I made it to the first day of the Select 15 Festival in St. Cloud on Sunday, and as usual, I’ll try to share my thoughts. It was another great day of hockey and I really enjoyed it. Standard Disclaimer: I’m only sharing my opinions based on what I saw. I’m sure I missed some very good players. I was only there one day, and it was the first day, and yada, yada, yada.
Here's the link to the Festival's mainpage.
I’ll start with a few general impressions.
Having only been the Select 17s prior to Sunday, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the level play, and it was surprisingly similar to the 17s. It was certainly a step or two slower than the older players, but unless you were paying close attention, you wouldn’t have noticed too much of a difference. I was also amazed at how big some of the kids were for only being 15 years old. There were definitely a few kids that looked like they were 15 and had a lot of growing to do, but there were just as many that were well over 6 feet tall and pretty solidly built.
There were quite a few scouts in attendance. Colorado College head coach Scott Owens was the only head coach I saw watching there(Minnesota State’s Troy Jutting was there coaching one of the teams as well). I also saw Michigan assistant Billy Powers, and an assistant from Wisconsin(I’m pretty sure it was Kevin Patrick). There were probably a lot of others that I missed as well. I didn’t check the press boxes too closely. There was also a lot of major juniors scouts there. I refrained from cursing at any of them. I saw a few NHL guys there as well, including Anaheim assistant coach Newell Brown.
In comparing the 15s to the 17s, the 15 year olds didn’t seem as anxious to run out to Coborn’s and get food. I didn’t see any kids with gigantic bags of groceries like I did at the 17s. The hair was just as bad at the 15s as it was at the 17s though.
It’s been incredibly hot in St. Cloud and I overheard a lot of kids talking about how difficult it was sleeping in a hot dorm room. Having to walk back and forth between the dorms and the rink wasn’t fun either.
Now, onto the games themselves.
Game 1 Black vs. Purple
To be honest, I spent the least amount of time watching this game, so I can’t really say a lot about it..It’s hard to see a lot on the practice rink at St. Cloud, especially when most of the play is on the opposite side of the rink. Plus, there weren’t as many players in this game that I was super-interested in seeing, especially compared to the game on the big rink that had quite a few that I wanted to see. I did overhear a USA Hockey guy after this game saying how poorly it was officiated and that the officials really ruined the game, so maybe it wouldn’t have been that great to watch anyway.
Minnesota State’s Troy Jutting was coaching the Black team. What was really strange, especially taking into account the quality of the officiating, is that I didn’t see him scream at the refs once during the game. It was like being in the Twilight Zone.
Like I said, I don’t have too many comments on players. Ray Bourque’s son, Ryan, had a goal and an assist in the game. Evan Ohngren from Little Caesar’s looked like a pretty strong power forward. He may be a name to keep an eye on. Chicago Mission defenseman Barron Smith also looked like an intriguing prospect. He’s already 6’4" tall, and could draw a lot of interest if he continues to develop.
Game 2 Green vs. Orange
This was probably the game I was most interested to see, and I was thankful that it was on the main rink. It also turned out to be the best game of the day, both in terms of competitiveness and quality. The game ended in a hard-fought 2-2 tie, with Green prevailing over Orange 2-1 in a shootout.
Green’s Nate Schmidt was one of the more highly-regarded players coming into the camp, reportedly already being offered a spot on the NTDP next year. He was a standout as an 8th grader last year(meaning 2010 recruit) for St. Cloud Cathedral High School. I had watched Schmidt last December
, but this was my first time seeing him play since he moved to defense. I guess I can understand the logic in him playing defense for Cathedral since it allows him to be on the ice for half the game, but I think that in the long run, he’ll be better suited at forward. He played way too aggressive for a defenseman. A couple times he’d try to stand up forwards in the neutral zone with a big hit, and it worked a few times, but there were also a couple instances where he missed and got beat, or had to take a penalty. There were also a couple of times that he’d try to rush the puck up the ice while his team was still shorthanded, and he’d end up out of position when he lost it and the puck went back the other way. He’s got a ton of physical talent though. He’s not the most fluid skater, but he’s very strong and can keep up with just about anybody. Once he goes to the NTDP and gets some good coaching to harness all of his ability, he should be an excellent player.
Green’s Kenny Ryan was a player that Michigan’s Rivals site identified as Michigan target earlier this month. Ryan started out the game a little slow, but by the end was probably the best player on the ice. He did score a goal in the first half of the game off kind of a goalmouth scramble where he jammed a rebound into the net. One of Ryan’s strongest assets was his stick handling ability, especially in the corners. He was amazing working with the puck in tight space, and looked extremely comfortable doing it. I was also impressed with how good of a skater he was. He actually beat a defenseman wide on one play and ended up with a great chance. He created 2 or 3 excellent offensive chances late in the game with his speed. I would not be surprised if he is the first 2010 recruit to commit to a college.
Ben Hughes is a pretty highly publicized defenseman from Shattuck-St. Mary’s, by way of Florida. He was sort of the opposite of Nate Schmidt. He didn’t take too many chances, but was dependable and didn’t make any mistakes. He’ll develop into a solid college prospects in a few years.
His Shattuck teammate, Isaac Kohls was another player that I had heard good things about. Kohls is pretty short, but is built very solidly. I wasn’t that impressed with his acceleration, but once he got going, his top speed was pretty fast. He’s excellent with the puck and should develop into a very good offensive player.
Jared Maetche was a local kid from St. Cloud Tech HS and drew the biggest applause of the day when he was credited with an assist on Green’s first goal. He was another kid that was very strong and solidly built for someone his age. He was pretty good at hitting people, and worked well in the corners and behind the net. He skated well enough for his size that I think he has a nice future as a grinder for some college team.
Last year’s goaltending leader, Michael Petchonka didn’t let in any goals on 8 shots yesterday. He wasn’t tested too much, but looked pretty good in the action he did see.
Orange had some good players, but nobody that really stood out as being "can’t miss" type prospects. Belle Tire’s Jordan Miller looked like a talented player, who could develop into a good prospect in a few years, once he adds a little more strength. Defenseman Tyler Amburgey from Texas was one guy that particularly impressed me. He’s huge for his age, but is pretty talented. He was a late round WHL draft pick by the Calgary Hitmen, so I’m not sure what his intentions are. I could see a WHL team trying to sign him though.
Game 3 Teal vs. Red
Another game on the practice that I didn’t watch a lot of. Red looked to be the much better team in the first half of the game, and then Teal came back in the second and got a little momentum with a few soft goals. It seemed like a pretty decent game.
I was very impressed with Shattuck’s Sam Alfieri. He seemed a lot bigger than the program listed. He looked like one of the most complete forwards at the camp. He did everything pretty well, and should be a top college prospect.
Anthony Hamburg, who is from Phoenix, but plays for the LA Selects is another player that caught my eye. He looked talented. He’s the younger brother of Colorado College 2008 recruit Andrew Hamburg.
Teal goalie Justin Farrell from Shattuck-St. Mary’s looked like he was the most talented goalie playing at the camp.
Game 4 Grey vs. Royal
This was another close game. Grey was probably a little better team, but Royal ended up getting a bunch of 5-on-3 powerplays towards the end of the game and they made things close.
I was interested in watching Royal defenseman Beau Schmitz play, since he was the only player at the camp who has already committed to a college. I did see him proudly wearing his Ferris State shirt after his game.
It was pretty obvious why Ferris State was willing to commit to this kid so early. He’s a great skater. He moves around the ice so fluidly that it looks effortless, and he can play the game at such a high speed. He sees the ice really well too. He made one cross-ice pass to a streaking teammate in the neutral zone that was jaw-dropping good. He was strong defensively too. Probably the only thing holding him back from being considered a superstar is that he’s only 5’9", so he’s probably not going to attract a lot of NHL attention. He may grow a little, but probably only a couple inches. I highly doubt he’ll ever be over 6’ tall. I heard someone say that since he’s such a good skater and so short, he should consider moving to forward, but I think he’s too good as a defenseman to switch. What’s also interesting is that according to the program, he will be a high school junior next year, meaning he could potentially join Ferris State in 2008 if the Bulldogs really wanted him to.
Another player I really liked off of Royal was Chicago Mission forward Joe Tullis. I was surprised that I hadn’t heard anything about this kid before yesterday because he looked like he had great skills. He was a pretty fast skater, and had an absolute rifle of a shot. I was very impressed with how he played.
Little Caesar’s Derek Bayagich was one of the kids who physically hasn’t really started to develop yet. He was one of the smaller guys out there listed at 5’6" 140 lbs., but when he got the puck in open space, he could really fly. He created some chances and scored a goal for Royal. It will be a few years before colleges think about recruiting him, but he’s got nice potential.
Duluth East’s Brent Olson also looked like a good player. He was one of the faster skaters that I saw all day at the camp. He blew around a defenseman on one rush and created a nice scoring chance.
Grey’s Andrew Yogan opened up the game by scoring in the first minute, after a Royal defenseman fell down, and Yogan finished off the breakaway with a nice move to his backhand for the goal.
Mike Crowley, from Milford, Massachusetts scored the prettiest goal of the day by stickhandling through a defenseman and then deking the goalie and putting the puck topshelf. I think it was the only play of the day that caused an impressed noise to come from the stands.
Garrett Peterson from the Chicago Chill still has some growing to do, but he impressed me as an excellent player.
Breck’s Joey Rehkamp was one of the kids that wasn’t anywhere close to being physically developed yet, but he’s extremely quick. He’ll likely be the leading scorer for Breck next season.
I was interested in seeing Brad Smith from Belle Tire play. He’s certainly got a lot of talent, but it will probably be a few more years before he attracts heavy interest from colleges.
Probably one of the biggest potential college recruits playing the game was Grey’s Mike Miller, who moved from California to play for Honeybaked last season. He looked like a kid was a lot of potential. He didn’t get an opportunity to throw any of the big checks that he’s known for, and he sort of struggled with the new rules enforcement. He had three penalties, though one was justified, since he was covering for an error made by a teammate.
Game 5 Gold vs. White
Sam Calabrese, who many considered the best player at the camp, was playing for the White team. I was very impressed with his play. Some people have speculated that he might make the move to forward eventually since he’s a little on the small side for a defenseman, and is an excellent skater. He is an incredibly offensive-minded defenseman that likes to jump into the rush whenever he can. Any time he touched the puck, he seemed to be looking for an opportunity to rush it up the ice.
I think he’d be effective as a defenseman though. He really reminded me a lot of Colorado Avalanche defenseman J-M Liles. The thing that stood out to me most about Calabrese was how quick he was. He can really make up for his lack of size by being able to skate with a forward and just taking away his space to work.
Another White defenseman, Ben Montgomery also played pretty well. He should be a pretty good college prospect in a few years.
From the Gold team, A.J. Treais of Little Caesar’s was another player that has drawn a lot of attention recently. He was the top scoring bantam in the MWEHL last season, and showed why. He showed off his speed by beating the defense down the ice to a puck that got flipped through the air and landed at around the hash marks. The goalie sort of came out halfway to play it and Treais flicked the puck over him with his backhand. One of the things that stood out the most to me was that even though he was one of the best offensive talents at the camp, he wasn’t afraid to throw his weight around and check people, and he did his job in the defensive end as well.
Gold’s Ryan Walters was the leading scorer after the first, after notching a hat trick in the first game. His first goal came off a pretty shot, while the second was a tap-in off a puck the goalie failed to cover. I missed the third goal, but overall, it was a pretty good performance. He was another kid that looked bigger than he was listed at. I was extremely impressed with the way he played. He’s rumored to be heading to St. Thomas Academy next year and should help offset the loss of Jordan Schroeder.
One of his linemates was fellow Minnesotan Zach Budish. He helped set up some of Walters chances and looked good grinding along the boards.
Anchorage’s Nolan Youngmun was another player that caught my eye. He’s was a very fast skater.
Game 6 Navy vs. Maroon
This game featured Navy defenseman Cam Fowler, who some consider to be one of the top 5 players in North America for his age group. Fowler lived up to the hype by being of the best defenseman at the camp.
He’s very tall for his age, but looks like he could add a lot more muscle onto his frame. One of the first things that stuck out to me was how fast and graceful of a skater he was. He was bigger than everyone else on the ice, but still able to basically skate through them all. In the long run, I think he’ll be more of a defensive defenseman. He had a couple rushes where he was able to skate through the other team, but once he got into the offensive zone, wasn’t able to do much.
But one of the things that really separated him from the other players was his positioning and instincts. He always seemed to be in the right place, and always knew what was going to happen before it did. On one play in the first half, a Maroon defenseman was bringing the puck out of his zone and tried making an outlet pass to a forward in the neutral zone. Before the defenseman even started passing the puck, Fowler took off, and was able to intercept the pass and take it the other way for a chance. There’s not many players that can recognize something that quickly and make a play like that.
He also added a goal on a huge blast from the point. My only concern was that he sometimes likes to carry his stick up off the ice too much. On one rush, a Maroon forward was able to pass the puck to a cutting teammate in a passing lane that would have been cut off if he had his stick down. But after that, he was better about keeping his stick down, and broke up a couple plays that way.
Dakota Eveland was a kid that I wasn’t familiar with before yesterday and he really stood out to me. He’s a kid from southern California that played for the LA Selects. He was taken in the first round of the WHL’s special American player draft this summer by Everett, and there was an Everett scout on hand watching him play, so he could possibly be headed the WHL route.
Steven Whitney from Massachusetts, and the brother of Boston College recruit Joe Whitney was one of the better forwards I saw at the camp. He’s an excellent skater and created a lot of very good offensive opportunities.
Kyle Palmieri from New Jersey is another good player. His best asset is his excellent stick-handling ability. He should develop into an excellent playmaker.
Tyler Brickler from Maroon was supposed to be a pretty good player, and he looked decent, but he’ll need some more development before he becomes a serious college prospect.
Goalie Jeff Teglia got shelled, but still looked like he was a talented goalie. He made some very athletic, acrobatic saves that I thought were pretty impressive.
So that was my day at the Select Festival. Somehow I got over 3000 words out of it. It should be interesting to see if any college commitments come out of this camp like last year when four or five players committed after the Select 15s.