Pretty much across the entire country, the high school hockey season has ended with many state championships played last weekend. The cream of the high school crop has always been Minnesota and this year, it certainly lived up to the hype. Additionally, New Jersey’s non-public school state title game featured a few 2011 Draft prospects.
On top of the high school season ending, the college hockey season is close to wrap time as well. With conference tournaments being played this upcoming weekend and the national tournament looming in the background, the pressure gets ramped up.
Coming up after the jump, we take a look at Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey, Kyle Rau, Delbarton (N.J.) High’s standout all-state defenseman Matt Killian and OT hero Peter McMullen. Plus, a look at the latest ranking from International Scouting Services featuring reports on Tyler Biggs, Jamie Oleksiak, Chase Balisy, Keegan Lowe, Adam Clendening and Shane Prince.
To put it mildly, Kyle Rau had a dream season. He posted 81 points (41-40), scored the game-winner in OT to give Eden Prairie the state title and then, less than 24 hours after the emotional win, was named Minnesota Mr. Hockey. Heck, he’s already got his own “History Will Be Made” parody:
If you’re not familiar with the last line of the video: “What if Kyle Rau would have left?” (sic), this season almost literally never happened. Rau had told all of his teammates one night in November that he was going to stay with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL and not return for his senior season at Eden Prairie. However, the next day Rau decided he had made a mistake and, in fact, was going to play for his school. The end result? Becoming a local high school legend, apparently.
Not to rain on Rau’s parade, but by staying in school and dominating as everyone assumed he would he got all sorts of accolades, Rau didn’t tell NHL scouts anything new. The best way he would have accomplished that would have been by playing against older, stronger competition. Because he is a small player, at 5’9″, 160 pounds, he had to prove himself against a higher level. So now, with little time left, Rau still has a chance to tell the scouts at least a little something more about himself as a player.
Rau will finish out the season with Sioux Falls, which could have serious impact on his draft status. The small forward did skate in two games with Sioux Falls prior to his high school season, which included a three-assist effort against Youngstown.
Obviously he dominated his competition in high school. The chance to showcase his skills against that older, stronger competition in the heat of a playoff race will factor into where Rau will fall on the draft board.
He’ll need to prove that his size isn’t a disadvantage, which he was able to do throughout the high school season, but will be far tougher against the size and speed of the USHL. A drop off in production is to be expected once he steps up, but as long as he produces something, he’ll still be in good shape.
Will this next month be enough for Rau to show what he can do against the big boys? We’ll find out soon. Either way, Kyle Rau had the type of year that most people can only dream about and can look forward to hearing his name called in front of a home crowd in St. Paul come June.
One of the big surprises when NHL Central Scouting Services put out it’s mid-term rankings was the ranking of not one, but three New Jersey high school players. All three play for the Delbarton High School program which has been dominant in New Jersey High School Hockey. The highest ranked of those three was Matt Killian.
Like Rau, Killian was a high school star for Delbarton and led his team to a state title. However, unlike Rau, Killian didn’t score the heroic overtime winning goal (though he did score the game-tying goal). That honor belonged to another Delbarton standout ranked 144th by CSS: Peter McMullen. The 6’2″, 200-pound forward scored the OT goal that gave Delbarton it’s unprecedented fourth consecutive title.
McMullen has good size and put up respectable numbers with 25 goals and 20 assists to lead Delbarton. I don’t know much about McMullen or New Jersey’s high school hockey for that matter. What I do know is, thanks to CSS, his name is out there and that earns him some eyeballs from scouts. A strong season puts him in contention for a late-round selection.
Killian, a late 1992 birth date, has had a few advantages over his less-heralded teammates. He’s obviously thought very highly of to earn a ranking int the Top-100 of CSS North American mid-term rankings, coming in at 77. Killian also earned some time with the National Team Development Program this season, skating in 12 games and recording one assist. From what I understand, he didn’t look out of place. Because of his age, he was unable to compete with the U.S. National Under-18 Team in any international competition, but appeared in four USHL contests and five games against NCAA opponents which gave him some solid exposure.
Having a solid high school season, but earning time with elite players from around the country and being able to keep up is going to help lock Killian into a middle-round selection, which is a really good slot to be in coming out of New Jersey’s high school ranks.
International Scouting Services unveiled it’s latest Top 30. It was well stocked with American talent, but there was at least one surprise.
Once again, Tyler Biggs, was listed as the top American prospect, coming in at No. 8. Brandon Saad, who has been dealing with groin issues lately, slipped to No. 12. There are a lot of people who question Biggs as a legitimate top-10 pick. I don’t necessarily question it as much as I think it intrigues me.
The style of game Biggs plays may not be tapping into all of his tools. His offensive ability, I feel, is underrated. His 28 points (17-11) don’t pop out at you, but he’s an integral part of his team because of what all else he brings to the table. Crushing hits, relentless forechecking and character won’t show up on the score sheet, but he brings all of that. Additionally, he’s fearless. Unafraid of contact, willing to drop the mitts in the right situation and if he does drop ’em, I feel sorry for whoever is on the other end. He’s had some major league tussles in his two years in the USHL.
All that said, I think Saad projects as a more productive player at the next level, but whoever selects Biggs isn’t taking a huge risk. Tyler Biggs, to me, is nearly bust proof, as long as the expectations are managed properly. You know what you’re getting out of him. He’s not going to score 40 or even 30 goals in the NHL, but he’s going to be a heart-and-soul guy that does a lot of little things right. He plays an NHL-style game and has one of the better compete levels out there. As long as expectations are reasonable, Biggs is going to be a darn good NHL player after a year or two more of seasoning at Miami, where he can focus more on developing his offensive game. Is he a top-10 pick? I think that might be a bit high for the style of game he plays, but he probably won’t go much lower.
Also of note, ISS has Jamie Oleksiak slotted ahead of Scott Mayfield. It appears the Northeastern defenseman has surpassed Mayfield on just about everyone’s list as the top American defenseman after basically coming out of no where. Everyone was aware of Oleksiak because of his size, but he did not receive much first-round consideration until after he made it into Team USA’s World Junior pre-tournament camp. Both still appear to be first-round locks, but as Oleksiak has continued to grow as a player, he might even have a shot at sneaking into the Top-15.
Oleksiak also earned some extra playing time thanks to Northeastern’s ousting of BU in the Hockey East tournament. With a high-pressure contest against Boston College on Friday, Oleksiak has a big stage to showcase his talent. Expect him to continue to rise.
After the ISS rankings get posted, it’s always a good idea to head over to Hockey’s Future to take a look at who is rising and falling in the rankings and get a little more in-depth analysis. Make sure to check it out.
This month, ISS lists Chase Balisy as a riser. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that I’ve been sounding a trumpet for Balisy to earn a selection in this year’s draft, albeit in the late rounds. ISS has Balisy slotted in it’s Top 100 prospects overall. Very interesting development for a kid who came in with less than ZERO hype before this season.
Additionally, defenseman Keegan Lowe, son of former Oilers defenseman and current team president Kevin Lowe, was listed as a riser. Lowe is a dual citizen and currently plays for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL. He played for the U.S. at the 2010 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka, helping the team to a second-place finish. A while back, Mike Morreale of NHL.com talked to Keegan and Kevin Lowe about the young prospect’s past, present and future. Keegan is having a really solid season for the Oil Kings with 24 points (2-20) and a plus-32 rating. He hasn’t been shy either, posting 116 PIM.
Boston University defenseman Adam Clendening has certainly seemed to turn his season around, going from what some were calling a disappointing season to a very solid, steady rise up the charts. Perhaps fueled by getting snubbed by the U.S. National Junior Team, Clendening has done nothing but contribute and play up to his potential. ISS agrees that he is a riser and for his efforts, he was named to Hockey East’s All-Rookie Team (Oleksiak, oddly, did not garner such a selection). While that was a bit of good news for Clendening, it’s little consolation for the fact that BU’s season ended after a Hockey East tournament loss to Northeastern. As Clendening continued to heat up, a few extra games would have been nice for the offensive defenseman. His 26 points (5-21) led all BU blueliners.
In ISS’s fallers, Shane Prince garnered a mention. Despite the fact that, according to OHL coaches Prince was the league’s second-most improved player and second-best playmaker in the Eastern Conference, Prince has been dogged by the same arguments from the scouting community. I don’t know if its a bad thing that Prince has been producing so well alongside a pair of superstar teammates, but it does make him harder to project. Hence the drop off, according to the HF piece.
Adding injury to insult, Prince was on the receiving end of a viscous hit (video here) from Niagara’s Tim Billingsley (who earned a 10-game suspension for the hit) and the Ottawa 67’s standout suffered a mild concussion and whiplash.
Prince’s ability to return from injury has not yet been determined, though according to the Ottawa Citizen, Prince feels he will be able to return next week for the start of the OHL playoffs. I’m sure there is added incentive for Prince to hurry back in hopes of a breakout postseason. However, concussions can be unpredictable and he will have to be reevaluated by the league before he can return.
Should he be cleared to play, Prince will have a chance to prove himself further in the playoffs. Don’t forget Jeff Skinner went from a second-round projection to a top-10 pick after his breakout performance for Kitchener during last year’s OHL playoffs. I don’t think we’ll see anything like that with Prince, but he can certainly improve his stock some with a good showing during the postseason.
That’s it for this week’s Update. I’ll be headed to Dubuque, Iowa, Saturday to check out the U.S. National Under-18 Team take on the Fighting Saints. So be sure to check my full recap from that in Tuesday’s American Prospect Update.