Every major developmental league is underway and there’s been plenty of excitement to start the season. Every USHL team has at least two regular-season games under their belts, and though it’s early, a few prospects are beginning to emerge. Still, since it’s early, these prospect updates will be more statistics-based until I have a chance to see more of these guys live. I’ll also be working on a few new features to roll out in coming American prospect updates, like more Q&A’s.
For now, here are a few highlights from the young season and the players getting off to great starts.
Perhaps the big surprise of the first two weeks of the USHL season is the quick start of big Zach Saar. After being passed over in last year’s draft, he remains eligible for 2012, though is likely a long shot to earn a selection at this point.
Regardless, Saar has four goals through the Chicago Steel’s first three games, already matching the big forward’s total from last year. Saar is still developing into his gigantic 6-foot-5(ish) frame. No one expects him to keep up a goal-per-game pace, but if he has found any scoring touch to go with that big frame, NHL teams will notice. Size matters when teams see a raw talent with room to grow and develop. There aren’t a ton of 6-5 scorers out there and it remains to be seen if Saar actually is one. There’s a long season to go, but Saar at least gets some props for his quick start.
Tampa, Fla., native Cody Bradley is off to a pretty outstanding start for the Indiana Ice. Bradley has six points (2g-4a) through the team’s first three games, tying him with teammate Daniil Tarasov for the league lead. Bradley is a bit of an unknown, but the fact that he is building off of a strong rookie campaign in which he posted 20 points in 51 games for the Ice is a pretty good sign. Sometimes being part of a good team, as Bradley is, can hurt a prospect. Other times it allows that player to flourish and grow into a role. If Bradley remains consistent this season, he could get a few extra looks.
Despite his size, Austin Farley, was listed as a C-rated prospect by NHL Central Scouting. So far, he’s shown some scoring touch with three goals and an assist through three games for the Fargo Force. At 5-8, 165, Farley will need to keep up a high-scoring pace throughout the season. Teams are willing to take a shot on more little guys these days, but they have to be productive little guys like Rocco Grimaldi, T.J. Tynan and John Gaudreau from last year.
We’ve had a Florida native and an undersized scorer already in this update, but Austin Cangelosi is both. With four points (3-1) and a plus-five rating in Youngstown’s first two games, the USHL rookie is turning a few heads. From Estero, Fla., Cangelosi is a Boston College commit. He played Massachusetts high school hockey at Northfield-Mount Herman last year and earned a B rating from NHL Central scouting. Youngstown is not looking like a terribly strong team this year, so Cangelosi could be carrying the offensive load for the Phantoms. That featured role plays well for his draft stock.
Jordan Schmaltz came into this season with a lot of hype and will probably be one of the most scrutinized players in the USHL this season. So far, so good. Schmaltz has three points in Sioux City’s first three games including two goals. He’s a gifted offensive defenseman and that is what’s going to help earn him a higher selection. He’s doing what’s expected of him in the very early goings of the season. As long as he keeps it up, he’s on track to be where many of us expect him to be in June. The first round. Side Note: I’m planning on taking in the Cedar Rapids-Sioux City game Friday in CR. Expect a couple of detailed scouting reports next Wednesday on Schmaltz and a few others like Cliff Watson and Riley Bourbonnais.
A look into the future, with a peak at some players still a year or two away from draft eligibility.
One of the underage players everyone will be keeping tabs on in the USHL this year is 1995-born Taylor Cammarata. At 5-6, 145, he’s small, but dynamic. After leaving Shattuck St.-Mary’s for the Waterloo Black Hawks, many wondered how he would step up to the older, stronger competition. He’s done OK so far. Waterloo is atop the West Division standings, and it’s a position that team may become comfortable with. Cammarata has four points trough Waterloo’s first three games with a goal and three assists. Surrounded by talent, Cammarata won’t have a ton of pressure to carry the load and also has the benefit of being a playmaker with plenty of finishers to get the puck to. Waterloo and Cammarata are going to be a blast to watch this season. Draft eligible in 2013.
The U.S. National Under-17 Team has gotten off to a rather shocking start in USHL play. In its opening game, Team USA trounced the much older Youngstown squad 10-3. The next night it forced overtime against a pretty decent Chicago Steel outfit. Last weekend, the U17s came back to earth, being swept by Indiana (no shame in that as Indy has it’s typical stacked team).
The team, overall, has a 2-3-2 record, with games against NAHL and NOJHL competition in the preseason.
I chatted with a coach that took in the U17s game against Youngstown who called this group of forwards “explosive.” The depth of talent at forward is going to be a strength for this team going forward. Previous U17 Teams have struggled with USHL competition (the 1993s didn’t register a USHL win until November in their U17 year), but this team might have an advantage of incredible skill up front. If these young guns continue to hold their own against USHL competition, the scouting world will be on high alert for the American 1995s.
Michigan-commit Tyler Motte is leading the club with seven points (3-4), despite missing two games already. Four of those points have come against USHL competition, including all three of his goals. He’s a pretty strong kid and will only get stronger at the NTDP. He could become a really exciting prospect to watch this season, if he hasn’t already. Draft eligible in 2013.
Motte is followed by Luke Voltin with six points in seven games. I’ve heard glowing reports about Voltin, who I’ve yet to see. There’s a lot of belief that this kid has some serious potential. Draft eligible in 2013.
The surprise of Team USA has been little Tyler Kelleher. The 5-foot-6, 147-pound forward out of Longmeadow, Mass., already has four goals and an assist against USHL competition, good for second in the league in scoring. Two of his goals came against Indiana, with the other two coming in the route against Youngstown. Being able to score like that at this early stage is incredibly impressive for a kid his age and size. Draft eligible in 2013.
Hudson Fasching was the big name coming into this team and he still is. With four points in four USHL games, he’s off to a nice start. Fasching should be one of the most sought after college recruits in the country as he has yet to pick a school. The smart money is on Minnesota, but since he hasn’t made a choice yet, Gopher fans will have to sit and wait nervously. Draft eligible in 2013.
There is a lot expected of offensive defenseman Will Butcher. The Wisconsin native and University of Denver commit already has four points including a pair of goals, both of which came on the power play. Pretty solid start for a guy who has had to adjust to playing defense against much stronger competition than he’s used to. Imagine what happens when he’s fully adjusted. Draft eligible in 2013.
Another interesting note, every player (including goaltender Hunter Miska), but two have at least one point already in this young season. Most U17 teams find the jump in competition difficult and therefore scoring is completely unbalanced. Typically there’s a handful of kids who make the adjustment quick and the rest take time to catch up. Having that balance bodes well for Don Granato’s team. Should be a pretty interesting group to track.
With such a great start to the 2011-12 season, it’s hard to imagine it’s only just begun. There’s so much more hockey to be played and so many more players to cover. We’ll try to get you all the American prospect news, notes and analysis you can handle right here on United States of Hockey’s American Prospect Update all year long.