On September 21st, 42 top American prospects eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft took to the ice in the sixth annual CCM All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo, New York. In a matchup featuring marquee draft names such as USA NTDP’s Brady Tkachuk and Michigan’s Quinn Hughes, fans were also treated to the teams being led by former NHL stars Chris Chelios and Brian Leetch. Team Leetch eventually managed a 6-5 win over Team Chelios, after the latter team screamed back to tie the game up at five after being down three heading into the third period.
In a tough game for the goalie crop with so much skill on the ice, Omaha’s Jack Randl had the most points with 3, Fargo’s Ryan Savage had the most goals with 2, and USA NTDP’s Oliver Wahlstrom had the most SOG with 6. USA NTDP’s Brady Tkachuk was named player of the game scoring the GWG, adding an assist, and registering 5 SOG.
While it’s true a lot of lesser known’s made their impact on the scoresheet, such as Madison Capitol’s Ryan O’Reilly, Elk River’s Jack Perbix, and Eden Prairie’s Jack Jensen, it’s hard to say these kids will round out into significant draft day prospects as they own limitations.
Here are some impressions broken down by position:
As no netminder registered higher than .846SVS%, this is the type of event where you rely more on skillset evaluation and projection than actual statline as goalies are inevitably going to be peppered under less than usual TOI. USA NTDP’s Jonathan Mor stood out for a few noteworthy saves and looked the part of a blossoming prospect with the desired size and execution scouts look for. With legs for days, he was noticeable for his ability to stretch out flush to the ice and handle rapidly moving lateral plays.
All eyes were on Michigan’s Quinn Hughes, and he kinda did disappoint. On display was the usual elite skating and soft hands combination, with super agility and evasiveness at times. The issue was he didn’t showcase anything new in terms of offseason development, and didn’t look like a kid with underage WJSS experience. On top of that, there were instances of sloppy play and turnovers where he hogged the puck and skated himself into trouble.
Scouts yearn and often look for that moment of realization in a game where a player comes out of the blue and forces a new/first strong opinion on him. That player tonight for all skaters was Kimball Union’s Jordan Harris. This HS defender looked like a legit hybrid puck rusher – mover. Assisting on Jack Randl’s even strength goal in the 3rd period, he went coast-to-coast and managed to land a shot off the far pad that ended up being a perfectly placed rebound to the streaking Randl. With Dexter’s explosive Jack Rathbone going in the top 100 this past draft, keep your eyes on Harris. The kid is a smart gamer who has speed and skill.
USA NTDP’s Bode Wilde submitted the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde performance. Really shaky first, then a second and third period that showed off his super risky, skilled, and questionable style. There’s no debating this guy has very good lateral agility with the puck and is offensive, but his defensive attention and focus needs a ton of work. It’s typically okay for some laxity in a showcase coupled with more risk taking, but he did not scream elite prospect in the sense of understanding the play and being a step ahead of the rest. If the rest of the package comes around, he could very well be a top ten pick as he’s got game with the puck.
Most of the big name towers – hint the Samuelsson’s – were quiet with USA NTDP’s K’Andre Miller making a statement physically on a massive hit. Talk about a linebacker on skates, this defender is tall and thick with decent mobility. He picked up a primary assist on O’Reilly’s GTG, and more and more it looks like Miller has an understated touch as a passer. He will need to make quicker decisions on the puck and enhance his skill application over the year, but he has the powerful, raw physique of a player that can be drafted in the top 62.
Coming as advertised, it was the well known trio of USA NTDP’s Brady Tkachuk, Oliver Wahlstrom, and Joel Farabee flashing first round skill and pedigree. Farabee was the most noticeable, and active, taking over a few shifts and coming with high work rate, hockey sense, and ability to make plays on the puck. If you’re the type of scout who looks for a player with minimal chinks in the armor, Farabee is your guy. Tkachuk, well, the younger bro unquestionably stood out as a top 5 prospect with size, skating, and touch all night. Billed as a top pick, he jumped out at you while he was on the ice early and often. He brings a more explosive style, and is more impressive physically in open ice than Matt. Wahlstrom hit the next gear on a few shifts, and caused havoc offensively. He’s such a sturdy forward already and acquits himself well in a top line environment.
Outside of those top forwards, Des Moines’ Braden Costello played a high energy, semi-power forward style that shows long-term upside. He’s a bit raw, but is able to cut to the net and has good enough hands to keep up offensively. His trajectory will be something to watch and could round out into a mid round pick. On the flip side, USA NTDP’s Gavin Hain continues to disappoint after looking like a dagger sinking sniper last year in USHS. Gone is the offensive zone hawk we know and he looks unable to create anything on his own with and against better competition. Time is on his side as it’s only September, but he’s on notice to needing to adapt sooner rather than later. If he doesn’t, he will get lost on that stacked USA team ala the Pastujov’s.