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USPHL NCDC: Top Uncommitted Prospects

Despite the new name and “tuition-free” classification, the USPHL NCDC hasn’t changed much from previous renditions.

There are a few decent teams and a few good players, but there is no depth whatsoever. The league remains the haves and the have nots. The Jersey Hitmen, Islanders HC and Junior Bruins are the class of the league.

The league needs to put a limit on over-age players (1997s) in order to improve its product. Over the weekend at the Boston Junior Bruins Shootout, one league team dressed 12 players born in 1997. Two other teams dressed 10 players born in 1997.

A perfect example of this is South Shore Kings not playing an ‘00 from its 18U team that is better at his position than over-age players on its NCDC team.

The league’s business model chooses economics over integrity on the ice. The USPHL would rather push college commitments and keep older players in the system while holding down good players at the 18U Division.

The USPHL NCDC needs to limit over-age players to five per team. It also needs to put in a rule that teams must dress a certain amount of 18U players per game. It would improve the product.

It will likely be another year where the USPHL is shut out at the NHL Draft. The last player from the USPHL’s top junior league to be selected was John Marino back in the 2015 NHL Draft. Merrimack commit Jonathan Young of the Islanders is the only player in the NCDC with an outside chance to hear his name called come next June in Dallas.

I really want to see good junior hockey in the Northeast, but it’s hard to take the NCDC seriously when one game started over an hour after it was supposed to on Sunday. Stop charging scouts and college coaches to watch NCDC games. Despite the league’s best attempts at good PR, the NCDC is the laughing stock of college coaches and NHL scouts.

Without further ado, here’s a list of a few of the top uncommitted prospects in the league, broken down by birth-year.

Justin Pearson
#12 Islanders, 5/17/98, C, Shoots Left, 6-1/185

The Nashua, N.H. native skates well, protects pucks and makes plays. He scored a nice goal on Sunday, protecting the puck in transition before shooting a low wrister into the net. He’s tough along the boards. He’d be a solid pickup for a lower level Hockey East program.

John Deroche
#27 CT Jr. Rangers, 6/23/98, C, Shoots Left, 5-10/165

Last season was a whirlwind for DeRoche, but he might be the best uncommitted prospect in the NCDC. He’s a little on the smaller side, but he competes hard and can really skate. He retrieves pucks, keeps pucks moving and has good hands. He’d be a really good fit for UNH or UMass — on the big sheet.

Caleb Price
#4 Northern Cyclones, 4/4/00, D, Shoots Left, 5-10/155

Price is an undersized defenseman who can skate well and move the puck. The Hookset, N.H. native is not dynamic enough to be a big-time college prospect, but he’d be a nice fifth or sixth defenseman who could play the power play for the right Division I program.

Mike Higgins
#2 Junior Bruins, 4/6/00, D, Shoots Right, 5-10/205

After spending a year in the USHL with the Omaha Lancers, Higgins is back playing in his native Massachusetts. He’s a good skater, is tough and has most of the physical tools to be successful going forward. His hockey sense and defensive zone positioning both need work in order to transition to the next level.

Justin Marler
#8 Islanders, 12/13/97, D, Shoots Right, 6-3/225

The Naples, Fla. native is in his first season of junior hockey after graduating from Deerfield. He’s a big, mobile defender who can shoot the puck from the point. He’s physical and has reach. Marler would be a good depth defenseman with some physical upside for the right college program.

Hunter McCoy
#23 Islanders, 8/1/00, RW, Shoots Left, 6-0/190

McCoy is still adjusting to the NCDC after playing prep hockey the past two winters. He’s a good skater who passes the puck well and can be heavy on pucks. He’s a player who could be one of the more promising players in this league in time.

Guuss Van Nes
#77 Junior Bruins, 2/14/97, C, Shoots Left, 6-3/191

The Netherlands native is a big-bodied forward who could be a bottom six forward for a lower level ECAC Hockey or Atlantic Hockey team. He has the power and strength to drive the net and he has a hard shot. His skating isn’t great, but it’s good enough to get by.

Michal Stinil
#22 South Shore Kings, 3/21/99, LW, Shoots Left, 5-11/187

A native of the Czech Republic, Stinil wasn’t at his best Sunday during the BJB Shootout. His skating is elite, but he’s a little inconsistent in terms of producing offensively. He’s a good passer, but needs to think the game at a pace that will allow him to be a force each shift.

Lucas Michaud
#16 Islanders, 6/12/97, RW, Shoots Right, 5-11/190

A former Maine commit, Michaud has the ability to produce offensively, in part due to his work ethic and physical prowess. He’s not overly tall, but he’s rugged and wins a lot of battles. He goes to the dirty areas and is hard to knock off pucks. The South Portland, Maine native should get a shot in Atlantic Hockey or to be a recruited walk-on in Hockey East or ECAC.

Mark Cheremeta
#3 Islanders, 7/12/99, LW, Shoots Left, 5-11/175

Cheremeta has shown flashes at times, but is a little inconsistent. His skating and overall offensive skill sets are both above average for the NCDC. He’s a player to keep an eye on moving forward.

Luke Edgerton
#18 Jersey Hitmen, 5/31/97, LW, Shoots Right, 5-9/172

Edgerton is a player this observer hadn’t seen until this summer. He’s small, but his ability to recover pucks in the corner and find teammates is a positive trait. He assisted on a power goal Sunday at the BJB Shootout in which he hit an open linemate in the slot after a winning a puck battle in the corner.

J.J. Layton
#22 Islanders, 1/23/97, D, Shoots Right, 6-0/195

Layton is a mobile defender with decent size. He has the reach and he can do some nice things, but his hockey sense is what’s kept teams away so far. An Atlantic Hockey team would be smart to give him a look as an older freshman to provide depth on the blue line.

Ryan Lovett
#9 Junior Bruins, 7/6/99, C, Shoots Right, 6-1/186

The Franklin, Mass. native was really good at Beantown Summer Classic, but hasn’t impressed as much in viewings since then. He’s a good skater who is heavy on pucks. He projects as a bottom six forward who can bring physicality, kill penalties and chip in offensively from time to time.

George Sennot
#53 Islanders, 5/20/97, C, Shoots Left, 5-5/145

The North Andover, Mass. native has bounced around the junior hockey ranks after finishing prep school at Kimball Union. He’s small, but he’s quick and has impressed early on in the USPHL season. He’s likely destined for Division III, but he could be a nice depth piece for an Atlantic Hockey squad.