The 2013 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game, the second edition of the event, was mostly another success. The game was moderately entertaining and a lot of players showed off some solid skills at this early stage of their draft season.
I’ve liked the idea of this game since it was introduced last season and I hope it’s something that continues. It’s great for the players and scouts, but also for USA Hockey to showcase its best young talent and gather them from the various leagues and teams that are developing them. This year’s event certainly accomplished all of that well.
Prospect games overall are tough evaluation events, particularly when they’re held this early, but this year’s game had plenty of intrigue.
Team Johnson bested Team Mullen 5-2 in front of a modest crowd at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Coming up after the jump, a quick scoring summary and a look at some of the players that stood out.
Scoring Summary — Team Johnson 5 – Team Mullen 2
1. Team Johnson: Dylan Larkin (Keegan Iverson), 0:37.
Larkin got the scoring started with an early second-period tally. Iverson collected an errant pass and threw the puck near Larkin who was popping out from behind the net. Larkin wasted no time after collecting the puck as he whipped around and slid it between Edwin Minney’s legs. It was a bang-bang play as Larkin, an A-rated prospect by NHL Central Scouting, showed some really quick hands and solid awareness of where to put the puck.
2. Team Mullen: Jack Dougherty (Tony DeAngelo, Ryan Donato), 4:27 (pp)
Dougherty showed some great finish after a beautiful set-up from DeAngelo, who drew the opposing forward near before slipping a behind-the-back pass to Dougherty. The defensemen eyed up the net and wired a wrist shot to the top right corner. Dougherty did a nice job sizing up the shot instead of rushing it on net, he made it count. The DeAngelo pass was a clever little play as well.
3. Team Johnson: Keegan Iverson (Dylan Larkin), 6:57.
Larkin returned the favor to Iverson who assisted on Larkin’s earlier goal. Larkin put a shot to the net after collecting a turnover. With Team Mullen’s defense trying to transition, Iverson was left all alone in front. He had an easy tap-in to make it 2-1.
4. Team Johnson: Sonny Milano (Alex Tuch, Nick Schmaltz), 10:54.
Sonny Milano showed why he was widely considered one of the most skilled players in the game. After Alex Tuch’s pass skittered under a defenseman’s stick, Milano calmly collected it alone in front of the net. He moved the puck from backhand to forehand, evading Alex Nedeljkovic’s poke check and slipped the disc calmly between the legs of the sprawling goalie. It was such a subtle play, but Milano’s quick hands and excellent finish really highlighted the play.
5. Team Mullen: Joe Wegwerth (Ryan Donato), 16:18.
After slipping off the halfwall into space, Joe Wegwerth took a nice little pass from Ryan Donato out of the corner. Wegwerth drove to the net, got goalie Blake Weyrick moving to the far post and then slipped the puck to his backhand and shoved it in. The goal was quite a bit more impressive in the replay as Wegwerth, who can be more of a bruising forward, showed some really soft hands in a tight space.
6. Team Johnson: Chase De Leo (Ryan Hitchcock, Kevin Labanc), 17:17.
Team Johnson was the beneficiary of some shoddy defense on this one as Labanc and Hitchcock were able to connect some passes through sticks, while Hitchcock’s feed made it to De Leo in front of the net unimpeded. It was nothing but a tap-in for De Leo, who put the game a bit further out of reach.
7. Team Johnson: Shane Eiserman (unassisted), 19:35 (en).
An empty-net goal capped off what had been a really solid game overall from Shane Eiserman.
Goalie Summary (sh/sv)
Thatcher Demko: 6/6
Blake Weyrick: 16/18
Edwin Minney: 16/17
Alex Nedeljkovic: 13/16
There were a lot of great performances throughout the game, and a few guys that looked a little out of place, but overall the talent level was pretty high. Team Johnson definitely had the better forward crop, which probably helped that club pull away late, but there were several guys up front for Team Mullen that made some plays.
The goaltenders in the game were a bit of a surprise as the less-heralded Blake Weyrick and Ed Minney really performed well in their halves of the game.
Here’s a look at the guys that stood out the most to me in my initial viewing…
Keegan Iverson (Team Johnson) — Named the player of the game, Iverson had a goal and an assist. He also played physically and used his size well. Iverson isn’t the most skilled guy, but he has a physical frame that projects very well for pro hockey. He isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty and has enough finish to contribute some points. Likely more of an early-middle round pick come June, Iverson definitely acquitted himself well in the AAPG.
Dylan Larkin (Team Johnson) — His two points were indicative of what was an overall solid game. Larkin is an extremely strong skater who seems to know how to get to the right areas of the ice to make plays. The Michigan commit has a lot of quickness and agility which should bode well for his offensive projections. He’s already got the A rating from Central Scouting, but he should be generating more buzz as the year progresses.
Sonny Milano (Team Johnson) — The skills are evident. Lauded as one of the most skilled Americans in this draft class, Milano has some creativity and there are some explosive elements to his game. He finds ways to get through defenses and doesn’t always have to rely solely on his quick hands. He’s stronger and quicker than he was last year, which is likely to make him a potential top-20 pick. As long as he continues to show creativity and stellar finishing ability, the Notre Dame commit is going to be an exciting prospect to watch.
Tony DeAngelo (Team Mullen) — The best thing DeAngelo did for himself at the AAPG was show exactly what he does best. When he’s on his game, his vision and ability to distribute are remarkable. He showed some creativity out there and wasn’t afraid to make risks, but if he did make a risky play, it was calculated. The decisionmaking overall was solid. Questions remain about his ability to defend at a high level, but the skills are going to garner him plenty of interest.
Ryan MacInnis (Team Mullen) — I thought MacInnis was consistently one of Team Mullen’s best forwards. He used his size very well, showed some better skills than I remember seeing out of him last year and made some plays near the net. His skating is still a little clunky, which could hurt his stock a little bit, but if he continues to utilize his big body well and find ways to create offense, he’s going to get a lot of long looks.
Shane Eiserman (Team Johnson) — As a late 1995, I wanted to see Eiserman assert himself a bit in this game and I think he absolutely did. He was strong on the puck, using his solid frame and legs to protect and give himself some space. He got the empty net goal, but he was generating more than that. He also had the hit of the night when he leveled Shane Gersich along the halfwall in the third period. It didn’t show up much in this game, but Eiserman can sometimes make some questionable decisions with and without the puck. In the AAPG, he looked mature and was making plays with confidence. It was a really strong effort from the Dubuque Fighting Saint and New Hampshire commit.
Nick Schmaltz (Team Johnson) — The skills are obvious and he was clearly one of the most skilled players in this game. When he has the puck, he’s certainly impressive and that’s why I have him listed as a standout. The one thing that multiple scouts have talked about with me is that Schmaltz doesn’t often show a level of consistency in his play, particularly in his competitiveness. There were certainly times in this game where he looked a bit disengaged, particularly in pursuit and defensively. Those are things he’ll have to work on to remain in the first-round discussion. Unquestionably, he has first-round skill and produces well, but on-ice work ethic and competitiveness are going to be key areas of improvement.
Shane Gersich (Team Mullen) — Gersich didn’t find the scoresheet, but particularly early on in the game, he was usually one of Team Mullen’s best threats. The North Dakota commit is a solid puck-mover and showed good vision to find lanes and space for himself or his linemates. I liked the way he was able to thread some passes and also the patience and poise he had with the puck. His size is a bit of a question mark for scouts, I’m sure, but there was some real skill on display.
Ryan Collins (Team Mullen) — The big defenseman showed really good mobility and a steadiness about his defending. He was calm with the puck and really showed an ability to slow things down. I don’t think he’s a real high-end guy at this point, but the pieces are there for him to put together a really strong season and maybe start gaining a bit extra notoriety.
Blake Weyrick (Team Johnson) — It took Team Mullen a while to get things going offensively, and it wasn’t really until Weyrick stepped in that they started generating shots. The big California native was more than equal to it however. He held his ground extremely well, took up a ton of net and showed a quick glove hand on a few occasions. His pad work looked really solid as well down low. His lone mistake came on the Wegwerth goal, where he bit a little too early, but overall he was solid.
Edwin Minney (Team Mullen) — He got bombarded with shots early, but Minney kept things nice and close, giving up just one goal. He’s a huge kid and showed some really solid athleticism between the pipes. He and Weyrick could be due for a big season after getting shelled as U17s last year. All that work might have helped them for this season in a big way.
Jack Dougherty (Team Mullen) — Dougherty scored a nice goal and showed some really solid overall offensive skills. There was a smoothness to his game and plenty of poise as well. Dougherty could be a really interesting prospect this year as he’s made the move to the NTDP. After a strong showing at the Select 17 Festival and Ivan Hlinka, he could be a riser this season.
Chase De Leo (Team Johnson) — With five shots on goal, he led all prospects in the game and even got a goal out of the deal. Another late 1995, De Leo showed that experience can matter as he made some really smart plays in all zones. He was also an ace in the faceoff dot, winning 14 of his 18 draws.
Blake Clarke (Team Mullen) — One of the more highly-touted guys coming into the game, Clarke had a bit of a lukewarm performance, but he was a bit snakebitten as well. He had a sure goal tipped away by a defender at the last minute, which would have certainly helped his cause. Clarke showed some good smarts and some solid offensive instincts, but he probably should have been a bit more noticeable overall. You can still see the elements that made him an A-rated prospect, though.
The 2013 AAPG may have taken a while to get going, but overall, it was a good event for prospect junkies and a great opportunity to see some of the future stars of American hockey. This class may not carry the same star power as the last few years, but there are a lot of guys that are worth getting excited about.