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PLYMOUTH, Mich. – The annual Biosteel All-American Hockey game took over the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth on Monday, pitting some of the stars of the USHL and U.S. National Team Development Program in front of scouts from the colleges and the NCAA.
And when we talk about scouts, we’re talking about a 75/25 split with normal fans. NHL general managers, coaches, head scouts, etc. They were all there to see what America’s top talent in the 2023 NHL Draft had in store.
I was present, putting more emphasis on players outside of the USNTDP. But it was hard to ignore how strong the program looked, even splitting the list in half. They contributed most of the attack and, arguably, had the best goalkeeping performance.
The blue team ultimately won the game 6-3, led by the USNTDP first line of Will Smith, Gabriel Perreault and Ryan Leonard. The white team was heavier in the USHL, but still had USNTDP stars like Zeev Buium and Oliver Moore. Both teams had sons of NHL notables: Lucas St. Louis (Marty’s son) played for the blue team, while Cole Knuble (Mike’s son) represented the white team.
I’ve been keeping notes on some of the players who stood out the most on Monday night, so let’s get to it:
Oliver Moore, C (#22): Moore scored the game’s first goal with a half-speed wrist between Trey Augustine’s legs. Moore enjoys playing in the slot, though his shot is by no means exceptional. The most important thing here is his high top speed and ability to pull himself out of trouble.
Jacob Fowler, G (#29): After being impressed with him at the World Junior A Challenge, Fowler piqued my interest again. He moves so quickly in the crease and plays bigger than his 6-foot-1 frame suggests. Fowler doesn’t give shooters much to work with down low, in particular. He has a knack for extended saves on the pads and always gives fans at least one save to remember.
Joe Palodichuk, D (#9): I saw him play a few times when he was first eligible two years ago, and decision making was a concern. I have the impression that this is not the case this year. He made a great flat to Moore for the first goal and looked in control on the blue line. Palodichuk is a great transition skater and I liked how he pushed the game on Monday.
Tanner Adams, RW (#14): Adams was one of the best puck throwers out of the defensive zone and came close to scoring on two close scoring opportunities. Adams has generally excelled in showcase events thanks to his strong work ethic and solid skating ability.
Aaron Pionk, D (#10): An eligible third-year prospect, Pionk has been someone on my radar as a late-round value pickup. He started his junior career as a striker but eventually followed in the footsteps of his brother, Neal, and got straight to the point. You can see the attacking instincts in him, but I liked how he forced forwards to the boards and kept the crease relatively clean.
Zeev Buium, D (#3, 2024): It felt like every time Buium had the puck, he was rushing it at high speed down the middle. He got caught a few times, but I like that he’s willing to take risks. He’s not eligible until 2024, but I like his attacking involvement. He showed it with a nice goal to make it 4-2, which was well deserved.
Danny Nelson, LW (#7): I don’t think Nelson gets enough attention at the USNTDP, but he was excellent on Monday. The big-bodied winger showed his muscles a few times and didn’t lose a ton of close puck battles. He’s a projected second-round pick, but whoever takes him will be very happy with how he makes his presence known every night.
Nick Vantassell, RW (#21): I don’t know what Vantassell’s future will look like because he’s not a great skater and doesn’t produce a ton in Green Bay. But I noticed it every time he hit the ice (and it’s easy because he’s 6-foot-4) because once he had the puck, no one could take it away. . He scored White’s third goal on a rebound.
Will Smith, C (#20): Quite often this year with the USNTDP, Smith is the most complete forward you can ever rely on effort-wise. In the first half, however, he looked invisible defensively and didn’t have many chances around the net. I liked him more in the second period, especially that shift of about seven minutes when he rushed the puck down the ice twice. He had no one to switch to, but he made the most of an extended shift. He finally scored the go-ahead goal after the second was halfway through and then netted the third, so maybe he heard scouts quietly talking about him during the first and took it personally. Smith then scored on a penalty shot in the third to make it 5-2 before assisting on an empty net.
Eric Pohlkamp, D (#6): Pohlkamp isn’t the brightest defender, but he knows just where he needs to be. He never tries to over-commit or play at a level he’s not capable of. You know what you get from him every game, and it was on full display on Monday. He’s a good puck thrower, able to eliminate players around the net and he likes to throw his weight everywhere.
Trey Augustin, G (#29): Augustine has been off this season but scored a goal he’d rather overlook early in the game. But he bounced back well, as he always does after a difficult goal conceded. He’s only played one period, but we’ve seen enough of him this year to know he’s a fighter who doesn’t have many free nights.
Aram Minnetian, D (#5): Minnetian’s rise continues. He made some great runs on the ice in the first period and even led his team in shots. It looks like he unlocked a whole new level of confidence at Five Nations U-18 in November and the scouts are taking notice. There are a ton of instances where he looks like the best prospect and, in my opinion, he was the most consistent.
Carsen Musser, G (#28): Musser had a busy first half of the second period, his only frame of the game. He tracked the puck well in traffic, had an active glove hand and didn’t bite on anything. Augustine eclipsed Musser this year, but he looked good when it mattered.
Zack Sharp, D (#9): Sharp didn’t have many points in his first full season in the USHL, but he scored for the Blues and tied for the team lead in shots with four. He always looked engaged and his teammates trusted him to generate chances from the point. Sharp is the 102nd-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, but many scouts loved what they saw.
Ryan Leonard, LW (#15): You always expect great things from Leonard, especially when you’re on Blue’s front row. We saw his usual trademark chemistry with Smith and Perreault, but his only point was an empty net. Leonard always looked dangerous and did a great job rushing the puck out of the zone on numerous occasions. He won’t have to wait long to hear his name.
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