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Taking a Look Back

Every year, especially during the Select 15 Festival, many people say "How accurately can you project the talent of a 15 year old kid?" It's an interesting question to ask, and I decided to look at one expert opinion and see just how close they were.

I went back and checked out US Hockey Report's 2002 Select 15 Festival ratings(1987 birthdates), and looked at how those players have turned out. To make things a little easier, I've decided to rank each player from 1-3 based on how they've turned out so far, with 1 being an excellent player, 2 being an average college player, and 3 being meh.

Forwards

1. Phil Kessel- This wasn't exactly rocket surgery. 1.

2. Jack Skille- Top Ten NHL Draft Pick. Won a national championship. He's getting by. 1.

3. Scott Birnstill- Played for the NTDP for a season, played half a year in the USHL and only scored 5 points. Went back east for a while, before giving up hockey last February. 3.

4. Ryan Stoa-2nd round NHL pick, and has shown the potential to be a pretty good college player. 1.

5. Tom Mannino-Pete's brother. Went to the OHL, and ended up not getting drafted. Rumors that he had a lot of talent, but attitude problems held him back. 3.

6. Daniel Collins-Also went to the OHL. Drafted in the 3rd round, 90th overall. Decent success in OHL. 1.

7. Nathan Gerbe- Too small for the NHL, but performed well as a freshmen at Boston College. 1.

8. Tim Miller-15 points as a freshmen for Michigan last year. Should be a solid college player. 2.

9. Bobby Ryan-Went to the OHL. 2nd overall pick in 2005 draft. 1.

10. Robby Dee-Committed to Maine for 2007. 2.

11. Graham Sisson-Playing in the NAHL this year and still looking for a scholarship. 3.

12. Vladimir Nikiforov- OHL player. Passed in the draft because of his size, but a pretty good OHL player. 2.

13. Travis Vermeulen-Committed to St. Lawrence for this year. 2.

14. Chad Rau-Excellent freshmen year for CC, and should get even better. 1.

15. Jimmy Fraser-Plays for Harvard. NTDP captain, and invited to WJC tryout. 1.

16. John Kemp-Sent home from NTDP as a 17 year old for discipline reasons, but no incidents since. Played well in USHL last year. Will start at Nebraska-Omaha in 2007. 2.

17. Ben Holmstrom-Played three years in the USHL, and will start at Lowell next year. 2.

18. Chris Clackson-Will play for Western Michigan next season. 2.

19. Jordan Fulton-Minnesota Mr. Hockey Finalist. Will play for UMD next year. Sixth round draft pick. 1.

20. Ryan Thang-Will start at Notre Dame next season. 2.

21. Benn Ferriero-16 goals as a freshmen for Boston College. 1.

22. Chris Murhphy-USHR called him a sleeper, and it looks like he still hasn't really woken up. Playing in the EJHL and still looking for a scholarship. 3.

23. Matt Ambroz-Had a decent year in the USHL last season. Should get a scholarship this year. 2.

24. Jon Ammerman-Moved to defense and committed to St. Cloud for this season. 2.

25. Mike Testwuide-Starting at Colorado College this year. 2.

26. Jason Lawrence-Played for BU last season. 22 points as a freshmen. 2.

27. Joe Brock-Recently committed to Holy Cross. 2.

28. Steve Silva- Committed to Northeastern for 2007. 2.

29. Tommy Schmicker-Playing lacrosse at Cornell. 3.

30. Zach Bearson- Starting at Wisconsin this year. 7th round NHL draft pick. 2.

31. Mike Fenkell-Playing roller hockey at Michigan State. 3.

32. Justin Abdelkader-2nd round NHL draft pick. Good freshmen year at Michigan State. 1.

33. Pat Schafer-Committed to Ohio State for 2007. 2.

34. Luke Lynes-Went to OHL. 4th round NHL draft pick. Pretty good future as a pro. 1.

35. Jonathan Maniff-Committed to Lowell for 2006. 2.

36. Anthony McIntyre-Playing in NAHL and still looking for a scholarship. 3.

37. Phil DeSimone- Led his USHL team in scoring. Going to UNH. 1.

38. Hunter Bishop-Committed to North Dakota. 2.

39. Bryan Haczyk-Playing in USHL and still looking for a scholarship. 3.

40. Michael Guzzo-Couldn't find a lot. 3.

41. Brett Bandazian-Playing in USHL, stil looking for a scholarship. 3.

42. David Meckler-Played for Yale last year, then decided to move to the OHL this summer. 2.

43. Zac MacVoy-Played for Michigan last year, but then moved back to the USHL. 2.

44. Ryan Jones-Not the Miami guy. He did well in Pennsylvania HS hockey, but I can't find anything after that. 3?

45. Jacob Cepis-Committed to Bowling Green for next year. 2.

46. Tyler Weigel-Played for Madison Caps Midget Major. Can't find much after that. 3.

47. Asher Hirshberg-Drafted in USHL draft last summer. Still looking for a scholarship. 3.

48. Chris DeBaere- Playing D3 Hockey for Williams. 3.

49. Ben Ketchum- Playing Prep hockey. Should get a scholarship this year. 2.

50. Chris Cahill-Committed to Yale. 2.

Defenseman

1. Steve Spade- Ummmmm. Went to the OHL and was ok. Never drafted. 3.

2. Jack Johnson- Is Jack Johnson. 1.

3. Kyle Lawson-7th round pick due to size. Should be an excellent college defenseman for Notre Dame. 1.

4. Brian Lee-Top ten NHL pick. Excellent freshmen year for North Dakota. 1.

5. Mark Mitera-First round NHL pick. Good freshmen season for Michigan. 1.

6. Taylor Chorney-2nd round NHL draft pick. Good freshmen for North Dakota. 1.

7. Brandon Gentile-Injured for his freshmen season at Michigan State, but should be a pretty good college player. 2.

8. Zach Jones-Great as a freshmen for UND. Should make a lot of money as an NHL free agent some day. 1.

9. Ryan Turek-Moved to forward last season Will be a freshmen at Michigan State this year. 1.

10. Chris Gravelding-Went to the OHL. Didn't play last year. 3.

11. Jeremy Dehner-Going to Lowell. Very good USHL player. 2.

12. David Inman-Played for Yale last year. 2.

13. Michael Phillippi-Committed to St. Cloud for 2007. 2.

14. Mike Kondratek-Played high school hockey in Michigan. 3.

15. Colin Young-Committed to Dartmouth for this year. 2.

16. Carl Babich-Playing D3 hockey at Concordia. 3.

17. Tim Kunes-Played well as a freshmen for Boston College. 5th round NHL Draft Pick. 2.

18. Jonathan Fox- I can't find much. It looks like he had some injury problems, which could have sidetracked his career. 3.

19. Chris Babich-Also playing at Concordia. 3.

20. Adam Snead-Playing in NAHL and still looking for a scholarship. 3.

21. Erik Felde-Failed to qualify to get into Anchorage. Now in WHL. 2.

22. Sean Coughlin-Played for Cushing Prep, could get a scholarship this year. 2.

23. Max Mobley- Playing in NAHL, still looking for a scholarship. 2.

24. Cody Wild-Playing for Providence. 2.

25. Chris Huxley-Committed to Harvard for 2007. 2.

26. Jonathan Kearns- Committed to Army for next year. 2.

27. Sam Zabkowicz-Committed to St. Cloud for 2007. 2.

28. Tim Filangieri-Played for Boston College last year. 2.

29. Hunter Thunell-Committed to Brown for next year. 2.

30. Pierre Lamoureux-Plays in WHL. 2.

31. Anthony Galante-Not finding much. 3.

32. Ross James-Playing in EJHL, still looking for a scholarship. 2.

33. Jason Fredricks-Played for Colgate last season. 2.

34. Tim Geverd-Played for Vermont last season. 2.

35. Dallas Bossort-Playing D3 hockey for Wesleyan. 3

Goalies

1. Bobby Jarosz-Committed to Michigan State for next year. 2.

2. Billy Blase-Committed to Yale. 2.

3. Shane Connelly-Played for Wisconsin last year. 2.

4. Aaron Rock-Played in OHL for a few games, then went back to USHL. 3.

5. Shawn Hunwick-Played in NAHL, still looking for a scholarship. 3.

6. Brennan Poderzay-Played in NAHL, still looking for a scholarship. 3.

7. Chris Drobnicki-Playing club hockey for Virginia Military Institute. 3.

8. Jeff Frazee-Second round draft pick. Played for Minnesota last year. 1.

9. Peter Cox-Not finding anything. 3.

10. Justin Wakefield- Played in EJHL, looking for a scholarship. 3.

Notes:

The all-tournament team had Phil Kessel, Jack Skille, and Nathan Gerbe at forward, Jack Johnson and Kyle Lawson on defense, and Bobby Jarosz in goal.

There was debate at the time between who was the best defenseman there between Jack Johnson and Steve Spade. There's not much debate about that anymore.

This was a pretty talented age group for the US. This group won the U18 championships two years later. This winter will be the big test when they play in the World Junior Championships.

So how does the conventional wisdom hold up?


Now the interesting part. There's a couple pretty commonly accepted theories out there, and using this case study, I'll look at how well they hold up.

1. The top players usually turn into good college players.

For the most part, that theory holds up pretty well. There's a few exceptions of players that didn't work out well, and they tend to stick out more in the minds of naysayers, but for the most part, the top players at the camp turned into excellent college players. The majority of the top 10 at both forward and defense went on to be very good players.

It's also interesting that there weren't many players that were ranked lower here, but developed into great players. The players that weren't in the top ten that I gave 1's were pretty borderline. Although it's important to keep in mind that I'm looking at such a tiny sample, and it doesn't take into account a lot of late-bloomers.

As for the trend of players committing to college super early, I think it will continue much like it is now. It's a pretty safe bet for the top players, but we're talking about such a small percentage of players that I don't think you'll see more than a handful of players that commit years in advance.

2. Players have to go to Canada if they want to make the NHL.

That's certainly not the case for this year. Some of the biggest busts from this group went the OHL route. Steve Spade, Tom Mannino, Chris Gravelding, and Vladimir Nikiforov all didn't live up to their billing.
Other than Scott Birnstill, there weren't a lot of misses from guys that stayed with the college route.

3. Goalies take longer to develop, and are tougher to project.

That looks pretty accurate here. Bobby Jarosz was the top goalie there, and he just recently committed to Michigan State, and he'll likely be a career back-up behind Jeff Lerg and Jordan Tibbett.

The best of this group was Jeff Frazee who was the goalie for the U18 championship, and will probably be the goalie for the U20's this winter. After that, there probably isn't another starting goalie in here. Shane Connelly probably could start at a lot of places, but he'll have a tough time earning a lot of playing time at Wisconsin. Aaron Rock probably would have been a good college goalie, but he threw away his eligibility for 12 OHL games. At least he has his own Wikipedia entry.

4. The Select 15 Festival is the earliest you can start looking at college prospects.

Looking at the USHR report for the Select 14 Festival('88 birthdates), that seems to be the case. The star player at the Festival was Blake Geoffrion, who will be playing for Wisconsin next year, and is an excellent player, but not really a surefire superstar.

Another superstar at the Festival was Cleveland's Carter Camper. Camper is committed to Miami for 2007, but isn't nearly as highly rated as he once was. Chad Morin was the top defenseman at the Festival, but slowly drifted off the radar and ended up committing to Harvard without much fanfare.

Chris Summers was the only player mentioned as a top player there that went on to become a first round draft pick. Geoffion and MSU's Mike Ratchuk were also listed and went on to become second round draft picks. But for the most part, there's a lot of players on that list that I haven't heard of. Of course, it needs to be noted that Minnesota doesn't send players to the Select 14s, and the '88s were a banner class for Minnesota, so Erik Johnson, Peter Mueller, and Kyle Okposo, who all went in the top 10 of the draft this summer, weren't there.