After two years of scouting and evaluating the 2000 birth year class, USA Hockey’s National Development Program announced its U17 Team roster. This announcement came just a few short weeks after the NTDP Evaluation Camp which included the top 48 players in the US as determined by USA Hockey scouts and staff. We sat down with the Director of Player Personnel, Ryan Hardy, before the Evaluation Camp to ask about the program and the selection process. That interview can be found here: (Click Here).
We have also been watching these players for the past year, and had members of our scouting staff at both the OHL Cup and the NTDP Evaluation Camp from March 18-22 so that we wouldn’t miss a player. We have provided the team roster below, but please note these are not actual lines. Additionally, some of these players are listed at one position, but may end up playing in a different spot. For example, we have Jake Wise listed as a left wing but he may ultimately end up playing center.
Before we breakdown our NTDP tryout camp rankings, let us first say that this is not an easy job. These players span from teams all over the United States, Ontario, and even Austria. We are basing our assessment on the tryout camp only, however the camp is only a part of USA Hockey’s formula for determining who is selected for the team. The other disclaimer we want to give is that we are not looking at the best “team,” nor are we taking into account off-ice issues such as attitude, personality, etc. These are all considerations that Ryan Hardy and his staff put a lot of emphasis on in bringing in players to the program who are the right fit for their objectives.
Lastly, there are players who were invited to play but turned down the opportunity. This can be for a multitude of reasons such as playing other sports or wanting to stay on their current teams. However, in the past only a small number of players have typically turned it down, and they often tend to be Minnesota High School players. This year was no different with 3 reported players turning down their roster spot, all from Minnesota (Jaxon Nelson, Gavin Hain and Ben Brinkman).
NTDP U17 Team 2016-2017
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Jake Wise||Jacob Pivonka||Patrick Giles|
|Tyler Weiss||Oliver Wahlstrom||Jacob Goldowski|
|Joel Farabee||Blade Jenkins||Trevor Janicke|
|Erik Middendorf||Jonathan Gruden||Jack DeBoer|
|Left Defense||Right Defense|
|Mattias Samuelsson||Bode Wilde|
|Adam Samuelsson||Ty Emberson|
|D.J. King||Spencer Stastney|
|Will MacKinnon||K’Andre Miller|
Our Rankings at NTDP Evaluation Camp:
1.Mattias Samuelsson – He entered camp as our number one player and proved it each day he was there. While the blue line is stockpiled with talent, Samuelsson shows rare combinations for players his age and at his position as he has great size and skating ability, can read a play and anticipate defensively or wait for passing lanes to open up, and zip accurate passes up ice offensively. At camp he did a nice job playing physical around his net, using his skating ability to break the puck out of the zone and rush up the ice, and used his athleticism and puck skill to run the power play. While he isn’t as talented offensively as Wilde and he isn’t as tough as Adam Samuelsson, he’s very good at nearly everything. College: Michigan
2. Oliver Wahlstrom – Wahlstrom, like Wise, has seen his fair share of critics in the past year since the two players emerged as the two top prospects in the country after last year’s USA Hockey Festival where they both scored at will. He made the impressive jump this season from Bantams to the Prep team at Shattuck St. Mary’s, and never looked out of place. In fact, he was one of their leading scorers and was a go-to guy on the power play. He is a balanced skater with elusive stickhandling ability and a pro release. He loves to shoot the puck and does it with great frequency. He also adds an element of toughness where he can go into the corners and throw his weight around or use his strength to protect the puck and gain separation. If Wise is the Crosby, Wahlstrom is the Ovechkin. College: Harvard
3. Joel Farabee – Out of Selects Academy in Connecticut, Farabee played on one of the most productive U16 Midget lines with fellow 00’s Drew Elser (UConn commit) and Emilio Peterson (Denver commit). He’s a puck possession player with speed, skill and a hard shot. He wasn’t as consistent at camp as we would have liked to see, but when he’s on he’s on. He uses change of speed and slick hands to create time and space for himself and his teammates, and has the passing ability and shot to either set up or finish scoring chances. College: Boston University
4. Bode Wilde – Wilde is a really talented two-way defenseman who came on the radar after a strong showing at the USA Nationals for Honeybaked. He made the move to Chicago Mission this season and played U16, and despite his age, was often the best player on the ice. He can really skate for his size displaying great north-south speed, ability to move laterally on the offensive blue line and accelerates well backwards. A rare set of skills for a player of his size and age. He started the camp out a bit shaky, unable to get a lot of power play time to showcase his offense, and spent entire shifts in his end where he ran around a bit. However, as the week went on his confidence grew and he started making plays with the puck, skating the puck out on breakouts, and getting his shots to the net. He also played more physical and assertive instead of backing up and giving away the zone. He wasn’t as polished as M. Samuelsson, but has a similar trajectory. College: Harvard
5. Tyler Weiss – Tyler is originally from North Carolina but made the move to Ontario this year to play in the GTHL for the heralded Don Mills Flyers. He entered camp as our 4th ranked forward and left camp as our 2nd best player overall. The kid has exceptional skating and stickhandling ability and was oozing with confidence. He missed the first day due to playing in the OHL Cup just a few hours north but when he got to camp he took over the game at times. While his speed and skill are most noticeable, it’s his ability to make plays at top speed that make him what he is. He’ll need to play a more mature style as he has a tendency to over expose the puck and get too cute with it, but from a pure talent standpoint he was electric at camp and consistently beat the top defenders, created for his teammates, and found ways to score. College: Boston University, ** 15th overall pick in OHL Draft by Sarnia Sting
6. K’Andre Miller – Miller is a unique prospect in his versatility to play both forward and defense. They had him playing both positions at camp and he showed well at both but was more effective as a defenseman. He’s tall and growing into his frame, has elite athleticism and skating ability. He can carry the puck end to end or zip passes tape to tape through the neutral zone. He’s on the raw side and can sometimes get caught flat footed or running around in the defensive zone. At the camp he also pivoted the wrong way a few times and hesitated to move the puck and ended up turning it over. However, there are very few players at his size with the combination of compete, athleticism and skating ability. A high ceiling, but only the start of his development curve.
7. Jake Wise – At last summer’s Select 15 Camp we thought he was the smartest player in the age group, if not the best. He has exceptional vision and poise with the puck, soft hands and an explosive first few steps. He hasn’t grown much in the past year but his skills have been fine-tuned and he looks to be a more complete player. Playing Massachusetts High School this year was good for him as he was counted on to lead a team of older players and faced a lot of animosity from opposing teams (and their fans). Our New England scout Brian Murphy recounts moments this season where other team’s fans were calling him by name and booing him every time he stepped on the ice. We like his game, his approach and his skill. He can do it all. We would have liked to see him play with more of an edge at camp as he looked like he knew he was on the team already instead of fighting for loose pucks and battling in the corners the way we are used to seeing him compete. That being said, he made some passes that nobody else here would have seen, let alone had the skill to deliver on the tape. College: Boston University
8. Ty Emberson – Emberson is a true 2-way defenseman, a strong skater with smooth hands and both offensive and defensive instincts. While he is better known for what he does with the puck on his stick, a quality carrier and powerful shooter, his defensive game is also strong. He wins battles in the corners, he’s tough to get around because of his backward skating ability and he knows when to pinch and when to retreat from the offensive blue line. He started out his first game a little shaky, not playing with the same level of confidence and poise that we are used to seeing from him, but once he settled down and let the game come to him he really shined in the second half of camp. College: Uncommitted
9. Blade Jenkins – Jenkins continued to show his maturation here as one of the premiere forwards in the age group. He plays a fast, ferocious game; he competes for every inch and doesn’t shy away from the physical game. He can beat defenders in a lot of different ways, he has quick hands, explosive speed in open ice, and he isn’t opposed to dropping the shoulder and willing his way to the net. He played the opening night and then sat out the next three games, but in his one game he chipped in a nice assist, played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, won battles at both ends of the ice, and carried the puck up end to end when he found a lane. He’s a bit one dimensional offensively at this point often looking to isolate 1v1’s all over the ice, scenarios he win’s a high percentage of at this point, but he’ll have to use his raw skills to create more odd man opportunities and better utilize the players around him going forward. College: Michigan ** 4th overall pick in the OHL Draft by Saginaw
10. Ben Brinkman – Brinkman was one of the USA Select 15 Festival’s top defenders last year and followed that performance with a strong high school season at Minnesota powerhouse program Edina HS. He’s a great athlete, strong on his skates and his stick, can move the puck quickly and efficiently, and has quick, hard shot from the point. He plays a mature game and makes good decisions with the puck. He wasn’t his personal best at camp – it took him awhile to get comfortable, but he’s talented enough that he was still able to stand out. One of the few players who could immediately step up and play at the USHL level and have no problem with the size, strength, pace of the game. Mature game that will translate at higher levels. College: Minnesota
11. Jacob Pivonka – Pivonka is an intriguing prospect, he’s the type of player you have to watch a lot to really appreciate because he isn’t a flashy skater and doesn’t possess great speed like many of the players here. With that being said, the Chicago Mission leading scorer is a smart player, he’s balanced and strong on the puck, and has excellent hands. He’s poised with the puck, uses his lower body strength to overpower opposing defenders and protect the puck in the corners. The leading goal scorer for the US at the Youth Olympics has a great release, shoots with his head up and generates a lot of power. At camp he showed the ability to slow the game down and find passing seams and deliver pucks to his linemates. He shot when he should shoot, he passed when he should pass and showed great maturity and strength both with and without he puck. He’s not as exciting as some of the players ranked ahead of him, but is equally as productive. College: Notre Dame
12. Trevor Janicke – Janicke, like Ellis, played his best hockey of the year at the Evaluation Camp. He probably wasn’t someone that many scouts thought would make the team heading into camp but he proved he deserved his locker. A fast, fluid skater who can zig and zag in and around high traffic areas without losing possession of the puck. He lacks size but makes up for it in the corners with spin moves and quick lateral jukes. The Minnesota HS standout, who led his team (Maple Grove HS) in points this season, has impressive hockey sense with the ability to make quick, intelligent decisions with the puck at full speed. His upside is uncertain given his size and style of play, but his skill is among the best here.
13. Keegan Karki– At events like this where every player is high caliber, you can make an argument for 3-4 forwards to be the no. 1 and probably 2-3 defenders; but nobody at the Evaluation Camp would argue that Karki was the best in net. He has great size, athleticism and mobility. He has quick reactions for his size and does a nice job coming out of the net and cutting down the angle on the shooter without over committing. He showed good control of rebounds, covered loose pucks and negated many second chance opportunities. College: North Dakota
14. Jordan Harris – Harris was a bit of an under-the-radar prospect coming into camp as many of the scouts in attendance were seeing him for the first time, but anyone in the New England prep circuit is well aware of the smooth skating, puck mover from Kimball Union Academy. He is a confident skater with both speed and agility, he walks the blue line really well from the wall to the center, and showed particularly well in powerplay situations. He’s got a smooth handle with the puck and makes effortless distributions in all three zones. He’s on the small side and had trouble defending against the big power forwards on rushes, and needs to improve his net front game, but he’s got a bright future ahead if he continues to develop at this rate. College: Uncommitted
15. Gavin Hain –The former Minnesota Bantam Player of the Year entered his first season of Varsity hockey for a talented Grand Rapids team where, despite his age, was able to be a key part of the team’s offense. In the Elite League this fall he looked skilled enough but was having trouble processing the game given the speed and physicality, but once the actual high school season began, he got better and better and ended up as the team’s leading scorer in the playoffs with 6 goals and 8 assists in 6 games. At camp he showed a two-way game, good vision and hockey sense and the ability to elevate the play of those around him. He anticipates well and moves to where the puck is going and not where it is, he has slick and quick hands and makes a lot of nice passes. Our only knock on his play was that he struggled to finish several grade-A opportunities including a few breakaways. College: North Dakota
16. Blake McLaughlin – A Minnesota High School standout who played alongside Gavin Hain at Grand Rapids HS, McLaughlin was hot and cold here. He’s a strong skater who is both fast and quick, he’s got dynamic 1v1 skill and plays with an edge. He played more of a perimeter game this season in Minnesota HS, but here he went to scoring areas and showed he can beat defenseman with his skates or his stick. His hands are strong yet agile, and he has good touch in the slot to score or make quick feeds cross crease. He was our biggest surprise for players who didn’t make the roster. College: Minnesota
17. Adam Samuelsson – This rank may seem a bit high for most scouts as he is a very raw prospect who has a way to go, but our scouts feel he has tremendous upside. He started the year with the CT Jr. Rangers of the USPHL and looked bored at times playing U16 competition. He then played with the NJ Avalanche, a national tournament bound team and that forced him to bring his “A” game on a more consistent basis. He’s got a massive frame at 6-5/209, he plays with a mean streak and snaps passes off like a pro. It took him a few periods at camp to adjust to the pace of play as his quickness and agility are a work in progress. However, once he figured it out he was a true shutdown defender. He used his reach to keep players to the outside, he was physical including a bone crushing hit in the neutral zone against Jack DeBoer (who doesn’t lack size himself) and cleared out bodies in front of his goalie. He isn’t pretty, he isn’t smooth, but he can cover a lot of ice, he knows his skill set, and uses it to his advantage. College: Boston College
18. Spencer Stastney -The Chicago Mission offensive defenseman is a polished skater who makes everything look easy. He retrieves pucks well and is able to turn up ice, take a few strides and deliver tape to tape passes to exit the zone or carry it out himself. He’s got soft hands and considerable poise carrying the puck; he doesn’t panic under duress nor does he give the puck away. He’s light on his feet, agile and quick, and tough to get around on the rush. He doesn’t have the size of his fellow NTDP teammates so he relies on his stick and body position to keep forwards away from scoring areas. College: Notre Dame
19. Jonathan Gruden – The son of Flint Firebirds Head Coach John Gruden, Jonathan plays like a coach’s son: smart, quick and efficient. A smooth skater with soft hands and vision. He can slow the game down and thread passes to his teammates or stickhandle trough high traffic areas. He’s the leading scorer for a talented Honeybaked U16 team. He showcased his elite hockey sense at camp, but his offense came in flashes and he lacked consistency. College: Miami-Ohio
20. Curtis Hall – In our opinion, Curtis Hall may develop into the best player in this class. While we don’t agree with him not being selected for the team, we understand he doesn’t produce at the level some of the forwards who made it ahead of him do. However, his skating is elite for his size, he has a smooth stride that is long and powerful, and he can accelerate instantly from a standstill. We admit that he doesn’t always accomplish a ton and some of the scouts around us questioned his hockey IQ. However, we think he has major upside down the road. He can shoot the puck hard in stride and while he doesn’t have elite hands, he uses his speed and strength to beat defenseman outside before cutting to the goal. We would have selected him given his size, his skating ability and two-way game, and being a right shot doesn’t hurt but we can understand that his hockey sense is still a work in progress and he didn’t accomplish much with his opportunities. He may be a late bloomer candidate when his game catches up to his feet. College: Uncommitted
21. Jaxon Nelson – The Minnesota HS star power forward Jaxon Nelson was a debate among our staff. Some feel his size and skill are high end and we’ve had him within the top 10 forwards in the country. However, his feet are heavy, he doesn’t always stay true to his tough side, and needs to improve his overall agility and athleticism. He’s at this best when he puts his stick on the ice and drives the net or finishes his checks on the forecheck. He struggles when he stops his feet and tries to get cute with the puck at the blue lines. He’s certainly a high profile player and we thought he was dominant at times when he was driving the net and making plays, but also felt he disappeared out on the ice and looked a step or two behind his NTDP rivals. College: Minnesota
22. TJ Walsh– Like Hall and Ellis, we think Walsh should have gotten a USA jersey but we can also understand why they didn’t. Walsh scored in every game and showed his high hockey IQ, playmaking ability and quickness. He was a star bantam at Shattuck but made the move back east to be an offensive stalwart at Cushing (NE Prep). He sees it, he has the skill to make the play and doesn’t hesitate. Our favorite aspect about his game is the poise with which he plays. He is confident, composed and plays a heads up game. We can understand not taking him however, given that he’s small, he doesn’t play a complete game, and his style of play will need to adjust to compete in the USHL. He held several tender offers from USHL teams after camp concluded but decided to sign with Cedar Rapids. College: Boston College
23.Max Ellis – Ellis may not have made the team but it certainly wasn’t because of his performance at camp. He was flying. While he had a strong season with Honeybaked U16 this season, this was certainly his best performance. He’s a little guy who plays with a lot of pace and the back and forth nature of these scrimmages played into his style. He’s always got his feet moving, he’s dangerous in open ice because not only does he have straight line speed but he’s also shifty side to side and can stop on a dime. He made people miss in the neutral zone, put pucks on his linemates’ sticks off the rush and showed he can score as well. He signed a tender with Youngstown Phantoms after not making the team. While we feel he deserved a spot, we can’t say he was robbed because we had him as the 15th best forward in the country heading into camp and they only take 12. College: Uncommitted
24. D.J. King – Like Tyler Weiss, DJ’s evaluation was half at the OHL Cup and half at the Evaluation camp. He’s a big, strong, physical defenseman who received a mixed vote. Our scouts at the OHL Cup loved him and said he’s a sure fire NTDP pick, but his Evaluation camp performance, although limited, didn’t carry the same amount of praise. He’s a reliable defenseman, stays on the right side of the puck, uses his lower body to drive through checks, plays within himself and moves the puck quickly on the breakout. When the puck is in the defensive end he shows strong coverage skills around the net and the ability to keep forwards coming off the wall or out of the corners away from the net with his long poke check and using his angles and size to cut down their time and space. While he does prefer the tough game he doesn’t go out of his way -and more importantly out of his position, to deliver the crushing blow. That being said, his skating was exposed at times in his games at the NTDP camp. He was slow on puck retrievals, got beat to the outside on a few rushes and struggled with maintaining his gaps. He’s a raw kid with considerable upside, but had an inconsistent showing between events (which we understand is hard to play for your team, get eliminated and then drive south a few hours to play in a tryout camp). He’ll need to improve his lateral mobility over the next two years with the program but he’s on pace to be a legitimate NHL prospect. College: Uncommitted **2nd Round OHL Draft Selection by Hamilton.
25. Jack Drury – Drury is similar to Chicago Mission teammate Randl in that he’s strong on the puck but has soft hands. He isn’t flashy but he plays a complete and cerebral game, knows where to be on the ice, competes at both ends, and has great vision. He’s a bit understated because he doesn’t make a lot of fancy plays or overhandle the puck but he’s detailed in his approach, he can win faceoffs, he gets his body in front of shots, he wins 50/50 pucks and doesn’t quit on the puck. Only question we had was does he have the speed to be a defensive forward at the higher levels but he’s as complete a player as anyone in the age group and has an excellent 200ft game; plays the game the right way. College: Harvard
26. Christian Krygier – Another stand out at last year’s Select 15 Festival in Buffalo, NY, Krygier came into the season with high expectations and didn’t disappoint. He played on a talented blue line for Little Caesars including Devon Fields, Xan Gurney, Jaden Shields and Chase Pilawski. He’s an emotional player and competes hard every shift to get the puck. He’s a tough kid, plays with a chip on his shoulder, has an athletic build, and skates well in all directions. What makes Krygier a top prospect is his versatility – he can contribute offensively with his skating, shoot from the point, carry the puck well and can really defend both on rushes or in zone. He was held off the roster, we believe for more stylistic reasons then skill as he does tend to over pursue the puck carrier, go out of his way to make the big hit and sometimes forces passes that aren’t there. He was tendered shortly after the release of the roster by Lincoln to complete their first tender in program history (interesting move as his father is the Head Coach of Muskegon).
27. Calen Kiefiuk – Kiefiuk was one of the top forwards at last summer’s USA Hockey Select 15 Festival in Buffalo, NY and continued that momentum leading a talented Honeybaked U16 team in points despite being one of the younger players. He controls the puck well in all situations whether he’s in traffic, carrying it end to end, or trying to get around a defender 1v1. His hockey sense is his best tool as he possesses the rare tools to see the game and make plays at a high speed. He started out camp a little quiet but picked it up as the week went on, and, in his fourth game, was able to score two goals, one of which was a top corner snipe off the rush – one of the highlight reel goals of the week. We like his game as he can slow it down, draw defenseman towards him and either find a passing lane and deliver, or accelerate from a standstill and beat them with his feet. We feel he’s a case of a guy who is good enough to be on the team (most of the guys here are good enough, but he’s the fourth small skilled forward and they only took three. College: Michigan
28. Patrick Giles – Giles, who came on strong at last summer’s USA Hockey Select 15 Festival in Buffalo, was a dominant player in the USPHL this season (same league Farabee plays in). The Maryland native played for emerging midget program, Baltimore Skipjacks 16U, and with his 6-4/189 frame he looks like a future NHL’er. However, we weren’t impressed with him here. He wasn’t assertive, didn’t use his size or play physically, and didn’t create much offense. He was a big guy who looked the part but didn’t play the part. That being said, he’s proven himself at the Festival, he proved himself throughout the year with a particularly strong showing at the Fall Beantown Classic, and he is only at the beginning of his development. It makes sense to take him on the team as he’s one of the bigger upside players with high NHL Draft potential, but if you were solely judging based on the Evaluation Camp, he’s on the bubble at best. College: Boston College
29. Will MacKinnon – Admittedly we weren’t as high on MacKinnon heading into camp as others but he did a lot to change our minds. He is a heads up defender who can handle the puck under duress, makes quick and accurate passes up ice, and has the ability to quarterback the powerplay. He isn’t the prettiest skater but he has speed, likes to join the rush, and if the puck gets turned over he’s the first guy back in support of his partner. We didn’t see him shoot the puck much as it’s not really his game, but he made a lot of nice passes and often held the puck an extra second to let the seam open up instead of trying to make overly aggressive plays with puck. After strong showings at both the Youth Olympics and here at Evaluation Camp, we certainly understand the selection. We may have underestimated his game as he doesn’t excel in any one area like the defenders above him and he doesn’t have the big time size or the polished skating, but he’s got very good edges, controls the play from the back end, and doesn’t back down physically.
30. Jacob Semik – Semik was one of our highest ranked offensive defenseman in the country coming into camp after a successful Youth Olympics trip and a productive season with Honeybaked 16U. He has great puck skill, can run a power play, and breaks pucks out of his end effortlessly. He is patient, lets the play develop in front of him, and can snap passes off and hit targets through the neutral zone. His defensive game is where he needs the most work and unfortunately for him he didn’t get many powerplay opportunities at camp so he wasn’t able to get much puck possession time and got caught in his end having to defend a lot. While we still believe Semik is one of the top 8 defenseman in the group, he didn’t earn his roster spot at the Evaluation Camp. College: Michigan
31. Ryan O’Reilly – O’Reilly is good sized, two-way, power forward who has some speed, some grit and some strength to his game. He doesn’t get knocked off the puck, he carries well down the wall and can feed the slot with precision passes. He will attack the net on the rush and stop in front of the goal for rebounds and loose pucks. After the first game he faded a bit and was less noticeable as the week went on. A Texas native, he has a bright future ahead and showed he certainly belongs in this company but just didn’t do enough offensively to solidify his spot. College: Nebraska Omaha
The Rest of the Group (in no particular order)
Jack Randl – Strong on the puck, he has smooth hands and the ability to shield off defenders and make plays with the puck. He wasn’t able to slow the game down and dissect the defenseman the way he does in midget hockey, and wasn’t involved consistently in the offensive end. He’ll need to improve his straight line speed and acceleration going forward, but he’s a can’t miss D1 prospect. College: Michigan
Erik Middendorf – Arizona native showed well at camp. He’s tall and thin, but able to play at a fast pace. He has quick hands on the rush and is able to change the angle for a shot or a pass to improve his chances. He is talented enough for the National Program we have no doubts there, but he’s a tough placement because he doesn’t play a tough game at this point and he isn’t dynamic enough for a top six role.
Ryan Savage – Savage was likely a bubble player. He has some size, he works hard, and has good puck possession skills. The Arizona native was gone all season playing in Austria for the Salzburg Red Bulls 18U team so we had only a few viewings of him this year before camp and didn’t know what to expect. He was always around the puck, likes to carry it in the zone, and set up plays on the rush. At times he tried to do too much and get around that one extra guy before taking the shot or making the pass, but his desire to be great is obvious. He’ll need to become more aware with the puck, and instead of seeking out 1v1’s, use his teammates more to collectively score. We’re not saying he’s selfish because he isn’t, but he’s still figuring out how to incorporate his teammates effectively. He’s got real strong potential given his skill and compete level, but just isn’t quite there yet for this team.
Jimmy Dowd Jr– Another undersized defenseman from the Atlantic region did a lot of things well here. He’s a great skater, he can handle the puck and escape from high pressure behind his net, and break the puck out cleanly. The knock here is his size – he’s not just small, he’s really small at 5-6/141. He’s the son of former NHLer Jim Dowd so the size will hopefully come, and when it does, he could be a late bloomer candidate.
Ben Schultheis – We were really happy to see his name on the Evaluation Camp Roster because players from that area (Southeast) can sometimes go unnoticed and he wasn’t a big point producer or flashy offensive defenseman so it made it all the more challenging for him to get noticed. Regardless, this kid is a real talent, has great size and strength, is a smooth skater, and can handle the puck. We thought that he may get a jersey because of the fact that he’s the third best right handed defenseman in the group, but they ended up going with six lefties and two righties. We would have liked to see him play a more physical game like he does at the midget level with TPH Thunder U16, but he played a more conservative approach and didn’t over extend himself (which there is nothing wrong with either). He’s a guy who could end up being a pro down the road if he continues to develop a 2-way game.
Jace Foskey – Like Schultheis we thought after camp he may take the 8th defenseman spot because he’s the fourth best right handed shot defenseman in the group. The Dallas Stars U16 defenseman has a lot of quality elements to his game, he shoots the puck hard, is a willing body checker and will challenge forwards on both blue lines, makes a crisp and accurate first pass, and is comfortable skating with the puck. He’s one of those ‘good at everything but not great at anything’ type of players, but he’ll certainly be getting more D1 attention after camp given his strong performance.
Ryan Ullan – Ullan came off a really impressive first season in Minnnesota HS hockey after starting for Hibbing/Chisolm and carrying a 1.68 GAA and .927 SV% in his freshman year, a feat that is uncommon in Minnesota. He’s tall, athletic, quick post to post, and has quick reactions. He is technically and positionally-sound, and doesn’t get rattled even when players are barreling down on him. He let in a few softies, but also made a lot of nice saves.
Jack DeBoer – We have seen a lot of DeBoer over the past year from the Liberty Bell Games in New Jersey where he was the top player in the event (along with Jacob Goldowski), to the USA Select 15 Festival in Buffalo where he was one of the best in the country, Yale split season midgets, and at New England Prep powerhouse Salisbury School. In all those viewings DeBoer had never looked as bad as he did at the Evaluation Camp. His biggest knock has always been his skating ability and that was exposed here. He was the last guy in the zone and really struggled in the transition of stopping and getting back on defense. He was able to make a few plays around the net and use his size and reach to protect the puck along the wall, but he was largely ineffective here as he struggled to keep up with the pace and lost a lot of battles for loose pucks. That being said, the raw power forward has a lot going for him. He’s the son of an NHL Head Coach, he has good hockey sense and awareness, can shoot the puck, and he’s got a pro frame, but this was a really poor performance for a player of his caliber. College: Boston University **2nd Round OHL Pick by Oshawa Generals
Jake Goldowski – When talking only about the elite players in this age group, Goldowski may be on the of the most inconsistent there is. Out of the Wilkes Barrie Scranton Knights U16 team, he wasn’t always challenged playing NAPHL and AYHL competition the way some of these other players were in Prep, Minnesota HS, T1EHL or HPHL. Given that, he has developed some bad habits in earlier viewings this season he often took shifts off, cheated in the defensive zone and skated with his head down. Now that’s all the negatives, but there are plenty of positives. The kid stands at 6’4” and hasn’t even come close to filling out his frame; he has some of the softest hands of anyone at camp; and he shoots to score. We had heard entering camp that he was upset about not being selected to the Youth Olympics Team (unconfirmed rumor) and that would have made sense because he played like a man possessed. He went hard to the dirty areas, he played physical with a chip on his shoulder and when he got possession of the puck he made a lot of plays. He possesses the kind of north-south, down the wall speed you want in a power forward, as well as some finesse and incredible touch with his hands. He will need to continue to develop his first three strides and lateral movement like King, but he’s got a really high ceiling when he fills into his frame and irons out the kinks. College: Penn State
Jack Perbix – Perbix is the type of player who could end up being one of the best of the bunch as he has all the offensive abilities at his disposal, he just needs to get a bit stronger and more experienced to utilize them all. He’s got soft hands, good touch on the puck and the ability to beat defenseman 1v1. He’s a tall, thin, athletic build who has plenty of room to fill out. He had a few nice passes and showed flashes of speed but was unnoticeable for most of the week. He’s good enough to play here but didn’t prove it at Evaluation Camp. College: Notre Dame
Stanislav Demin– The Anahiem native was a bit of a surprise to many scouts on hand that he was invited to camp. He’s a big, athletic defender with good feet and an under-appreciated stick, but he’s a bit raw for this level. He broke up a few plays, made accurate yet simple passes out of his zone and took care of clearing out his net front, but he looked like a guy trying to keep up instead of a guy trying to make plays.
Jack Jensen – Another Minnesota prospect out of Eden Prairie, he played this season in Bantams which is rare among NTDP invites and the adjustment looked like it held him back as he wasn’t used to the pace of play and the size of his competitors. He’s strong and has great hands which allows him to go into corners or high traffic areas and come out with the puck. His stride needs work as it’s a bit sporadic, but he’ll be a good Minnesota HS player next season and beyond.
Brandon Tabakin – If you don’t like Tabakin you don’t like skilled, smart hockey because this puck wizard can control a game from the back end. He’s a terrific skater, has poise and puck control, and makes really nice passes to move the puck up ice. He’s not big and struggles in his own end defending bigger, stronger competition, but he’s as good as any of the D-corps with the puck on his stick. Limited upside as scouts don’t believe he’ll grow much more, but could still be a darn good college hockey player. College: Yale
Drew DeRidder– It was a bit suprising for some that DeRidder was not named to the team as he led the US to a gold medal in the Youth Olympics. He moves really well in and out of the net, challenges shooters by coming out of his crease, and has a quick glove hand. While he did make some quality stops at camp, he also let in a softie or two and just didn’t seem as confident as we are accustomed to seeing. He’s been a tough goalie this year to get a read on because he has terrific stats but he also plays on a really good team.
Isaiah Saville – Savile out of Anchorage Alaska was hot and cold at Evaluation Camp. He makes a lot of saves on the first shot but gave up too many juicy rebounds and found himself out of position. He has some size, good feet, tracks the puck well and uses his body to stop pucks, but he needs to improve his mechanics.
Todd Scott– Scott was the backup at the Youth Olympics after a dominant season with the Omaha AAA 16U (NAPHL). He saw action on both teams and was tough to read at camp, but he’s a competitor with good vision and awareness whogets himself square to the shooter and is tough to beat down low. He did a nice job on shootouts which isn’t surprising given his mobility and consistency making the first save.
Like we noted before, picking this team relies on a range of factors, and talent is only part of the equation. The players listed above were all deserving of being named to the Evaluation Camp and we simply rated the top 30 performances there, NOT the top 30 players. Big difference.
While we are uncomfortable categorizing forwards at this age to be “Left Wings” or “Centers,” it looks like the team has a good balance of versatile forwards who can play both. They have 7 lefties and 5 righties. The forwards have quite a range in sizes with big guys like Patrick Giles (6’4”), Jack DeBoer (6’2”) and Jake Goldowski (6’4”), as well as little guys like Jake Wise (5’9”) and Trevor Janicke (5’8”). There isn’t any one characteristic that defines the group as we see a mix of power forwards, skilled playmakers and goal scorers. The one common thread would likely be hockey sense as most everyone in this group thinks the game at an elite level. The forward group represents a variety of geographical regions: Massachusetts (2), Arizona, North Carolina, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Michigan (2), New Jersey and Minnesota.
This would be a tough unit to play against as there is a great combination of size and skating on this blue line led by Mattias Samuelsson, our No. 1 ranked player in the US for the age group. K’Andre Miller (6’4”), Mattias Samuelsson (6’3”), Adam Samuelsson (6’5”), Bode Wilde (6’2”) and D.J. King (6’3”), mixed with the more offensive minded group of Ty Emberson (5’11”), Will MacKinnon (5’10”) and Spencer Stastney (5’10”). While raw size and strength make this defensive unit stand out, they all can handle the puck and contribute at both ends of the ice. It’s a big, versatile blue line filled with future high-end NHL prospects. The group is also geographically diverse coming from Arizona, Ohio, Illinois, New York, Minnesota, New Jersey and Wisconsin.
Picking two goalies out of the entire United States for this team may, in our opinion, be the most difficult job for Hardy and his staff. And, the goalies chosen also have the biggest learning curve ahead of them as they will be thrown into USHL action immediately and face a lot of shots from the oldest, strongest and fiercest competition that they have likely ever played against. The goalies selected out of the camp were Keegan Karki and Ryan Ullan, both Minnesota High School goalies with size and athleticism.
Overall: In looking at the evaluation camp only, we think it’s hard to leave Blake McLaughlin and TJ Walsh off the team. McLaughlin has a lot of ability and it’s only the tip of the iceberg as he’s shown success at every level he’s played. TJ Walsh brings a cerebral playmaking dynamic to the team, as he is a crafty, highly-skilled point producer who has proven himself at the prep level and in international play at the Youth Olympics. He also lit the lamp as much as anyone at camp. Other players we liked such as Semik and Krygier are more stylistic in that we like their game, but there isn’t a defender selected on this team who isn’t deserving. Up front we were a bit disappointed with the play of some of the big guys at camp like Giles, DeBoer and Nelson. These guys are all talented and proven so maybe it was the style of play and the up and down nature of these games, but none of those guys played particularly well in Plymouth.
One last observation is that Nolan Foote was invited to the camp but did not participate due to injury. There is rumor that he would not have played either way as he will follow his brother’s footsteps and go to the WHL in the near future. Nolan is a highly talented prospect with a mix of size, skating ability and a pro shot. He’s scoring goals in stride that nobody else in this age group can do.
Photo credit Dan Hickling/ Hickliing Images