Last weekend, the Tier I Elite AAA hockey league held their annual playoffs at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota. As usual, the most attention was paid to the league's U16 Division, and in particular, the players born in 1999 in that division. Scouts from USA Hockey and every USHL team were in attendance for the second-to-last major event on the calendar(USA Hockey Nationals being the last) before the NTDP Evaluation Camp and the USHL Futures Draft.
I took notes on some of the top '99 players at the tournament, broken down into three categories.
Max Gildon-D-Dallas Stars U16-Started the year as the top '99 on my list, and he'll end up there too. A very complete package for a young player. Tough and physical on the defensive end, and good offensive abilities on the other end. He moves pretty well for his size, but could smooth out his skating a little bit. Definitely an elite prospect.
Tommy Miller-D-Victory Honda U18- Just a step below Gildon for me; a few others have him a notch above. He doesn't quite make the same impact offensively that Gildon does, but his hockey sense might be a touch better. His skating can a litlte choppy in open ice, but has good feet and moves laterally well. Good hands allow him to handle really difficult passes.
Baker Shore-F-Colorado Thunderbirds U16-The youngest of the four Shore brothers, and likely to follow in his three older brothers' footsteps to the NTDP. Quick hands and a strong stick allows him to move the puck quickly in the offensive zone. A smart player that spaces well in the offensive zone.
Brady Tkachuk-F-St. Louis U16-Anyone expecting the second-coming of his older brother will likely be disappointed. He's maybe a slightly better skater, but doesn't show the same exceptional hockey sense Matt did at this tournament two years ago. Still towards the upper end of his age group, with soft hands and a nice scoring touch.
Jack Summers-D-Victory Honda U16-A really smooth skater with a good stick. Plays a very calm, poised game, sometimes bordering on being a little too laid back and not assertive enough offensively. His feet allow him to defend against anyone though.
Adam Scheel-G-Cleveland U16-I didn't see every goalie in the age group(I missed Pittsburgh goalie Joe Dragonjac, who is supposed to be pretty good), but did a fair number and Scheel had the most upside of the group. A tall and lanky butterfly goalie. Sometimes his footwork gets a little sloppy, but he's very tough to beat when he gets into his butterfly.
Kyle Kawamura-F-TPH Thunder U16-There's no doubt he's one of the most elite skaters in this age group. I still have some questions about his hockey sense though. He's used his speed to put up a decent number of goals this season, but very few assists to go along with it.
Mark Kastelic-F-Phoneix Coyotes U16-Big, lanky potential power forward that has above average stick-handling ability. When he fills out, he could be a real force. He was the first American selected in the WHL Bantam Draft last year.
Drew Hunter-D-Oakland U16-A big, strong kid that plays solid defense and showed a little bit of offensive ability. Potential to develop into an all-around solid defenseman.
Kyle Keyser-G-Victory Honda U16-Goalies are always tough to judge in tournaments like this but Keyser made a lot of saves. Not huge, but moves very well.
Logan Cockerill-F-Belle Tire U16-A smaller kid with lots of room to grow, but a very explosive skater and good hands. Made a lot of things happen on the ice. Kind of surprising he didn't score more points during the regular season.
Jack Studnicka-F-Belle Tire U16-A Canadian kid, and his older brother plays in the OHL, so he likely follows that path. A tall lanky kid with impressive one-on-one stickhandling moves and good vision in the offensive zone. Not a complete player, but has the skill to put up points.
Kyle MacLean-F-New Jersey U16(Northeastern)-Skates with a wide base that makes him very strong on the puck. Not super fast, but a very smart player.
Ben Jones-D-St. Louis U16-Still needs to fill out, but super smooth skater and good with the puck.
Liam Walsh-F-Victory Honda U16-Love the way he competes. Showed a few flashes of offensive ability, but going forward, he's most likely your prototypical third-liner that's going to play a very heavy game.
Chris Cameron-D-Oakland U16-A really simple game, but he's good at what he does. A big kid that plays a physical game and never tries to do too much with the puck.
James Long-D-St. Louis U16-A pretty good skater and a tremendously strong stick for his size. Needs to improve on the defensive end and his decision making with the puck though.
Joey Cassetti-F-Oakland U16-A big skilled kid with loads of potential, but it's just adding up to much in the way of results right now.
Marc Del Gaizo-D-New Jersey U16-A smaller defenseman, but extremely smart. Makes great reads and can put a pass on a teammate's stick in any situation.
Andrew Andary-F-Oakland U16-A super smart player. Understands the game and always making plays. The big concern is that a lot of players have passed him physically over the past year and the affects of his lack of size are starting to show.
Luke Boka-F-Victory Honda U16-A real tank out on the ice. Throws his weight around and can handle the puck a little bit. A lack of foot speed might hurt him going forward though.
Anthony DeMeo-D-New Jersey U16-A very smooth skater that does everything pretty well, but doesn't really stand out in one area. Still needs to figure out the game a little bit, but when he does, he has the tools to go far.