News And Notes: Prospect Camp
I didn’t pen down the specifics of who-scored-when in the prospect tournament, so forgive me for a lack of true statistics on the event. I feel the statistics part of this entire event is less important than a general overall gauge of where everyone is skill-wise. I just wanted to provide some basic thoughts and, more importantly, some blanket expectations for these young players moving forward into this year.
One kid that got the least attention at the prospect camp but might have had the best overall performance was Nick D’Agostino. It’s no mystery that we’ve been proponents of the selection since his first year at Cornell, and the fact that he went largely unnoticed during the scrimmage is a testament to how good he’s become defensively. For awhile now, I’ve been drawing a comparable between D’Agostino and Mark Eaton. They are extremely similar in nearly every facet of their game, even down to their build. D’Agostino showcased his defensive zone abilities, long reach, patience, and overall vision. D’Agostino plays a quiet role, but it’s a role that might land him an NHL job one day. He doesn’t have the ability to bring you to the edge of your seat, but he’s extremely reliable in his own zone and does everything the right way. For a youngster that was drafted with the 2nd to last selection in the draft, the Penguins may have found a serious diamond in the rough here. He projects as a solid #5 option at defense and should have a massive impact on the Cornell roster this year. Remember, D’Agostino was voted all-ECAC before his sophomore year even started, so folks up East are also starting to take notice of his ability.
The Penguins 2011 5th round selection Dominik Uher also made quite the impression on me. In video, Uher looks a tad slow in the speed and agility department, but that certainly wasn’t the case this weekend. He has an excellent understanding of the game and his play making ability was on display all day. Uher is a great combination of staunch defensive play and grit, a perfect make for a 3rd or 4th line center in the NHL. His most recent year at Spokane set personal bests for him that we hope he can top heading into next season.
Keven Veilleux may be the most frustrating prospect I’ve ever watched. For his size and strength, he has yet to put it all together into one big package. Many folks walked away impressed with his show at the scrimmage, but remember, Veilleux’s attendance can almost be considered a slight. For how long he’s been in the system and the experience he brings to the table, we should be well beyond this point with Veilleux. He did show the crowd his stick-handling and sniping abilities, but he needs to continue to improve on footspeed and his drive and motivation. It appears, as evidenced by the WB/S playoffs last year, that bringing it nightly is still an issue for him. His great size, great shot, and excellent hands are marred by inconsistency and mental blunders that have only slightly dissipated over the years.
Joe Morrow is a better skater in person than he is on video. In fact, he may have been the best skater in attendance at the entire event. He appears to be fully healthy and that could go a long way towards a record-setting year at Portland next season. We will definitely have a close eye on morrow throughout the entire 2011-2012 Winterhawks season.
Many people were disappointed with Tom Kuhnhackl’s performance, but I personally thought he did a fine job given the situation. He had some great chances in tight and his poise always strikes me as deadly when I watch him play. One thing Kuhnhackl does well is survey the ice. He’s got a great penchant for putting himself in scoring position and is always around the net in prime scoring position. It’s going to be a treat watching Kuhnhackl at the CHL level again this year, although if he has a good enough camp, you might find him sneaking onto the AHL roster. Remember, Kuhnhackl was drafted as a German product, not out of Windsor in the CHL. The general rules about eligibility requirements for the AHL do not apply to him.
It’s going to be interesting seeing how Beau Bennett does in Denver this year. You can tell that he’s refining his game and rounding out how he plays from end to end. In the BCHL, Bennett was able to go coast to coast and beat guys with flair, but he needs to evolve his game to fit against bigger and better players. I have no doubts that he’ll be able to do that all while retaining the shot and dangle that made him a first round selection in the first place. Patience is key with Bennett, he is still extremely young and green.
The RMU faithful that follow this site should be really, really pleased with Andrew Blazek’s performance at camp. Kudos to the Penguins for inviting him. As it stands now, Blazek is going to log major minutes for RMU this season. I am not saying he can replace what Denny Urban did there, but the tools are there for him to have a major impact. I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people were a bit disappointed with Blazek’s performance in the stretch run for RMU last year. If this camp is any indication, he is ready to assume the lead role on RMU’s blueline.
All the hubbub after the scrimmage focused on Scott Harrington, but I spoke with Mike Colligan of the Hockey Writers after the scrimmage and we both left more underwhelmed than most. Harrington needs to address his mental lapses and continue to work on his skating before this year rounds out.
On that note, Colligan and I both were surprised by the decision of the Penguins to room Josh Archibald with Eric Tangradi at the tournament. Archibald would serve to benefit from the advice that Tangradi gives him. Archibald has the offensive abilities of someone much older than him, but needs to bulk up and get better in the boards. This first year of NCAA hockey is going to be very telling for him.
Notably absent form camp were NCAA products Ken Agostino and Ben Hanowski, but we’ll continue to track their progress through the next season as they each look to play key roles in the offensive scheme of their program this year. Especially for Hanowski, who as a junior will be asked to play a major role in St. Cloud’s offensive arsenal.
If anyone has any questions outside of these general comments, please feel free to post them and I will answer as best I can.