Dominic Tiano: Windsor Spitfires- 2017 Memorial Cup Champions

Editor’s Note- Dominic Tiano is here with his thoughts on Windsor’s third Memorial Cup (CHL) championship in 9 years, plus an opinion addressing comments about the storied tournament’s format. Based in Stratford, Ontario- there aren’t many out there with a better handle on the OHL than Dom- enjoy. -KL

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2017 Memorial Cup

Photo credit: Aaron Bell/CHL Images

The Windsor Spitfires have captured 2017 Master Card Memorial Cup with a 4 – 3 victory over their Ontario Hockey League cousins, the Erie Otters. 2017 marked the 99th addition of the Memorial Cup, putting it up there with the Stanley Cup (1892) and the Grey Cup (1909) for longevity in North American team sports trophies.

It is the third consecutive Memorial Cup victory for an Ontario Hockey League franchise, just the third time a league has captured three straight under the current format which began in 1984. The Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League captured the Cup back to back in 1987 and 1988 while the Swift Current Broncos won in 1989. Only three teams participated in 1987 as the OHL decided to send just one entry.

The Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League captured the Cup in 2011 followed by the Shawinigan Cataractes – the last host team to win before the Spitfires – in 2012 and the Halifax Mooseheads in 2013. It’s the Spitfires third championship, trailing only the Oshawa Generals (5) and the Regina Pats (4) for cup victories.

The biggest complaint I receive, and I admit they come mostly from friends south of the border, is that they think the format is ridiculous and there should be no such thing as a host team. The CHL has in the past tried neutral sites, but they, for the most part, were unsuccessful. One must remember the CHL is a business and it requires revenue to be sustainable.

So, fans ask me then “why can’t one of the three championship teams host?” Well, simply put, you can’t organize an event like the Memorial Cup in a matter of days. You can’t organize hundreds of volunteers, you can’t plan the off-ice events, you can’t sell tickets in advance, the list goes on and on. I’m not going to explain what the Memorial Cup stands for, that information is out there, but many Canadians are not ready to exclude the men and women who serve in our armed forces. And before the CHL names a host city, they make sure that the team that hosts is competitive and has a chance to win.

I’m not going to let that take away from the Spitfires accomplishment.

They went a perfect 4-0 in the playoff. They defeated three league champions, including the Otters twice. The Spitfires have won 12 consecutive Memorial Cup games (tying a CHL record) going back to 2009, their first of back to back Cup victories. Heading into the final, they hadn’t trailed at any time until the second period, but those two Erie leads were short lived.

In a season when Logan Brown (Ottawa Senators – 11th overall in 2016) and Logan Stanley (Winnipeg Jets – 18th overall in 2016) missed 33 games apiece, Gabriel Vilardi (top prospect for 2017) missed 19 games, Mikhail Sergachev (Montreal Canadiens – 9th overall in 2016) missed 18 games, they remained competitive in the Western Conference that included the Otters, London Knights, Owen Sound Attack and the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds.

With all due respect to Saint John and Seattle, they didn’t have to battle through the competition Erie and Windsor did.

For the first time this season, the Spitfires had a full roster and everyone was healthy. Much was said about their 44-day layoff and how prepared they would be after the longest layoff in Memorial Cup history.

Much credit goes to head coach Rocky Thompson, who came up with a plan, brought people in from outside the organization to help train, and kept his team in top condition. Thompson is an analytical coach, and I’m not talking advanced stats. He analyzes situations and he adapts quickly, but most importantly, his players hear his message and they execute. It was never more evident then it was in the third period versus the Otters once they took the 4-3 lead. Thompson is the first coach to win a Memorial Cup before a league championship.

It all began for the Spitfires on Friday May 19th when they opened against the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Champion Saint John Sea Dogs winning 3-2. You can watch highlights here

http://ontariohockeyleague.com/video/saint-john-2-windsor-3-gm1-highlights .

On Sunday May 21st, they defeated the Western Hockey League champs Seattle Thunderbirds handily 7-1. You can watch those highlights here

http://ontariohockeyleague.com/video/windsor-7-seattle-1-gm3-highlights .

On Wednesday May 24th, they completed the trifecta of league champions, defeating the Otters 4-2 and getting a birth in the finals while the Otters and Sea Dogs had to battle for a spot in the final. Highlights of the win over the Otters can be seen here

http://ontariohockeyleague.com/video/windsor-4-erie-2-gm6-highlights .

Master Card Memorial Cup Individual award winners:

Dylan Strome won both the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as Most Valuable Player and Ed Chynoweth Trophy as leading scorer.

Michael DiPietro won the Hap Emms Memorial Trophy as the Most Outstanding Goaltender.

Anthony Cirelli won the George Parsons Trophy as the Most Sportsmanlike Player.

DiPietro was joined by teammates Sergachev and Vilardi on the all-star team. Strome was joined by teammates Taylor and Darren Raddysh.

You can catch highlights of the game here

http://mastercardmemorialcup.ca/video/erie-3-windsor-4-final-highlights

Final 1st-round mock draft and Bruins draft preview (audio)

Well, NHL Entry Draft time is upon us…I can hardly believe that I will be flying to Buffalo, N.Y. in the morning and that by this time Friday night, Bruins fans will know who the next big hopeful will be.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but rather than write an excessively long post here, I’ll take the advice of a recent blog critic who didn’t like the length of my Bruins draft strategy piece and break it down for you in about 15 minutes. He’s out of luck on the bolded names, though- sorry pal. As Kenny Loggins once crooned- I’ll meet you halfway. I’m sharing my thoughts on where the Bruins are heading into the draft, and where I think they’re going, and not just in round 1. Keep in mind this is just one person’s opinion, and lots of things can happen between now and pick No. 14 in the First Niagara Center.

Here’s the audio:

I am not going to weigh in on internet rumors surrounding Jimmy Vesey. Look, until he either signs with the Buffalo Sabres or he doesn’t and becomes an unrestricted free agent on August 15, I’m going to do my level best to stay above the fray. Because of my relationship with him and members of his family going back to his prep school days, that’s precisely *why* I’m not going to get into the middle of what is flying around. I give full credit to the Sabres for stepping up and getting his rights- that puts them in the driver’s seat, at least for the next some-odd 60 days, and Tim Murray will either convince him to forego the chance to pick his destination, or Vesey will stay the course. My thinking- and it’s just my own intuition here- is that he’s come a full four years since Nashville drafted him in Pittsburgh. What is less than two months more at this point? But if Murray and Sabres owner Terry Pegula (and don’t forget Jack Eichel) make a convincing enough pitch, there’s not much stopping him from ending the soap opera.

But, if you’re looking for me to repeat things flying around various message boards- that’s not happening.

Now, onto the mock draft:

1- Toronto- Auston Matthews, C; The Leafs get their man- Arizona native’s the wire-to-wire No. 1 overall selection and with good reason.

2- Winnipeg- Patrik Laine, LW; The first big winners of the NHL’s new lotto jackpot system cash in with this pure shooter who turns goal scoring into an art form.

3- Columbus- Jesse Puljujarvi, RW; GM Jarmo Kekalainen pounces on this Finnish horse who isn’t quite the threat his countryman is, but isn’t that far off, either.

4. Edmonton- Matt Tkachuk, LW; On a team whose GM once saw firsthand what Milan Lucic could do, the Oilers grab a high-end power forward with serious bloodlines.

5- Vancouver- Pierre-Luc Dubois, LW; The Canucks need help everywhere, so Jim Benning can’t go wrong here with as complete a two-way threat as there is in this class.

6- Calgary- Logan Brown, C; Described by my pal Reed Duthie (who calls Hamilton Bulldogs games) as an “aircraft carrier with feet”, this massive center is also highly skilled, meaning- he’s off the board in the blink of an eye.

7- Arizona- Olli Juolevi, D; Is this Finnish version of the old Val Kilmer movie ‘Real Genius’ the first defender off the board in Buffalo? Very possible.

8.- Buffalo- Jakob Chychrun, D; After making a splash with the Vesey trade, the Sabres fire more shots across the bow, picking up this big name at 8, but his hockey IQ has raised some doubts.

9- Montreal- Alex Nylander, RW; The Canadiens seek skill and scoring, so why not grab the player who might have absolutely been the most talented player in the OHL draft class, even if he doesn’t always bring it.

10- Colorado- Mikhail Sergachev, D; The Avalanche land a big talent that has scouts divided on his overall defensive awareness, but may be at the top end of the skill factor in the OHL.

11- New Jersey- Tyson Jost, LW-C; Ray Shero blinks- he can’t believe Jost is on the board here, and after landing Pavel Zacha a year ago, grabs another potential elite forward bound for North Dakota in the spirit of one Zach Parise 13 years ago.

12- Ottawa- Michael McLeod C; The Senators are betting that McLeod’s blend of size, skating and smarts propels him to stardom up the middle, even with questions about his NHL upside.

13- Carolina- Clayton Keller, C; Small but dynamic center has major league potential as an uber-dangerous playmaker.

14- Boston- Dante Fabbro, D; Knowing what the Bruins tend to value in their players and what they need at this stage, this defender is right up their alley at 14.

15- Minnesota- Luke Kunin, C; St. Louis native did a great job as a freshman on a poor team- the sky’s the limit and the Wild can’t resist.

16- Detroit- Charlie McAvoy, D; A player who could just as easily go to Boston two picks earlier, if he’s still on the board here the Wings pounce.

17- Nashville- Jake Bean, D; The Predators know Bean has a high-end skill set and grab him with outstanding value at 17 where others had him projected inside the top-10.

18- Philadelphia- Kieffer Bellows, LW; Passed up by his hometown Wild, Bellows doesn’t have much time to dwell  on it & makes sense as a fit in Philly with his deadly release and penchant for filling the net.

19- NY Islanders- Riley Tufte, RW; Big, massive, skates well, tremendous long-term promise and the Isles struck gold with Brock Nelson in Minnesota before, so why not take a big payoff project here?

20- Arizona via NYR- Julien Gauthier, RW Major concerns about hockey sense and a tepid second half after tearing it up early in the season mean that the Val d’Or standout slides, but he’s solid value here.

21- Carolina via LAK- Max Jones, LW; Speedy power forward has some nasty play that has gone over the line, but if the Hurricanes can harness that raw aggression- he could be one of those role guys you win with.

22- Winnipeg via CHI- Logan Stanley, D; When you pick Laine at 2, you can afford to take on more of a project player with your bonus 1st-rounder, and with Stanley’s size, skating and snarl- he looks like a solid bet to play even if he tops out as a mid-tier shutdown D.

23- Florida-German Rubtsov, C; The Russian forward in class is someone worth jumping on in the early 20’s and Dale Tallon does just that.

24- Anaheim-Tage Thompson, RW; Huge but raw with an upside that some in the NHL scouting community feels is too legit to quit, the UConn Husky becomes a part of the West Coast quack attack.

25- Dallas- Dennis Cholowski, D; It sure looks like the late-surging BCHL two-way defender is bound to land in the 1st round, and he looks like a good fit for the resurgent Stars under Jim Nill.

26- Washington- Pascal Laberge, C; Speedy and skilled, the Capitals need to find secondary scoring behind Ovechkin and Backstrom- this Victoriaville Tigre brings that in spades.

27- Tampa Bay- Brett Howden, C; Some say he looks a lot like his older brother, but this Howden seems to have more killer instinct and finish around the net. Stevie Y. will take it.

28- St. Louis- Lucas Johansen, D; With Kevin Shattenkirk likely to leave via trade, the Blues will look to infuse more offensive talent and potential with this latest product of the Kelowna D machine.

29- Boston via SJS- Markus Niemelainen, D; The B’s could go with a forward with their second pick like a surprise 1st-rounder in Wade Allison here, but if they add another 6-5 D who can really skate, this Finn will complement the right-shooting Brandon Carlo nicely at some point.

30- Anaheim via Toronto via PIT- Boris Katchouk, LW; Anaheim grabbed the big RW earlier, now they get the gritty, in-your-face and underrated Soo Greyhounds scorer at the end of the round after giving up Frederik Andersen to the Leafs. (Thanks to the readers who pointed out my mistake)

Alex DeBrincat drops out of the 1st round, but he won’t last long in the 2nd.

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Okay- that’s it. I’m off to Buffalo.

Reminder- if you want breaking NHL draft news, picks, analysis and hot takes (or is it “taeks?”) give me a follow on Twitter: @kluedeke29 I might be able to get some Periscope action going as well, so look for that.

Will be on TSN 690 with my Red Line Report boss, Kyle Woodlief, with host Tony Marinaro this Friday, June 24, from 11-noon (Eastern) live from First Niagara Center to talk draft, draft and nothing but draft.

Will do some deeper dives on the draft at the blog in the coming days, but this is pretty much it until the big event, and even then- will just hit the wave tops, but keep checking in- I might have some Easter Eggs and surprises for you.

Scouting Post Podcast: Dominic Tiano and Reed Duthie on the 2016 NHL Draft OHL edition Pt. 1

So, here we are…the long awaited podcast with two friends and experts on the Ontario Hockey League, Dominic Tiano of OHL Writers and Reed Duthie, play-by-play announcer (for home games) of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.

We did 2 hours of material, but breaking it into a pair of one-hour (pretty much) parts, and we’ll start this one with quick intros and then a brief discussion of the 2017 Stanley Cup final series between Pittsburgh and San Jose, recapping keys to success for the Pens and Sharks and then taking a closer look at what the Bruins might need to do to get things back on track.

After that, it’s a holistic focus on the OHL players eligible for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, starting at the very top with Matthew Tkachuk and getting to Markus Niemelainen before technical difficulties forced a tactical pause.

We’ll be back with part 2 soon so Dom can finish his thoughts on Niemelainen, and then we have an amusing point-counterpoint going on Sean Day between Reed and Dom before we continue the march down the list of OHL prospects.

So regardless of what NHL team you happen to root for, if you want a comprehensive look at the guys coming out of the OHL for this year’s draft, both podcasts are for you!

Will let you listen to this and chew on it for a bit and then will post the second hour of the OHL-centric NHL draft podcast later this weekend.

Oh, and the video was just me being a rookie and not paying attention to what I was doing…part 2 will be audio only, but you’re all stuck looking at half of my face and my shiny bald head for most of this…apologies!

 

Kyle Woodlief’s annual top-10 NHL draft eligible forwards & D out on USA Today

Every year, Red Line Report chief scout (my boss) Kyle Woodlief, puts out an article on USA Today that breaks down the top players at every position.

Here is this year’s offering of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft forwards and it shows a top-10 chock full of talent. This gets back to what I was talking about on the recent Days of Y’Orr podcast, when I was contrasting last year and how the top-3 defenders were a given to come off the board inside the top-10. This time, if Boston wants a top defenseman, they might get him by simply standing pat and waiting for their turn at 14 because there are so many intriguing forwards in an impressive group at the top.

Here’s the article and you’ll notice that Kyle mentions Tri-City Storm right wing (and Western Michigan University recruit) Wade Allison as the sleeper. He’s bang on- Allison is surging up draft lists after a dominant second half and big time USHL playoffs en route to the league championship and playoff MVP honors. Allison has size, skating, a very nice shot and the spirit/character to be a future leader. I don’t like to make comparisons- but he reminds me of Joe Pavelski in that he comes off like one of those guys who ratchets up his play in big moments. Who doesn’t want someone like that? And, a team could very well grab Allison in the 1st round when all is said and done.

It says a lot about the quality at the top of this draft class when guys like Clayton Keller, Kieffer Bellows, Julien Gauthier and Alex DeBrincat don’t even make it in the top-10 up front.

Enjoy the article-

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nhl/2016/06/14/nhl-draft-2016-forwards-auston-matthews-laine-puljujarvi-tkachuk/85875602/

Edit- here are the defensemen, too:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nhl/draft/2016/06/15/nhl-draft-2016-defensemen/85937714/

 

Red Line Report 2016 draft guide is out

June is finally here and in addition to the Pittsburgh Penguins being up 3 games to 1 in the Stanley Cup Final series against the San Jose Sharks, it means that the NHL Entry Draft is about 2 weeks away.

TSP founder’s note- Truth in lending- going to plug a product here, and for those who might not be aware, I am a member of the staff that produced it, so this is not an objective product review. As long as you’re okay with that, read on…

The 2016 draft previews and guides are out. Red Line Report’s 22nd annual draft issue arrived in mail boxes yesterday (or today if you’re further away from Lake Placid) and you can also order it on pdf at a $50 fee.

Why so expensive?

Well, for one- Red Line Report is an independent hockey scouting service founded by professionals and designed for professionals. There are no bells and whistles- no photos, statistics or any of the eye candy that you want in a classic magazine format publication. What you are paying for is hard information and scouting reports, insider notes and analysis on players that RLR scouts (all of whom have proven hockey backgrounds either as players or analysts) have all seen *live* in multiple viewings.

Back in the mid-1990s, several smart hockey men (one of whom is a D1 NCAA hockey head coach) realized that there was no existing professional journal for hockey insiders, and thus Red Line was born- with an idea of providing hard news and notes on players and prospects that might be of interest to various team executives, staffers and coaches. The original RLR did not exist in the format that it does today, but by 1997, it was becoming increasingly more of a deeper dive into NHL draft prospects than what the public typically saw from the annual Hockey News draft preview issues published every spring since 1984.

When Nashville Predators scout Kyle Woodlief left his position in 1998, he had previously done work for Red Line before his NHL scouting job and saw an opportunity to bring his vision to life. Woodlief purchased the publication and immediately set about shaping RLR into the NHL’s unofficial 31st team- running his staff like an NHL team does and building an annual amateur player ranking very similarly to the way the 30 pro hockey clubs do.

As such, RLR never, ever uses our inside knowledge to put players on our list where we think they *might* get drafted- we rank the players from top to bottom based on how we see it, and that’s why a player like Boston University defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who very well could be a top-10 selection in Buffalo and should fall no lower than 15-18 in a few weeks, is currently ranked just outside our first round. This is nothing against McAvoy, who has the makings of a good player, we’re just not convinced he’s better than the 30-odd players we have ranked ahead of him. Sometimes we’re spot on, and other times- not so much. But you can say that about 100% of the NHL teams out there and every individual who has claimed to be a draft analyst- no one has a perfect track record…that’s just not how the world works.

In the near two decades that Woodlief has owned RLR, he’s helped more than 10 of his staffers land scouting jobs with NHL teams. All 30 NHL clubs currently subscribe to Red Line’s professional season-long service along with myriad junior, NCAA and other pro clubs. When it comes to independent scouting, RLR is the recognized standard. That is not to say the other draft publications aren’t, but I’ll let them make their own cases to the marketplace. I know the people involved, and there is mutual respect there.

So, what are you getting for your $50?

For starters- the Red Line business model is simple: less is more.

Our draft guide is just 32 pages because we know that there is such a thing as paralysis by analysis. If you want more product, then there are other options out there worth exploring, but we won’t expand our guide to compete, because we believe in our approach- largely unaltered since 1999.

Inside, you get our draft list of players from 1 (Auston Matthews) to 312 (Julien Tessier). Yes, we know there are only 211 draft spots (2014 1st-rounder Conner Bleakley’s re-entry means that Phoenix gets a 2nd-round comp pick for him after acquiring his rights but not signing him by June 1), but we see a lot of players, so there is no harm in building a more robust base list, which helps teams with a perspective as they finalize their own lists.

Of those 312 listed players in RLR, we do in-depth scouting reports on the top-116. These scouting reports are typically around 120 words a pop, so you’re not going to get a lot of repetitive language to describe how crisply a player’s edging contributes to his game. We know your time is precious, so we get to the point and cover the gamut of what a player does and what we think he can be at the pro level one day. Every profile comes with an NHL projection of what kind of contribution we think he’ll make (if he makes it) and an NHL player comparison.

Also in the guide-

— 2 mock drafts in which Kyle and yours truly attempt to determine what the 2016 first round will look like. These mocks are very different from our own list because in it, we *are* using our inside info in certain spots to predict what teams will draft whom where. For example- McAvoy is a top-20 pick in both.

— A comprehensive team needs analysis to assist you with what we think each NHL club is lacking and how some of those needs might factor into their draft strategy.

— A European free agent roundup. Some players on our list have already been signed to NHL deals and we list them out. Other European vets are available, so it gives you the reader a head start should your favorite NHL team snap one up between now and the September start of training camp.

— The 2017 NHL draft top-67. This is how we see things some 400 days before next year’s draft and a lot can change. In our 2015 draft guide, here’s what our top-5 looked like:

1- Auston Matthews

2- Jakob Chychrun

3- Jesse Puljujarvi

4- Logan Brown

5- Jake Bean

One year later, all five of those guys are in the running for top-10 selections, with Matthews a cinch to be No. 1 overall and Puljujarvi very likely going 3rd. Truth in lending- we whiffed on Patrik Laine, who was 48 in June 2015- that had much more to do with a lack of work ethic and maturity last year, but he proved us all wrong and is a firm No. 2 on our 2016 draft guide list. Oh, and B’s fans- we had Dante Fabbro at 7th overall a year ago (and he’s pretty close to that ranking in June 2016), so don’t let anyone tell you he wasn’t highly regarded coming into the season- that’s bunk.

— Finally, our draft guide has its annual “special categories and awards” section, where we rank the most underrated, overrated, best and worst skaters, scorers…best character guys, toughest, and then those who we find lacking for one reason or another. When you hear people (agents?) complain about RLR, this is usually at the crux of the matter, but this is something that is as much a part of the draft guide as jelly is with peanut butter on a sandwich.

So…that’s the pitch.

$50 is a lot to spend on any publication and our product is not for everyone. But again- if you are a hard core hockey and draft enthusiast, and you want what the pros use (true story- sat next to Blues scout and HHOFer Al MacInnis on a flight to Pittsburgh and when I introduced myself as a RLR staffer, he pulled out our draft guide), then it’s a good investment. (Yes, tooting the own horn here, but it’s an honest statement- NHL guys read RLR)

You can order the guide (sans subscription) a la carte at the aforementioned price by going to http://www.redlinereport.com or by simply calling Kyle at 518-523-4289 and placing your order. If the year-long subscription interests you, there are several options you can choose from. And when you get Mr. Woodlief on the phone, tell him Kirk sent you. I won’t get anything more than a boot in the backside when the staff meets up in Buffalo for the draft, but at least he’ll know I’m working for a living.

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Up next on the blog- will do a Boston Bruins draft strategy analysis for you, whereby I will attempt to break down the team’s philosophy and what I believe they need and how that all dovetails into what they will do in Buffalo.

 

 

 

TSP 2016 NHL Mock Draft v 1.0 (non-playoff teams)

As we finalize the Stanley Cup semi-finalists, with San Jose and Nashville duking it out in Game 7 tonight on the West Coast, I’ll expand the mock to cover all 30 1st-rounders, but for now, I had done this on another forum and will post it here.

A couple of notes- mock drafts are fun, but this one obviously needs a lot of work and as we get closer to June, certain picks will come more into focus. After all, we still have the Memorial Cup to get to.

In the meantime, a Twitter user had asked me to do something like this, so thank AJ/@fantefuturist for this first of several versions of a mock draft for next month’s big event in Buffalo.

1. Toronto- Auston Matthews, C- The talk about fantastic Finn Patrik Laine being selected here is intriguing, but ultimately, Brendan Shanahan and Lou Lamoriello are all about rebuilding the Leafs franchise- and getting a potential No. 1 cornerstone center is the way they’ll go.

2. Winnipeg- Patrik Laine, LW- The Jets jumped into the top-2 from 6 and the breaks continue to go this franchise’s way. They have one of the more robust scouting staffs and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has been willing to spend a lot of money on drafting and development- they’re about to hit a homerun with a future 40-goal man who will fire up the already fanatical Winnipeg fanbase for years to come.

3. Columbus- Jesse Puljujarvi, RW- Another team to jump up and push the Edmonton Oilers out of the top-three, even if GM Jarmo Kekalainen wasn’t a Finn, they’d be taking this high-end forward with size and skill who is deadly on the PP. Speaking of the GM, some might not remember this, but he was a bit of a thorn in Edmonton’s side when he was with the Bruins for a cup of coffee during the 1989-90 season (11 games), scoring his only 2 goals of the year against Bill Ranford.

4. Edmonton- Pierre-Luc Dubois, LW- There’s talk that Peter Chiarelli will deal this pick to get some higher-end D help, as the Oilers don’t really need another early draft pick. But if they stand pat, they get a well-rounded forward with a high ceiling that might allow them to move other players up front for a good return.

5. Vancouver- Matt Tkachuk, LW- If the Oilers (or whomever sits at No. 4) takes Dubois, then Tkachuk here is about as no-brainer a pick as there is. He had an outstanding year in the OHL and is a coveted package of productive power forwards and big-name bloodlines. Can’t imagine Keith’s kid slipping out of the top-5.

6. Calgary- Jakob Chychrun, D- At one time thought of as a cinch to be taken No. 2 overall, he’s still the best defenseman in the draft and the top talent available here to the Flames. They don’t hesitate to add a potential cornerstone after falling out of the top-5.

7. Arizona- Olli Juolevi, D- The Desert Dogs address a need and a top player on the board. Juolevi’s buzz is quite high among the NHL scouting community and it makes sense that he goes here. If the Flames opt for Juolevi at 6, then Chychrun is probably the pick here.

8. Buffalo- Alex Nylander, RW- The Sabres grab another high-end winger to go with their marquee center in Jack Eichel. Nylander is a sexy name with a high ceiling, and the Sabres will swing for the fences here, even if Nylander might be one of those players who feasts on weaker competition but has trouble getting it done against better opponents and in tighter checking games.

9. Monteal- Mikhail Sergachev, D- If they don’t take Logan Brown here, the Habs will look to find a potential key D to fill a void if they eventually opt to move on from PK Subban. The Habs like their Russian D and Sergachev has the talent to be better than anyone they’ve had in recent memory.

10. Colorado- Clayton Keller, C- After a strong U-18 performance, Keller’s stock is up and he could end up being the second-best center in the entire draft class when all is said and done.

11. New Jersey- Jake Bean, D- The Devils could use help just about anywhere, but they go high-end scoring defender here…24 goals is 24 goals and he’ll kill the interviews, too.

12. Ottawa -Tyson Jost, LW- The Senators get good value from this electric forward who lit up the U-18s and looks like a future NHL fixture on the left side.

13. Carolina- Logan Brown, C- Just a hunch, but the Hurricanes are hurting for centers, and I could see them being enamored with Brown’s tremendous size and skill set. The ‘Canes are hurting for centers, and their GM (who knows the value of a 2-way guy up the middle) pounce on the Windsor product who was born in NC when his dad played there. Win-win.

14. Boston- Dante Fabbro, D- Even with Charlie McAvoy on the board and a choice between the two similar BU (with Fabbro headed there this fall) blue liners, the B’s will go with the more complete D-man in Fabbro. Assuming, that is, they hold onto this pick and don’t trade it for NHL help at the position.

Guys who could crack top-14:

Michael McLeod, C
Charlie McAvoy, D
Julien Gauthier, LW
Luke Kunin, C
Kieffer Bellows, LW

Back from Grand Forks…U-18 Championship top-10

The blog has gone quiet for some time and apologies for that.

My schedule at the Under-18 hockey championship tourney was not conducive to posting each day, but quite a bit has happened since then, so I have some catching up to do. I’ll weigh in on the two after-season press conferences in Boston in a bit, but I need to gather my thoughts, as I want to make sure that I am neither playing to the crowd or opening myself up to the various trolls who aren’t interested in a thoughtful discussion.

For the past week, I’ve been focused on the future of the NHL, watching the 2016 IIHF World Under-18s at the gorgeous Ralph Engelstad Arena, home of the 2016 NCAA champion University of North Dakota Fighting (Sioux) Hawks. It’s a true hockey cathedral and even though the tourney was not well-attended, we enjoyed being in a beautiful facility nonetheless.

So before I switch gears and post about the state of the Bruins, here are some thoughts on the top players at the U-18s. I am not listing any of the 2017-eligible players who performed admirably in Grand Forks- and there were quite a few! These are the players I had the most time for (in order) and aren’t necessarily the “top” or “sexy” names everyone else is talking about:

1. Dante Fabbro, D Canada- Legit two-way defender with some major upside at the next level. I cannot state enough how much I liked Fabbro’s performance in the four preliminary round games- he did a little bit of everything.
2. Tyson Jost, C Canada- The yin to Fabbro’s yang- exciting, dynamic, dangerous. He just might have played his way into the top-10.
3. Clayton Keller, C USA- I’ll admit it- late to the party on this kid, but he’s a player. Speedy, uber-smart and a dynamic playmaker. There was a lot of NHL buzz on the Illinois native and BU recruit coming in, but it’s warranted.
4. Markus Niemelainen, D Finland- Huge at 6-5 and a superb skater. Size and wheels alone isn’t a reason to take this Finn (the only 2016 draft eligible on a squad of seven D- all late ’98 or ’99-born guys) but his potential late-blooming offensive potential could push it over the edge. Anyone who has him ranked well out of the first-round is missing the boat on him in my view.
5. Kieffer Bellows, LW USA- The son of former NHL 500-goal, 1000-point man Brian Bellows has a ferocious shot, but when he’s playing physical and with a burr up under his saddle as he did here, he’s a force.
6. Logan Brown, C USA- The 6-foot-6 son of Ottawa 67’s coach and NHL D Jeff Brown (btw- he’s nowhere near 6-6 in height) is a heck of a prospect in terms of his pure talent and physical attributes. He doesn’t look like he’s working all that hard and then boom! He’s got a pair of nifty assists on creative plays after you didn’t think he was accomplishing much. He could go off the board much higher than expected, but right now is tracking at/around 15th overall.
7. Mikhail Sergachev, D Russia- Absolutely recognize (and love) the skill: skating, passing/puck skills are first rate. However, Sergachev didn’t assert himself or take control much in this one beyond a few impressive flashes. It may have had to do with the younger team around him, but he was good in this one, not great.
8. Jakob Chychrun, D Canada- See Sergachev. Chychrun has been so highly-rated for so long that it might be nitpicking at this point. He’s got great tools, but kept waiting for him to take charge of games and he never did. That distinction belonged to Fabbro, his defense partner.
9. Ryan Lindgren, D USA- He might be average-sized and lacking in a high-end skill set that jumps out at you, but boy- is this guy ever smart and driven! Team USA captain did nothing but make plays throughout the preliminary round, and it’s not tough to see why he has the ‘C’. He’s going to be a fine value pick in June.
10. Evan Fitzpatrick, G Canada- I didn’t want to like this guy based on some things I had seen during his QMJHL season with Sherbrooke, but man- he was dialed in. Especially against the Finns, when he had a memorable stop in the second period against Otto Somppi.

Honorable mention:
Boris Katchouk, RW Canada- Not fancy, but just plays the game in straight lines and is effective. Made an immediate splash in his 1st game (of two in the opening round) against Slovakia.

Alex Nylander, LW Sweden- Love the talent, but need more consistency, especially against the better foes.

Livio Stadler, D Switzlerland- Smallish defender is smart and gritty. Some may not see any NHL upside but as a late project pick, a team could do far worse than the Swiss captain.

Mareks Mitens, G Latvia “Mittens”- Nearly presided over an epic upset of the Swedes, and if nothing else- gave us an entire game’s worth of entertainment as the Legend of Mittens grew with each save.

Brett Howden, LW Canada- All he did was snipe goals and create opportunistic offense. His three-zone game didn’t stand out, but around the net, he was deadly.

Samuel Solensky, C Slovakia- Small but energetic and creative forward hustles and plays hard. He was not up to the task vs. Canada, so he’ll remain a mid-round project instead of raising his draft profile significantly.

Limited viewing (1 game):

Jesse Puljujarvi, LW Finland- He looked a little tired and not 100%, but his big-time potential emerged when the Finns were skating with the man advantage. He’s a load- not hard to understand why he’s considered a top-three draft prospect.

 

Off to Grand Forks for the 2016 U18s

Faithful readers, this is the part where the blog starts to segue from the 2015-16 NHL season and looks ahead to late June, when the 2016 NHL Entry Draft will be held in Buffalo.

The Bruins, as of right now and until the April 30 draft lottery, are looking at picks 14 and 19, assuming they don’t hit jackpot and move into the top-3 with their selection (1% chance of landing No. 1 and then minimally better odds at 2 and 3). The 19th pick is San Jose’s and they’re in the playoffs…good gamble and payoff by Sharks GM Doug Wilson, who picked up the right goalie in Martin Jones (Marty we hardly knew ye!) for his 2016 1st and a middling prospect in Sean Kuraly. He’d make that trade 10 out of 10 times.

The IIHF World Under-18 Championship is in Grand Forks, North Dakota this year and man- what a great time to go!

The fabulous Finns- Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi– will be there.

The 2 Jakes- Jakob Chychrun and Jake Bean– will be there (man there are a lot of hockey players named Jakob/Jacob/Jakub or Jake these days).

The Penticton fan duo of Dante Fabbro and Tyson Jost will be there.

Three OHL studs from a trio of different nations: Alex Nylander (Sweden), Mikhail Sergachev (Russia) and Mike McLeod (Canada) will be there.

And then there’s the Americans: BU recruits Clayton Keller and Kieffer Bellows…plus dual citizen Logan Brown. That’s 12 1st-round prospects right there and all off the top of my head. There are quite a few more quality prospects from 2016 who will be competing for the gold this week and next.

We’re also getting a look at late ’98 and 2017 NHL 1st-round prospect Kailer Yamamoto on Team USA. The Spokane Chiefs forward is a small, but dynamic scorer who looked pretty impressive on film at the Ivan Hlinka last August. It will be nice to get some live reads on him.

USA is trying to win a third consecutive gold medal since 2014, when Canada broke the four-year streak. Canada is going  to be one tough nut this year, though- on paper, they are stacked!

Three members of Red Line Report’s staff, headed by Kyle Woodlief, will be at the tourney to take in the action and further refine our list as we build towards our annual June draft guide. You can read Kyle’s columns at USA Today and get free content over at http://www.redlinereport.com, too. We’d love to add you as a subscriber and even if you don’t opt for the monthly service, you can always go a la carte and purchase our draft guide.

I won’t be posting in-depth game reports or anything like the stuff some of you may remember from my 2011 Bruins Draft Watch blog (my work with Red Line precludes that) but I will drop some insights here and there, so I hope you’ll keep checking in.

As we get closer to the draft, I can open the spigot more as interest in the event increases and then TSP will be in Buffalo to break all the action down.

The Bruins might be out of the playoffs, and you might not even be a Boston fan with your team still firmly in the hunt for the Stanley Cup, but you’ll still get a lot of free content here from now through the end of June. So, bookmark it. Subscribe. Tell your friends. What have you…just don’t forget to keep the Scouting Post close!

The Duthie Dish- top OHL player in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft Pt. 2

Earlier this week, the Scouting Post published Hamilton Bulldogs’ play-by-play announcer Reed Duthie’s recap on the top OHL candidates for the June NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo. You can click here to read Duthie’s thoughts on Jakob Chychrun, Matthew Tkachuk, Mikhail Sergachev and Alex DeBrincat.

Now, we’ll continue through the list of impressive names and talents in the second part of the Duthie Dish- as he provides some firsthand insights into the key players from the late ’97/98 birth year group in the OHL.

Alex Nylander, RW Mississauga Steelheads- The second of former NHL star Michael Nylander’s sons, the Steelheads winger is an exceptionally skilled player who made some positive inroads as a member of Team Sweden at the 2016 World Jr. tourney. He’s a human highlight reel who can push the pace and shows off tremendous offensive creativity. Here’s a look at what Nylander can do from earlier this season posted by DRL Productions:

GP- 33 Goals- 21 Assists- 28 Points- 49 PIM- 6

Reed Duthie: Along with his brother, undersized but tremendously talented player with a great skating stride, but he’s more of a playmaker than a shooter. He has tremendous passing hands and he can find guys through lanes and angles that you just don’t believe the puck is going to make it through there. When you watch Mississauga play, there are a couple of occasions where it seems each game that there should be a certain goal off a Nylander pass and there will be a double-clutch on the shot because the receiver of the pass can’t believe he could get it through in the situation he did. On the power play, he’s positively dynamic. Two things that burn me a little bit about Nylander are effort and defensive positioning. He’s just as likely to cover the point as he is to fly the zone and he will disappear for stretches in a game. I know his brother and his dad would do that at times, but Alex is almost to an extreme- where you wonder where Alex Nylander is and when is he going to show up? And when he does show up, the game changes entirely, but for long stretches of the game, you can be frustrated with him and unless he can sort that out I could see his draft spot falling a bit.

Olli Juolevi, D London Knights- Legitimate two-way defenseman has high-end skating and overall ability with a high potential NHL ceiling in time. He can skate and move the puck effectively and has a real cannon of a shot that he’s uncorking more and more. Juolevi needs refinement in his defensive game and in working on the little things as he adjusts to the North American game, but he could end up being the most productive defenseman to come out of the class of ’16. A look at Juolevi’s 1st OHL goal from this season posted by Hokinaittii:

GP- 28 Goals- 4  Assists- 19  Points- 23 PIM- 6

RD: He was really impressive against Hamilton and anytime I’ve watched the Knights he’s been a real standout player. When he was against Hamilton is when I got the best look at him obviously- being in the arena for those games- but watching him skate is something fun to see. He’s the kind of player that you can put on the ice in any situation. One of the knocks I’d heard on him coming into the season was that his defensive ability could be questionable- maybe not to an Erik Karlsson extent- but he’s definitely an offensive defenseman. Against the Bulldogs we saw him on the penalty kill and I honestly- maybe against your Sarnias or Kingstons you wouldn’t see him on the kill- but he didn’t look out of place whatsoever. He made some nice clears, was in position, wasn’t screening his goaltender, wasn’t trying to look for the offense every time, got it down the rink. Offensively- he’s just a standout. He might be the smoothest defenseman in the draft with the puck, and has a great shot and will find lanes at even strength to get it through to the forwards out in front of the net for good chances. I thought his compete level was right on point- he didn’t take any shifts off. I was very impressed with Juolevi.

It’s the little things- the stick position and the tendency to make himself vulnerable at times and using the wheels to get back into plays at times…those things will have to be addressed. But, I think as people start to see Alex Nylander or even Max Jones, unless there’s an improvement from them, you could see him jump over them at the draft as the season progresses if they aren’t able to address the shortcomings in their respective games.

Max Jones, LW London Knights- Talented winger with good size and pro tools as the son of former NHL forward Brad Jones. He gets lost a little bit in London’s galaxy of stars at times, and he’s struggled to generate consistent offense the way Tkachuk has in his first OHL season. Where Jones showed off potential to be a dynamic scoring forward coming out of the U.S. National Team Development Program, he might project more as a complementary kind of forward and a third-line option than a legit scorer at the next level.

GP- 33 Goals- 17 Assists- 17 Points- 34 PIM- 59

RD: When he played the Bulldogs (at the beginning of the season) he wasn’t getting a whole lot of ice. What I’ve seen of him- he’s a nice shooter and you can teach his size at 6-2, 200-plus. When he’s on his game, he can play in any situation- you can put him on the power play or penalty kill, he’s got decent defensive awareness, he’s a solid skater- I don’t have a whole lot of issues with him, except that against the Bulldogs, he just disappeared and wasn’t a factor.  He reminds me a little of Matt Fraser with better wheels.

Michael McLeod, C Mississauga Steelheads- Playmaking center with size and ability- superb skater for his size who can push the pace and is showing an improvement in his all-around game. His play away from the puck is showing signs of improvement, and while not considered a high-end pivot with elite skills, he looks like a safe pick with the potential to develop into something more.

GP- 38  Goals- 16  Assists- 28  Points- 44  PIM- 45

RD: We’ve seen a lot of Mike McLeod in Hamilton and a lot of that has to do with the fact that Mississauga has absolutely haunted the Bulldogs- Hamilton has not beaten the Steelheads yet and McLeod usually plays on that top line with (Nathan) Bastian and (Alex) Nylander and this is not some sort of Nylander making him better thing- McLeod would be just as effective if you put you and me on the wings with him. Super creative player- very quick feet. He’s got quick acceleration, but I don’t think he has top-end speed like you see with Nylander. He’s got quick feet to start the stride but he almost maxes out at a certain level, but especially at the OHL level, it’s not holding him back at all and I don’t think it will at the higher levels either. His vision is right on, and he has a great back check as well. He’s breaking up plays, he’s in the zone, he’s in that center of coverage and he’s forcing everything away from the middle of the ice- you can’t play through him and Mississauga’s got some good defensemen as well that will work along in concert with that. But, you just can’t find your way through the middle of the ice when McLeod is there- his stick is too good, and I think that is only going to benefit him at the next level because he’s not just a one-way player.

Logan Brown, C Windsor Spitfires- Huge center is the son of former NHL defenseman and current Ottawa 67’s GM/coach Jeff Brown. He’s still pretty gangly with his big body and long limbs/skating and foot speed, but there are a lot of impressive raw talents here for NHL teams to ponder. The bigger knocks on him right now are consistency and intensity, so those concerns might drop him a little further than his natural talent would normally dictate, but if the light ever comes on, he could pay off in a big way. Major boom-or-bust potential with this one.

GP- 31 Goals- 6 Assists- 29 Points- 35  PIM- 18

RD: I’m not as bullish on Brown. I think you’re looking at a guy that has a lot of skills but there are some things that have stuck out to me about him that I don’t necessarily think are going to translate at the next level. Obviously, the size is outstanding, at 6-6/215-220- you’re looking at a player that has a little bit of Jimmy Hayes to him or even Joe Thornton if you want. Doesn’t really use the size- tremendous size- and is not really effective with it. It could be that he hasn’t learned how to properly use it yet and I hope for him that’s the case. His numbers are impressive in that he’s a set-up man and anytime you can have his size down the middle, that’s a positive, but his skating stride is probably not where it needs to be, his compete level isn’t  where it needs to be, the use of his size isn’t where it needs to be, but that said- I think he has outstanding offensive skills and vision when he gets set up. I think he could be a real asset if he improves his all-around.

Adam Mascherin, C Kitchener Rangers- Short (5-9), but stout (200+ pounds) and packs a wallop with his NHL-caliber shot and refined offensive game for one so young. He uses his natural tools and high-end instincts to find seams against defenses and has raised his production to an impressive level. He’s not a complete player, but his offensive dimension is so tantalizing that he could be similar to another former undersized but dangerous Kitchener player who went a lot earlier in the draft than projected in Jeff Skinner– a top-10 selection in 2010.

GP- 34 Goals- 19 Assists- 28 Points- 47 PIM- 8

RD: Mascherin’s going to be an NHL player. That’s a guy who every time you watch the Kitchener Rangers, he makes an impact. There’s no way to watch that team and not notice him. You’re looking at a team that’s loaded up for more- they want a Memorial Cup in that building and they really want to take a big run and show London that the Knights aren’t the only ones that can compete year in and year out. So, I think you get a better look at him as the playoffs come along and where does he slot in when the games mean the most. He’s got a world of skill, but I don’t think we’ve seen him in a pressure situation yet and that’s where I’m interested in seeing him the most.

Victor Mete, D London Knights- Small defender who is a top-end skater with jets strapped to his skates. Wheels the puck out of his own end so fast that he’d have his hair on fire if he served on a ship with black sails back in the day. Has the vision, passing ability to make an impact offensively at the next level, but like most undersized players on defense, struggles with handling the bigger, stronger forwards he goes up against.

GP- 37 Goals- 4 Assists- 20 Points- 24 PIM- 12

RD: I seem to notice Mete the most on the power play. He has tremendous speed and skill with a good shot, but outside of the man advantage, I don’t notice him as much.If he’s not leading the rush, then he becomes a little bit of a liability on the ice, but then again, he could turn that around pretty quickly. I’m sure it’s something the Hunters are addressing with him and that team produces NHL players like it’s going out of style. I like Mete- he’s the kind of guy that depending on where he goes is going to be key. If he was taken in the third round, let’s say- I would be all over him, but I don’t think he’ll fall down that far. For me with Mete it’s all about the value- when he leads the rush it’s something to watch because he can absolutely fly! When you can skate away from Niki Petti at full speed, that’s impressive., but it will all depend on where Mete is drafted because of some of the other issues.

We segued a bit to talk about one Hamilton Bulldogs player in particular that might not be considered a top-end OHL prospect for the NHL draft but will probably be selected as high as the the third round or more likely in the middle rounds.

Cole Candella, D Hamilton Bulldogs- 

RD: I love the kid. What a player. The recent injury he suffered might hurt him a little because he is going to have a little time out- they’re hoping to get him back some time not too long into the new year- but on night one of the season, Justin Lemcke, captain of the Bulldogs, went down with an injury and it was Candella who stepped into the void and has done so very well. He’s a solid defenseman in every zone. His positioning is good- he can carry the puck, he can run a power play. He may not be a prototypical PP quarterback but he’s capable of it. On the penalty kill, his speed and his quickness to the puck is exciting to watch. The Bulldogs usually end up in their zone long when they’ve got the pair of (Connor) Walters and Candella on the ice. They’re just very good at getting to loose pucks and getting them out of the zone. His compete level is very good-  you never see him take a shift off. He gets into the corners and drive opponents nuts. We’ve seen him go in against Lawson Crouse and drive Crouse off the puck. It’s the kind of thing you get excited about when you watch him because you can see what there is to grow out of Candella and at 17 years old, he’s been one of the better defenders I’ve had a chance to watch night in, night out that very few people are talking about.

GP- 28 Goals- 3 Assists- 13 Points- 16 PIM- 12

 

 

2015 All-American Prospects Game notebook: NHL sons Tkachuk, McInnis lead hit parade

Had a chance to watch last night’s All-American Prospects Game played at First Niagara Center in Buffalo (broadcast on NHL Network for those like me who couldn’t be there in person) and the United States has some impressive talent coming into the draft next June 24-25 (in the same building, by the way).

The game, which began as a tradition in 2012 by USA Hockey as a model on the CHL’s highly successful Top Prospects Game played every January for the past 15 years or so, featured a teams coached by former NHLers Jeremy Roenick and Derek Plante. Plante’s blue shirts came from behind to win it late thanks to a goal from Massachusetts product Luke McInnis (son of former NHL and Bruins forward Marty McInnis) in a 6-4 contest.

Based on what I have seen so far (and it’s admittedly early) if the Bruins end up with two early picks in 2016, it’s hard to envision a better scenario for them than coming away with Sarnia Sting defenseman Jakob Chychrun and London Knights winger Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk blew the doors off of observers early last month with his showing at Team USA World Jr. National Evaluation Camp at Lake Placid, and he continued his tremendous play in the AAPG last night. He’s not the same kind of pure power forward that his dad was, but with a 6-1 frame, he’s big enough to get in there and is reportedly weighing in at around 200 pounds these days. The eldest Tkachuk son just might have better skills and offensive hockey sense than his old man, though- and that’s saying a hell of a lot. We’ll see how it goes, but expect him to leave a trail of destruction in the OHL this year. B’s will need both picks in the top-five, possibly even top-three to make this scenario work, and there is a lot of hockey to be played between now and next June.

And now- here are the notes on some (not all) players:

Team Roenick

Matthew Tkachuk, LW- He made an immediate impression with an assist on St. Louis minor hockey teammate Luke Kunin’s goal in the opening moments. Tkachuk is a good skater who has tremendous anticipation and ability to read the unfolding play in front of him. He plays has that killer instinct that all great scorers must have- he goes down into the trenches out in front of the net and finds ways to get his stick on pucks. Tkachuk takes pucks straight to the net and uses his body and skill to protect the puck and maintain possession against an aggressive defense. He might bear quite a physical resemblance to his father at the same age, but Matt is a different player, and fans should be careful not to make direct comparisons between the two at this stage of the younger Tkachuk’s development. He’s got some high-end hands and hockey sense, so he looks like the  real McCoy. He’ll be in one of the premier hockey programs in the world this season at London, a year after posting 36 goals and 96 points at the U.S. NTDP. Tkachuk scored a goal in the second period last night from his knees after taking an initial shot from inside the left faceoff circle and losing his balance. The puck squirted back out to him on the rebound and he put it in- not a highlight reel score, but a goal scorer’s tally for sure. 10 seconds later, the same line broke back into the zone and Tkachuk fed Kunin with a quick go feed at the offensive blue line for Kunin’s second goal of the night to make it 4-3.

Luke Kunin, RW- Had a fine game, scoring right off the bat with a bar-down, under-the-crossbar beauty from the right circle over Evan Sarthou’s shoulder after breaking in. He showed some terrific chemistry with friend and minor mate Tkachuk and will be a kid to watch this season at the University of Wisconsin.

Griffin Luce, D- Big defenseman is the grandson of former Buffalo Sabres great Don Luce and his dad, Scott, heads the Florida Panthers’ player development and amateur scouting staff. A dual citizen (he was born in Ontario but claims Williamsville, N.Y. as his home), at one point Luce looked like he might be evolving into a dominant blue line presence a couple of years back at Salisbury School. After a year at the NTDP, the University of Michigan recruit looks like a solid defense-first, shutdown player but does not project as much of an offensive threat at the higher levels. He’s big and physical- needs to improve his skating transitions and direction changes.

Chad Krys, D- I just really like this kid’s refined offensive game and skating. He doesn’t possess ideal size at a shade under 6-foot and has to work on his positional play overall, but when it comes to vision and feel for the flow of a contest, Krys is a legitimate threat to make something happen on every shift.

Team Plante

Max Jones, LW- Son of former NHLer Brad Jones drove the net hard on his first goal, a wicked shot and finish on a jailbreak play. Jones and Tkachuk are mates on the Knights in the OHL this season and the two of them are going to give opponents fits. With his 6-2 size, he’s still filling out, but Jones is a gritty and skilled player who can do a little bit of everything. He tied the game at four goals apiece with about 6 minutes remaining in the third period on a bad-angle snipe through the shortside post that beat Stephen Dhillon.

Luke McInnis, D- The undersized but speedy defenseman from Hingham, Mass. left Dexter Southfield to skate in the USHL with the Youngstown Phantoms this season. Like his dad, he can really skate (and as is the case with Tkachuk- he looks just like him when the two dads were on the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team together). The Boston College recruit scored the winning goal with less than 2 minutes remaining and earned MVP honors, though I think other players made better cases to take top honors. His NHL caliber wheels allow him to motor up the ice to be an offensive threat. He’s a project player who will need a lot of time to mature physically while refining his game- he was beaten pretty cleanly by Kunin on a move in the second period because he allowed the Roenick forward to close on him too fast with the puck and opened himself up to Kunin put the puck through his skates and then zip around him. He later prevented a goal in the third frame when Roenick D Sam Rossini took a shot that leaked through behind goalie Ryan Edquist, but McInnis made the poised play to secure the puck and get the whistle. These things will have to come along gradually for McInnis, but he’s a smart, industrious player with the raw tools to develop.

Kieffer Bellows, LW- Another NHL scion, he scored an empty-net goal to seal the victory, but had some great chances generated with linemate Clayton Keller. A Minnesota native from his father’s North Stars connections, the apple did not fall far from the tree, as the younger Bellows shows the same kind of wicked shot and finishing skills. A Boston University recruit, Bellows could terrorize the Hockey East in short order next year after another season in the USHL. He was that league’s rookie of the year after setting the record for most goals by a 16-year-old in 2014-15. His empty netter happened on a nice athletic play- he leaped over a sliding Chad Krys at the blueline while Team Plante was shorthanded and on a 6-on-4 disadvantage, and then while falling to the ice, shot the puck down the ice and into the open cage. Pure athletic and competitive hustle play right there.

Clayton Keller, C- Although he’s smallish, this pivot has outstanding skills and creativity. He played a good game, generating scoring chances from broken plays and using his speed and quick stick to create headaches for Team Roenick. Keller has first-round skill, but it remains to be seen if he can stay healthy and productive over the course of the year with the NTDP U18 team to remain there. He’s another good get for BU, so he and Bellows will be able to keep a good thing going when they get to Comm Ave.

J.D. Greenway, D- Jordan’s younger brother made a memorable play when he grabbed the puck at the blue line, beat a defender down low with some good footwork (10-to-2) to open up some space for himself and then finding a breaking Trent Frederic at the right circle for the quick-strike. He’s not quite as massive as his older sibling, but he has enough in the way of size and NHL-caliber measurables that he’ll be someone to watch as the season goes on.

Logan Brown, C- Former long-time NHL defenseman Jeff Brown’s son had a relatively quiet game save for his wicked one-timer goal in the second period off a William Knierim feed. The younger Brown was cut from Team Canada’s Under-18 team that won gold at the Ivan Hlinka tourney this past August, so he might leverage his dual citizenship to pursue an international track with USA Hockey- we’ll see what happens. At 6-6, he’s huge and a load to handle when he’s going to the net, but he also goes stretches where he’s a little passive and doesn’t use his tremendous physical gifts enough.

Charlie McAvoy, D- Was not really impressed with McAvoy’s play for much of the night, but he came up big when needed, skating through the zone and around the back of the net before finding a wide-open McInnis out high for the winning power play goal. Right before that, he fumbled the puck at the blue line and struggled to make the play against the fore checker. The BU freshman is extremely talented and smart, but this wasn’t really his night. It happens.