Red Berenson is stepping aside from coaching the University of Michigan after 33 seasons. He leaves an incredible legacy and the outpouring of thanks from former players has been hefty. I’ve gone to Ann Arbor a couple times over the years and while I won’t pretend to have a breadth of memories about Berenson, I do recall one instance that amused me. It’s post-game, maybe two years ago, and the media is getting ready for the coach’s availability. Berenson walks in and before his official remarks, he looks at a student reporter wearing a suit and tie in the front row. “I see you’re more dressed up today,” Red says to the kid. “That’s good.” I can only imagine what had transpired the day before, and I couldn’t help but grin.
Berenson helped a ton of college kids get to the NHL and other fields of excellence, so let’s get right back at it and shine some light on other hopefuls in the world of prospects.
Jaret Anderson-Dolan, C – Spokane Chiefs (WHL): Scouts are quite bullish on ‘J.A.D.’ and the fact Spokane may change styles under a new coach next season helps even more. Anderson-Dolan is a smart, 200-foot player who works hard and has more offense to unlock. He already put up 76 points in 72 regular season games this season, so it’s fun to think of what next year will hold. Especially since he’ll be back with fellow 2017 prospect Kailer Yamamoto, a good friend throughout the draft season.
“Going through it together, having a familiar face by your side makes it a little easier,” Anderson-Dolan said. “You can lean on each other if you have a tough game and he was always someone I could talk to.”
And there was a lot to talk about in general this season. Along with coach Don Nachbaur getting the gate after the campaign, there was Gonzaga’s Final Four run (Anderson-Dolan’s billets are huge fans) and the fact Anderson-Dolan is a Canadian high schooler living in America during a pretty crazy political era.
“It’s something that surrounds you,” he said. “Every time you turn on TV, they’re always talking about Trump. It’s pretty cool to witness that, being from Canada – it’s really intense there.”
And speaking of intense, J.A.D.’s season isn’t quite finished – he’s playing for Canada at the world under-18s in what appears to be a wide-open tournament.
“Whenever you get the chance to wear the maple leaf, you want to make the most of it,” he said. “Everybody’s here for one reason and that’s to win the gold medal.”
There’s going to be a lot of top talent in Slovakia, but opponents can’t ignore Anderson-Dolan. He has his mission and he has the skills to help pull it off.
In the Pipeline
Will Butcher, D (Colorado): The senior from Denver ended his NCAA career with a national championship and the Hobey Baker Award, thanks to his 37 points in 43 games from the blueline. Though he hasn’t signed with the Avs yet, there’s really no urgency and despite some worries I have seen from Colorado fans, any wait time will be based off due diligence on Butcher’s part.
Boris Katchouk, LW (Tampa Bay): Katchouk’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds are locked in a second-round death battle with Owen Sound in the OHL’s deadly Western bracket, but he’s doing his part. The left winger has great hands and versatility, which he has used to put up 11 points in eight post-season games. He hasn’t been held off the scoresheet yet.
Gabriel Fontaine, C (NY Rangers): The Rangers need depth picks to pay off and Fontaine has fit the bill so far. The 2016 sixth-rounder just signed his entry-level deal, while still skating in the QMJHL playoffs with Rouyn-Noranda. A feisty and responsible two-way center, Fontaine has nine points in eight post-season games for the Huskies.
Zach Aston-Reese, RW (Pittsburgh): Well, that didn’t take long. Since leaving Northeastern and signing with the Pens, Aston-Reese has been on fire in the AHL. The power forward has eight points in eight games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as the Baby Pens prepare for life as the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
Roope Hintz, LW (Dallas): It’s been an excellent post-season for Hintz, a smart player with great size and a bit of an edge. Hintz actually leads all Finnish Liiga players in playoff points right now, with nine through 12 games for HIFK. But the Helsinki crew will need him to continue, as they’re almost cooked in their semifinal series against Tappara.
2017 Draft Stars
Alexandre Texier, C – Grenoble Bruleurs de Loups (Fra.): After putting up impressive numbers against men in France’s top league, Texier is helping the national team at the world under-18s. Competing in Division 1A, the strong and grinding scorer has five points through three games – all victories.
Stelio Matheos, C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): Overshadowed by Nolan Patrick in his draft year, Matheos now gets a chance to make a mark with Canada at the world under-18s. He posted a hat trick against the Swiss in exhibition play and has a nice blend of skill, skating ability and size.
Cayden Primeau, G – Lincoln Stars (USHL): Primeau had an up-and-down year in the USHL, but now the son of former NHLer Keith Primeau gets a chance to make his mark on the big stage, joining Team USA at the under-18s. The big, athletic netminder is committed to Northeastern.
Ian Mitchell, D – Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL): An excellent mobile defenseman, Mitchell is one of just two Jr. A players on Canada’s roster for the under-18s and the only one up for this draft. The Denver commit posted 37 points in 53 regular season games with the Saints.
Jason Robertson, RW – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL): Currently ruling the roost in OHL playoff scoring, Robertson has 15 points in nine games for the Fronts. The 6-foot-2 196-pounder has a great scorer’s touch and hockey mind, but needs to add more power to his stride.