Tom Sorensen, USA Hockey
With the recent announcement that the 2015 NHL Entry Draft will take place in Florida, it seems like an appropriate time to take an early look at what appears to be a very deep crop of prospects out of the USHL; namely out of the US National Team Development Program.
Leading the list, of course, is Jack Eichel, who has dominated the USHL this season with the U18 National Team. Eichel also performed strongly at the WJC with Team USA. While Eichel is a late '96 birthdate, the US crop of 97-born players may be one of the most impressive to go down in the books. Here's a few of next year's draft eligibles to keep a close eye on.
RC Colin White | USNTDP U17
White is coming off a very impressive performance at the U17 Hockey Challenge where he totaled 18 points in six games to lead the tournament. He has a 9-6-15 scoring line in 19 games for the National Team and has found success against USHL clubs. White is a solid all-around player who blends tremendous speed with good puck-skills. He gets to the right spots on the ice to make a play and he does a great job getting back and supporting on defense. He works hard in all three zones and has a lot of similarities to current U18 forward, Dylan Larkin. The Boston College commit is shaping up as a potential top five pick in 2015; a very impressive group when you factor in Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid on forward alone.
LD Noah Hanifin | USNTDP U17
The highly touted defenseman also had a strong performance at the U17 Hockey Challenge. He plays a solid shutdown game in his own end, using his size and his stick work to eliminate chances and neutralize forwards. Hanifin makes strong defensive reads and recoveries and is tough to beat outside; maintaining great gap control and utilizing his hockey IQ and anticipation. He is also skilled with the puck and moves very well for a big defenseman. Hanifin recently announced that he has expedited his high school studies and will arrive at Boston College a year early as a true 17-year-old defenseman so it will interesting to monitor how the Norwood, Mass. native fares next season.
RW Jeremy Bracco | USNTDP U17
Bracco was a solid contributor for the US at the U17 Hockey Challenge. Scoring at a point-per-game pace in the USHL with 19 points (6 goals, 13 assists) in 19 games, Bracco is a creative winger with quick hands and tremendous vision and playmaking skill. The diminutive winger is a magician with the puck and has shown impressive puck possession skills at every level he's played at despite his small frame. Playing with no fear of contact, Bracco has an impressive willingness to drive the net and engage in puck battles against bigger opponents. With no shortage of high-end skill, Bracco is a player that could certainly be in first round discussion in 2015 even with some concerns over how his size might translate to the NHL level in the future.
TOP 10 OUTLOOK
1. JACK EICHEL-C-USNTDP U18
2. COLIN WHITE-C-USNTDP U17
3. NOAH HANIFIN-LD-USNTDP U17
4. CASEY FITZGERALD-LD-USNTDP U17
5. ZACH WERENSKI-LD-USNTDP U17
6. JEREMY BRACCO-RW-USNTDP U17
7. KYLE CONNOR-LW-YOUNGSTOWN PHANTOMS
8. JORDAN GREENWAY-LW-USNTDP U17
9. JAKOB FORSBACKA-KARLSSON-C-OMAHA LANCERS
10. BRENDAN WARREN-RW-USNTDP U17
|1. C Sam Reinhart||Kootenay Ice|
|2. D Aaron Ekblad||Barrie Colts|
|3. C Michael Dal Colle||Oshawa Generals|
|4. C Leon Draisaitl||Prince Albert Raiders|
|5. C William Nylander||Rogle|
|6. LW Nick Ritchie||Peterborough Petes|
|7. D Haydn Fleury||Red Deer Rebels|
|8. D Roland McKeown||Kingston Frontenacs|
|9. LW Sam Bennett||Kingston Frontenacs|
|10. C Jared McCann||Soo Greyhounds|