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5 things learned from USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game

Projected top NHL Draft pick Hughes has goal, assist; Boldy earns MVP honors

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Matthew Boldy of USA Hockey's Under-18 National Team Development Program was named Most Valuable Player at the USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday.

Boldy had two goals and one assist to help lead Team Jamie Langenbrunner to a 6-4 win against Team Jordan Leopold.

Here are five things learned from the game:


1. Highlight-reel Hughes

Jack Hughes (5-foot-10, 168 pounds), the projected No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver on June 21-22, showcased the speed and creativity that scouts crave when he had a goal, assist and a game-high eight shots on goal for Team Leopold.

"I wasn't too worried about who I was playing against; it's kind of just me focusing on my game and how my team is doing," Hughes said. "It was a good game and fun playing against guys who are teammates. We're all buddies so to be able to compete against each other was pretty cool." 

The 17-year-old center wore No. 21, the same number as his mother, Ellen, from her playing days at the University of New Hampshire. Hughes' goal in the second period came in unusual fashion after losing an offensive-zone draw and having the opposing defenseman score against his own goalie on an attempt to wrap the puck behind the net.

He assisted USNTDP teammate Cole Caufield (5-6, 154) on a 2-on-1 breakout in the third.

"He's a competitor," Leopold said. "He wasn't happy that we lost. He's very gifted and skilled, kind of like a Johnny Gaudreau-type player with a heavier shot, maybe. Lights-out good. Really, [Hughes and Boldy] are phenoms in the USA Hockey market."


2. Bold moves 

Boldy (6-0, 174) was glad he was able to demonstrate to NHL scouts the type of player he could become by joining past MVPs Brady Tkachuk (2017), Casey Mittelstadt (2016), and Jack Eichel (2014). 

"I felt good this morning, but I didn't think I had that in me," Boldy said. "I thought I showed scouts how I like to play with the puck, attack the net and show my creativity. I thought it was an exciting game."

Boldy, who finished with six shots on goal, scored off a slap shot just inside the blue line to give Langenbrunner a 4-4 tie with 1:07 left in the third period. He then assisted USNTDP linemate Trevor Zegras (5-11, 159) with the game-winner 43 seconds later.

"I got a little bit of a heads-up that he might be a pretty good player, and he didn't disappoint," Langenbrunner said. "He's around the puck all the time. He's a smart player, puts his stick in the right lanes, can make plays. He's going to be a good hockey player."


3. American-made record?

Don't be surprised if a record number of United States-born players are chosen in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft. 

The current record of 12 United States-born players selected in the first round was set in the 2016 NHL Draft, headed by Auston Matthews at No. 1 (Toronto Maple Leafs). A record nine players picked in the first round from the National Team Development Program was set in 2016.

Among those United States-born players participating in the All-American Prospects Game with first-round potential besides Hughes were forwards Zegras, Boldy, Alex Turcotte (5-11, 189), and Caufield (5-7, 155), defensemen Alex Vlasic (6-6, 193) and Cameron York (5-11, 171) and goalie Spencer Knight (6-3, 197) of the U.S. U-18 NTDP, and forward Arthur Kaliyev (6-1, 190) of Hamilton (Ontario Hockey League).

"I think the resources [United States-born players] have are top notch and the coaching and training is great, too," Langenbrunner said. "These kids are learning what it's like to be a pro and learning to play with top level players, and that's big this early in their career."


4. Schoolboy success

Three of the seven high school players participating in the All-American Prospects Game have been identified by NHL Central Scouting as potential second- and third-round candidates for the 2019 NHL Draft.

Center John Farinacci (5-11, 185) will begin the season with Muskegon of the United States Hockey League before returning for a second season at Dexter School in Massachusetts in November. Farinacci, born in Chatham, New Jersey, played at Delbarton School in Morristown, New Jersey, and Shattuck-St. Mary's in Minnesota before deciding to play for his uncle, Dan Donato, at Dexter.

Farinacci's cousin is Boston Bruins forward Ryan Donato, and his uncle is Harvard University coach Ted Donato. Farinacci is committed to Harvard in 2019-20.

"It's great to have family members involved in hockey because you always have someone supporting you," Farinacci said. "I'm very close with Ryan; we've been together ever since we were young. It's cool to be able to see what he's done. He's a role model for me. He's the hardest working kid I've ever met."

In addition to Farinacci, forward Ryder Donovan of Duluth East (Minn.) and defenseman Jayden Struble of St. Sebastian's (Mass.) could also be selected in the early rounds. Forwards Garret Pinoniemi of Holy Family Catholic (Minn.) and Aaron Huglen of Roseau (Minn.), and defensemen Cade Webber of Rivers Academy (Mass.) and Braden Doyle of Lawrence Academy (Mass.) also played in the game.


5. Sticking with Squidward 

Spencer Knight, goalie for the USNTDP, apparently has a lot in common with Squidward Q. Tentacles of the animated television series "SpongeBob SquarePants."

Knight, known for stretching and reaching out to make big saves, got the idea of putting a sticker of the fictional character on the back of his goalie mask from a skills coach. 

"A while ago, the coach used to call me Squidward because I have long legs and can stretch out to make saves; he called me that as a joke," Knight said. "When I was thinking of ideas for my helmet, I put [Squidward] on the back plate and he's been everywhere with me ... Russia, Finland. He's sticking around for a long time."

Knight played the first half of the game for Team Langenbrunner and made 12 saves on 13 shots. He said he has changed the look of his helmet six times, but the one constant has been the sticker of Squidward on the back.

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