Monday, USA Hockey revealed the 40 players invited to participate in the 2013 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Pittsburgh. The game, which will be held at the CONSOL Energy Center on Sept. 26, features only U.S. players eligible for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
The full roster is available here.
Unlike last year, when the roster was dotted with several second-year eligible players, 39 of the 40 are first-year eligible for the NHL Draft. There didn’t seem to be too many egregious omissions from the roster and it looks like a fairly good crop for what is sure to be a great event in Pittsburgh.
If you hadn’t heard yet, American hockey legends Mark Johnson and Joey Mullen will be the head coaches for each side. Both are former Penguins, while Johnson’s late father Bob was a head coach of the Pens as well. NTDP coaches Danton Cole and John Gruden will be the assistants.
More thoughts on the roster after the jump.
About the Game
The AAPG is in just its second year, but it’s growing into a strong event for USA Hockey. It’s a solid way to show how the top players in the country are doing under one roof. They come from all backgrounds from USHL, prep hockey, major junior and some who will be in college hockey this year. Since U.S. players are more spread out than ever before, this is really the only chance to see all of the top U.S. draft eligibles at the same time.
As far as an evaluation game, prospect games usually aren’t the best. They don’t mean much against a player’s body of work. However, it can help put a few guys on radars early. Ryan Fitzgerald’s MVP performance last year may have made some take notice of his game a little more and follow him a bit more closely in the EJHL. He was a fourth-round pick of the Boston Bruins in the last draft. So there’s definitely some value to a good performance, but if a player doesn’t have the best game, it’s not going to impact his stock too negatively. In the end, it’s just another evaluation point in a series of dozens for scouts who watch these guys all year long.
It also is great that the NHL is strongly involved and particularly Pittsburgh this year. That’s a city where hockey has grown at an unbelievable rate in the last five or six years and has truly become a strong hockey market. There is also talk of Pittsburgh wanting to take a stab at hosting an upcoming IIHF event like the World Juniors at some point, so this should be a fine audition for the CONSOL Energy Center.
Players to Watch
There are quite a few players in this group that should find themselves selected within the first two rounds in the June draft. Here’s a look at some who stand out the most (in alphabetical order)…
Blake Clarke (Wildwood, Mo.) — North Bay Battalion (OHL) — F — Perhaps the top American-born talent heading into the draft season, Clarke was a surprising omission from the U.S. Ivan Hlinka team. He had 51 points as a rookie in the OHL last season and has a big frame, making expectations extremely high heading into this season. Some projections have him as a potential top-10 pick. Surely he’s one to watch very closely in this early draft-season audition.
Tony DeAngelo (Philadelphia, Pa.) — Sarnia Sting (OHL) — D — A shifty, offensive defenseman, DeAngelo was invited to this year’s World Junior camp as a late 1995. He was one of the early cuts, but the skills he showed allude to some extremely high upside. His decisionmaking can be suspect from time to time, but he has that high-risk, high-reward ability. DeAngelo took a big step forward at Sarnia last year with 49 assists and 58 points last season. He has the ability to make a few wow plays here and there, which should make him an intriguing guy to watch in Pittsburgh.
Thatcher Demko (San Diego, Calif.) — Boston College (HEA) — G — After accelerating his schooling to enter BC a year early, Demko could see significant playing time as a younger-than-true freshman between the pipes. He had some incredible performances for the NTDP last season in games against D1 colleges and looks to be one of the more polished guys in this group. On top of it all, Demko still has another level to get to yet and his potential is evident. This should be a good warmup for what could be a really big season for the California native.
Jack Glover (Golden Valley, Minn.) — U.S. National U18 Team (USHL) — D — A big two-way defenseman with solid mobility, Glover is getting some early first-round type buzz heading into the season. McKeen’s ranked him 18th in their preliminary 2014 draft rankings, which obviously leads to some bigger expectations. With the level of skill of the players in this game, the Minnesota commit should be tested a bit, so that’s worth watching to see how he handles it.
Ryan MacInnis (St. Louis, Mo.) — Kitchener Rangers (OHL) — F — After leaving the NTDP a year early to sign with Kitchener, MacInnis will be expected to put up some sizable numbers in his rookie season, despite underwhelming a bit last year. Early projections have him pegged as a potential first-rounder and he has the added attention due to his family name. Ryan is the son of Hall of Fame defenseman Al.
Sonny Milano (Massapequa, N.Y.) — U.S. National U18 Team (USHL) — He led the U.S. U17 Team at the NTDP in scoring last season with 46 points including a team-best 20 goals. He’ll most likely be among the featured scorers on the U18 team this year and that natural scoring ability is what could land him a fairly high-round selection in June. Milano, a verbal commit to Notre Dame, is average sized, but his skills are definitely notable and should stand out in this setting.
Austin Poganski (St. Cloud, Minn.) — Tri-City Storm (USHL) — F — After a decent showing at the Ivan Hlinka and a few standout performances last year, Poganski is headed to the USHL this season. He is a bit under-the-radar at this point, but I think he may end up leaping to the forefront as a potential top-three round pick. The North Dakota commit was a star in high school hockey last year and shined at the World U17 Challenge. He’s going to be tested in the USHL, but there’s a lot to like about his game.
Nick Schmaltz (Verona, Wis.) — Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) — F — He led the U.S. U18 Select Team at the Ivan Hlinka in all offensive categories and probably made a major statement heading into his draft year. When put head-to-head with his peers, Schmaltz should be one of the standout forwards. A verbal commit to North Dakota and the younger brother of St. Louis Blues first-rounder Jordan Schmaltz, Nick has some first-round potential himself (McKeen’s listed him 14th) and is most likely going to be the most-watched prospect in the USHL this season.
There are plenty of other players to highlight, but these guys should be among the best of the bunch to keep a close track of. I’ll have more AAPG coverage as the game nears.