Philadelphia, Pa. — Team LeClair defeated Team Howe, 6-4, in the 2016 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
However, the final score was rather meaningless in what was a glorified street hockey game. The 60 minutes of hockey had good pace, but there was little structure and even less physicality.
Green Bay Gamblers and Eden Prairie High School left shot center Casey Mittelstadt scored twice, earning him Player of the Game honors.
The late ‘98 tied the score, 1-1, for Team Howe at the 4:14 mark of the opening period. The marker came at the end of a very long shift in which he made a few good plays with the puck. Just moments after missing on a move into the scoring area, he found some open space and collected a puck from linemate Kailer Yamamoto. He received the puck on his forehand, but quickly went to the backhand to slide it past Team LeClair goaltender Jake Oettinger.
His second goal came with 17 seconds remaining in the second period. He jammed home a puck that Mick Messner had gotten to the right goal mouth.
Outside of his two goals, the Minnesota recruit showed he has the afterburners to break down the left side and gain zone entry with puck skills and skating ability. A good example of this came in the first period when his extra gear allowed him to get just past the defender in order to send a centering pass out to the right slot.
Later, he blew by the right defender, went around the net before hitting a linemate in the slot after he had circled the goal.
Mittelstadt might not have the prettiest stride, but he possesses the ability to put the puck in the net like no other U.S. forward this draft season. For that very reason, he leaves Philadelphia as the early favorite to be the top American off the board come next June.
Kailer Yamamoto is a player who just seems to have the puck on his stick a lot. His skating and skill set weren’t that flashy Thursday night, but he made plays. His two assists on both of Mittelstadt’s goals speak for themselves.
The Spokane Chiefs right wing is a player whose impact on a game can sometimes go unnoticed. A very good skater, he’s good cycling down low and he does a good job keeping the puck moving.
Erie Otters right wing Vanya Lodnia had a very good game, even before finding the back of the net in the third period. His goal, just 1:35 into the final frame, exemplified his skill set. He raced into the zone down the left side. He pulled up, faked a pass to the middle and rocketed a wrist shot over the goalie’s glove side shoulder.
Lodnia is such a good skater he’s very slippery out there. He can cut and has a good low center of gravity. He can keep the puck on his stick and be elusive despite being somewhat undersized.
His passing skills and playmaking ability are notable almost every shift. He made a behind the back pass out to his center from the right wall after gaining zone entry.
At 5-foot-10, he will hear a lot of doubters questioning if he has the size to be worthy of a late first round pick. However, his skill set is elite enough for him to be a factor despite his size. He projects as a late first rounder or early second rounder as of now.
Omaha Lancers right wing Brannon McManus was the only player to score three points Thursday night. He has the puck skills to impact a game and change the dynamic of a game quickly.
He’s the type of player who is a streaky offensive player. He’ll be having just a mediocre game and then, all of a sudden, it’s like a switch goes off in his head. His passing ability is very good. The Minnesota commit made a great pass out to the far post from just behind the goal line on the left side.
His third period goal was similar to Lodia’s. He gained zone entry on the left side, pulled up and sniped one over goaltender Keith Petruzzelli’s shoulder.
Having that second gear and getting going quickly is key to a player having what it takes to make it to the next level. Boston University recruit Logan Cockerill displayed that ability Thursday night.
His first step was evident several times throughout the game. He had had that extra gear to blow by an opposing defenseman on more than one occasion, including his third period goal. He slowed down a little in the neutral zone then just blew by the left defenseman. He eventually was hauled down, but the puck slid into the net.
Despite being just 5-foot-9, Logan Hutsko had quite the impact, even below the dots, on Thursday’s game. The U.S. NTDP U-18 right wing did a nice job passing and cycling down low. His speed allowed him to get to pucks quickly and keep possession for his team.
A Boston College commit, he scored his goal off an odd man rush down the left wing. His pass to Ryan Poehling was blocked, but he pushed the puck right into the net.
He showed off his hands with a nice move down the left wing. He had the puck on his forehand, but he brought it to his backhand quickly before sending a pass right out to the far post for a golden opportunity.
Kingston Frontenacs left wing Jason Robertson is a player who never skated at a USA Hockey Player Development Camp. Thursday night was the first time seeing the Northville, Mich. resident play.
He had a great second period where he had several shifts where he was all over the puck. On his goal, from the right wall, he sent a pass out to Josh Norris in the slot. He drove right to the net for the pass back and quickly deposited the puck into the back of the cage.
It’s tough to gauge just how good a defenseman is in a game such as this, but there were a few who had their moments on Thursday.
Michigan freshman Luke Martin was the best defender for Team Howe. The late ‘98 is a solid, physically mature blue liner. He was solid on gaps, had a good stick and kept the play to the perimeter.
Despite being on the ice for two goals against in the first period, Providence recruit Ben Mirageas bounced back nicely for a good game. The Bloomington Thunder defenseman is a smooth skater who can impact the breakout like very few players can. He’s not the fastest skater, but he has his head up and makes plays with the puck on his stick.
He didn’t get much of a chance to show it off Thursday, but he has a heck of a shot from the point. What his skating does do is allow him to close on opposing forwards and recover when he does get caught pinching or out of position.
U.S. NTDP U-18 defensemen Nate Knoepke, Tyler Inamoto and Phil Kemp each had their moments where they separated themselves from the rest of the pack. Knoepke, a Minnesota commit, scored on a wrister from the left point in the first period. He also had the skating ability to quickly retrieve pucks and get it going back up ice in transition. Inamoto, who likes to throw his weight around, was unable to do that Thursday, but the Wisconsin recruit had a good stick and kept the play to the outside. Kemp, a Brown commit, has a good reach and made several good pokechecks.
Boston University freshman goaltender Jake Oettinger, a late ‘98, is a prototypical modern era goaltender who lets his size benefit him. He’s a good skater and quiet in the crease, but is a butterfly goaltender who likes to just cover as much of the net as he can.