Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
The dog days of summer (for hockey fans) are starting to come to a conclusion as hockey begins to enter rinks around the country. Specifically, the past two weeks have had some notable hockey being played by some top notch prospects and I am here to recap those happenings.
Before I start, be sure to check the previous ramblings to follow Rich Dillon’s Names You Need to Know series as he breaks down prospects from each NHL franchise.
Some saddening news out of the prospect world - Jordan Boyd, a 16-year-old Acadie-Bathhurst Titan (QMJHL) prospect collapsed on the ice yesterday and died during his first training camp. Devastating news. Prayers go out to his family and the entire Titans franchise.
Moving onto some happier news…
Any follower of prospects should know that two very big events took place last week – The U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and the National Junior Evaluation Camps featuring top prospects from each nation.
U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament
This event marks one of the first tournaments for scouts to get their initial views for the upcoming 2014 NHL Draft crop and there were certainly some worthy performances.
Canada walked away with their sixth straight gold medal at this event after blanking the USA 4-0 in the Gold Medal game. Taking a look at some performances from some 2014 NHL Draft eligibles.
Aaron Ekblad (D, CAN) – Potential top three pick, Ekblad has continued to show great development in his game and he finished the tournament as the leading scorer among defensemen with two goals and five points in as many games. Ekblad’s offensive game continues to shine which bodes well for his draft stock as he’s a player that has already mastered the art of defending.
Spencer Watson (F, CAN) – One of three very impressive members of the Kingston Frontenacs who played with Canada, Watson had arguably the best performance of any player in the tournament. Statistically, Watson notched four goals and 10 points in five games to lead the tournament but he was a factor in all situations for Canada. He’s a player with tremendous scoring instincts and his shot is already very impressive. Watson will be a top 10 prospect all season long and it’s based mainly on his elite hockey sense and ability to just get the job done.
Sam Bennett (F, CAN) – Watson’s linemate showed great chemistry throughout the tournament displaying his excellent skating and outstanding puck skills. Bennett finished with three goals and four points (5 games).
Michael Dal Colle (F, CAN) – Here’s a player who I have been intrigued with since his minor midget days and he became a favourite of mine last year in the OHL as one of the more impressive first year players. He’s got great size, good hockey instincts and competes in all three zones of the rink. He’s a strong kid and wins a ton of battles in the tough areas of the ice which was evident during the Hlinka tournament. Dal Colle tallied two goals and four points and will contend for a top 10 selection at the 2014 NHL Draft….as one of my favourites.
Brayden Point (F, CAN) – The MVP of the gold medal game, Brayden Point picked up two assists in the final game bringing his point total to four. Point is a competitor who plays to win, showing grit and determination in his game. He’s a very intelligent player who reads the ice extremely well. His upside isn’t too high but he’s the type of player who owns very good NHL likelihood based on his two-way awareness and overall compete level.
Roland McKeown (F, CAN) – Has won Gold at both the Under-18 World Championships and now Ivan Hlinka. He’s a true leader with a strong two-way game and if there’s any defenseman who will challenge Ekblad for the top dman ranking, it will be McKeown. Elite skater with elite hockey sense and his intangibles are off the charts. He was pointless in the tournament but logged huge minutes for the red and white.
Nick Schmaltz (F, USA) – Brother of Blues’ 1st round prospect Jordan, Nick Schmaltz led the tournament in goals with five (eight points) and showed why he’s a top 20 threat for the 2014 draft. He’s got the whole package – good frame, scoring instincts and advanced hockey IQ.
Jack Dougherty (D, USA) – Dougherty was a pleasant surprise on the Americans blueline and he stepped up huge when the games were on the line. He’s a gritty defender who has recently stepped away from his University of Ohio commitment to join the NTDP.
William Altelius Nylander (F, SWE) – Son of former NHL Micheal Nylander, William enters the 2014 NHL Draft discussion as a legit #1 prospect and his offensive skills are elite. He excels in puck possession as he wields a crafty stick making him very dangerous in one-on-one situations and in open space. He led Sweden in scoring four goals and six points in four games.
Anton Karlsson (F, SWE) – Karlsson nabbed all of his points (1G 3A) in a romping of Slovakia in the 7th place game but scouts said that he showed well throughout the tournament, enough to enter into the discussion as a potential 1st round prospect.
Maxim Lazarev (F, RUS) – Russia’s top scorer (3G 3A), Lazarev will join Cape Breton of the QMJHL this season hoping to rise up the draft boards. Reports out of the Hlinka tournament were that Lazarev needs to engage himself more into the play rather than sitting on the perimeter. He’s not the biggest player so it will be interesting to see how he performs on North American ice but his puck skills are fun to watch.
Jakub Vrana (F, CZE) – The offensive Vrana did not disappoint as he finished as the Czech’s top scorer and top 5 in tournament scoring with four goals and six points, carrying the offensive load for his nation. Vrana will remain a top 10 prospect for the upcoming draft as his offensive skillset is just too unique (blazer with great one-on-one ability).
Those are just a few names (of many) to take note of from the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.
National Junior Evaluation Camp
Teuvo Teravainen, Finland (F, Chicago Blackhawks) – One of my favourite prospects heading into the 2012 NHL Draft, Teuvo Teravainen is beginning to round out his game and was hands down the best prospect at the NJEC. The Finn’s slick puck skills and creativity were on display all week and is showing that he has the vision and offensive skillset to develop into an NHL star (fantasy star too ;).
TT Penalty Shot vs. Sweden
Artturi Lehkonen, Finland (F, Montreal Canadiens) – Playing alongside Teravainen was a great opportunity for the Habs’ Lehkonen and the small winger was able to capitalize scoring five goals in five games.
Olli Maatta, Finland (D, Pittsburgh Penguins) – Maatta’s development continues to take strong gains. He has really matured over the past year and is starting to show great upside as a top-four NHL defenseman. Maatta finished with four points for Finland and was a rock on the backend.
Sebastian Collberg, Sweden (F, Montreal Canadiens) – Collberg had a very good showing at the NJEC in Lake Placid but he didn’t play in the final games after injuring his knee. He seems to get injured a lot sending off red flags but this season is a huge development year for Collberg as Sweden will rely heavily on him at the 2014 WJC.
Gustav Possler, Sweden (F, Buffalo Sabres) – Teamed up with the aforementioned Collberg, Possler developed great chemistry with his linemate and was a standout for Sweden. He played top line minutes and in every situation after earning the trust of the coach. Possler is an intelligent player who can play both ends of the rink and after the Sabres selected him 130th overall in 2013, it appears that early signs indicate that they got good value.
Andre Burakovsky, Sweden (F, Washington Capitals) - Burakovsky played third line minutes but was still able to provide offense for Team Sweden. He was one of my favourite fantasy players from the 2013 draft crop so it’s nice to see him translating onto the gamesheet. Much of the OHL world is watching closely to see whether he will report to the Erie Otters. My hunch is that if the Capitals sign him soon then they will advise him to play in Erie.
Sam Reinhart, Canada (F, 2014 NHL Draft) – The youngest Reinhart, Sam spent the week competing against mostly drafted prospects and he stepped up notably. He is a potential top three selection for the upcoming draft and teams will covet his goal scoring instincts and complete game.
JT Compher, United States (F, Buffalo Sabres) – As one might expect from a player of Compher’s ilk (hard working, intelligent centre), JT had a strong showing at the NJEC. Compher plays tough minutes and is best suited as a second line pivot but he certainly creates chances through sheer determination.
Taylor Cammarata, United States (F, New York Islanders) – Cammarata came out of the gates hot scoring three points in the opening two games but fizzled out to end the week. He’s small but if he can iron out the inconsistencies in his offensive game and bring it every game then he’ll be a valuable 4th round selection.
William Butcher, United States (D, Colorado Avalanche) – If you followed my draft preview work, you would know that I mentioned Butcher as a favourite of mine for fantasy leagues. Butcher is coming off a fantastic showing at the NJEC as he did exactly what poolies want to see – put up points. He’s an offensive defenseman with great puck movement skills and that was evident throughout camp as he was a fixture on the powerplay.
Connor Carrick, United States (D, Washington Capitals) – He began to showcase his “steady Eddy” approach last season in Plymouth but now Carrick has made a name for himself as one of the American’s top defensive prospects after a strong NJEC performance. From a fantasy standpoint, Carrick’s value remains relatively low but his strong two-way play and ability to move the puck up the ice with ease makes him a true depth sleeper.
Matt Grzelcyk, United States (D, Boston Bruins) – Grzelcyk is a defenseman that every poolie should have on their radar. He’s a gifted offensive defenseman who will play a significant role on the USA’s WJC roster this season (mark my words). He has spent the past season working on his defensive game after being one of the final cuts from the team last season so expect to see him come back with a vengeance. NOW is the time to acquire this prospect.
Jon Gillies, United States (G, Calgary Flames) – Gillies was an absolute beast in the net for the Americans and his exceptional play peaked during the final game of the week when the US defeated Canada 5-1. Gillies is a massive goaltender who established himself as the starter for USA when the WJC rolls around in December.
2013 AllState All Canadians Mentorship Cup
Lastly, I travelled to Mississauga last week to take in the 2013 All State All Canadians Mentorship Cup that featured the top 1998-born hockey players in Canada. The coaches of each team were Claude Giroux and Jason Spezza, who were just two of many NHL players there all week to provide advice and guidance to these young talented hockey players. It was an extremely exciting game to watch and the final score ended up 6-5 in favour of Team Spezza.
Some names that left a lasting impression were: Michael McLeod (Toronto Marlboros), Tyler Benson (Vancouver Giants, 1st overall WHL), Tyson Jost (Everett SilverTips), Mitchell Balmas (Breton Cougars), Sam Steel (Regina Pats, 2nd overall WHL), Josh Anderson (Prince George Cougars, 3rd overall WHL), Griffin Luce (Salisbury Prep), Victor Mete (Toronto Jr. Canadiens), Adam Mascherin (Toronto Jr. Canadiens), Brandon Saigeon (Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs) and Felix Lauzon (Magog Cantonniers). The majority of these players will be available for the 2015 and 2016 NHL Entry Drafts.
Thanks for reading,