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Scouts to get measure of draft prospects at AAPG

by Mike G. Morreale

BUFFALO -- The 2015 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game, which will be played Thursday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) at First Niagara Center, will serve as an opportunity for 42 of the top United States-born 2016 NHL Draft-eligible players to showcase their ability in front of NHL scouts.



Ryan Edquist, Madison (USHL); Evan Sarthou, Tri-City (WHL)

Derek Daschke, Cedar Rapids (USHL); Mitch Eliot, Muskegon (USHL); Alex Green, Muskegon (USHL); J.D. Greenway, USA U-18 (USHL); Ryan Lindgren, USA U-18 (USHL); Charlie McAvoy, Boston University (HE); Luke McInnis, Youngstown (USHL)

Kieffer Bellows, USA U-18 (USHL); Logan Brown, Windsor (OHL); Alexander DeBrincat, Erie (OHL); Matt Filipe, Cedar Rapids (USHL); Trent Frederic, USA U-18 (USHL); Max Jones, London (OHL); Clayton Keller, USA U-18 (USHL); William Knierim, Dubuque (USHL); Drake Rymsha, London (OHL); Keenan Suthers, USA U-18 (USHL); Tage Thompson, Connecticut (HE); Garrett Wait, Waterloo (USHL)


Stephen Dhillon, Niagara (OHL); Tyler Parsons, London (OHL)

Michael Campoli, USA U-18 (USHL); Adam Fox, USA U-18 (USHL); Ben Gleason, London (OHL); Chad Krys, USA U-18 (USHL); Griffin Luce, USA U-18 (USHL); Andrew Peeke, Green Bay (USHL); Sam Rossini, Waterloo (USHL)

Joey Anderson, USA U-18 (USHL); Tim Gettinger, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL); Luke Kirwan, Windsor (OHL); Jack Kopacka, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL); Luke Kunin, Wisconsin (BIG10); William Lockwood, USA U-18 (USHL); Mitchell Mattson, Bloomington (USHL); Graham McPhee, USA U-18 (USHL); Nick Pastujov, USA U-18 (USHL); James Sanchez, USA U-18 (USHL); Matthew Tkachuk, London (OHL); Riley Tufte, Fargo (USHL)

"NHL scouts focus on players' assets and potential rather than the passport, but certainly this type of event is valuable as it pits the best identified American prospects in one game competing against each other," said Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting. "This is a marquee event for USA Hockey to showcase the American talent available for the NHL Draft."

The game will consist of three 20-minute periods and, if necessary, a five-minute overtime. If a winner still hasn't been determined, the game will be decided by a shootout.

"They say the cream rises to the top and here the scouts get to see those kids among the high school ranks playing against the 18-year-old or major-junior players, something you can't normally assess," Marr said. "That's a dilemma facing scouts, figuring out how a player in high school stacks up against a player from the Ontario Hockey League. It provides a little more insight."

Former NHL forwards Derek Plante and Jeremy Roenick will coach the teams. Danton Cole (Team Plante) and Chris Luongo (Team Roenick) of USA Hockey's National Team Development Program will serve as assistant coaches.

Six players competing in the game are A-rated prospects, or potential first-round picks, on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list for September: forwards Matthew Tkachuk and Max Jones of the London Knights of the OHL, Kieffer Bellows (NTDP, United States Hockey League), Alexander DeBrincat (Erie Otters, OHL) and Riley Tufte (Fargo Force, USHL); and defenseman Charlie McAvoy (Boston University, Hockey East).

"The overall depth of prospects for the 2016 draft is quite deep and there some notable top-end prospects which NHL scouts will be focusing on," Marr said.

Bellows, the son of former NHL player Brian Bellows, will play for Team Plante. The 6-foot, 196-pound left wing was fifth in the USHL last season with 33 goals for the Sioux Falls Stampede. He also had 52 points in 58 regular-season games and was named USHL Rookie of the Year.

Tkachuk, the son of former NHL player Keith Tkachuk, will play for Team Roenick. The 6-1, 195-pound left wing had 38 goals and 96 points in 65 games with the NTDP U-18 team last season. He also had a tournament-high 10 assists in seven games for the U.S. at the 2015 IIHF World U-18 Championship.

"At the same age Matthew is similar to Keith in the way he can impact and influence a game with both the skills and physical assets that he consistently brings to every game," Marr said.

Tkachuk will be joined on Team Roenick by DeBrincat, a 5-6, 150-pound center. DeBrincat led OHL rookies last season with 53 goals, 51 assists and 104 points, and was named rookie of the year in the OHL and the Canadian Hockey League.

Knierim set for Prospects Game

Willie Knierim, a 'B' rated skater on NHL Central's preliminary players to watch list for the 2016 NHL Draft, has offered to maintain a blog for leading up to the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo, N.Y. His first entry comes from the CCM/USA All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo. READ BLOG ›

"Alex will be one of the more intriguing prospects scouted this year," Marr said. "He has an obvious and unique skill set which combines well with his tenacity to score. While his size is not an asset, it's not affected him from being able to consistently generate offense for his team. Much like Brian [Gionta] and Stephen Gionta and Johnny Gaudreau, he has the potential to be one of those special players that finds his way to the NHL."

McAvoy will be one of the top defense prospects playing in the game. The 5-11, 206-pound right-shot defender was part of the gold-medal winning U.S. team at the World U-18 Championship. He had seven goals and 40 points in 63 games for the NTDP U-18 last season.

"Charlie has been on the NHL scouts radar for the last two seasons," Marr said. "As one of the youngest defenseman with the USNTDP, he was a strong contributor every game and he's expected to step right into a big role at Boston University."

Center Auston Matthews, considered by many the front-runner to be the top pick of the 2016 draft, will not play in the game since he is with ZSC in Switzerland's top professional league this season. His absence should not affect his draft status in June. In two games with the Lions, Matthews has two goals.

"It was an interesting decision by Auston and I think he's going to get challenged," Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "The Swiss league is a pro league and he'll be playing against men. I've seen a lot of top guys flirting with that idea [of playing overseas] before but nobody had gone through with it. It's a unique situation with an American kid who had a choice of either college or junior hockey, and that would have been great for him too. It's going to be a good challenge for him."

There were 26 players selected at the 2015 NHL Draft who played in the AAPG last year at First Niagara Center, including seven first-round selections: Center Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres, No. 2), defensemen Noah Hanifin (Carolina Hurricanes, No. 5) and Zach Werenski (Columbus Blue Jackets, No. 8), and forwards Kyle Connor (Winnipeg Jets, No. 17), Colin White (Ottawa Senators, No. 21), Brock Boeser (Vancouver Canucks, No. 23) and Jack Roslovic (Winnipeg Jets, No. 25).

NHL Network will re-air the game Friday at 6 a.m. ET and noon ET.


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