Though a lot of draft choices were moved at the NHL trade deadline, not a lot of prospects changed addresses. Dallas got a couple mid-table guys from Detroit in the Erik Cole deal, but the big prize was Maxim Letunov. The smart and skilled Russian went from St. Louis to Arizona, though he’ll hit up Boston University first. Here’s a look at some of the other players making noise in the prospect world.
When the Boston University Terriers needed Jack Eichel the most, he was there. For the first 60 minutes of the Beanpot final against Northeastern, the consensus No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft was crazy dangerous, but had yet to make his mark on the scoresheet. But seconds into overtime, Eichel swooped towards the Northeastern net, drawing a controversial penalty on Huskies defenseman Matt Benning.
“His speed is intimidating; teams know when he’s out there,” said Terriers coach David Quinn. “He gives us a swagger and it’s infectious. But it’s a respectful swagger.”
Less than a minute later, Eichel helped set up Matt Grzelcyk’s winning goal on the power play and the Terriers were celebrating.
BOSTON – Matt Grzelcyk’s dad has been a Boston arena worker for decades, covering up ice for basketball games, uncovering it for hockey or prepping the building for concerts. Grzelcyk (pronounced “Grizz-lick”) was also drafted by his hometown Boston Bruins, so of course the city’s famous college hockey trophy would be decided on the blade of one of its own.
BOSTON – The Beanpot tournament is a bit of a big deal in Boston. Pitting the four NCAA schools in the city against each other over two weekends, the showdown features blood rivals Harvard, Northeastern, Boston College and Boston University. Defenseman Noah Hanifin grew up around the tourney, so he was amped to play in it this year and helped Boston College win third place after an opening round loss to Northeastern.
“I pretty much went every year since I was five years old,” Hanifin said. “To be able to play in it this year and experience it was unbelievable even though we didn’t get the outcome we wanted.”
Like fellow 2015 NHL draft phenoms Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel (a friend of Hanifin’s), it’s not hard to run out of superlatives when talking about the gifted Hanifin.
Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Award goes to the state’s most outstanding senior in high school hockey and a perusal of the past winners churns up some pretty impressive names. Ryan McDonagh, Nick Leddy and Nick Bjugstad all earned the honor and each one of them was then taken in the first round of the NHL draft. For years, a Minnesota high schooler always went in the top 30, but those days are gone. Since 2011, the first names called have been second-rounders, but sometimes fifth-rounders. In 2014, a Wisconsin high schooler (Matt Berkovitz, Anaheim) was actually taken before any Minnesota kids, which, traditionally speaking, is insane.
The “State of Hockey” is still producing lots of talent, but those kids are no longer sticking with their schools. Team USA, the United States League, the Western League and prep school Shattuck-St. Mary’s have all taken chunks out of the high school circuit, which still holds its vaunted state tournament at the Minnesota Wild’s XCel Energy Center and packs the house. It’s getting to the point where some scouts are less than enthusiastic about watching the games and a fierce protectionism has frayed relationships at the local level.
Buffalo Sabres captain Brian Gionta hit 500 career points last night on a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers in what would turn out to be a shootout win for his squad. Wins have been hard to come by for the Sabres lately and while it was expected that the rebuilding squad would struggle, the players on the team now still have to deal with the ramifications.
Which is why Gionta is the perfect captain for the situation. Not only is he a Stanley Cup winner (New Jersey, 2003) and an Olympian (Team USA, 2006), but Gionta has bucked the odds in his career, getting everything and more out of his 5-foot-7, 175-pound frame.
Weather permitting, Boston’s NCAA Beanpot tournament will end next week and hopefully I’ll be there. In the meantime, some more important dates were established when the CHL announced the hosts of next year’s Super Series with Russia: Kamloops, Kelowna, Owen Sound, Windsor, Rouyn-Noranda and Halifax. With that out of the way, let’s take a trip around the world of prospects.
Think about the elite centers in the NHL and more than likely, the team they play for acquired them through the draft.
Crosby, Malkin, Stamkos, Tavares, Toews, Getzlaf, Giroux, Kopitar and Henrik Sedin all qualify and it’s no coincidence they were all snatched up in the first round. Tellingly, none of those players have been traded in their careers and to be a little cheeky, you kinda have to wait until the Boston Bruins are ready to trade a No. 1 center (Thornton, Seguin now that he’s in Dallas) if you want one.
Since that’s probably not going to happen again for awhile, the path to success is clear – since it’s near impossible to win the Stanley Cup these days without a great top pivot – and Florida’s leading scorer happens to fit the mold.