After a couple of down years for the perennial powerhouse, Avon Old Farms appears locked and loaded for a return to post-season play. The Winged Beavers have four players who made November's updated NHL Central Scouting Preliminary Watch List.
Forwards Patrick Harper (Boston University) and Jamie Armstrong (Northeastern), defenseman Adam Karashik (UConn) and goaltender Matt Ladd (Niagara de-commit) are all listed as "C" prospects by NHL Central Scouting.
Overall, it will be a down year in terms of NHL Draft prospects playing prep school hockey, especially compared to last season when Cushing's David Cotton was considered a top three-round pick all season, and several others were watched closely by NHL scouts.
Of the 15 prep players listed by NHL Central Scouting, all were given "C" grades, meaning they are projected to go in the fourth round or later. Three of those players attend South Kent, but play for the school's full season 18U midget squad.
Here's a look the players on November's NHL Central Scouting Watch List that will bring scouts to a prep arena this winter. Players are listed by position, in order of this observer's projected rankings.
Avon Old Farms #7 - 5'7" 143 - LW - 7/29/98 (Boston University)
He's a similar player to Merrimack's Brett Seney, who was drafted by the New Jersey Devils this past Summer. He's fast and explosive, but lacks size. He plays the game with a little bit of an edge, but for the most part rushes up the left side. He has good, soft hands, makes great looks and can be a catalyst offensively. He likes setting up on the left half wall on the power play, but can move around to a myriad of spots. He is accelerating so he will graduate this year, play a year in the USHL then arrive at BU for the fall of 2017.
Avon Old Farms #12 - 6'0" 183 - LW - 8/7/98 (Northeastern)
He's a player who many project to be a power forward. He has good size and is strong. When he's on his game, he's winning battles and creating space for his linemates. His father, Bill, a former NHLer and Providence alum, is the top scout for the St. Louis Blues organization.
Cushing #25 - 6'2.0" 200 - RW - 5/25/97 (Vermont)
A power forward who played last season with Wyoming Seminary, the Pickering, Ontario native is a project that some NHL scouts believe could be a late bloomer. He played split season midget hockey for the Junior Bruins, skating with Maine commits Jake Pappalardo and Pat Shea.
Thayer #12 - 5'9.5" 156 - RW - 1/1/98
He's a player who has improved dramatically. He's quick and has developed into a nice two-way player. He competes hard and plays well away from the puck. He still has a ways to go to sell this observer on being worthy of a draft pick, but his progress over the past two years in noteworthy.
The Gunnery #23 - 5'11" 159 - RW - 12/12/97
A late '97, he comes to prep hockey from Sweden. A very good soccer player, he played split season midget hockey for Yale's second 18U team, due to often having conflicts with Saturday games.
Avon Old Farms #16 - 5'10.5" 174 - RD - 1/15/98 (UConn)
Don't let his size fool you. He's an above average skater who can play solid defensively. He makes great hip checks as he closes players out to the boards coming down their left wing. He has a good one-timer, has decent vision and can make solid lead passes. When you think of defensemen with his size and skating ability, you gravitate towards what he can accomplish on the offensive side of the puck. However, don't sleep on his defensive game.
Hotchkiss #6 - 5"11" 175 - LD - 3/16/98 (Harvard)
A terrific skater, he can move the puck by carrying it up ice as well as making good passes in transition. He has good foot speed and can quarterback a power play. He has good gaps and a decent stick defensively. NHL teams will be watching how well he continues to develop in the defensive end as well as choosing his spots to pinch more wisely.
Belmont Hill #16 - 5"11" 175 - LD - 4/21/98 (Yale)
He's one of those defensemen who you might not notice for an entire game, and that's meant in a complimentary manner. He is solid, rarely makes mistakes and just goes about his job. He's a good athlete who skates well and has always been among the best '98s in Massachusetts.
Cushing #3 - 6"1" 177 - LD - 11/20/97
The late '97 will be in his second season of prep hockey after starring at MIAA Division 3 power Shrewsbury. He's an offensive defenseman who skates well and can rush the puck up ice and step into the offense.
Exeter #13 - 5"11.5" 170 - LD - 10/16/97
He's a solid defender who makes smart, heady lead passes. He doesn't possess high end skill of some of the region's other NHL Draft prospects, but he rarely makes mistakes. Along with Colgate commit Trevor Cosgrove, he will be a leader for Dana Barbin's stout defense.
St. Sebastian's #24 - 6"1.75" 209 - LD - 3/23/98
He's a big-bodied blue liner who teams would be banking on to continue to develop and improve his skating ability.
Avon Old Farms #29 - 6"2.75" 194 - G - 3/16/98
A Niagara de-commit, Ladd has become a hotly coveted prospect on the recruiting trail. He combines tremendous physical assets with athleticism. He does a good job covering rebounds and has a strong mental make-up.
Off the Radar
In addition to the 11 names on NHL Central Scouting's Watch List, there are several prep players in their first year of draft eligibility who an NHL team might take a chance on in next June's draft.
Milton Academy's Ethan Domokos, who made SB Nation's Top 5 Uncommitted Prep Goaltenders list, is a first-time eligible that scouts should be watching carefully.
Tabor Academy forward and Vermont commit Max Sauve is a player with elite speed. He's small, but so are Harper and Amonte. Another smaller forward, who is similar to Ty Amonte, is Belmont Hill's Christian O'Neill, a Princeton commit.
St. Lawrence commit Taggart Corriveau and Boston University recruit Johnny McDermott are two players who were ranked by NHL Central Scouting throughout last season, but did not hear their names called. The Westminster duo might get a second look this season.
If there's one New England prep schooler to keep an eye on in his second season of draft eligibility, it is Maine recruit and Proctor senior forward Jake Pappalardo. The Salem, NH native wins battles and is tough to play against. He's rugged, gets to loose pucks, and competes hard each and every shift. He's a complete player who can create offense and put pucks in the net. He has a hard, quick release. You won't see him dangling up the ice or wowing the crowd with flashy moves, but he's just simply put, a hockey player.
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