This is a bit of a milestone year for players born in 1997. It's the year where the NTDP selects their best players from around the country for next year's U17 team. It's also the year they will be selected in the USHL Futures Draft, and players outside of WHL territory will be selected in either the OHL or QMJHL drafts. All that meant players from the '97 birthyear were pretty heavily scouted last weekend at the Tier I AAA League playoffs last weekend. Here is my take on what I saw. I wasn't able to see every team, so there's likely a couple good players missing, but I feel like this is a pretty good representation of what was out there.
Matthew Tkachuk-F-St. Louis U16(Notre Dame commit)-He was phenomenal all weekend; easily the best player in the midget minor division. It seemed like every time he touched the puck, he was creating a scoring chance. The way he sees the ice and his hockey sense is incredible. He's not very big, but uses what little size he has effectively, and should continue to fill out. He seems a lock for the NTDP or a first round OHL pick, depending on what he wants to do.
Dennis Yan-F-Belle Tire U18- Easily the most hyped player coming into the tournament, and for good reason. It doesn't take much to see that the talent is there. He's a remarkably graceful and powerful skater for a player of his age. That said, I thought he really floated through a lot of the tournament--always the last player back into his own zone, and and always the first to leave. It is worth noting how effective he was against older competition--five goals, most in MM division--but he's got a long ways to go to become a complete player. He's reportedly going to play for the NTDP, and it would be a huge get for USA Hockey to have a player that talented choose to play for the US.
Keoni Teixeira-D-LA Jr. Kings U16-At 6-0 195 lbs., he's got a really thick build and is quite strong, but is still a really smooth skater. Easily the top defenseman in the midget minor division. Already signed to Portland of the WHL.
Robby Jackson-F-LA Jr. Kings U16-Not very big, but a smooth skater, with really good hands. Probably not a lot of pro upside, but he's going to put up points where ever he goes. Tri-City of the WHL drafted him and has made a pretty big push to sign him.
Jake Coleman-F-Pittsburgh U16-A smaller guy that plays with a low center of gravity and is tough to knock off the puck. Lots of speed and scoring ability.
Luke Kunin-F-St. Louis Blues U16-Linemate of Tkachuk and benficiary of a lot of great passes. He's not very big, but a good skater and can put the puck in the net.
Kristofer Carlson-G-Washington Little Caps U16-There's some buzz about Carlson getting some looks from the NTDP as a goalie. He didn't have his best game when I saw him play, but again, the talent is evident. He's 6-1 and gets into his butterfly position extremely quickly, and has really strong legs that allows him to move laterally really well. It seems like there's a lot of potential there.
Ty Comrie-F-LA Jr. Kings U16-So tall and skinny that he almost looks a little awkward on the ice, but has deceptively good hands and control of the puck, and a pretty nice shot. Lot of potential once he fills out and gets a little faster. Like his older brother Eric, I don't believe he has any American citizenship, so no chance at an NTDP invite.
Caleb Jones-D-Dallas Stars U16-Not as big, or as talented as his brother was at the same age, but still a very nice player in his own right.
Aaron O'Neill-F-TPH Thunder U16-Really nice skater, but his hands haven't quite caught up to his feet yet.
Jacob Henderson-F-St. Louis Blues U16-Played on St. Louis' top line with Tkachuk and Kunin. Huge kid for his age. Skating was a little rough, but he has decent hands for his size, and can play a physical game.
Josh Biasillo-F-Buffalo Jr. Sabres U16-Top line player on an average Buffalo team. Skates hard and isn't afraid to fight along the boards. He's not huge, but plays much bigger than his size.
Alex DeBrincat-F-Victory Honda U16-Really tiny, but an effective waterbug-type scorer.
Matt Doran-D-Milwaukee Jr. Admirals U16-Mean, physical defensive defenseman. Punishing hitter along the boards.
Evan Weinger-F-LA Jr. Kings U16-Not a huge scorer but a hard worker and difficult to play against.
Ben Baker-F-LA Jr. Kings U16-Played pretty solid, reliable defense all weekend.
Daniel LaPointe-F-Rocky Mountain RoughRiders U16-Not flashy, but moves his feet really well and is very difficult to get around.
Jason O'Neill-F-Washington Little Caps U16-Good hands and move the puck quickly.
Michael Montambault-F-Victory Honda U16-Raw, but has a lot of size.
Casey Fitzjerrells-F-Madison Caps U18- Tall, skinny kid that was a pretty fast skater.