Saturday, March 6, 2010

Brief thoughts on prep, EJHL action this weekend

I'm going to take the time later to post more detailed scouting reports on the key New England-area draft eligibles for 2010, namely Kevin Hayes and Charlie Coyle, plus some other guys who impressed this weekend, with tomorrow providing the drama of the three different prep championship games beginning with KUA-Dexter (Cam Darcy was brilliant today with a hat trick and is THE local kid to watch for the 2012 NHL Draft- he's a '94), Choate-Berkshire @ 1:00 p.m. and the Stuart/Corkery big school finale, Avon-NMH at 3:30 p.m. tomorrow.

Boo to Philippe Hudon, the immensely talented '93 Choate forward from Quebec who was suspended from the playoffs for alleged "academic dishonesty" this week by the school. I was looking forward to seeing him. As a freshman last season, he outscored senior forward and current Dartmouth frosh and Bruins prospect Mark Goggin for the Wild Boars' team lead. I'm not the only one disappointed...I know of several scouts who put Choate on their viewing schedule this weekend solely for Hudon's sake. According to an internet report, he is on probation, but will return to school next season. At least, that's the plan for now. Plenty of time for things to change between March '10 and the start of the 10-11 hockey campaign.

There wasn't much to see in the Boston Jr. Bruins-Bay State Breakers EJHL playoff opener. Neither starting goalie survived the game, both getting pulled after allowing several brutal goals. the Breakers jumped out to a 3-1 lead, but the Jr. B's roared back with five unanswered tallies before the Breakers made a game of it. Overall, not a whole lot to offer, with 2010-draft candidate and Pa. native Thane Heller scoring a goal and showing some flashes, but not likely to have a shot of getting picked before the 5th round.

The second match between the South Shore Kings and Green Mountain Glades was much better with Kings captain Chris Wagner and Coyle putting on a real show. Wagner scored just 17 seconds in on a beautiful goal scored in close after coming across the front of the net, getting the goalie to bite on a fake and then burying a shot inside the far post. He was buzzing the net all afternoon and really hustling, showing off some decent skill to go with the work ethic. Coyle, for his part, wasn't as productive, but there was a lot to like about his game, which was extremely effective.

Stuck around to see New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs goalie Brian Billett, with whom I had a nice chat before the game. I was struck by his calm, cool, relaxed demeanor. He was about an hour or so from gametime and didn't seem at all fazed. I love this kid's game, and he's a young Rodney Dangerfield in this class in that he gets very little respect. That said, I did talk to an NHL scout source of mine from a Western Conference team who was in attendance at the Foxboro Sports Center about Billett today, and he said that the fact that Billett is committed to Boston College when the Eagles have three young goaltenders and nobody is sure when he'll report to the Heights is a big concern with some NHL teams who don't want to see him in the USHL for two more seasons after this year. Billett is an elite goalie at the EJHL level already, and he's got extremely high character. His coach, Sean Tremblay, ranks him right up there with former Merrimack College star and current U.S. NTDP goalie coach Joe Exter for bringing a maturity and serious approach to preparation and focus which helps to make him so effective at this level.

I'll have more detailed info. on the key 2010 New England draft kids later this week when I see the final slate of games tomorrow, but it's been a productive trip to say the least. Lots of NHL scouts were in attendance at both venues, so anyone who thinks that the region is no longer considered a solid proving ground for pro hockey prospects ought to re-think that.

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