I've never been particularly overwhelmed by the '93 group at the NTDP, and watching them lose 3-2 to the same team the U17s had defeated a night earlier certainly didn't help that. Then again, you can never draw too strong a conclusion from such a small sample size. Later that weekend, Collin Olson, who stole the Thursday game for the U17s struggled in a 7-6 loss, while the U18s pounded Chicago 8-1.Overall, I would say this is far from a great U18 team, but as a credit to the program, even in a bit of a down year, they're still a pretty decent team that has done great internationally, and should once again be the favorites at the World Championships this spring.
Almost all of these guys are in their draft year, so that's a good place to start. As a reminder, NHL Central Scouting had the NTDP players ranked like this: 1. Tyler Biggs 2. JT Miller 3. Rocco Grimaldi 4. Michael Paliotta 5. Adam Reid 6. Robbie Russo 7. Blake Pietila 8. Reid Boucher 9. Dan Carlson, and a couple guys as limited viewing.
I still say Grimaldi is number one without a doubt on my list. I gave up on doubting Grimaldi for his size long ago, and would have him in the top ten, maybe even top five on my draft board. He's just the absolute fastest, most explosive player I've ever seen. He didn't score on this night, but created some great chances that I don't think any other player could have. .
I've got Tyler Biggs second among this group. He's a big, hard-working guy, and captain of the team. Throws his weight around nicely, and has some offensive skill. I don't know that he's quite a first round talent, but it's a weaker year, so he might slide in there, but definitely a very nice player to start looking at in the second round.
Similarly, JT Miller doesn't necessarily blow you away in the same way Grimaldi does, but is a very smart, crafty offensive player that makes things happen. Another solid second, maybe third round pick.
Zac Larraza and Adam Reid have always been two pretty similar players. Both are big guys that looked absolutely lost when they first joined the NTDP last year, but their coordination has started to catch up, and while they're still projects, big guys with decent skill will always get a long look. Larraza is particular has come a long way forward and would make a decent mid-round pick.
I liked Robbie Russo, as I always have, but still have the same problem I've always had with him: he's pretty good at everything, but isn't great in any particular area that is going to make him stand out and be a real difference maker at the next level. On just talent and ability, he's probably a second or third round type of guy, but his somewhat limited upside probably pushes him down a couple rounds, at least in my mind.
Michael Paliotta and Andy Ryan are both big defenseman with enough talent to get drafted somewhere this summer, but I don't think either quite has that dynamic skating ability of some of the big defensemen drafted out of the NTDP last year from that extremely strong class.
Blake Pietila is a very feisty hard worker, but his offensive upside is fairly limited, and I'm not sure he quite has the skillset to make it as a 5'11" third line forward at the NHL level. Still maybe worth a pick in the later rounds. Reid Boucher definitely benefits from playing on the top line with Grimaldi and Biggs. He's got good offensive skills, but his pro upside is pretty limited. Dan Carlson didn't see a lot of ice time, so I've got no real strong opinions on him.
As for Cedar Rapids, they've got one of the league's top scorers in Jayson Megna. He's an overage player, but when you think about older guys dominating in junior hockey, you think about guys not necessarily being the fastest, most skilled guys, but using their strength and experience to muscle in goals. Megna isn't like that at all though. I was really impressed with how explosive his skating was. I think Nebraska-Omaha picked up a steal there.
NHL Central Scouting accidentally listed Cason Hohmann as 6'2" 192 lbs., in their first list. If he really was that big, and played the way he does, he'd maybe be the top overall pick in the draft. As it is, he's listed at 5'8" 160 lbs, which makes him far less attractive as a draft candidate. Hohmann was a kid that I thought was great at age 15, but start to fade as he got older and the competition got better, but to his credit, he's still the same playmaking waterbug that he's always been. Just sensational hands and always made a solid play any time he touched the puck. He should be an excellent college player at BU.
I was a little surprised defenseman Josiah Didier didn't get any sort of mention from NHL Central Scouting. Perhaps it's because he's a rookie in the league. In any case, he's about 6'2" 200 lbs., played a lot of solid minutes, and was on CR's top powerplay unit the entire weekend. He certainly looked like a solid mid-round draft pick.
WCHA recruits Michael Parks and Sam Warning both showed some flashes on offensive skill, but for the most part, were pretty silent on the weekend.
Cedar Rapids had some other young guys that are worth keeping an eye on. Matt Hansen had a huge year in midget major last year, but was really quiet on Thursday and didn't play Friday. He's still got a pretty long ways to go before he's ready to play at Colorado College. Another '93, Tanner Pond looked like he had some pretty good potential. With another year or two in the league, he could be a very nice player.
Chicago-area D Ian Brady played in Thursday's game, against his fellow '94s. At this point, he was still a little step below the great class at the NTDP, but should develop into a solid player in his own right. And finally '95--late '95, even--Anthony DeAngelo is the youngest player in the USHL this year. He's an absolutely incredible skater for his age, so much so, that you sometimes forget how old he is when his decision-making with the puck isn't quite at the same level. It's good to see him pushed like in the USHL though. Against AAA competition, he could skate his way out of a lot of difficult situations, whereas here, he'll have to learn how to be better with the puck. It's tough to compare him against some of the other top '95s I've seen, since he's playing such a tougher level of competition, but he's certainly among the top of his age group.