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Taylor Cammarata

Taylor Cammarata played for Shattuck St-Mary's this season and was picked first overall by Waterloo in the USHL draft. (Photo courtesy Shattuck St-Mary's)

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Taylor Cammarata played for Shattuck St-Mary's this season and was picked first overall by Waterloo in the USHL draft. (Photo courtesy Shattuck St-Mary's)

For a kid who turns just 16 next week, Taylor Cammarata has had a high-profile year. A center with the Shattuck St-Mary’s under-16 team this season, Cammarata led the squad in scoring with an incredible 71 goals and 139 points in 54 games. In April, he was taken first overall by the Waterloo Black Hawks in the United States League’s Futures Draft, which, despite his numbers, came as a bit of surprise to him.

“I didn’t think I was going to go No. 1,” Cammarata said, “because I hadn’t talked much to Waterloo until a week before the draft.”

Needless to say, he brings a lot to the table and objectively, it’s pretty clear why the Black Hawks tabbed him with that first overall honor.

“Offensively, he’s just great,” said coach Christian Bragnalo. “He can pass, shoot and score; he has a blend of plays. Great stick, great touch around the net and he’s just a smart player.”

A Minnesota native, Cammarata eschewed his local high school team, Maple Grove, in favor of Shattuck’s, the famous program whose alumni include Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise, a fellow state native and inspiration to the youngster.

“He works hard all the time at both ends of the ice,” Cammarata said of Parise.

But it’s in the offensive zone where the 5-foot-9, 155-pound dynamo makes his name these days. At the beginning of the season, Cammarata played on a line with fellow vaunted prospect Nathan MacKinnon, who is expected to go first overall in the Quebec League draft in June. Though they were split up for balance purposes, the two phenoms often created magic together and Bragnalo recalled a specific play in one game where Cammarata lofted a puck over the opposition, sending MacKinnon in alone for a highlight-reel goal.

“We had a lot of good chemistry,” Cammarata said. “We really pushed each other.”

And even though the season at Shattuck’s is finished, the pair is still on the ice, this time as members of the ITR 26ers. The team, run by Buffalo Sabres star and former Minnesota Golden Gopher Thomas Vanek, plays several tourneys in the summer and acts as a bridge between seasons. One bonus of playing for the 26ers is the chance to grab some face time with Vanek himself and get some expert advice on how to develop as a player.

“After the NHL season, he comes and helps run the camp,” Cammarata said. “He said he really liked going to the University of Minnesota and he really likes the college route.”

Which, for a Minnesota kid like Cammarata, is generally the path taken. While the skilled pivot hasn’t chosen a college yet, he did say he wouldn’t mind staying close to home. Though Waterloo is a very possible next stop for Cammarata, he also tried out for the U.S. national team development program’s under-17 team, alongside Shattuck and 26er defenseman Clint Lewis.

Lewis was offered a spot on the NTDP and has accepted it. Cammarata has not been offered a spot yet, but the door's not fully closed.

Wherever he ends up, his new team can be guaranteed a player who takes his role seriously.

“His effort in the weight room…he’s always there,” Bragnalo said. “He’s a gym rat.”

The coach also lauded his young charge for taking on defensive responsibilities during the season and for a kid who scored more than a goal per game, Cammarata isn’t above blocking shots or killing penalties. Still, he knows what his bread and butter is out there.

“Probably my vision, playmaking and scoring goals,” Cammarata said. “I like setting people up and I like to finish.”

THN.com's Prospect Watch focuses on up-and-comers from the AHL, Europe, major junior, the NCAA and even minor hockey destined to become big names in the NHL.

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