Sarnia Sting defenceman Anthony DeAngelo realizes he made a mistake at a time when emotions were high. Now he's determined to learn from it and help his team close out the season on a positive note.
The offensive-minded DeAngelo, No. 10 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of the top North American skaters for the 2014 NHL Draft, was suspended eight games by the Ontario Hockey League earlier this month for violation of the league's harassment and abuse/diversity policy.
He was eligible to return to the lineup Saturday and had two goals, one assist and a plus-3 rating to help the Sting snap an 11-game losing streak with a 6-1 victory against the Ottawa 67's at RBC Centre in Sarnia.
"I made a mistake in what I did and know I was wrong for the comment I made," DeAngelo told NHL.com. "I was deserving of disciplinary actions. It was my fault so I served it and am just ready to play again."
According to the league report, DeAngelo made "a most inappropriate statement to a teammate" on Jan. 31 against the Guelph Storm to incur his suspension.
"The most important thing I learned out of this is that I didn't just hurt myself for being suspended, but I hurt a teammate and the organization," DeAngelo said. "I've realized that letting my emotions get to me isn't the best thing for me or the team. I'm a very passionate person and player, and I learned that I need to control that into more positive instead of letting it be negative like it was in that situation. I let the frustration get the best of me and realize it was wrong."
The win Saturday was the first for the Sting since Jan. 25, and first home triumph since Jan. 10.
"It's very important for the team and me personally that I'm back out there," DeAngelo said. "When I'm not playing I can't help the team win games or improve my own game.
"My teammates and I are normal just as usual; I have a great relationship with the guys."
Sarnia coach Trevor Letowski was pleased with DeAngelo's performance in his first game back.
"Anthony has been through a lot the last few weeks and all he could do was respond," Letowski told reporters after the game. "I'm sure there were a lot of people watching to see how he would play. He made the smart plays, played solid hockey and had a three-point game."
It's also important for DeAngelo to continue what has been a stellar season thus far. The 5-foot-10.75, 175-pound right-handed shot leads all OHL defenceman with 49 assists and 64 points in 45 games. He is nine points ahead of second place Matt Finn (Toronto Maple Leafs) of the Guelph Storm despite playing 12 fewer games.
"I'm very anxious about the draft," DeAngelo said. "I've been looking forward to it my whole life. But right now I'm just focused on getting back and playing hockey to help the team."
Sarnia is currently last in the Western Conference with 38 points and eight regular-season games remaining. DeAngelo had one assist in a 6-2 loss against the Windsor Spitfires on Sunday.
NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards feels DeAngelo's suspension shouldn't necessarily alter his draft status.
"To be honest, I'm not sure any of the scouts really thought anything different because of the suspension," Edwards said. "He's a highly skilled guy. I'm not going to change my mind due to a suspension, especially one that really has nothing to do with hockey. He's a heck of a hockey player and he's going to move past this."
Four of the top 2014 draft-eligible prospects from the United States Hockey League were honored during the league's midseason All-Star selections made last week.
Forwards Nick Schmaltz of the Green Bay Gamblers and Karson Kuhlman of the Dubuque Fighting Saints and defencemen Joshua Jacobs of the Indiana Ice was named to second team from the Eastern Conference, and Mark Friedman of the Waterloo Black Hawks was named to second team in the Western Conference.
The picks were determined via a polling of USHL coaches and general managers.
Schmaltz, who turned 18 on Sunday, leads his team with 34 assists and 45 points in 41 games. The University of North Dakota recruit also leads the USHL with four shootout goals in five attempts. The 30th goal of his USHL career was the game-winner for the Gamblers against the Youngstown Phantoms in a 3-0 victory Saturday.
"He's a dynamic offensive player," NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "He's really good at making you think the puck will be taken away from him, but he has such quick hands and can skate with it at full speed and then pull it away from you at full speed."
The 5-11.5, 172-pound Schmaltz, No. 19 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top draft-eligible skaters in North America, became the youngest member of the USHL All-Rookie Team in 2012-13 after posting 18 goals and 52 points in 64 games.
"He's got special hands, skill and vision, and that makes him one of the top offensive players," Gamblers coach Derek Lalonde said. "I certainly understand all of the talk of him entering this season as one of the top players to watch. What separates him from the rest is his ability to create offence and those quick hands in tight areas. He makes his linemates better and he relishes those moments playing in tight games."
Jacobs (6-1.75, 193), who will attend Michigan State University in 2014-15, is ninth in the league with a plus-24 rating. He has five goals and 19 points in 42 games. Jacobs is No. 41 on Central Scouting's midterm list.
"Josh is a solid two-way defender," Central Scouting's Greg Rajanen said. "He can defend and also will produce points from the back end. He's a solid skater in all directions, has solid puck play. With core strength development, I feel that he'll only improve."
Kuhlman (5-10, 175), No. 92 on Central Scouting's midterm rankings, has 17 goals, 32 points and a plus-15 rating in 40 games for the Fighting Saints. The University of Minnesota-Duluth recruit scored seven goals in a stretch of seven games earlier this season.
Friedman (5-10.5, 185), committed to Bowling Green State University, is fourth among all defencemen in the league with 32 points in 41 games. Ranked No. 133 on Central Scouting's midterm report, the Toronto native has two game-winning goals, 26 assists and 13 power-play points.
MR. HOCKEY HOPEFULS
It's been five years since a defenceman was last presented the Mr. Hockey Award as the best player in the state of Minnesota (Eden Prairie's Nick Leddy in 2009).
Leddy, in fact, was the fifth straight defenceman to be named Mr. Hockey. Since then, four forwards have been given the nod. Leddy, a first-round pick (No. 16) of the Minnesota Wild in 2009, is now in his fourth season with Chicago Blackhawks.
There are four defencemen among the 10 nominees this year, including three who are ranked on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top draft-eligible skaters in North America. In the running are forwards Tyler Cline (Blaine), Spencer Naas (Benilde-St. Margaret's), Avery Peterson (Grand Rapids), Mitchel Slattery (Hill-Murray), Steven Spinner (Eden Prairie) and Zach Yon (Roseau), and defencemen Phil Beaulieu (Duluth East), Tyler Nanne (Edina), Luc Snuggerud (Eden Prairie) and Nick Wolff (Eagan).
Nanne, Slattery, Spinner, Snuggerud and Wolff are all ranked on Central Scouting's midterm list.
Snuggerud, a 6-0.25, 180-pound left-handed shot, is the highest-rated player on Central Scouting's list at No. 61. He has 17 goals and a team-best 39 points in 25 regular-season games and one goal and seven points in two playoff games, including four assists in a 6-2 victory against Holy Family Catholic on Feb. 22. He will attend the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 2014-15.
"It's a dream to be named a finalist," Snuggerud told Mnhockeyhub.com. "Obviously it's a salute to my teammates. They've been there all year long and making great plays to allow me to make some plays, so it's a testament to them as well."
Spinner (5-11.5, 196), who is Snuggerud's teammate in Eden Prairie, is ranked No. 70 on the midterm list. The right wing is second in scoring behind Snuggerud with 38 points (eight goals) in 25 regular-season games, and two goals and six points in two postseason games. Spinner will join Snuggerud at Nebraska-Omaha in the fall.
"Just seeing all the people who succeed after being a finalist, not even winning it, just being a finalist, it's a huge honor and I'm lucky," Spinner said.
The duo led the Eagles (16-8-3) into the Section 6AA championship Wednesday against Benilde-St. Margaret's School at Mariucci Arena.
Slattery (5-11.5, 185), who is committed to St. Cloud State, is No. 67, Wolff (6-3.5, 200) is No. 97, and Nanne (5-10, 174), the grandson of former Minnesota North Stars general manager Lou Nanne, is No. 168. Nanne is committed to Ohio State University.
Eden Prairie Eagles veteran coach Lee Smith feels fortunate Snuggerud and Spinner have remained with his team all four years.
"We're fortunate that they're here," Smith said. "With all the talk of kids leaving high school, [Snuggerud and Spinner] are unselfish enough to stay and try to win a title for their community and for their buddies. That just tells you what kind of character they have."
The Mr. Hockey Award is given to the outstanding senior high school hockey player in the state of Minnesota and is selected by a panel of NHL scouts, Division I coaches and selected media members from around the state.
The 30th annual Mr. Hockey Awards banquet will be held March 9 at the St. Paul RiverCentre, the day after the conclusion of the Class 2A and 1A state tournaments at the neighboring Xcel Energy Center.
Grant Besse, a 2013 fifth-round pick (No. 147) of the Anaheim Ducks, was the 2013 winner. Previous Mr. Hockey Award winners include longtime NHL player Tom Chorske (1985), Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Paul Martin (2000), New York Rangers defenceman Ryan McDonagh (2007), Chicago's Leddy (2009) and Florida Panthers center Nick Bjugstad (2010).
PROSPECTS ON THE RISE
1. Adam Helewka, Spokane Chiefs (WHL): The 6-1, 194-pound left-handed shot was recently upgraded to a "C watch" on NHL Central Scouting's February players to watch list. Helewka is having a productive second season in Spokane with 21 goals, 46 points and a plus-6 rating in 53 games. He has 31 goals and 73 points in 113 career games in the Western Hockey League.
2. Hannes Björninen, Pelicans Jr. (FIN): A "C watch" on Central Scouting's February list, the 6-1, 183-pound center serves as captain for the Pelicans' Under-20 team. He has 12 goals, 39 points and a plus-1 rating in 34 games. He's considered a late bloomer who has improved throughout the season. NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb believes the 18-year-old has a good chance to earn a roster spot for the Finnish National Junior Team at the 2015 World Junior Championship.
"He's a hard-working, smart playmaker," Stubb said. "He's not flashy and you hardly notice him until you look at the score sheet because he's always there. He's got smooth hands, great puck control and good vision. He's an excellent passer."
3. Kevin Reich, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL): The 6-1.25, 198-pound goalie is 6-1-2 with a 2.09 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in 10 games this season. Reich, born in Iserlohn, Germany, is in his first season in North America. Considered a "C watch" on Central Scouting's February players to watch list, Reich spent six games with EC Salzburg earlier this season and had a 2.64 GAA and .913 save percentage.
DRAFT DANDY OF THE WEEK: ERIC CORNEL
Don't look now, but Peterborough Petes center Eric Cornel is quietly rising up the draft board.
A skilled offensive player with good vision and skating ability, Cornel earned a No. 23 ranking on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top draft-eligible skaters in North America. The 6-foot-1.5, 186-pound right-handed shot has 21 goals and 54 points in 59 games for the Petes this season.
"He struggled a bit with confidence early in his career but returned this year with renewed confidence," Peterborough coach Jody Hull told NHL.com. "He worked hard in the offseason and got stronger, and he's become a more consistent player for us. It says a lot about his makeup to be able to do it and hold his own in this league as a 17-year-old. He has some versatility too, since he can play center or right wing; that's been a luxury for me to have."
Cornel was selected in the first round (No. 3) of the 2012 Ontario Hockey League priority draft and is just now realizing how to live up to those lofty expectations. It certainly helps to be playing alongside power forward Nicholas Ritchie, who has had a dominant second half of the junior season. Ritchie is No. 7 on Central Scouting's midterm ranking.
"It's great [skating with Ritchie]," Cornel said. "He's really a good player; he makes a lot happen when he's out there and creates space. He can put the puck in the net. I think we complement each other really well."
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer