Come next March, USA Hockey brass will invite the top 40 or so 2001-born prospects to Plymouth, Mich. for an evaluation camp to determine who makes the U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP).
While there is plenty of hockey to be played between now and then, there are some early favorites for who might make the team. Having seen this age group at the World Selects Invite in May, the USA Hockey Select 15 Player Development Camp in July and various other showcases, there are players that are clearly distinguishing themselves from the rest of the pack.
In addition to the WSI and Select 15s, the following events have been used for viewings of 2001s: Jr. Chowder Cup, Beantown Summer Classic, River Rat Jamboree, ECC Labor Day Cup, Tier I Labor Day Face-Off, BJB Shootout, Yale Jamboree and Boston Jr. Eagles Showcase.
Please note, if a player has not competed in any of those above viewings, he will not be listed here. For example, dual-citizen Jack Hughes (Toronto Marlies) is a top prospect, but this observer has not seen him play yet.
The following are the players that should be invited to Plymouth for the NTDP Evaluation Camp, if it were held this weekend. Please note that those put into the ‘A’ category should be considered sure-things to make the team, if it were picked this weekend.
Johnny Beecher, Elmira, NY, Salisbury School, Left Shot, 6’4”/210 - He’s a big time pro prospect with good size. He has decent to above average hands for a player his size. His stride and ability to protect the puck are both assets. He has that reach that you just can’t teach. He can put a puck out there, pull it back and rip a wrist shot on net. He drives the net and does a good job using his size down low and along the boards. He’s got that extra gear to win a battle along the wall and just separate himself from the defender to get to the slot and get a hard shot on net.
Luke Toporowski, Bettendorf, Iowa, Chicago Mission 16U, Left Shot, 5’9.5”/168 - A high draft pick of the Spokane Chiefs in the WHL Bantam Draft, he’s heading the major junior route. However, he has to be listed here as he's a top American ‘01. He was the best forward at Select 15s. He’s a very good skater who has that extra gear he can throw it in to blow by defenders and maintain possession down low and along the walls. He has a good first step. Most of the goals he’s scored in viewings have been from in close due to his ability to penetrate the scoring areas and win one-on-one battles against defenders. He plays the game hard. He’s not just a pretty skater with an offensive skill set. He’s not afraid to throw his weight around.
Alex Turcotte, Walled Lake, Mich., Chicago Mission 16U, Left Shot, 5’10”/190 (Wisconsin) - He’s not that big, but his skating ability and low center of gravity help him maintain and protect the puck. He does a nice job fending off defenders and then passing the puck to open linemates. His stick handling ability is very good which allows him to maneuver around defenders and keep possession down low. He’s got a good motor and his speed is well above average.
Michael Mancinelli, Detroit, Mich., Honeybaked 16U, Right Shot, 5’8”/160 (North Dakota) - He’s got great hands. He can toe drag and stickhandle to evade defenders and gain zone entry and possession. He makes good passes. Despite his limited size, he distributes the puck well from down low and cycles it behind the goal line. He’s quick and has a good acceleration which allows him to spin out of trouble. He’s also physical and backchecks in his own zone when he’s on his game.
Carson Riddle, Holly, Mich., Belle Tire 16U, Left Shot, 5’9”/162 - He’s a very good skater with high end speed. His quickness is a major factor most shifts. He has a good shot, including a strong one-timer. His wrist shot is usually well-placed. He’s a finisher who was very good at both WSI and Select 15s.
Trevor Kuntar, Williamsville, NY, Buffalo Jr. Sabres 16U, Left Shot, 5’10”/168 - He’s a complete 200-foot center. He can make plays and his physical presence can break up plays in his own zone. His vision and creativity in the offensive zone are his best assets. He can go from 0 to 60 quickly which is another key to his game. His agility and stickhandling are also good. Schools such as Michigan and BU are reportedly very interested in his services.
Robert Mastrosimone, East Islip, NY, Shattuck St. Mary’s 16U, Left Shot, 5’8”/141 (Boston University) - He’s a good skater with blazing speed and good hands. He’s a goal scorer with a hard shot. He has a hard slap shot and wrist shot. Simply, he’s just a finisher. He has the speed to separate himself from a defender. He gets a lot of breakaways and he has the skill set to finish off highlight reel goals.
Jake Hale, Minneapolis, Minn., Minneapolis HS, Right Shot, 5’8”/164 (Minnesota-Duluth) - He has good speed and hands. He’s a possession forward who is strong on pucks. He plays through the body and isn’t afraid to drive the net, despite being somewhat undersized. He has that extra gear to split the defense and to get time and space. He has quick hands to finish off plays in the scoring areas.
Trevor Zegras, Bedford, NY, Avon Old Farms, Left Shot, 5’10”/140 (Boston University) - He’s a gifted offensive player with elite hands and skating. His speed allows him to generate a ton of chances. He finds seams in defenses and is an elite stickhandler. He has a very good first step with agility and the ability to stop and start quickly. He makes his linemates better and can make plays from nothing.
Arthur Kaliyev, Warren, Mich., Compuware 16U, Left Shot, 6’0”/166 - He’s a very strong skater who is tough to knock off pucks. He does his best work below the dots and coming off the walls into the slot with authority. He’s got the chance to be an impact forward forward with his heavy shot, heavy overall game and strong stride. The one thing he could work on is getting a little quicker right out of the gates.
Grant Silianoff, Edina, Minn., Shattuck St. Mary’s 16U, Left Shot, 5’10”/153 (Notre Dame) - He has above average hockey IQ. He finds seams in the defense and exploits them. He knows where to be and how to get open. He has quick hands and good awareness of where his teammates are in the offensive zone.
Tyler Paquette, Collegeville, Pa., Mercer Chiefs 16U, Right Shot, 6’1”/190 (Penn State) - He’s a power forward whose best hockey is still ahead of him. He’s still coming into his own and learning how to play with his big frame. He has an explosive first step and plays a solid north-south game. He backchecks well, usually disrupting a play in his own and zone and turning it into offense in each viewing.
Judd Caulfield, Grand Forks, ND, Grand Forks Central HS, Right Shot, 6-2/190 (North Dakota) - He’s a power forward with above average hands. He makes good, strong power moves into the zone and has that second gear and edge work necessary to cut it into the middle. He has a hard shot and also can make good looks to open linemates with the puck on his stick.
Robbie Griffin, Burlington, Mass., Junior Bruins 16U, Left Shot, 5-11”/160 (Northeastern) - He has elite speed that allows him to chase down loose pucks, win battles for the puck down low and get the puck to open teammates. He has the speed to separate and gain time and space. He sees the ice well, makes good drop passes in transition and has good touch on his feeds. He has a quick stick and wins the majority of face-offs.
Owen Lindmark, Naperville, Ill., Chicago Mission 16U, Right Shot, 5’11”/162 (Wisconsin) - He’s not the flashiest of forwards, but he plays a complete game and is an extremely good passer. You hardly ever see one of his passes not end up right on the stick of his intended target. He’s a very good skater with a quiet stride. He has shown the ability to steal pucks in his own zone and turn it into offense. He has good hands and smarts to go along with it.
Patrick Moynihan, Millis, Mass., Nobles, Right Shot, 5’10”/163 (Boston College) - He has blazing speed and the quickness to get to pucks and create offense. He’s a slick passer and plays with a bit of an edge. He has good hands and can finish with a good deke. He’s not afraid to win battles down low or throw his weight around in order to be a pest and steal pucks from opposing players.
Josh Nodler, Oak Park, Mich., Honeybaked 16U, Right Shot, 5’11”/190 (Michigan State) - He’s a very good skater with a good first step. He plays the game with a purpose and protects the puck well. He has yet, in at this observer’s viewings, to show an elite offensive skill set to go along with his high end skating.
Danny Weight, Lattingtown, NY, PAL Islanders 16U, Left Shot, 5’11”/165 - He’s gotten a lot better over the past year. He’s still a little bit streaky. He’ll be a non-factor for a few shifts then he’ll just be an absolute force on the next shift. He can skate and protect the puck well. At Select 15s, he was quiet then all of a sudden he took the puck off the right wall, powered his way into the slot and ripped a shot right under the bar. In subsequent viewings this fall, he’s been better at more consistently using his strength to his advantage down low and finding open teammates for chances.
Kaden Bohlsen, Willmar, Minn., Shattuck St. Mary’s 16U, Right Shot, 6’2”/166 (Minnesota) - He has good hands and a very good shot. He releases it quickly and places it perfectly. He has a good stick and is still somewhat growing into his big frame. Once he does, his skating should become better.
Dylan Wendt, Grand Haven, Mich., Belle Tire 16U, Right Shot, 5’11”/175 - He’s physically mature and rugged so it’s hard to tell if he’s just dominating at this age because of that, but he’s still worthy of an invite. He has a hard shot and plays heavy on pucks. He can power his way into the scoring areas and wins a lot of battles below the dots. He has decent hands and vision.
Nik Norman, Maplewood, Minn., Shattuck St. Mary’s 16U, Left Shot, 5’9”/153 (Minnesota) - He didn’t have his best week at Select 15s, but he has decent straight-line speed and gets on pucks quickly. He didn’t show the ability to penetrate into the scoring areas.
John Farinacci, Chatham, NJ, Shattuck St. Mary’s 16U, Right Shot, 5’10”/167 (Harvard) - He’s a good skater with very good hands. He has a knack for the puck and a nose for the net. His speed creates chances and he can make really slick plays with the puck on his stick. His stickhandling is good and he can finish chances.
Michael Waddell, Detroit, Mich. Belle Tire 16U, Right Shot, 5’11”/165 - He’s another player where it’s tough to figure out if he’s just more physically mature than his peers, which is why he can be so successful. He’s hard to knock off pucks and has decent speed, but has a funky stride. He competes and wins battles along the wall. He goes to the net with a purpose.
Sean Farrell, Hopkinton, Mass., St. Mark’s, Left Shot, 5’8”/160 (Harvard) - His speed is certainly his biggest asset. He’s a little undersized, but his ability to win races to loose pucks allows him to cycle it well down low and distribute it to open teammates.
Mason Kruse, Brainerd, Minn., Brainerd HS, Right Shot, 5’10”/145 - In the only viewings at Select 15s, he exhibited good passing and skating. He used his edges to get going and cut for agility. He threaded the needle and made a few real nice cross-ice looks in zone.
Cameron Lulich, Macomb, Mich., Little Caesars 16U, Left Shot, 5’10”/152 - He had an impressive performance at World Selects. He’s a player who never stops moving his feet and generates energy and chances from his motor. He has a hard shot and showed the ability to finish. He’s tough to get the puck from and drew penalties.
Harrison Bazianos, Glenview, Ill., Team Illinois 16U, Left Shot, 5’10”/170 - He also had a good showing at WSI back in May. He’s quick and has a high compete level. He’s more of a long shot, but he makes plays because of his energy and work ethic.
Marshall Warren, Laurel Hollow, NY, Jersey Avalanche 16U, Left Shot, 5’11”/160 (Harvard) - He’s an athletic player with all the flashy tools that come along with it. He’s a great skater with a tremendous shot. Compare him to a player like Providence sophomore and St. Louis Blues draft pick Jake Walman. He’s got great feet. He has a heavy one-timer that he gets off quickly. He has an accurate shot. His gaps are good and and he has a good stick for pokechecks and the length to keep opposing forwards outside or in check. He can also step up and deliver huge hits. He has a smooth stride and a good first step. He retrieves pucks and can transition from defense to offense quickly. He makes sound outlet passes. There’s time for other defenders to catch up, but right now, he’s the best 2001 blue liner in the U.S.
Case McCarthy, Clarence, NY, Buffalo Jr. Sabres 16U, Right Shot, 6’1”/187 (Boston University) - He’s already developed well and has pro size. He’s smooth and has a good first step for a player his age and size. He makes good looks on the power play from the point. He doesn’t have the dynamic athletic ability that some of the other top 2001 defensemen do, but he has the size and pro frame while still having impressive mobility.
Cam York, Anaheim, Calif., Shattuck St. Mary’s Prep, Left Shot, 5’10”/154 (Boston College) - It’s not often an undersized player would make the prep team when he’s young enough to play 16U at SSM. However, York has the elite skating ability and innate puck skills to supersede any questions on physical maturity at this age. He’s fast and has good agility. He can rush the puck up ice. He has good vision in transition and makes good lead passes. He has a good shot and he can push possession in his team’s favor.
Henry Thrun, Southborough, Mass., St. Mark’s, Left Shot, 5’11”/160 (Harvard) - He’s a good skater, but his ability to think the game and slow it down so it’s at his pace is what truly sets him apart. He has a good stick, good gaps and closes quickly. He retrieves pucks well. He has exceptional vision and makes very good passes to set up scoring chances or to maintain possession for his team.
Braden Doyle, Lynnfield, Mass., Lawrence Academy, Left Shot, 5’10”/155 (Boston University) - He’s an offensive-minded defenseman that is at his best when he’s keeping it simple. He’s a good skater with elite puck skills and vision for a defenseman his age. He has good footwork to receive passes and get off quick one-timers. He has a hard shot and likes to join the rush. When he picks his spots more wisely, he’s at his best.
Dom Fensore, Pleasantville, NY, PAL Islanders 16U, Left Shot, 5’8”/140 (Quinnipiac) - He’s similar to ‘00 Brandon Tabakin in that he is such an elite puck mover that his size almost doesn’t matter. His ability to push the pace in transition and break the puck out successfully are second to no one in this age group. He’s very slick and has extremely good agility.
Nathan Staios, Colorado Springs, Colo., Vaughan Kings 16U, Left Shot, 5’9”/162 - He’s also undersized, but he’s a good skater who can skate out of trouble and break pucks out. He does a good job retrieving pucks and he has above average hockey IQ. He excels in tight spaces where his agility benefits him greatly. He does a nice job with pokechecks and getting in lanes.
Mike Koster, Chaska, Minn., Chaska HS, Left Shot, 5’10”/150 (Minnesota) - He has good footwork, skates well and has some offensive instincts from the point. He does a good job positioning himself well defensively and gets his stick in lanes. He has a solid wrist shot he gets on net from the point and has shown the capability of good lead passes that result in odd-man rushes for his team.
Clay Hanus, Minnetonka, Minn., Minnesota Blades 16U, Left Shot, 5-10/165 (Minnesota) - He’s a very good skater with a good shot from the point. He gets it on net and shoots it with purpose. His skating ability and gaps are both good going backwards. He’s not overly big, but his agility and positioning were sound defensively. Word is he continues to get better, since this observer’s last viewing at Select 15s.
Jayden Struble, Cumberland, RI, Nobles, Left Shot, 5’11”/170 - A former Little League World Series participant, he’s an extremely athletic prospect. He’s flashy and has elite skating ability. He can move the puck and makes crisp passes in transition and in zone as a power play quarterback. His hands are sensational. He made a move in the Tier I Labor Day Face-Off on a breakaway that could have been a SportsCenter Top 10 highlight. As long as he brings it each shift and picks his spots wisely, he’s a NTDP candidate.
Cade Webber, Meadville, Pa., Rivers School, Left Shot, 6’3”/150 - If there’s one player in this age group who projects well, but doesn’t really show much yet, it’s Webber. He’s tall and lanky, but he closes well. He has a good first step, has length and skates with his head up. He’s raw, but he’s a player that has the potential to become a big time prospect with his size and tools.
Spencer Cox, Dayton, Ohio, Culver 16U, Left Shot, 5’11”/160 (Miami) - In each viewing, he came across as a smooth and steady defender with good skating ability. His transition from defense to offense is good. He has good closing speed and has good footwork that allows him to do that and to move the puck quickly.
Drew Helleson, Farmington, Minn., Shattuck St. Mary’s 16U, Right Shot, 5’11”/143 (Boston College) - He’s an offensive-minded defenseman with good gaps and does a good job keeping possession for his team. He doesn’t have an elite skill set, but he’s good and should probably get an invite to camp.
Evan Orr, Detroit, Mich., Little Caesar’s 16U, Left Shot, 5’8”/143 (Michigan Tech) - Unfortunately for him, there are players ahead of him with a similar size and skill set which will most likely eliminate him from contention for making the team, but he should earn an invite to camp. He’s a good skater with a good stick. He moves the puck well and likes to jump into the offense. His lateral movement and agility are good in addition to his straight line speed.
Hunter Weiss, Lake Forest, Ill., Chicago Mission 16U, Left Shot, 6’2”/180 (Notre Dame) - He has that pro size already and has a good reach. He makes good breakout passes and moves the puck efficiently. He projects as more of a shutdown defender, but his foot speed is lacking. He absolutely deserves an invite to camp, but he might be more of a project than an instant impact type player with his size and skating concerns.
Ethan Szmagaj, Canton, Mich., Little Caesar’s 16U, Right Shot, 5’10”/150 - It’s not often a good defenseman below six-feet is known more for his toughness and grit than his offensive ability, but that’s the case here. He’s tough as nails, hard to knock off the puck and just flat-out wins battles. He’s a good skater who retrieves pucks well and can skate out of trouble.
Mitch Miller, Sylvania, Ohio, Honeybaked 16U, Right Shot, 5’11”/155 - He’s a late ‘01 continues to grow as a player. He gets better each viewing. He’s a good skater who isn’t all that flashy, but he is poised. He has a high hockey IQ, reads plays well and breaks up plays defensively through sound positioning. He exhibits good vision and can man the point on the power play.
Spencer Knight, Darien, Conn., Avon Old Farms, Catches Left, 6’4”/170 (Boston College) - He has all the tools to be an elite goaltender down the road. He has size, athleticism and sound fundamentals. A butterfly goaltender, he covers a lot of net. He skates well and pushes off to make post-to-post saves. He has quick reflexes and makes saves look easier than they are.
Mack Guzda, Nashville, Tenn., Honeybaked 16U, Catches Left, 6’3”/190 - He really starred at the WSI last May, but was good at Select 15s as well. He’s a big goaltender who projects better than the level he’s playing at right now. He tracks pucks well and eats up potential rebounds.
Alex Aslanidis, Moorestown, NJ, Philadelphia Jr. Flyers 16U, Catches Left, 6’3”/214 (Providence) - He’s another big goaltender who covers a lot of the net. A butterfly goaltender, he skates well and is quick to cover pucks.
Joe Sharib, Natick, Mass., Cushing Academy, Catches Left, 5’11”/176 - He doesn’t have the size of the three goaltenders mentioned above, but he just makes saves. He’s a good skater who does a good job staying square to shooters. He has quick reflexes and covers pucks.