Established 1996
 
 


Wed. 1/30/13

Small School, Large School List
Each year, we are asked to provide a list of which teams, should they fail to reach the NEPSIHA "Elite 8", would land in the Martin/Earl 'Large School Tournament' and which teams would land in the Piatelli/Simmons 'Small School Tournament.'

Here, then, is the full list:

Small School-Large School List





First JSPR Rankings of the Season
We know a lot of you have been waiting for these, and we are happy to be able to get them to you. We feel that the number of games in our database is large enough so that we are beginning to get a very strong feel for which teams have a strong chance to make it to Salem, NH for the Elite 8 on March 1-3. Enjoy!

 1. KUA – 15
 2. Belmont Hill – 14
 3. Berkshire --- 13
 4. Kent – 12
 5. Gunnery – 11
 6. Dexter – 10
 7. Salisbury – 9
8T. Choate – 7 (Choate wins direct comparison over Avon)
      Avon – 7
10. Exeter – 6
11. Cushing – 5
12. Kents Hill – 4
13. Westminster – 3
14T. Milton – 2 (Milton wins direct comparison over Loomis)
         Loomis – 2
16. St. Seb’s -- 0

Note: Results current as of Wed. morning 1/30/13.





JSPR Explained
Yesterday, we shared with you an explanation of the RPI and how those numbers are calculated. The RPI however, is only the first step when considering which teams are selected for the Stuart/Corkery or ‘Elite Eight” tournament.  This tournament is meant to showcase the top eight NEPSIHA teams, regardless of school size. So how are the teams selected?  This article explains the math behind the rankings.

Once the RPI numbers are calculated, the top 16 teams based on the RPI – referred to henceforth as "teams under consideration" or “TUC” for shorth -- are then put into what is known as the JSPR Rankings. This system, analogous to the Pairwise Rankings used by the NCAA to determine seeding for the Men’s Div. I hockey tournament, provides a second level of evaluating teams based on four criteria that will be discussed later and is This system is necessary, and helpful, because it enables a deeper comparison of the top RPI teams.  Only 16 teams are put into the JSPR system and analyzed because 16 teams gives a large enough sample size to determine the top eight teams overall.  It would be extremely time consuming (with no corresponding benefit) to evaluate all NEPSIHA teams under the JSPR system because if a team is out of the top 16 in RPI, there is virtually no chance that they would crack the top eight in the JSPR system. They simply would not have won enough games against the top teams. 

So how does the system work? Essentially, the JSPR Rankings are a means of doing a virtual comparison between any two teams. The ideal, of course, would be to have one large tournament, where each of the top 16 teams play each other but, as that is not going to happen, the JSPR system fills the breach by utilizing statistical data to figure out which team would win any theoretical matchup. It would be great to set up a computer simulation, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of every player on each team, or maybe even design a computer game simulation, but since that also is not possible, we can only look at the numbers to which we have ready access. The JSPR, then, uses four categories to compare any two teams, and therefore to determine who wins this ‘simulated game.'  This is the heart of the system, and the means by which the 16 Teams Under Consideration are arrived at, and, from that, the ‘Elite 8.”

The four categories that are included in the JSPR are:

1. Head-to-head result (i.e., if the teams have actually played each other on ice the winning team gets credit for that).

2. Comparing the two teams' RPI (i.e., how do the two teams stand against all other NEPSIHA teams, so that the RPI is still a critical component of the JSPR Rankings.)

3. Record against mutual opponents (i.e., if the two teams have played the same opponents on the ice, results vs. those teams are factored in.)

4. Record against teams under consideration (i.e., how have the two teams played against other top 16 teams as determined by the RPI.)

The easiest way to show how the JSPR works is to do a comparison based on some current data.   Let’s compare Kimball Union and Berkshire, the current first place and third place teams in RPI.

These two teams have not played this year on the ice, so neither team wins the first comparison.  KUA currently has a higher RPI so they win that comparison and get a point.  Berkshire currently has a better record against mutual opponents so they win that comparison and earn a point.  And finally, KUA has a better record against the teams under consideration and therefore earns a point in that category as well.  So when doing this virtual comparison between KUA and Berkshire, KUA is declared the winner as they are ahead in two categories and Berkshire is ahead in only one.  

Kimball Union

Team

Berkshire

0 Wins

Head to Head

0 Wins

.62669

RPI

.61500

3-1-0 (.750)

Mutual Opponents

5-0-0 (1.00)

5-0-0 (1.00)

Teams Under Consideration

3-1-3 (.643)

2

Total Points

1

Kimball Union

Winner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since there is an even number of categories being compared, there is always a chance that the two teams will be tied in our simulation. If that is the case, the first tiebreaker is head- to-head record (the best indicator of comparative strength of the two teams), the second is RPI (the most all-encompassing category), the third is record against mutual opponents, and the fourth is record against teams under consideration. This entire process is then carried out for KUA against each of the other 14 teams, and they are awarded their ‘JSPR points.' In the end the ‘winner' of each virtual comparison is shown in table form, as follows:

JSPR

KUA

BEL

BER

GUN

KEN

DEX

SAL

AVO

EXE

CUS

WES

KHL

CHO

MIL

LOM

STS

KUA

x

 

NOB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEL

x

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BER

x

x

 x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GUN

x

x

x

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KEN

x

x

x

x

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DEX

x

x

x

x

x

x

                   

SAL

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

                 

AVO

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

               

EXE

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

             

CUS

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

           

WES

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

         

KHL

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

       

CHO

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

     

MIL

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

   

LOM

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

 

STS

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

                                     

Each team is therefore involved in 15 comparisons and, once the table is completed, the total number of ‘wins' for each team is added up. The team with the most matchup points garners top seed in the tournament, the team with the second highest amount of points gets the second seed, and so on. In the case of  teams winding up tied in points in the final table, the winner of their individual JSPR comparison gets the higher seed.  At the end of the computations, the top eight teams in the JSPR are ranked -- regardless of school size -- for the Elite 8 Tournament. At that point, the remaining NEPSIHA teams (Including the eight that were looked at in the JSPR and did not get into the Elite 8 tournament) are compared solely by RPI and school size. The top remaining large schools in RPI are selected to play in the Martin/Earl ‘Large School Tournament,’ while the top remaining small schools in RPI are selected to play in the Piatelli/Simmons ‘Small School Tournament.’ 

There is one final wrinkle that has been added this year by the NEPSIHA coaches. In seeding the individual tournaments, just as in the past, the top four seeds are considered home seeds and the bottom four will be the visitors. In the past, #1 played #8, and #2 played #7 etc. and if the travel distance was over 2 hours and 45 minutes the affected teams would play their quarterfinal matchups at a neutral site.  This year, the tournament committee has the power to shift the seeds so that more games will be played regionally at home sites. In other words, the #1 seed could be assigned to play the #7 seed rather than the #8 if,  by doing so, the need for a neutral site could be eliminated. Once the four semi-final teams are determined for each of the three tournaments in Salem, NH, the highest remaining seeds will play the lowest remaining seeds, as they always have.

In summary, the RPI portion of the playoff calculation system takes the results on the ice, and finds the teams that get the best results out of the most difficult schedule. Then the best teams are compared to each other through the JSPR, which rewards teams for winning games on the ice against the best teams in New England. In the end, the greater number of games that your team wins against the best teams in the league, the better off that you will be. That is the very heart of the system.

Please keep in mind that when USHR publishes the current RPI or playoff standings they are for that week only. In other words, the teams in the top 16 based on RPI can change each time a new set of games is played.  In fact, just one added game played can affect the rankings on a number of different levels. There's a real ripple effect. When teams in the top sixteen play each other it can change their comparisons and, quite possibly, their  JSPR ranking. The final JSPR ranking can only be calculated when the season is over since the more games that are left to be played, the greater the potential volatility in the rankings. When the final accounting is made, the most-deserving teams will have reached the playoffs and, with three tournaments, a greater number of teams will experience the joy of making the playoffs.

 




RPI Rankings: It’s That Time Again
Given that the end of January is upon us and teams are beginning to separate themselves from the pack, we felt that it was time to calculate and post the current RPI rankings for the top 50 NEPSIHA teams. Before we get to the rankings, however, we feel a quick reminder of what goes into the rankings is in order, especially considering that every year we have some new readers. The RPI is set up as a way to rank the NEPSIHA teams in an equitable manner, one that attempts to take into account both how well a team has performed as well as the strength of their schedule. With that in mind, here are a couple of reminders before getting into it. 1) Only games against other NEPSIHA teams count towards playoff calculations and 2) games in tournaments decided after the first five minutes of overtime (i.e., via a shootout or extended overtime) count as ties for both of the teams involved.

The following RPI calculations, which include games through Sun. Jan. 27, are based on three categories: 

  1. The first portion of the calculation is based on a team’s winning percentage. Simply put, this is how well a team performs in its own games. This is important because a team needs a strong winning percentage no matter who they play. A team’s winning percentage is calculated by adding the number of wins plus ½ the number of ties and dividing this total by the number of games played. Winning percentage accounts for 25% of the total RPI calculation.

  2. The second portion of the RPI is a calculation of each team’s opponents winning percentage. In other words, how good are the teams that you are playing during the year in question? Winning percentage is calculated the same way as above, but this time the mathematics is based on the total number of your opponent’s wins, plus half the number of their ties. Next, divide that total by the number of games played by your opponents.  This category is worth 21% of the RPI calculation because how you play (your own winning percentage) should be worth a bit more than how your opponents play (the second category). 

  3. The third portion of the RPI is based on your opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage.  This is basically set up as a ‘strength of schedule’ component, and is an attempt to eliminate much of the variation that can happen to teams on a yearly basis in terms of wins and losses.  This helps eliminate the need/desire to change schedules because one team may be stronger or weaker from one year to the next.  It also eliminates the possibility that you can decrease your own RPI by defeating another team. This third category is worth 54% of the total RPI calculation.

The above RPI calculations, as utilized by NEPSIHA, mirror those used by Division I college hockey and adopted for use in 2006. However, the Stuart/Corkery ‘Elite Eight’ playoff tournament seedings are not determined solely by RPI. To arrive at the final seedings for the Elite 8 another step is required. That’s where the JSPR system comes into play. Just as college hockey has a system for comparing the top teams and how they fare against one another -- i.e., the Pairwise Rankings – prep hockey utilizes the JSPR system as a means to compare the top teams and how they have played against each other. At this point of the season the RPI rankings give the best point of comparison, but in a week or two we will post the first set of JSPR rankings (along with an explanation of how those numbers are calculated).  In order for a team to be considered for the JSPR, however, they must finish among the top 16 teams in terms of RPI. When the season ends, and the top 8 finishers, as determined by the JSPR formula, are culled, all remaining schools are seeded, solely using the RPI, for the big school and small school tournaments.

Here are the current RPI Rankings:

 1. Kimball Union  .626691
 2. Belmont Hill  .615006
 3. Berkshire  .614988
 4. Gunnery  .610596
 5. Kent  .599401
 6. Dexter  .591242
 7. Salisbury  .578370
 8. Avon  .566429
 9. Exeter  .564093
10. Cushing  .561085
11. Westminster  .559983
12. Kents Hill  .558666
13. Choate  .555037
14.  Milton  .548798
15.  Loomis  .545535
16.  St. Sebastian’s  .545131
17.  Canterbury  .544821
18.  Governor’s  .542990
19.  BB&N  .542180
20.  Rivers  .540369
21.  Thayer  .539157
22.  Millbrook  .538089
23.  Brooks  .536421
24.  Deerfield  .521852
25.  Taft   .513862
26.  Lawrence .513723
27.  Middlesex  .512406
28.  Nobles  .511557
29.  Trinity-Pawling  .510640
30.  Albany  .510503
31.  Winchendon  .509871
32.  Brunswick  .503901
33.  Hebron  .502346
34.  St. Paul’s  .501127
35.  Tabor  .498733
36.  Tilton  .497970
37.  NMH  .492032
38.  Berwick  .491777
39.  Holderness  .487501
40.  Andover  .487369
41.  Hotchkiss  .485047
42.  St. George’s  .473970
43.  Brewster  .470051
44.  Williston  .468865
45.  Proctor  .467257
46.  Hoosac  .462201
47.  New Hampton  .460130
48.  Vermont  .458975
49.  Groton  .450639
50.  St. Mark’s  .446335


Notes:

-- #1 KUA is solidly in first, .012 ahead of Belmont Hill. #2 Belmont Hill and #3 Berkshire are basically in a flat-footed tie, as a mere .00009 separates them. Berkshire and #4 Gunnery are also really close, with less than .005 percentage points separating them. Put more simply: KUA is a strong #1 with Bel Hill, Berkshire, and Gunnery basically inseparable. Interestingly, those four also comprise the top four slots in this week’s USHR poll. Next up is #5 Kent, and very close behind them – just .008 -- is #6 Dexter. Salisbury is #7, but significantly behind Dexter (.02, to be precise). Then Avon comes in at #8. The top eight teams in the RPI rankings, by the way, can also be found in the top eight teams in this week’s USHR poll. As a matter of fact, if we had placed Belmont Hill in front of Berkshire and Gunnery, we would have mirrored the RPI’s top 8  to a T. This typist can’t recall such a close match between the USHR poll and the RPI ever before occurring – and no, we didn’t see the RPI numbers until last night. That said, in putting together the poll, we definitely pay close attention to won-lost records, and even closer attention to strength of schedule and how teams do head-to-head and against top-rated competition. But there’s also a subjective aspect to the poll – and there isn’t in the RPI. We mention it because such a close correlation is rare, we noticed it, and if it sounds like we’re patting ourselves on the back, we apologize. It’s really just dumb luck.

In the end, there is a lot of time left to go, but the playoff picture is beginning to come into focus. It should all make for some exciting hockey down the stretch.

One other thing: We will also, as soon as we get a copy, be publishing a list for you of both the large schools and small schools. We can tell you that the lists will be the same this year as last, we just can’t find a copy lying around the office. This calculation is pretty straightforward. The top 31 schools in terms of male enrollment are large schools. The next 31 are small schools.





KUA Tops USHR Prep Poll -- Again
Once again, powerhouse Kimball Union (17-1-0) sits atop the USHR Prep Poll.

There's some interesting movement this week, as things are tightening up with the stretch run looming.

Cushing, ranked #6 a week ago, has been horrible since, losing at NMH 6-4, @ Exeter 6-3, and @ Belmont Hill 8-2. As a result, they have been bounced out of the Top 10.

We wanted to give a shout out to some teams that are having very succesful seasons but, due to strength of schedule, have not cracked USHR's Top 10. They are: Kents Hill (13-4-1), Rivers (12-5-2), BB&N (11-5-2), and Brooks (9-4-3).

USHR Prep Poll, Week of 1/28/13






Austin Prep Impressing; Cushing Struggling
On Monday, we stopped in at the Stoneham Arena to watch a very young Austin Prep team, ranked #9 in last Sunday’s Boston Globe boys’ poll, take a 1-0 decision over unranked St. Mary’s of Lynn. How young are the Cougars? Fifteen of Head Coach Louis Finocchiaro’s rostered players are either freshmen or sophomores. That’s young.

First off, the goalies on both teams, as the score indicates, played very strong games. They were the story. Austin Prep soph Elijah Harris, a ’97, is technically sound, tracks pucks well, has poise, moves very well laterally, and is quick as a cat. Very athletic, and, while he has the tools, he is also young, hence physically undeveloped. Harris’ neck looks about as thin as a pencil, but we are told his dad is a pretty big guy – and a former goalie himself – so he’ll grow and fill out. Harris has played all of his team’s games and has a 2.27 gaa and a .900 save percentage. He’s definitely a goalie who could turn out to be quite good. We’ll certainly  keep watching.

We couldn’t get a St. Mary’s roster, but their goalie played well, too – and really kept his team in the game. We did some digging and got his name – Nick Holt, also a soph. He’s played 20 of his team’s 42 periods and has a 2.85 gaa and .895 save percentage.

As for the skaters one player who did NOT jump out at us – and we expected him to – was Austin Prep senior Nolan Vesey, their skilled co-captain and leading scorer. We have written about Vesey before. He’s the son of Jim Vesey, who put up enormous point numbers back in the mid-‘80s at Merrimack, when the Warriors were a Div. II powerhouse under Ronnie Anderson. The younger Vesey is also the brother of Harvard frosh and US WJC gold-medal winner Jimmy Vesey. Pretty good bloodlines! On Monday, though, if we didn’t already know who Vesey was, we wouldn’t really have noticed him. He played a lazy game. We didn’t have time to talk to the coaches afterward so, for all we know, he may have been playing with the flu. Regardless, Vesey is their usual go-to guy, but wasn’t on Monday. Luckily for Austin Prep, the young goalie came up big.

Vesey is not the only Cougar with bloodlines. ’96 sophomore center Robert Carpenter, who was at Gov’s last year but injured for most of the campaign, is the son of Bobby Carpenter, a sensation 30 years ago when the St. John’s Prep center appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated -- – the “Can’t Miss Kid” – and jumped directly from high school hockey to the NHL. The younger Carpenter is also the younger brother of Boston College women's forward Alex Carpenter, one of the truly elite female players in the U.S. and a sure-fire future Olympian. So, as you can see, young Carpenter has big shoes to fill. Can’t say that we envy him that. Carpenter does not project as a star, but he certainly projects as a solid Div. I prospect. He does many things well. He took it hard to the net a couple times, he was strong along the wall, played a sound, smart game in all three zones, and has a good first step. Over the next couple of years, we expect he may learn how to take over games.

We liked freshman LW George Sennott, who scored the game’s only goal. He is about the size of a peanut, but has a nice stick, competes hard, and really forced us to take notice of his play every time he was on the ice.

There were a couple of other young forwards we noticed, but we want to hold off and see them a second time, before commenting.

On the blue line, junior Andrew Cross is a legit Div. I prospect. Very well-rounded, Cross is solid defensively but also handles the puck with confidence, has some offensive upside, and runs things from the back end with aplomb.

Another D who jumped out at us is freshman JJ Layton, a right shot. As he matures, he’ll indreasingly become a factor more and more. A very nice prospect.

Austin Prep, 7-1-3 on the season, is right there with the big boys. It will be interesting, and fun, to see how they do over the course of this season, and the seasons to come.

***

Over in the prep ranks, #6 Cushing has had a tough week, digging themselves a hole by losing at NMH 6-4 on Wednesday, and then losing again last night, this time at Exeter, 6-3. And this afternoon they go back on the road, to #4 Belmont Hill.

In both losses, the Penguins allowed their opponents to break out to an early lead, fought back enough to gain a lead a lead of their own, then gave it away.

In addition, the goaltending has gone stone cold – 12 goals surrendered over two games is no formula for success.

We asked Cushing head coach Rob Gagnon about it this morning.

“I am not happy that we got down early, we have to come out harder. However, we didn’t quit.”

“In addition, the goaltending wasn’t good the last two games,” Gagnon added. “We just haven’t gotten the goaltending we had previously.”

Gagnon, who feels that this is the best team – on paper – that he’s had in his six years at Cushing, says it’s so important that the Penguins come out hard today and put in a consistent effort across all three periods. “We have to come together before it’s too late. I don’t think all the younger kids really know how important every single prep game is. The older kids do, though, as they experienced just missing out on the Elite 8 a few years ago. They know how important each game is.”

“I would say the best thing about losing last night is being able to play again today.”

Game time is 5:00 pm.

***

Recently, we mentioned that Nobles sophomore forward Miles Wood is out for the season, having fractured a growth plate in his foot when he lost an edge and hit the end boards. This is a big blow for Nobles, as Wood, a Manchester, Mass. native, was one of the keys to the team’s attack.

Wood committed the other day to Brown, where he will join older brother and Nobles teammate, ’94 senior RD Tyler Wood, in the Bears lineup in the fall of ’15.

This was a recruiting coup for Brown. The younger Wood, who was ranked #163 in NHL Central Scouting’s Mid-Season Rankings last week, was getting interest from all over, including generous offers from both Boston College and Boston University.

Clearly, playing with his older brother at Brown was appealing to Miles. And both brothers are perpetuating a family tradition by going Ivy. Older readers will recall that the boys’ father, Randy Wood, played at Yale in the mid-‘80s before going on to a 12-year NHL career. And really old readers will recall that the boys’ grandfather, Norman Wood, was the head coach at Princeton back in the early ‘60s. The way things are going, with another generation of two, the family could easily cover the entire Ivy League.






Vanderlaan Tops Maritimes’ Prospects
Ten days ago, USHR returned from a 1,400 mile road trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where we were able to take in the East Coast Ice Jam. All of the top midget AAA teams from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland were on hand. Combined with our trip a couple of months ago to Quebec -- where we saw all of the teams in the Quebec Midget AAA loop -- we have now seen all of the top notable players available for this year’s QMJHL draft. With that in mind, we can tell you that the disparity between talent in the WHL, OHL, and QMJHL is significant—with the QMJHL lagging behind by a wide margin. We feel that at this point it is quite conceivable that the USHL has surpassed the QMJHL.

A recent example that would support this theory would be the case of ’96-born forward Conor Garland. In six USHL games this season -- and, yes, we realize that's a small sample -- the former Penn State recruit posted a 1-2-3 scoring line. In his first 13 games for the Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) he is scoring at nearly a point-a-game clip with a 2-10-12 scoring line. A QMJHL advocate will state that in just 2011 the Saint John Sea Dogs won the Memorial Cup, thus indicating the league does indeed compete with the OHL and WHL. We would refute that by stating that Saint John was far and away the top team in the QMJHL that particular year and was in no way representative of the league’s overall level of play. If anything, their record exaggerated the lack of parity and depth within the loop. Such examples have always been around, in all sports. How often have we heard writers, broadcasters, and fans  breathlessly celebrating teams that compile jaw-dropping records without considering the context in the given time frame such records were compiled? Well, during the 2010-11 season there were only seven 1st round NHL draft picks playing in the “Q” and four of them played on Saint John. The Sea Dogs set a QMJHL record that season, posting a 58-7-1 record and dismantling every team they faced in the playoffs. So this was not a case of the QMJHL having a good year. It was a case of one team that was stacked with the league’s top talent in order to achieve competitiveness with the OHL and WHL, which they did.

Looking at last year’s NHL draft numbers are also telling. The USHL produced six first round NHL draft picks to the QMJHL’s one. Even if you don’t factor in the USNTDP kids the USHL still outdid the Q by a margin of 3:1. In total, 24 USHL players were drafted to the QMJHL’s 19. Meanwhile the OHL produced 48 NHL draft picks, nearly tripling the total of the Q. This leads us to this question: why would a New England-born forward, much less a 5’6”, 150 lb. one, ever give up his eligibility to play in the QMJHL when he could play in the USHL and retain his NCAA eligibility? In our opinion the USHL is as good as -- or better -- than the Q. 

Giving up a four-year scholarship to Penn State, Boston College, etc. that carries a value of roughly $200,000 makes little sense when comparing the NCAA vs. the QMJHL’s education policy. In Halifax we picked up a copy of the QMJHL’s education policy. It’s great that the league has an education policy at all. They could almost certainly exist without one. Still, when comparing two different products, it’s good to know the details. After all, the devil scan often be found there, usually in small print.

 Eligibility Conditions:

  • The player must have significantly pursued his studies during at least four academic sessions at the major junior level in the QMJHL.(This means if you graduate high school and are not enrolled as a part-time student at a college you will not qualify for your education package.)

  • The player must have played during his nineteenth year of age. (This means if you play as a 16, 17, and 18 year old and would like to move on to college you will not qualify for your education package — you must play as a 19 year old too!)

  • The player must have started his courses no later than the second fall session following the end of his career in the QMJHL, and must be studying without interruption. (This means you have exactly one year to play pro hockey. If you would like to play more than one season of pro hockey, your education package is out the window. Also, if you decide to take a semester off of school to travel, etc., your education package is out the window.)

In regards to how much money a player can receive from the league towards his schooling the literature states this:

  • The player who qualifies for grants, according to the criteria presented, is allowed one grant for each session he played in the QMJHL.(This means if you play one year; you get one year paid for. You play four years; you get four years paid for.)

  • University studies: for each session a grant of $500 per succeeded course, with a maximum for $5000 per year and a maximum for four years. (This means you get $5,000 a year towards university – maximum. As just about any parent with a kid in a U.S. college knows, $5,000 does not, except in rare cases, even begin to cover room and board – forget about tuition, student fees, books, etc.)

The CHL enjoys selling kids on the fact that it is the quickest and most efficient route to the NHL. Before we move on to the players we liked this weekend we will leave our readers with a quote by Pat Hickey of the Toronto Gazette. “There are pros and cons to both systems (NCAA vs. major junior). There is no doubt that the CHL is #1 in developing players for the National Hockey League. There are approximately 250 major junior graduates in the NHL, which is impressive until you figure out that means an average of four players from each of the 60 CHL teams and, when you spread that number over the lifespan of an NHL player, it means that each team will produce one NHL player every two or three years.

OK, on to the business at hand. Here are 10 players we liked. And yes, we were paying the closest attention to kids who we felt were – or might/should be – considering prep school, and the NCAA route, be it either Div. I or Div. III.

Mitchell Vanderlaan, F, ’95 (Rothesay Netherwood School) 5-8/155 — Vanderlaan is the only player we saw who we feel DI schools should be flocking to see. The Rothesay forward is an explosive skater with a quick stick. Has the ability to make plays at top speed and plays the game with a lot of pace. Could be an impact player at the NCAA level. Played for Team Atlantic at last year’s Under 17s. He will be down in the Boston area with his team from Feb. 1-3.

Colby Tower, F, ’97 (Cape Breton West Islanders) 5-7/150 — Our initial thought was that Tower would be one heck of a prep school player with Division I upside. After doing some digging we were told that he is arguably the top ’97-born forward from Atlantic Canada and will be a high pick in the QMJHL draft. The diminutive forward is skilled, tenacious, and makes a lot of plays.

Antoine Landry, G, ’96 (Miramichi Rivermen) 6-0/180 — Should be of particular interest to prep schools in need of a goalie as Landry is looking to head south of the border. Played for Atlantic Canada at the recent World U17’s and was Player of the Game in a 6-3 loss to the USNTDP. Team Atlantic is in over their heads each year at the U17’s, but we are confident Landry would be an excellent goalie in the prep ranks.

Nick Blanchard, F, ’96 (Valley Wildcats) 5-11/182 — Is the top scorer in the Nova Scotia league with a 37-32-69 scoring line. Has good vision and hockey sense. Recently burned his NCAA eligibility playing two games for Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL).

Brett McNeil, D, ’95 (Halifax Titans) 5-8/175 — A good student who is looking to come to the US. Would make for a very good prep school PG or even a nice addition to a NESCAC school. Small, smart, skilled puck-moving defender who is comfortable on the PP.

Bradley Kennedy, F, ’96 (Cape Breton West Islanders) 5-9/185 — Has all the skill in the world and can make puck-watching defenders look silly. Has produced a 28-32-60 scoring line in 31 games played. Has D-I potential, but in the game we saw his work ethic was below average.

Jonathan Larter, F, ’97 (Charlottetown Islanders) 5-9/162 — Gritty and skilled. Plays an honest game and was one of the better ‘97s we saw. Quick hands -- and feet to match.

Devon Earle, F, ’95 (Rothesay Netherwood School) 5-7/132 — Another player NESCAC schools should get out and see. Would make for an impact PG at a US prep school. Is quick, elusive in traffic, and makes plays.

Ryan Kenny, F, ’98 (Miramichi Rivermen) 6-2/189 — Massive forward is playing up and is a good project to have. Does not make an impact right now, but has tools. Can really shoot it. Should be playing with his own age group.

Nick Cass, F, ’95 (Fredericton Canadiens) 5-9/165 — One of the top scorers in New Brunswick with a 14-17-31 scoring line in 23 games played. Creates scoring opportunities with his speed.

 




Westminster-Avon MLK Day Melee
On Monday afternoon, as many of you may have heard, #10-ranked Avon Old Farms edged #5 Westminster, 2-1, in a hard-fought, ultra-competitive game in a jam-packed rink at Avon (one of our favorite places to watch a game, by the way). The game ended unfortunately, in what could easily have turned into a full-tilt brawl, a rarity in prep and college hockey. This typist wasn’t at the game (though had earlier considered making the trip down). At any rate, we have been in contact with the two head coaches involved – and listened to college and pro scouts who were on hand in an effort to get a feel for the afternoon’s events, which weren’t all bad. Certainly, a lot of hyperbole gets thrown around when these things happen, and it’s our job to separate the wheat from the chaff, which in an athletic event usually involves understanding how things played out within the context of the game. The pro scouts, having no dog in the fight, were certainly very helpful in this regard. But, even they, though in general agreement on the larger picture, had slightly different takes concerning the details.

We talked to Avon head coach John Gardner, to get his take. We also wanted to talk to Westminster head coach Tim Joncas in depth (we were only able to exchange text messages the following evening), because it certainly appears that his guys’ chances of a late comeback from a 2-0 deficit were stymied in part by a bad unsportsmanlike penalty as well as a botched icing call that went against them. It is certainly possible – likely, even -- that the Westminster players’ frustration over the calls may have had fed into the melee at the final buzzer when, with the play in the Avon end and two players tangled up with each other, the Avon players began spilling over the boards to head out to congratulate Winged Beavers’ junior goaltender Cody Doyle. From that task, they got sidetracked.

We’re not excusing anything from either team here. We are trying to establish context. The two Top 10 teams, after all, will be meeting again in a week (Wed. Jan. 30, @ Westminster). We’re going to predict an absence of extra-curricular activities in that one. That’s just usually how things work out in the rematches of heated games. I guess you could say that there’s just not enough emotional capital left over. And, at the prep level, you can be sure that the heads of schools, coaches, and officials will all be on high alert. And the players will be on short leashes.

At any rate, we reached John Gardner on Monday night, a few hours after the game.

Of the melee at the end, Gardner said, “It was an unfortunate situation that diminished the game. For specifics, I would have to look at the tape. I don’t think there were any kids going toe-to-toe on the ice. There were no cut hands or cut faces after the game. There was a lot of pushing and shoving and wrestling and headlocks, though. It was very bad timing. The puck was in the corner in our end as time ran out after Westminster had pulled their goalie and were pressing hard to tie things up. Suddenly, our players were streaming on the ice toward our goalie and, well, (expletive deleted) broke out. I don’t feel it was as bad as people are making it out to be. It was two rivals playing in a packed house, and emotions were running very high. It ended unfortunately. And I’m sorry that the whole situation happened. I will certainly be using it as a teaching moment.”

We asked Gardner if he felt the refs lost control of the game. “No,” he replied, “not at all, but they should have called more penalties.”

We asked Gardner for a couple more specifics concerning the game’s conclusion. Did Avon assistant coach Bill Maniscalco take a punch to the head? “First off,” Gardner replied, “all the coaches – me, Timmy (Joncas), everyone -- were out there trying to break things up, pulling kids off each other and trying to get them off the ice. My assistant, Bill Maniscalco, was accidentally punched in the head by a Westminster player (Sean Orlando – ed.) trying to break things up. I am telling you that things couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Have I seen worse? Yes, but off the top of my head I can’t tell you exactly when that was. I don’t want to remember such things. But I am not going to throw stones here. I will say that our kids were happy they won but they didn’t act in the proper way. They were more than happy to engage. We were just as wrong as they were.”

“Timmy Joncas and I did all we could as coaches to break things up. As for the referees, they were faced with a situation where they had to figure out who was doing what in a very confusing situation. They were doing what they could but I don’t think they got everyone.”

When all was sorted out, two Avon players received game misconducts: 6’2” Jr. D Matt Cowles (#25), and 5’8” senior F Brennan Kee (#12). They will have to sit out Wednesday’s home game vs. Loomis.

Two Westminster players were assessed game misconducts as well: Senior F Vincent Gisonti (#10), and sophomore defenseman Frankie Sullivan (#17). They will be sitting out Wednesday’s game at Deerfield.

“Coach Joncas and I will talk again before the next time we meet,” Gardner added. “Do I wish this whole thing didn’t happen? Of course I do. But, as I said, it’s a teaching moment. Both coaches on both teams can use it to teach the kids to do better.”

Tim Joncas said, via text message, “The bottom line is that it was a great prep school game marred by some unfortunate actions that are unbecoming of any student athlete in the Founders League or the NEPSAC. Both schools have responded appropriately and in a way that would be expected of any academic institution.”

In a follow-up text, Joncas added, “(Sean) Orlando is benched for the next game as a team penalty for his celebratory actions for which he apologized to his team as it left us shorthanded with under five minutes to go and down by one goal. The officials chose to give him a (minor) penalty for it which was 100% the right call and one I would never question, in any situation, of any game. Players need to respect the game and the excessive celebration and taunting has no place in the game of hockey. The missed icing call was a mistake the officials owned up to and in the end everyone makes mistakes and I appreciated Rich Petit for owning up to his mistake. As educators we can use this as a teaching moment and as a good reminder that there are more important lessons to be learned from athletics than just winning or losing.”  

***
As mentioned above, we contacted coaches and scouts on hand in an effort to gain a totally neutral viewpoint. We actually spoke to two scouts, one at a time. For obvious reasons, they requested anonymity. It’s interesting because even though both NHL scouts we talked to noticed much in common, each also noticed a few different things that we found illuminating. Both agreed that, from a spectator’s point of view, the game was a fun one to be at. Of course, unlike Gardner and Joncas, they don’t have to deal with any fallout from the incidents.

Let’s start with scout #1:

“First off, there was not a seat to be had in the building. It was just a great atmosphere. Kids, parents, and fans were lined up three deep around the whole building. All the Avon kids were there and it looked like Westminster had brought the whole student body along as well. It was a good game – fierce and competitive.

“I wouldn’t say it was a poorly officiated game. I would say it was a poorly managed game. They couldn’t control the game, which just stirs up the crowd. When Avon scored and went up 2-0 – well, actually both times Avon scored, they were pounding their chest and skating in front of the Westminster bench and pulling up their shirt, like basketball. Anyway, Westy scored late in the third period to make it 2-1 and the kid from Westy does the exact same thing with the shirt that the Avon players had done -- and they give him an unsportsmanlike. That would be Sean Orlando. The Avon players weren’t called for it earlier in the game, but Orlando was. Anyway, Westy kills off the penalty. And now there’s about 1:30 to play, maybe slightly less. Westy pulls their goalie and they get good pressure. But then there was a whistle, and two penalties were called. We have about a minute to go – and Westminster is applying great pressure. This forces Avon to ice the puck. But the refs don’t call it because Westy is skating 5-on-4 because they pulled the goalie. But they are not shorthanded! I’ve never seen this before. I was floored that they did this. Everyone was yelling “Icing! Icing! Icing.” Tim Joncas was going crazy – and rightfully so. But the play goes on! For like 20 more seconds. Finally, Westminster gets a shot on net, and the Avon goalie saves it, covers up, and there’s a whistle. So there’s 25 seconds on the clock now. And total confusion. (Westminster co-captain) Hallisey goes over and screams at the ref. And then the referees all get together to discuss the situation. And when they break from their huddle, they add 16 seconds to the clock and put the faceoff at center ice. Have you ever seen that before? I was sitting there and thinking, “You can’t do that!” But play starts up and Westy gains the zone and ends up applying good pressure again. Finally, with about five seconds left there’s a whistle and an offensive zone faceoff. The puck goes back to the point, the Westminster kid shoots it, the Avon kid goes down to block it. And the puck kind of dies there. However, the Westminster kid tries to get another swipe at it. And the two players end up sort of tangled. And then the buzzer sounds and they end up sort of wrestling. Keep in mind that there had been a lot of this stuff going on during the game. Not fights exactly, but big scrums in front of the net, at least three 4-on-4 wrestling matches. But this one was right in front of the Avon bench, right at the faceoff dot on that side of the ice. And kids are piling off the Avon bench to go congratulate their goalie and the wrestling match between the two original participants is escalating. And a kid coming off the bench literally ran into them and then all of a sudden there are 20 bodies on the ice. And these were legit fights. I don’t mean that gloves and helmets were flying off. But they were throwin’. And then the coaches were in the middle of it trying to break it up. It was wild. It was frickin’ wild. It wasn’t the worst thing by any means, but it was as wild as anything I’ve ever seen at the prep level.

“You asked earlier about the officials. I just feel they never had control. They were in over their heads. And it was a highly emotional setting. The players were very geared up, excited. It was a big, big crowd, as big a student representation from Avon as I have ever seen. You know that whole section when you walk in? They should do a better job of that at Avon. I know I digress, but you can’t easily get from the snack bar to the far end of the stands. You just can’t get through that crowd of kids. They should move them all down to the far end. And sort of keep them there. I love the energy and the enthusiasm in that building. But you can’t go get a hot dog, and they have the best hot dogs at any rink in New England! It was tough! But, really, it was a fun game to watch. It was not one of those vintage ‘seven Division 1 players on Avon and four on Westminster’ games. It wasn’t great hockey, but it sure was exciting.

“Anyway, back to the ending. It lasted a good 30 seconds. I thought it was really going to break loose. There was a point where I’m thinking “Uh oh, here we go.” All the coaches were on the ice. An Avon assistant (Maniscalco) was trying to break things up, and was holding a Westminster player down, and the kid took a swing at him! The coaches were trying to do the right thing, and they were all on the ice. We’re talking six coaches! And the referees were literally wrestling with guys trying to break it up. But like I said, the officials never really had control. The game was too much for them. It wasn’t poorly officiated. There weren’t many situations where you were freaking out and thinking, ‘Hey, that’s an awful call.’ You had your typical icings and your typical non-calls, for sure, and (Westminster forward) Hallisey ripped the face mask off an Avon player but didn’t get called. Instead, another Westy kid did. But the bottom line is that when the game tightened up, the officials never really took control. Like they gave Orlando, the Westminster kid, a two-minute unsportsmanlike minor when he scored the goal to cut it to 2-1. But Avon kids were doing the same thing, twice running around the ice pumping their chests, skating right in front of the Westminster crowd, and in front of the Westminster bench. And the refs didn’t do anything. Maybe they said something like ‘Don’t do that; if you do that we’re going to give you a penalty.” And then the Orlando kid did the same exact thing and they banged him. To me, it was definitely a penalty but give him a ten-minute misconduct! Don’t put his team shorthanded. And this was with three minutes to go and they had just made it 2-1!

 ****

 Let's check in now with Scout #2:

“I agree that the refs were unable to keep fully on top of the game. I think there were little things going on like when the kids celebrated goals there was a lot of ‘overcelebrating’ which just pissed the other team off so it just got to be an increasingly emotional game culminating at the end with everyone jumping on the ice and there suddenly wrestling matches seemingly everywhere. But nothing really major happened. Some kids dropped their gloves, some didn’t. Mostly there was just a lot of grabbing. #11 for Westminster – Orlando – got into it with one of the big D for Avon, #25 Cowles. #12 for Avon was out there too, a feisty little kid, the smallest player on the team.

“I had no idea how they were going to sort it all out. The coaches went out there just trying to get their own guys out of there and into their own area. All the coaches were on the ice -- and they did a real good job. It would have been a lot worse if the coaches were not on the ice. It would have been a free-for-all. But I think the coaches stopped it, and for a short time they tried to get both teams to shake hands and then the Westminster players were directed off the ice by their coaches. It looked like they were lining up to shake hands with the Avon players, but then the Westminster coaches just directed their players to the locker room. The Westminster goalie (Zac Hamilton) stayed on for a minute and shook hands with a couple of Avon kids, probably his buddies. He played well and they were congratulating him. He did a great job. Anyway, it was smart of the Westminster coaches to get the players off. They all handled it well. There had been so much going on all game – a lot of talking. It was a pretty spirited prep school hockey game. But there was just a lot of chirping going on throughout the game – and I mean a lot of it. I was wondering ‘Why don’t they just give some of these guys ten minute misconducts and just get them out of there? Give them a misconduct, an unsportsmanlike, but just get them out of there. Get rid of them. It’s no big deal. But they just didn’t do it. They actually didn’t do a whole lot and you know what it’s like with kids at that age. Holy cow. Give them an inch and they are going to take another inch, right? But I will tell you that the goalie for Westminster played really well. Really well. I thought he did a great job. Made some really fine saves. I also thought the Avon goalie probably played the best minutes he’s played all year. Both teams were storming each other’s net. It wasn’t a great game but it was very hard fought.. great battling. A lot of scrambles… a lot of loose pucks… that sort of thing.

“The kids from the schools, on both sides, were really out in force. Maybe there was nothing else going on -- maybe no basketball, wrestling, or whatever. This was an event, and it was loud. The fans were really into it. And it was a close game. It got to be 2-0 and then Westminster came back to make it 2-1 late. And though they had good chances before, they also had some really good chances after. At both ends, both goalies played well and it was a really highly-spirited, competitive game. I didn’t feel anyone crossed any crazy line or anything like that. It wasn’t that way at all. It was just so emotional. It was a situation in which you have a bunch of teenage boys together so there was a lot of testosterone, a lot of adrenaline…they were all into it. It was good for the fans. It was jammed in there, just jammed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more people in that building.

Though it was loud it appeared the kids in the stands were pretty well behaved, but I was pretty far away from them. I do think every single kid who goes to Avon was at the game. It was so packed. But I didn’t see anything getting out of control in the student section, just a lot of screaming and yelling and cheering for their guys. From where I was I couldn’t really see the student section well, and I am concentrating on the game anyway. And on the ice there was just a lot of chirping going on which didn’t need to happen but as I said the refs can eliminate that if they choose to. Looking back on I,t that was probably something they should have don but they didn’t.


****
Note:

We are told the Avon Old Farms head of school called the Westminster head of school to apologize for Monday’s events. This is not something we have confirmed. And it’s also not something we would bother to confirm -- or read too much into, either. As the host school, you could say it’s incumbent on Avon to reach out to Westminster, to do the right thing. We did hear talk of incidents in the stands involving the two schools’ students. It all sounds totally plausible, as kids can always be counted on to do dumb things. Good kids do dumb things; bad kids do dumb things. And he more charged up they are, the higher the likelihood that they will do dumb things. But unless somebody winds up in the hospital or their civil rights are violated, it’s not really of great interest to us. What happens on the ice is our concern. And a lot happened on Monday

 




Founders’ League Pow-Wow on Tap
Tonght at the Kent School, Avon Old Farms Head Coach John Gardner will be making a presentation to the Founders’ League heads of schools and athletic directors regarding the future direction of hockey – and of all prep sports, actually.

Gardner, the dean of prep coaches and a former NEPSIHA president, has, as we wrote about in this space a couple months back, been homing in on the need to revamp fall hockey in prep school. Gardner places his proposal firmly within the context of larger changes in society – specifically, the steady increase in the specialization of youth sports. He’s not exactly alone. Virtually every prep school coach we talk to (i.e., a lot!) feels it is time to accept the fact that kids and their parents – call it the marketplace if you wish – are looking for more from prep school hockey programs than they are currently getting. We agree with them totally. If headmasters and ADs wish to stick their heads in the sand and just keep doing things the way they traditionally have, they will find it increasingly difficult to get the top players to continue to choose the boarding school route.

We recommend studying Gardner’s proposal in depth (the link follows this article). However, the three main points, along with a few thoughts of our own that have sprung from reading his proposal, are these:

1)  A fresh approach to fall prep hockey would help admissions at most schools. It’s simple: if a school is paying the significant overhead a hockey program with an on-campus rink requires, then they should also be working assiduously to attract good hockey players. Clearly, there are many compelling reasons to choose the private school route and if parents are fortunate enough to be able to afford it and/or get the needed level of financial aid, it’s an opportunity to really be excited about – on an academic and social level alone. But what about the kids themselves? You can talk to them about the academic advantage all you want, but a hockey-loving kid is just not going to go to boarding school for that reason  alone. And why should they? They – and their parents, of course – want the best of both worlds. If the high-end hockey players are not offered the means to compete at the same, or nearly the same, level as their peers in other leagues, they will stop choosing the prep route. It’s that simple.

2) Gardner’s proposal would enhance the college admissions prospects of their hockey players. Every fall Div. I and III coaches are on the road, at junior, U18, and U16 showcases all over the US and Canada. They are even popping up increasingly at European tournaments. Because of the competition for athletes, coaches are making decisions on players earlier in the academic year. If kids can play for competitive U18 teams in advance of the start of the NEPSIHA season, the more looks a college coach can get at them. Often nowadays, a college will find a prep player they really like in December, January or February – but they will have already used up all, or most of, their scholarship money.  

3) This last point is a constant source of worry, because it is a safety issue. Top prep kids now, in order to play on the best split-season teams in the region, are trucking all over the map, often under dubious circumstances. Who did you say was driving? Where are you staying? Who is in charge? Are you kidding me? We’ve heard some pretty hair-raising stories that we guarantee you are not getting back to most heads of schools or ADs. Which is a good thing for them, because they would not sleep well. You know, in loco parentis. It would be infinitely safer if prep teams were allowed to play together earlier in the fall, as they would be under the supervision of school employees. 

Hey, this typist is, at heart, old school. I love the traditional three-sport ideal, and, thankfully, there is room for the Brian Harts of the world in this proposal. Am I a little sad that virtually no prep hockey players are playing fall sports anymore? Yes, I am. However, I have also studied the arc of history, in both the macro and micro sense, and life is a constant series of change and evolution. Often, standing by hardened positions for no reason other than “Hey, this is how we’ve always done it” can leave one vulnerable. The world will rip past you. We don’t want to see that happen to prep hockey. It’s too much fun, and the tradition is too great. John Gardner has seen a lot of changes since he started coaching. He’s competitive as hell and may have irritated a ref or a colleague or a head of school or an AD here or there, but we listen when he talks. And we just feel he’s right on the money here.

John Gardner Proposal
 




EJHL All-Star Game
Yale recruit Michael Doherty scored a pair of goals to lead the North Division to a 5-2 win over the South Division at the EJHL All-Star game at Merrimack College today.

All things considered, it was not a bad game. The tempo was good and the game clipped right along, though team defense was in short supply, hardly unusual for an all-star game.

After BU recruit Kevin Duane (Junior Bruins) opened the scoring for the North, Doherty answered, scoring off a 3-on-2 with assists from Chris Izmirlian (Islanders) and Conor McPhee (Islanders).

In the second period, goals by the South’s Jason Stephanik (Hitmen) and Josh Henke (Hitmen) were sandwiched around a goal from North’s John Jackson (Valley).

In the third, North scored two goals to salt it away. Paul Russell (Junior Bruins) broke down the left side and tucked the puck past South goaltender Linus Lundin (Springfield). Doherty, the Islanders’ leading point producer, made it 5-2 with a snipe from the bottom of the right faceoff circle.

USHR’s three stars of the game: 1) Doherty. 2) Paul Russell, Junior Bruins (1g,1a) and 3) Josh Henke, Hitmen (1g,1a thus figuring in both South goals).

Each team used three goalies, each for one period apiece. Of that group, two, the North’s Sean Lawrence (Junior Bruins) and Jake Soffer (Boston Bandits), were flawless, allowing no goals.

Notes:

Frankie Vatrano, who was named to the North All-Stars, couldn’t play in this game. Spring semester started at UMass-Amherst today and, while Vatrano has a pending NCAA appeal which he hopes will allow him to finish this season with the Junior Bruins and begin play at UMass in the fall, the NCAA has not yet returned to him with an answer. Until then, he’s on the shelf, possibly to stay until next January – or possibly not. He’ll just have to wait.

Valley D Nick Pichette, a ’93; and BU recruit Kevin Duane, a ’94, were added to the North roster.

On the South, Jersey Hitmen D defenseman Connor Costello, West Point recruit, is out with a bad shoulder. He was replaced by Pat Condon of the Bay State Breakers.

NHL scouts were not thrilled with the rosters, and were not present in significant numbers. There are three players in the EJHL the pro guys really wanted to see, and not one played. They are:

1) The Valley Warriors’ F Ryan Fitzgerald, a BC recruit ranked #46 in last week’s NHL Central Scouting Mid-Season rankings, was picked for the team. However, Fitzgerald, a late ’94, got into a dustup with Junior Bruins’ goalie Sean Lawrence on Sunday, wound up taking a punch to the side of the head, and suffered a concussion as a result. On the surface of things, it’s not considered to be a serious concussion, though really, if you think about it, every concussion is serious – and, until this one resolves itself Fitzgerald will be out of the lineup. 

2) 6’3”, 168 lb. late ’94 Zach Sanford, an EJHL rookie who played at Pinkerton Academy last year, earned himself a #83 ranking in Central’s list, but was not named to the team.

3) 6’3” ’93 RC Chris LeBlanc, a Merrimack recruit who was playing for Winthrop High last year, also didn’t make the team. While not ranked by Central, LeBlanc, a player in his third year of eligibility for the draft, is still being closely watched.

One NHL scout simply said. “I went to the game, but not one of the three players I really wanted to see was playing.”

 




KUA Tops USHR Prep Poll Once Again
It's probably no surprise to anyone that Kimball Union Academy (15-1-0) is once again holding the top spot in USHR's weekly prep poll.

The top 8 are all repeaters, even if the order has been scrambled a bit. The biggest problem is at the bottom of the poll, where there has been a convergence of a half dozen deserving teams in Exeter (8-4-3), Avon (8-4-3), St. Sebastian's (9-5-1), Loomis (9-5-1), Choate (8-4-3), and Kent (8-3-3). And we had to pick two! Check the link below to see who made it.

This is a good time to mention the success this season of a few of the more succesful smaller schools in Kents Hill (12-3-1), Brooks (9-2-3), and Rivers (10-4-2).

USHR Prep Poll: Week of Jan. 21, 2013






The Changing Face of Hockey
The CHL Top Prospects Game, which features 40 of the top major junior players eligible for June’s NHL draft, was played before 10,585 fans at the Metro Center in Halifax, NS last night.

Now, because we’re keen on demographics and its impact on the future of hockey, it was pretty gratifying to see that, of the 40 players chosen, seven are minorities – five African-Canadians and two African-Americans.

Clearly, the time is coming when hockey is lessof  a ‘white man’s sport’ – and that’s one development that can’t happen soon enough. When you have this many of the top young prospects in the game who are players of color, and a potential US-born-and-bred superstar in Seth Jones, it’s pretty clear that the train has left the station.

Here are the seven players, preceded by where they were ranked in the NHL’s Central Scouting Mid-Season Rankings released yesterday.

Team Orr:
1. Seth Jones, D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL) -- US native
22. Madison Bowey, D, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
35. Anthony Duclair, LW, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
37. Justin Bailey, RW, Kitchener Rangers (OHL) -- US native

Team Cherry:
9. Darnell Nurse, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
38. Stephen Harper, RW, Erie Otters (OHL)
81. Jordan Subban, D, Belleville Bulls (OHL)

The first hint that all this was happening came back in May of 2011 when three of the top six, and four of the top 12, players selected in that year’s OHL Draft were players of color: Nurse at #3; Nicholas Baptiste at #4, Subban at #5, and Harper at #12.

That beat continued this year as the Windsor Spitfires made Josh Ho-Sang the #5 pick in this past spring’s 2012 OHL Draft. Ho-Sang, whose mother is Jewish and whose father is a Black Jamaican of Chinese ancestry, came down to Boston last January when his powerhouse team, the Toronto Marlies Minor Midget AAA squad, was entered in the USHR-hosted International Showcase at Boston University and Northeastern. (For the record, no fewer than six players off that squad – Ho-Sang, Connor McDavid, Jaden Lindo, Sam Bennett, Daniel DeSousa, and Roland McKeown – were representing Ontario at the 2013 World Under-17s a few weeks back.)

Anyway, look for Ho-Sang, an exciting player and a Rainbow Coalition on skates if there ever was one, to be a potential first round prospect for the 2014 NHL Draft – and appear in the CHL Top Prospects Game at this time next season.

Notes:

Team Orr blanked Team Cherry in last night’s game, 3-0. Quebec Remparts F Adam Erne banged home the rebound of a Seth Jones shot to put his team up 1-0 in the first period – an All-American goal.

“I’ve been here 14 years and that first period is the best period I’ve ever seen,” said the one-time Bruins coach and current fashion curiosity. “You can see that this in not an All-Star game. There was more hitting tonight than you will see in ten games in the NHL.”

 




Hill Departs
6’6”, 220 lb. LW Tyler Hill left Hotchkiss yesterday, bound for the Chicago Steel (USHL), where he will complete the season.

A junior at Hotchkiss, Hill a 4/13/95 birthdate, returned to the school for the second semester last week, and has played three games since, recording two goals (both in Saturday’s  4-2 win over Loomis) and no assists. On the season, Hill, who suffered a minor knee injury in the Flood-Marr, has a 5-1-6 scoring line, good for 5th on the team in scoring. Last season, Hill had a 4-12-16 line in 22 games played, also good for 5th on the team in scoring.

In NHL Central Scouting’s Mid-Season Rankings, released yesterday, the Hagersville, Ontario native was ranked #85 overall among North American skaters.

In November, over the Thanksgiving break, Hill suited up for the Steel and played two games, putting up a 1-1-2 line with 17 pims (15 came in a penalty-filled 7-3 loss to the US NTDP.) Throughout the summer, autumn -- and again in recent weeks -- there has been talk that he would be leaving Hotchkiss so his departure, the bad timing aside, is hardly a major surprise.

Top colleges have shown an interest in recruiting Hill, but are a little unsure of exactly what they might be getting in return, not just in terms of overall skill level and vision, but also in terms of commitment to the NCAA route. A constant level of OHL speculation has followed Hill, and schools, while recognizing his undeniable size, soft hands, and upside, also fear getting burned.   

 




Jones #1 in Central’s Mid-Season Rankings
NHL Central Scouting released its Mid-Season Rankings today and 6’4” Portland Winterhawks (WHL) defenseman Seth Jones is the #1-ranked North American skater eligible for the 2013 NHL draft.

Jones is followed by the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) duo of Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, natives of, respectively, Halifax, Nova Scotia and Saint-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec.

If Jones holds his top ranking, the Plano, Texas native will be the first U.S.-born and raised defenseman to go #1 overall since 2006, when St. Louis selected U.S. NTDP defenseman Erik Johnson with the draft’s top pick. The following year, 2007, Chicago selected RW Patrick Kane #1 overall. Other Americans who have gone #1 overall were C Brian Lawton (1983, Mount St. Charles), C Mike Modano (1988, Prince Albert Raiders), D Bryan Berard (1995, Detroit Jr. Red Wings), and G Rick DiPietro (2000, Boston University).

The highest-ranked U.S. goaltender eligible for the 2013 Draft is former Chicago Young Americans U18 and current Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL) netminder Calvin Petersen, a Notre Dame recruit pegged at #4 by Central. The next-highest ranked American – at #7 -- is Waterloo’s other goalie, Eamon McAdam, a Penn State recruit and former Team Comcast netminder. Both Black Hawks goalies are late ‘94s. And, since we know you were wondering, we should point out that Petersen is the top-ranked goalie who catches with his right hand – we used to call them silly-siders, but haven’t heard that terminology in a while. Petersen is actually one of three opposite-siders among the 35 goalies ranked by Central. That’s about right, as 10 percent of the population is left-handed, and has been since time immemorial. If you have a lot of spare time check out photos of ancient cave paintings: you will note that about one of ever ten hunters is holding their spear in their left hand. However, four of the last seven U.S. presidents have been lefties – Ford, Bush Sr., Clinton, and Obama. And while we’re on the subject, Jacob Lew, the next U.S. Treasury Secretary, would have to be considered ‘other’. Have you seen his signature? What the hell is that?

Anyway, we digress -- a lot. Back to hockey.

Due to the lockout, the latest possible date that this year’s Stanley Cup final could extend to is June 28th. Hence, the 2013 NHL Draft, to be held at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, has been pushed back (from Fri-Sat June 21-22 to Sun. June 30th) with the entire draft – all seven rounds -- being compressed into one day. In addition, the draft lottery has been scheduled for Mon. April 29th – and any one of the 14 non-playoff teams will be eligible to win the #1 overall pick.

Note: For your convenience, the following are all printable PDF files. Also, each should open in a separate window.

2013 Mid-Season Rankings: North American Skaters (by round)

2013 Mid-Season Rankings: North American Skaters (alphabetically sorted)

2013 Mid-Season Rankings: North American Goaltenders

2013 Mid-Season Rankings: European Skaters (by round)

2013 Mid-Season Rankings: European Skates (alphabetically sorted)

2013 Mid-Season Rankings: European Goaltenders






EJHL All-Star Game Rosters

The 20th Annual EJHL All-Star Game, to be hosted by the Middlesex Islanders, is scheduled for Mon. Jan. 21 (10:30 am) at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass.

Here are the rosters:

NORTHERN DIVISION

Goaltenders:
Jake Soffer (Boston Bandits), Colton Phinney (Islanders Hockey Club), Sean Lawrence (Junior Bruins).

Defensemen:
Joona Kunnas (Islanders Hockey Club), Derek Stahl (Islanders Hockey Club), Jonathan Neal (Rochester Stars), Cody Smith (Junior Bruins), Josh Couturier (Junior Bruins), Kevin McKernan (Junior Bruins).

Forwards:
Frank Vatrano (Junior Bruins), Paul Russell (Junior Bruins), Kyle Nickerson (Junior Bruins), Matt Salhany (Boston Bandits), Evan Schultz (New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs), John Jackson (Valley Jr. Warriors), Ryan Fitzgerald (Valley Jr. Warriors), Devin Tringale (Valley Jr. Warriors), Haralds Egle (Portland Jr. Pirates), Michael Doherty (Islanders Hockey Club), Chris Izmirlian (Islanders Hockey Club), Conor MacPhee (Islanders Hockey Club).

Alternates:
Kevin Duane (Junior Bruins), Brendan Collier (Valley Jr. Warriors), Gus Harms (Valley Jr. Warriors).

Note:
Ryan Cloonan (Junior Bruins) was originally selected to appear, but has been replaced due to injury.

SOUTHERN DIVISION

Goaltenders:
Chris Funkey (Jersey Hitmen), Ben Halford (Bay State Breakers), Linus Lundin (Springfield Pics).

Defensemen:
Trevor Owens
(Jersey Hitmen), John Furgele (Jersey Hitmen), Wade Schools (Springfield Pics), Jake Kulevich (South Shore Kings), Kyle Menges (New York Apple Core), Connor Costello (Jersey Hitmen).

Forwards:
Brendan Bradley (Jersey Hitmen), Andrew Black (Jersey Hitmen), Dominic Trento (Jersey Hitmen), Jason Stephanik (Jersey Hitmen), Josh Henke (Jersey Hitmen), Tim Clifton (Jersey Hitmen), Chris Calnan (South Shore Kings), Tyler Piacentini (South Shore Kings), Andrew Doane (South Shore Kings), Dan Mele (Springfield Pics), Austin Orszulak (Springfield Pics), Matt Lison (Bay State Breakers).





Once Again, KUA  #1 in USHR Prep Poll
The Kimball Union Wildcats remain at #1 in this week's USHR Prep Poll.

A newcomer this week is Exeter, making their debut this season in the #10 spot. They supplant Loomis, who lost a 4-2 decision at Hotchkiss on Saturday.

USHR Prep Poll: Week of Jan. 14, 2013





Crusaders Enter Terra Incognito
The committal of 6’3”, 180 lb. sophomore forward Peter Crinella of Springfield Cathedral to Holy Cross earlier this week could be a watershed moment for the Crusaders who, by committing such a young player, are going where the program has never gone before.

Crinella, a late ’96 and a native of East Longmeadow, Mass., projects to top out at around 200 lbs. In addition to size, he can produce offense: he currently leads Springfield Cathedral in scoring with an 8-6-14 line in eight games played. Cathedral, the top Mass. high school program west of Greater Boston, is coached by Brian Foley (the father of Choate co-captain Mickey Foley). So far this season, Cathedral is undefeated in high school play (6-0-1), and ranked #3 in the state. On Saturday they’ll be putting it on the line in a noon showdown against #1-ranked BC High (6-0-2) at the Olympia in West Springfield.  

***
BC High, playing at home (Clark Center, UMass-Boston) on Wednesday night, beat #5-ranked St. John’s Prep (5-2-0), 2-0, so they’re riding high. A huge factor in that 2-0 win, as you may have guessed, was 6’2” senior netminder Peter Cronin (25 saves; .972 save percentage on the season). Equally huge was the play of 5’8” junior captain Tommy Besinger, who may not be the biggest kid around, but is smart, skilled, and competes. Besinger, the team’s leading scorer, assisted on both of the Eagles' goals. 5’11” freshman D Billy Roche also had assists on both goals.

BC High’s two previous decisions had been ties – to Xaverian, and to two-time defending champ Malden Catholic. Head Coach John Flaherty’s team, now 6-0-2, looks to be making a run for a championship this season.

Speaking of Malden Catholic, they’ve been off their feed over the past week. In the game following the aforementioned tie vs. BC High, the Lancers went on the road and were edged by St. John’s Prep, 3-2, before a packed house at Ristuccia Arena. The loss was Malden Catholic’s first MIAA loss since Jan. 15, 2011, a 24-game stretch. The Lancers have yet to bounce back: in their next outing, Catholic Memorial (8-1-0) came into MC’s barn (Valley Forum II) and knocked them off  7-4. Head coach John McLean’s squad will try to break their two-game losing streak Saturday at Xaverian (5:45 pm).

Clearly, if you are looking for volatility in the standings, there’s a lot to be found this year in the Mass high school hockey ranks. The seeding process for the Super 8 is already looking to be quite interesting -- read controversy-filled -- this season. And we mean that in a good way.

Update Sat. 1/12/13 -- #3 Springfield Cathedral edged #1 BC High, 3-2, in the above-mentioned game this afternoon.





Prep West Showcase On Tap Saturday
The Prep West Showcase is Saturday afternoon at the Berkshire School. This represents a great opportunity to see all of the conference’s eight teams in one venue which, given that there are two sheets, will enable scouts and recruiters to see all eight teams in roughly a four-hour time slot. All games are full three-period NEPSIHA games. Two of this season’s top team’s, #3 Gunnery and #5 Berkshire, are among the teams that will be on hand. Canterbury is tough this year, too, having given Berkshire one of the Bears' two losses this season. On Wednesday, Canterbury came from behind to tie #9 Choate.

Here is a link, courtesy of conference president and Williston-Northampton Head Coach Derek Cunha to a PDF which contains the schedule, and the rosters for all eight teams. Enjoy.

2013 Prep West Showcase Booklet

 




Former Harvard Center’s Wife Dies at Age 32
Many of you have probably heard, through the web or in today’s papers, that the wife of former Harvard center – and current NHL unrestricted free agent -- Dominic Moore died Monday after a nine-month battle with a rare liver cancer.

What is less well known is that Katie Moore – the former Katie Urbanic -- was a top-flight athlete herself, having played on the Harvard Women’s Soccer Team at Harvard. Prior to Harvard, where she graduated in the class of ’03, the same year as her husband, she played at the Blake School. A native of Wayzata, Minn., she was 32.

Our thoughts go out to Dominic Moore and the Urbanic family.




Tying Up Loose Ends
Between holiday tournaments, Christmas, New Year’s, the starting anew of prep games, we are finally getting our feet back under us here and would like to report on a couple of notable commitments that have happened in the last week or so.

First, and likely the most significant recruit of the bunch is 5’9”, 155 lb. St. Louis Blues U16 forward Matthew Tkachuk, who has committed to Notre Dame for the fall of the ‘16.

The son of former NHL and BU star Keith Tkachuk projects to be an impact player from the moment he arrives in South Bend, Indiana. A front-runner for next year’s NTDP, Tkachuk was our #10 ranked forward at this summer’s Select 15 Festival. This is what we had to say about his game, Thinks the game like a pro and is exceptional with the puck on his stick. Right now his skating is pretty average, but when he matures and adds size and strength we think his game will take off. Is a December ’97 birthdate, making him one of the youngest players on hand.”

The freshman winger currently sits 4th in the Tier I Elite League scoring race with a 15-36-51 scoring line in only 28 games played. Boston University and Boston College both pursued Tkachuk hard, but in the end Notre Dame is closer to his family in St. Louis and with the Irish’s move to Hockey East he will have the opportunity to play in front of his extended family, many of whom live in the Boston area, virtually every other weekend.

***

 5’10”, 160 lb. Brampton 45’s midget minor goaltender Ben Blacker has committed to Western Michigan University for the fall of 2015.

This is a big get for the Broncos. We recently saw Blacker at the Marlies Tournament. Here is what we wrote:Right now, he is the top ’97 goaltender in the province. Was the only goalie from Ontario selected to play in the All-State, All-Canadians game over the summer. Does not project well as he only stands at 5’9”, maybe 5’10”. That said, he is quick, athletic, has sound technique, and competes like a dog in the net.”

Blacker is really the first high-end midget minor player from Ontario that Andy Murray and his staff have snatched up. Just like the University of Michigan does every year, Murray and his staff will now have to fight the good fight to simply make sure Blacker shows up and does not get rerouted to the OHL. Blacker will certainly be selected in the OHL Draft this spring. It’s just a matter of how high and by whom.

***

Northeastern had a good week as they have added three players for next fall -- all should provide immediate help.

First, the Huntington Ave. faithful will be looking to 5’7”, 165 lb. Nepean (CCHL) forward Dalen Hedges to put up points. The 3/30/94 birthdate has been tearing up the Ottawa junior loop for three years now. The son of NHL agent Rolland Hedges currently sports a 17-22-39 scoring line in just 21 games played, good for 3rd in league scoring. Over the course of the last three seasons Hedges has scored 223 points in 138 Jr. A games.

Next, look for 5’9”, 170 lb. Valley Junior Warriors (EJHL) defenseman Jake Schecter to give the Huskies a reliable presence on the backend. The 3/9/93 birthdate was a vital cog in Lawrence Academy’s championship team last season. Through 20 games played this year the smooth-skating defenseman has produced an 0-9-9 scoring line.

Finally, the Huskies scooped up 6’0”, 170 lb. power forward Tanner Pond from the Sioux City Musketeers (USHL). The Commerce, Mich. native will be well accepted by the “Dog Pound” as he plays hard and without fear. A 5/31/93 birthdate, Pond has produced a 9-7-16 scoring line through 30 games to go along with 114 penalty minutes.

***
6’0”, 192 lb. Kent School LD Mike Graham has committed to St. Lawrence University for this coming fall.

A tri-captain for the Lions this year, Graham is a 1/28/94 birthdate from Toronto who arrived at Kent from the Marlies Midget Minor squad three years ago and as a sophomore was a regular on the team that bowed to Milton in the prep finals. 

A good all-purpose player, Graham is solid defensively, skates well, makes a good first pass out of the zone, blocks shots, and is the key to Kent’s power play.





Selects Academy Tournament
Selects Academy at South Kent School is hosting a U-16 Tournament – The South Kent School Legacy Elite Invitational (a mouthful, we know) -- from Fri. Jan. 18-Sun. Jan. 20 at the school’s campus.

There will be six U-16s squads on hand: Wilkes-Barre, Belle Tire, New Jersey Rockets, Selects Academy, NJ Avalanche, and the Connecticut Oilers.

In addition, on Sunday afternoon, the Selects U18 team will face the Hill School U18 Team.

Tournament Schedule





Back on Top
Kimball Union Academy, #2 to then-undefeated Belmont Hill in the last USHR Prep Poll (posted Dec. 17th, after the Christmas tournaments), returns to the #1 slot in the first USHR Prep Poll of 2013.

The Wildcats, 11-1-0 in NEPSIHA play, blanked Cushing 3-0 on the road on Saturday, and were in turn blanked 3-0 by the Junior Bruins in an exhibition game at Northeastern's Matthews Arena Sunday.

This week Mike Levine's squad will host Vermont Academy on Wednesday before hitting the road to Tabor on Saturday.

USHR Prep Poll

 


Sat. 1/5/13

Marlies Tournament: The Province’s Top ‘97s
It was a battle, what with thick, falling snow making for horrendous road conditions both up and back, but USHR safely and successfully made its annual trip to Ontario for the Toronto Marlies Tournament. While this may be the ‘U.S.’ Hockey Report, we have great respect for – and interest in – our neighbors to the north. And, naturally, we enjoy getting an early line on the next batch of NHL talent currently gestating in Ontario. To that end, there is no better showcase than the Marlies Tournament, as we could put together an NHL all-star team solely drawn from players who have participated in the post-Christmas showcase. Jason Spezza, Rich Nash, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Marc Staal, Nathan Hortan, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Tyler Seguin, Jonathan Tavares, Taylor Hall, Matt Duchene, Sam Gagner, Logan Couture, and hockey’s next big thing Conner McDavid are names that immediately come to mind.

Interestingly, this is the first year that we have left Canlan Ice Sports, in Etobicoke, 15 miles nothwest of downtown Toronto, with the feeling that the American crop of ’97-born players eligible for the OHL draft are superior to those from the Province. Yanks such as Zach Werenski (Little Caesars U18), Jordan Greenway (Shattuck U16), Dennis Yan (Belle Tire U18), Luke Kirwan (Middlesex-EJHL), Gordie Green (Compuware U16), Brent Gates (Compuware U16), Brendan Warren (Compuware U16), Jeremy Bracco (NJ Rockets-MET), Matt Tkachuk (St. Louis U16), Luke Kunin (St. Louis U16), Ryan Moore (Belle Tire U16), Vas Kolias (Chicago Mission U16), Tory Dello (Chicago Mission U16), Zach Osburn (Honeybaked U16), Joe Masonius (NJ Hitmen U16), Michael Davies (St. Louis U16), and Luke Opilka (St. Louis U16) are all players who would get first round OHL consideration -- if the NCAA option were removed from the equation.

In view of Wednesday’s U.S. thumping of Canada at the World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia, more than a few Canadian hockey observers are in self-examination mode, wondering if perhaps USA Hockey has officially closed the gap with their country. It’s not an easy question to answer in the macro sense, but here at USHR we are deep enough into the grassroots of hockey that we can confidently look at just the ’97s and venture that it is an off year for that particular age group -- in Ontario, at least. We would also go a step further by stating that we have also not seen any ’98-born players better than Sean Day (Compuware U16) and Logan Brown (St. Louis U14). Is this a sign of things to come? If so, what forces are at work? Is it simply that the sheer number of kids playing youth hockey in the U.S. has increased faster than in Canada and that more talent is an inevitable by-product? Is it the fact the former NHL players have settled down in non-traditional hockey markets and are now coaching local youth teams, e.g. Keith Tkachuk (St. Louis U16), Keith Primeau (Comcast U14), Adam Foote (Colorado Thunderbirds U14)? It is our guess that the NTDP will get a lot of credit for the recent win over Team Canada, but the trends we are looking at are evident long before players reach the NTDP. The Ann Arbor-based program is not in the business of turning so-so players into superstars. It’s a finishing school, and the best players there arrived with special skill sets and desire. Also, on a side note, four of the top six forwards on the U.S. WJC roster never played for the NTDP (John Gaudreau, Alex Galchenyuk, Jimmy Vesey, and Sean Kuraly).

The USA Hockey Select Festivals, being broader-based and more inclusive, are perhaps a better gauge of where we are at not just in terms of comparison to Canada, but also in terms of how far we have come over the years. And things are looking good. Now, an idea: We feel placing players from all different districts onto Select Festival squads is causing vital information to be lost. Which districts are now the strongest? Which specific districts are producing the most talent, top to bottom? Which districts have come the furthest in the last 10 years? Which districts have accounted for USA Hockey closing the gap on Canada and, more importantly, why have those districts improved? There is no doubt that Michigan and Minnesota would still be the frontrunners, but have the Atlantic and Pacific regions surpassed Central, Massachusetts, and New York? It is our guess that the Southeast and Rocky Mountain districts would no longer be the doormats of the festival that they were when the current format was adopted.

About 10 years ago USA Hockey made the switch to the current format of mixing players up because they felt that the festival had become more about winning than developing talent. Certain districts were playing defensive systems, not playing their 4th lines, and perhaps overlooking certain players who had been pigeonholed through years of overfamiliarity. Here, then, is a suggestion: Switch back to the old format, but assign coaches from different districts to coach the teams. We would love, for example, to see Massachusetts coaches behind the Pacific bench – and vice versa. We’d like to hear the fresh perspective that would spring forth from that sort of cross-pollination.

Anyway, forgive the digression -- back to the Marlies Tournament. Due to the weather it took longer to get to Toronto (and also to get back home!) than expected. Therefore, we didn’t get to see every single team, and thus surely missed a few good players. However, we feel we met our overall goal, which was to evaluate the midget minor division – the Ontario ‘97s. This how we ranked them:

 1. Travis Konecny, F, ’97 (Elgin-Middlesex) — The top Ontario-born player available for the OHL draft. If Compuware’s Sean Day is granted exceptional player status and if Zach Werenski decides to go to the OHL, Konecny will likely fall to #3, but there is a chance he could go #1 overall if the team holding the pick is looking for a forward. The Elgin-Middlesex sniper is not very big at 5’9”, 170 lbs., but he plays the game extremely hard and could have the quickest shot release we have seen in a 15 year old. A complete player who is an explosive finisher, Konecny also capable of setting up his linemates.  Scored 152 points in only 64 games played last season.

2. Dylan Strome, F, ’97 (Toronto Marlies) — The younger brother of OHL scoring kingpin and NY Islanders (NHL) 1st round draft pick Ryan Strome. We remember watching Ryan at this very same tournament and feel that Dylan is a step ahead of him at the same age. The tall center thinks the game at a high level and has excellent vision. Is a strong player in all three zones. Will only get better as he fills out and adds muscle to his frame.

3. Blake Speers, F, ’97 (Soo Thunder) — The most skilled player in the draft, an absolute wizard with the puck on his stick. Last season the Sault Ste. Marie native posted nearly 300 points. Will add a dimension to any OHL team’s power play next season. The knock on him is that he is not very big or gritty, though he has grown a significant amount since our previous look at him.

4. Lawson Crouse, F, ’97 (Elgin-Middlesex) — Prototypical power forward with a lot of upside. Plays on the Chiefs’ top line along with Konecny and the duo was the best 1-2 punch we saw here. Is 6’2”, has a long, fluid stride and a soft set of hands with finishing abilities. Will only get better. Moved up the draft lists with a strong performance here. A likely top 10 pick.

5. Mitchell Stephens, F, ’97 (Toronto Marlies) — Brings a little bit of everything to the table. Is a very powerful skater, can undress defenders in 1x1 situations, and can really bury the puck with some authority when given an opportunity. We see him developing into a Scottie Upshall (Florida Panthers-NHL) type forward at the next level. Our only knock on him would be that he did not exhibit much vision.

6. Matt Spencer, D, ’97 (Oakville Rangers) — Complete defenseman who is solid in all facets. Can skate, defend, plays tough, and routinely jumps into the offense in transition. Is already about 6’2”, so size is not an issue. Someone you want to have in the trenches with you. Is the captain of the #1-ranked team in Ontario. Is said to be considering the NCAA option.

7. Kyle Capobianco, D, ’97 (Oakville Rangers) — Is about 6’0”, 155 lbs. and has a lot of upside. Is extremely light on his feet, sees the ice, and is really smooth with the puck on his stick. Has a lot of work to do in the weight room, but when he fills out he could go shooting up this list. Probably the most skilled blueliner in Ontario. Will eventually run a PP in the OHL, possibly as soon as next year.

8. Brett McKenzie, F, ’97 (Oakville Rangers) — Big 6’2”, 175 lb. power forward – strong, and can really fire the puck. Plays with grit and is fantastic in the corners and in front of the net. Is one the most OHL-ready players available in the draft. Played last season for the Eastern Ontario Wild before jumping ship to #1-ranked Oakville.

9. Mitch Marner, F, ’97 (Don Mills Flyers) — One of the more exciting players we saw here. Is very small, about 5’7” is our guess, and physically underdeveloped in comparison to his peers. That said, he does nothing but make plays. Bobs and weaves through traffic with ease and has a really quick stick. Would be perfect for the NCAA; we feel schools would line up for his services.

10. Cole Mayo, D, ’97 (Elgin-Middlesex) — Regarded as the top defenseman in the Alliance League. Is on the smaller side, but can really skate and make plays. Is effective on the PP as he distributes the puck with the best of them. Joins the rush with regularity and is always moving on the offensive blue line.

11. Mitchell Vande Sompel, D, ’97 (London Knights Gold) — Was impressive at the Bauer Tournament back in November and we liked him here too. The London captain is not very big, but he really takes charge at this level, especially in the offensive zone. We are not sure how he projects as a pro, but if we were an OHL team we would not hesitate taking him with a high draft pick.

12. Nikita Korostelev, F, ’97 (Toronto Jr. Canadiens) — Russian forward living in Ontario. One scout told us he would be eligible for the OHL draft; another said it’s not going to happen. However that one shakes out, Korostelev is someone who will make an immediate impact when he does get to the OHL. Is flashy and has a high-end skill set, but is also not afraid to take a hit to make a play.

13. Andrew Burns, D, ’97 (Oakville Rangers) — May get overlooked because he plays on a deep team with high-end defensemen. That said, Burns is very good in his own right. Can really zip the puck around and makes a great first pass. If he played on a different team and was the go-to guy we think he would be more highly regarded.

14. Riley Bruce, D, ’97 (Ottawa Valley Titans) — Massive defender is already about 6’4” or 6’5”. For a big kid he can skate and defend quite well. Does not try to do too much, just keeps the game simple and makes a good first pass. Attended Boston University’s camp over the summer and is strongly considering the NCAA route. Could end up being a Doyle Somerby (Kimball Union) type defenseman should he keep progressing. Has a lot of potential.

15. Drew Worrad, F, ’97 (Elgin-Middlesex) — Gets overlooked because he is on the second line and not playing with highly-touted forwards Konecny (#1 on this list) and Crouse (#4 on this list). We loved Worrad’s game and felt that he did everything well. If he slips into the 2nd or 3rd round of the draft he will be an absolute steal. Is a strong skater who sees the ice well and knows how to finish. Is excellent in the defensive zone. A complete player.

16. Conner Schlichting, D, ’97 (York Simcoe Express) — Rangy defenseman with long arms and a nice stride. Good with the puck on his stick. Has some maturing to do and is another player who could move up this list in a hurry when he gets bigger and stronger. Played for the Marlies last season, but was ruled ineligible to play in the GTHL and thus had to return home to his local team. York Simcoe won the tournament and we felt that Schlichting was their top defender.

17. Jesse Saban, D, ’97 (Toronto Red Wings) — Big, strong, 6’2” defenseman. Defends well, but also has a good stick and is relied upon to create some offense on his current team. Projects as a shut-down defender at the next level. A lot to work with here.

18. Joshua DeFarias, D, ’97 (Toronto Marlies) — 5’10” defenseman is an early developer who has likely peaked in terms of physical maturity. May not have the upside of some of the defensemen we ranked above him, but right now he is probably better than a few of them.  Is assertive, confident, and creates a lot of offense. Rips the puck around with ease on the PP. Will be drafted in the top two rounds.

19. Marcus Crawford, D, ’97 (South Central Coyotes) — Is not very big -- 5’10” or 5’11” -- but can really move the puck up ice. Runs the Coyotes’ PP and does a great job. Skilled, puck-moving defender who will either be a late 1st or early 2nd round pick.

20. Ethan Szypula, F, ’97 (London Knights Gold) — Crafty and slick. Elusive with the puck and difficult to contain. Is a bit slight right now and will need to get thicker in order to have an impact at the next level, but there is no doubt that he has 1st round type skill.

21. Graham Knott, F, ’97 (York Simcoe Express) — Tall and lanky forward who plays hard and will be a nice power forward when all is said and done. Will probably never be a top scorer, but he’s someone you want playing with your top scorer. Gets pucks back, plays in the tough ice, and can finish when given an opportunity.

22. Jesse Barwell, F, ’97 (Oakville Rangers) — Plays on Oakville’s 2nd line and is not someone who gets a lot of ink, but in the games we saw him in he was their most productive player. Is on the smaller side, but he is very quick, has excellent hockey IQ, and is strong on the puck. Has a quick shot release and is good in tight areas.

23. Ryan Heeps, F, ’97 (Oshawa Kinsmen) — An absolute burner who creates a lot of offense using his speed. Blows by defenders and gets to the front of the net with ease. Plays on a weak team, thus does not get the recognition that he probably deserves.

24. Adam McPhail, F, ’97 (Soo Thunder) — The 6’2” forward plays on a line with Blake Speers and the two have great chemistry. Makes a lot of plays. Keeps his stick on the ice and is able to score a lot of goals.

25. Troy Henley, D, ’97 (Oakville Rangers) — American defenseman who played for Team Comcast U16’s last season. Was our #15 ranked defender at the Select 15 Festival and is likely in the conversation to be invited to the NTDP Final 40 Camp. Another player who has been more physically mature than his peers for years, but now the gap is closing. That said, he is still a strong defenseman who is positionally sound and has some good skill. Our guess is that he is a 2nd or 3rd round OHL draft pick.

26. Christian Rajic, F, ’97 (Mississauga Rebels) — When we think of Rajic three words immediately jump into our mind: small, nasty, and skilled. Makes plays, can score goals, and plays much bigger than his size. The Rebels lost in the finals to York Simcoe and we felt that Rajic was their top player. Would be great for the NCAA, but odds are he will be in the OHL.

27. Ben Blacker, G, ’97 (Brampton 45’s) — Right now, he is the top goalie in the province. Was the only goalie from Ontario selected to play in the All-State, All-Canadians game over the summer. Does not project well as he only stands at 5’9”, maybe 5’10”. That said, he is quick, athletic, has sound technique, and competes like a dog in the net.

28. Adam Sinclair, F, ’97 (York Simcoe Express)—5’6” forward is crafty and fun to watch. Puts up a ton of points and is a threat every time he is on the ice. Is a top student who attends St. Andrew’s College. We are told that he will end up playing NCAA hockey.

29. Aaron Luchuck, F, ’97 (Kingston Jr. Frontenacs) — Going into the season the 5’9” forward was regarded as a sure fire 1st round pick — in our opinion that is not likely. We view him as someone who would be much better served heading south of the border and playing college hockey. Has quick feet, plays hard, and can make plays. Limited pro potential.

30. Joshua Gagne, D, ’97 (Toronto Marlies) — The son of one of great all-time NCAA defensemen, 5’9” Wayne Gagne. At Western Michigan the current Marlies head coach produced 241 points in 160 games played, including an 89 point senior season — and somehow he did not win the Hobey Baker award (The winner was North Dakota forward Tony Hrkac who put up 116 points in 48 games played). Joshua Gagne, like his father, is an offensive-minded defender with a good stick and is excellent on the PP. The downside is that his feet are just average and he struggles defending in transition against quicker forwards.

31. Ryan Orban, D, ’97 (Ottawa Valley Titans) — Good-sized defender with a slick set of hands. Makes great plays and always has his head up.

32. Alex Di Carlo, D, ’97 (Vaughan Kings) — A big defenseman who plays a lot of minutes. Defends well and makes a good first pass. Feet need to improve.

33. Adam Craievech, F, ’97 (Oakville Rangers) — Was one of 11 Ontario born players selected for the All-State, All-Canadians prospect game (the others were Konecny, Stephens, Strome, Capobianco, Blacker, McKenzie, Luchuk, Speers, along with Conner McDavid and Cameron Lizotte who were not here). Because of this, we had high expectations and assumed he’d be a likely 1st round pick. The 6’1”, 190 lb. forward did not make many plays while we were watching, but he is a big body who can grind it out in the corners and in front. Our guess is that he ends up being selected in the 2nd or 3rd round.

34. Anton Trublin, F, ’97 (Toronto Marlies) — Plays on a line with Strome and complements the Marlies star nicely. Has a good stick and a nose for the net.

35T. Josh Leblanc, F, ’97 (Kingston Jr. Frontenacs) — Would be a heck of a prep school/NCAA player. Is on the small side, but is gritty and makes plays.

35T. Jake Behse, D, ’97 (Thunder Bay Kings) — Big and raw. Would be a good project to have. Can really fire the puck. Needs to get quicker, but could be a draft day sleeper.

 




A Rare Tilt
EJHL vs. prep games used to be somewhat common. Now, they are as rare as hens' teeth. Today, though, the Junior Bruins and KUA, who have been looking for ice in the Boston area for several days, announced that they will be facing off against each other this Sun. Jan. 6 at Northeastern's Matthews Arena (1:45 pm).

"Because we just put all this together around 4:00 pm this afternoon, I haven't had a chance to think about it much," said Junior Bruins Head Coach Peter Masters. "But I plan to dress an age-appropriate lineup, and bring up some of our top '05s and '06s from the our U18 Team."

"KUA has, I think, 15 '94s and 15 seniors so, from an age perspective, they might be the most junior-like prep team," Masters added.

KUA Head Coach Mike Levine said, "Peter and I have been talking about this for awhile and saw this opening in the schedule and it seemed like a good opportunity. A lot of our kids are from the Boston area and it gives them an opportunity to play in front of their families. It's also attractive for college and pro guys to see kids play against older competition. Hopefully, we show up and play well."

One player -- and a key player at that -- who will be missing from the Junior Bruins lineup is Maine recruit Ryan Cloonan who was hospitalized for a week over the Christmas break with a serious bacterial infection. Masters said Cloonan had surgery, lost 15 pounds, and will be out of the linep for 4-6 weeks. Cloonan, 5'9", 145 lbs. (when healthy), is the Junior Bruins' leading scorer with a 6-17-23 line.

The Junior Bruins are 21-6-0 and in first place in the EJHL's Northern Division. KUA is 13-1-0 and over recent weeks has won both the Flood-Marr and Nichols Tournament. They will be at Cushing Saturday (4:00 pm).

Update Sun. 1/6/13 -- The Junior Bruins blanked KUA 3-0 this afternoon. Frankie Vatrano had a pair of goals and Chris Miller one. The Junior Bruins used both their goaltenders in the shutout. Their final goal was an empty-netter. The game was played in two halves.





USHL Top Prospects Roster
On Wednesday, the USHL released the 40-man roster for the 2nd Annual USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, which will be held Wed. Jan. 23rd at the LC Walker Arena in Muskegon, Michigan.

Of the 40 players, to be split shortly into two teams, 26 are eligible for the draft for the first time. Of the remaining 14 players, 13 will be going through the draft for the second time, and one, 6'2" Omaha Lancers RD Tucker Poolman, a '93, will be going through for the third time. All non-first year eligibles are noted below.

All 16 USHL teams are represented, with Waterloo leading the way with five players. Dubuque, Lincoln, Muskegon, Sioux City, and Tri-City are each sending four players.

Goaltenders:
Arthur Brey – Dubuque Fighting Saints -- 2nd year
Charlie Lindgren – Sioux Falls Stampede-- 2nd year
Eamon McAdam – Waterloo Black Hawks
Cal Petersen – Waterloo Black Hawks

Defensemen:
Ian Brady – Cedar Rapids RoughRiders -- 2nd year
Michael Downing – Dubuque Fighting Saints
Jordan Gross
– Green Bay Gamblers
Gustav Olofsson – Green Bay Gamblers
Rinat Valiev – Indiana Ice
Justin Woods – Lincoln Stars -- 2nd year
Michael Brodzinski – Muskegon Lumberjacks
Ben Storm – Muskegon Lumberjacks -- 2nd year
Tucker Poolman – Omaha Lancers -- 3rd year
Blake Heinrich – Sioux City Musketeers
Ryan Ivey – Tri-City Storm
Ian McCoshen – Waterloo Black Hawks

Forwards:
Thomas Ebbing – Chicago Steel
Christian Heil – Chicago Steel -- 2nd year
Luke Voltin – Des Moines Buccaneers
Peter Quenneville – Dubuque Fighting Saints -- 2nd year
John Stevens – Dubuque Fighting Saints -- 2nd year
Gabe Guertler – Fargo Force
Brendan Harms – Fargo Force
Alex Kile – Green Bay Gamblers -- 2nd year
Luke Johnson – Lincoln Stars
Ross Olsson – Lincoln Stars
Vinni Lettieri – Lincoln Stars
Cam Darcy – Muskegon Lumberjacks -- 2nd year
Frederik Tiffels – Muskegon Lumberjacks
Drew Melanson – Omaha Lancers
Jake Guentzel – Sioux City Musketeers
Conor McGlynn – Sioux City Musketeers
Jake Montgomery – Sioux City Musketeers -- 2nd year
Jason Cotton – Tri-City Storm
Garrett Gamez – Tri-City Storm
Trevor Moore – Tri-City Storm
John Hayden – Team USA
Taylor Cammarata – Waterloo Black Hawks
Justin Kloos – Waterloo Black Hawks -- 2nd year
Austin Cangelosi – Youngstown Phantoms -- 2nd year


 




Cushing/Watkins All-Tournament Team
Here it is:

Tournament MVP:
#19 Garrett Hehir, Cushing Sr. F

All-Tournament Team:
#11 Jack Ford, Cushing Jr. F
#33 Mike Dion, Cushing Sr. G
#10 Daniel Fritz, Canterbury Sr. D
#25 Greg Liautaud, Canterbury Sr. D
#1 Eric Vierkant, Culver Sr. G
#20 Kyle Bartelman, Culver Sr. F
#9 Spencer Lee, NMH Jr. F
#31 Conor O’Brien, NMH Soph. G
#5 Geoff Sullivan, Governor’s Sr. D
#12 Marc Cibelli, Gunnery Sr. F
#14 George Hunkele, Lawrence  Sr. F
#4 John Cunningham, Pomfret Sr. D



Around the Rinks

Thayer senior C Jay O'Brien had four points (2g,2a) in Saturday's 7-2 win over Governor's.
Thayer senior C Jay O'Brien had four points (2g,2a) in Saturday's 7-2 win over Governor's. (Photo: Dave Arnold Photography)
 
Salisbury senior center Matt Holmes in action Wednesday at Taft.
Salisbury senior center Matt Holmes in action Wednesday at Taft. (Photo: J. Alexander Imaging)
 
Northeastern recruit Riley Hughes (19) and Liam Gorman (15) -- both juniors -- will be taking on a bigger role for St. Sebastian's this season.
Northeastern recruit Riley Hughes (19) and Liam Gorman (15) -- both juniors -- will be taking on a bigger role for St. Sebastian's this season. (Photo: Dave Arnold Photography)
 
Middlesex junior G Joe Stanizzi kicked out 48 shots in a 3-0 shutout of Governor's on Dec 1st.
Middlesex junior G Joe Stanizzi kicked out 48 shots in a 3-0 shutout of Governor's on Dec 1st. (Photo: Dave Arnold Photography)