Nephew of Pat Verbeek, Hayden plays for the Sun County Panthers and could go to the NCAA. (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
College hockey coaches must feel like they’re fighting a Sisyphean battle for recruits sometimes, as even kids who want to go NCAA instead of major junior are tripped up by arcane bylaws that wreck their eligibility. But for true believers, College Hockey Inc. has stepped into the fold in the past couple years to help players and their parents navigate the waters. The lobby group also has held showcases across Canada and I took in a recent meeting in Toronto. Nearly 50 prospects, mostly 1997 birthdays, formed four teams and played shortened games in front of a dozen reps from major college programs such as Michigan State and Northeastern. With the Ontario League draft coming this weekend, some of the following players will be selected even if they are more interested in the college route, but here are the kids that caught my eye.
Hayden Verbeek, C, Sun County Panthers
Pat Verbeek’s nephew demonstrated great speed and hands and made some nice moves on a penalty shot before losing the puck. Defensively, he was very aware and present in his own zone.
Brendan McGlynn, G, Oakville Rangers
Though midget stats can be all over the place, it’s worth noting that McGlynn had a 1.11 goals-against average in 40 appearances for the OHL Cup champion Rangers. An economical butterfly goaltender, McGlynn tracks the puck well and brings a lot of poise to the cage.
Jacob Hayhurst, LW, Mississauga Rebels
Good speed, quick hands and he comes back to cover on defense when needed. Hayhurst set a nice high screen on one of his team’s goals in an otherwise lopsided defeat. One of the best on his squad that night.
Mackenzie O’Mahony, D, South Central Coyotes
Already 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, O’Mahony didn’t provide a lot of offense for his club team this season, but he showed his potential in Toronto, taking chances in the offensive zone while skating well enough to recover when he needed to get back on defense. Made a very nice play to break up a 2-on-1 and moves well for a big guy.
Andrew Petrucci, C, Toronto Titans
A puck hawk who will track down the biscuit when it’s not on his stick, Petrucci also demonstrated some excellent playmaking skills. Ironically, he had more goals than assists on the Titans this season.
James Thomson, D, South Central Coyotes
Great defensive awareness from a right-handed shot. It’s tougher to notice blueliners in these all-star type events, but Thomson was always engaged in the play and did make some offensive forays when the time was right.
Liam Dunda, LW, Don Mills Flyers
One of the most active players I saw right from the opening puck drop, Dunda is a big kid who can move. Even though these showcases aren’t as physical as a typical match (the kids are told to focus on skill play), Dunda clearly has that dimension to his game. Needs to work on his finishing skills, but he’s so involved with the play that he’ll have ample time to hone that area of his game.
Stefan LeBlanc, D, Oakville Blades (OJHL)
A rare 1996 birthday attending the event, LeBlanc’s extra experience playing older Jr. A competition showed. The defenseman moves well and his passes were either tape-to-tape or put in the right spot and just muffed by the receiver. His OHL rights are owned by Sudbury and he was Oakville’s top-scoring blueliner this season with 33 points in 49 games.
Tyler MacArthur, D, Barrie Jr. Colts
A 6-foot-2 offensive defenseman who is highly acclaimed for the OHL draft, MacArthur made no mistake on a penalty shot (all penalties on the night were rewarded penalty shots), sniping on a sick wrist shot.