2011-12 U.S. National Under-18 Team: Forwards

Based on yesterday’s post, we know the U.S. National Under-18 Team has really solid goaltenders and defensemen, but the forwards aren’t exactly dragging the team down. With a very versatile crop of forwards, the NTDP has both depth and talent.

This is a gifted group of forwards, but one of the needs up front for this squad was a go-to bonafide scorer. There wasn’t one forward on the team last year that was consistently going to bury. As the season wore on, it looked more and more like Ryan Hartman could be that guy and he just may be going into the U18 season.

Despite the lack of that go-to scoring threat, the team had a very balanced offensive output in 2010-11. Eleven players had 20 points or more, which, when you consider the competition they faced at 16, is pretty impressive. The U18s will have an incredibly deep crop of forwards and a very good mix of playing styles.

Coming into the season, Team USA will include 14 forwards (Andrew Copp is the 14th forward and will likely float between the U18 and U17 teams over the course of the season). Of those 14, only one is NOT draft eligible this year. So there’s going to be a lot to prove for each of the guys up front in their draft campaign.

Coming up after the jump, a look at each of Team USA’s 14 forwards for 2011-12.

Riley Barber — Livonia, Mich. — Draft Eligible in 2012

Barber is the lone new addition to this U.S. National Under-18 Team. He was the first overall pick in the 2010 USHL Futures Draft, and for good reason. He made an impact for a loaded Dubuque team in his rookie season, helping the team win the Clark Cup. His 28 points as a 16-year-old rookie is pretty impressive.

Coming over to the NTDP, Barber should fit right into the spot vacated by Henrik Samuelsson. He has top-six offensive ability and as he builds more strength could be come an effective scorer for Team USA.

The race for Barber is on in the recruiting wars, but it is likely he’ll be a Windsor Spitfire in 2012-13. If this Windsor Star article from last summer is any indication, Barber’s dad, Don (who spent six years in the NHL after playing college hockey at Bowling Green) wants his son in a Spits uniform. I would be surprised if Barber makes a college commitment, but it is not out of the realm of possibility. He’s stated his interest in Michigan State in the past.

2010-11 Stats (Dubuque, inc. playoffs): 68 GP, 16-14–30, 54 PIM

Andrew Copp — Ann Arbor, Mich. — Draft Eligible in 2012

Copp was brought in mid-season last year to help fill some holes left by injury. He skated with both the U.S. National Under-17 and Under-18 Teams and likely will do the same in 2011-12.

Only issue is that Copp will not be with the NTDP full time until the conclusion of his football season. He is the starting quarterback for Ann Arbor Skyline. Copp actually is a pretty darn good football player, too. I’m no expert, but this is a pretty solid highlight reel. Kid can air it out.

That said, he’s also a good hockey player. His draft prospects may not be all that great, but he’s certainly a Division I caliber player that should garner some interest from a variety of college programs. While he may have some football opportunities, I’m told hockey is his first choice.

2010-11 Stats:
U17 Team: 25 GP, 1-4–5, 4 PIM
U18 Team:  6 GP, 1-0–1, 0 PIM

Cameron Darcy — South Boston, Mass. — Draft Eligible in 2012

Darcy might have been one of the surprises on the NHL Central Scouting Service 2012 Watch List. He was one three USHL forwards to garner an A rating despite not earning much attention over the course of last season.

Darcy plays a power-style game, but one would be hard pressed to call him a pure power forward. He skates fairly well and has some sneaky puck skills. He can score a goal by driving to the net hard or dangling past a defender. That’s why it’s sneaky skill. You don’t always see it, but when he busts it out, it looks very good.

He’s physical and solid on his skates. It’s always great to see a guy that plays a hard style show some soft hands from time to time.

He’s verbally committed to Northeastern University and would be a prized recruit for a program that lost some blue chippers when head coach Greg Cronin left. There’s no word on whether Darcy will retain his verbal, but since he’s still listed as a Northeastern commit on the roster, it’s a good indicator he still wants to be a Husky.

2010-11 Stats: 54 GP, 14-7–21, 30 PIM

Thomas Di Pauli — Woodridge, Ill. — Draft Eligible in 2012

Di Pauli is a really intriguing prospect to me. He’s 5-10, 189, but for some reason always looked smaller to me. However, the size doesn’t really matter with the way that he plays.

Di Pauli is a shifty forward that can create a lot for the guys around him. He led the U17s with 20 assists last season. There could be many more this year. Di Pauli’s vision is uncanny. He seems to find holes that shouldn’t be there and can put it right on his winger’s tape.

Notre Dame picked up a heck of a recruit when they earned a commitment from Di Pauli. He’ll be part of a pretty special freshman class for the Irish next season.

2010-11 Stats:
U17 Team: 49 GP, 7-20–27, 24 PIM
U18 Team: 2 GP, 1-1–2,  2 PIM

Ryan Hartman — West Dundee, Ill. — Draft Eligible in 2013

Perhaps the closest thing to a natural goal scorer this U18 Team will have, Hartman was the team’s top producer in 2010-11 with 34 points. His 22 goals were also tops on the team.

He certainly has a nose for the net, and with a year under his belt, he could be poised for a breakout season. As the only forward not eligible for the 2012 Entry Draft on this team, he may not get as much attention, but his is a name you should keep in mind.

He has verbally committed to Miami University, but, as is often the case when a player graduates from the NTDP before his draft eligible season, there’s plenty of buzz about him going the CHL route. His rights are held by the Plymouth Whalers, which has had a good track record of bringing in top American players (perhaps the name J.T. Miller rings a bell?). Miami may have gotten the commitment, but the recruiting battle isn’t over yet.

2010-11:
U17 Team: 52 GP, 22-12–34, 88 PIM
U18 Team:  4 GP, 0-1–1, 4 PIM

Nicolas Kerdiles — Irvine, Calif. — Draft Eligible in 2012

After an impressive showing with the Under-17s, Kerdiles was one of four 1994 players called up to the Under-18 Team. He played in both the Five Nations Tournament and World Under-18 Championship as an underager. So it was no surprise to see his name pop up as an A-rated prospect on the 2012 Watch List.

He has a very projectable pro frame at 6-1, 194. Kerdiles was able to out muscle his peers, but could not do that as an underager at the Under-18s. So he adapted. That’s what I think makes him standout. He was able to adapt his game and played his way into more ice time at the tournament.

He skated with first rounder Tyler Biggs and Caps 6th round-pick Travis Boyd for much of the U18WC and got time in key situations. That experience should boost his confidence and also give him a good grasp on how he needs to play at the next level. His role likely will be different for this Under-18 Team, but he’s proven he can play in all situations.

He’s verbally committed to the University of Wisconsin. It’s quite rare for a top-end California kid to commit to a college as early as Kerdiles did, as the allure of the WHL has caused kids to wait. His early commitment and affirmations that he wants to be a Badger make me believe he’ll be in the Cardinal and White in 2012-13.

2010-11 Stats:
U17 Team: 40 GP, 17-10–27, 60 PIM
U18 Team:  20 GP, 3-7–10, 6 PIM

Miles Koules — Los Angeles, Calif. — Draft Eligible in 2012

Koules, the son of former Lightning owner, Oren, was rated a C prospect by Central Scouting and earned an invite to the NHL’s RDO Camp, where he had a pretty solid showing.

Koules missed some time with an injury last season, but did some serious damage for Team USA, particularly in international competition. Ten of his 14 goals came against international foes. The kid can shoot the puck and seems to find the high-percentage scoring areas with ease. Not only that, but he’s a pretty decent set-up man too.

As he continues to build strength, which he’ll need to at 5-10, 188, his game should grow with him. There’s already a lot to like, but a few extra pounds and some extra power in his stride should help put him in the upper tier of draft-eligible prospects.

Koules is committed to the University of North Dakota.

2010-11 Stats: 42 GP, 14-12–26, 24 PIM

Matthew Lane — Rochester, N.Y. — Draft Eligible in 2012

Lane doesn’t possess a whole lot of size at 5-9, 170, but he plays with a ton of energy and isn’t afraid to mix it up in the corners.

Lane isn’t a bruising player, but he has the right amount of grit that will allow plenty of people to overlook his size. He’s not just an energy player, either. He has some offensive ability, posting 22 points last season.

He has yet to commit to a college, and likely won’t. His brother, Phil (who was invited to the National Junior Evaluation Camp), currently skates for the Brampton Battalion, the same team that owns Matthew’s rights.

2010-11: 55 GP, 9-13–22, 16 PIM

Stefan Matteau — Chicago, Ill. — Draft Eligible in 2012

The son of MATTEAU! MATTEAU! MATTEAU! STEPHANE MATTEAU!, Stefan is quite possibly one of the most intriguing forward prospects on this team. When you watch him, you can see all of the desirable tools you’d come to expect from a top prospect.

He has a very sturdy 6-1, 213-pound frame, good offensive instincts and skill level, but for whatever reason he doesn’t seem to consistently produce. He posted 18 points last season. Not bad, but nothing to write home about and certainly not a point total that’s indicative of his ability.

Rumors (and they might have been more than just rumors, but I was unable to confirm) circulated that Matteau was “flirting with the QMJHL,” but an NTDP source confirmed for me yesterday that he would return for his Under-18 season. It’s probably the right move, because the NTDP is a pretty good place to work out the kinks. Additionally, Matteau is a verbal commitment for North Dakota, though you can expect a ferocious battle for his rights next offseason.

There’s no doubt that Matteau deserves to be in the conversation with other top prospects. If he can put together his offensive game and find the production that escaped him last season, he could shoot up boards quicker than anyone will anticipate.

2010-11 Stats: 47 GP, 7-11–18, 67 PIM

Nickolas Olsson — Escondido, Calif. — Draft Eligible in 2012

Olsson is a hard player to gauge because he missed significant time in 2010-11 with injury. In 23 games he mustered just four points.

Still, he has decent size and with a healthy season could turn the corner and put last year behind him. Unfortunately, the year already got off to a shaky start. Because of his injury last year, he took part in the USA Hockey Select 17 Player Development Camp, which made him eligible for selection to the U.S. Under-18 Select Team for the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka. He didn’t make the cut.

Olsson will have to shake that off and be ready for a very important season. If he’s healthy, he has a chance to show everyone the player he really is.

2010-11 Stats: 23 GP, 1-3–4, 28 PIM

Kyle Osterberg — Lakeville, Minn. — Draft Eligible in 2012

The roster says 5-7, 179, which are accurate measurements. That’s all they are. Measurements. Despite his small stature, Kyle Osterberg is one of the most tenacious players on the ice. He’ll go 100 miles an hour into the corner if it means he’ll get the puck.

A hard worker on every shift, Osterberg brings a boost of energy every time he hits the ice. He played more of a bottom-six role, which for a kid his size seems silly, but it really isn’t. On top of his tenacity, he put up 20 points last season, so there’s some finish to his game.

He’ll be headed to Minnesota Duluth, a school that has had plenty of success with undersized forwards over the years. Osterberg should fit right in with Scott Sandelin’s bunch.

2010-11: 53 GP, 7-13–20, 50 PIM

Quentin Shore — Denver, Colo. — Draft Eligible in 2012

The third Shore brother to come into the NTDP, he should continue to live up to the family name. Brother Drew was a second-round pick of Florida in 2009, while other brother Nick was selected by the LA Kings in the third round in 2011.

It’s still unclear where Quentin Shore may fit into the 2012 draft, but he’s clearly got the talent to garner interest from a lot of NHL teams. You can usually expect good vision and playmaking ability from a Shore and Quentin’s no different. On top of that is the family’s trademark height.

His brothers didn’t really break out until their Under-18 seasons, so Quentin may follow suit. He has some really solid tools and could make an impact in a whole new way with this Under-18 Team. Both of his brothers are currently playing at the University of Denver, but Quentin has yet to nail down his college commitment.

2010-11 Stats: 52 GP, 4-14–18, 28 PIM

Brendan Silk — Wakefield, Mass. — Draft Eligible in 2012

Despite missing a good chunk of last season with injury, Silk earned a C rating from NHL Central Scouting on it’s 2012 Watch List. Additionally, Silk was invited to play for the U.S. Under-18 Select Team at the Ivan Hlinka tournament.

That extra time should help Silk prepare for the season as he appeared in just 14 games in 2010-11. He’s a very strong skater and has great size. There’s a lot left to be seen with Silk. As long as he stays healthy and shows up to Ann Arbor stronger, he should be looked to as an impact-type player.

He’s verbally committed to Boston College.

2010-11 Stats: 14 GP, 2-3–5, 6 GP

Frankie Vatrano — E. Longmeadow, Mass. — Draft Eligible in 2012

If anyone has something to say about the criticism that this team lacks a pure goal scorer, it might be Frankie Vatrano. He can absolutely wire the puck and potted 19 goals last season for the U.S. Additionally, he led the team with seven game-winners.

He’ll need an uptick in his production to continue to impress scouts. He has a pretty sturdy frame and good strength to go along with it, but the shot is his standout tool. If Vatrano can show he’s a consistent scorer, there should be a few more heads turning his way.

He’s committed to Boston College, which should be a perfect spot for him.

2010-11 Stats: 53 GP, 19-11–30, 50 PIM

There it is, the 2011-12 U.S. National Under-18 Team forwards. With a very difficult schedule this year it should be interesting to see how these players handle it. There’s no doubt this is going to be a very exciting group to watch.

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About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
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