USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game: Top 25

Below is a quick report on the top players at the USHL/NHL Top Prospects game in Kearney, Nebraska on Tuesday, January 9. All did well to make this game and these are those who stood out the most. Grades are for this event only and players are listed in order of how we feel they performed. Team East won the game 4-3 on a Tyler Madden goal late in the third period. Madden was named MVP of the game for Team East and Ryan Savage was named MVP for Team West.

Tyler Madden #10 (F, R, Team East, Tri-City Storm, late 1999)-His speed, skill and smarts were on display here. Showed he can break down defenders as he can push pace on the rush, side step defenders either direction or dangle through sticks. He is not a big player but is always one step ahead. Fired six shots on net and scored two goals. On his first, he beat a defenseman to the net with his stick on the ice, redirected a puck on the cage off a hard slap pass from Steeves. The puck was stopped but Madden stayed with it and showed enough strength to put his own rebound home. Scored the game winner as he was able to turn his body, receive a pass in the crease on his backhand, spin to his forehand and shoot the puck home for the score. He played hard all night and his ability to process his options combined with his skill, speed and athletic intelligence make him very hard to defend. College: Northeastern Grade: A

Blake McLaughlin #21 (F, L, Team East, Chicago Steel, 2000)-Blake picked up and assist. He has a really slick stick. Showed he could beat defense with long handles or quick, slick touches. His hands were unmatched in a very skilled group. Played fast on the rush where he was tricky, even dragging a puck through his feet. On one play, he flipped a puck up in the neutral zone to avoid a defender and settled it quickly on his blade. Showed patience to let things develop and looked for the second wave. Really can think outside the box and has all the tools to back up his creativity. He is still quite raw and can add more weight but he looked athletic and exciting. Lots of upside. College: Minnesota Grade: A

Philippe Lapointe #20 (F, R, Team West, Lincoln Stars, 2000)-Lapointe picked up two assists in the third period. The first was a feed from below the goal line. On the second, he directed a puck from his skate to his stick blade and then made a cross crease pass to Cotter for the score. It happened quickly and he seemed to make a tough play look easy. He is not a huge player but he is heavy on the forecheck and uses his strong core to win pucks. Gets to shooting spots and moved his body well to receive passes. Has a game that will translate to the next level as he has some grit/strength with vision and a quick stick. College: Michigan Grade: A

Ben Copeland #25 (F, R, Team East, Waterloo Black Hawks, 1999)-He was around the puck a lot here. Kept his feet moving and is quick to change direction in puck pursuit. He isn’t very big nor does he have elite speed but he just made plays. Stuck his nose in things right from the start. Touches were solid and he has some wiggle to his game. He picked up a secondary assist on one goal and passed to Madden for the game winner. Ben made his team better and his effort and preparation were unmatched here. College: Colorado College Grade: A

Cole Krygier #16 (D, L, Team West, Lincoln Stars, 2000)-Cole was one of the top defenseman here. He played well and oozes potential. He is raw, long and athletic. Looked relaxed with the puck and was able and willing to carry the puck up ice. Can go end to end. His stride is long and his speed is deceptive. He should get faster as he adds more strength. He defended with his body and his stick and showed a long reach in knocking pucks off opponents sticks. We didn’t get a great sense of his shot and he has not scored a goal this year so that is a bit concerning but he’s a reliable, 200ft defenseman with great upside. He may not be as polished as some of his peers but all the tools are there. College: Wisconsin Grade: A-

Ryan Savage #14 (F, R, Team West, Fargo Force, 2000)-Savage scored the prettiest goal of the game as he took a pass from Salonen in transition, attacked the defender, threaded a puck through his feet and went in for a five-hole score. Presented well for passes and got to good spots. He is skilled and smart and doesn’t take shifts off. College: Miami (OH) Grade: A-

Ryan O’Reilly #29 (F, R, Team East, Madison Capitols, 2000)-Ryan didn’t score but showed a nice combo of size and clever puck play. His skating is not elite but he gets up and down the sheet with good straight-line speed. His stride is a bit deceptive and he is very strong on his skates. He can dangle or bully his way to the net. His power game is real and his skill with the puck is better than he gets credit for. Scoring is tough to find at every level and he sure looked like a player that can accomplish that in a diverse way. A skilled, power forward with a high ceiling. College: Denver Grade: B+

Ivan Prosvetov #31 (G, L, Team East, Youngstown Phantoms, 1999)-Our only goalie on this list, Ivan shut out Team West in his 30 or so minutes. He is big at 6’4” and active. Battled for pucks in the crease and got up and down quickly. Made one very good stop towards the end of his time but otherwise was not challenged too much. However, a shutout in a showcase event against players of this skill level deserves recognition. Grade: A-

Christian Krygier #7 (D, L, Team West, Lincoln Stars, 2000)-Christian showed a lot of the same talents as his brother. He is a bit more polished and more consistent than Cole. He is strong and threw down Blixt at one point who is 6’4” and 195 lbs. Showed great balance and strength and has impressive athleticism for his build. Can carry or pass from his end and got better as the game went on. With his size, toughness and skating ability, he will climb up NHL draft boards. College: Wisconsin Grade: B+

Sampo Ranta #5 (F, L, Team West, Sioux City Musketeers, 2000)- Ranta is the most sought-after NHL prospect in the league this year and he showed a powerful stride that allowed him to be around the puck a lot. Never got much going on the offensive end but his talents were evident. His legs, core and stride are all strong. He is fast and balanced on his skates and he can easily play through contact. He has a quick and tricky stick that he used to create and dispossess opponents. Went to tough areas and worked hard. He looked like the type of player that will wear opposing defenses down and strike as they tire in a game or weekend series. This game was not the best showcase but it was clear why NHL scouts value his ability. College: Wisconsin Grade: B+

Alexander Steeves #23 (F, L, Team East, Dubuque Fighting Saints, late 1999)-Steeves is listed at 5’11” but looked bigger. The late ‘99 showed reach and a slick stick on the rush. Doesn’t force his game and showed good puck management. Smart player who put his linemates (Copeland and Madden) in spots to succeed. Picked up an assist on Madden’s first goal as Steeves fired a puck into a smart spot where Madden could get a stick on it and would not result in transition the other way. College: Notre Dame Grade: B+

Michael Callahan #7 (D, L, Team East, Central Illinois Flying Aces, late 1999)-Callahan scored the first goal of the game on a one-time rifle top corner from the point. His shot is one of the best parts of his game. He has a long and strong frame. Uses his reach and has a good defensive stick. Went back well for pucks and got himself turned up ice quickly. He’s a fluid, balanced skater but had some small coverage issues in zone. He has solid physical tools and upside as a versatile defender. College: Providence Grade: B+

Marc Del Gaizo # 2 (D, L, Team East, Muskegon Lumberjacks, late 1999)-Marc showed a real offensive flair here. He has a quick first step, straight line speed and four-way mobility. He anticipated plays well and we liked how he took his space and created. He was all over the ice. Worked the give and go and showed good lateral mobility to create his shot from the offensive blue line. He is athletic and was consistent here. Registered an assist, four shots on goal and was a plus three. His defensive game is improving but he’s more of an aggressive, offensive-minded prospect at this point. College: UMass-Amherst Grade: B+

Curtis Hall #20 (F, R, Team East, Youngstown Phantoms, 2000)-Curtis scored a nice goal where he tracked a cross ice pass, separated, used his strength to skate through a stick check and showed off his quick hands to score. He is skilled at 6’2″ and looked fast and quick on his skates. Has a smooth side that will allow for added speed and balance as he gets to the next level. His hands have improved. He is an athletic player with a high ceiling. Pro frame with lots of ability to go with it. Grade: B+

Emilio Pettersen #22 (F, L, Team East, Muskegon Lumberjacks, 2000)-Emilio didn’t pick up any points nor did he register a shot on goal. However, he did a lot of small things that impacted the game. His ability to change direction by either stopping and starting or with quick turns allowed him to create but also pursue and defend. He showed an active stick and was effective in traffic at 5’9.” He initiated contact and got off checks first. A player who has always gotten the most of his time and space, Pettersen is showing more ability to play all 200 feet. He has diversified his game in the USHL and can play in any situations. He can help his team without scoring. College: Denver Grade: B+

Jack Randl #28 (F, L, Team West, Omaha Lancers, 2000)-Jack is strong on his skates and showed a nice ability to protect and hunt pucks. Although this was not a true all-star game, it was not the best showcase for him. He showed flashes of strong puck play, got some pucks to the net and won wall battles. His game well balanced and he can play in all situations with success. College: Michigan Grade: B

Xan Gurney #11 (D, L, Team East, Chicago Steel, 2000)-Xan got beat for Team West’s first score. His gap got away from him and he got turned around. Outside of that, he played well. His strength, sturdy defensive stick and basic puck play was on display. He is intense and has an edge to his game that will benefit him at the next level. He seems to know his limitations with the puck and doesn’t force plays he can’t make. However, his outlets were sharp. Took contact and still could move the puck. He is very interesting as he has great size at 6’3”, decent mobility and is tough to play against. Got in a fight and won. Shut down type with some offensive upside. College: Western Michigan Grade: B

Braden Costello #16 (F, L, Team east, Des Moines Buccaneers, 2000)-Braden has a simple, effective offensive game. Showed flashes below the dots where he found the puck and attacked the net. Put a couple pucks on the net and protected it well. Soft or strong hands depending on the stuation, Tough to handle in zone. Like to see more of his game in transition but he has some tools to be an effective scorer over the long haul. College: North Dakota Grade: B

Graham Lillibridge #4 (D, L, Team East, Chicago Steel, 1999)-Graham is a true puck mover. His skating is elite. He has speed, quickness, great edges and excellent four-way mobility. Can skate or pass the puck from his end. Snapped a pass cross ice to fellow Yale commit Curtis Hall for a goal. Showed vision of the whole sheet and has slick hands that he uses to distribute. Picked a puck from mid-air which showed hand-eye coordination as well as his ability to process the game at full speed. College: Yale Grade: B

Samuel Salonen #23 (F, L, Team West, Sioux City Musketeers, 2000)-Samuel made a real nice pass to Savage in the neutral zone to send him away for a score. Salonen was heading back towards his goal at the far blue and spotted Savage out of the corner of his eye and fired a quick pass on the tape. He is strong and has imposing size. Not a fast player but takes up space and is tough to defend below the dots. Tons of upside as he is still raw. Grade: B

Matej Pekar #14 (F, L, Team East, Muskegon Lumberjacks, 2000)-Matej showed excellent speed and was around the puck a lot, Forced the issue in all three zones. Has a quick release on his shot and processes his offensive options quickly. He is tough to play against as he has enough size along with his speed to play through stick checks and create turnovers. He used his body well to improve his advantages created by his speed. College: Nebraska-Omaha Grade: B-

Jack Drury #18 (F, L, Team West, Waterloo Black Hawks, 2000)-Jack did not have his best game here and this type of event probably does not play to his strengths. He is an honest player who facilitates and makes his team better. He worked hard here and showed strength and stopped on pucks. He is strong on his skates and has a versatile and dependable game. College: Harvard Grade: B-

Jaxon Nelson #27 (F, L, Team West, Sioux Falls Stampede, 2000)-At 6’4″ and 206lbs, it’s easy to see his value at the pro level. Here he used his size to get in on the forecheck and hunt pucks. He is a power forward with a heavy game, some athleticism and good stick skills. His size made him stand out here but he made enough plays to make this list. One of our highest rated 2000s, he left us wanting a bit more but this was probably not the best showcase for his talents. College: Minnesota Grade: B-

Martin Pospisil #24 (F, L, Team West, Sioux City Musketeers, late 1999)-Martin didn’t jump out at us here, He has nice size and great strength, moved well to the front of the net and looked willing to mix it up in tough areas. Has a hard shot. Took a bad penalty and missed most of the third period. Player to watch as the Slovakian has upside as a power forward with jam and grit. College: St. Lawrence Grade: B-

Wyllum Deveaux #11 (F, R, Team West, Tri-City Storm, 2000)-Wyllum got into a fight with Gurney and also served a penalty for Propisil so he missed most of the third period as well. He is tough, worked and made life difficult for opposing defenders. He is interesting as his size and approach make him a player that can play multiple roles at Harvard and beyond. Skill level looked average. Player to watch as the season moves along. He could find his scoring touch as his offensive plan is a good one. College: Harvard Grade: B-


Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images