Last weekend’s NAHL Showcase, and the Minnesota Blades U16 Showcase a few miles across town, which piggybacked off the event were two of the first major scouting opportunities of the year for players in the 2002 birth year, who will be eligible to be selected for the NTDP next year, and/or be selected in the USHL Futures Draft.
I say “this year” because an emphasis on longer scouting cycles, and a general bend toward batshit insanity in college hockey recruiting means this is no longer the debut for many of these players. I joked that this event used to be about the excitement of a new, unknown crop of players, and now it’s about being underwhelmed by players I’ve heard hyped as the next great player for the past two years.
I don’t think it lessens the importance of this event, or scouting within a draft year in general, however. I’m working on a longer piece on the Lucius brothers commitment to Minnesota and college hockey’s trend of recruiting bantams in general, but one of the big points is just how different the U16 level is from the U14 level. U16s is the first time that hockey sense starts to precedence over raw skating ability. It’s a much different game at the U16 level, and there are going to be some big changes to draft lists as the year goes on.
Anyway, onto the class itself. I was impressed with the group of ‘02s I saw last weekend. Maybe not so much at the very top of the class, but I thought the overall depth was much stronger than in past years. There are kids in the ‘B’ category this year than would have been ‘A’s in previous, and ‘C’s that would have been ‘B’s in previous years.
As per usual, the ‘A’ category is a likely NTDP camp candidate, ‘B’ is a likely USHL Futures Draft candidate, and ‘C’ is sort of on-the-radar as a potential USHL pick.
Also a reminder that these lists are never quite all-inclusive. I watched a lot over four days, but obviously couldn’t watch everything, and there’s always a trade-off between breadth and depth. The NAPHL always gets the shorted a bit here because they come back to Blaine in December, which makes for better viewing anyway.
It’s also worth noting that this was the first year the event featured a U15 division. The U15 age division was a pilot program started by USA Hockey last year, and so far, it seems to be a success. I didn’t watch a lot, but I thought the level of play was pretty good, and while there weren’t many players that are likely to be on the USHL draft radar for this upcoming season, there were some players that I think are going to be good players in a few years. I’m all for something to help catch some of the late-bloomers and keep them playing high-level hockey.
With all that preamble, here is my list of some of the top prospects from last weekend in the 2002 age group.
Sahil Panwar-F-Honeybaked U16- Panwar played U16 last season, where he was a standout on a relatively weak LA Jr. Kings squad. This year, he has moved to Honeybaked, which many think is the best team in the country, at least on paper.
Panwar looked very good here. I liked his quickness and agility and he showed good hockey sense making plays with the puck. He’s still relatively undeveloped physically too, so there’s still room for him to grow. He showed the most long-term offensive upside of anyone in the group.
There’s been some confusion, myself included, about Panwar since he has moved around a lot, but to the best of my understanding, he was born in Canada but has dual US-Can citizenship, and he will be eligible for this spring’s OHL Draft.
Antonio Stranges-F-Little Caesar’s U16(Michigan)-Stranges has some tremendous individual skills. He’s got really quick feet and excellent agility. He’s one of the best pure athletes in the group. His stickhandling ability is well above average too. The part I question is his ability to use his teammates, which I think limits his offensive upside long-term. But there is a place for a kid as athletic as him on any team.
Wyatt Schingoethe-F-Chicago Mission U16(Notre Dame)- Schingoethe is built like a truck and is a really strong skater. I’m not sure he’ll be a big scorer at the next level, but he’s smart enough that he should be a very effective two-way forward.
Brock Faber-D-Minnesota Blades U15(Notre Dame)-Faber announced a commitment to Notre Dame shortly after this event. Coming into the weekend, I thought Faber was the top ‘02 in Minnesota, and he had another nice showing here. Faber is a super-smooth skating defenseman that handles the puck really well. His offensive game is still developing, but there is room for him to grow in that area.
Tanner Latsch-F-Honeybaked U16(Wisconsin)- There are some things that Latsch does really well. He’s a big, strong kid that skates well, especially north-south, and he shoots the puck in stride beautifully, giving him a quick, deceptive release that is tough for goalies to handle.
The downside was that I thought he really struggled using his teammates and creating offense in tight areas when he couldn’t just blow past defenders with his speed. It’s worth noting that this weekend was probably the first time Latsch hasn’t had to be a one-man show, so that may come with time as he settles into his new team.
Daniel Laatsch-D-Team Wisconsin U16(Wisconsin)- Laatsch committed to Wisconsin last week, and it was easy to see what the Badger staff saw in him. Laatsch has a tall, lanky frame and really light feet that make him a really agile four-direction skater. He showed good willingness to push the puck up the ice and be aggressive offensively. He’s a player with a really high ceiling.
Hunter Strand-F-Alaska Oilers U16-A really fast, strong two-way forward that competes hard. He plays a really complete game.
Vincent Iorio-D-Shattuck-St. Mary’s U16-Iorio was a high WHL Bantam Draft pick last spring that at least for now is keeping his options open. He’s a tall defender with big reach that covers a lot of ice. He has big potential as a shutdown defenseman.
Chase Bradley-F-New Jersey Colonnials(Northeastern)-He stood out in a game where his team was really over-matched. Good speed and he uses it to be active and involved in the play. He displayed some nice finishing ability too.
Casey Roepke-D-Team Wisconsin U16(Wisconsin)-A strong, reliable defenseman that moves well and plays a quiet, solid game.
Mitchell Smith-D-Oakland Grizzlies U16-Smith is an under-sized defenseman, but skates really well with excellent balance and he moves the puck effectively. Good feet makes him a strong four-direction skater.
Gerard Keane-D-Chicago Mission U16-Keane is a very versatile player because he has the strength to be a physical presence, with the puck skills to contribute on the offensive end.
Wyatt Kaiser-D-Minnesota Blades U15-Smaller defender with great quickness that is very good on the offensive end.
Kyle Aucoin-D-Chicago Mission U16-Not very big, but he was super smart with the puck, and should become even more effective when he grows into his body.
Zach Michaelis-F-Minnesota Blades U15-Michaelis is a potential power forward that is effective at driving hard to the net to create offensive opportunities.
Carter Rohmann-F-Compuware U16-He has pretty decent athleticism for already being 6’3”. Probably not a huge scorer, but the type of player that can be a solid contributor in some capacity because of his size and skating.
Blake Perbix-F-Minnesota Blades U15-Plays very similar to his cousin Jack. Strong skater with good offensive skills.
Owen Baumgartner-F-Shattuck-St. Mary’s U16-Small forward that is an explosive skater and created some nice offensive opportunities.
Landon Slaggert-F-Chicago Mission U16(Notre Dame)-A really smart, disciplined player that is always in the right position to make a play.
Victor Mancini-D-Compuware U16-Big defender that is a decent skater for his size. Projects as more of a defensive defenseman.
Dominic Murfarreh-F-Compuware U16-He uses his speed really effectively, and showed some above average passing ability.
Tiernan Shoudy-F-Little Caesar’s U16(Michigan State)-Smaller forward that showed a few flashes of high-end skill, but otherwise was fairly quiet in the game I saw him.
Sam Duerr-D-Shattuck-St. Mary’s-Plays a rugged, physical defensive game.
Jacob Perreault-F-Chicago Mission U16-A nice combination of size and speed that gets around the ice well and can be effective playing a more physical game.
Andrei Bakanov-F-Oakland Grizzlies U16
Matt Basgall-D-Chicago Mission U16
Ben Dexheimer-D-Minnesota Blades U15
Owen Gallatin-D-Minnesota Blades U15
Hunter Hastings-F-Arizona Bobcats U16
Avery Hayes-F-Honeybaked U16
Colin Hedland-D-Alaska Oilers U15
Will Hopewell-G-Washington Little Caps U15
Jack Horbach-F-Chicago Mission U16
Daniel Juzych-D-Honeybaked U16
Jackson Kocur-F-Honeybaked U16
Cade Lemmer-F-Team Wisconsin U16
Xavier Medina-G-Honeybaked U16
Scott Morrow-D-Shattuck-St. Mary’s U16
Mackie Samoshkevich-F-Shattuck St. Mary’s U16
Cole Schneider-F-Team Illinois U16
Matthew Sredl-D-Honeybaked U16
Joseph Teasdale-F-Oakland Grizzlies U16
Will Traeger-F-Shattuck-St. Mary’s U16
Thomas Weis-F-Chicago Mission U16