Junior Kings U16 team and the Omaha Lancers (15 games, 2.87, .899). Played this summer for the U.S. U18 Selects at the Ivan Hlinka tournament where he emerged as the starting goaltender. Was invited to the US U-18 Team for this season. Looked good shutting out Sioux Falls on Saturday. Will likely enter next season as a potential first round NHL draft pick.
3. Frederik Tiffels, F, 5/20/95 (Muskegon) 6-0/190 — We wrote about him yesterday, so don’t have too much to add. But we will reiterate what we said. To wit, Tiffels put on a show on the final day here. Has a high, high skill level coupled with a strong desire to create offense. The Cologne, Germany native has a quick set of hands and could avoid a check in a phone booth. Will be an impact player at the NCAA level playing a top six role as early as next season. Scored a goal early in the game on Saturday and played the rest of the game like a shark in bloody water, pouncing on loose pucks. Our knock on him as that he does not shoot the puck much nor does he engage in physical battles as often as he should. Is a top NCAA prospect, but slightly less desirable in the eyes of pro scouts.
4. Matt Benning, D, 5/24/94 (Dubuque) 6-0/218 — Got better and better as the weekend progressed. The sixth round pick of the Boston Bruins (NHL) has played the last two seasons in the Alberta Junior Hockey League for the Spruce Grove Saints. Does everything well. Plays solid defense, but also has a good stick and makes a hard, tape-to-tape first pass. Will only get better playing in the USHL for Saints third-year coach Jim Montgomery. He’s the son of former NHLer Brian Benning, and the nephew of Jim Benning, also a former NHL and now the assistant GM of the…Boston Bruins. Will not be uncommitted long.
5. Cameron Hackett, G, 6/1/96 (Green Bay) 6-2/200 — Has the makings of a top NCAA goalie. Played for the Vaughn Kings (GTHL) last season and will likely be sent back to Ridley College for this year. Is a fourth round pick of the Owen Sound Attack (OHL) so any NCAA school interested will have to out-recruit them. That said, Hackett has done everything to prove he is serious about playing US college hockey. Was at the Road to College Showcase this summer and has stated his desire to play in Green Bay. We only saw him play one game here, but he stopped 19 of 22 shots. Is big, technically sound and really competes in the net.
6. Michael Kapla, D, 9/19/94 (Sioux City) 6-1/195 — Has an exceptional stick and a great mind for the game. Not many d-men in this league process the game as quickly as the Eau Claire, Wisconsin native. Looked excellent running the Musketeers top PP unit. Last season he played for the Eau Claire Memorial HS – ‘the Old Abes’ -- and posted a 4-34-38 scoring line in just 21 games played. His skating is not very good, but his hands and his ability to get the puck up ice more than make up for it.
7. Johnny Wingels, D, 2/2/94 (Chicago) 5-10/185 — A defender who brings a lot of positives to the table. Is a strong skater who is extremely smart with the puck on his stick. Versatile and could play a lot of different roles. Looked like a seasoned USHL veteran in his first season of play. Is the younger brother of former Miami-Ohio captain and now San Jose (NHL) forward Tommy Wingels. Played for Team Illinois U18s last season.
8. Sam Rothstein, F, 8/31/93 (Sioux Falls) 5-9/162 — Quick, smart and productive. Is slippery in traffic and is especially tough to contain in transition. Played last season for Minnetonka HS, producing a two-points-per-game pace with a 26-30-56 scoring line in 28 games played. Finished last season with Sioux Falls compiling a 3-4-7 line in 14 games. Will immediately be one the Stampede’s most consistent offensive threats.
9. Michael Booth, F, 3/20/96 (Fargo) 5-10/172 — We saw the Cary, Illinois native last October at the Beantown Fall Classic and thought he was Team Illinois’ top forward. Saw him at the Select 16 Festival and liked him a little bit more. Saw him again this weekend and -- sure enough -- his game has taken another step forward. Is developing into one of the top NCAA prospects in the ’96 age group. Played all weekend on Fargo’s top line with Gabe Guertler (Minnesota) and David Gust (Ohio State) and did not look one bit out of place. Is fast and quick enough to be a PK/energy forward at the next level, but is also skilled and poised enough to play in the top six. Will be a big get for whoever lands him.
10. Davey Middleton, F, 5/21/92 (Cedar Rapids) 6-3/202 — Could be a classic late bloomer. Hit his stride last year after a mid-season trade to Cedar Rapids and finished the year with a 15-12-27 scoring line in 39 games played for Mark Carlson’s RoughRiders. Looked college ready over the weekend. Is a big kid with soft hands, a hard shot and pretty good feet. Would not be the least bit surprised if we heard the undrafted Novi, Michigan native was getting NHL interest in a couple of years.
11. Dylan McLaughlin, F, 6/5/95 (Cedar Rapids) 5-11/172 — Was committed to Northeastern, but has since decided to test the college free agency market. The former Buffalo Regal played last season as a 16 year old for Sioux Falls (USHL) and posted a 1-6-7 line in 48 games played in a limited role. We feel this season will be a breakout year for the talented centerman with high-end vision. Is producing at nearly a point-a-game pace throughout the preseason. Is a hockey player, someone you can put on the ice in any situation and know he will get the job done for you. Will be a hot commodity after his performance at the Fall Classic.
12. Jan Obernessor, G, 12/3/92 (Sioux Falls) 6-1/170 — Originally from Homberg, Germany and has since relocated to Calgary. Played the last couple of seasons in Alberta for the Brooks Bandits. Led his team to a league title last season, posting an impressive 2.16 GAA and a .915 save percentage through 14 playoff games. Is athletic, moves fluidly, and has good posture in the net. His game could really take off in the USHL.
13. Christian Wolanin, D, 3/17/95 (Green Bay) 6-1/175 — The defending champs top uncommitted player. The Rochester, Michigan native is tall, slender, has a good reach and a little bit of offensive sizzle to his game. If he can get a step faster he may begin to attract the interest of pro scouts. Played last season for Little Caesar’s U18 team.
14. Ryan Tait, F, 6/1/96 (Omaha) 5-10/170 — Is as quick and shifty as they come. Can really turn on a dime. The Santa Clara, California native is more of a passer than a goal scorer. Darts in and out of holes very quickly. Has a couple of seasons to get bigger, stronger, and improve his shot. Played last season for Shattuck’s U16 team.
15. Arthur Brey, G, 2/13/94 (Dubuque) 6-1/154 — Came into camp undrafted and could end up being the Saints’ go-to guy in net. The Yorba Linda, California native played last season for Orange County in the NAPHL and has sort of come out of nowhere. Thursday night’s 7:00 pm game featured Dubuque vs. the NTDP. Brey was given the nod and did not disappoint. The confident tender out-dueled highly-touted Thatcher Demko as he stopped 30 of 32 shots en route to a 4-2 Dubuque victory. Brey is no longer a secret and will be watched closely early in the season.
16. Frankie DiChiara, F, 9/22/93 (Dubuque) 6-2/215 — We are puzzled as to why anyone would decommit from Princeton, but we suppose everyone has their reasons. DiChiara is a big, strong power forward with a heavy shot. When he is playing hard and getting his nose dirty the Ronkokoma, NY native is very effective. The pace of his game seemed to tail off a bit as the weekend progressed -- our guess is that the hulking winger may be carrying a touch too much weight.
17. Nolan Valleau, D, 11/15/92 (Des Moines) 6-2/180 — The Novi, Michigan native put himself on the map here. On Thursday the Bucs defeated Youngstown 4-1 and the former Port Huron (NAHL) defender put on a clinic, posting a 2-1-3 scoring line. Has good size, pretty good feet and a really good stick. Will need to learn to defend better, but that is coachable -- the other things he brings to the table are not.
18. Josh McCardle, D, 5/8/94 (Tri City) 6-1/190 — Roscoe, Illinois native is in his second year with the Storm and will be heavily relied on. A no-nonsense, meat-and- potatoes defender, he keeps things simple and plays with an edge. Will never be the flashiest player on the ice, but he conducts himself with a workmanlike approach. A good skater who can really defend.
19. Nolan Gluchowski, D, 1/24/94 (Tri City) 5-11/185 — Played for Detroit Catholic Central last season. Is confident on the offensive side of the puck and looked good on the PP. Will have to tighten up his d-zone play, but we are sure that will come with seasoning. Has the hands and mind to play D-I hockey.
20. Connor Valesano, F, 2/10/95 (Sioux Falls) 5-10/165 — Will need some time to settle into the USHL, but there is no doubt that the Duluth, Minnesota native has skill. Posted a 12-24-36 scoring line in 31 games played last season for Duluth East HS.
21. John Wiitala, F, 3/27/95 (Waterloo) 5-11/155 — Quick and shifty. Protects the puck well and has the ability to beat defenders 1x1. Played on Lakeville South HS last year along with current Black Hawk Justin Kloos.
22. Sean Romeo, G, 11/7/94 (Youngstown) 6-1/165 — Some scouts feel the Cary, North Carolina native is ready to step into NCAA action next season and make an impact. Through two preseason games the second year netminder has posted a 2.50 GAA and a .906 save percentage, pretty consistent with his numbers last year.
23. Jeff Kubiak, F, 1/18/94 (Chicago) 6-3/205 — Has led the Steel in scoring through four preseason games, posting a 3-1-4 scoring line. Is tall, rangy, and has a lot of upside. Is still pretty young and we feel the Chicago Fury product, a native of Tinley Park, Ill., is poised for a breakout season. Is the brother of Bentley University sophomore forward Alex Kubiak.
24. Tanner Pond, F, 5/31/93 (Sioux City) 5-11/182 — Plays the game hard and with a lot of energy. Makes a living in the tough ice. Commerce, Michigan native has played for Cedar Rapids the last two seasons.
25T. Ben Ostlie, D, 4/2/93 (Omaha) 6-1/195 — Second-year Lancer defenseman plays a simple, efficient game. Skates well, defends well and makes a good first pass. Edina HS product projects as a tough, shutdown defender at the next level.
25T. James Mazza, D, 7/7/94 (Youngstown) 6-2/185 — Intriguing player who could end up blossoming this season. Has a good stick and the makeup of an offensive PP quarterback type. Will be someone for scouts to watch closely. Will be interesting to see what he is capable of when he gains confidence in the USHL. Kings Park, NY native played last season for the NY Bobcats (AJHL).
A Big Goalie for UNH
The University of New Hampshire has received a commitment from 6’5”, 210 lb. goaltender Adam Clark of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (BCHL) for the fall of ‘14.
We were unable to lay eyes on the 3/26/93 birthdate from Sherwood Park, Alberta at the BCHL Showcase a couple of weeks ago as he only played one game, a 2-1 loss to Nanaimo in which he kicked out 38 of 40 shots. Our sources, however, tell us that the Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) fourth round pick is big, athletic and has a real chance to be a pro should his development continue to head in a positive direction. When Clark arrives in Durham, Casey DeSmith, UNH’s current starting goalie, will be a senior and the crease will essentially be Clark’s for the following three seasons. We are told that he compares favorably to Northeastern senior netminder Chris Rawlings.
Through three games this season Clark has posted a 1-2 record with a 3.00 GAA and a .924 save percentage.
A Look at the NAHL Showcase
While in Minnesota the weekend before last (Sept. 12-14) USHR took in the 2012 North American Hockey League Showcase at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine. All 24 NAHL teams were present, playing four games apiece throughout the showcase. The event was well organized and we especially appreciated the leather binder filled with player information that was handed out to all scouts -- a first class job.
We do have a couple of observations we feel most scouts would agree with. First and foremost is the timing of the event. The NAHL has essentially become a feeder league to the USHL — all the top-end talent moves through the league quickly. Nonetheless, there are good players who remain behind, and certain colleges have done an excellent job mining the NAHL for undervalued prospects. We feel it would be easier for colleges to canvas the league if they knew what they were looking for. With around 500 players in the showcase, bleary-eyed recruiters are forced to sift through a lot of players at once. Our suggestion is a simple one: give the players time to settle in and allow the best to put some statistical separation between themselves and the pack. That would enable scouts to fly in and have a better sense of which players are worthy of further attention. In September, NAHL coaches still haven’t quite figured out their own team, therefore we suggest mid-November as a more logical time to host a league showcase. We also feel that four games going on at once is just too much hockey. Nor does each team need to play four games in four days either. It would be preferable to cut it back and have each team play two -- or maybe three -- games apiece, and also have only one or two games running at a time. When four games are going on simultaneously, scouts ending up running around too much, doing an average job evaluating two or three games when they could be doing an excellent job if they were able to watch one whole game at a time. Finally, it should be noted that the Air Force staff has done an excellent job in this league—particularly grabbing the top players from Wichita Falls and Wenatchee. Ben Kucera, Will Vosejpka, Tyler Ledford, Ryan Dau, Ross Luedtke and Tyler Rostenkowski will all make solid contributions at the next level. All are good finds and go a long way toward illustrating why Air Force is in the national picture year after year.
Below, we have broken down the top uncommitted players in the league into two groups: the “A” players who could potentially be recruited right now, and the “B” players, who are guys we feel could either be good walk-ons, top D-III players or simply players who could emerge with additional time to develop. It’s inevitable -- with 24 teams and limited time – that we missed some worthy players. We can only report what we see, and in these mega-showcases a solid player could have an off-game at the wrong moment – and be totally missed out on. We should also point out that the league, due mainly to the fact that there are only a limited number of USHL jobs available, is particularly strong with goaltenders. Only one of them really jumped out and grabbed out attention, but we are sure more will emerge as the season progresses. Anyway, here it is. Enjoy.
Evan Crowley, G, ’95 (Wichita Falls) 6-4/185 — Certainly created the most buzz in the scouting room, though we are not sure the hype is totally warranted. We feel many colleges are still kicking themselves for missing the boat on Anthony Stolarz (Nebraska-Omaha) and are thus making Crowley out to be the second coming. The Evergreen, Colorado native came into the season a virtual unknown and still has much to prove. That said, he has a ton of upside. For a big kid he moves pretty well and certainly takes up a lot of net. There’s a lot to work with here and if Crowley gets with the right people his game could really take off. An uncommitted college prospect, he will likely get a lot of feelers after his performance at the NAHL showcase. Has already been rated as a “B” player by NHL Central Scouting , meaning Central’s staff feels he could be drafted in the 2nd-4th round. Was just recently added to USA Hockey’s Top Prospects game this Saturday in Buffalo, NY.
Alex Robert, D, ’95 (Soo) 6-0/175 — We loved the Traverse City, Michigan native at the Select 17 Festival over the summer. However, likely because it was his first weekend of junior hockey, he was not as assertive here. As he becomes more acclimated, that aspect of his game should emerge. Robert has really good feet and an absolute bomb for a shot. Was very close to making Green Bay (USHL) this season. An uncommitted prospect who should get a lot of looks throughout the next couple of months.
Brett Beauvais, D, ’95 (Kalamazoo) 5-11/164 — Hands down the top defender for the K-Wings. Has good vision and is poised with the puck on his stick. Nearly two years ago the Summerside, PEI native was a member of Team Atlantic at the World Under-17 Challenge. Will likely need a year or two of seasoning in the USHL before he is ready for D-I hockey. Has produced a 0-5-5 scoring line through just five games this season.
Brett Skibba, F, ’93 (Springfield) 5-11/185 — Traditionally has not put up big numbers, but that could change this season as the Verona, Wisconsin native is off to a good start, posting a 2-3-5 scoring line in his first six games. Is not very big, but has quick hands and is shifty. Is certainly worth a look from a D-I school in need of a forward.
Kyle Bauman, F, ’93 (Wichita Falls) 5-9/170 — The Apopka, Florida native played last season for the Jersey Hitmen (EJHL) and posted a solid 5-15-20 scoring line in 28 games played. Could be coming into his own this season as he looked great over the weekend, potting four goals in as many games. Plays the half-wall on the PP and displayed a quick, hard release. Uncommitted.
Jonathan Davis, F, ’92 (Wenatchee) 5-8/155 — He’s 20 years old, so he’s likely stopped growing, but you can’t argue with his production. He torched the showcase, posting a 4-5-9 scoring line in just four games played. The La Verne, California native has an impressive scoring pedigree: last season he put up a 14-15-29 scoring line in 42 games for Dubuque (USHL). Played for the Colorado Rampage U18 Team before going to the USHL.
Carson Vance, D, ’96 (Kenai River) 5-10/170 — We felt the 16-year-old defender is too young to be playing junior hockey as he seemed more worried about defending himself than making plays. The Tempe, Arizona native has a good mind for the game and has the ability to run a PP. Will need to add a step or two to his skating to attract the big-time D-I schools, but he will get there in time. Played for the Phoenix Coyotes U16 team last year.
Mark Evan Euk, D, ’95 (Port Huron) 6-1/170 — Young defender has transitioned to junior hockey with ease, compiling a 2-4-6 scoring line through his first eight games played. Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan native has a good combination of size and skill. Is someone to keep a close eye on.
Austin Vieth, F, ’93 (Janesville) 6-0/185 — Has a good stick and is skilled in the scoring areas. Creates opportunities and is always involved in his team’s offense.
Jake Clifford, D, ’94 (Minot) 6-1/180 — December ’94 birth date. Is an average skater, but keeps his head up and can make a great first pass. Has a good stick and is capable of running a PP. Brecksville, Ohio native leads Minot in scoring with an 0-5-5 scoring line through five games played this season.
Shane Omdahl, F, ’92 (Bismark) 5-11/190 — Older player with good offensive instincts. The puck seems to follow him around the ice. Roseau HS product lit up the Minnesota high school loop prior to embarking on his junior hockey career.
Casey Nelson, D, ’92 (Johnstown) 6-1/174 — Mature defender has good feet and can make a play. Is in his third season of NAHL play as the Wisconsin Rapids, Wisc. native played the previous two for the Alaska Avalanche.
Brandon Parker, D, ’93 (Brookings) 5-8/170 — Small, heads-up, puck-moving defender who makes a good first pass and is effective on the PP. May not be dynamic enough for D-I play, but would certainly be a high-end D-III recruit.
John Grebosky, F, ’93 (Corpus Christi) 5-11/185 — Has a slick set of hands and can make a play in tight. Pittsburgh, PA native does not skate particularly well, but we see him as someone with upside if he improves on his deficiencies.
Ryan Nick, D, ’93 (Port Huron) 5-11/180 — Logs a lot of minutes for the Falcons. Is a fluid skater who defends well. Has really good feet which enables him to jump into the offense often.
Jonathan Kopacka, D, ’93 (Port Huron) 6-1/185 — Conservative, smart defenseman. Is partnered with Nick and the two work well together. Metamora, Michigan native has a good head for the game and makes a lot of smart decisions. Has a good stick and while he may not be capable of running a PP he can certainly play a support role.
Tyler Andrew, F, ’94 (Topeka) 6-6/205—His size makes him intriguing. For a tall kid his hands are pretty good too. Plays in front on the PP and creates havoc in front of the goalie. His feet are not very good right now and it takes him a long time to get going, but if his coordination comes together he could make for an interesting player.
Nicholas Kuchera, F, ’94 (Wenatchee) 5-10/166 — Eagan, Minnesota native has gotten off to a slow start for the Wild, but we are not giving up on the skilled playmaker. Plays on arguably the top team in the league and did not get much of an opportunity last weekend. Was excellent at the Road to College showcase in Boston over the summer and we feel he will take advantage of his opportunity when it presents itself. Played for Eagan HS last year in Minnesota and displayed a scoring touch. posting an 17-38-55 scoring line in 31 games played.
Hunter Anderson, F, ’94 (Coulee Region) 6-4/215 — Big power forward who displayed some skill. Will likely develop into a third or fourth line shut-down winger at the next level. Was good along the walls, in the corners and in front of the net. Played for Burnsville HS in Minnesota last season and put up an 18-30-48 scoring line in just 28 games played.
Luke Veitch, D, ’93 (Topeka) 6-0/180 — Good skater who can defend well. Nothing flashy, just makes the simple plays. Has a high compete level.
Chris Jones, D, ’96 (Wenatchee) 5-10/187 — 16-year-old defenseman playing on the top team in the league. Does everything well, but nothing great. Would like to see him later in the season after he has settled into junior hockey.
Tiffels Shines at USHL Fall Classic
Sioux City, Iowa -- The USHL Fall Classic is over. We will have more on the tournament coming up – e.g., lists of the top committed and uncommitted players – but for now here are some highlights and random thoughts.
First off, there is considerable buzz surrounding Muskegon Lumberjacks 5’11”, 180 lb. LW Frederik Tiffels, a 5/20/95 birthdate from Koln, Germany.
Tiffels, drafted this past spring in the first round of the CHL Import Draft (by Moose Jaw) and by the Lumberjacks in the second round of the USHL Draft, really stood out here. A dynamic player, Tiffels is a quick skater with fast hands. He’s slippery, too – very difficult to get a piece of. His forte is making plays – lots of them. He doesn’t shoot it that much, or at least didn’t here.
Tiffels projects as a high-end top six forward for a top D-I program and will be in college next fall. He’s eligible for June’s NHL Draft and we see him as someone who could get selected in the middle rounds. But he will be an excellent college player. Keep an eye on where he winds up. The suitors lining up to talk to him after Saturday’s game against the Lincoln Stars were numerous.
Boston University and Western Michigan, whose head coach Andy Murray reportedly speaks fluent German, are said to be the two schools who were on Tiffels first.
Muskegon assistant coaches David Noel-Bernier and Steve Palmer, both of whom played pro in Germany and have numerous contacts there, saw Tiffels at the 2011 Five Nations Tournament in Ann Arbor and worked to get him to Muskegon.
Tiffels’ family adviser is Eddie Ward, who has insisted all along that Tiffels is here to play college hockey. The Lumberjacks have hired Joe Abdelkader, the father of former USHLer and current Detroit Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader, to be the team’s academic counselor this season. The senior Abdelkader, who just retired after nearly forty years of teaching high school in Michigan, is working to set Tiffels up with tutors. Tiffels’ English is passable, but he’s determined to go to college – and do well once he gets there -- so look for that to improve.
If everything lines up academically, he could be in college next fall. If not, look for him the year after.
6’0”, 175 lb. RC J.T. Compher is the brightest light on this year’s U.S. Under-18 Team, and looks like a cinch to be the team’s top draft pick – a likely first rounder.
Compher is explosive – he has an excellent first step -- and makes plays. He is physical, along the lines of the New York Rangers’ Ryan Callahan. We’re not sure if Compher, a Team Illinois product, has the shot or stick of a first line NHL center, but he definitely projects as a second-line pivot.
We also wouldn’t be shocked to see Compher, a Michigan recruit, skating with the U.S. National Junior Team in December. No ‘95s were invited to the evaluation camp in Lake Placid in August, and it’s unlikely one will be in the lineup when the tournament gets underway Dec. 26 in Ufa, Russia, but if we had to bet on one ’95 making the team, we’d go with Compher. We can see him sneaking in as the 13 th forward.
How about the Gophers? Are they are shaping up as Boston College’s doppelganger or what, going after skill over size? With the exception of 6’3”, 195 lb. NTDP winger Hudson Fasching, all of the U’s recruits for ’13 and ’14 are on the small side. Line ‘em up. Fargo’s Gabe Guertler is 5’9”; Waterloo’s Taylor Cammarata is 5’7”; Lincoln’s Vinnie Lettieri is 5’9”; Waterloo’s Justin Kloos is 5’9”; Penticton’s Louie Nanne is 5’10”.
On the blue line Grand Rapids’ Jake Bischoff is 6’0” and Blaine’s Michael Brodzinski is 5’11”.
And some of those heights could be inflated.
The Gophers could be a fun team to watch for quite a while. As always, the pressure is on to win. The Gophers won back-to-back NCAA titles in 2002-2003, but haven’t reached the title game since. In Gopher-time, that’s a very long time. And the natives do get restless.
Muskegon Lumberjacks 6’3”, 196 lb. LD Rasmus Bengtsson, a 2011 Florida Panthers second round draft pick, might be the best player in the league this season.
A 5/14/93 birthdate from Landskrona, Sweden, Bengtsson is already a pro, having played for Rogle in Sweden’s Elite League. He’s played for Sweden in the World Under-17 Challenge, the Ivan Hlinka Tournament, and the IIHF World Under-18s, and is a candidate for their National Junior Team this year.
Bengtsson came over to Muskegon on loan from Rogle last January 13 and in 34 games put up a 3-8-11 line. In June, the Victoria Royals (WHL) selected him in the CHL Import Draft but he elected to return to Muskegon for another season, mainly because he felt his game improved by leaps and bounds under Lumberjacks coach Jim McKenzie, a 15-year NHL veteran and Stanley Cup winner.
Since Bengtsson, a co-captain with the Lumberjacks, hasn’t signed with Florida, he can play pre-season in the AHL as a non-contract guy. Look for him to take a brief hiatus from Muskegon and suit up with the San Antonio Rampage for upcoming exhibition games.
Look for 5’10”, 187 lb. Sioux City Musketeers LC David Goodwin to put up big numbers this season.
Goodwin, shipped to Sioux City from the Green Bay Gamblers in the blockbuster Jordan Schmaltz trade last fall, committed to Penn State in January for the fall of ’13.
This is his third season in the league but he is actually ready for Div. I play right now. Clearly Penn State doesn’t want him burning a year of his eligibility while they are still an independent.
A 2/27/92 birthdate from Des Peres, Missouri, Goodwin played for the St. Louis Jr. Blues organization before heading to Green Bay in the fall of 2010. He’s one of those players who sees the ice extremely well, and anyone playing on a line with him is bound to see their point totals shoot up as well.
5’9”, 170 lb. Tri-City forward Trevor Moore was very impressive. A 3/31/95 birthdate and a product of the LA Selects U16 Team, Moore put up a 12-20-32 line in 49 games with Tri-City last season as a 16-year-old. Look for the Denver University recruit to put up big numbers this year and arrive in the Mile High City ready to contribute next fall.
Moore, who had fellow Californian – and fellow future Pioneer – Garrett Gamez and former Governor’s Academy winger Brian Ward as his linemates, is dynamic and has a great stick -- he just has the puck on a string.
Another Denver recruit who was very good here was Cedar Rapids’ 5’11”, 178 lb. LC Landon Smith, the former Colorado Thunderbird now in his second year in the USHL. Smith, a 10/18/93 birthdate from Greenwood Village, Colorado, played a third/fourth line role for Mark Carlson’s squad last year, putting up an 8-13-21 line in 55 games. Look for him to really explode this year. He’s fast, pushes defenders off nicely, and creates a ton of opportunities. And the RoughRiders look to have a strong team this year.
Dubuque’s leading scorer over the weekend was their youngest forward, 16-year-old Seamus Malone, who played last year for the Chicago Mission U16 team. The 5’10”, 160 lb. Wisconsin recruit (for ’15) put on a clinic in Dubuque’s win Thursday over the U.S. Under-18 Team, assisting on the first Dubuque goal, then scoring an unassisted goal, and finally adding an empty-netter to make it a 4-2 final. We ranked Malone #4 among all forwards at the Select 16 Festival in June and felt he should have been named to the NTDP (he was invited to the March evaluation camp in Ann Arbor, but wasn’t chosen for the program). Perhaps that snub gave him a little bit of extra motivation in Saturday’s game vs. the U18 Team. A 5/16/96 birthdate from Naperville, Ill., Malone is just great in traffic -- very slippery and with exceptional puck skills. He had the attention of everybody in the building, including all the NHL scouts, in that game. Malone is Dubuque’s leading scorer in the pre-season, with a 5-1-6 line in four games.
The Sacred Heart University coaching staff – C.J. Marottolo, Lou Santini, and Scott McDougall – all have keen eyes when it comes to evaluating players, and they have come up with a diamond in the rough in Dubuque Fighting Saints 5’10”, 183 lb. forward Mike Szmatula, a ’92 from Commerce Township, Michigan who, last winter, was plying his trade way up on Prince Edward Island, playing for the Summerside Western Capitals of the Maritime Junior Hockey League where he led the league in scoring with a 36-51-87 line in 52 games played.
Szmatula is good enough to be playing right now for Sacred Heart, which has won only six games in each of the last two years. We expect that Szmatula, playing for Jim Montgomery’s squad, will continue to develop by leaps and bounds. We also expect that other big conference NCAA schools will start sniffing around, and we could have another potential Kevin Roy situation in the making. In the NCAA, it’s the Wild West.
6’0”, 180 lb. RW Wade Murphy of the Penticton Vees (BCHL) has committed to the University of North Dakota for the fall of ’13.
A 10/22/93 birthdate from Victoria, BC, Murphy committed to Merrimack last October and went on to have a great season, raising his stock while putting up big numbers as he split the season between the Victoria Grizzlies and Penticton. So far this season, he leads Penticton in scoring with a 3-4-7 line in four games played.
We ranked Murphy #3 among all forwards we saw at the BCHL Showcase, Sept. 7-9 in Chilliwack, BC. Here are our comments:
“The most college-ready player we saw here, Murphy, who decommitted from Merrimack just two weeks ago, is now an extremely hot commodity. There were whispers in Chilliwack that a certain WCHA school may have nudged the Victoria, BC native to decommit. Murphy has good speed, is gritty and can really shoot a puck. Will make an immediate impact in college hockey. Played on Penticton’s National Championship team last season, finishing fourth in league scoring with a 36-55-91 scoring line in 56 games played. Will contend for the league scoring title.”
5’9”, 142 lb. New Jersey Rockets (Met League) RW Nolan Aibel has committed to Yale University for the fall of 2015.
A 10/25/97 birthdate, Aibel made his final choice from amongst Yale, Cornell, and Brown.
Aibel played for – and went to the U14 Nationals with – the Long Island Gulls last season.
We’ve seen him a bit, and here are some of our comments:
Bauer Invite in Chicago, Ill. (Nov. ’11).
“Smart, crafty center who is very smooth in all areas of the game. Does not immediately jump out at you, but is one of those kids who keeps making plays which leave you saying to yourself, 'That was #9 again.'”
At U14 Nationals in Buffalo, NY (April ’12).
“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.”
At Select 15s in Rochester, NY (July ’12). We ranked Aibel, who posted a 5-4-9 line, #14 among all forwards in camp.
“Played on a line with Ryan Moore and Luke Kunin and that trio could have been the top line in camp. A very fluid skater with a mind for the game, Aibel needs to add a little bit of sandpaper to his game. Played for the Long Island Gulls last season and is moving over to the NJ Rockets (MET) this year. Is a stellar student who will be a top Ivy League recruit.”
Since June’s NHL draft there has been a big change in Central Scouting, that being the retirement of Gary Eggleston and Jack Barzee.
To say that these two men were part of the landscape is a bit of an understatement. Like many long-time scouts, they are the landscape. When you went to any major tournament you expected one or the other – or both – to be there. Now, they no longer are, and it’s a bit jarring. They are missed.
Both Eggleston, 77, and Barzee, 71, are walking encyclopedias. Each has seen a virtually unimaginable number of hockey players in their professional careers, and can recall the best with the finest of detail. If either were to write a book, this typist would be first in line to buy a copy.
Last spring, Mike Morreale of NHL.com wrote fine pieces on both Eggleston and Barzee and we include the links here:
NHL Central Scouting Players to Watch List
Yesterday, NHL Central Scouting released its Players to Watch List. Please click the link below for the document, which is a 19-page PDF file. As is customary, it is broken up into leagues and players are listed simply as A, B, or C prospects.
The four sections are:
1) OHL, QMJHL, WHL, USHL.
2) North American Junior Leagues, High School, and Midget Leagues
3) NCAA (Note: they are all overagers.)
4) European Leagues
Central Scouting Players to Watch, 9/19/12 (PDF)
Minnesota Elite League Review
The U.S. Hockey Report traveled out to Blaine, Minnesota last weekend and took in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League. As usual, it was a pleasure. While we have written about the Elite League for years now, it is once again worth emphasizing how well organized and elite the fall circuit truly is -- our guess that forty or more players taking part in the league will, in time, find their way onto D-I rosters nationwide. It is also refreshing to see that in Minnesota hockey is left as it should be — a predominantly winter sport in which kids play 30-40 games and then enjoy the other months becoming better athletes by playing other sports. Yes, it may make them late bloomers as far as hockey is concerned -- see Anders Lee, for a recent example -- but it’s also a refreshing contrast to the Northeast, where hockey has become a money-making machine stoked by parents who feel their burned-out kids will be left behind if they fail to play fewer than seventy games during the regular season plus another thirty or so in summer showcases. We sincerely wish parents in the east could visit Minnesota, watch the Elite League and realize that their time and money could be better spent elsewhere during the summer – like on the lake or on the ocean, hanging out as a family. It is also revitalizing to see that kids in Minnesota, where AAA hockey has been unable to gain a toehold, have not bought into committing to college before they are mature enough to know what a course catalogue even looks like. Get this: the entire Elite League has, as of now, about five kids committed to D-I colleges. It’s not for lack of talent, either. If this same league were in the Northeast, at least thirty kids would be claimed by an NCAA school by now. There’s a real disconnect here. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: while many parts of the country are ‘getting there’ hockey-wise, Minnesota has been there for years. They do it better simply because they have a system that is sane. Anyway, enough of our ranting. Herewith are our thoughts on the players we saw over the weekend, broken down by team. All are potential D-I prospects. Because of our unfamiliarity, relatively-speaking, with the Minnesota loop we are sure we missed a player here or there, but we feel we caught the cream of the crop. Enjoy.
Team Great Plains:
1. Austin Poganski, F, 2/16/96 (St. Cloud Cathedral) 6-1/194 -- Just oozes with talent. Right off the hop you will notice his skating, which is exceptional. The ’96 forward has an explosive first step and is learning how to use his size to his advantage. Plus he really sees it. We have been told that the NTDP expressed interest in having him join the National U17 team this fall. Still seems to be figuring out how to dominate games, but his potential is very high. One of the top uncommitted ‘96s in the country.
2. Alex Ziegler, F, 11/16/94 (Roseau) 6-2/185 — The late ’94 is entering his draft year and we think NHL teams will take a long look at him. The tall, lanky centerman is a great skater who is aggressive on the forecheck and gets to loose pucks. Appears to be a bit raw right now, but has a lot of tools to work with. Uncommitted.
3. Alec Rauhauser, D, 3/7/95 (Bismarck Century) 6-3/192 — Colossal defender who has a good stick and is sharp with the puck. The senior’s feet are still a work in progress, but there is a lot to like about his game. Is in his first season of being draft eligible and is someone we think will draw interest from Central Scouting. Uncommitted.
4. Chris Forney, D, 11/20/94 (Thief River Falls) 6-2/176 — Younger brother of former North Dakota Fighting Sioux forward Michael Forney, a third round pick by the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets The younger Forney is draft eligible and, like his older brother, will make a case to hear his name called. An imposing presence on the blue line, Forney also brings some offense to the table. In his last two seasons at Thief River Falls he has been close to a point a game. Uncommitted.
5. Will Hammer, F, 2/6/96 (St. Cloud Cathedral) 6-0/190 — Power forward needs to work on his feet, but his hands are soft and he is difficult to move in front of the net. Played on the top line with Poganski and Ziegler and managed to create time and space for his linemates. Uncommitted.
6. Colton Poolman, D, 12/18/95 (East Grand Forks) 6-0/175 — Nothing flashy, just solid and good in his own zone. Did not get beat in 1x1 play and makes a good first pass. Is two weeks away from being a ’96 birth year. Uncommitted.
1. Avery Peterson, F, 6/20/95 (Grand Rapids) 6-2/193 — We really liked the junior forward this summer at the Select 17s and those feelings were affirmed here. When you watch him the first word that jumps into your mind is “pro.” Just has that look in that he is big, strong, can skate, and is effective driving the net. A definite NHL draft prospect. Uncommitted.
2. Matt Serratore, F, 6/21/94 (Bemidji) 5-9/150 — The son of Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore. Would you be shocked to hear that the younger Serratore works hard, pays attention to detail, and does not give up on pucks? Funny how coaches’ kids always seem to play that way. Has some skill to his game too as he scored a nice goal here on Saturday night. We are surprised that the senior forward has not committed to play for his father as he will surely be an effective D-I player.
3. Karson Kuhlman, F, 9/26/95 (Cloquet) 5-10/170 — Powerful skater is a bull on the puck—can really take it to the net. The Dubuque (USHL) draft pick uses a nice, long stick and is able to handle the puck in high traffic areas. Just committed to Minnesota-Duluth.
4. Phil Beaulieu, D, 9/2/95 (Duluth East) 5-9/185 — Smart, heady defenseman is excellent with the puck on his stick. Moves it up ice nicely and has the vision and mitts to run a PP. Uncommitted.
5. Jake Zeleznikar, D, 9/26/94 (Hermantown) 6-1/179 — Does not exactly jump out at you, but made consistently good, subtle plays that made you look down at your book and say to yourself, “Who was that?” Senior defenseman is uncommitted.
1. Jake Wahlin, F, 11/9/96 (White Bear Lake) 5-8/162 — One of seven 10th graders in the Elite League—and it just so happens that he is his team’s top player. Wahlin is just one of those guys that is always dangerous. Simply knows how to create offense and score goals. Would not be surprised one bit if he led Minnesota High School hockey in scoring this year. A top recruit who will undoubtedly end up at Minnesota, North Dakota or Wisconsin. Put up a 15-30-45 scoring line in just 26 games played as a freshman.
2. Seamus Donohue, D, 6/1/96 (St. Thomas Academy) 5-10/168 — Only a sophomore, but already exudes confidence with the puck on his stick. Has ice running through his veins as he is cool, calm and collected under pressure. Will run a PP both at the high school and college level as he exhibits the poise needed to do so. Is a high-end prospect in our opinion. Uncommitted.
3. Mitchel Slattery, F, 4/20/96 (Hill-Murray) 5-11/185 — Not a burner, but someone who is always on the puck and in the thick of things. The junior forward has great hockey sense and can really rip the puck. Will score a lot of goals. Uncommitted.
4. Hans Gorowsky, F, 12/20/94 (Centennial) 5-8/174 — 12/20/94 birth date is very close to being a ’95, which would put him in a whole new light. Smart hockey player who is slippery in traffic. Just makes play after play—always creating offense. Put up an 18-17-35 scoring line in 26 games played as a junior last year. Uncommitted.
5. Jake Cass, D, 2/2/96 (Stillwater) 5-10/185 — Smallish defender creates a lot of offense and is not shy about jumping into the play. A very confident player who took the puck coast-to-coast on a number of occasions. Passes the puck hard and tape-to-tape. Uncommitted.
6. Dylan Woolf, D, 5/3/96 (Holy Family Catholic) 6-0/188 — An absolute killer. Someone you want on your team and not someone you want to play against. Caught a forward with his head down on Friday night and reminded everyone in the building that hockey is indeed a dangerous sport.
7. Rory Davidowski, G, 12/4/94 (Totino-Grace) 6-1/158 — Certainly looks the part. Tall, athletic and competitive. Made some nice saves here.
* Grant Besse, F, 7/14/94 (Benilde-St. Margaret’s) — A Wisconsin recruit; missed the weekend. The future Badger put up a 40-35-75 scoring line in just 25 games played last season. We wished we had been able to see him, because the Benilde-St. Margaret’s star is just fun to watch – and always at the top of our list of players to see.
1. Tommy Vannelli, D, 1/26/95 (Minnetonka) 6-2/165 — Reports from the Ivan Hlinka Tournament indicated that Vannelli struggled in his first international tournament. That said, there is not a defenseman in this league with more upside than the Minnetonka senior. He is big, can skate, has a good stick and can make plays happen in the offensive zone. He could very well be a first round draft pick next June -- and we would be very surprised if his name was not called in the top three rounds. We are told that his grades need to come up, otherwise he would be committed to a school of his choice.
2. Andrew Zerban, F, 3/22/96 (Elk River) 5-10/170 — Junior forward is an absolute sniper. Scored a goal on Saturday night -- going short side, bar down -- that had everyone in the building scribbling on their note pads. Is not big or particularly fast, but when given time and space knows what do with it. Will always score goals wherever he plays. In 26 games last season the sharpshooter potted 24 goals—impressive for a sophomore. Certainly has the potential to play in the Big 10 or the WCHA, but is also a top student who could be a key target for Ivy League schools.
3. Johnny Austin, D, 7/22/95 (Benilde-St. Margaret’s) 5-8/182 — Dynamic, offensive defenseman who is great on the PP and a lot of fun to watch. Has a quick set of hands and is elusive in traffic. The junior defender was partnered with Vannelli and the two spent 70% of their shifts in the offensive zone. Uncommitted.
4. Jack Ramsey, F, 11/2/95 (Minnetonka) 6-1/172 — The son of Mike Ramsey, a 1980 Miracle on Ice US Olympic Team gold-medal winner, longtime NHL player, and coach. The younger Ramsey is a junior forward who is a big, strong, north/south power forward. Excellent along the walls, in front of the net and in the corners. Ramsey is also someone who is very difficult to play against. Is not eligible until the 2014 NHL draft and we think he has a strong chance of being selected. Uncommitted.
5. Mason Bergh, F, 3/6/95 (Eden Prairie) 5-11/160 — An all-around player who could be effective in a lot of roles at the next level. Has the skill to be a top six forward, but is also big and fast enough to play on the third line in a defensive aspect. Has upside and could end up being a bit of a sleeper. Uncommitted.
6. Matt Koch, D, 3/22/95 (Hastings) 6-0/190 — The more we watched him, the more we liked him. Does not complicate the game. Can really zip the puck around and makes firm, tape-to-tape passes. Vannelli and Austin logged most of the PP time, but our guess is that the senior defenseman is more than capable of running a PP. Uncommitted.
7. Chase Perry, G, 2/8/96 (Andover) 6-2/175 — Regarded as one of the top goalies in the state. Did not disappoint here as he showed athleticism and sound technique. Has been the starting goaltender at Andover since his freshman year. Last season, in 27 games played, he posted a .919 save percentage and a 2.80 GAA. A Sioux Falls (USHL) draft pick. Uncommitted.
8. Tyler Cline, F, 9/3/95 (Blaine) 5-7/160 — Remarkable skater who can really fly. Puts defenders on their heels and can push the pace of the game. His skating will carry him a long way -- likely into the USHL and then to D-I hockey. Uncommitted.
9. Travis Brown, D, 5/6/96 (Rogers) 6-0/190 — Solid defender who is good in his own zone. Brings his hard hat and lunch pail to work everyday. Good shot from the point. Uncommitted.
1. Teemu Kivihalme, D, 6/17/95 (Burnsville) 5-11/155 — In our opinion it is a toss up as to who is the top defenseman in Minnesota high school hockey -- Kivihalme or Vannelli. Our thought is that right now the Burnsville junior might have a step on Vannelli, but Vannelli’s high end might be higher. As a sophomore last season, Kivihalme put up an 8-21-29 scoring line through 25 games played. The Colorado College recruit is a beautiful skater — he really catches your eye immediately – and is a huge get for the Tigers as he has All-America potential. Will hear his name called at the NHL draft in June.
2. Luc Snuggerud, D, 9/18/95 (Eden Prairie) 5-11/165 — Really entertaining to watch. Has a lot of fast twitch to his game. His play on the offensive blue line is spectacular. Exhibits a lot of poise and confidence. Is your stereotypical offensive defenseman. The junior is a big recruit who has high-end upside. A Muskegon (USHL) draft pick. We are told that he made the team, but elected to stay home. Is the son of Bo Snuggerud (University of St. Thomas), and the nephew of Dave Snuggerud, former Gopher, ’88 U.S.Olympian, and NHLer. Uncommitted.
3. Jack Dougherty, D, 5/25/96 (St. Thomas Academy) 6-1/184 — Is gaining confidence and developing a name for himself. Represented Team USA at the Five Nations tournament this summer where he tied for the team lead in points. The junior defenseman is tall, lanky, smart and has a good stick. Makes the correct play 97% of the time when the puck on his stick. Is a 2014 NHL draft prospect. Uncommitted.
4. Tyler Sheehy, F, 11/20/95 (Burnsville) 5-9/173 — Competes like a dog. Is constantly hungry to have the puck on his stick and is not shy to go and get it himself. Has a good set of hands and excels in the tough ice. Is a Waterloo (USHL) draft pick and played seven games for P.K. O’Handley’s team last season. Uncommitted.
5. Zach Glienke, F, 12/2/94 (Eagan) 6-3/190 — Big, powerful skater who is undoubtedly a pro prospect. It is not often you see someone this size skate so fluidly. Is very raw right now, but could develop into a big-time power forward. Last season at Eagan he put up a 27-15-42 scoring line in 31 games played. Will be watched closely by NHL scouts this season. Uncommitted.
6. Tony Bretzman, D, 11/10/94 (St. Thomas Academy) 5-10/150 — Smart, puck-moving defender. Makes crisp passes and always has his head up. As a junior last season he posted a 3-16-19 scoring line through 31 games played. Uncommitted.
7. Jake Kielly, G, 9/10/96 (Eden Prairie) 6-1/172 — Good presence in the net. Does not give shooters much room to shoot at. Still very young as he is only a sophomore.
8. Hunter Warner, D, 9/21/95 (Eden Prairie) 6-2/189 — Long, athletic defender can skate and gets up the ice quickly. The junior is a bit of a project, but our guess is that when he fills out he will be a nice player.
1. Shane Gersich, F, 7/10/96 (Holy Family Catholic) 5-10/165 — Very well could be the top uncommitted college prospect in the country—and he’s only a sophomore! Our opinion of him is a bit skewed because we have seen him at his best. He sort of went through the motions here. Nonetheless, Gersich just has so much skill – an absolute stud. Played for Team USA at the Five Nations tournament and led the team in scoring. Was outstanding at the Select 16 Festival over the summer. As a freshman last season. Gersich posted a 30-30-60 scoring line in just 21 games played. Might outgrow Minnesota high school hockey after this season and be forced to move on to the USHL or the NTDP.
2. Connor Hurley, F, 9/15/95 (Edina) 6-1/170 — A ton of potential. We were shocked this summer when the junior forward was not selected to Team USA for the Ivan Hlinka tournament. Has all the tools to one day be an NHL player. Another Minnesota high school player who could go as high as the first round in June’s NHL draft. As a sophomore last season, he posted a 26-32-58 scoring line through 30 games played. Will be a huge get for whichever college lands him.
3. Parker Reno, D, 1/20/95 (Edina) 6-1/190 — Top defenseman who is solid in all areas. The senior is big, strong, skates well and is developing the offensive side of his game —he’s an all-around defenseman. Is steadily rising up scouting charts. Played on Team USA this summer at the Ivan Hlinka tournament. Has an excellent chance of being drafted into the NHL in June. Uncommitted.
4. Tony Haeg, F, 1/3/95 (Holy Angels) 6-0/160 — Battles, battles and battles some more. Never gives up on pucks and is quite the presence in front of the net. Is not afraid to mix it up and score a dirty goal. Finished second in scoring for Holy Angels last season posting a 22-22-44 scoring line in just 25 games played. Uncommitted.
5. Dylan Malmquist, F, 8/18/96 (Edina) 5-9/161 — An excellent skater. When he hits top speed there are not many in high school hockey that are faster. Has a smooth set of hands and is really intelligent with the puck on his stick. Would like to see him play with more urgency and get to top speed on a consistent basis. Is only a sophomore this season. Put up a 26-23-49 scoring line as a freshman last year. Uncommitted.
6. Frankie Mork, D, 7/23/94 (Holy Angels) 5-7/162 — Really liked the small spark plug over the summer when he attended the Road to College Showcase in Massachusetts. Certainly is not very big, but he plays with a ton of energy and does not shy away from the physical side of the game. Is a competitor. Makes a good first pass and is assertive in the offensive zone. Is a top student who would be a great player in the ECAC. Put up an impressive 12-28-40 scoring line in 25 games played last year.
7. Jimmy Shuldt, D, 5/11/95 (Minnetonka) 5-11/195 — Consistent and reliable defenseman. The senior is one of those guys that you love to have on your team. Does not try to do too much, just makes a good pass and defends very well. Someone you feel comfortable with every time he jumps over the boards. Uncommitted.
8. Daniel Labosky, F, 5/24/95 (Benilde-St. Margaret’s) 5-6/145 — Has great stick skills and makes a ton of plays in tight spaces. Colorado College has done a great job in plucking two of the top high school players out of the state of Minnesota in Kivihalme and Labosky. Labosky has torched Minnesota high school hockey during his time at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, posting a career scoring line of 32-81-113 in 85 games played.
9. Bo Brauer, F, 4/20/95 (Edina) 6-2/195 — A behemoth. Is strong on the puck and could develop into a power forward who plants himself at the net front and picks up goals. Scored a nice one on Saturday night by holding off two defenders in the slot and firing a hard shot low blocker. Uncommitted.
10. Mario Bianchi, F, 9/3/94 (Holy Angels) 5-7/160 — Really small, but is crafty and skilled. Has a good mind for the game and possesses a road map in the offensive zone. Just knows where to be. Led Holy Angels in scoring last season, putting up a 25-34-59 scoring line in only 23 games played. Uncommitted.
1. Charley Graaskamp, F, 1/31/96 (Eau Claire Memorial) 6-2/170 — Has all the earmarks of a late bloomer who could be a high NHL draft pick in 2014. Tall, thin and has a slick set of hands. Can handle the puck in a phone both. Has a large frame and will probably add 30 pounds of muscle before he sets foot on a college campus. Big time potential. Will be surprised if the Wisconsin Badgers let him out of the state. Plays for the Eau Claire Memorial Old Abes. Reminds us of Minnesota Wild (NHL) forward Charlie Coyle at the same age.
2. Luke Davison, D, 12/26/96 (Notre Dame) 5-11/165 — When we are wrong we have no problem admitting it. We completely overlooked Davison at the Select 16 Festival over the summer. In our defense, there’s a lot of hockey to take in there, a lot of players, and not a lot of time. Any scout knows your eyes get a little hazy after the third or fourth game, three cups of coffee, and greasy food in your system. Anyway, we can now tell you that the junior defender is high end, a sure fire D-I prospect who will run a college PP as his hands are soft and he has a good command of the puck in the offensive zone. Uncommitted.
3. Cooper Watson, D, 4/18/96 (Appleton) 6-1/170 — Raw right now, but sky is the limit in terms of where he could end up. Seems to be a lot bigger than 6’1”. Has good feet for a big body. Someone to keep tabs on as his game could really take off over the next year or two. In our eyes he is certainly an NHL prospect. Is the younger brother of Cliff Watson, an Ohio State recruit now playing for Sioux City (USHL). Uncommitted.
4. Jake Bunz, D, 4/5/95 (Middleton) 6-3/192 — Our sources tell us that he keeps improving. Big, skates well and is hard nosed. A meat-and-potatoes defender who is very tough to beat in 1x1 situations. Bunz is someone we think NHL teams will watch over the course of the season. Looked really good here. Uncommitted.
5. Michael Wilson, F, 6/6/95 (Fond Du Lac) 6-0/172 — Big, can really shoot the puck, and works his tail off – a complete player. Produced a 19-19-38 scoring line in 27 games played as a sophomore last season. Uncommitted.
6. Zac Keryluk, F, 7/19/94 (Verona) 6-2/195 — Powerful skater, a north/south power forward who excels along the walls. Has an explosive first couple of steps. Scored 20 goals last season in just 28 games played. The senior forward is uncommitted.
Pinho Picks Providence
St. John’s Prep senior Brian Pinho has committed to Providence College for 2014. The 6’0”, 170 lb. forward made the announcement last night tweeting “Committed to Providence College. Thank you everyone for the help and support over the years! #friars”
The North Andover, Mass native was excellent at the Super 8 last year. Here is what we had to say about him: “Plays center on Sam Kurker’s line and the two are a threat to score every shift. Was SJP’s top player against Cathedral as he was constantly involved in scoring opportunities. Scored the game-tying goal in which he displayed a quick release; also assisted on Kurker’s OT game-winner. One of those players who does everything well, but nothing great. Has decent size (6’0”), skates well, makes plays, has a good shot, but does nothing to really wow you. If he can get slightly bigger, slightly stronger, and slightly faster he will be heavily recruited.”
Nate Leaman’s staff is going to be bringing in a serious influx of talent over the next few years with the likes of Mark Jankowski (Stanstead College), Paul Dejersey (Prince George-BCHL), Nick Saracino (Cedar Rapids-USHL), Jon Gillies (Indiana-USHL) Anthony Florentino (South Kent), Thomas Aldworth (Cushing) and now Pinho.
Other schools in the mix for the Catholic Conference’s top returning scorer were Brown and Holy Cross.
A Steal for the Saints
St. Lawrence has received a commitment from 5’11” 162 lb. Nichols School junior forward Michael Ederer for the fall of 2015.
The Saints were on Ederer early and used a geographical advantage – and perhaps the fact that they had committed R.J. Gicewicz, Ederer’s classmate at Nichols, this past spring -- to attract the Lancaster, NY native to the North Country. We feel that St. Lawrence, had they waited, might have had competition from the top Hockey East schools.
USHR first noticed the 3/3/96 birthdate playing on the first line with NTDP/Harvard recruit Sean Malone last year at the Berkshire Jamboree. Here is what we had to say about him back then: “The ’96-born winger did not look out of place playing on the top line with Malone. He has skill and we feel his game will come along nicely over the next few years. Definitely a player worth tracking.”
Over the summer’s Select 16 Festival we felt that Ederer solidified his status as a player with D-I and pro potential. We had him at #30 among a very deep group of ’96 forwards and wrote: “Another sleeper from upstate New York. We noticed the Nichols School winger in the fall playing on a line with Harvard recruit Sean Malone and liked him then. Well, we like him more now. Ederer is an explosive skater who can really turn it on when he wants to. Will be back at Nichols for the upcoming season.”
Other schools in the hunt for the Buffalo Saints product were Penn State and RPI.
Hallisey Commits to Tigers
5’10”, 185 lb. David Hallisey, a senior and captain-elect at the Westminster School, committed to Princeton this morning.
An 8/18/94 birthdate, Hallisey, a native of Wethersfield, Conn., is a right shot forward, who played on either wing last season and, in 27 games, posted a 25-16-41 line. Among Founders’ League skaters, only Salisbury’s Philip Zielonka (Harvard), with 26, had more goals. Hallisey’s future teammate at Princeton, Choate’s Ben Foster, tied him with 25 goals.
Hallisey, who is a fourth year student at Westminster and playing this fall for the U18 Wolf Pack, made his final choice from among Princeton, Vermont, and St. Lawrence.
Hallisey was highly-touted as a 15-year-old coming out of the Mid-Fairfield organization, but he never grew much and the hype dropped off a bit when he was injured in his sophomore year.
His coach at Westminster, Tim Joncas, who also has him as an academic advisor, speaks really highly of his captain.
“He’s a great story because he developed later and committed later than a lot of other high-end players,” Joncas says. “He had 41 points last season in a tough league. He has speed and ability to get to the net, and he’s really smart. He reads plays well and has an innate ability to step into holes and see seams – he goes to where the puck will be. He reads situations very well. He understands and operates at a high level. He’s a complete player.”
“He’s also a great kid – committed, with a great work ethic…very determined and gritty. His sportsmanship is great. He’s a very good hockey player – and an even better person.”
Hallisey will arrivve at Princeton in the fall of '14.
A Big Centerman for the Crimson
6’2”, 193 lb. LC Francois Lemelin of the Kanata Stallions (CCHL) has committed to Harvard for ’14 (most likely) or possibly ’15.
Lemelin -- a 2/15/96 birthdate and one of three ‘96s on the Stallions -- is a French-speaking native of Petawawa, Ontario, which is about 100 miles northwest of Ottawa on Rt. 17 (the Trans-Canada Highway). Last season, playing midget minors, Lemelin, in 27 games, had an 11-18-29 line. This season, his first in juniors, Lemelin has one assist in the three games the Stallions have played to date.
We wrote about Lemelin when he was down in the Boston area for the Junior Chowder Cup in July, ranking him among the top ten players we saw there -- #7, to be precise (see USHR News of 7/9/12). Our comments: “Big kid who protects the puck well and has a good understanding of the game, i.e., he made plays. Played last winter for the Ottawa Valley Titans midget minor team, one of the best squads in Ontario. Feet need to get quicker. Is slated to play for the Kanata Stallions of the CJHL, where he was drafted in the first round, #6 overall (the CJHL draft is just two rounds).”
Brown Bears Go Overseas For Blueliner
Brown University has received a commitment from 6’2”, 179 lb. Finnish defenseman Aleksi Rossi.
Rossi, who played the last two seasons for KalPa U20 in Finland’s top junior league, is a big stay-at-home D.
He’s en route to the U.S. and will arrive in Iowa tomorrow and join the Waterloo Black Hawks. He’ll play his first game on U.S. soil at the USHL Fall Classic next week.
A 3/15/93 birthdate, Rossi is fluent in Finnish, Swedish, and English. He will matriculate at Brown in the fall of ‘13.
6’1”, 218 lb. Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL) LW Frankie DiChiaria, who committed to Princeton in May (for the fall of ’13) has decommitted – and is in play.
A 9/22/93 birthdate, DiChiaria, a native of Ronkonkoma, NY (that’s on Long Island), played for Aleksey Nikoforov and Suffolk PAL in ’09-10 and then the LI Royals 2010-11 MJHL Championship team in ’10-11. DiChiaria spent last year with the St. Louis Bandits (NAHL), where he was third on the team in scoring with a 23-28-51 line in 59 games played. Dubuque selected him in the second round of May’s USHL draft.
Since DiChiaria decommitted last week, he’s been getting a lot of attention – primarily from Hockey East, ECAC, and the CCHA schools. We’ve heard Penn State, Union, and Vermont are all interested.
“He’ll get his choices,” says Montgomery. “I’ve been really surprised with how quickly he picks up on things – penalty killing, for example. He sees the ice. And he makes plays all over the ice. If he has a shot he will take it – and it will be a scoring opportunity. He has hockey sense.”
If there’s a knock on DiChiaria it’s that, at 218 lbs., he’s carrying too much weight.
Ford Following in Father’s Footsteps
5’9, 180 lb. LD Keegan Ford, who will be playing for the Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL) this season, has committed to the University of Wisconsin for 2014 or ’15.
Ford, a 5/30/96 birthdate out of Waunakee (Wisc.) High School, is the son of Pat Ford, a Badger centerman from ’84 to ‘88. The senior forward, who went into college coaching after retiring as a player, is now in private business.
The younger Ford had a terrific Select 16 Festival in July – we ranked him #5 among d-men there -- and was named to the Five Nations Team, which went undefeated in the Czech Republic last month.
Here are our comments on him from the 16s: “Listed at 5’9”, which could be a generous. Small, dynamic defender who is excellent with the puck and will be an impact defender at the D1 level. Very similar to Denver’s WCHA Rookie of the Year Joey LaLeggia. Is strong on his feet and skates well enough to defend against bigger forwards. Will play for Dubuque (USHL) this season and it would not surprise us one bit if he ran their PP. Played for Waunakee HS in Wisconsin last year and put up a 34-40-74 scoring line in just 27 games played—eye popping numbers for a defenseman at any level.”
His coach this year at Dubuque, says, “I think the biggest compliment I can give him is that he’s a hockey player. He competes, and he has a high level of hockey sense. He likes to play the whole two hundred feet and his vision in the offensive end is high-end. In his own end is where most of the learning curve will come into play.”
Homegrown Talent for the Wildcats
5’10”, 165 lb. LD Liam Darcy, who is going into his sophomore year at Berwick Academy, committed tonight to the University of New Hampshire. The year he matriculates has yet to be determined, but it will likely be ’15 or ’16.
A 2/26/97 birthdate, Darcy, in 21 games played, had a 5-17-22 line last season – not bad for a freshman D.
Here are our comments on Darcy from the Yankee Conference tryouts in Burlington, Vermont, held in late March: “Was the MVP at Berwick Academy as a freshman, which is no small accomplishment. Very, very intelligent player who is just beginning to realize how good he is. Has a smooth set of hands and is difficult to get the puck from. Does an excellent job of sucking forecheckers in before moving the puck up ice. Will be another defenseman who will get consideration from the NTDP.”
At the Select 15 Festival, we ranked Darcy #10 nationally among blueliners there. “[Darcy] has a great stick and makes consistently smart plays. Already has a Div. I hockey mind, just needs to get bigger, stronger and faster.”
Darcy, from South Berwick, Maine, about a 20-30 minute drive to the Whittemore Center, plays his fall hockey with the Seacoast Spartans organization and has grown up as a lifelong UNH fan. The Wildcats had the inside track all along.
Maine, however, also recruited him.
It’s That Time of Year
USHR has been busy over the past week, hitting both the Neponset Valley River Rats Showcase as well as the 15th Annual Massachusetts Labor Day Tier 1 Invitational Face-Off in Marlborough. Now, with summer winding down and split-season hockey winding up, we can say with certainty that the starting gate for the new season has swung open. Forthwith, we offer our review of the split-season teams and players we feel fall into the “must see” category. Naturally, with well over a hundred teams at the Tier 1 Face-Off, we did not get to see everyone – it just felt that way.
Note: We were only able to catch the Boston Little Bruins play about one half of a game, thus we will not attempt to cover them like the five teams below. However, based on their roster alone, they are right in the mix with the top U18 teams.
Neponset Valley River Rats U18 — We have seen the River Rats play at three different events over the past week, so yes, they have been playing a lot of hockey. And, in taking down the Connecticut Wolf Pack 3-1 in the finals, they were in midseason form. The River Rats are led up front by UMass recruit Casey Miller (Kimball Union), though his supporting cast of Zach Sabatini (Tabor), Shamus Maloney (Tabor), Trevor Yates (Deerfield), Nolan Vesey (Austin Prep) and Jordan Jancze (Deerfield) is very strong. All will make a significant impact on their respective teams this winter. On the back end we continue to be impressed by Jon Barry (Thayer) and Mitch Nylen (Brooks). 6’2”, 195 lb. Liam Feeney has also caught our eye(s) on numerous occasions -- the ’95 birthdate plays a conservative game and has some nice physical tools. In goal, Lawrence Academy’s Drew Michals, who played last season for the Junior Bruins Empire team, has been solid. The 6’1”, 165 lb. junior has big shoes to fill as Nathaniel Heilbron, who led the Spartans to a New England prep title in March, has graduated.
Connecticut Wolf Pack U18 — The Wolf Pack may lack the star power of some of the other teams here, but they played a cohesive game – and that got them to the finals. The player who impressed us most was Canterbury’s Daniel Fritz. A 6’1”, 188 lb. ’95-born defenseman from Harwood, Maryland, Fritz seems to have put in a lot of work over the summer – he looks bigger, faster and stronger. Mitchell Allen (Kent) is another player who appears to be coming along nicely. The 6’2”, 180 lb. forward from Clifton Park, NY is figuring out how to use his size to his advantage and, while we feel he still has a way to go, we also see his numbers taking a large leap forward this season. ’94-born forward David Hallisey (Westminster) is someone who has been on our radar for quite some time, but has yet to find a D-I home. We feel that could change. The 5’11”, 180 lb. utilityman gives a good, honest effort each game and has an above-average skill set. Owen Powers (Choate), a ’95, is another player who we feel is a touch underappreciated. The 6’2”, 195 lb. power forward protects the puck well and plays a strong defensive side game. A player you can trust, Powers, from Cheshire, Conn., will need to add speed to his game to attract the attention of D-I coaches. A goaltender to keep an eye on this season is Loomis-Chaffee’s Danny Tirone. The 5’11”, 170 lb. Trumbull, Conn. native was injured most of last season, but when he did play he was good (a .921 save percentage in only 435 minutes). Tirone, a ’94, came to Loomis via Shattuck-St. Mary’s. Finally, we have always liked the play of William Toffey (Salisbury). The 6’1”, 190 lb. junior from Barnstable, Mass. was a bit rusty here (from a summer of baseball), but he has natural ability and will only get better as the season moves along.
Greater Boston Junior Bruins U18 — We were in attendance at the GBL Bruins’ first three games (all wins) and missed out on their final two games (both losses), thus our opinion could be a bit skewed. That being said, there was not a team here that impressed us more. We watched them torch a supposedly elite Mid-Fairfield team by six goals in just two periods of play (any game with a six-goal differential after two periods was called under the tournament’s mercy rule). Heading into the final day, the GBL Junior Bruins would have been our pick to win the tourney -- good thing there wasn’t a Vegas line here. As for the players, Cushing senior forward Thomas Aldworth, a ’95, generated the most buzz here. The Keller, Texas native – he’s listed at 5’11”, 175 lbs., but 6’1”, 185 lbs. is probably more like it – has taken a huge step forward in his development. He just looks a lot faster and stronger than he was a year ago. His challenge will be competing on a shift-to-shift basis, but if he can play a consistent game he could hear his name called in the first half of the NHL draft in June. The All-Milton line of Anthony Sabitsky (’94), Elliott Vorel (’94) and Sean Brennan (’96) was GBL’s most consistently effective line – they were just all over the puck. Vorel, a senior, looks to have shed some pounds over the summer and added a step, which will help him improve on his 41 points from a year ago. Sabitsky, also a senior, works extremely hard in all three zones and has high-end hockey sense. Another key player on the Junior Bruins is ’97-born freshman forward Cam Askew, who, in case you missed our report earlier in the summer, has transferred from St. Seb’s to Cushing. Askew was his usual self here, playing a high-skill game leavened with grit. It’s clear to see that the South Boston native is getting stronger as he can now hold off defenders in the corners with ease. Tommy Besinger (BC High), a ’94-born junior forward, is a pleasure to watch. A smart playmaker, the Milton, Mass native makes something happen every time he touches the puck. We see his game going in one of two directions — either he stays as is and becomes a high-end NESCAC recruit, or he adds strength and develops into a Jason Guerriero (Northeastern ’05) type player. A defenseman to keep on eye on at the start of the season is Milton Academy junior Connor Wynne, a Pomona, NY native who played for the North Jersey Avalanche U16 team last season. Wynne, a ’95, is very light on his feet and savvy with the puck. When he adds weight to his 5’10”, 160 lb. frame we think he will be a legitimate D-I prospect. A pair of ’95 defenseman from Cushing -- Richie Boyd and Steven Windt --- also looked good. Boyd, a Delray Beach, Florida native is big, strong and at his best when he keeps things simple. Windt will be new to prep hockey this season, coming from the New Jersey Devils U16 team. A 5’11”, 170 lb. defender, Windt needs to improve his feet, but he has a great stick and is capable of orchestrating a power play.
Cape Cod Whalers U18 — The Whalers are loaded with talent, but went 2-2-1 here and failed to qualify for the semifinals. 6’2”, 175 lb. freshman forward Colin White is the Whalers’ top forward. While we did not see the BC recruit at the Tier 1 Face-Off, we did see him at the River Rats Showcase and can report that he continues to improve. Not only that, but Nobles’ young star has done some filling out over the summer and no longer has the look of a young kid. The top skater in prep hockey, White will have a difficult time putting up the same numbers as he did last season when he was on a line with NHL draft picks Adam Gilmour (Muskegon-USHL) and Chris Calnan (South Shore-EJHL). With those two leaving Nobles, White, a Hanover, Mass. native with all the earmarks of a top round pick in the 2015 NHL draft, moves to center stage. The Whalers have another high-end recruit in 5’8” 165 lb. speedster Corey Ronan is. The fact that the St. Sebastian’s forward remains uncommitted is puzzling to us, but our hunch is that he has offers on the table and is a) either holding out for a better deal or b) has his heart is set on a specific school. 6’3”, 175 lb. Dexter power forward Tim Harrison is also someone to track. For a big man, Harrison, a Duxbury, Mass. native, can really skate, but we have yet to see him make plays. Dexter will be one of the top teams in prep hockey this season and we should be able to get a better feel for his hockey IQ by then. Speaking of Dexter players, leading scorer Trevor Fidler will look to improve on his impressive 24-31-55 scoring line from a year ago. The Harvard recruit makes the puck look like it has Velcro on it. Plus he just doesn’t go away. It was also nice to get a look at 5’10”, 170 lb. Lincoln Griffin again. A top ’97-born forward, Griffin is also an elite baseball player, thus did not attend the Select 15 Festival. The Thayer winger is a smart player who just wills offense – he competes extremely hard and has an excellent release on his shot. On the back end ’97-born Noah Hanifin is the show. The 6’2”, 190 lb. defender will be back at St. Seb’s this season despite being pulled in every direction by USHL and EJHL teams. We applaud the Norwood, Mass. native’s decision to stay put as he was good last season — 5-24-29 in 28 GP — but did not dominate. This year he has a chance to do something special and very well could be the first sophomore to win the USHR Prep Defenseman of the Year award. This weekend also provided us the opportunity to take another gander at Mike Bavis’s latest get in ’94-born Dalton MacAfee. The St. Sebastian’s senior is a smooth skater who makes a good first pass, but has yet to wow us like most BU recruits tend to do. That being said, Bavis has an impeccable record of identifying top defenseman that other programs overlook, e.g. Matt Gilroy and Garrett Noonan. 5’10”, 185 lb. defenseman Charlie Donners was very good here, especially on the offensive side of the puck. The ’94-born Dexter senior is a D-I player as his feet are very good and he plays with heart and tenacity. Michael Menter, a 6’2”, 205 lb. ’95-born d-man for the Middlesex School, is big, solid, and keeps things simple. Coming off a good showing at the Select 16 Festival, Menter, from Lake George, NY, is someone to keep an eye on. In net, 5’11”, 185 lb. senior Conor Maher is underappreciated. The ’95-born netminder never repeated at Nobles and led the Bulldogs to a 23-5-1 record as a 16 year old. He isn’t flashy, but always appears calm in the net and has improved his rebound control.
Connecticut Yankees U18 — The Yankees are an extremely good team as NHL Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine took many of the top players from his national champion Long Island Royals team and combined them with some top prep players from the Founders’ League. Choate incoming junior Joey Caffrey is someone we expect will put his stamp on prep hockey right out of the gate. A ’95 center from the North Jersey Avalanche U16 team, Caffrey has hockey sense and is deceptively fast. ’95-born center Nick Hutchinson, who will be a junior at Avon, has very soft hands and is shifty in traffic, especially when you consider that he is 6’2”, 180 lbs. An interesting player with a lot of upside, Hutchinson, if he can become more explosive out of the gate, will begin to gather attention from D-I schools. ’95 Daniel LaFontaine and ’94 Vincent Russo were playing together here over the weekend and our guess is that they will be paired together on Avon’s top line this season. It’s worth noting that LaFontaine and Russo are very similar players in that they both process the game at a high level and have the hands and vision to make plays happen. That said, neither is a pure finisher or an explosive skater. On the back end, we really liked the play of Avon senior Griff Martin. The 6’1”, 195 lb. Fairfield, Conn. native recently decommitted from Yale and is someone schools should be tracking closely. Martin has a great stick, moves the puck up ice quickly, and will run the Avon PP this season. Another Avon defenseman we liked was Sam Loizeaux. The junior from North Salem, NY has size at 6’0” and 180 lbs., can skate, and makes plays with his head up. With the departure of Colin Sullivan (BC), we would expect Loizeaux to step up and improve on his 1-7-8 scoring line from a season ago.
Note: Earlier, we had reported that the Connecticut Yankees U18 Team had lost every game they played at the tournament, and indeed their official record was 0-5. What happened was this, because they chose not to play a game scheduled for 8:30 pm on Sunday night (reportedly because some players had to be back at their boarding schools Monday morning) all their games were entered into the official record as 1-0 forfeits. On the ice, they lost 2-1 to the Wolf Pack, beat the Little Bruins, 4-3, beat Buffalo, 6-1, and lost to the Cape Cod Whalers, 6-0.
Joey Dudek, F, ’96 (Boston Little Bruins) 5-11/175 — While we did not spend much time watching the Little Bruins as a whole, we did take the time to hone in on Dudek. The former Pinkerton Academy star is as smart as they come and is getting stronger and faster. You can see -- from playing at the Select 16 Festival and the Five Nations Tournament – that his game has taken a significant jump over the summer. His decision-making appears to be faster already. The BC recruit will have an immediate impact at KUA this year and will compete with Casey Miller (UMass) as the team’s top center. There is a strong chance that he will only play one season of prep hockey before the NTDP scoops him up à la Sean Malone (Nichols) and Shane Eiserman (Cushing) this summer.
Timothy Shoup, D, ’95 (Pittsburgh Penguins Elite) 6-0/175 — We first saw the Pittsburgh, PA native this summer at the Select 15 Festival and liked what we saw. This weekend just affirmed our feelings. Shoup is not someone who will catch your eye as he doesn’t really have a flashy skill set, but he is someone who gets the job done. He defends well, moves pucks up ice, and eats up minutes. You can trust him to not make mistakes.
John Baiocco, F, ’95 (New Jersey Freeze) 5-8/165 — We expect the Yale recruit, who elected to stay home for his senior year as opposed to heading out to the USHL, to put up massive numbers and lead Delbarton to another state title. Baiocco has great hands and vision and continues to get quicker and faster. In time, he will likely develop into a top six forward for the Bulldogs.
Charlie Kelleher, F, ’97 (Boston Junior Bruins) 5-8/140 — We only caught him once over the weekend, but he was without a doubt his team’s top player. The UNH recruit has very quick hands and really knows how to track loose pucks. The play just seems to follow him around the ice. We can’t say for certain that he is going to develop just like his brother, Tyler, but we can say that he is only going to get better as he adds weight and muscle to his 140 lb. frame.
Frank Sullivan, D, ’96 (Southern Connecticut Stars U16) 6-0/185 — The top “new prospect” we saw this weekend, Sullivan is a Fairfield, Conn. native who played last season for Notre Dame Catholic. A powerful skater who makes things happen on the offensive side of the puck, he’s a player who has slipped through the cracks – e.g., he was not at the Select 16 Festival this summer, but he should have been. Now is a good time for schools to see him, while he is still a relative unknown. He will be attending Westminster this year.
Joseph O’Connor, D, ’96 (Southern Connecticut Stars U16) 6-1/170 — Is not as assertive as Sullivan, but his upside is still high. For a tall, slender defenseman he moves well and is effective on the PP. Plays for Hamden HS and will be a top prep recruit for the 2013-14 season.
Drew Hotte, G, ’96 (Greater Boston Junior Bruins U16) 5-11/175 — Was at the Select 16 Festival where he played in the All-Star game. Will be at Milton Academy this year. Fundamentally sound and does not get rattled easily. Has good net presence and knows how to control his rebounds. Was not playing on a particularly strong team, but still managed to get them to the finals.
Guy Roby, F, ’96 (Philadelphia Little Flyers U16) 6-1/195 — The Philadelphia, PA native is a big power forward who can make a play and shoot a puck. Is a strong north-south skater, but could use some work on his east-west movement. Has already begun to generate a little bit of a buzz among prep schools that will be competing for his services. Played Tier II hockey last season for the Old York Road Raiders.
Kyle Martin, D, ’96 (Philadelphia Little Flyers U16) 6-1/190 — Big defenseman from Lancaster, PA has very good feet for someone of his size and age. Keeps things simple. Has a lot of upside and could be a classic late bloomer.
Kevin Hock, F, ’96 (Cape Cod Whalers U16) 6-0/165 — The sophomore at Catholic Memorial was on a line with Dexter sophomore sensation Ryan Donato and the two generated a lot of offense every time they touched the ice. Hock is a tall, slight winger who is light on his feet and has a nice set of mitts. When he fills out he will be an attractive player. We would expect him to establish a name for himself in the Boston area this season.
Dennis Gilbert, D, ’96 (Amherst Knights U18) 6-0/180 — Was at nationals last season at the U16 level and while his team was overmatched the Williamsville, NY native stood out. Has good offensive instincts and is a fluid skater for someone his size.
Corey Gehringer, F, ’95 (Igloo Jaguars U18) 6-0/180 — We do not think that the Igloo Jaguars are on anyone’s must-see list, but any school looking for a prime PG candidate needs to get down to Medford, NJ and take a look at Gehringer, who also plays for Gloucester HS, the same New Jersey high school that produced BC recruits John and Matt Gaudreau. The Jaguars’ top forward could have a Matt Beattie (Exeter/Yale) like impact for a New England prep school.
Peter Cronin, G, ’94 (South Shore Dynamos) 6-2/170 — Led BC High to the finals of the Super 8 last season. This year – now that Malden Catholic’s Ryan Fitzgerald and Brendan Collier are out of the picture – there is a window of opportunity for BC High. Cronin, a big, athletic goalie who has the ability to steal a game, will be a big part of that. NHL scouts were paying attention to him this weekend.
Ben Cirba, G, ’96 (Philadelphia Little Flyers U16) 6-3/170 — A big goaltender who takes up a lot of net, Cirba is very raw right now, but the potential is certainly there. Goaltenders traditionally take longer to develop and Cirba is worth keeping tabs on.
Matt Brazil, F, ’96 (Cape Cod Whalers U16) 6-0/175 — Was the top forward on Hingham HS last season. A smart player who is strong in all areas.
John Carlson, D, ’96 (Cape Cod Whalers U16) 6-2/190 — Also played for Hingham HS last year. Carlson needs to continue to work on his feet, but he can really shoot it. Also has a nice reach which he uses to his advantage.
Anthony Vincent, F, ’97 (Mid Fairfield U16) 5-5/125 — Played bantam major for Mid-Fairfield last year and was a top performer. Will be at Salisbury this year where, given his size, it will be hard for him to adjust. In time, though, we think he will be a factor. Is very agile, has a quick stick, and makes a lot of plays.
Daniel Eruzione, F, ’96 (Greater Boston Junior Bruins U16) 5-7/145 — Will be at Cushing this season. Is GBL’s top forward on the U16 squad. An energy player who can make plays.
Shawn O’Meara, D, ’96 (Florida Alliance U16) 6-0/163 — A big defender who can skate and make a heads-up play, O’Meara would be right at home on any prep roster.
Former Salisbury defenseman Thomas Welsh, who at this time last year committed to Penn State for the fall of '13, decommitted this morning.
A 6'0", 190 lb. '95-born defenseman from Toronto, Welsh played the past two seasons -- his sophomore and junior years -- at Salisbury, but returned to Ontario for his senior year. He's rostered with the Georgetown Raiders (OPJHL), and they begin their regular season on Saturday night.
Welsh was drafted by Sarnia in the fifth round of the 2011 OHL draft. This past June, Sarnia traded his rights to Mississauga for a fifth round pick in 2013.
We have not heard, however, heard anything about Welsh signing with Mississauga. He's played
Updated Woodchuck Schedule
Here's an updated schedule for this weekend's Woodchuck Classic:
2012 Woodchuck Schedule
Brown Bears Land A Sleeper
5’10”, 160 lb. Berkshire School center Charlie Corcoran has committed to Brown University for the fall of ’14 or ’15.
As a sophomore last season the New Canaan, Conn. native finished second in team scoring, posting an 11-14-25 scoring line in 31 games played. Six of Berkshire’s top eight scorers have been lost to graduation and Corcoran will be expected to carry the load this season.
The Mid-Fairfield product is someone you appreciate more and more each time you watch him play -- someone skilled enough to play in the top six, but also fast and gritty enough to be a bottom six forward. In other word, a highly versatile coach's player.
Brown assistants Mark White and Mike Souza, who were teammates at UNH and very much on the same page when it comes to evaluating players, have been tracking the skilled centerman for quite some time and their hard work has paid off as they have landed one of the most undervalued prospects in the New England prep school circuit. The Kevin Roy situation earlier in the summer was a tough break, but Brown is plowing forward. Brendan Whittet and his staff have done an excellent job in the recruiting department, bringing in top players like Nick Lappin (Tri-City-USHL), Mark Naclerio (Waterloo-USHL), Brandon Pfeil (Merritt-BCHL), Zach Pryzbek-‘13 (Coquitlam-BCHL) and the aforementioned Corcoran.
Two Prize Recruits Make Their Choices
6’0”, 175 RW/C Thomas Aldworth, who will be a senior at Cushing Academy this fall, has committed to Providence College for the fall of ’14.
A 4/30/95 birthdate from Keller, Texas, a Dallas suburb, Aldworth played in the Texas Alliance organization before heading off to Cushing last fall where, in 30 games played, he posted a 10-19-29 line in 30 games. Although he was inconsistent at times, he also exhibited game-breaking skill. In the Cushing-Lawrence game at the Lawrence-Groton Tournament on Dec. 16 th, Aldworth scored a pair of goals 16 seconds apart to put his team, then down 4-0, on the board. Cushing would eventually come all the way back, with the game ending in a 5-5 tie.
Aldworth had his tonsils out in March and missed playing with the GBL Bruins at Nationals. However, he was drafted in May by the Tri-City Storm (USHL), went to their camp in Las Vegas early in the summer, and made the team. He decided to return to Cushing, however. He will join Tri-City for the ’13-14 season.
In the first game of the Select 17 Festival in Rochester, NY over the summer, Aldworth -- after scoring two goals – broke his hand and missed the rest of the tournament.
This past weekend, with the Providence College staff in attendance Aldworth had a strong showing at the Labor Day Tournament in Marlborough, Mass.
“He’s a three-tool player,” says Cushing head coach Rob Gagnon. “He has speed, hands, and a shot. He could become one of the most dynamic players in prep school hockey this year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him score 50-70 points. If he plays like he did this past weekend, he could get drafted in the top three rounds.”
Aldworth visited Providence and Northeastern last season. Denver and Colorado College saw him at Tri-City’s camp and really liked him, but Aldworth, who projects as a top six player, wanted to play in the East.
5’10”, 170 lb. right shot forward Brendan Shane, who will be a junior at Gunnery this fall, has committed to UConn (Hockey East) for the fall of ‘14.
A 3/9/96 birthdate from the Rochester suburb of Pittsford, NY native, Shane is playing this fall for the Neponset Valley River Rats, where he centers Nolan Redler and Joe Sacco.
We actually wrote about him just last week, in the USHR News of 8/29/12 East Coast Tier I Showcase Review. Our comments: “Gunnery forward was very good at the Select 16 Festival where we placed him at #33 among the forwards. We are not sure who is recruiting him, but our guess is that he will be committed somewhere by the end of the year. The former Toronto Young Nat is an explosive skater with a good touch around the net. Will make an immediate impact in prep school hockey this year.”
Another Top Recruit for the Terriers
5’11”, 170 lb. RW JJ Piccinich, who will be in his rookie year with the Youngstown Phantoms (USHL), has committed to Boston University for the fall of ‘14 or ‘15.
A 6/12/96 birthdate from Paramus, NJ, Piccinich played last season for the North Jersey Avalanche U16’s and posted a 57-49-106 scoring line in 56 games played. A gritty, hard working, intelligent player, Piccinich can really shoot a puck and make plays. In July, we had the Atlantic District’s top forward ranked #26 at the Select 16 Festival in Rochester, NY, where we had this to say about him: “Every time we see the NJ Avalanche product he creates offense and makes plays. Is always in the thick of things. Here, he was predominantly on a line with Patrick Grasso and Ryan Donato and the three played at a high tempo and were constantly in the offensive zone, though they didn’t combine for many goals (4). Was tendered by Youngstown (USHL) and will likely play there this season.”
Anytime you commit to a 16 year old there is risk involved, but not in this instance. For BU, in a worst-case scenario, Piccinich develops into a third line workhouse who puts up 20 points a year and plays in all situations. In a best-case scenario, Piccinich’s skating improves and he plays in BU’s top six. Either way, the Terriers are getting a player who is nearly guaranteed to play in the top nine and is as versatile as they come.
A top student, Piccinich had offers on the table from a lot of the Ivies, but at the end of the day was attracted to Hockey East, and the bright lights of Boston.
Melnick Picks Tigers
5’9”, 160 lb. Delbarton School RC Josh Melnick, who will be a senior this season, has committed to Princeton for the fall of ’15.
A 7/10/95 birthdate, Melnick, who posted a 22-25-47 line in 28 games for Delbarton last season, was the team’s third-leading scorer, trailing only RPI recruit Drew Melanson (57 points) and Yale recruit John Baiocco (57 points). Melnick scored the game-winning goal with 1:15 left to play in Delbarton’s 3-2 win over Christian Brothers Academy in the New Jersey State Championship Game last March.
Princeton had been watching Melnick since last January, and that’s where the Clinton, NJ wanted to go – unequivocally, we’d say: the forward was scheduled to visit UVM the day after he visited Princeton last week, but cancelled.
With Melanson going to the USHL (Omaha) and Chad Otterman leaving for the Jersey Hitmen (EJHL), the plan is for Melnick to center Biacco and Alex Hagerty on Delbarton’s top line this winter.
“[Melnick] is a tremendous skater,” says Delbarton head coach Bruce Shatel. “And for his size he’s very strong on his feet. He’s very reliable defensively, but his biggest attribute is the fact that he always does something positive with the puck. He protects it, and he makes the simple play. He’s also totally unselfish, and makes others better. He’s a complete player. The more you see watch him the more you appreciate him.”
A Power Forward for the Big Red
6’1”, 200 lb. Selects Hockey Academy U16 forward Donovan Ott has committed to Cornell University for the fall of ‘15.
A 2/21/97 birthdate from Lebanon, PA, Ott played for the Philadelphia Junior Flyers Bantams last winter.
A right shot, Ott can play center or wing, but projects as the latter.
“He’s going to be a big power forward,” says Selects U16 head coach Devin Rask. “He has a lot of potential because of his size. He’s not a flashy player, but he can score because he gets in the right place. He plays hard, he plays physically, and he’s an unbelievable kid, too. He’s very coachable. He’s a team guy. He wants to get better.”
Ott, who is entering the 10th grade, visited Cornell over the summer. Other schools that had inquired about him included Yale, UNH, and UConn.
Selects Hockey Academy begins play this coming weekend at the Woodchuck Tournament in Burlington, Vt.
6’2”, 172 lb. former Boston Advantage Midget AAA goalie Joe Young has committed to Union College for the fall of ’14.
A 4/16/94 birthdate, Young played 22 games for the Advantage last season, posting a 2.33 gaa, three shutouts, and a .932 save percentage. In NHL Central’s Scouting’s Final Rankings of North American goaltenders, Young was ranked #31. However, he went undrafted in June.
Young will be heading out to the BCHL this fall, where he will be playing for the Vernon Vipers. A Hanson, Mass. native, Young has a good frame, tools, and the upside that goes with it. He has two years of junior in front of him to refine his game.