The '96s were the most diverse group at the Tier One AAA playoffs last weekend. Some were playing up as the youngest players in the U18 division, while others were among the oldest in the U16 division. They're still a year away from their NHL Draft year, but there were quite a few players that look like they'll be moving on to Jr. A hockey next year, and some could definitely find themselves on the NHL's radar. Here were my thoughts on some of the players in this age group. I didn't get the opportunity to see every team, so I'm sure I missed more than a few good ones, but it's worth pointing out the ones that stood out to me.
Frederik Olofsson-F-Colorado T-Birds U16(Colorado College commit)-Good size, good skater, and plays mature beyond his years on both ends of the ice.
Brandon Halverson-G-Oakland Jr. Grizzlies U18- Tall, lanky goalie. He was outstanding all weekend, making a ton of saves, including some highlight reel saves. Signed with Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL.
Brandon Carlo-D-Colorado T-Birds U16-Big defenseman that moves well for his size. Not much offensive upside, but played good D all weekend. Signed by Portland of WHL.
Michael Eyssimont-F-Colorado T-Birds U16-Leading scorer in the league. Not very big or fast, but has a really nice shot, and great natural scoring ability. He could be a real player once he fills out.
Anthony Song-F-Russell Stover U16-Smooth skating and a nice shot. Lots of talent and upside if he's able to put it all together.
Maxim Letunov-F-Dallas Stars U16-Really carries his Dallas team offensively. Tall, but not very strong yet.
Sal Filice-D-Cleveland Barons U18-Big defensive, defenseman. Looks and plays like he's older than he is. Canadian kid. Fargo Force hold USHL rights, Brampton holds his OHL rights.
Luke Bafia-D-Pittsburgh Penguins U16-Smooth skater and decent size. Plays a very calm, poised game.
Drew Holcombe-D-Thunder U16-Top defenseman on a good defensive team. Matched up well against the other team's top line all weekend. Looks bigger than he's listed too.
Drew Vogler-G-Cleveland Barons U18-Didn't have eye-popping numbers, but he made some huge saves in the game I saw him play; a win against his hometown St. Louis team. Looks like he could be another name thrown into a very deep group of goalies in his age group.
Kyler Pollitt-Milwaukee Jr. Admirals U16-He has some serious speed and was a consistent offensive threat.
Connor Wood-F-Thunder U16-Not big, but absolutely relentless. He's working and grinding every second of every shift.
Austin Kamer-F-Cleveland Barons U18-A strong kid, that isn't afraid to play in front of the net. He led his team in scoring with four goals on the weekend.
Alex Jasiek-F-St. Louis Blues U18-Small forward with great hands. Lots of offensive skill.
Grant Meyer-F-Cleveland Barons U18-Hard worker, made some nice plays. Looks like he could play in the USHL next year.
William Scherer-D-St. Louis Blues U18-Needs to add some strength, but should develop into a nice puck-moving defenseman.
Joe Zottola-F-Pittsburgh Penguins U16-Strong kid that plays like a wrecking ball.
Mickey Capek-D-Milwaukee Jr. Admirals U16-Really big defenseman that logged a lot of ice for his team. Raw, but could have a very high ceiling.
Joseph Sriprajittichai-D-LA Jr. Kings U16-Strong and smart defender. Should be very good if he can improve his foot speed a little bit.
Alex Derksen-D-Victory Honda U16-Leader of his team from the blue line. Responsible and poised.