It’s Tuesday, so that means its time for the first of two updates this week regarding prospects eligible for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Today, we’ll recap the 2011 Under-18 Five Nations Cup, which wrapped up on Sunday.
The U.S. National Under-18 Team easily captured the tournament title, winning all four of its games in the Czech Republic. Beginning with a 6-2 win over Sweden, the U.S. then trounced Russia, 10-4. Team USA got its biggest test from host Czech Republic, but won 3-1. The U18s then wrapped up the tournament with a convincing 7-4 victory over Finland.
Yesterday, I told you how good the 1994s are, but don’t forget about the 1993s, either. This U.S. National Under-18 Team has lost just once to its own birth year in the last two seasons, and the only loss came in an exhibition match-up against Sweden. Dating back to last year, the 1993s have posted a 17-1 record against its own age group. I don’t think I have to tell you just how impressive that is.
The interesting thing about Team USA’s success is that this team really struggled against the USHL last year and have been up and down in the league this year. Perhaps the stiff competition offered to Team USA in the USHL is helping toughen them up for the international games. I’d say that’s inarguably part of it. If that’s the case, then the partnership between the NTDP and the USHL is working as far as on-the-ice product.
This team seems to be hitting its stride now, having won its last seven games, including its last three USHL contests. With many draft eligibles on the roster, improvement in the standings should also lead to some players seeing their draft stock rise. So let’s get to it.
After the jump, the players that best helped their draft stock at the 2011 Under-18 Five Nations Cup and some links regarding other prospects.
With scouts watching, perhaps no player improved his draft stock more than Reid Boucher. All week I was talking about how I couldn’t believe how underrated the forward has been all season. After capping the tournament with a hat trick against Finland, Boucher finished with a team-high six goals and 10 points. I believe this is the first time in two years that a player not named Rocco Grimaldi led the team in scoring at an international tournament (except for last year’s Vlad Dzurilla, in which Grimaldi did not play). Boucher is now second at the NTDP with 40 points (21-19) and he may just be getting warmed up.
Speaking of Rocco Grimaldi, he may not have gotten the point lead, but he did come in second with nine points (5g-4a). He got off to a hot start with seven points through the first two games, but cooled. It is quite rare to see his production drop off, but this tournament showed this team has more weapons than just the 5-foot-6 offensive phenom. Still, Grimaldi remains 13 points ahead of his nearest teammate, leading Team USA with 29 goals and 24 assists this season.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the tournament came in the form of Blake Pietila, who doubled his season goal total at the Five Nations. His five goals and seven points were good for second on the squad. Normally a grind-it-out, hard working forward, Pietila brought some offense. He’s not going to light the world on fire offensively, but his size and strength are helping him create space. Showing some touch to go along with his hard-nosed play may help his draft status come June.
Playing alongside Pietila was Cole Bardreau, who finished the tournament with six points (3g-3a). With 21 points on the season so far, Bardreau likely isn’t going to cause a lot of scouts to salivate, but as a guy who is battling to earn a selection at the draft, he acquitted himself quite well. Bardreau didn’t produce a ton internationally last year, so this is a positive development. He’s not a big guy, by any means, but he plays hard and should fit in well when he heads to Cornell next fall.
The line of Pietila-Bardreau and Ryan Haggerty was a big part of Team USA’s offensive output. Haggerty posted four points (1g-3a) in the Czech Republic and now has 20 (7-13) for the season. Haggerty is committed to play for RPI next year and should fit right in with the ECAC brand of hockey. After not being listed by Central Scouting, he’s fighting for a shot at getting drafted at all and his production at the Five Nations should help some.
Interestingly, there was not a single goal scored by a defenseman for Team USA at this tournament. However, both Robbie Russo and Michael Paliotta contributed three assists. Also, getting Connor Murphy back from injury provides nice depth and great size for this defensive group. He had one assist in the Czech Republic, but the biggest thing for him right now is to show scouts he’s healthy.
I have a feeling we’ll see two 1994 defensemen, namely Seth Jones and Jacob Trouba, in the mix to go to the 2011 World Under-18 Championship with the U18s. Other than that, based on this team’s performance internationally, I’d assume it will stay pretty much intact. In year’s past the NTDP has called in some outside help like Austin Watson and Connor Brickley last year. This time around, they might not have room.
First off, let me say that researching Minnesota Hockey prospects is made infinitely easier by the terrific Minnesota High School Hockey site MNHockeyHub.com. It is a tremendous resource for statistics and high school hockey news. Moving on…
Wayzata High School is home to two of the top players in Minnesota High School Hockey, Mario Lucia and Tony Cameranesi. Lucia is ranked No. 30 by Central Scouting in the mid-term rankings, while Cameranesi sits at 160.
Lucia, just a junior, is ineligible for Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Award, however his senior teammate is giving it an honest run. Cameranesi, Wayzata’s captain, has posted points in all but three games and leads Wayzata with 48 points on the year, including a team best 34 assists. Lucia is second on the squad with 42 points, including a team-best 23 goals. Mike Morreale of NHL.com caught up with Lucia after Wayzata’s 2-1 OT win in an outdoor game against Roseau as part of Hockey Day in Minnesota. Lucia had Wayzata’s first goal of the contest.
It’s safe to say that this is a pair that should be watched closely in the waning weeks of the Minnesota High School season.
Friend of the blog Kirk Luedeke has a great prospect blog called Bruins 2011 Draft Watch. While usually focusing on prospects that the Bruins may be able to snap up with an early first round selection thanks to the Toronto Maple Leafs, he gives you a great sense of other players that you should know. Just last week he took a look at Max Everson, an offensive-minded defenseman averaging a point-per-game with Edina High School. Like Lucia, Everson helped fill in at the NTDP before his high school season, which may have helped build some confidence. After a thorough scouting report, Luedeke muses that Everson’s commitment to play at Harvard may have an impact on his draft stock. It’s an interesting topic to think about.
The Beanpot wrapped up yesterday in Boston, with Boston College earning the 7-6 OT victory over Northeastern. Corey Pronman, of Hockey Prospectus saw last Monday’s preliminary action and gave his thoughts on Jamie Oleksiak, Adam Clendening, and Matt Nieto. Pronman had some glowing reviews for the big Northeastern defenseman:
Between the two games played on Monday, it was hard to find a prospect drafted or undrafted that was more impressive than Jamie Olesiak, whose stock has continued to climb throughout the year.
Lastly, this doesn’t relate to a specific prospect but SBNation blog Behind the Net has an interesting post on whether or not size matters in the NHL. With high-end players like Grimaldi (5’6″) and Boucher (5’9″) or even Oleksiak (6’7″), this year’s draft will have plenty of debates on size.
A reminder that all this week, we will have content leading up to Hockey Weekend Across America. I’ll have a bunch of links posted tomorrow to help get you ready for next weekend. Sounds like there is going to be a lot to look forward to.
Also, as always, we’ll have another American Prospect Update on Thursday.