EHL January Showcase: Top 100

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Neutral Zone headed to two of the three days of the EHL Showcase at Tri-Town arena in Hooksett, NH on January 15-17. There were a lot of Division III and some Division I college coaches in attendance. We did not see Valley or the Little Flyers and had limited viewing of the Cyclones.

Below are the players we feel stood out. Grades are for this showcase only and are relative to others on this list. We have attended all of the EHL showcases this season and this was the last. Several players below are new to our profiles and others are repeats.

Chris Peters #21 (F, Walpole Express, 6’2”, 165lbs, 1997)-Peters was the most impressive player here in our opinion. We have noted him before as he plays on the first line for Walpole but he really showed up in Hooksett. Beyond the fact that he added four points to his impressive total, he played a strong, smart game. He moved without the puck. He had a good stick and created a lot of turnovers. He played poised and managed the puck at a very high level. His straight line speed is not great but it didn’t affect his ability to make plays. Grade: A

 

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CJHL Prospects Game: Scouting Report

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Last night Neutral Zone scouts were in attendance for the CJHL Prospects game in Cornwall, ON. The two teams are separated by eastern and western CJHL leagues and picked by NHL Central Scouting.

Below is a breakdown of each player in the game; their NHL upside; their NCAA or CHL commitment and most importantly how they played here. Overall, we were impressed with the event. It was well run and the players showed they deserved to be there. The West won the game. However, the East held its own which is impressive considering their two best leagues are now “pay to play” leagues; while Western Canada has the two top leagues in the country in the AJHL & BCHL which are both free tuition leagues.

In attendance were over a hundred NCAA, CHL and NHL scouts. Like Tyson Jost and Dante Fabbro did last year, Cale Makar, Ian Mitchell and Cameron Crotty made this a worth while event for NHL brass as they are all serious draft picks, especially Makar who is a likely first rounder.

As is customary at Neutral Zone, we did analytics on what leagues the players came from, their ages and their NCAA/CHL status.

League Breakdown:

BCHL: 11

CCHL: 9

OJHL: 8

AJHL: 7

NOJHL: 3

SJHL: 1

MJHL: 1

Birth Years:

1999: 26

1998: 13

1997: 1

Status:

NCAA Committed: 20

CHL Committed: 1

Uncommitted: 19

Size:

5’10” or Under: 8

5’11” – 6’0”: 10

6’1”-6’2”: 13

Over 6’2”: 9

Shot:

Left: 16

Right: 20

#8 Cale Makar (R, 5-11.25/180, Brooks (AJHL), Late ’98)

Makar is currently Neutral Zone’s highest rated NCAA prospect for the 2017 recruiting class and the only 5 star ’98 left on the board. He’s a highly skilled offensive defenseman with elite skating and puck handling ability. He doesn’t have ideal size for a first round NHL pick defenseman, but that goes out the window when you see what he can do with the puck. He has an explosive first step, is able to shake off forecheckers in a few strides and has a quick, elusive stick to navigate through traffic. He probably led all skaters in the game in puck possession time and led several rushes, sprung teammates for breakaways with crafty passes and showed ability to take over in the offensive zone. He has a booming slap shot which he only got off two times (by our count) but it is a rapid release and very powerful for someone of his size and stature. On the defensive front, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves because he’s small and not overly physical. However, he is tough, he steps up and takes the body and he’s tricky in his own end. He picks off passes constantly because he has great vision and anticipation ability, he has a strong and quick stick check which he used several time here to win the puck battles. At this level he always wins the race to the puck and is quick and shifty enough to make a quick play before the opponent can get to him. As a result, the amount of time he plays defending is much less than the time he is on the offensive. Here he rushed the puck at will, he made people miss skating through the neutral zone and found seams in defense that he could exploit with precision passing. What is most impressive is how he thinks the game and processes the play at full speed; he never has to slow down to make a decision. He does everything at top speed. Makar leads all AJHL defenseman in scoring with 52 points in 38 games and sits at 10th in NHL Central Scouting’s Mid-Term Rankings. There was rumor that he’s being heavily pursued by the WHL, but he has a signed letter of intent to UMass Amherst, so unless something changes that is where he’ll be next fall.   Grade: A+     College: UMass Amherst

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The Cup North American Championship (U14): Top 68

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Neutral Zone attended The Cup North American Championship tournament on January 12-15. There were 20 teams that played in the 2002 division that played over 4 days and was extremely competitive.  North York beat Syracuse in the finals 2-1 while Westchester took third.  Final standings for the weekend were (North York (7-0), Westchester (5-1), Syracuse (4-3), Sun County Panthers (4-2), Washington Little Caps (3-2), Kitchener Jr Rangers (2-2-1), North Bay Trappers (2-2-1), Quinte Red Devils (2-2), Mid Fairfield (2-2), Toronto Jr Canadiens (2-2), Buffalo Jr Sabres (2-3), Mississauga Senators (2-2), Team Illinois (1-2-1), Burlington Eagles (1-2-1), Brampton 45’s (1-3), Philadelphia Jr Flyers (1-3), Amherst Knights (1-3), Cleveland Barons (1-3), NJ Rockets (1-4), Toronto Red Wings (0-2-2).  Below are the listing of the Top Forwards, Defensemen and Goalies we saw this weekend.

Grades are for this tournament and relative to others on the list. Players did well to make this report and each profile will be updated with information/reports over time. Profiles can be viewed by clicking a player’s name.

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NAPHL Showcase U16/U18: Top 50

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Neutral Zone attended the NAPHL Showcase in Troy, MI from January 6-9, 2017. We scouted both the U16 and U18 Divisions and ranked the players A-C. As always, the rankings are based on the players performance at this particular event and not an overall indication of their ability or potential.

Sam Renlund-L-5’11/190 Omaha-00 – Sam works hard in both ends of the ice.  He has a high compete level and can slow the play down when he has the puck.  He is very good on the power play in which he makes nice passes and has the ability to score nice goals with his quick release. Grade: A

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Pope Francis at Arlington; MA HS; Top 15

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#1 Pope Francis made the trip east to play the #7 Arlington Spy Ponders at Ed Burns arena on Monday January 23, 2017. Arlington won the game 2-1 with a late rebound goal. Both goalies played well and the game was evenly played for 45 minutes. Neutral Zone had two scouts in attendance and below …

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Toronto Marlies Holiday Tournament: Top 180

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Neutral Zone’s Ontario staff met in Toronto for our Mid-Term OHL Draft rankings and sent our 10 scouts into the rinks to cover as much minor midget action as possible at the Toronto Marlies Showcase. The tournament featured some of the top talent in the province and we saw almost every team at least once, and most two or three times. We have written up the top 165 performers as well as 26 honorable mentions who showed us enough to be mentioned, but will need more viewing before we can rank them.

The rankings below are broken up into A, B and C’s. Their ranking is not an indication of how good the players are overall, rather a grading of how they played at this particular performance. Most players had multiple evaluations so we combined them and made a consensus evaluation but some players we attached several.

Michael Vukojevic #51 Mississauga Rebels (LD, 6-2/185, 2001)

Vukojevic looks and plays like a big time prospect every time we see him. He’s got great size and athleticism and plays a physical, focused defensive game. He’s arguably the best gap control defenseman in the province, uses his long reach to poke pucks off sticks and takes the body whenever an opponent tries to cut in on him (which doesn’t happen often). He is controlled, confident and zips passes flat across the ice either D to D or up ice to his forwards. He is able to get to pucks on dump ins and even if he’s not the first one in there he uses his strength and physicality to win the battle and quickly turn the puck up ice and break the puck out. He is used in every situation for the Rebels, he blocks shots and kills penalties with powerful clears and an active stick to cut down passing lanes, and he has a heavy shot and powerful presence on the power play. A major talent. College: Michigan

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Schwan Cup & Sports Authority MN High School: Top 40

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Two separate tournaments going on at the same time in Minneapolis, MN displayed 16 different teams from the top division of Minnesota High School Hockey, which is AA. Out of the 16 teams in the two tournaments, 13 were ranked in the Top 20 in the State of Minnesota.  To say there was an abundance of talent would be an understatement.  The 2 tournaments combined had 21 Current Division 1 commitments and when all said and done, the number will most likely be north of 40.

Making the top 40 in this write up was not an easy task and left out some future players that will be good additions to a Division 1 programs. Some players had good weekends and some were quiet, our guess is that you haven’t heard the last of some of the Honorable Mentions as they continue to develop.

The Schwan Cup Gold Division winner went to Edina, led behind a stout defensive core and great offensive depth. Edina proved too much for their opponents in the long haul and cruised to victory.

The Sports Authority Classic was a round robin tournament that came down to the last day with the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the state battling it out. Stillwater HS remained undefeated as they took down Elk River in the final day in a great show down.

Many of these games set the tone for what could be a great AA State Tournament in March at the Excel Energy Center. There isn’t much separation between the top 10 teams in the state and it could very well come down to who is playing the best hockey in early March.

Casey Mittelstadt (6/200, Eden Prairie HS, 98) – A special player who was leading the USHL in scoring when he left to return to Eden Prairie to avenge a State Championship loss.  He is as dynamic as they come and can change a game every time he is on the ice.  He has an elite stick in traffic and can make something out of nothing.  He is strong, fast, quick and smart which covers pretty much every category.  He is currently ranked #5 overall in North American Skater by NHL Central Scouting.  Look for him to go in the top 15 or 10 depending on how he finishes with Green Bay when he returns in March.  College: Minnesota  Grade: A+

 

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HPHL Honeybaked Showcase (U15, U16, U18): Top 75

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We had scouts at the HPHL Showcase hosted by Honeybaked December 27-29th. We saw action in all divisions U15, U16 and U18 and wrote up the top performers we saw. Obviously with the sheer size of this event we couldn’t see everyone and some players we only saw once, but we have listed the top players we evaluated below.

Antonio Stranges-L-5’9-Little Caesars/02- Antonio is a young player playing with the older players. You wouldn’t have known with the way he plays. He is very quick out of corners and he uses edges very well. Possesses quick stickhandling skills and a quick, accurate shot. He uses his teammates to create scoring opportunities and works hard at both ends of the ice. Grade: A

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Minor Midget Alliance All-Star Weekend

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A 4 team round robin format with the top 2 teams playing in the finals and 3rd and 4th playing in a consolation game. Information is based on the Alliance Minor Midget 2016 All-Star weekend.  All information is based on individual performances at this event playing against the best, and are not based on their …

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Catholic Conference/Middlesex League Challenge: Top 70

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Neutral Zone spent MLK Day 2017 at the O’Brien rink in Woburn, MA for the inaugural Middlesex League/Catholic Conference challenge. Ten teams played five games with the Catholic Conference going 3-0-2. It featured seven of Massachusetts’ top 15 teams by most rankings.

St. John’s Prep handled Woburn; Xaverian beat Reading and BC High blew out Winchester in the first three matchups. The last two games featured the best action of the night with two ties. Catholic Memorial and Arlington ended in a tie in a back and forth, fast game. In the night cap Burlington tied up defending Super Eight Champ Malden Catholic 1-1 in a gritty, hard fought battle.

In our opinion based on just these games we would rank the teams as follows:

  1. BC High-Big, heavy, skilled team that can play a number of ways.
  2. Malden Catholic-Lacked offensive creativity but made very few mistakes.
  3. Arlington-Played the fastest of any team here. Aggressive and in straight lines. Have experience.
  4. Catholic Memorial-Tough, gritty and good in all three zones. They will only get better.
  5. St. John’s Prep-Good along the blue line. Skilled but light up front.
  6. Xaverian-Not much depth and they seemed to wear down through stretches.
  7. Burlington-The toughest team perhaps here. Very well coached. Patient and opportunistic.
  8. Reading-Above average public team right now. Must find scoring from their second group.
  9. Woburn-Solid public school team but overmatched here.
  10. Winchester-Totally outclassed by a BC High team that could win it all.

Below are players we noticed throughout the day. Profiles below are linked to players’ names. Most players here are new to us at Neutral Zone. Profiles will be updated as we gain more information over time.

We placed each player in a grade category. That grade is for these games only and in no particular order. Grades are in relation to others on this list.

Thomas Kramer #27 (F, So. BC High; 2000)-Kramer is big and balanced. He played all 200 feet. He used his large frame and reach to protect pucks in all three zones. He scored a goal and went about his business. He was just OK in transition and on the rush but his game is built for success below the dots. He needs some work on his first step. We really liked his game and he has a high ceiling.  Grade: A

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