The final matchups in major junior have been set: Quebec takes on Rimouski in the Quebec League; Brandon will duke it out with Kelowna in the West and Erie gets Oshawa in the OHL. Whatever the results, it’s going to be a power-packed Memorial Cup. Meanwhile, the USHL draft is taking place, with Minnesota high school standout Ryan Poehling going first to Lincoln in Phase One (for 1999 birthdays) and some interesting pickups elsewhere in Phase Two (older players). Let’s take a whirl around the prospect planet to see what’s up.
Mike Robinson, G – Lawrence Academy Spartans (Mass. HS)
The draft season is a fickle thing; while some prospects are still playing in the CHL playoffs, others have been done for months and take a bit of a back seat in terms of exposure. But no one is forgetting about Robinson, a 6-foot-4 netminder from the New England prep ranks. He played for a Lawrence squad that, charitably, needed their goaltender to be a star every night because the team gave up a lot of shots.
“I loved it,” Robinson said. “It’s a big reason why I went to this school. I feel it got me a lot of attention because I could really help my team win big games.”
A University of New Hampshire commit, Robinson grew up in the state watching the Wildcats. He also has a training relationship with goalie coach Mike Buckley, who worked with UNH and is now with the Pittsburgh Penguins – and think about how insanely good Matt Murray has been in the minors this year. Buckley also worked with Jonathan Quick when the Kings star was at UMass.
“I’ve worked with Mike for 10 years,” Robinson said. “I’ve always had a good connection with him. He’s my go-to guy for anything hockey.”
Tracking the puck has become the latest revolution in goaltending thanks to Devan Dubnyk and his work with Lyle Mast and Steve Valiquette and Robinson has also bought in. The youngster noted that Buckley has incorporated such teachings in his own work for years.
“You want your nose to the glove and to watch the puck go into the glove,” Robinson said. “You focus in on the puck instead of just blocking it.”
With his big frame and athleticism, Robinson can stump shooters in a lot of ways. He will likely play for the Boston Jr. Bruins in the U.S. Premier League next year, though his USHL rights were just picked up by Lincoln. Wherever he plays, he’ll be ready for the pressure. Draft eligible in 2015.
Dakota Joshua, C – Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
Last season, Joshua was a bit buried on an older depth chart, so he worked as an energy guy who could keep other teams honest. This year he was one of the Stampede’s top offensive threats and has them in the USHL final with 11 points through eight games. Drafted 128th overall by Toronto in 2014.
Esa Lindell, D – Texas Stars (AHL)
Lindell’s stint in Texas actually wasn’t too long – the big Finn is now back in Europe repping his country at the World Championship in the Czech Republic. A big-time scorer for Assat this year, the offensive D-man already has four points in three games at the worlds. Drafted 74th overall by Dallas in 2012.
Adam Erne, LW – Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
The powerful and tenacious winger has been a force for the Remparts during the post-season with 20 points in 15 games. With hockey sense and a good possession game to go along with his other attributes, Erne will be key if Quebec is going to defend home ice at the Memorial Cup. Drafted 33rd overall by Tampa Bay in 2013.
Jakub Vrana, LW – Hershey Bears (AHL)
It doesn’t seem to matter where in the world Vrana is playing; the kid produces. A talented and quick sniper with a lightning shot, Vrana had a solid season in Sweden and has continued his work in the ‘A,’ notching a point-per-game in the playoffs so far. Drafted 13th overall by Washington in 2013.
Travis Dermott, D – Erie Otters (OHL)
A talented offensive defenseman in a mid-sized package, Dermott will undoubtedly pass the Soo’s Anthony DeAngelo as the top-scoring blueliner in the OHL playoffs, now that the Otters have vanquished the Hounds. Dermott is great jumping into the play and has 15 points in 15 post-season games. Draft eligible in 2015.
Daniel Vladar, G – Kladno (Cze.)
You can’t argue with the 6-foot-5 frame, but Vladar also brings great athleticism, a calm demeanor and excellent rebound control to the table. The Chicago Steel just nabbed his rights in the USHL draft and he will be reporting to the squad for next season. Draft eligible in 2015.
Hunter Smith, RW – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Smith is rolling right now, but next year will be even better. A huge specimen at 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, the power forward loves to seek out contact and once he gets a little more agile, he’ll be all-out terrifying. Smith also has 14 points in 16 playoff games for the Generals so far. Drafted 54th overall by Calgary in 2014.
Ludvig Elvenes, LW – Rogle (Swe.)
Ending a season well is important and Elvenes certainly did that. The talented winger is known for his vision and his slick hands, which he used to help Rogle’s under-20 team to the semifinal. Elvenes, who comes from a big hockey family, had five goals and seven points in six playoff games. Draft eligible in 2015.
Morgan Klimchuk, LW – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
In his last kick at the can in junior, Klimchuk has caught on with the right outfit. Traded to the Wheaties from Regina, the gifted offensive dynamo has put in his work, racking up nine points in nine games and returning from a mid-playoff injury. Drafted 28th overall by Calgary in 2013.