Last weekend, I hit two different games, featuring four very talented teams with a lot of NHL prospects on each roster. Friday night, I watched Denver defeat Minnesota Duluth 3-0 in Duluth. On Saturday, it was Mariucci Arena to see Minnesota State pull off a late comeback to defeat Minnesota.
Here were a few notes I had on some of the pro prospects for each team.
Evan Cowley(Florida Panthers) is still splitting time with Tanner Jaillet, and likely will all season. He got the start on Friday night and posted a 27-save shutout. Minnesota Duluth's effort was so poor however, that most of the shots he faced came from the perimeter. Of the 27 saves, there were maybe two or three that I couldn't have made. That's not a knock on Cowley, there just wasn't a lot to judge him off of.
I already discussed Denver's top prospect, Danton Heinen(Boston Bruins), in depth here. Junior defenseman Will Butcher(Colorado Avalanche) is currently leading the Pioneers in scoring. Butcher is a smaller puck-moving defenseman, and he's logging a lot of minutes for the Pioneers. Butcher is a good handler of the puck, and reads plays at a high level. His size can be a bit of an issue though as he sometimes struggles against a strong forecheck. It's tough to tell if he quite has the quickness to make up for his size at the next level.
I was more impressed with senior forward Quentin Shore(Ottawa Senators) than I have been in past viewings. Shore isn't a flashy, exciting player, but he has developed into a smart, dependable centerman. Ottawa will have a decision to make if they want to sign him this summer. He'll likely be a minor league organizational depth guy, but could be decent in that role.
Troy Terry(Anaheim Ducks) is off to a solid start to his college career, with a respectable four points through ten games. He's seeing some power play time where he can take advantage of his solid stick skills--he notched two assists on the power play on Friday. It might take a while to adjust to the speed of the college game, but with some experience, he'll be a big scorer for the Pioneers.
Finally, Trevor Moore(Free Agent) is an interesting player. Moore was the NCHC's Forward of the Year last year with 44 points in 39 games. I made the argument last summer that that was worthy of getting him drafted, though he eventually went unpicked. He's off to a slower start this year, thanks to just one goal in 35 shots on goal, though he still has six assists. He had a quieter game on Friday night, but still managed to end up on the scoresheet with an assist. Size is always going to be an issue for him, but someone will at least give him an opportunity due to the offensive numbers that he puts up.
For the Bulldogs, it was a very tough night all around, so there's not a lot of positives to point out. I mentioned the struggles of UMD's Dominic Toninato(Toronto Maple Leafs) in my recap on Friday night:
Tonight's performance by UMD was bad enough that it may be worth it to throw it out altogether as an outlier. But if I were to try to diagnose why UMD has had such a disappointing start to this season, I would start with the struggles of junior forward Dom Toninato. Toninato has 4-0-4 in 10 games so far this year, and is a -8. When UMD was at their best last season, Toninato gave the Bulldogs a legitimate top line center. Tonight, he was just a guy out there. Like the rest of UMD's line-up, Toninato just wasn't using his size to get into the tough areas of the ice and make plays. There's decent depth to the UMD line-up, but without a legitimate top line, they're going to be a team that struggles to score goals. He's far from the only problem--especially tonight when you'd be hard-pressed to find a Bulldog that played well--but that's at least one thing that stands out to me.
Senior captain Andy Welinski(Anaheim Ducks) also had a rough game. Part of the problem with Welinski is that it almost looks like he's trying to do too much. He opted to come back for his senior season rather than signing a pro contract, and for the past two years, he's really been trying to add facets to his game by becoming a more complete player, but sometimes he's more effective when he tries to keep things simple. But again, that game might have just been an outlier for Duluth. Everything just seemed a little bit off.
Same goes for fellow defenseman Carson Soucy(Minnesota Wild), who has had a very rough start to the year. Soucy is a big, strong defenseman, but he looks like he's pressing a little too much to show that off on every shift and getting himself caught out of position.
One positive for the Bulldogs was freshman Adam Johnson(Free Agent). Johnson was a talented high schooler that kind of spent a few years in the wilderness in junior hockey trying to adapt to the faster, stronger competition, but he seems to have come out of it for the better. He was great last year as an overage forward in the USHL and looked good here. Johnson has always had tremendous first step quickness, but he's added so much more muscle since high school and it's noticeable both in the power of his stride and how strong he is on his stick. Some of the issues staying on the perimeter too often are still there--he's goalless with five assists so far--but once he starts trusting himself a little more and being more greedy with his shots, he'll be a nice player. He's got definite free agent potential in a few years.
On Saturday night, I was at Mariucci to see Minnesota State take on Minnesota in what ended up being a thrilling finish. I'm up to multiple viewings on both teams so there were no big surprises.
On the Minnesota State side, I thought CJ Franklin(Winnipeg Jets) was one of the few Mavericks with a complete sixty minute effort. He was flying all night. It didn't show up on the scoresheet, but his line was a threat all night.
This weekend was the first weekend back for Dylan Margonari(Free Agent), after missing the first five weeks with a leg injury. Even though he showed a few signs of rust, he also had some moments that showed why he's an excellent free agent target. Margonari has pretty good size, and when he gets flying down the ice, he's a load to stop. He centered the line with Franklin and they looked very dangerous together. Consistency has been the big issue for Margonari throughout his career, and stepping back into the line-up after being on crutches not that long ago didn't help with that. He will be a player to watch as the season progresses though.
For the Gophers, Hudson Fasching(Buffalo Sabres) has really started to emerge as a leader on this team in recent weeks. His combination of size and speed can be difficult to contain when he's playing with high energy. I'm seeing him create a lot more chances this year than he did last year.
Freshman Brent Gates(Anaheim Ducks) shows nice potential as a physical, yet skilled forward, but he's probably a year or two away from really being a significant factor for the Gophers.
For a defense that dressed six NHL draft picks on Saturday night, their blue line wasn't all that impressive. I still think Ryan Collins(Columbus Blue Jackets) has the most potential of the group as a big, shutdown defenseman. Footspeed is still an issue at times, but if he gets a little better about not reaching so much, he'll be a force. There was hope that the light would go on and fellow sophomores Jack Glover(Winnipeg Jets) and Steve Johnson(Los Angeles Kings) ould make the jump in their second season, but that doesn't seem to have happened yet. Junior Michael Brodzinski(San Jose Sharks) has pro-level offensive skills, but still has a lot to clean up on the defensive end.