Luke Kirwan (No. 21) and J.D. Greenway (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
The finest talents from the USA (minus one) went head-to-head in Buffalo Thursday night to showcase their skills for NHL scouts. Who put themselves in the best light for the 2016 draft? Our prospect expert weighs in.
BUFFALO – The fourth annual All-American Prospects Game took place Thursday night, pitting the top 2016 NHL draft hopefuls from the USA against each other in a very entertaining showcase game. Consensus No. 1 prospect Auston Matthews was not there (he's kinda busy in Switzerland right now), but since this will be a great draft for Americans, a lot of talent was on hand.
And though these all-star games can be fluky, the elite kids rose to the occasion. Jeremy Roenick, who coached one squad, saw Matthew Tkachuk and Luke Kunin catch fire, while Derek Plante, the other bench boss, had Max Jones and William Knierim to rely on.
It was a tough game for goalies (these contests usually are) and OHL London's Tyler Parsons actually left five minutes in with a collarbone injury after catching a puck high – he had forgotten his neck protector, acccording to Roenick. Team Plante won the game 6-4. Here's a look at the big names and the kids who stood out for me.
Luke Kunin, C – A late 1997 birthday, Kunin will be a true freshman at the University of Wisconsin this season and the Badgers will need his offense. He showed great patience on the rush and sniped top corner for his first goal. Had a beauty pass on Tkachuk's first goal and was dangerous all night with three points.
Matthew Tkachuk, LW – One of the newest members of the OHL's London Knights is known for his hockey smarts and he certainly showed that off in Buffalo. Great PK work led to a shorthanded chance early and thanks to his size and skill, Tkachuk was nearly unstoppable by the end of the game, finishing with three points.
Max Jones, LW – Another new London Knight, Jones is a powerhouse on the ice. Good speed, size and skill makes him a load to handle with the puck and he drew a penalty on a break when Adam Fox had to hook him twice just to get him down. Two goals on the night.
Kieffer Bellows, LW – His influence on the game grew as time went on and Bellows (Brian's kid) finished off the game with an excellent shorthanded empty-netter that combined talent and grit. Highly skilled, he'll play for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program this year before heading off to Boston U.
William Knierem, RW – I was very impressed by Knierim, a Miami commit who plays for USHL Dubuque. A 6-foot-3, 213-pounder with speed and great playmaking ability, Knierim tallied three assists on Jones' line.
Michael Campoli, D – Blueliners are tougher to notice in these high-skill games, but the NTDP's Campoli had nice positioning to rub out a puck-carrier with a big open-ice hit early on. The Boston College commit's point shot 4-on-4 led to a tip-in goal, as well.
Charlie McAvoy, D – Confident with the puck, good passing vision. McAvoy is another late '97 going straight to college – he'll be with Boston University this season.
Chad Krys, D – A mid-sized offensive defenseman, Krys is a great puckmover who can also quarterback a power play thanks to his poise with the puck. He's an NTDP kid committed to Boston University.
Will Lockwood, RW – One of the most pleasant surprises of the night. I was unfamiliar with Lockwood coming in, but the NTDPer was very involved all night. Great passer, nice skill and he's always buzzing. He's a University of Michigan recruit.
Logan Brown, C – The center for Jones and Knierim, Brown is good on draws and has a nice shot, which he utilized on his goal. The 6-foot-5 Windsor Spitfires (OHL) pivot also had an assist in the game.
Drake Rymsha, C – Another of the London Knights cohort at the game, Rymsha has great speed and an edge to his game. Very noticeable, he was Lockwood's equivalent for Team Plante.
J.D. Greenway, D – Nice rushing ability for a D-man. Great cross-ice pass to set up Trent Frederic for a Team Plante goal in the second period. Greenway is a 6-foot-4, 205-pound NTDPer who is uncommitted for now. Brother Jordan was just drafted by the Wild.
Ryan Lindgren, D – Very nice defensive plays; Lindgren is a physical guy with some offensive skill as well. The University of Minnesota commit had an assist on the night and currently plays for the NTDP.
Tage Thompson, RW – A 6-foot-5 kid who can move, Thompson is a late '97 who will play for UConn this season. Great anticipation on the penalty kill, enabling a shorthanded rush. His passing was a little off, however, which defused some chances.
Luke McInnis, D – An offensive defenseman for USHL Youngstown who is committed to Boston College, McInnis earned the MVP award for the night on the strength of the game-winning goal and an assist. It was a bit of a curious choice, but he did show some nice puck skills overall.
Luke Kirwan, C – Big, fast and shields the puck well on the rush. Kirwan plays for the Windsor Spitfires.
Alex DeBrincat, RW – The OHL Erie Otters star was held off the scoresheet and didn't show much until the very end when he had some nice moves with the puck. It's one game, though; not everybody can shine.
Clayton Keller, C – A dynamic talent who didn't get on track offensively in the game, Keller's creativity was still noticeable. NTDP kid is a Boston U. commit.
Timmy Gettinger, LW – Nice tip for 4-on-4 goal. Gettinger plays for the OHL's Soo Greyhounds and has nice skill for his 6-foot-5, 216-pound frame.
Jack Kopacka, LW – Nice hands; drew a penalty crossing over D-man in a dangerous offensive situation. Kopacka also plays for the OHL's Greyhounds.
Griffin Luce, D – Has a great frame at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and played great on the defensive side of the puck. Luce is an NTDP kid committed to the University of Michigan.