US U17 Select Player Evaluations

Here were my thoughts on the individual players that played with the US Select 17 team at the Five Nations tournament, with a few notes on international players thrown in as well.

Goalies

California goalie Thatcher Demko got most of the playing time early on in the tournament. He's a big goalie that plays his angles and covers a lot of the net. Demko started strong, but had some consistency issues. Over the two games I saw, he let in three goals that he would probably like to have back. He got pulled after two periods in the Slovakia game in favor of Devin Williams, who was very impressive in the one and a third games he got. Williams has incredibly quick feet and does a great job at taking away the lower part of the net.

Defensemen

There was no doubt that Anthony DeAngelo was the most talented player on the ice, especially offensively. His agility is ten times quicker than anyone else on the ice, which basically buys him the time and space to hold onto the puck as long as he wants and wait for a play to develop. A good percentage of the goals the US didn't score, but should have came on beautiful cross ice passes from DeAngelo. That was the good. On the other side, DeAngelo wasn't especially strong defensively, and tried to take the puck end-to-end by himself too many times, often leaving himself out of position when the puck came back up the ice. He ended up being benched by the coaches for the second half of the Slovakia game, and didn't dress in the team's final game. It will be very interesting to see what his future will be with USA Hockey, because he certainly has the ability to contribute somewhere down the line, but not if he isn't interested in being a part of a team.

Michael Downing has had a very good summer--including locking down a scholarship to Michigan--which has helped turn him into one of the top defensive prospects in the US for his age group. He appears to have loads of potential with a big frame and nice skating, but still has a pretty long ways to go when it comes to decision-making and handling the puck. The pace of play here looked a little faster than what he was used to, which took him out of his comfort zone and forced him to make some bad turnovers. Not many players have things completely figured out by age 16 though, and with a little more experience, he has a chance to develop into a very nice player.

Michael Brodzinski had to have led the team in attempted shots. Playing at this level, he wasn't able to skate the puck up the ice and attack in the offensive zone the way he can in high school hockey, but he made his presence felt offensively by firing off his big shot at any and every opportunity. He finally got rewarded for it when he scored the game-winning goal against Slovakia.

Willie Raskob is a difficult prospect to peg. In April, I just barely had him making out of the final Minnesota tryouts to the national camp, and that was being a bit generous. It's not an issue of talent, because just in pure skills, he was one of the best looking defensemen out there. But he tends to get lost out on the ice defensively. He was out for probably three or four breakaways, including giving up a breakaway while his team was shorthanded, which you don't see very often.

RJ Gicewicz and Connor Clifton were two eastern defensemen. Both were very solid, dependable players that were perfect fits for the 5th/6th defensemen roles that they were asked to play. Garrett Cecere was almost the exact opposite of the DeAngelo/Raskob category. He wasn't the most talented defenseman there, but I can't think of too many mistakes he made. He stayed within himself very well and looked good.

Forwards

Adam Erne was the strongest looking forward at the tournament. The only real question I have about him right now is that he was clearly one of the strongest, most physically developed players in the tournament, but only stands at 6'0" 195 lbs. His skating is pretty good considering he's above average sized for this level. But if he stays in the 6'0" to 6'1" range, he'll be a pretty average sized player. Something similar happened with Kevin Clare a few years ago, when he went from the best in his age group heading into his U17 year, to being a non-factor by the end of his U18 year because everyone else caught up to him physically.

With DeAngelo and Erne off to the CHL. The most highly-sought after recruit at the tournament was Gabe Guertler. The staff from the Soo Greyhounds, who hold his CHL rights, along with head coaches from Michigan and Minnesota--along with others I probably missed--were there, with Guertler likely being their prime target. Guertler isn't very big, but is a very quick player that is great at controlling the puck, and has a very, very quick release on his shot. He was a bit snakebit, which kept his scoring totals much lower than they could have been, but he was incredibly impressive here. At his size, I'm not sure how much of an NHL prospect he'd be, but he'd be a huge pick-up for any NCAA team.

It is interesting what a difference line chemistry and confidence can make in short events like this. Prior to this tournament, I would have had Vinni Lettieri ranked a little higher than Dan Labosky. But Labosky got to benefit from the extra time and space of playing with two great players in Erne and Guertler, and started out looking like the much better player here. Labosky is very fast, and can move the puck well. He spent some time on the bench in the Slovakia for taking some bad penalties, but overall, I think he really helped himself here. It should be noted that part of the reason I like Lettieri more is I thought he was a much more natural goal-scorer, and he scored a pretty big goal in each game. He seemed like a player whose confidence grew as the tournament progressed, and looked much better in the Slovakia game than the Germany game.

The player I came away from this tournament most impressed with may have been California forward Andrew Oglevie. He was far from the most skilled forward, but just a perfect energy player that was always creating chaos and making things happen in the offensive zone. He ended up tied for the team lead in points with 6 assists in the tournament, most through sheer hard work and determination. Fellow Californian Ryan Siroky was also very impressive. He's a very solidly-built kid that did a nice job of throwing his weight around. Again, not the most gifted offensively, but finished with six points by just making a lot of smart, solid plays.

The two Illinois forwards Michael Turner and Daniel Vanderwiel also looked like intriguing prospects. Turner has a very good combination of size and speed. Like Downing, he wasn't a finished product, but has worlds of potential. Vanderwiel struggled at times, but was the hero of the Slovakia game, netting a hat trick by fighting his way to the front of the net and banging home tough goals.

International Players

The top German player was forward Frederik Tiffels, who was remarkably skilled, especially considering Germany isn't known for producing skilled players like that. Forward Leon Draisaitl wasn't that fast, but used his solid frame effectively to drive the net and give defenders a hard time. Goalie Hannibal Weitzmann made like 50 saves against the US. I can't recall many A+ stops in there, but obviously that was a very solid performance.

Slovakian Patrik Koys has drawn some attention as a bit of a hockey wunderkind. He's got some big time hands and scoring ability, but is pretty small and not a particularly quick skater. He was great at protecting the puck against the wall, but that could be more difficult against more mature competition that can pin him against the wall easier. He was a nice looking player, but if I had my choice of smaller forwards at the this tournament, I would have taken Guertler over him.

Juraj Siska was one of the few '96s playing in the event. He's a big kid that looked pretty talented. Speaking of big, defenseman Martin Bobos was 6'6". He'll definitely get a long look from pro teams due to his size.

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