The third annual USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game takes place in Buffalo on Sept. 25 and no doubt organizers will tell you it’s looking like the best one yet. People say that about all sorts of events every year, but if everyone shows up, this will be the best yet.
The game is only as good as the talent available and last year’s installment in Pittsburgh was hampered by the fact the U.S. didn’t produce any top-10 talents for the 2014 class. Sonny Milano, Alex Tuch and Dylan Larkin were the best of the bunch and ended up as mid-round picks. The debut of the game in Buffalo a year prior featured Seth Jones, at the time thought of as the No. 1 overall prospect and ultimately a fourth overall pick who went straight to the NHL. But Adam Erne pulled out and hometown kid Justin Bailey sustained a concussion just before the festivities, meaning a better lineup was possible.
But this year? Assuming everyone shows up healthy, this is a stacked bill. Here’s a look at some names to keep in mind.
Jack Eichel – Connor McDavid’s arch enemy (except they don’t hate each other and, at most, will face off twice this season) and potential first overall pick. He’s heading to Boston University where his size, skill and hockey IQ will carry him.
Noah Hanifin – Poised to be the youngest player in Boston College history, Hanifin will do so as a defenseman, to boot. Big and dominating at both ends of the ice.
Colin White – He’ll be a linchpin of the National Team Development Program this season, rocking an all-around game that has been compared to Jonathan Toews and possessing great acceleration.
Zach Werenski – Fast-tracked his way to the University of Michigan, where the Wolverines will love his big frame and offensively-slanted game from the blueline.
Kyle Connor – Smart and fast with a great shot, Connor was superb at the under-18s, winning gold with Team USA. He’ll be back in the United States League with Youngstown this season and could lead the league in scoring.
Jeremy Bracco – Undersized but uber-skilled, Bracco will likely lead the NTDP in scoring this season and has a commitment to Boston College for the future.
Brock Boeser – Part of Team USA’s top line at the Ivan Hlinka, Boeser worked magic with Tom Novak and Dennis Yan. All three are smart offensive players who can put up numbers. Boeser will play for USHL Waterloo before heading to the University of Wisconsin.
Brandon Carlo – A big, rangy defenseman for the Western League’s Tri-City Americans, Carlo is an intelligent player who can move and at 6-foot-5, that’s pretty special. He even got an invite to Team USA’s world junior camp this summer.
Jordan Greenway – A huge load to handle at 6-foot-5, 222 pounds, Greenway is an NTDP kid with a commitment to Boston U. Needless to say, he plays a rugged power forward game.
Paul Bittner – Another big’un at 6-foot-5 and 201 pounds, Bittner is part of the annual Portland Winterhawks draft class and brings both skill and reach to the left wing.
A few other names of note include Caleb Jones (Seth’s younger brother) and Grant Gabriele of the NTDP, Cam Askew of Moncton in the Quebec League and Doug Blaisdell of Kitchener in the Ontario League.