In the eyes of NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory, there will need to be numerous viewings of the players skating for the U.S. National Team Development Program's under-18 team in order to project how they ultimately will be slotted on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for the 2012 NHL Draft.
"There's going to be a lot of kids that'll make the draft board off of this team," Gregory told NHL.com. "In what round they fall is still up in their air. These players are really going to push each other along, so it's going to be fun to watch all season. The team is very deep and they can roll four lines out there and never stop coming."
This year's USNTDP U-18 team has 23 players representing nine states -- Illinois leads the way with five players on the roster, while Massachusetts and Michigan each boast four.
Here's a list of the top eight players from the team, including Cameron Darcy (South Boston, Mass.), Miles Koules (Los Angeles, Calif.), Collin Olson (Apple Valley, Minn.) and Jacob Trouba (Rochester, Mich.), who all participated in the NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp in August. Nicolas Kerdiles (Irvine, Calif.) was invited, but was unavailable due to injury.
Cameron Darcy, F (6-foot, 187):
|Cameron Darcy (Credit: Tom Sorensen)
After totaling 21 goals and 56 points in 25 games for Dexter Southfield High School in Massachusetts in 2009-10, the right-shooting center joined the NTDP last season and played 54 games for the USNTDP Under-17 team. He's committed to Northeastern for next fall.
He struck for 14 goals and 21 points and played for the team that won the 2011 Vlad Dzurilla Under-18 Tournament in Slovakia, leading all players in the tournament with 4 goals and a plus-five rating in three games. He also scored the game-winner in a 2-1 victory against Slovakia.
Nicolas Kerdiles, F (6-1, 196):
Scouts showered Kerdiles with praise following his performance at the USHL Fall Classic. Headed to the University of Wisconsin next fall, Kerdiles is a versatile, big man who likely will be viewed as the prototypical power forward. He's also become a solid two-way player, using his frame to protect the puck.
"He really has nice hands and can move the puck well," Gregory said. "He's got a pro stride already. I think playing on this team, with the kind of pace they play every game, this kid is going to open some eyes."
He has 4 goals and 6 points in 13 games for the USNTDP.
The Irvine, Calif., native was a member of the U.S. team that won a third straight gold medal at the 2011 World Under-18 Championship in Germany, collecting 2 assists in six games.
In 40 games for the NTDP U-17 team last season, he tied for the team lead with 4 power-play goals and finished third in goals (17) and fourth in points (27).
Miles Koules, F (5-10, 188):
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The son of former Tampa Bay Lightning
owner Oren Koules will head to the University of North Dakota in the fall of 2012, after spending this season with the U-18 team. At the 2011 World U-17 Hockey Challenge, Koules had 4 goals and 8 points in six games to help the U.S. capture a silver medal.
Koules has 1 goal, 5 points and 25 penalty minutes in 13 games this season.
In 2009-10, Koules, considered to possess excellent speed and a high hockey IQ, had 20 goals and 58 points in 53 games while playing at Shattuck St. Mary's in Minnesota. The right wing offers a great shot, has good hands and vision and can make plays. Scouts also like the fact he brings an edge to his game despite his small frame.
He also was impressive at the NHL RDO Camp.
Stefan Matteau, F (6-1, 210):
According to Gregory, the son of New York Rangers
hero Stephane Matteau
is a "big-bodied kid who can really move."
"He can really dominate a game," Gregory said.
In 47 games with the U-17 team last season, Matteau had 7 goals, 18 points and 67 penalty minutes. He played for the U.S. team that finished second at the 2011 World U-17 Hockey Challenge in Portage La Prairie and Winnipeg, Man., totaling 2 goals and 4 assists in six games. Matteau, who doesn't shy away from the physical contact along the boards, will attend the University of North Dakota next fall.
He has 3 goals, including a team-leading 2 power-play goals, and 5 assists in 13 games this season.
"He's dynamite," NHL Central Scouting's Jack Barzee told NHL.com. "He was just pulling away from people, bulling his way down the ice and going to the net and scoring some nice goals (at the USHL Fall Classic). He can make good plays out of the corners and play physical. He was a little weak in the legs last year; he didn't have the stamina to pull away from people. But he's shown improvement already this season."
Collin Olson, G (6-3, 197):
What would the NTDP program be without yet another budding blue-chip prospect between the pipes?
Olson was part of the U.S. team that finished second at the 2011 World Hockey Challenge in Manitoba, finishing 2-0-0 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .885 save percentage. In 22 games against junior-age competition with the NTDP U-17 team last season, he went 11-9-1. He also won seven of nine starts from Dec. 3, 2010, to March 2, 2011. This season, he's 3-3-0 with a 2.81 GAA and .884 save percentage.
"He's a big goalie who relies mostly on good angle and positional play," Central Scouting's Al Jensen said. "He's strong in his crease and battles for position and the puck in the crease. He has good quickness but not outstanding. He has good, strong, controlled movements, is relaxed and calm."
Patrick Sieloff, D (6-0, 196):
"He's a player who has a lot of dynamic qualities. I love his first step and how quickly he gets to full speed. He's willing to push the offensive side of it and play physical in his own end. You can't watch a game without noticing him. Part of my strategy (at the USHL Fall Classic) was to try and concentrate on different players each game, but he's the type of player who always pops up. He has a lot of upside, and he'll get better."
-- NHL Central Scouting's David Gregory
The Ann Arbor, Mich., native is similar in stature to NTDP alum Justin Faulk
, chosen in the second round (No. 37) by the Carolina Hurricanes
in 2010, and is proving to be just as effective.
"He's a player who has a lot of dynamic qualities," Gregory said. "I love his first step and how quickly he gets to full speed. He's willing to push the offensive side of it and play physical in his own end. You can't watch a game without noticing him. Part of my strategy (at the USHL Fall Classic) was to try and concentrate on different players each game, but he's the type of player who always pops up. He has a lot of upside, and he'll get better."
Sieloff, who is committed to Miami University, had 3 goals, 9 points and 76 penalty minutes In 52 games with the U-17 team last season. He's been paired with Trouba for the most part this season, and has 2 points and a team-leading 40 penalty minutes through 13 games in 2011-12.
Brady Skjei, D (6-2.75, 200):
The Lakeville, Minn., native has made an immediate impression in his first season with the NTDP U-18 team. He has 3 assists in 13 games, but also has proven to be a steady influence along the blue line. In 2010-11, Skjei played a significant role on the U-17 team that placed second at the 2011 World U-17 Hockey Challenge, scoring 4 points in six games.
Skjei, who is headed to the University of Minnesota where his grandfather, Stan, was a collegiate football star in the early 1960s, finished with 5 goals and 19 points in 55 games with the U-17 team last season. Skjei has been compared to former USNTDP defenseman Derek Forbort
, who was taken by the Los Angeles Kings
with the 15th pick of the 2010 draft. Skjei is an elite skater and puck mover and brings a bit of creativity off the transition.
"He's a good, big player and unbelievable skater," Barzee said. "His size and puck skills will put him right up there with the top defensemen of this draft."
Jacob Trouba, D (6-2, 194):
The University of Michigan-bound blueliner might be the best prospect on this year's U-18 team. Scouts envision him as a potential top-pair NHL defenseman.
After serving as captain for the U-17 team last season, Trouba is in a similar role with the U-18 team this season. He's got 1 goal and 4 assists in 13 games this season.
"He has offense skills and he really does defend well," Gregory said. "You can just tell by how he plays in all areas of the ice that he's a big kid who skates really well. He loves to jump into the play and has confidence because he knows his skating can get him back, so he rarely gets caught out of position. He's going to be someone people are going to talk about; we've known about him for a couple years and he's not disappointing early on this year, either."
In 2010-11, Trouba had 6 goals, 19 points and 35 penalty minutes in 37 games with the U-17 team before being promoted to the U-18 team for the final 21 games of the season.
Jensen likes Trouba's upside.
"He skates exceptionally well and likes to rush up the ice with the puck and with good speed," he said. "He's very confident, has great agility, is strong physically and is always alert. He's done a good job in 1-on-1 situations against opposing forwards and contained his man very well."
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