It’s about that time, folks. The Memorial Cup field has been set, the AHL is into the conference finals and the NCAA champs were crowned long ago. So which players repped their franchises the best? The following list is made up of the prospects I believe had the best seasons for their parent franchises.
These are not necessarily the most NHL-ready players or the top prospects in the organizational pecking order, but these guys had the most success overall (but yeah, a lot of the top guys are here anyway). Factors include individual stats and growth, plus team success – so don’t be surprised to find some North Dakota Fighting Hawks and Brandon Wheat Kings on the list. One more note: any player who is Calder-eligible for the current NHL season does not count – that means no Frankie Vatrano for Boston or Connor Hellebuyck for Winnipeg, as examples.
Let’s get to it:
The Edmonton Oilers may not have won the draft lottery, but it appears they’ve won the sweepstakes for top NCAA free agent Drake Caggiula.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported Friday evening that Caggiula, 21, will be signing with Edmonton after a weeks-long process that saw him visit more than half a dozen teams in determining where he would sign his entry-level deal. Throughout much of Friday, it was reported both the Oilers and Canucks were close to signing the University of North Dakota product, but McKenzie stated that Vancouver was told they wouldn’t land Caggiula shortly before he chose Edmonton.
In signing Caggiula, the Oilers land one of the NCAA’s top scorers from the 2015-16 campaign. Caggiula scored 25 goals and 51 points for North Dakota this past season, and 62 goals and 127 points in 162 career games in the NCAA. He was especially impressive in the Frozen Four tournament this season, though. Caggiula scored six goals and seven points in North Dakota’s four victories, including two goals in the final as UND won its first national title since 2000, and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. Read more
Baylee Bjorge is a big fan of Vancouver Canucks prospect Brock Boeser and the University of North Dakota’s hockey teams, so much so that she created a Twitter account with one of the sole purposes being to ask Boeser to attend prom with her.
However, according to the Grand Forks Herald’s Brad Elliott Schlossman, when Boeser went to reply and tell Bjorge, who was born with Down syndrome, he would accept the invitation, the UND star couldn’t respond because the account had been deactivated. Bjorge’s mother, Katie Marcotte, told Schlossman that she had shut down her daughter’s account because she doesn’t like Bjorge using social media.
But Boeser wasn’t about to give up on being Bjorge’s date to the prom. According to Schlossman, Boeser found a way to get Marcotte’s number and sent her a message asking if he could take her daughter to prom. Read more
As the season begins to wind down, we’re starting to see some hardware handed out in the prospect ranks. Toronto Maple Leafs hopeful Mitch Marner, for example, just won the OHL’s Red Tilson Trophy as the league’s most outstanding player for his work with the London Knights. Another OHL award-winner is featured below in my weekly wrap-up. Elsewhere in the hockey world, the USHL is in the middle of its two-stage draft. During Phase 1 (for 2000 birthdays), Sioux Falls landed competitive center Gavin Hain with the No. 1 pick. Phase 2 (for 1999s and earlier) happened today. And speaking of the USHL, let’s get to this week’s round-up:
Retirement from hockey seemed likely for Amanda Kessel after battling concussions for the better part of two seasons. But a surprise return to action in February has now sparked a pro career.
Kessel, the younger sister of Pittsburgh Penguins right winger Phil Kessel, signed a one-year, $26,000 contract with the NWHL’s New York Riveters, the team announced Sunday. The deal is for the 2016-17 season.
Finland is golden again thanks to the under-18s in North Dakota and all the international usual suspects came through at the tourney. Jesse Puljujarvi was huge, Clayton Keller took home MVP honors and Tyson Jost led the tourney in scoring. European scouts are basically done watching games now and the CHL playoffs are getting to the big stages, so you can feel the draft combine coming on the horizon. With the AHL starting Calder Cup proceedings, there is still a lot of good hockey left, though. So let’s take a trip around the prospect world again, shall we?
Take a deep breath, Vancouver Canucks fans. Thatcher Demko did not pull a Jimmy Vesey.
Goaltender Demko, 20, officially signed with the team that drafted him Wednesday, as announced by the Canucks. He’s now a professional hockey player and will forego his senior year at Boston College.
The move makes sense for Demko, who has nothing left to prove at the NCAA level. He went 27-8-4 with a 1.88 goals-against average, .935 save percentage and 10 shutouts this season. That latter stat broke a school record set by Canucks alumnus Cory Schneider in 2005-06 and stands as the second-highest total ever for a college goalie in a single season.
Demko helped Boston College reach the Frozen Four and was named a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, a.k.a hockey’s Heisman Trophy. Demko even won the Mike Richter Award as the nation’s top college netminder. He acquitted himself well starting for Team USA at the 2015 world juniors, posting a .934 SP, and he’s cracked USA’s 2016 World Championship roster, following the recent footsteps of Yankee netminders John Gibson and Connor Hellebuyck. Demko really needs a new challenge, and turning pro is exactly that.
The world under-18s are going full-bore in North Dakota right now and there is some fantastic talent assembled. Sure, Russia’s under-18s were pulled out because of a drug scandal, but youngsters such as Klim Kostin and Andrei Svechnikov just get to make their impressions a year earlier. And with Jesse Puljujarvi joining Finland, the Americans will have several rivals to fend off if they want to defend their gold medal from last year. We’ve also got CHL playoffs getting serious and a special guest star from the coaching ranks in this week’s prospect round-up.