The USA Hockey Central District which features players from Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa held their Midget Festival this weekend in Fond du Lac. I was able to make it down on Saturday to take some individual player notes.
The festival is used as the last tryout process before players are selected to attend the USA select festivals which are held in Rochester, NY.
As always, this thing needs a disclaimer. I was only in the building for one day so there is no way I could get a solid look at every kid. There were a lot of excellent hockey players playing on two sheets of ice at the same time so I'm sure I missed some good things.
I tried to catch as much of the kids born from 1996 and 1997 as I could so I didn't get much of an opinion on anyone in the 1995 class.
As always, just because I didn't list a kid doesn't mean he's not a good player. Everyone that was invited to Fond du Lac this weekend is a good hockey player with an opportunity to play at the next level. My opinion isn't going to change that.
*Also of note, Wisconsin commits Jake Linhart and Seamus Malone and North Dakota commit Nick Schmaltz, all from the Chicago Mission program were not in attendance.
1996 Born Players
#3 Cooper Watson-D-(Appleton HS): Solid sized kid at 6'1, 155 pounds and the first thing you notice from him is how fluid his actions are. His older brother is committed to Ohio State and Cooper will be a D1 player some day as well. Somehow went un-drafted in the USHL Futures draft which doesn't make any sense to me. Liked him a lot here.
#5 William Scherer-D-(St. Louis Jr. Blues U16): Kid kept catching my eye on every shift. Smaller blue-liner at 5'9 but he's got a solid base to him and can absolutely fly. Jumped up in the play multiple times.
#8 Ryan MacInnis-F-(St. Louis Jr. Blues U16): Absolutely the real deal here. Son of former NHL'er Al. Ryan is committed to the USA NTDP for next season. Rated him as the top player in the 96 age group that was at the festival on Saturday. If he ever makes it to college (most expect him to go to the OHL after the NTDP), he's going to make someone very happy. Drafted by the Kitchener Rangers in the 3rd round of the OHL draft.
#16 Vince Scognamiglio-F-(St. Louis Jr. Blues U16): Played a lot with MacInnis on Saturday so that probably helped but he showed some flashes here. Good size at 6'1, 185 and is still growing into his body.
#15 Sam Kauppila-F-(Team Illinois U16): Fourth round USHL Futures pick of Green Bay and was very good this weekend. 6'0, 175 and looks the part.
#2 Bobby Nardella-D-(Chicago Mission U16): Committed to Notre Dame recently. Small frame at 5'8 and 155 pounds and got pushed around at times. Also had some offensive flair and ripped off a cannon slap shot for a goal.
#2 Peter Tischke-D-(Chicago Mission U16): Went 22nd overall in the USHL Futures draft to Des Moines. Good size at 6'1, 190 and he can move pretty well. Didn't do a lot when I watched him but played a few one-on-ones well and never made a noticeable mistake.
#4 Matt Berkovitz-D-Ashwaubenon HS: Another defenseman with projectable size at 6'1, 170 pounds who can move and has some skills to go along with the frame. If he was from Chicago he probably would have gone in the USHL futures draft. A local kid to keep an eye on for sure to see how he develops.
#8 Brett Gruber-F-(Notre Dame Academy, from Appleton, WI): Gruber's prospect status is always going to be tied to his size (5'8, 158). The problem is that every time you try and doubt him, he makes a play. He's a pure goal scorer and has a rare knack to find areas where he can get open to score goals. If he gets the puck in a shooting lane, he buries it.
#10 Charley Grasskamp-F-(Eau Clarie Memorial HS): Liked him, didn't love him. 6'2, 170 and gangly. Certainly not going to write him off as he looks like the perfect late bloomer candidate. Going to need to improve his skating.
#11 Michael Booth-F-(Team Illinois U16): Really nice hockey player here. Went 23rd in the USHL Futures Draft to Fargo and they got themselves a fine player. Not a huge guy at 5'10, 167 but he knows how to play the game.
#16 Blake Clarke-F-(St. Louis Jr. Blues): Natural talent was obvious. Going to the OHL next year, first round pick of the Brampton Battalion (15th overall). Seemed to be lazy at times, as he knew he was better than almost everyone here and didn't have to work hard. Would have liked to see him give a better effort but you can tell he's going to be special.
#4 Luke Davison-D-(Notre Dame Academy, from DePere, WI): Younger brother of Wisconsin recruit Tim. Starting to make his own name now. 5'11, 174 and moves very well. Reads the play and moves the puck to the right man every time. Has the ability to rush the puck and can get up and go. Got beat a couple times where he didn't read the play happening in front of him fast enough. Went 21st overall to Chicago in the USHL Futures Draft.
#2 Keegan Ford-D-(Waunakee HS, WI): Don't let his size (5'9, 177) fool you, Ford is a future D1 hockey player. Dubuque of the USHL used a tender on him and I can see why. He's only 5'9 but he's got a thick lower half and isn't afraid to hit. He's always positionally aware and you can tell he really thinks the game. Advanced.
#6 Rhodes Dolan-D-(Waterloo HS, Iowa): Hard not to notice this kid at 6'5, 185. Also hard not to make a Zedeno Chara comparison when you watch him play. He's incredibly raw, but is oozing potential with his size. He actually doesn't move too bad for the frame that he has. Keep his name in the back of your mind down the road.
#12 Alex Jasiek-F-(St. Louis Jr. Blues U16): Another stud out of the Jr. Blues program. He's small at 5'8, 145 but he's incredibly quick and has very good puck skills. I wrote down sneaky, pest next to his name on my program. Third round pick of Des Moines in the futures draft.
#6 Adam Baughman-D-(Chicago Mission U16): Went in the first round of the USHL futures draft to Indiana. He's a stud and he knows it. 6'2, 182 and will be a premier college hockey recruit when he makes his decision. Solid all around game. Going to be a good one.14th round OHL pick of the Windsor Spitfires.
#12 Christian Dvorak-F-(Chicago Mission U16): Another first round USHL futures pick (Chicago). First shift left me disappointed, but in the blink of an eye he changed my opinion. Picked the puck up and showed incredible burst to blow down the wing past a d-man and finished the play with a beautiful deake. Was awesome the rest of the game. Incredible patience, fast, total package. 5'11, 150 and a top 4 forward in the 96 class at this event. Absolute stud who is an elite college hockey recruit. 8th round OHL pick of the London Knights.
#17 Guyot Lapointe-F-(Chicago Mission U16): Kid kept growing on me as the game went on. Gives 100% on every shift. Not sure he has the skill-set to make it as far as some of the other top forwards but not many went as hard as he did the entire game.
#8 Christopher Wilkie-F-(Omaha U16): North Dakota recruit was one of the best players here. Had him in my top 4 forwards with Dvorak, MacInnis, and Clarke. Going to the NTDP next year and he'll be a good one. Absolutely dynamic from the drop of the puck. 5'11, 175 and isn't afraid to take, and give a check.
#9 Roy Radke-F-(Culver): Didn't know much about him before this weekend but left the building with this kid on my mind. 6'2, 180 pounds and is a mean SOB. He's incredibly strong and has an incredible ability to protect the puck. Was passed in the USHL futures draft somehow. 12th round OHL draft pick of the Barrie Colts.
#2 Bradley Johnson-D-(St. Louis Jr. Blues): Fifth round pick of Sioux City in the futures draft. Small at 5'9, 165 but is mobile and can unleash a cannon from the point. Really liked the way he can move around the ice. Looks like a player who can run a power play in the future.
#10 Ryan Mazera-F-(University School of Milwaukee): Wisconsin kid that really caught my eye this weekend. Really held his own on this level and has a good chance of advancing to Rochester for selects. A local name to remember for sure.
#5 John Metzinger-D-(Wausau West HS): Another pretty solid Wisconsin kid. Looked a little stiff at times but overall caught my eye.
Chuck's picks to advance to Select 16's (7 D, 13F's):
In no particular order...(please don't ask me to evaluate goalies)
D-Cooper Watson (Appleton HS), Peter Tishke (Mission U16), Adam Baughman (Mission U16), Luke Davison (Notre Dame Academy), Keegan Ford (Waunakee HS), Bobby Nardella (Mission U16), Bradley Johnson (Jr. Blues U16)
F-Jet Bell (Fury U16), Ryan MacInnis (Jr. Blues U16), Brett Gruber (Notre Dame Academy), Michael Booth (Team Illinois U16), Christian Dvorak (Mission U16), Ryan Mazera (University School of Milwaukee), Alex Jasiek (Jr. Blues U16), Chris Wilkie (Omaha U16), Blake Clarke (Jr. Blues), Roy Radke (Culver), Charley Grasskamp (Eau Clarie Memorial HS), Anthony Song (Russell Stover U16), Vince scognamiglio (Jr. Blues 16).
1997 Born Players:
#8 Christian Fischer-F-(Chicago Mission 97): Unquestionably the #1 player here from the 97 class. You could tell from the moment he picked up the puck for the first time he was something special. 5'10, 175 pounds and the total package. Incredibly skilled and can skate. If I were Mike Eaves he'd be at or near the top of my wants list.
#13 Sam McCormick-F-(Notre Dame Academy, from DePere): McCormick grew on me as the game wore on. He needs to improve his skating but he's intelligent and makes the correct play with the puck. You could sense his anticipation skills were elite. Older brother plays at Ohio State.
#3 Michael Joyaux-D-(Chicago Mission 97): All around solid defenseman. Jumped up in the play a few times and looked very fluid doing so. Has a lot of potential.
#2 Michael Davies-D-(St. Louis Jr. Blues 97): No clue if he's related to the former Badger but he looks like he's going to be a good one. Had a couple of line rushes that he started that created scoring opportunities.
#6 Vas Kolias-D-(Chicago Mission 97): Love, love, love this young blue-liner. Was one of the top 2 defenseman here for this 97 group. Smart, slick, and has great instincts. One shift saw him go coast to coast and create a scoring opportunity, back check and break up a rush the other way, pick up the puck and go down and create another opportunity. Elite talent level.
#5 Jackson Charlesworth-D-(Antigo HS, WI): In my opinion was the best Wisconsin born 97 in the building. 6'0, 175 pounds and is smooth as a baby's bottom. Very fluid and looks like he's going to be a good one. Took a bad checking from behind penalty but didn't let it throw him off his game. Name to remember for sure.
#12 Luke Kunin-F-(St. Louis Jr. Blues 97): Showed off his slick hands a few different times and can fly up and down the ice. Really like his potential.
#8 Matthew Tkachuck-F-(St. Louis Jr. Blues 97): Son of former NHL'er Keith. Was hoping for a little bit more out of Matthew here but he got better as the game wore on. Needs to improve his skating but has great hands and you can see that he's got plenty of skill. Would like to see him again as I think he's got more talent than he showed.
#14 Tanner Laczynski-F-(Chicago Mission 97): Might have the best hands out of anyone in this class. Was up and down at times but showed flashes of brilliance. A goal scorer.
#11 Matthew Pulver-F-(Regis/McDonell/Bloomer HS, WI): Smaller kid but looked intelligent on the ice putting himself in good spots. His older brother played for the Marquette Electricians. I'd like to see Matthew make a similar move as he's not in a great development spot with the HS he plays for.
#4 Tory Dello-D-(Chicago Mission 97): 6'0, 175 pounds and the total package. The only 97 here with a college commitment (Notre Dame) and you can see why. Was between him and Kolias for the top d-man in this group. Kolias is better offensively but Dello is better in his own end. Irish assistant coach Paul Pooley was there to see him play. I would too if I landed a kid with his ability.
#13 Thomas Novak-F-(St. Thomas Academy, from River Falls): Loved him when I saw him in the Minnesota state tournament this spring and felt the same way this weekend. 5'10, 150 and has a lot of potential. Too early to tell what his ceiling is but with the coaching he's going to get with Team Wisconsin and at St. Thomas you have to like his future. Some kids just score goals and Novak scores goals.
#2 Anthony Stillwell-D-(Notre Dame Academy, WI): Tiny kid at 5'6, 134 pounds right now. When I talked to his high school coach at NDA last winter he really liked this kid and talked about UW recruit Tim Davison taking him under his wing. He moves well and is an incredible passer but will those skills make up for his lack of size? We'll see.
#5 Adam Parsells-D-(Wausau West HS): If we could mesh Parsells and Stillwell we'd have one hell of a defenseman. Incredible size for his age at 6'4, 175. He was decent here, not great. Going to have to improve his skating, but you can't teach 6'4.
#17 Collin Nugent-F-(Team Illinois 97): Should be one of the top forwards in his class. Looked good at times when I saw him but took a few shifts off.
#2 Charley Raith-D-(Chicago Young Americans 97): In that second group of defensemen with Charlesworth behind Kolias and Dello. He's got elite puck skills for a defenseman and loves to jump up in the play. Might be the best stick handling 97 defenseman. Will be in Rochester for sure.
#8 Tarek Baker-F-(Verona HS, WI): Pleasantly surprised with this Wisconsinite. I'd be surprised if he doesn't move on to the next stage in Rochester. Has some nice offensive flair and really makes defensemen nervous with his skill level. Scored a goal right in front of me and set another one up.
#16 Ty Pelton-Byce-F-(Madison Memorial HS): Good bloodlines and good frame at 6'0, 160. Another kid who's going to have to keep working on his skating but I like the potential here.
#10 Anthony Tzveyn-F-(Chicago Young Americans 97): Was hoping to see more out of him here. Showed flashes of elite talent but didn't bring it all the time. Scary potential if he can put together a complete game.
#9 Ethan Price-F-(Omaha AAA): 5'11, 185 pounds who looks the part. Starred him in my program. A kid I'd like to come back to see again.
Chuck's picks to advance to Select 15's (7 D, 13F's):
In no particular order...(please don't ask me to evaluate goalies)
D: Tory Dello (Mission 97), Charley Raith (CYA 97), Jackson Charlesworth (Antigo HS), Vasili Kolias (Mission 97), Michael Davies (Jr. Blues 97), Michael Joyaux (Mission 97), Anthony Stillwell (Notre Dame Academy).
F: Collin Nugent (Team Illinois 97), Tanner Laczynski (Mission 97), Tarek Baker (Verona HS), Thomas Novak (St. Thomas Academy), Christian Fischer (Mission U16), Ty Pelton-Byce (Madison Memorial HS), Ethan Price (Omaha U16), Matthew Tkachuk (Jr. Blues 97), Anthony Tzveyn (CYA 97), Luke Kunin (Jr. Blues 97), Sam McCormick (Notre Dame Academy), Matthew Pulver (Regis/McDonell/Bloomer HS), Luke Radetic (Jr. Blues 97).
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