Prospect Watch: Anaheim’s Matt Berkovitz brings to mind Ryan Suter

Ryan Kennedy
Matt-Berkovitz

While the state of Wisconsin has produced numerous excellent NHLers in recent years, from Phil Kessel and Ryan Suter to Joe Pavelski, it’s a rarity to see a player drafted straight from the dairy state’s high school ranks.

Long the domain of Minnesota, high school hockey in the Midwest was turned on its head at the 2014 draft when defenseman Matt Berkovitz of the Ashwaubenon Jaguars was selected 123rd overall by Anaheim. Later on in the fifth round, three Minnesota products went in a row when Luc Snuggerud, Tyler Nanne and Miguel Fiddler heard their names called. But for once, Wisconsin high school held the bragging rights, even if Berkovitz didn’t intend on using them.

“I don’t try to hold it over anyone,” he said. “I’m just happy to be picked.”

Sounds like “Midwest nice” is alive and well in the youngster. And it’s fine that Berkovitz doesn’t want to ruffle feathers off the ice, because he’s sure to make an impact on it in the future. During the season, one NHL scout told me that the Jaguars star reminded him of Ryan Suter thanks to the way he skates without wasting motion. Like Suter before him, Berkovitz has committed to the University of Wisconsin, but first the youngster plans on suiting up in the United States League for the Chicago Steel.

Berkovitz could have joined the Steel this past season, but felt the timing wasn’t quite right.

“I don’t think I was mature enough,” he said. “I didn’t like my situation there as much as I thought I would, so I thought the Elite League in Minnesota, with Team Wisconsin, was a good league to prove myself in. I wanted to dominate there before moving on to the USHL.”

The Upper Midwest High School Elite League takes place before the regular high school season and features all-star teams from around Minnesota, Shattuck St-Mary’s prep school and a few other entries, including Team Wisconsin, where Berkovitz led his squad’s defense corps with 13 points in 21 games.

“I’m a reliable two-way defenseman who can move the puck well,” he said. “I can play solid defensively and create a lot of offense.”

Needless to day, Berkovitz wouldn’t have been waiting until the fifth round of the draft if he was a finished product – the youngster does need to get stronger, in scouts’ minds. But he does have a good 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame to build on and that skating acumen is hard to teach. Chicago missed the USHL playoffs this past season, but will return young scoring ace Robby Jackson (2015 draft) and 2014 Blackhawks pick Freddy Olofsson, a left winger originally from Sweden.

After that, he’ll head back to his home state of Wisconsin to play for a Badgers program that has churned out NHL defensemen over the years, from Jake Gardiner and Justin Schultz to Ryan McDonagh and of course, Ryan Suter.

 

There was a time when Dany Heatley was the NHL’s Patrick Kane. About eight years ago

Jason Kay
Heatley2

When Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews signed their monster eight-year extensions this week, the reviews were generally very positive. The Blackhawks secured the services of two superstars, players who are integral to their core and who would be just 34 and 35 respectively when their contracts expire.

While the cap hit is $10.5 million per year, it’s not outrageous by today’s top-player standards. What’s not to like?

Not much, but there is some risk attached to the pacts. While most expect Kane and Toews to be elite players for years to come, plenty can happen in eight years.

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See Ryan Kesler in the brand new Anaheim Ducks jersey for the first time

Rory Boylen
Ryan Kesler Ducks jersey

On June 27, draft day, the Anaheim Ducks unveiled their new jerseys for the 2014-15 season. The home jersey is almost a copy of their third jerseys, except for the outline color around the numbers being orange instead of gold. Both jerseys went away from the lettering that spelled out “Ducks” and embraced the webbed “D” logo.

duckstweet

Ryan Kesler, Anaheim’s big off-season acquisition, landed in the city for the first time and threw out the first pitch at the Angels-Blue Jays baseball game Wednesday. Before that, he stopped by the Ducks’ team store to try on the new jersey.

Yesterday, we caught a glimpse of Jarome Iginla in his new jersey, albeit in video game form. And now we can stop imagining Kesler in Ducks colors and see what it looks like. Avert your eyes, Canucks fans.
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The top 10 undrafted players at NHL development camps

Scott-Savage

Many NHL teams have prospect development camps going on this week, with some already underway. These sessions are a great way to teach new draft picks how the organization works and get them familiar with their peers from past draft classes who are also attending. Usually there’s some sort of tournament or scrimmage at the end.

But the camps aren’t just for draft picks. Along with previously signed free agents, teams bring in kids on tryouts. Not only does this fill out the roster, but it also gives the franchise an opportunity to get a longer look at some players they may have overlooked in the draft – or simply ran out of picks before they could snag. Here are some of the best names in that cohort.

Scott Savage, D – Boston College (San Jose, Anaheim)

The California native is double-dipping back home, taking part in camps hosted by the Sharks and Ducks. Coming out of the U.S. National Team Development Program, Savage was a physical, defensive D-man without ideal size. But he’s always had mobility and put up decent numbers with the Eagles this past season.

Bobo Carpenter, LW – Austin Prep (Toronto)

The son of ex-NHLer Bobby Carpenter, ‘Bobo’ is short for Robert and he’s the third generation of that name. After his high school season ended, Carpenter put up nine points in nine games for Sioux City in the United States League and despite his obvious offensive talent, he didn’t hear his name called at the draft in Philly. Skating might be a factor, but the Maple Leafs are giving him a whirl.

Ken Appleby, G – Oshawa Generals (Arizona)

Appleby has excellent size, standing 6-foot-4 in the crease, but as a backup to Carolina prospect Daniel Altshuller, he didn’t see enough time to intrigue an NHL team. His .920 save percentage actually edged Altschuller’s .917 mark and perhaps that’s why the Coyotes would like to see more from the youngster.

Joe Hicketts, D – Victoria Royals (Detroit)

One look at Hicketts’ measurements – he’s 5-foot-8 and 186 pounds – and you can see why NHL teams may have been scared off at the draft. There was also a shoulder injury that truncated his season, but the blueliner can put up offense and he’s feisty out there; physical play is no issue. The Red Wings were intrigued enough to bring him along to their camp.

Sam Anas, LW – Quinnipiac Bobcats (Montreal)

Another smaller player, Anas will fit in perfectly in Montreal. Ha ha! Just kidding. But seriously, the 5-foot-8 winger is tremendously talented in the offensive zone and put up more than a point per game this past season while playing on Quinnipiac’s top line. The Habs are giving the college kid a chance to shine in the summer now, too.

Damian Bourne, LW – Mississauga Steelheads (Calgary)

At the other end of the spectrum is 6-foot-4, 209-pound Bourne, who never really got on track offensively this year. A big, powerful winger, Bourne can dish out the punishment and perhaps he’s destined to be a bottom-sixer. Whether or not he develops into a power forward, the Flames wanted another look.

Kevin Tansey, D – Clarkson Golden Knights (Ottawa)

Tansey has been to a camp before in Toronto, but now it’s the hometown Senators giving him a shot. The physical, defensive blueliner missed all of 2012-13 due to a concussion and injury to his ribs, but rebounded this season and put up solid numbers in the ECAC.

Blake Clarke, LW – Saginaw Spirit (Detroit)

Clarke went through a dreadful scoring drought this season and was traded from North Bay to Saginaw in between. The big winger also dealt with a shoulder injury that messed with the mental side of his game, but he’s been a scorer in the past and clearly the Red Wings want to see if he can rediscover that touch.

Jordon Cooke, G – Kelowna Rockets (Los Angeles)

At 5-foot-10, Cooke does not have ideal size for a modern netminder, but he did have great numbers for one of the best teams in the nation. Was that because of the players in front of him, or was he part of the reason the Rockets succeeded? Cooke was named CHL goaltender of the year, so there’s a pretty good clue there. At the least, the Kings are intrigued.

Jack Flinn, G – Owen Sound Attack (Toronto)

Again, we have opposites. Flinn comes in at 6-foot-7 with lots of potential but poor numbers. He was the backup in Owen Sound this year, but split the playoff workload with starter Brandon Hope. The Leafs are willing to test out Flinn’s huge frame at their camp this week.

Check out John Gibson’s new Pac-Man mask – it has holograms!

Rory Boylen
John Gibson mask

Next season, the Anaheim Ducks are slated to have Frederik Andersen as the starter with freshly signed Jason LaBarbera as his backup. But John Gibson, who showed he’s pretty much ready for the big time with his play down the stretch and in the playoffs.

His numbers are good enough, but if style points count for anything, Gibson is definitely NHL ready. Read more

Day 2 draft winners and losers: Calgary stocks up, Toronto sputters

Mason-McDonald

The 2014 draft had little consensus going into Philadelphia and it showed in the results on Day 2 as teams went all over the board with their picks. One thing that became very clear is that teams were valuing upside and potential, swinging for the fences instead of settling for safe selections.

But with the full draft in the books, some teams helped themselves more than others. Here are my winners and losers from Day 2.

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Canucks were doomed to be fleeced on Ryan Kesler trade from the start

Ken Campbell
Kelser

PHILADELPHIA – There are probably only two people in the hockey world who were colossally disappointed with the return the Vancouver Canucks got for Ryan Kesler. One of them, we’ll call every single fan of the Vancouver Canucks. The other is Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray.

Now that is not to say that new Canucks GM Jim Benning swung and missed when he dealt Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Nick Boninio, Luca Sbisa and the 24th pick in today’s NHL draft. In fact, given the circumstances, Benning got as much as he could have hoped. He was in an untenable situation and made the best of it, so good for him. And if he turns that pick and the sixth overall selection into a higher pick in this year’s draft, then the deal becomes better. Read more