Ryan Fitzgerald was awarded the MVP of the first All-American Top Prospects Game. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The inaugural All-American Prospects Game took place in Buffalo Saturday, with Team White (coached by Rob McClanahan of Miracle on Ice fame) taking a 5-2 victory over Team Blue (helmed by Sabres legend Phil Housley). Seth Jones had a goal to buttress his draft buzz, while many kids from the National Team Development Program demonstrated why that squad is so successful every year. Here’s a look at some of the notables from that game and the rest of the prospect world.
Ryan Fitzgerald, C – Valley Jr. Warriors (EJHL)
A high school star from Massachusetts, Fitzgerald is making his transition into the world of junior en route to a scholarship at Boston College. As one of the few non-United States Leaguers at the All-American Prospects Game, he was a bit of an unknown – other than the fact his dad is former NHLer turned Penguins exec Tom Fitzgerald. But Ryan more than held his own in Buffalo, posting three assists and earning MVP honors for his stellar play.
“Staying out East obviously poses some questions about whether I can hang with the big boys,” he said. “So this was a pretty big stepping stone for me.”
Fitzgerald’s shining moment came on the game’s first goal, when he showed tremendous patience on a 3-on-1, eventually feeding NTDP power forward Hudson Fasching for an easy tap-in score.
“I’m a smaller player so I need to find ways to survive out there,” said the 5-foot-10 Fitzgerald. “Craftiness, smarts – that’s how I get by. My hockey IQ is probably my strong suit – seeing the ice, making things happen. I’m not a goal-scorer – I get assists.”
So far in the Eastern Junior League, he’s kept the party going with seven assists and eight points in five games – all Valley wins. And while the EJHL may not be the top junior circuit around, it has produced several top prospects of late, such as Charlie Coyle and Brian Dumoulin.
“It’s good competition and honestly I just didn’t want to move,” he said. “To stay out East, good things can happen.”
Particularly on a Saturday night in Buffalo. Draft eligible in 2013.
Evan Allen, C – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
There’s a talent in being at the right place at the right time (Dany Heatley was a master) and Allen had it down to a science in Buffalo. The University of Michigan commit had both goals for the losing side and earned them by becoming invisible to defenders just long enough to get into scoring areas. Draft eligible in 2013.
J.T. Compher, LW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Along with Fasching, Compher is the marquee name on the NTDP this season and though he doesn’t have his teammate’s beastly size, Compher gets in the mix. At the AAPG, the University of Michigan commit demonstrated a dogged determination around the puck, never giving up on a play. He’ll be one of the team’s leading scorers this season. Draft eligible in 2013.
Michael Downing, D – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
The Fighting Saints won’t be as stacked as in previous years, but Downing will make sure Dubuque is still a nervous place for visitors. The 6-foot-3, 194-pound rearguard can throw some big hits and makes life miserable for those attempting to get to the goalie. Team USA’s captain at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, Downing is committed to Michigan. Draft eligible in 2013.
Michael McCarron, RW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Committed to Cornell University, McCarron brings an imposing 6-foot-5, 228-pound frame to the ice, but size isn’t his only attribute. The Michigan product has very quick hands for a big man and utilized them to the fullest at the AAPG, collecting one assist, but also nearly converting himself on several occasions. Draft eligible in 2013.
Kirill Grigoryev, G – Almaz Cherepovets (Rus.)
At 5-foot-9 and 220 pounds, Grigoryev doesn’t have the typical modern goalie frame – almost has the polar opposite, really. But the kid can stop pucks and win games, which he’s done so far for middling Almaz in the KHL’s junior circuit. His .947 save percentage is better than Andrei Vasilevski’s, while the 1.67 goals-against average and 3-0 record aren’t shabby either. Draft eligible in 2013.
Filip Forsberg, RW – Leksand Stars (Swe.)
The reason Forsberg was ranked as high as second overall for the 2012 draft was because of the upside and potential he showed. Sure, the numbers weren’t quite there, but the size and skills were. Now the numbers are coming. Forsberg has four goals and five points in seven games, making him the highest scorer among juniors playing against men in Sweden’s second-best circuit. Drafted 11th overall by Washington in 2012.
Hunter Shinkaruk, C – Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
Not only was Shinkaruk tabbed to carry the offensive load in Medicine Hat this season, but the youngster was also given the captaincy for a little added pressure. No matter: the top prospect just earned Western League player of the week honors thanks to six points in two games, both Tiger victories. Draft eligible in 2013.
Spencer Martin, G – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
One of the top goalies to watch for this season, Martin will be given the chance to earn starter’s minutes for the Steelheads, even though he’s still 17. A big kid who moves well, Martin boasts a paltry 1.45 goals-against average and sturdy .953 save percentage early on. Draft eligible in 2013.
Mikhail Grigorenko, C – Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
Grigorenko has stayed true to the Remparts even during a season of flux when fellow Russian star Nail Yakupov returned home to play pro. But Quebec is more than happy to have its strong center back; Grigorenko is on fire early with three goals and 11 points in just four games. Drafted 12th overall by Buffalo in 2012.
The Hot List, a roundup of minor league, junior, college and high school players we’re excited to one day see in the NHL, appears every Tuesday only on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play their first NHL game.
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