The 2014 USHL Draft will take place May 5-6 with "Phase I" being the futures portion of the draft the first day. It is eight rounds long with teams only able to select players born in 1998. Taking a look at some 1998-born New Englanders (and those playing in the region), these are players who could hear their names called.
Because of the difficulty of ranking players who have played against such varying degrees of talent, outside of showcases such as the 2013 USA Hockey Select 15 Festival and the Beantown Classic, etc., the list will be in alphabetical order by position.
It's extremely difficult to gauge the ability of 98s playing prep school hockey against players that are sometimes four years older.
Not all of these players will be selected, but this list is more of an idea on some of the top 98s who could hear their names called. It's entirely possible some of the below-listed players won't be called for the simple reason that they want to stay and play closer to home. Don't think for one minute that USHL teams don't do their homework and know who has interest and who doesn't.
Last note, this writer saw a lot of hockey games this winter, but didn't see every team in the region. It is entirely possible there are some prospects on the lesser known programs that went unnoticed. Every player on this list I saw at least once.
Ty Amonte, Thayer Academy (MA) - The son of high-scoring NHL veteran and BU alum Tony Amonte, Ty doesn't project out to replicate his father's success. However, his name recognition coupled with his above average skill set could land him a spot on a USHL affiliates list for the 2014-15 season. He plays for his father at Thayer so it is unlikely he would bolt for the USHL until after his prep school career is over.
Jamie Armstrong, Bishop Hendricken (RI) - The Warwick, RI native was the only Rhode Islander invited to the NTDP Evaluation Camp in March. Although he didn't make it, he is still an intriguing prospect. His father Bill is the Director of Amateur Scouting for the St. Louis Blues. I only saw Hendricken play once this past season, but in my limited viewing, Armstrong projects as a solid third liner who can muck and grind, but also contribute offensively from time-to-time.
Josh Chapman, North Yarmouth Academy (Maine) - One of four captains on Eric Graham's Panthers club this past winter, Chapman is a natural leader with some good offensive instincts. I watched a few of NYA's games to catch a glimpse of 2000-born prodigy Oliver Wahlstrom, a Maine commit, but came away impressed with Chapman. The Buffalo, NY native could be taken in the later rounds as a potential project.
John DeRoche, Jr. Bruins 16U (USPHL) - The Lynnfield, Mass. native is undersized, but he's constantly moving his feet on the ice and has great hands. The Quinnipiac recruit is nifty with the puck and can both set up and finish. His scoring prowess for the Jr. Bruins 16U team showed he can more than handle himself against his peers, despite the small frame.
Logan Drevitch, Boston Jr. Bandits (EJEPL) - The Middleboro, Mass. native is the son of former Maine and UMass Lowell defenseman Scott and the brother of Merrimack commit Tyler. The youngest Drevitch has terrific hands and really knows what to do with the puck on his stick. He is a hot commodity on the recruiting trail as a few Hockey East schools have already offered. He had five goals in last summer's USA Hockey Select 15 Festival.
Eric Esposito, Loomis Chaffee (CT) - The younger brother of Vermont commit Alex saw his Pelicans team win the New England Prep School Large Championship this winter in his first season. He is a player that NCAA coaches will be after in the not-too-distant future. He projects similarly to his brother as more of a set up guy than a finisher, but he has some nice offensive moves. He plays well away from the puck for a youngster.
Sam Field, Choate (CT) - There are some more skilled '98s than Field, but he is a big kid with the potential to really grow into his body and be an impact player. He has a quick and hard release. He didn't get much opportunity this winter to showcase that on Patrick Dennehy's team, but a USHL team might take a flyer on him, seeing the upside in his game. The other promising aspect of Feld's game is his maturity level in the defensive end.
Matthew Koopman, Marblehead HS (MA) - He will be transferring to play for Dan Driscoll at the Berkshire School in the fall, and is a solid prospect. He has great speed and has that extra burst to get by a defender, but it was tough to judge his true potential in Division 2 high school play.
John Leonard, Springfield Cathedral (MA) - The UMass commit is sure to hear his name called in the USHL Futures Draft. He was on a loaded Panthers club that boasted five Division I commits. He has good vision on the ice to go along with his nifty hands. He made several great sauce passes throughout the course of the season and also had the ability to finish.
Mike O'Leary, Salisbury (CT) - Promising prospect from Halifax, Nova Scotia played on Andrew Will's prep school champions this winter. He didn't see much playing time in the offensive scenarios, given the team's strength in numbers especially with such skilled upperclassmen.
Liam Murphy, Avon Old Farms (CT) - The University of Connecticut recruit had a terrific season for John Gardner's Winged Beavers. The sophomore forward already has a good frame and projects as a power forward with above average hands and vision. He is more of a set up guy than a goal scorer, but can do both. Expect to see Murphy get taken early in the draft.
Josh Vertentes, Portsmouth Abbey (RI) - The Rehoboth, Mass. native is an interesting prospect. He excelled for Portsmouth Abbey, an under-the-radar prep program, this past winter, but also had a strong showing at last summer's USA Hockey Select 15 Festival. He's got a quick first stride and has good a good scoring touch down low. He will be transferring to Avon Old Farms this fall.
Jacob Gresh, Avon Old Farms (CT) - The Avon, Conn. native is a versatile prospect, and can play both offense and defense. He came up the ranks as a blue liner, but certainly loves to jump into the offense. Not to make a total comparison, but he's in the mold of a David Warsofsky or Torey Krug.
Eric Jeramiah, St. Sebastian's (MA) - He played for Dave Spinale at Xaverian as a freshman before transferring to prep school. He is short, but he's rugged and has tenacity in all zones. He's one of those players that goes all-out each and every shift and can be counted on to win puck battles despite his lack of size.
Colin McCabe, Thayer Academy (MA) - A small blue liner (5-6) who will need to gain some size to truly be considered a top prospect on the blue line. However, he's skilled and has very good vision up ice and on the power play. Playing on a solid Thayer team this past winter for Tony Amonte allowed him to be exposed to prep hockey without being thrown in the fire right away.
Luke McInnis, Hingham HS (MA) - The son of NHL veteran and BC alum Marty is a smooth skating defenseman who was invited to the NTDP Evaluation Camp in March. As one might expect with his pedigree, he's a very smart hockey player. Perhaps the best compliment this writer could pay him is in the two games he saw this winter, McInnis wasn't easily noticed. He just went about his business and didn't make any mistakes, a good sign for a young defender.
Jake Ryczek, Selects Academy 16U (USPHL) - The New Hampshire commit from Ludlow, Mass. is an elite defender for his age. He reminds me a lot of BC High '97 Ryan Shea who this writer believes is the top uncommitted defenseman in the region. Ryczek is poised with the puck and is a smooth skater.
Jamie Swiggett, CT Oilers 16U (EJEPL) - The Darien, Conn. native is very strong on his skates and is an exciting player to watch. He still needs to be reined in at times, but he's a very fascinating prospect. One thing I noticed about him in limited viewings was his hockey savvy. He's definitely received some good coaching along the way.
Michael Young, Rivers (MA) - The Medford, Mass. native is a talented, puck-moving defender who played prep school hockey as an eighth grader the season before last. He already has good size and is conscientious in all three zones for Shawn MacEachern's club. He isn't the only talented '98 on the Rivers team. Fellow blue liners Frank Boie, Michael Gurska, Tanner Miller and forwards Frank Ferrara and Charlie Lawrence are potential college prospects in the years to come.
Brandon Collett, Catholic Memorial (MA) - The Easton, Mass. native is not an overly big goaltender, but he was the unquestioned MVP for Bill Hanson's team this past season as a sophomore. He's got a quick glove and is athletic, and a team might take a flyer on him in one of the later rounds.
Ryan Ferland, St. Mark's (MA) - The Franklin, Mass. native was picked for the USA Hockey Select 15 Festival last summer and will likely hear his name called in the draft. He has good fundamentals and has progressed a lot since last year. He carried the bulk of the load for Scott Young's team this winter.
Zac Laramie, St. John's Prep (MA) - A freshman for Kristian Hanson's Eagles this winter, Laramie handled himself well despite an underwhelming season for the program. The Andover, Mass. native is regarded as a potential Division I prospect. It will be interesting to see how he develops over the next few seasons.
Aidan Murphy, Xaverian (MA) - The Walpole, Mass. native isn't overly big, but he's got good reflexes between the pipes. He struggled with consistency in his first season of high school hockey, but he seemed to play best when he found his comfort zone. He did a good job of keeping his team in games against some of the upper echelon teams in his conference.
Brandon Payzant, BC High (MA) - Eagles head coach John Flaherty described Payzant as the best player on the ice for his team on numerous occasions this winter, an impressive statement considering the abundance of talent on the BC High roster. Payzant is strong on squaring up to shooters and cutting down angles. The Somerville, Mass. native has a quick glove, but the one knock against him is the strength of the defensive core in front of him.
Nick Sorgio, Salisbury (CT) - The West Hartford, Conn. native was highly regarded coming into the season, but saw minimal playing time behind senior Mitchell Datz as the Crimson Knights won the New England Prep School title. Sorgio led his CT Wolfpack team to the 14U USA Hockey Nationals last season. It would be a shock if Sorgio wasn't picked at some point during the process.