The NTDP U17 team made their debut this past weekend at the NAHL Showcase. They won their first game against Bismarck, which I missed. I was there for their next three games against Traverse City, Wenatchee, and St. Louis, which they lost by varying amounts, with the common theme that the score could have been much worse in all of them.
Maybe it's not fair to be too harsh about the U17's effort. The team had only been together for about a week and the few practices they had prior to these games focus more on basic conditioning type stuff than perfecting systems. They'll get better; hopefully a lot better. It's also perhaps not fair to compare them to last year's U17 team, which looked much better at last year's opening season tournament. Last year's team came from a very deep age group, and a number of those kids had played together the year prior, whereas nobody on the current team played together last year, so that chemistry will maybe make some more time.
Still, this year's team looked completely overmatched against the NAHL teams they played. A team with a little more skill in the offensive zone--like what they'll probably see in the USHL this year--could have put up 10 goals on them. The most disappointing part was how absolutely brutal their passing was. Again, chalk some of it up to timing being off early in the season, but I could probably count on one hand how many tape-to-tape passes I saw when the team was playing at even strength.
Anyway, it was a very inauspicious start for this team, but there's still a lot of talent and upside with this group, and hopefully after a few more practices together, they pick things up a little bit and turn into a successful group. After the jump, I'll have some thoughts on what I saw from some of the individual players.
Goalies John Gibson and Matt McNeeley: Both goalies looked pretty good. I believe Pointstreak incorrectly lists Gibson as playing against Wenatchee when it was McNeeley in goal, which means their save percentages were actually pretty close to each other. They could be a strength for the team, and they may have to be.
Ryan Haggerty: Not the most skilled kid in the group, but one of the hardest workers. He made some things happen just with his skating ability. Lines got shuffled around a lot with only 11 forwards, but he was paired with Rocco Grimaldi fairly consistently, and they were two of the most effective forwards just because they were the best skaters and there wasn't a lot of puck movement going on.
Barrett Kaib: One of the hardest hitters I've seen in a long time. Not a lot else to his game, but he'll be intimidating to play against.
Tyler Biggs: I really like the way he plays. A big guy that works pretty hard.
Robbie Russo(Notre Dame commit): Russo is a very good player and probably one of the most developed players among this group of defensemen. It will be interesting to see if he can make the jump to being a great player and really carry this group.
Michael Paliotta: I hadn't seen a lot of Paliotta prior to this, but from the little I saw, I had high hopes that he could really be a star on this team. He's a lot more raw than I expected. Still some decent potential though.
Andy Ryan(Notre Dame commit): Kind of in the same boat as Paliotta. More potential than finished product, but it will be interesting to see where he is by the end of the year.
Reid Boucher(Michigan State commit): Kind of a quiet weekend, but he's got some decent skills.
JT Miller: He was often paired with Grimaldi/Haggerty, and he made some good things happen offensively.
Adam Reid: Big forward that is still very raw.
Connor Murphy: Murphy has grown a lot in the past year, and is making a huge jump from Midget Minor hockey in Columbus, Ohio, so there's a lot of adjustments still being made.
Blake Pietila: One of the last additions to the roster. He scored a goal on Thursday with nice wrist shot, but otherwise was pretty quiet.
Zac Larrazza: Same as Reid.
Cole Bardreau: He had two big goals in the opening night win, but didn't stand out much in the games I saw.
Matt Van Voorhis: Scored a goal on Thursday that was kind of a gift. A fantastic natural skater that should really benefit from the program's weight training program.
Alexx Privitera: He's got the skills and talent to be very good, but is still kind of all over the place.
Rocco Grimaldi: Probably the best player on the team. He's small, but is just a freakish athlete. He's the fastest player out there, and works ten times harder than anyone. There were probably four or five times that he blew past someone or made a crazy stickhandling move that made the whole crowd say 'Wow'. He was by far the team's best penalty killer and isn't afraid to hit people. He had to have ended up the team's leading scorer or close to it, and he probably had a dozen other opportunities where the timing between his feet and hands was just a little off and he just missed scoring.He's going to be a very special player.
Jake McCabe: His first period on Thursday was a nightmare. He essentially picked up two assists for the other team. But from there, he recovered and played decent the rest of the weekend.
Travis Boyd(Minnesota commit): A very quiet weekend, but I still think he's got a ton of talent. A lot of Minnesota players that go to the NTDP struggle in the first half of the season and then really take off, and I could see Boyd doing the same thing.
Dan Carlson: He won't do much for long stretches and then will show a flash of brilliance. Once he learns to be a little more aggressive offensively, he could be quite good.