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Prep Hockey: NEPSIHA Martin/Earl Large Tournament Preview

Brooks faces off against St. Mark's earlier in the season.
Brooks faces off against St. Mark's earlier in the season.

The New England Prep School Ice Hockey Association (NEPSIHA) Martin/Earl Large School Championship Tournament starts Wednesday at campus sites. The bracket features three teams that had near misses at making it into the Elite 8.

The Seeds:

1. Brunswick

2. Choate

3. Brooks

4. Belmont Hill

5. Berkshire

6. St. Sebastian's

7. St. Paul's

8. Thayer

Top Uncommitted Players in Bracket:

Disclosure: This observer has seen each of these teams at least once, but have seen some such as Brooks and Thayer quite a bit so am more familiar with their players.

R.J. Murphy, 10/2/98 Soph., LC, St. Sebastian's - He first impressed this observer at last summer's USA Hockey Select 16 Festival. He has a nice frame and is really starting to come into his own playing on a line with '97 Yale recruit Will D'Orsi. He skates well and handles the puck well for a young player his size. When he uses his leverage and strength to go to the net is when he makes the most impact.

Max Prawdzik, 2/22/97 Sr., G, Brooks - The local boy looks like the prototypical modern day goaltender with good size and his butterfly style. He's quiet in net, is square to shooters and stays on top of the crease. He has a quick lower body and a good glove. The more this observer saw him the more impressed he was. He has some interest from several schools, but Vermont is in on him the most.

Christian Lesueur, 1/7/99 Soph., RW, Brunswick - He's a big time prospect in this observer's mind. He and his team didn't have the best of games in my only viewing this season, but having seen the Greenwich native several times, he's got all the tools. He has good size and is a dynamic skater with above average hands. He should certainly be on the minds of all USHL teams for the Futures Draft in May.

John Hoey, 11/3/98 Fr., RW, Choate - He impressed in each of  my viewings of the Wild Boars this season. He competes, has above average skills with the puck, skates pretty well and meshed well with line mates Charley Borek and Jeremy Germain. Choate coach Pat Dennehy has done a nice job of not pushing the prep rookie too quickly into the grind.

John Copeland, 3/3/99 Fr., LW, Belmont Hill - The son of BH alum and former Michigan defender Todd Copeland, he's got good size and has been trusted by the coaching staff. He's a player that projects really well for the future, but his game is impressive now as one of the rare freshmen to make varsity at Belmont Hill.

Colin Stevens, 7/12/97 Jr., RD, Brooks - He's not an elite defensemen at the prep level, but he's good. He does a lot of nice things at both ends of the ice. He makes smart decisions, makes a good lead pass and he does a nice job on the power play. He has a good stick, plays his gaps well and is sound fundamentally. He doesn't project as a super star, but he could be a nice pick up as a steady, reliable defender at the NCAA level.

Predictions:

First Round:

Brunswick 4, Thayer 2

Belmont Hill 3, Berkshire 1

Brooks 2, St. Sebastian's 1

Choate 3, St. Paul's 2

Semifinals:

Belmont Hill 2, Brunswick 1

Choate 3, Brooks 2

Championship:

Choate 3, Belmont Hill 1

Champion:

Choate

Why will Choate win?

The Wild Boars are battle tested against the best of the best in the Founders League and finished the season with four consecutive wins. Pat Dennehy's team is balanced, has two good goaltenders and is a true team. In each viewing of Choate this season, it was a team that played its systems well.

Brooks is also a good pick:

Dave Ries' team is also well coached and fundamentally sound. The winner of the potential Brooks-Choate semfinal clash should win it all. Brooks has two very good defenders in Stevens and BC commit Connor Moore and a stellar goaltender in Prawdzik. Brooks has a well-balanced offense led by K.J. Moore and Sacred Heart commit Vito Bavaro.

The Top Seed:

Brunswick went 8-2 in the month of February, but the two losses were huge setbacks. The Bruins lost 9-0 to Salisbury and 5-1 to Exeter. That loss to Exeter was this observer's only viewing. '96 senior co-captain Tommy Dunleavy led the offense in scoring while classmate and co-captain Michael Faulkner had a big hand in the production from the blue line. '99 Brown commit Phillip Kemp is one of the best defensemen in his age group and is a candidate for the USNTDP.

Sleeper:

No. 8 Thayer under-performed during the regular season, considering some of the talent up and down the roster. Tony Amonte's Tigers can be hit or miss. Led by Northeastern commit Lincoln Griffin, the Tigers offense has two lines that can move the puck quickly. The defense does a nice job starting the rush and providing some offensive spark from the blue line.

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Jeff Cox covers college, junior, high school and prep hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.