Many of the top players eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft will go head-to-head early next month when the 2013 Under-18 Four Nations Tournament is played at Kupittaa Rink in Turku, Finland.
The United States has won the past five tournament championships, including a 3-1 victory against Sweden in last year's final when 2014 draft-eligible goalie Thatcher Demko made 22 saves at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube in Michigan. Switzerland earned a 5-2 win against Finland in the consolation round of the tournament.
The round-robin tournament, scheduled Nov. 8-10, pits under-18 teams from the United States, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland. At the end of round-robin play, the top two teams meet for first place while the bottom two play in the consolation game.
The Americans, coached by United States National Team Development Program under-18 team coach Danton Cole, should have two potential 2014 first- or second-round draft candidates on the roster. Center Dylan Larkin and left wing Sonny Milano, who play on the USNTDP U-18 team, are "A"-rated prospects on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list from the United States Hockey League.
Larkin is committed to the University of Michigan and Milano to the University of Notre Dame.
Draft dandy of the week: Samuel Bennett
Forward Samuel Bennett of the Kingston Frontenacs has been on a tear this month.
The 6-0.25, 178-pound left wing, an "A"-rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list from the Ontario Hockey League, has 10 goals, 22 points and a plus-10 rating in 14 games. Bennett also will represent Team OHL against the Russian National Junior Team on Nov. 25 in Sudbury in the 2013 Subway Super Series.
"Sam Bennett is a legitimate high-end prospect and I would expect him to go top half of the first half of the first round pretty easily," Central Scouting's David Gregory told NHL.com. "He grew during his underage year. He's one of those guys pushing the top half. He does everything well, has good size and skill."
Bennett, Kingston's first-round pick (No. 9) in the 2012 OHL priority selection, is projected to be a top-10 pick at the 2014 NHL Draft in June. He posted 18 goals and 40 points in 60 games for the Frontenacs as a rookie in 2012-13.
"I consider myself a two-way center and playmaker," Bennett told NHL.com. "I feel I can produce lots of offense without being a liability defensively."
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The team is expected to have nine "B"-rated players on the roster, players considered to be second- or third-round candidates. Among them are eight USNTDP players: goalie Edwin Minney, defensemen Ryan Collins, Jack Dougherty, Jack Glover and Johnathan MacLeod, and forwards Anders Bjork, Ryan Hitchcock and Alex Tuch. Another "B"-rated player is forward Ryan Donato, the son of former NHL forward Ted Donato, who plays for Dexter Southfield School in Massachusetts.
"He has unreal hockey sense and is really good with the puck," Central Scouting's David Gregory said of Donato. "He plays in all situations and is one of those skilled offensive guys with good size. He can play physical in traffic and not be dominated."
Sweden's roster features 10 players with "A" or "B" ratings, including "A" forwards William Nylander of Rogle and Adrian Kempe of Modo Jr.
"William is an exceptional talent with all the tools needed to become a star," NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told NHL.com. "He's an excellent offensive player with an extremely high skill level. He's a fun player to watch and a real crowd-pleaser."
While Kempe is a first-round candidate, he's also one of the youngest 2014 draft-eligible prospects on the board, as he makes the 2014 cut by just two days with a Sept. 13 birthdate.
Host Finland doesn't have an "A"-rated player on its roster, but is armed with two "B"-rated prospects in right wing Juho Lammikko of Assat Jr. and goalie Kaapo Kahkonen of Blues Jr. Kahkonen opened plenty of eyes at the 2013 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament despite finishing with a 3.45 goals-against average and .881 save percentage.
"He's the next rising star from the Finnish goaltending school," Stubb said of Kahkonen. "He has good size (6-foot-1.5, 209 pounds) with good balance. He has excellent athleticism and flexibility and does a good job reading and following the play."
Switzerland has no "A" or "B"-rated prospects but will have seven "C"-ranked players, who are considered to be fourth-, fifth- or sixth-round picks.
SUBWAY SUPER SERIES
The rosters for the Ontario Hockey League teams competing in the 2013 Subway Super Series against the Russian National Junior Team later next month were released on Wednesday by the Canadian Hockey League.
Team OHL will play the Russians in Game 3 of the series in Oshawa on Nov. 21 and Game 4 in Sudbury on Nov. 25. The series also includes two games against a team from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League on Nov. 18 in Gatineau, Quebec, and Nov. 20 in Sherbrooke, Quebec. The Western Hockey League will host the final two games, Nov. 27 in Red Deer, Alberta, and Nov. 28 in Lethbridge, Alberta.
The OHL will have 19 drafted players competing in Oshawa and 17 in Sudbury in each of the games, and two players with "A" ratings on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list for the 2014 NHL Draft at each game. Additionally, 2015 draft-eligible forward Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters will represent the OHL in both games.
The two "A" prospects on the roster for the Oshawa game are forward Michael Dal Colle of the host Oshawa Generals and defenseman Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts. The "A" prospects in Sudbury are forward Samuel Bennett of the Kingston Frontenacs and Ekblad.
Ekblad, a 6-foot-3.5, 216-pound right-shot defenseman, was granted exceptional-player status by Hockey Canada to be eligible for the 2011 OHL priority selection draft as a 15-year-old, and was chosen by Barrie with the first pick. He has six goals and 13 points in 14 games as captain for Barrie this season.
Dal Colle leads Oshawa in points (23) and power-play goals (five). Bennett, this week's Prospector Files "Draft Dandy of the Week," is second in team scoring (22 points) and tied for first with 10 goals.
There are two "B"-rated prospects playing in both games for the QMJHL, including left wing Daniel Audette of the Sherbrooke Phoenix and defenseman Alexis Vanier of Baie-Comeau Drakkar. Audette, the son of former NHL forward Donald Audette, leads his team with 24 points (six goals). Vanier has seven goals, 17 points and a plus-9 rating for Baie-Comeau through 18 games.
The rosters for the WHL games are expected to be released soon.
USHL CANCELS PROSPECTS GAME
The United States Hockey League this week advised NHL Central Scouting that the league does not plan on hosting a USHL Prospects game in 2013-14.
According to Brian Werger, the league's director of communications and public relations, there was no way to find an appropriate date in the schedule with an open venue that would work for NHL scouts this year.
The USHL hosted a top prospects game the past two years, both times in Muskegon, Mich. The game had the top NHL draft-eligible players from the USHL competing in front of NHL scouts. Last year's game featured 2013 draftees Ian McCoshen (Florida Panthers), Michael Downing (Florida Panthers), Luke Johnson (Chicago Blackhawks), J.T. Compher (Buffalo Sabres) and Hudson Fasching (Los Angeles Kings).
STARRETT SHINES FOR SOUTH SHORE
Edmonton Oilers amateur scout and Boston College hockey legend Scott Harlow is pretty familiar with the ins and outs of scouting and what appeals to NHL general managers these days.
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Not only has Harlow worked as an amateur scout for the Oilers the past four years, but he's also the coach and GM of the South Shore Kings in the U.S. Premier Hockey League. It's there that Harlow has had the benefit of evaluating 6-foot-4, 190-pound left wing Beau Starrett the past two years.
"The only thing missing from his game right now is he's a little snake bitten around the net," Harlow told NHL.com. "I really think that if he can start putting these away, I don't see why he couldn't get himself up into the first and second round of the draft. I coached Kevin Hayes for years and he reminds me a lot of Kevin. He probably doesn't have the goal-scoring ability that Kevin has but he does have more jam and works very hard. Kevin was a first-round draft choice [No. 24, Chicago Blackhawks, 2010] and I feel Beau is one of those players who could be exceptional in five to six years."
Starrett recently committed to Cornell University beginning in the 2015-16 season. He'll play one more season of junior hockey in 2014-15 before beginning his Ivy League career with the Big Red.
Now in his second season with the Kings, Starrett has attracted the attention of NHL Central Scouting, which has him as a "B"-rated skater on the preliminary players to watch list. That means the 17-year-old senior at Catholic Memorial in Massachusetts potentially could be picked in the second or third round of the 2014 NHL Draft.
"I have great size and a great reach," Starrett told NHL.com. "My playmaking ability combined with my hands and vision creates a lot of scoring chances. Not many players have the size I have or the stickhandling and poise to top it off."
In 18 games last season Starrett had 11 goals and 22 points, including three game-winning goals and seven power-play points. He has three goals and four points in four games this season for the Kings.
"The big question with Beau is when will he put it all together," Harlow said. "If he can do it sooner than later, I can see him squeezing into the top three rounds. Beau will battle, he has that sandpaper to his game, and I think the upside to this kid is ridiculous."
PROSPECTS ON THE RISE
1. Alexis Vanier, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL): A "B"-rated prospect on Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list from the QMJHL, the 6-5, 225-pound defenseman has seven goals (two game-winners), 17 points and a plus-9 rating in 18 games this season. He's also tied for the team lead with five power-play goals. In 53 games as a rookie in 2012-13, Vanier had eight assists and 66 penalty minutes.
Vanier will represent the QMJHL against Team Russia in the 2013 Subway Super Series on Nov. 18 in Gatineau, Quebec, and Nov. 20 in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
"He played a tough game, dropped the gloves [in 2012-13]," Central Scouting's Troy Dumville told NHL.com. "He has a big shot from the blue line on the power play and can play that physical game. His defensive positioning is decent and he plays key minutes. He's a big kid and his skating has improved from last season."
2. Markus Pettersson, Skelleftea Jr. (SWE): The 6-4, 167-pound defenseman was upgraded to a "B" rating on NHL Central Scouting's players to watch list from Sweden. He's versatile with good size and has recorded two goals and 10 points in 12 games for the top junior team in Sweden. According to Director of NHL Central Scouting Goran Stubb, Pettersson has shown improvement this fall.
"He is used in all game situations and has grown up to become a leader on the team," Stubb told NHL.com. "He's tall and uses a long stick and has a very good reach. He's difficult to pass against and his passing game is very good. He has good size, but needs more weight and physical strength. His dad [Daniel] played in the Swedish league with Skelleftea."
3. Jason Pawloski, Indiana Ice (USHL): The 17-year-old rookie goalie has posted wins in his past two starts. In a 5-3 victory against the Dubuque Fighting Saints on Saturday, Pawloski made a season-high 38 saves in handing Dubuque its first loss of the season. On Sunday he made 20 saves in a 6-1 win against the Des Moines Buccaneers. Listed as a "C"-rated draft prospect on Central Scouting's preliminary rankings for USHL goalies, he's won three of his last four starts with a 2.01 GAA and .925 save percentage in that span. Committed to Minnesota State University for 2014-15, he's 3-2-2 with a 2.63 GAA and .904 save percentage in eight games this season.
"He's a very confident goalie, calm and relaxed," Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "He's athletic and quick, and has very good reactions and recovery. He has great balance, tracks the puck well and seems to have good focus. When I watched him last month he was good at controlling rebounds. Jason is a good watch this year."
DATES TO KEEP
Nov. 1-3: HS Elite League International Invitational Tournament, New Hope, Minn.
Nov. 4-10: 2013 World Junior A Challenge, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
Nov. 8-9: 2013 Canadian Junior Hockey League Prospects Game, Digby & Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
Nov. 8-10: 2013 Under-20 Four Nation Tournament (CZE, RUS, FIN, SWE), Novogorsk, Russia
Nov. 8-11: 2013 Under-18 Four Nation Tournament (USA, FIN, SWE, SUI), Turku, Finland