Jim Johannson is looking forward to watching 40 of the finest 2013 NHL Draft-eligible, American-born players sharing the spotlight Saturday when the inaugural CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game is held Saturday at First Niagara Center in Buffalo.
CCM/USA Hockey AAPG rosters
Evan Cowley, Wichita Falls (NAHL); Calvin Peterson, Waterloo (USHL). Defensemen:
Gage Ausmus, USNTDP U-18 (USHL); Will Butcher, USNTDP U-18 (USHL); Trevor Hamilton, USNTDP U-18 (USHL); Seth Jones, Portland (WHL); Clint Lewis, USNTDP U-18 (USHL); Dakota Mermis
, University of Denver (WCHA). Forwards:
Taylor Cammarata, Waterloo (USHL); Cole Cassels, Oshawa (OHL); Austin Farley, University of Minnesota-Duluth (WCHA); Hudson Fasching, USNTDP U-18 (USHL); Ryan Fitzgerald, Valley (EJHL); Luke Johnson, Lincoln (USHL); Matt Lane, Boston University (HEA); Jimmy Lodge, Saginaw (OHL); Mike McCarron, USNTDP U-18 (USHL); Jacob Montgomery, Sioux City (USHL); Quentin Shore, University of Denver (WCHA)Team HousleyGoalies:
Hunter Miska, USNTDP U-18 (USHL); Eamon McAdam, Waterloo (USHL). Defensemen: Cody Corbett
, Edmonton (WHL); Mike Downing, Dubuque (USHL); Ian McCoshen, Waterloo (USHL); Steve Santini, USNTDP U-18 (USHL); Scott Savage, USNTDP U-18 (USHL); Keaton Thompson, USNTDP U-18 (USHL). Forwards:
Evan Allen, USNTDP U-18 (USHL); J.T. Compher, USNTDP U-18 (USHL); Ryan Hartman, Plymouth (OHL); Tyler Kelleher, USNTDP U-18 (USHL); Anthony Louis, USNTDP U-18 (USHL); Sean Malone, USNTDP U-18 (USHL); Tyler Motte, USNTDP U-18 (USHL); Ross Olsson, Lincoln (USHL); Devin Tringale, Valley (EJHL); Frank Vatrano, Boston College (HEA); Will Merchant, University of Maine (HEA)
For Johannson, USA Hockey's assistant executive director of hockey operations, the game will provide scouts and fans the opportunity to see first-hand the tremendous growth of hockey in the country.
"It will give people a little bit of an identity with the future rising stars of the game and will also show the broad spectrum of where all these kids are coming from … the grassroots programs they grew up in that gave them the building blocks to get to the elite level," Johannson told NHL.com. "The NHL Draft is so much about the future and that's real exciting, but I think to have a group of athletes like this on the ice is a great step in showing the depth of programs we have across the country, as well as the caliber and talent of these players."
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 enter a shootout.
On the roster are seven players who are considered A-list prospects on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players-to-watch list: defensemen Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks (WHL), Mike Downing of the Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL) and Ian McCoshen of the Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL), and forwards Justin Bailey of the Kitchener Rangers (OHL), Luke Johnson of the Lincoln Stars (USHL) and Hudson Fasching and J.T. Compher of the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 team (USHL).
"It's a tribute to all the programs from where these players have come from," Johannson said. "I hope the addition of this game helps continue to raise the bar for programs and aspiring players. We want players to say, 'Gee, I want to play in the Prospects Game.' I hope it's another step on the ladder in the development of our players. It's a great first step, and again, we expect a great turnout and the players to put on a good performance."
NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr said the game will be a huge bonus for scouts.
"The NHL scouts appreciate the concept just for the fact that we're going to get 40 draft-eligible players all in one spot," Marr told NHL.com. "They will play against their peers in an environment we don't normally see in the regular season and playing out of position. It's a good opportunity for these kids to showcase themselves and a terrific opportunity for NHL scouts to view them all at once at this venue."
Former Buffalo Sabres Phil Housley and Rob McClanahan each will coach a team, which will be comprised of two goalies, six defensemen and 12 forwards. Johannson admitted it wasn't easy putting together the teams.
"I sat down with [USA Hockey director of player personnel] Tim Taylor, Rob and Phil and we tried to spread out the players a little bit and not have, for instance, all the NTDP players on one side," he said. "We wanted to spread the talent out a little bit and also put the guys in the positions they prefer. It presented some challenges, but we know the attributes of a lot of these players and tried to build that into both teams … we want a good, balanced game and also good matchups on the ice."
The Waterloo Black Hawks will have four players in the game: McCoshen, goalies Eamon McAdam and Cal Petersen, and forward Taylor Cammarata. McAdam and Petersen will be on opposite sides.
"This game is another great way to showcase individual talent in front of a lot of fans and scouts," McCoshen wrote in his September blog for NHL.com. "Having three teammates attending this game is a tremendous honor and reflects on the success of the Waterloo Black Hawks organization in identifying and developing top-end players. I am very excited to play against the top prospects in the nation."
The contest will include three natives from the Buffalo-Rochester region, including Bailey (Williamsville, N.Y.), Boston University forward Matt Lane (Rochester, N.Y.) and USNTDP forward Sean Malone (West Seneca, N.Y.).
Follow Mike Morreale at the AAPG on Twitter at: @mike_morreale