All American Prospects Game Outlook
Photo credit: Mike Burley
By Andrew Weiss (@WeissFC)
Top 2013 NHL Draft eligible American-born players have played just a handful’s worth of games this season, but already face a test of sorts on Saturday. While the All-American Prospects Game serves an early test, it also double as a great stage for 40 players to make a good first impression in front of NHL scouts.
For some players, this weekend’s test at the first ever All-American Prospects Game represents a bigger test than for others. For instance, Eastern Junior Hockey League players such as Ryan Fitzgerald (Team McClanahan), this will likely be the biggest stage they will compete on this season. For others such as J.T. Compher (Team Housley), the game represents the first of many major stages he will get to display his talent this season.
Below is a look at the players who viewers should keep an eye on at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo on Saturday. For those that cannot make it, the game will be broadcasted free of charge on Fasthockey.com starting at 6:45pm EST.
A combined 22 players from National Team Development Program and NTDP alums will ascend on Buffalo this weekend and will have an additional chance to showcase their talents to NHL scouts. Among them are Tyler Motte (Housley), Will Butcher (McClanahan), and Compher (Housley) who are just some of the top draft eligible prospects who currently play for the NTDP U18 team. Alums such as Seth Jones (McClanahan) and Ryan Hartman (Housley), who are currently playing in the CHL will also be there.
Lesser known current NTDP players like Team Housley defensemen Scott Savage and Keaton Thompson could really benefit from a good game on Saturday. Both players are very talented but fly under the radar with other NTDP defensemen Butcher and Steve Santini (Housley) receiving a lot of the attention.
Second Year Eligibles
For nine players, the All-American Prospects Game represents a big moment in their second year of NHL Draft eligibility. Players like Dakota Mermis (McClanahan), Cody Corbett (Housley), and Frank Vatrano (Housley), I believe, all should have been selected in Pittsburgh and could be steals in day two of the 2013 NHL Draft.
Matt Lane (McClanahan) is another player to watch closely as he could really impress scouts in Buffalo. Lane is best suited for a third line role where he can work hard and create opportunities, but also shows occasional scoring pop. On the same bench, Jake Montgomery is another player to keep a close eye on. Montgomery had a very good season at Shattuck-St. Mary’s last year posting 58 points in 39 games. Montgomery is a very good skater who brings a little bit of everything with him.
Wichita Falls’ Evan Cowley (Team McClanahan) is what the All-American Prospects Game should be all about. Assuming he plays the entire year in the Tier II NAHL, Cowley will see less exposure than the rest of the draft eligible goaltenders in the NCAA or USHL. Cowley has played well last weekend—picking up two wins and posting a .920 save percentage in the process.
Cowley has yet to make a college commitment though he did participate in the Vancouver Giants’ Rookie Camp last summer. From a personal note, I have yet to see Cowley play after spending the last two seasons playing high school hockey in Colorado so I am especially going to be focused on his play on Saturday.
The USHL Players
Luke Johnson (McClanahan) missed the 2012 NHL Draft cutoff by just five days, but displays still that would have seen him get drafted in the middle rounds. This season, Johnson looks to improve his draft stock—playing for one of the top teams in the USHL in Lincoln. Johnson has a huge offensive upside and will only improve as the season goes on playing alongside fellow draft eligibles Ross Olsson (Housley) and Vinni Lettieri.
Taylor Cammarata, though a year younger than everyone on the ice, struggled in the USHL Prospects Game last season and will look to have a big game at this event. Cammarata plays bigger than his five-foot-seven frame and can really rack up the points. Look for Cammarata to play well and find the score sheet at least once in the game.
It has been a rough start to the season for Dubuque Michael Downing (Housley) who missed all of the Fall Classic due to injury and then saw his brother traded earlier this week, but this game could get his draft season off to a good start. Downing is a very mobile defenseman who makes very good decisions with the puck. Downing is set to play in Dubuque’s season opener on Friday and if all goes well will play Saturday night.
Joining Crowley in Buffalo is NTDP’s Hunter Miska (Housley) and Waterloo goaltenders Eamon McAdam (Housley) and Cal Petersen (McClanahan). This is a big event for the Waterloo duo, as both will likely be sharing time together this season. Both play similar styles and have similar body types with both listed at six-foot-two and 180 pounds. McAdam may have the edge on all four the goalies at the game and got his draft year off right looking very good at the Junior Club World Cup in Russia. The Penn State-commit appeared in four games, won every game except the Championship, and posted a .900-plus save percentage. Miska is no slouch either as he showed great improvement throughout his first year at the NTDP.