The 2016 New England Pro-Am Hockey Pre-Draft Showcase was, like most such events these days, watered down and featured a wide array of talent. There were some good teams and some absolutely horrid teams that had no business being in any event dubbed a showcase.
Hockey Essentials White ended up winning the tournament late Sunday afternoon. Northeastern commit Grant Jozefek of the Lincoln Stars earned Tournament MVP honors. The team had several USHL players who made Mark Lotito's team a step above the rest, evident by its 7-0 thrashing of CP Dynamo in the championship game.
While there were some good players on Hockey Essentials White and several other teams made up of '97s and '98s, the tournament's best teams in terms of high end talent were the clubs made up of younger players.
Oakland Grizzlies, East Coast Kings 17 Draft, Andrews Hockey, Team Kanaly Futures and East Coast Kings Futures were some of the better teams there and were made up of '99s and '00s.
One thing that really struck this observer was the progression of several players who were in the USHL this past season. It's unquestionably the best Junior A league in the world, and it shows. Players like Northeastern recruit and Chicago Black Hawks draft pick Ryan Shea and BC Commit and 2016 NHL Draft prospect Luke McInnis are worlds better after a year with the Youngstown Phantoms.
Shea and McInnis paired up on Vinny Montalbano's top defensive pairing for his East Coast Kings 16 Draft team. They weren't alone in being noticeably better than many of their counterparts. Players like Jozefek, Evan Wiscoky (UConn), Billy Sweezey (Yale) and Marc Johnstone (Sacred Heart) all showed the physical maturity and level of play that a year in the USHL will promote.
With 98 teams, spread across so many rinks, it was impossible to see every team, but this observer tried to catch at least a glimpse of each team that mattered over the course of four days.
The following is a review of some top uncommitted players who stood out, broken down by year of birth. Players listed in alphabetical order. Heights/Weights are those listed in tournament scout book.
Luke Aquaro, Kanaly Futures #13, RW, 5'10"/165 - He didn't get a ton of playing time in the two games this observer saw, but he was good when he was out there. He made a beautiful pass to set up a goal on a two-on-one odd man rush Sunday morning. He was good away from the puck and involved in the play.
Christian Berger, EC Kings Futures #5, LD, 5'10"/165 - He was easily the top defender in this age group, and up there near the top, even if including the '99s. He's a good skater, who moves with his head up and is always looking to distribute the puck, but can carry it up ice in transition. He made several nice looks and did a good job pushing the pace in transition. He has above average speed, did a good job retrieving pucks and made several nice poke checks. Green Bay Gamblers drafted him in seventh round of 2016 USHL Futures Draft.
Cannon Green, Oakland Grizzlies #4, LW, 5'11"/180 - He's a playmaker who has good speed coming into the zone. He has good footwork, can finish as well as make good passes. He made one real nice touch pass on a two-on-one breakaway. He stays with the puck and has a high compete level. Cedar Rapids draft pick in USHL.
Jordan Harris, PHDG Blue #2, LD, 5'10"/165 - He has good agility and can move the puck up ice in transition. He has good gaps and good stick. He sometimes gets caught running around too much, but he's a really good college prospect. He's a Youngstown Phantoms draft pick.
Michael Kesselring, EC Kings Futures #24, RD, 6'3"/160 - He's more in the realm of players who have a high ceiling, but he gets better with each viewing. He has a good reach which makes him a tough defender to get around for opposing forwards. He's athletic and his foot speed is getting better, but it will be something he'll continue to have to work on and develop as he catches up to his size.
Paddy Mangan, EC Kings Futures #44, RD, 5'11"/175 - His skating has gotten better over the past year and he's always had good gaps and confidence with the puck. He made a couple real nice home run passes to display his vision and talent moving the puck.
Chase Pletzke, Oakland Grizzlies #15, LW, 5'10"/170 - Green Bay Gamblers draft pick has a good shot and nice vision. He made an absolutely beautiful pass through the neutral zone from inside his defensive blue line to Cannon Green on a Paul Bryer goal.
Cam Rayner, EC Kings Futures #25, LW, 5'10"/165 - The Toronto Titans player had a good showing here. He has high hockey IQ and awareness of what's going on around him on the ice. He puts himself in the right spot to make plays. He plays a well-rounded game and competes on all 200 feet of the ice. He was good away from the puck and backchecked honestly, something you don't always see at showcases. One play that stood out was his hustling back, stealing a puck at his defensive blue line and creating it into a scoring chance at the other end.
Andrew Remer, EC Kings Futures #7, LW, 5'10"/171 - He's a real good skater who uses his edges and cuts well. He showed the ability to make plays out of nothing with an extra gear and low center of gravity. The highlight of his weekend was a shorthanded goal where he burst down the right side before cutting towards the net and backhanding one past the goaltender.
Ryan Roth, EC Kings Futures #95, RC, 5'9"/155 - He's quick and crafty with good speed -- both straight line and agility. He's a finisher with a sneaky, quick release on his shot. He's slippery and seemed to find seams and scoring chances. He was a 12th round selection of the Tri-City Storm in USHL Futures Draft.
Charles Shaffer, EC Kings Futures #21, RW, 5'10"/165 - Out of all the players on his team, he's the player this observer has viewed the most. He's one of those players that doesn't necessarily standout immediately. He's just a solid player with a pretty good offensive skill set. He can generate time and space by his fluid stride. He's smart and knows how to get open and create chances for his linemates.
Curtis Abbott, PHDG Blue #14, RW, 6'2"/200 - He has a pro frame and made several nice passes from the right wall as he skated the puck up his off wing. He used his size as leverage to control the puck along the walls and down low. North Bay Battalion own his OHL rights. He's headed to Albany Academy.
Andrew Andary, Oakland Grizzlies #11, LW, 5'9"/180 - He's undersized or he'd be drawing more attention. He made a great backdoor pass that his linemate didn't convert on, but he kept in the play and made a nice finish from the slot to finish off a goal. He plays bigger than his size, taking a hit to make a play on another shift.
Andranik Armstrong, PHDG Blue #9, LW, 5'9"/175 - He made several nice looks into the middle, skated well and had a heavy shot. This was his best viewing to date.
Matthew Barron, Andrews Hockey #10, LC, 5'10"/163 - Yarmouth Mariner forward made some great looks and had an impressive offensive skill set.
Paul Bryer, Oakland Grizzlies #12, LC, 5'9"/150 - He's an honest player with decent speed who goes to the net and competes in all three zones. He has good hockey IQ.
Chase Danol, Oakland Grizzlies #18, RW, 6'0"/180 - Cedar Rapids draft pick is a good skater who can maintain possession. He has good hands and can finish. He has a nice shot and a hard one-timer. He plays through people.
Jayson Dobay, EC Kings 17 Draft #55, LD, 6'0"/170 - He's added size and still had dynamic skating ability. He's an offensive defenseman who has a cannon of a one-timer. He made some nice plays defensively here, using his stick for pokechecks. He has elite recovery speed. He'll be at Thayer in the fall.
Dallas Farrell, Core Hockey #41, RW, 5'11"/150 - He's added some size over the past year and has a good offensive outlook. He makes some nice passes, can skate well and is seemingly coming into his own. Prince Edward Island kid played for Providence Capitals last season.
Nick Hale, EC Kings 17 Draft #4, LD, 5'9/155 - An undersized defenseman, his skating ability is top notch. He can move the puck, skate the puck up ice in transition and find open teammates on the breakout. He's always been good, but he's getting better exponentially.
Matt Holmes, Boston Jr. Whalers Orange #66, LC, 6'3"/200 - He's a big power forward that really took a step over the past year. Just watch his stride for a guy his size and it's clear he has big time potential. He had a good showing here. He has a hard shot, he impacts the play below the dots and has a good stick. He needs to use his size and strength to his advantage on a more consistent basis.
Blake Kryska, Oakland Grizzlies #8, LD, 6'1"/190 - He has a good stick and made a real nice lead pass through the neutral zone in transition that led to a scoring chance. He needs to be more consistent and pick his spots, but he's a player with some physical tools. Tri-City draft pick in USHL.
Justin Kyle, PHDG Blue #12, LC, 5'11"/175 - He's a good passer who skated well. He's a Hill Academy (Ontario) product. He's a little undersized and will have to be more dynamic for college coaches to give him a look.
Brendan Lanning, Andrews Hockey #3, LD, 6'1"/170 - He had good size and moved the puck well inside the offensive zone. He's a power play quarterback-type defender. He still needs to improve his foot speed, but he's had a growth spurt over the last year and that could come eventually.
Luke Ledes, Kanaly Futures #15, RW, 5'10"/165 - He created a lot of chances and had a good offensive skill set. He made a nice backhand finish on a play in tight around the goal on an odd man rush. He had a strong compete and did a good job staying aggressive on the penalty kill. He's definitely a good playmaker in the making.
Ryan McInchak, Oakland Grizzlies #30, G, 6'1"/165 - He has good size, skates well, has good athleticism and does a nice job kicking rebounds to the corner. He tracks pucks.
Jeremy McKenna, Andrews Hockey #10, RW, 5'9"/172 - A little undersized, his passing ability was very good. He made some good low to high passes from below the dots and also showed the ability to finish. Moncton own his QMJHL rights and Sioux City Musketeers selected him in USHL Draft.
Ian Murphy, EC Kings 17 Draft #28, RW, 5'11"/175 - His speed is elite and he makes very good looks from the right wing. His agility and speed to the outside draws penalties. He can really catch up to the play and skate into passes with his quickness.
Cameron Scott, PHDG Blue #13, C, 5'11"/175 - He's a good skater who could become a more intriguing prospect. He's quick and is a playmaker. He's going to Westminster School for the upcoming season.
Jaden Shields, Oakland Grizzlies #9, RD, 5'10"/185 - He's a rugged blue liner for his size who isn't afraid to step up and throw his weight around. He made a nice pass up to the left wing on an outlet pass. A Sioux City draft pick in the USHL, he's stronger than his size indicates.
Ben Thomas, EC Kings 17 Draft #9, LW, 5'10/170 - A right shot, he did a good job playing his off wing and distributing the puck from the left wall and below the dots. He skates well and does a lot of things well, but college coaches are looking for him to solidify a strength.
Jake Transit, Oakland Grizzlies #10, LW, 5'9"/162 - He has elite speed, but needs to figure it out and put it all together. A Bloomington pick in the USHL, he has potential for sure.
Mac Welsher, Oakland Grizzlies #16, LC, 5'8"/170 - He's fast, quick and good on puck pursuit. He has a second gear that he can use to get by defenders or turn on the afterburners to get to a loose puck. He makes some nice passes and made one real nice chip up the left wall that led to a scoring chance. Sioux City draft pick in USHL.
Josh Wildauer, Oakland Grizzlies #13, RC, 5'10"/179 - He made some good looks, reads plays well and has decent speed. He anticipates where the puck is going to be.
Perry Winfree, Oakland Grizzlies #2, RD, 6'2"/180 - Former Carolina Jr. Hurricane blue liner is a Cedar Rapids draft pick. He's not flashy, but he has pro size and does his job defensively. He has a good shot from the point that he does a nice of getting on net, but he's just a steady, solid defenseman who skates well.
James Allen, East Coast Militia Draft #68, 5'11"/190 - He made a real nice look from down low to out high at the point and did a few other nice things here as well. He's a player to keep an eye on to see how he develops in his second season in the OJHL.
Lucas Colalillo, Future Pros #4, LC, 5'7"/155 - He was crafty and slippery here. He did a good job splitting the cracks and finding scoring chances. He'll have to become a little more dynamic to overcome his lack of size, but he's a player to keep an eye on as he enters his second season in the OJHL.
Daniel Davidson, Eagles #1, G, 5'11"/185 - He's struggled in his first two seasons in the defensively challenged BCHL, but he looked good here. He covered the net, challenged shooters and made some nice pad saves down low.
Harrison Feeney, Hockey Essentials White #1, G, 6'1"/200 - He's always been highly regarded in the Atlantic District, but never able to put himself over the top at nationals. The recent Cedar Rapids RoughRiders pick did a good job of leading his team to victory. He covers a lot of net, had a strong lower body and kept it simple in the crease.
Blake Hallman, Kanaly Futures #10, RC, 6'0"/180 - He's a goal scorer who knew where to go to find the puck and be in areas to finish here. He was hard-nosed for the net. He had a real nice goal to tie the game late against Hockey Essentials Black, splitting the D before going top shelf for a score.
Cooper Jones, Core Hockey #67, RD, 5'9"/170 - Just completed his first season in the QMJHL with Halifax and it showed here. He skates well and had good vision in transition. He's still undersized and needs to show he can produce and play better defensively against stronger competition in major junior.
Jackson Koblick, Kanaly Futures #3, RD, 6'0"/160 - He's a good skater, was good on gaps and made a few nice pokechecks to keep opposing forwards from getting into the zone.
Logan Kramsky, Kanaly Futures #1, G, 5'10"/180 - He was hot Sunday morning and stole a few games. He's athletic, moves well in the crease and covers and limits rebounds. He doesn't have prototypical size, but he's worth keeping an eye on.
Artem Kusov, Andrews Hockey #15, LW, 5'8/165 - Undersized Russian forward played a gritty game. He's quick, good on puck pursuit and can disrupt the flow of the game. He's crafty and finds the score sheet. A late '98, he played wing on a line with Maine commit Adam Dawe.
Philip Lagunov, East Coast Militia Draft #62, RC/RW, 6'0"/180 - He was the top uncommitted '98 here. He's a late '98 so he's 2017 draft eligible. He has good size, was a good skater, played well below the dots and used his size, strength and strong core as leverage from opposing defenders. He had numerous good chances and finished a lot of them.
Charlie Levesque, Eastern Ontario Hawks #7, RW, 5'9"/165 - He was a good skater who used his edges. He was elusive and tough for defenders to contain. He had a quick release and an overall nice offensive touch. He put up a point per game in the CCHL with Hawkesbury as a 17 year-old.
Nicholas Richards, Boston Jr. Whalers Orange #19, RD, 6'3"/175 - He had good gaps, a good stick and made some good pokechecks. He played with Compuware last season.
Travis Schneider, Top Shelf Yellow #14, LC, 5'11"/175 - The Canterbury forward has long been a favorite of this observer. He's a smart player with good speed, hockey IQ and vision. He competes and plays a complete game. He projects as a strong third or fourth line center at the collegiate level. He made a nice steal at his own blue line and also scored a goal with a strong net drive to the far post.
Colin Slyne, EC Kings 16 Draft #15, LW, 6'0/188 - He was quick, sniped a power play goal top shelf from left circle and impressed. He's a finisher. He's going to play for CT Rangers Premier after graduating this year from Brunswick. He's the type of prospect that could be a decent college player after a few years of junior hockey.
Christoffer Tegnander, Canada West Elite Red #27, 6'2"/205 - Swedish native has a big frame and is a player that looks to have some potential. His skating and lack of speed are weaknesses, but he could be a power forward with a decent shot if he can work on his skating.
George Thurston, NE Thrashers Red #10, LC, 6'0"/190 - He was the player that stood out most on his team. He moved well and made some nice moves with the puck.
Davin Van De Zilver, Kanaly Futures #8, RD, 5'9"/150 - He's undersized, but was a mobile defender who carried the puck up ice and made a couple of good outlet passes. He had a good stick and good gaps.
Jordan Kaplan, Hockey Essentials White #11, RC, 5'9"/160 - At Salisbury, he's always stood out as a smart player who plays the game the right way, but his game really seemed to take a step and it showed here. He had nice hands, making something out of nothing on odd man rush for a goal in tight. He made a nice hockey play with a steal at his own blue line before turning it up ice. His lower body strength seems to be getting better and it showed in his foot speed.
Chance Longjohn, Andrews Hockey #11, RC, 5'11"/190 - He did a good job possessing the puck and put some points on the board.
Dryden McKay, New England Leafs #31, G, 6'0"/180 - He did a good job squaring up to shooters and had good rebound control. He did a good job tracking pucks and holding onto them. He had a decent year in NAHL after a bad outing chased him out of USHL.
Andrew Sinard, EC Kings 16 Draft #4, LD, 6'6"/188 - A defenseman with a long reach, he did a decent job containing opposing forwards. He'll either be in Cedar Rapids (USHL) or Aberdeen (NAHL) this upcoming season.
David Thomson, East Coast Militia Draft #67, RC/RW, 6'0"/185 - He had good speed through the neutral zone, created chances by using his speed and could finish. He's been a point per game player in the OJHL who should be looked at by colleges this upcoming season.
Michael Ufberg, Hockey Essentials White #72, LD, 6'0"/175 - He was steady and consistent over the weekend. He skates with his head up and distributes the puck with precision, albeit not overly flashy. He made a couple of real solid plays defensively. Chicago Steel took him in the late rounds of 2016 USHL Phase II Draft.
Nicholas Vlahos, Canada West Elite Red #19, RW, 5'10"/185 - He had a hard wrist shot and a finishing ability. He seemed to be around the puck a lot with an ability to keep the play going.
Zach Zorn, New England Leafs #12, LW, 6'1"/185 - He didn't produce much in his first year in the BCHL, but he made a couple of nice power moves to the net here. He had good jump and is a player to keep an eye on for AHA teams.
Will Cullen, Canada West Elite Red #77, RD, 6'0"/180 - He's a mobile defenseman who was able to skate out of trouble and retrieve pucks in his own end. He moves the puck quickly and proficiently. He did a good job of knowing when to pick his spots. Keep an eye on him as a kid developing late in the game.
Taylor Leger, Canada West All Stars #15, LW, 6'4"/215 - He had good size, drove the net and could dish the puck off once drawing defenders his way. He's a bit of a junior hockey journeyman who has to prove himself in a more refined environment than Chowder Cup Pre-Draft, which was just glorified pond hockey.
Justin Schebel, East Coast Militia Draft #65, RD, 6'0"/170 - He was solid, strong on the PP, had a good stick and skated well. He's a player to watch for a WCHA or AHA team to make a push on as a late bloomer and older freshman for 2017-18.
Sam Schultz, East Coast Militia Draft #47, RD, 5'10"/168 - Wisconsin native played in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League with Dauphin this past season. He's undersized, but mobile and can distribute the puck nicely. He's another player to keep an eye on late in the recruiting process for an older freshman add for 2017-18.
Paul Vella, New England Leafs #15, LW, 5'11"/170 - He was crafty, had a hard shot and played through the puck and opposing players. He read plays well. The Staten Island native could be a good pickup for an AHA team looking to add an older freshman for 2017-18. He's been in the CCHL the past two seasons with Gloucester Rangers and Hawkesbury Hawks.