U16 Tier 1 USA Nationals Recap
It felt strange getting out of the hotel room, stepping out to 85-degree weather, and passing palm trees on the way to the rink at the end of March. The tournament ran from March 31 through April 4, a five-day event that featured 32 of the best Tier 1 Midget AAA teams in the US. The event was held in San Jose at the Sharks practice facility, a four sheet complex with a restaurant upstairs that became a hangout for the NCAA/CHL/USHL/NAHL scouts putting in long hours in the rinks. The tournament was hosted by the San Jose Sharks youth program and they did a nice job keeping scouts fed, handing out programs, and printing shirts, hats, sweatshirts, etc.
Going in to the tournament it looked like the 16’s division would be a dog fight between the nation’s top programs of Shattuck St. Mary’s (Minnesota), Chicago Mission (Illinois), Victory Honda (Michigan), Team Wisconsin (Wisconsin), Honeybaked (Michigan), Colorado Thunderbirds (Colorado), Little Caesars (Michigan) and North Jersey Avalanche (New Jersey). That is not to say the other teams didn’t have a chance, as the Yale Bulldogs for example, had a great showing but are a split season program with players that play a few tournaments in the fall and then play on different New England prep school teams and come back together for the Nationals. There were also some quality teams that did not make it like Omaha AAA, Fox Motors, Cleveland Barons, Team Illinois, Compuware, Oakland Jr. Grizzlies and Selects Academy.
We are going to take you through the U16 tournament, the players and some notes from our scouting staff. We had two scouts there for all five days so we got to see each team at least twice and some teams upwards of 3 to 4 times.
The tournament had 16 teams broken into four brackets, the top two teams are sent to a single elimination quarterfinal. The only real “upset” of the play-in round was Chicago Mission losing to the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes which ended up keeping them out of the playoff round. A disappointing end of the season for one of the countries most talented teams. Colorado Thunderbirds (without their best forward Nolan Foote) opened up against Team Wisconsin, and this would feature two of the best teams in the tournament and the game certainly lived up to the expectations. Team Wisconsin got up to a two goal lead half way through the second period but Colorado came on to score three unanswered goals to win 3-2, the last goal by Bryan Lockner came with under 3 minutes remaining in the game. The last few minutes Team Wisconsin had their chances with Caufield and Steinmetz getting stopped on quality opportunities. In the other quarterfinal matchups Shattuck St. Mary’s dominated the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes in a 7-2 game and Victory Honda handled in-state rival Honeybaked in a 6-2 victory led by Nolan Moyles 4-point performance (2g, 2a). The last game was between Yale Bulldogs and Little Caesars where after being tied at 1 after regulation Joey Cippolone, a UVM commit, scored the game winner in overtime to send the Bulldogs to the semi-finals.
Shattuck St. Mary’s faced off against a Colorado Thunderbirds team that was relentless and did everything but score. Despite being outshot by nearly a 2:1, Shattuck goalie Jack Robbel posted a 28 save shutout followed by a 2 goal performance by Samuel Stevens to beat the Thunderbirds 4-0. In the other game, being played at the same time, was a similar battle in the sense that one team breezed through the quarterfinals while the other faced a nail bitter overtime game. Yale got up 2-0 after the first period but Victory Honda cut the lead in half in the 2nd and then tied it with 6 minutes into the 3rd period off a goal from defenseman Jack Summers. The game headed into overtime and Victory Honda came out the winner off a goal from Joshua Wilder to send them to a title match with Shattuck St. Mary’s.
The final game was a true battle of goaltenders as both had tremendous performances throughout the week. An exciting game that featured two highly skilled, well coached teams leaving it all the on the ice. In the end, as is the old adage, the best players make plays when it counts and it was Shattuck’s two top players who were the difference in the game; Jack Robbel in net stopped 24 of 25 shots, many of which were grade-A opportunities and star forward Connor McMenamin who created a lot of opportunities but none more important than game winning goal in the second period. Shattuck didn’t have the best players as Chicago Mission, Victory Honda, Colorado Thunderbirds and Little Caesar’s had far more D1 prospects, but they played as a team and got great goaltending down the stretch.
Below we will rank the performances of the tournament’s top players. This is not a rank their ability and potential, but rather it is based simply on their performance this particular week.
Top 80 Prospects
(Click on Player Name for full profile)
Jack Rathbone (Cape Cod, D, ’99) – A smooth, nimble offensive defenseman who made a ton of plays throughout the week. He has soft, agile hands and the ability to run the powerplay. He was excellent breaking the puck out of his own end, making tape to tape passes through the neutral zone or skating it end to end. On the power play he is able to move gracefully along the blue line and make precision passes to his linemates or take a few steps in and shoot it when a lane opens up. His athleticism, skating ability and puck handling made him the top player Cape Cod had this week. College: Harvard
Jacob Pivonka (Chicago Mission, F, ‘00) – Pivonka, a recent NTDP selection, proved the depth of his talent here. He’s got the size and strength to protect the puck along the wall and in the corners and smooth, effortless hands that allow him to tic-tac-toe through high traffic areas. He played a controlled, smart and confident game getting to the right areas and making plays. He shot the puck like a pro and while he’s not a flashy skater, he’s strong and balanced on his edges and tough to knock off the puck. College: Notre Dame
Spencer Stastney (Chicago Mission, D, ’00) – Stastney, also a recent NTDP selection, is a skilled offensive defenseman. He made great passes in all three zone, showed poise with the puck, and an ability to make people miss carrying it through the neutral zone. He isn’t he biggest guy but uses his stick to defend and breaks up a lot of passes with hockey sense and anticipation. His skating is both quick and agile, he can move just as well laterally as vertically, and is tough to beat outside on the rush. College: Notre Dame
Bode Wilde (Chicago Mission, D, ’00) – Wilde is a major talent and played like it this week. He has the size and skating ability to contribute at both ends of the ice, he has a booming slap shot and slick hands. We would have liked to see him play a bit more physical in his own end as he got caught puck watching at times, but he was without question one of the very best players in the tournament. College: Harvard
Colby Bukes (Colorado Thunderbirds, D, ’99) – Bukes has been the anchor to the Colorado team for most of the season and this week was no different. He is a fluid skater, he’s patient with the puck, and makes smart, quick decisions. He didn’t force passes or try and do too much even when the team was behind and needing a goal. One of the top uncommitted defenseman in the country.
Jack Randl (Chicago Mission, F, ’00) Randl is a strong, powerful skater who plays a heavy but skilled game. He likes to put the puck outside, lowers his shoulder and drive the net. Once he gains position on the defender he has super smooth hands, can deke goalies and score in tight. That ability to transition from a puck protection scenario to a skill move is a very rare talent for players this age and he does it as well as any 2000 we have seen in the country. He won a lot of battles throughout the week along the wall, in front of the net and in the corners. He goes into the corner and comes out with the puck consistently and doesn’t stop there as he is able to make a pass to the slot or drive the net. He’ll need to improve his speed and agility to reach his full potential, but he’s certainly among the elite 2000 forwards. College: Michigan
Max Ellis (Honeybakd, F, ’00) – The little speedster looked like he was playing with something to prove since being cut from the NTDP U17 team. He has great speed and acceleration and used it to separate from defenseman and create scoring chances with time and space. He wasn’t as effective as we thought he was at NTDP camp, but he was good at playing to his strengths here. He didn’t try to battle it out in the tough ice, he used his explosive first step to get defenseman moving, he got in on the forecheck and actually beat the defenseman to the puck a few times and created a lot of offense from the transition game by causing turnovers in the neutral zone. That being said, he was creating but not finishing, and missed a few high percentage opportunities and just couldn’t get the puck by the goalie.
Jonathan Gruden (Honeybaked, F, ‘00) – Gruden was another Honeybaked prospect who went to the NTDP camp, and was one of two players on the team selected. This wasn’t his best performance, but the son of OHL Head Coach John Gruden plays like a coach’s son. He’s smart, he’s an efficient skater, he has an elusive stick, and is able to score goals. The Miami-Ohio commit has great poise carrying the puck up ice and is able to slow the game down, let the play develop and wait for lanes to open up to take advantage of. He’s got both the head for the game and the stickhandling ability to make the vision come alive with well-touched passes
Calen Kiefiuk (Honeybaked, F, ’00) – Kiefiuk was a fun player to watch because not only did he bring his usually hockey sense and awareness with finesse and skill, but he also brought some edge to his game. He got in on the forecheck, finished his check and caused turnovers by relentlessly attacking opposing defenders. He made some really nice passes coming down the wall on the rush including a brilliant assist on a 2v1 with a cross crease feed. He was composed carrying the puck and really shines in small areas where he can use his quick hands and feet to come out with the puck. A headsy, cerebral playmaker who can create offense out of thin air. He isn’t really flashy but he’s productive and knows where to be on the ice at all times. No hesitation in his game, he’s mentally a step ahead of his opponents.
Cade Robinson (Honeybaked, F, ’99) Robinson really established himself as a high ceiling prospect last year while playing for Victory Honda as one of their top forwards as a ’99. However, this year has been a mixed bag as his skills continue to develop but he’s been unable to put it all together. He’s a strong skater that really digs into the ice when pushing off, can fight through checks, has speed and can stickhandle in small areas or make defenseman miss in open ice. He can fire the puck quickly without losing his stride and doesn’t shy away from the dirty areas. He was a bit sporadic at Nationals, runs around and wastes some energy, but he’s a hound on the puck, causes havoc on the forecheck and was able to make a lot of plays. His game is up and down, but we think he’s got real upside and he showed glimpses of it here.
Cole Guttman (LA Jr. Kings, F, ’99) – Guttman was one of the top forwards in the ’99 class last year and while we had only seen him at two tournaments this year, he looked like he may be slipping a bit despite putting up big number in the T1EHL 16U league. However, this was the best we have seen him this year and at times was the best player on the ice. He’s a quick strike forward who plays with considerable speed and finesse. He’s got a great first step and at this level can accelerate past players at will. He is able to process the game mentally at a rapid pace which makes him so effective skating through the neutral zone and creating scoring chances off the rush. He did get rubbed out along the boards a few times and clearly needs to get stronger as he’ll likely play in the USHL next season; but his game is firing on all cylinders right now and he looks to be one of the top uncommitted forwards in the age group.
Jacob McGrew (LA Jr. Kings, F, ’99) – McGrew was equally as productive as Guttman throughout the week but is a vastly different player. Where Guttman will use his shiftiness and creativitiy, McGrew will use his power to overtake his opponent and his hockey sense to find the open man. He is not necessarily light on his feet, so he uses his strength and puck protection skills to buy extra time to make a pass or drive the net. He had a workmanlike approach this week, stick on the ice, north-south game making plays at both ends of the ice and being tough to play against. He was always around the puck and showed nice touch in his passes and shot in tight around the net.
Christian Krygier (Little Caesars, D, ’00) Krygier has been a standout for Little Caesars all season long but he was particularly effective here. He’s a tough guy to play against, is highly athletic, skates well enough to take away time and space from even the most skilled forwards, and loves to engage physically. At this age a lot of “tough guys” lack skill and the skilled guys lack grit, but he’s the rare exception of a guy who can really skate, handle the puck and yet also deliver bone crushing hits and wear down opposing forwards in the corners and along the wall. He wasn’t as offensive here as we’ve seen him in the past but we actually preferred it because he moved the puck quicker and played a more mature game instead of trying to rush the puck end to end at every opportunity.
Xan Gurney (Little Caesars, D, ’00) – Early in the year at the Motor City Cup it looked like Xan Gurney was one of the top ’00 defenders in the country; he had the size, athleticism, mobility and toughness. However, he hadn’t put it all together and we saw more of the same here, thought he had glimpses where he looked like an elite prospect. He plays his angles well, gaps up in the neutral zone and is physical in front of the net and along the wall. He uses his long reach to take away time and space and is one of the more difficult defenders to get around. His downside on the week was that he didn’t appear confident with the puck, passed it when he should have skated it, and threw it up the boards on breakouts instead of taking the extra second to pick his head up and make a direct pass. He could be a top flight talent but he’s got some work to do.
Jordan Seyfert (North Jersey Avalanche, F, ’99) – Seyfert may not look like much but it would be a real mistake to undervalue him because he makes defensemen pay constantly. He’s got a great burst of speed and maintains possession through traffic and chaotic situations. He is the type of player who goes into the corner with two or three bodies in there and comes out with the puck. He has quick, yet agile hands and can beat goalies with a quick, accurate snap shot. He’s really tough to defend against because he accelerates so well in every direction, he’s a got a creative mind and a quick stick. While the team didn’t have its best weekend, Seyfert stood out every game as their top forward. College: Merrimack
Brandon Tabakin (North Jersey Avalanche, D, ’00) – Tabakin doesn’t in anyway look or play like your stereotypical defenseman, he’s small, wiry and loves to have the puck on his stick. He can’t overpower forwards so he’s forced to play a really tight gap and defend with his stick and body positioning. His quickness and lateral mobility allow him to stay close to the forward and his quick strike poke check has been really effective. More impressive then the poke check is that he doesn’t just knock pucks away, he pounces on loose pucks and within a second or two he’s three strides going the other way. A dangerous offensive defenseman in transition.
Jack Robbel (Shattuck St. Mary’s, G, ’99) If there was an MVP trophy for the tournament it would clearly go to Jack Robbel as he led Shattuck to the championship despite being outshot in several contests throughout the week. He’s a composed goalie who has great feet, quick reaction time and tracks the puck extremely well. He doesn’t beat himself, he stays in his position, and comes out of the net to cut down the angle, but doesn’t get too aggressive and covers up loose pucks in front of him. In the semi-finals and finals, he showed his ability to not only make the first stop but get back in position to make the second and third when called upon. He played the puck well, was confident, and kept Shattuck in every game.
Connor McMenamin (Shattuck St. Mary’s, F, ’99) – A sharp-shooter out of Collegeville, PA, McMenamin has been with Shattuck since he was a bantam and done well at every level. In fact, most scouts believed he’d be on the prep team this year but being the go-to-guy for the 16’s was probably the best thing for him. He’s got a good frame, shoots with his head up, can pick corners, and has elusive puck handling ability. He had the game winning goal in the championship game and led his team in scoring with a 3-2-5 line.
Brock Caufield (Team Wisconsin, F, ’99) – Caufield is an electric skater who has several gears that he plays at, and likes to draw defenders close and then put on the burners and accelerate passed them. The most impressive ability he has is the ability to think the game and make plays at full speed, which for him is really fast. He makes people miss with head fakes, quick handed dekes and shifty footwork. He lacks size but not heart, goes all out on the forecheck, is a pest to fend off, and when he causes turnovers, he’s gone before the defense have time to react. A really fast, skilled forward with a great release and high velocity snap shot who is exciting to watch every time he’s on the ice. College: Ohio State
Ty Emberson (Team Wisconsin, D, ’00) – Emberson has been a leader on their blue line all season despite being one of the team’s youngest players. He’s a great skating defenseman with a big frame, soft hands and hard slap shot from the point. He is still a bit raw defensively in his own end, but he rarely gets beat in 1v1 situations and uses his size to reach to his advantage to keep forwards away from the goal. He’s a presence every time he was on the ice out here whether he had the puck or not, and looks like an 18-year-old instead of a 16-year-old.
Nolan Moyle (Victory Honda, F, ’99) – The leading scorer in the tournament with a 3-6-9 line, Moyle played like he had something to prove. He’s a rare breed of high compete and high skill. He can take the puck end to end or he can throw the puck in the corner and fight for it, and usually come out with it. He’s tenacious in the tough ice but skilled and graceful in open ice. He’s got an athletic stride and can cover a lot of ice. He can protect the puck, get to scoring areas and let it go or he can get cute with it and try to maneuver his way in and around defenseman to create plays out of nowhere. He’s still a tad raw and needs to fill out, but the upside is obvious to all who watch him. College: Michigan State
Adam Steinwold (Victory Honda, D, ’00) – Tall, lanky defenseman who has decent mobility for his size, makes a crisp first pass and defends well below the hash marks. He is very raw at this point as he’s still growing into his massive frame and trying to improve his footwork and coordination, but he is an instinctual defenseman and knows how to shut forwards down. He’s simple, but efficient with the puck, and is more of a defensive defenseman at this stage. He stood out here with his size and ability to take away time and space from some very talented forwards, but he’s a work in progress with tremendous potential.
Jacques Bouquot (Yale Bulldogs, F, ’00) We have seen a lot of Bouquot over the past few years but we may have never seen him as good as he was here. A young player on a veteran Salisbury team, he never looked out of place but didn’t stand out either. Playing against midget competition where the oldest player was only a year ahead of him, allowed him to showcase his vast skill set. He has great size and strength, plays a power forward game with a soft, nifty set of hands. He can hold his ground in front of the net and in the corners, and displays good touch and a strong stick to drive in rebounds and lift the puck in tight. He is not a graceful skater, but is able to cover a lot of ice with hard work and hustle, and our scouts feel his stride will only improve as he grows into his frame. A legitimate D1 prospect.
Andrew Lucas (Yale Bulldogs, D, ’99) Lucas is an emerging prospect in the New England prep school ranks. He started out as a freshman and saw limited action as a really young defenseman on a playoff team. However, this year, with a few defenders having graduated, he quickly jumped to a starting role and took advantage of his opportunities and brought his game to another level, ending the season as one of the premiere underclassmen defenseman in the league. He continued that strong play here as Yale’s top blue liner as he was confident with the puck, able to generate offense from the blue line, and proved he is a willing and capable defender in his own end. College: UVM
Jay O’Brien (Cape Cod, F, ’99) O’Brien is a one of our favorite prospects as he has a combination of skill and hustle. He fights for loose pucks, forechecks with a vengeance and doesn’t back down in 1v1 battles despite his size. However, once he gets possession of the puck he shows finesse and a nifty stick to get by defenders, and a hard, quick shot that beats most goalies. The speedster out of Dexter gets better and better every viewing. College: Providence
Marc McLaughlin (Cape Cod, F, ’99) The Cushing standout was one of the most dominant players in prep school hockey this season, and while he showed flashes here, it wasn’t a consistent effort. He’s a hard, honest player; he finishes checks, blocks shots, plays the body and supports the puck. He doesn’t cheat the game. He has deceptively agile hands and a rocket of a shot. He made some plays and showed his balanced skating and hard shot, but just didn’t factor in offensively as much as we would have expected given his ability. College: St. Lawrence
Michael Callahan (Cape Cod, D, ’99) Michael Callahan is a big, skilled, but raw defenseman who can do a lot of different things. He skates well for his size, can carry the puck end to end with his long stride and tight cradle and has a hard shot from the point. He made a lot of questionable decisions with the puck, forced passes that weren’t there and tried to do too much himself, but his size and skill level are rare for defenseman at this age so the upside meter is heavily on his side. College: Providence
Jayson Dobay (Cape Cod, D, ’99) Dobay is a highly athletic, two-way defender out of BC High (MA HS) who can skate with anyone. He as speed, quickness, agility and the ability to gap up tight and keep opponents to the outside. He doesn’t have the puck skill of Rathbone, but is able to break the puck out of his end and connect on tape to tape passes up ice. He can contribute on the power play or penalty kill but doesn’t really excel at either. He’s an all-around, smooth skating defender who can help his team in a lot of different areas.
Kamil Sadlocha (Chicago Mission, F, ’99) – Sadlocha is a quality prospect in his own right but he really stepped up his game in the playoffs this week. He has great speed and the ability to side step or quick dangle a defenseman on the rush. His burst gives him the ability to separate from opponents, and with that time and space, he can attack the net and create offense or play the perimeter and sneak passes to high scoring areas. College: Ohio State
Brady Smith (Chicago Mission, D, ’00)- Smith is a small, shifty, highly-skilled offensive defenseman who started the year with a bit of an adjustment but finished here nicely. Last year he proved to be a dominant player at the Bantam level, committed to Wisconsin, and was one of the standouts at the USA Select 15 Festival in Buffalo, NY. However, he hasn’t grown much, if at all, in the past year, and is playing up a level with bigger, stronger and faster players. He has great command of the puck as it seems to stick to his blade and makes accurate, crisp passes in all three zones, but his defensive game was lacking. He’s not afraid to mix it up but learned he doesn’t win many of those battles so he’s done a better job picking his spots and knowing what plays work in which situations. He’s best with the puck on his stick and open ice in front of him. College: Wisconsin
Mathieu de St. Phalle (Chicago Mission, F, ’00)- One of Mission’s most productive forwards on the week, he was able to capitalize on his chances in tight scoring once from an off angle shot at the side of the net and another on a wrap around. He’s a sneaky, opportunistic forward who is getting a lot of attention by USHL scouts. He’s smart, patient with the puck and knows what he’s going to do with it before he gets it.
John Drury (Chicago Mission, F, ’00)- Drury is a strong skater who is tough to knock off the puck. He appears to be a simple player because he doesn’t seek out 1v1’s like many skilled players at this age; rather he utilizes his teammates and puts the puck in places for them to make plays. He was a bit too perimeter this week in terms of his play, and didn’t use his size and puck protection skills to get into scoring areas, but rather played a strong wall game and fed passes to the slot and points. College: Harvard
Will Brown (Colorado Thunderbirds, D, ’00) Brown is a young, talented, confident offensive defenseman who can handle the puck under any situation, can distribute on the power play and intercepted a lot of passes with focus, awareness and anticipation. He is undersized so he’s developed a quick first step and strong vertical movements to avoid pressure and make plays. He will make the D to D pass but prefers to take a few strides up ice and hit streaking forwards skating through the neutral zone.
Cole Quisenberry (Colorado Thunderbirds, F, ’99) – Quisenberry was on his game all weekend, playing the best hockey we have seen him play all season. He’s a high motor player who competes every shift, finishes checks, blocks shots, ties up draws and causes turnovers both on the forecheck and in the neutral zone by pressuring defenseman in puck pursuits. He’s light on his feet, goes hard to the net and plays with a lot of pace. His skill is continuing to evolve, but we really liked his enthusiasm, his quickness and his ability to make plays in all three zones.
Jake Gricius (Colorado Thunderbirds, F, ’99) A tall, but skilled late ’99 who is still developing his stride and growing into his big frame, but has silky smooth hands and the ability to toe-drag or wide dribble and bait defensemen into lunging for the puck. He has long legs and arms which allows him to hold the puck out and use his body to shield his opponents. He has great touch around the goal and can make nice centering saucer passes to the slot after winning battles along the wall.
Quinn Martin (Colorado Thunderbirds, F, ’99) – Martin is a player who is a great athlete with a lot of individual skills who is learning to be a hockey player. He’s a strong, powerful, yet fluid skater who played more of a skill game then his typical north-south game. He carried the puck end to end numerous times and even dangled a few defenders on zone entries. A good sized, athletic, two-way forward who showed a more skilled dimension here and continues to add to an already expansive skill set.
Bryan Lockner (Colorado Thunderbirds, F, ’00) Lockner was held out most of the season but came back for Nationals and picked up right where he left off. He’s got size and a thick build, is a strong and balanced skater and can fire the puck from anywhere in the offensive zone. He scored the game winning goal in a 2 goal deficit comeback to beat Team Wisconsin in the quarterfinals. He was the second leading scorer on his team with a 2-2-4 line and showed that he has the puck skill, the shot and the hockey sense to finish the season strong and catch the attention of USHL scouts heading into the draft.
Mason Mannek (Colorado Thunderbirds, F, ’00) – A small, speedy, compact forward who made a ton of plays throughout the week and was used in every situation. He’s a high motor, first guy in on the forecheck type player who causes turnovers and has the skill to make plays when he gets possession. Young and undersized, he’s had to adjust and learn to be effective at this level but we saw a lot of improvement in his game from the beginning and even middle part of the season.
Baker Shore (Colorado Thunderbirds, F, ’99) – Shore was held out most of the season with injury but returned for the Nationals to help pick up the offense in wake of Nolan Foote’s injury. He did just that leading the Thunderbirds in points with a 2-3-5 line over 5 games. He’s a swift, efficient skater who has great vision and hockey sense, and the skill to put the puck wherever he wants it to go. He’s not known for his power game but he wins a lot of 1v1 battles and maneuvers his way through high traffic areas.
Jacob Semik (Honeybaked, D, ’00) Semik was good, but not great this week. A talented offensive defenseman who has effortless control of the puck and can slow the game down, Semik wasn’t playing with his normal amount of confidence. That being said, he was great on getting to pucks on dump ins, turning up ice and either skating it out of the zone or making fluid, quick passes to his outlets. He also did a nice quarterbacking the umbrella powerplay and making smart dishes to his two supports up top or threading passes to the backdoor when he saw a lane.
Jaden Shields (Little Caesars, D, ’99) – Shields is a pure skater who uses his feet to retrieve pucks, defend players on the rush, and carry the puck up ice. He’s a strong special team’s player who can run a power play, kill penalties and uses his feet and hands to extend plays and connect on passes through the neutral zone. A true three-zone defenseman who can connect on passes or escape with the puck under duress and has the lateral mobility to keep tight gaps and make the opposition earn every inch.
Chase Pilawski (Little Caesars, D, ’99) On a team that has arguably the best blue line we have seen in years, Pilawski is the top offensive talent registering 23 assists this past season in 17 games. He excels on the powerplay where he can take the puck behind his net and skate up ice looking for the right pass. Once he gains the zone, he is able to find his teammates and deliver precision passes. He doesn’t hesitate – the second the lane opens the puck is off his stick and headed to the target. He also keeps his shots low, gets them through traffic and creates a lot of juicy rebounds for his forwards. Chase does lack size but we were impressed with how well he defended during the week as he picked up sticks in front of the net, used his skating ability to win races to the puck, and intercepted a few slot line passes. College: Lake Superior
Dustin Manz (Little Caesars, F, ’99) – A stalky, balanced skater with exceptional hands and vision. He is a high motor, high energy player with some grit to his game, but in reality he’s a very smart and aware forward who sees the ice and can find his teammates and get them the puck. He caused turnovers on the forecheck, finished his checks and was able to capitalize on his opportunities.
Hayden Rowan (Little Caesars, F, ’99) – Rowan is a small, skilled forward with great touch and slippery hands. He can stickhandle his way out of a jam and uses his lower body strength to shield off defenders and fights through stick checks, hooks, slashes, etc. He wears a lot of hats on his team as he plays on the power play and penalty kill, and can play a high motor game or a patient playmaker style (did mostly the latter this week). His best quality this week was his passing, not only in the offensive zone to set up his teammates, but even on the breakout and skating through the netural zone. He was making the “right” passes that had just the right amount of velocity and touch and he was connecting tape to tape each time. College: Yale
Steven Agriogianis (North Jersey Avalanche, F, ’99) – This has been a productive season for Agriogianis, he led the Av’s in points, got to play up a few games with the Chicago Steel and the US National team, committed to Penn State, and led his team to a national tournament. He’s fast, he’s skilled and he competes every shift. He is shifty in the open ice, can make opponents miss with his feet or his stick, and has impressive vision, even at full speed. He made a lot of nice passes here and showed how difficult he is to cover coming down the wall on the rush or out of the corner with the puck. College: Penn State
Tyler Gratton (North Jersey Avalanche, F, ’99) Gratton is a good-sized, athletic forward who can play with power or with skill. He has good speed down the wall and a diverse set of skills allowing him to pull up just inside the blue line and feed the trailers coming in the zone, hold the puck out wide and use his strength and skating to drive the near post, or make a play to cut in on defenders and shoot or dish. Shortly after the tournament he announced he will be attending Penn Sthttp://https://www.neutralzone.net/mens/player/bobby-trivigno/ate. College: Penn State
Nicky Abruzzese (North Jersey Avalanche, F, ’99) Abruzzese is often over-shadowed by some of the higher profile prospects on his team but he’s a really smart and skilled player in his own right. He plays the point at times on the power play and does a great job finding the open man and getting them the puck instantly. He has vision, poise and knows where to be on the ice. He’s not an ideal size but he was one of their best players throughout the week.
Adam Samuelsson (North Jersey Avalanche, D, ’00) Admittedly Samuelsson is one of our favorite prospects in the 2000 class. He has incredible size and raw ability, moves pretty well and has a mean streak when called upon. However, while we think he could develop into an everyday NHL’er, he was not his best here. It took him awhile to adjust to the pace, he lunged at opponents instead of stepping up and driving through the body, and he wasn’t focused with the puck on his stick, often throwing it around the wall or dumping it in when he could have skated it. That being said, he was still a dominant physical presence in his end, tossing guys out of the way so his goalie could get clear sights, and was rarely beat 1v1, if ever. So while he wasn’t at his best, he was still a shoe-in top 50 candidate but his potential says he could be a top 5 when he’s on.
Anthony Stark (Shattuck St. Mary’s, D, ’99) Stark is an undersized offensive defenseman who quarterbacks the powerplay and has a booming shot from the point. He isn’t a one dimensional shooter – he uses wrist shots when he’s under pressure, he can let snapper and slappers go when the time is right, and has an excellent one timer. Defensively he relies on quickness and athleticism to get his body and stick into places to break up plays, but he’s not able to win many battles in the tough ice at this point.
Michael Schumacher (Shattuck St. Mary’s, D, ’99) Schumacher is an athletic, versatile, two-way defenseman who can make plays in all three zones. He is strong around his net and able to keep his head on a swivel and keep opponents from sneaking in the backdoor untouched. He has an active stick and breaks up passes and poke checks forwards coming down on the rush. He’s comfortable carrying the puck and had several end to end rushes throughout the tournament. His skating is likely his best attribute as he is able to rush the puck up ice and make moves in the neutral zone without having to slow down which is rare for defenseman this age. He also does a nice job picking his spots instead of taking off the with the puck at every opportunity. He’s got pretty good size and could develop into a really good defender down the road.
Bobby Trivigno (Shattuck St. Mary’s, F, ’99) – Trivigno is an exciting player to watch. He’s an explosive skater, has a variety of dekes he can use on goalies and defenseman in 1v1 situations, and is a pest on the forecheck. While he does seek out 1v1’s too often and can skate with his head down at times, he win’s a lot of those exchanges and is able to use his quick burst and swift hands to blow passed or side step defenders. He’s a playmaker when he’s in the offensive zone, finds open ice and uses his time and space wisely. Overall, he’s a high motor, high energy, skilled playmaker who is dangerous in the transition game.
Caleb Rule (Shattuck St. Mary’s, F, ’99) – Rule is not as complete of a player as Trivigno, but he’s got great hands. He can stickhandle through tight spaces and carry in the open ice, and makes effortless saucer passes tape to tape. He was a tad perimeter at this tournament in terms of his play, but his skill set is obvious to all that watch him.
Samuel Stevens (Shattuck St. Mary’s, F, ’00) – One of the most intriguing prospects in the tournament, Samuel is big, skates well for his size and possesses a soft set of hands. He doesn’t do anything flashy but he can receive hard passes on his backhand in stride and does little things like that to prove he is more than capable with the puck on his stick. He was the team’s leading scorer on the weekend with a 3-2-5 line. Someone to keep an eye on going forward as he has a rare combination of size and skill.
Jordan Steinmetz (Team Wisconsin, F, ’99) – Steinmetz is a real headsy player who has great awareness for who is around him and puts his teammates in good situations. He plays a composed style where he lets the play develop and then makes his move. He doesn’t jump the gun and doesn’t force ill-advised passes. His hockey sense is joined by a crafty stick and swift wrist shot. He scored one excellent goal on a catch and shoot on the power play where he saw the goalie was down before getting the puck and immediately roofed it top corner after getting the pass.
Ian Malcolmson (Team Wisconsin, F, ’99) – Malcolmson is a talented finisher who skates with his head up, can maneuver and deke through high traffic areas, and shoots to score. He has a quick first step, and while he isn’t lightning fast end to end, he uses change of speed and nifty stickhandling to get himself into high scoring areas and has the release and shot to score. He reads the play and see’s the ice well making everyone around him better.
Ronald Attard (Victory Honda, D, ’99) Attard is not a flashy defenseman – he’s someone you have to watch closely to appreciate – but he’s reliable and has an extensive skill set. He brings size, mobility and sound instincts to the position. He knows his strengths and plays to them, he doesn’t chase forwards all over the offensive zone but makes it very difficult for them to get to quality scoring areas. He uses his stick, his body and positioning to deter forwards from his goalie. On the other side of the puck he makes good decisions, he zips passes to his outlets and has deceptively soft hands. He does a nice job holding the offensive blue line and keeping pucks in the zone and isn’t afraid to walk the blue line and take a shot or make a pass to the open guy. A true two-way defenseman who takes both tasks equally seriously.
Chase Danol (Victory Honda, F, ’99) – Danol is a scrappy power forward who saved his best hockey for the end of the season. He’s known for being a stick-on-the-ice, hard net drive type who can tip shots and bang home rebounds. He was second on his team in scoring on the season with 17 goals in 32 games with only 7 assists but it wasn’t because he’s selfish, it’s because he is a really good net front finisher. However, this weekend we saw some other elements to his game as he showed flashes of puck skill with some fancy between the legs moves as well as maintaining control while getting smacked around in the corners or in front of the net. His intensity and passion rubbed off on his teammates and made him a difficult guy to play against because he played fast and physical with an added skill dimension.
Brian George (Victory Honda, G, ’99) George played in both the semi-finals and championship game despite playing in less games during the regular season as other netminder Adrian Morales. George has some size, he moves well, and did a nice job of controlling rebounds. He also showed he is pretty resilient as he found himself down2-0 against Yale and got himself composed and re-focused and went on to shut them out the rest of the game.
Jack Summers (Victory Honda, F, ’99) Summers has come a long way in a short period of time and really established himself as the go-to defenseman on Victory Honda. He’s a smooth skating, puck moving defenseman who sees the ice, makes clean, crisp passes, and understands his positioning really well. He doesn’t overhandle the puck but will take the extra second or two to allow the play to open up for him and he can make long stretch passes from behind his own net. He also showed the dual ability to quarterback the umbrella power play and kill penalties by getting his stick in passing lanes and blocking shots.
Jason Polin (Victory Honda, F, ’99) – Polin is Victory Honda’s leading goal scorer on the season with a 21-13-34 line in 31 games. He’s an honest player with a lot of tools as he has good speed and quickness, can shoot the puck and competes hard at both ends. He doesn’t come across as flashy because he doesn’t try and stickhandle through crowds of defenders. He gets the puck and moves it quickly while fighting to get in position to get it back. College: Western Michigan
Aaron White (Victory Honda, F, ’99) White is a player on the rise. He played at the Select 16 Festival and did pretty well, but has really taken his game to the next level and he showed it here. He’s got great puck skill, is able to bait defenseman into going for the puck and then he quickly handles around or through them. He has a mix of creativity and reactionary moves and doesn’t have pre-determined moves that he forces but rather takes what the defense gives him and once he spots an opening, he’s gone. What we liked most about his performance here was his high compete and effort away from the puck, especially in the playoff round where he put it all on the line to win.
Tyce Thompson (Yale Bulldogs, F, ’00) – One of the more underrated prospects in the ’99 age group as scouts seem to talk about how they wish he was taller or a more fluid skater or this or that. While his stride could certainly use work and he hasn’t come close to his brother Tage’s size, potential first round NHL Draft pick (UConn), he’s still a highly skilled, intelligent, 200-foot player who never quits on the play. He has the ability to see the whole ice, not just the players directly in front of him, and he made some brilliant feeds to the slot, to the point and through the neutral zone. He made a surprisingly quick adjustment to the prep game at Salisbury School and will likely take on a bigger role next season as one of their top returning forwards. College: Providence
Nick Hale (Yale Bulldgos, D, ’99) Hale came to Salisbury School this fall after playing with the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes the previous year, and ended up playing against his old teammates in San Jose, CA. Interesting the difference a year can make. Hale is an undersized offensive defenseman with great hands and vision. He starts the breakout from behind his net, can run the power play and does a nice job headmaning the puck. While he lacks the size to move bodies in front of the net, he does a nice job picking up sticks and poking pucks away from opposing forwards.
Fisher Shea (Culver Academy, F, ’00) – Shea was Culvers leading scorer with two goals in three games including a brilliant deke goal in the shootout against Shattuck St. Mary’s. He’s a fluid skater with soft hands and a clever mind. He scored a beautiful top corner snipe in stride and showed his ability to create both off the rush and from within the offensive zone. Prior to Culver the Indiana native was one of the leading scorers for the Milwaukee Jr. Admirals Bantam Major team.
Dominic Vidoli (Culver Academy, D, ’99) – While Culver is loaded with good skating defenseman, Vidoli was their top guy in this tournament. He’s elusive behind his net, able to escape from pressure and make direct passes to the wings or center swinging, can jump up and join the rush at will, and also quarterbacks their powerplay. On the defensive end he does a nice job closing in on forwards and taking away their options. He can be smothering and play tight defense which is only allowable because he’s got the size, the reach and the skating ability to get away with it.
Mason Klee (Colorado Thunderbirds, D, ’99) – A late ’99 with good size and athleticism, Klee can skate, he can shoot and has a physical dimension that will only improve as he fills out. He doesn’t stand out in any one area but he is good at everything. He doesn’t get beat in the corners, defends well in front of his net and is capable of making plays on the offensive blue line. A late bloomer in the making.
Jagger Joshua (HoneyBaked, F, ’99) Jagger is a raw player who took his game to the next level this week. He’s always had good size and compete level but he’s now able to get around the ice better, using his size to his advantage and going hard to the net for the ugly goals. He isn’t a great skater and needs a lot of work on agility in tight, but his north-south power forward type style is beginning to emerge and he was a consistent threat throughout the weekend. He protected the puck down low in the corners and was difficult to knock off the puck. Not typically a top 50 player but had a top 50 performance here.
Robert Welsher (Honeybaked, F, ’99) – While Welsher has been at the USA Hockey Select Festivals in Buffalo each year and played on several high profile Midget AAA teams in the Michigan area (Oakland Jr. Grizzlies, Belle Tire and Honeybaked), he’s still a bit under the radar. This was the best we have seen him as he was able to make plays off the wall using his shifty feet and quick hands, and created several scoring chances off the rush from turnovers in the neutral zone. He stops on the puck and accelerates well the other way, maintains a tight handle at full speed, and skates with his head up.
Riley Johnson (Carolina Jr. Hurricanes, F, ’99) Johnson is a smart, crafty forward with agile hands and a good first step. He can beat defenseman with his feet or a quick deke move side to side. He’s a puck possession player who always seemed to have the puck on his stick throughout the week.
Colby Pederson (Carolina Jr. Hurricanes, F, ’99) Pederson led Carolina this week offensively with a 3-3-6 line over 4 contests. Most scouts watching Carolina will see the usual suspects (Winfree, Brind’ Amour, Wildgoose and Newman) and while Pederson is not typically one of those guys, he played really well here, and not just on the stat sheet either. He’s got some size and is a raw skater, but plays a quasi power forward game with soft hands. He can snap passes off his stick without hesitation and doesn’t throw the puck away when there isn’t a clear pass to be made. He showed good touch around the net and the willingness to go into dirty areas and come out with the puck. On most weekends he’s probably not a top 50 player, but he was this week when it mattered the most.
John St. Ivany (LA Jr. Kings, D, ’99) A tall, thin, athletic defender who plays a two-way game. He’s always been a good skater but now he’s added some balance to his stride and looks quicker accelerating backwards. He didn’t make any highlight reel passes or shots this week that we saw but he was tough to get around, kept it smart and simple, and showed a high degree of athleticism in his own end defending against some of the top forwards in the country.
Paul Cotter (Little Caesars, F, ’99) – Cotter had a productive USA Select 16 Festival camp this past summer but has been inconsistent in the midget ranks this season. We thought he played really well this week – he’s a strong and balanced skater with soft hands and a quick release. He played on the top line with Manz and Pietila for most of the weekend and they created a lot of chances, but just struggled to finish at times.
Chase McLane (Little Caesars, F, ’00) After a slow-ish start to the season, McLane is really coming into his own with Little Caesars. He has a healthy combination of size and skill and has really improved his skating, in particular his first three steps. He’s not going to stickhandle around defenseman but he controls the puck well in stride and is able to get shots off without having to slow down. He also played with some edge this week, taking the body, finishing his checks and powering his way towards the net out of the corners instead of trying to dangle defenseman 1v1. He has a way to go but we like his upside.
Aaron Grounds (Team Wisconsin, F, ’99) – A tall, somewhat lanky prospect who is improving each time we see him. Earlier in the year his skating really limited him, not being able to accelerate fast enough to keep up in transition. However, while he’s not a polished skater and needs work on his stride and power, he is getting faster and putting himself in better position to make plays. He’s got really soft hands for his size, uses his reach to his advantage to protect the puck in the corners and near the wall, and has good touch around the net. The late ’99 has real upside once he grows into his frame.
Christian Lesueur (Yale Bulldogs, F, ’99) – Lesueur is a strong, yet agile skater with smooth hands and a quick release. He scored a nice goal in the semi-finals against one of the top goalies here in Brian George with a low stick side wrist shot. He also flashed a few slick toe-drags to bait defenders and go around them. College: Dartmouth
Ethan Destefani (Yale Bulldogs, F, ’99) – Destefani is a big, strong power forward who played some of his best hockey here at Nationals. He’s always had size and physicality to his game but he brought it to another level here, getting in on the forecheck and throwing his weight around. He played mean but with a purpose and he utilized the turnovers he generated to take pucks to the net and create scoring chances. We fully expect a bump in performance from his first to second season in New England Prep play at Gunnery.
Hunter Payment (Victory Honda, D, ’99) – Payment is a big, strong reliable defender. He plays his position, doesn’t over extend to try and make the big hit or intercept the pass; he plays within himself and uses his long reach to keep opposing forwards off balance. He likes to play physical when he can but understands he’s not a good enough skater yet to step up on the blue lines and get back in time if he misses. While he isn’t known for his play with the puck, he’s actually really good behind his net and made a lot of nice breakout passes from the bottom of the circles. He didn’t get a lot of big slappers off in this tournament but got several low snap and wrist shots through traffic, one of which in the semifinals led to a rebound goal.
Notes on Injured Players:
** Jack DeBoer (Yale Bulldogs, F, ’00) An NTDP selection and big power forward with hockey sense and a nice set of hands, was held out of the tournament with an injury. A tough blow to the kid as his father is the Head Coach of the San Jose Sharks and was playing in his backyard.
** Devon Fields (Little Caesars, D, ’99) A good sized, athletic, mobile defenseman who can make plays at both ends. Was held out all week due to an injury.
** Will MacKinnon (HoneyBaked, D, ’00) A big name prospect who made NTDP roster just prior to coming to Nationals was unnoticeable. We didn’t have him in our notes and when going back through the stats we noticed he had only played in one game. Not sure if he was injured or what the story is, but whether he was playing or not, we didn’t notice him.
** Nolan Foote (Colorado Thunderbirds, F, ’00) – One of the best players in the age group was unable to play this week due to injury.