The start of a new year means the start of a new cycle of finding the best players in the country that will represent the United States internationally as part of the NTDP. There were a lot of strong potential candidates for next year's U17 team at the NAHL Showcase this year. Here's a look at a few players that in my opinion, have a chance to get invited to the NTDP Final 40 camp later this year.
Zach Werenski-D-Little Caesars Midget Major- Holy bananas. I'll stick with my statement about best young prospect I've seen since Cam Fowler. A really nice skater with off-the-charts lateral movement. He delivered a couple big hits. Made smart plays with the puck any time he had it. Not a huge offensive threat, but has a really heavy shot, and showed good sense on when to assert himself offensively. Got caught too far up the ice and let guys get behind him a couple times, but I'll chalk that up to it being early in the season, and him adjusting to a new level of play. I've yet to see some of the other big name defensemen in this age group like Noah Hanifin, Zach Osburn, or Troy Henley, but if they're in the same discussion as this kid, then this looks like a really special group.
Tory Dello-D-Chicago Mission Midget Minor-Really solid, and would have looked great if the curve hadn't been wrecked by Werenski. He's a physically dominating defender that just punishes kids along the boards.
Christian Evers-D-Omaha Lancers U16-Already a huge kid, listed at 6'4", and clearly the top D on a team with a pretty strong defense. Very good hands and feet for a player of his size. Definitely a big time prospect.
Ethan Price-F-Omaha Lancers U16- Price is listed at 5'11" 190 lbs. I don't believe that for a second, but the point stands that he's not all that big, while being pretty developed physically. There's a lot to like about his game. He skates, he hits, he's got a pretty heavy snapshot with a quick release. I just wonder how high the ceiling is. Maybe I'm way off, but I see him as more of an energy guy than a big-time scorer as he advances.
Vasili Kolias-D-Chicago Mission Midget Minor-Top pairing defenseman along with Dello. A great skater with an absolutely explosive first step. He's not very big, but plays with surprising physicality given his size.
Tyler Brown-D-Omaha Lancers U16-Not really an NTDP candidate since he has already signed with Moose Jaw in the WHL, but might be worth keeping an eye on down the road. He's been overshadowed a bit, playing on the absolutely loaded POE School defense as a bantam, and now playing on Omaha's second pairing behind Evers, but he's big, skates well, and has pretty nice hockey sense.
Chase Jungels-F-Minnesota U16(Benilde)-Size might be a bit of an issue, and he's not super flashy, but he's establishing himself as a very solid all-around hockey player.
Christian Fischer-F-Chicago Mission U16-Top forward on a pretty strong Chicago team. Struggled a bit with the fast pace of the Minnesota team, but looks like a potential power forward.
Keegan Ward-F-West Michigan Hounds U16- Tough to get a really good read on him because he's not on a very good team, but he's very big, with some decent skill.
Nick Heid-D-MNEPDL(Spring Lake Park)-Not very flashy, but a solid, big-bodied defender that skates pretty well and plays a quiet, defensive game.
Daniel Warpecha-F-Chicago Mission Midget Minor-A very skilled forward, and a nice skater.
Max Zimmer-F-Minnesota U16(Wayzata)-A late '97 that reportedly missed a good chunk of time last year due to injury. He showed some flashes at this tourney, and there could be a lot of untapped potential.
John Schuldt-Minnesota U16(Minnetonka)-Not generally regarded as one of the top kids in the state, but I thought he had a really strong tournament here.
Note: There were a few NAPHL teams that I didn't see, or didn't see enough of to make any real judgements, including a really good California Titans U16 team that included Evan Somoza, who scored a ton of goals on the weekend. I also didn't see a lot of the Fairbanks U16s, who put up some pretty respectable results against good competition, though from the little I saw, I don't think I missed anybody.