Neutral Zone recently spent two full days at the Ponytail Tournament in Toronto (Vaughan), focusing on evaluating the top 2001, 2002 and 2003 birth year players at the event. While the tournament was deep with talent across the board, we took a few minutes to provide notes on a few of the players who we thought consistently stood out over the course of the two days. To be clear, the players reviewed below are not ranked in any particular order, and are also listed based solely on the games we were able to see.
Sydney Bard, 2001, F, Selects Academy @ Bishop Kearney – Incredibly complete player who made an impact on a very good 2001 Syracuse Nationals boys teams this past year. Very good first step and hunts pucks with purpose. Excellent on the forecheck, as she is willing to stop and start. Good vision and can make very nice small-area plays in all three zones. Good in the middle or on the wall. Multiple D1 offers right now.
Makayla Gratton, 2001, F, Sudbury Lady Wolves – Very strong skater who plays the game with speed. Attacks with the puck and can make decisions without slowing her feet down. Very good edges and center of gravity as well. Consistently involved in the play offensively. Excellent prospect.
Katelyn Knoll, 2001, F, Niagara Purple Eagles U19 – A top player on her team throughout the weekend, Knoll showed outstanding offensive ability. Has a very strong frame and plays with speed and strength. Has an excellent hockey IQ and compliments it with great vision. Consistently first on pucks, seemingly impossible to knock off the puck, and is always a scoring threat through the neutral zone and in the open ice. Second time seeing her. A top-end talent.
Teagan Grant, 2001, D, Toronto Jr. Aeros – Outstanding offensive defenseman. Skating is incredibly fluid and allowed her to rush the puck successfully multiple times throughout the tournament. Skating also makes her very difficult to beat defensively – both off of the rush and down low – as she can mirror offensive players or recover very quickly if needed. Another clear D1 talent who impacts the game and is a difference maker.
Amelia Van Vliet, 2001, G, Napean Wildcats AA – Incredible in her game against the West Coast Selects. Quick, agile and able to make a second save regularly. Good lower body strength allows for consistent second save push. Does a good job controlling rebounds on comfortable saves, but she can also makes the athletic save when needed.
Josey Dunne, 2002, F, Chicago Mission (from St. Louis) – Great combination of size and mobility. She played against 2001s this tournament and did not seem out of place. Above average agility for her height, and she plays hard. Very good DNA with two sisters playing at the D1 level. Did not impact the game seen on the offensive side of things, but the competition was high and she is younger. She showed herself to be a top kid in her age group based on her performance here.
MaKenna Webster, 2002, F, Shattuck St. Mary’s – Absolute top end talent. Explosive first few steps and her top speed is better than those older than her. Most impressive is her agility and lateral movement, as she can go east/west in a way that makes opposing defenders make mistakes and miss. Always around the net with that type of speed and skill. Clear National Team player down the road. An incredible get for Shattuck St. Mary’s.
Lauren Bernard, 2001, D, Pittsburgh Pens Elite – An incredibly smooth skating defenseman who always seemed to be in good position. Didn’t do anything overly flashy in this viewing, but you found yourself always appreciating the simple decisions that she made throughout the game.
Chayla Edwards, 2001, D, Pittsburgh Pens Elite – Good sized, mobile defenseman who is immediately and consistently noticeable. Above average feet and skating for her age. Heavy shot from the blue line, and she gets it off rather quickly. She could improve upon her decision making with the puck on the breakout and through the neutral zone. An area for improvement rather than an area of weakness.
Hannah Price, 2001, D, Pittsburgh Pens Elite – Good size, lanky defenseman. Wide stride but it doesn’t slow her down. Very aware both with and without the puck. Moves the puck very hard like a college player, and she also rarely panics. Great poise with the puck, especially on the breakout, as she does not force things. Rather, she has the confidence to pull pucks back, reevaluate, and make the better play. Really impressive mind and poise from the back end.
Jenna Hallice, 2001, F, East Coast Wizards – Small forward with an excellent hockey IQ and average skill set. Her general skills do not allow for separation from her peers, but instead her decisions with the puck and ability to make smart, simple plays will allow her to be a valuable member of any team she plays on. Very good with small, touch-oriented area passes. A valuable third line center type.
Olivia O’Brien, 2001, F, Tabor Academy – Above average tools and only needs improved separation speed to become a top six forward on any team. Solid skill set and an above average shot. She understands the game and can create offense. A borderline D1 player who could blossom into a no- brainer with added strength and speed.
Natalie Tulchinsky, 2001, F, St. Paul’s School – Incredibly hard working forward from the capital district region of New York. Compete level and puck pursuit are at a near elite level. Needs a bit more structure than summer hockey to be her best, as she is a kid who thrives in a system rather than free- flowing summer hockey. Willing to shoot the puck. She could improve upon her vision and speed with which she sees open lanes and moves pucks to teammates. A top-six complimentary type player at this point.
Mackenzie Emery, 2001, D, Selects Academy @ Bishop Kearney – Very good skater and has the ability to push the play with her feet. Plays hard and with an edge, sometimes going overboard and ending up in the penalty box. Skating ability makes her very good with gap control and playing one on one in the open ice. Makes a good first pass when time and space is present. Could be more poised when things start to breakdown in the defensive zone. A D1 prospect in time.
Isabelle LeBrun, 2001, D, Vermont Shamrocks U16 – Very raw defenseman who seems to have her best hockey ahead of her. Skating and skill set are currently above average, but not elite. Her mind for the game is very good, as she often displayed very good poise and willingness to make a hockey play under duress. Good shot when she can get it off and get it through. Also appears to be a kid who will continue to get better and better with increased confidence as she occasionally displayed a willingness and ability to control the play. Needs improved consistency, but certainly has the tools to play at the next level.
Kennedy McAlpine, 2001, D, Aurora Panthers: Good size and lean build. Top defenseman on her team with her skillset and poise. One of the few defensemen in the tournament who was regularly willing to look up the wall for a breakout pass, see nothing and turn it back for a better play. As the tournament went on she also pushed the play and created offense on her own by engaging the rush with her feet. Good shot, although she could use her snapshot more often than a slapshot. Very good upside and the most-likely future D1 defenseman on her team.
Abby Blair, 2002, F, Buffalo Bisons U16 – Small forward with excellent speed and jam. Really gets after it in all situations—forecheck, backcheck or just hunting loose pucks. Type of player that every coach loves. Very effective when taking the puck wide and hard. Found synergy with her linemates as the tournament went on and showed an ability to produce offensively. Size may mean that it takes her a little bit longer to realize the D1 route, but it seems as though she will clearly get there in the near future.
Lindsay Bochna, 2002, F, Etobicoke Dolphins – Top 3 forward on her team. Lindsay has a good frame and a low center of gravity which allows her to be very strong on pucks. She also plays with a noticeable but quiet intensity. Likes to hit seams and take pucks to the net, and when she utilizes her excellent release, Lindsay is very dangerous. Had a hat trick in one of her games. Clear D1 player and a very hard-nosed, skilled, offensive threat. Fun to watch because she is good most every shift.
Mia Coene, 2002, F, Selects Academy @ Bishop Kearney – Top 3 forward on her team. Power forward type who is very strong and plays hard. Willing to get to the dirty areas, and she is a powerful enough skater to get to those areas regularly. Type of kid who puts a first touch on most every loose puck. Could be better at finishing around the net as she had multiple opportunities throughout the tournament that could have been cashed in on. A future D1 player for sure, but her stock will rise if she shoots more and becomes a finisher.
Kiara Zanon, 2002, F, Selects Academy @ Bishop Kearney – Elite level talent with the puck. Opponents at this tournament found it nearly impossible to take it off of her stick. She also has a mind for making offensive plays that is virtually unmatched among her peers. It was very clear throughout the event that opposing players had a hard time figuring out what she would do next. Definite D1 player and possible national team player down the road. Always an offensive scoring threat.
Ellie Marcovsky, 2002, F, NAHA – The ideal top line pivot. Low center of gravity. Looks a little like Chris Drury when she patrols the ice. Decent separational speed and excellent puck protection. She’s also advanced in her knowledge of the game as proven by some very savvy small-area plays that resulted in goals or opportunities for her linemates. Clear D1 player and will be a catalyst for NAHA this coming season given her experience playing U16 at two years younger last year. Simply put, Marcovsky displays a very good understanding of the game in all three zones.
Brooke Becker, 2002, D, Buffalo Bisons U16 – Smooth skating defenseman who controls the games with her feet and stick. Has the ability to be offensive off of the rush or provide simple stability and steadiness through transition. Definite D1 blue liner with natural skills. Could improve upon staying poised during chaotic situations in the d-zone, as she definitely is good enough to mentally and physically maneuver her way out of those dilemmas. Good, quick release that often was low enough to create quality rebounds for forwards crashing the net.
Vaia Graves, 2002, D, NAHA – Tall and steady defender who skates very well and generally handles the puck well. Very strong on her neutral zone gap control. Could make better decisions with the puck and be more prepared to move it quickly as she sometimes overhandled the puck resulting in turnovers. A good 4-5 D-man on an excellent team, and she’d be higher than that on most teams in the country.
Maddie Wheeler, 2002, F, Napean Junior Wildcats PWHL – Excellent pivot with her skating. Low center of gravity with great posture and therefore great efficiency as a skater. Gets to top speed pretty quickly, and playing in her age group, her skating allows her to be noticeable and effective most every shift. Very complete as well as she can create separation speed offensively while also providing excellent back pressure defensively. Well-rounded, future D1 player.
Megan Warrener, 2003, Goalie, Stony Creek AA – Small, but quick and agile. She was excellent in every game, rarely giving up rebounds and was always in position. She also showed her ability to make the athletic, momentum-changing save when tested. Young for the age group, but more than held her own. Will be fun to watch, as she projects out to be very, very good. Will gain strength with time.
Maddy Coene, 2002, F, Selects Academy @ Bishop Kearney – Lanky forward with good speed, especially wide off of the rush. She has an ability to create with her vision and definitely classifies more as a playmaker at this time in her career. Would benefit from shooting a bit more. 200-foot player as well, as she competes and displays responsibility in all three zones. A borderline D1 player right now, but very responsible and is the type of player that every team needs to be successful.
Cora Webber, 2003, D, Walpole Express – Tall, difference-maker of a player at the 2003 level. Plays incredibly hard and tough. Switched between forward and defense at the tournament. Upside to her playing up front is her ability to play a power forward game and not be taken off the puck. On the flip side, when she plays on the blueline she seems to get more touches on the puck and becomes that much more of a difference maker. Hard-nosed player who is a very good skater and almost certain to be a D1 player down the road.
Annaka Mettler, 2003, D, New Canaan – Huge kid with a long reach who completely controlled the play with her combination of size and skill. A Zdeno Chara type in the 2003 tournament. Seemingly could not be beaten one on one, either in open ice or down low. She also seemed to play more of a stay at home style in the games our scouts saw rather than pushing the pace offensively. She will be a very interesting prospect to college scouts based on her size alone.
Megan Woodworth, 2003, F, Valley Wild AA – Center whose skating and hockey IQ made her consistently noticeable. A lot of growth to be had in her game, but very effective over the three-day event.
Haley Winn, 2003, D, Rochester Monarchs – Elite skating defenseman who is simply above the competition when it comes to hockey IQ, decision making and general skill set. She controls the play easily due to her strong understanding of the game. Skating is outstanding. Edges are very good and therefore she has good strength on puck for a smaller player. Observers in the stands commented that she will be playing with the boys again next year. She will be an outstanding d-man when switching to the girls game. Definite D1 player.
Kelsey Dunn, 2003, F, Sudbury Lady Wolves – Very effective forward. Small, but a very compact and smooth skater who was hard to get off the puck once she had it on her stick. Showed good vision in making plays below the dots. Strength needs improvement which should come with time. Seemed to have a very complete game and was someone our scouts noticed throughout the tournament.
Lauren Messier, 2003, F, Stoney Creek Sabres – Excellent skater with good jump and separation speed. We think she could bring more offensive production based on her natural skill set. Around the net quite a bit, but sometimes left you wanting more. Very good upside when she finds more consistency in her game.