The big stories in the prospect world lately have been college related. Specifically, players changing their minds about where they want to go. Brock Boeser was headed to Wisconsin, but the 2015 prospect has re-opened matters. And Notre Dame has been bit twice in the past couple days, first by Matthew Tkachuk (2016) and now by Brent Gates (2015). Will these talented players end up in major junior, or just elsewhere on the college scene? We’ll keep you posted, but for now let’s look at some of the other kids making noise in the hockey world right now.
Dylan Larkin, C – University of Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten)
It’s easy for me to say this way up in the press box, but it’s good to see Larkin get a rough ride early in his college career. The speedy and hardworking center is fighting through physical contests with the Wolverines and still getting his points. In fact, among freshman in the Big Ten, only teammate Zach Werenski has as many, with 10 through 11 games.
“Playing with Zach Hyman and Alex Kile helps a lot,” Larkin said. “The game itself, it did take a few games to adjust to the speed and the bigger bodies, but I'm getting more comfortable.”
Originally from Waterford, Mich., just west of where the Detroit Pistons play, Larkin has never ranged too far from home and really won’t for the early years of his career. He was drafted by the Red Wings and played at the NTDP in Ann Arbor across town from Michigan before joining the Wolverines.
“I'm scheduled for six years in Ann Arbor,” he said. “My parents get to watch me play and I've grown to love the city; it's a good spot.”
With his talents, it’s hard to imagine Larkin spending all four years at university, though the Red Wings do let their prospects ripen before easing them into the fold. Either way, the talented pivot has a great teammate to follow in fellow center J.T. Compher, the Buffalo prospect and sophomore who also came from the NTDP.
“Even going back to when I was 17 and he was 18,” Larkin said. “Just watching how hard he worked and how he plays the game, now I get to play against him in practice; he's a great role model.”
And given the heart-and-soul way Larkin plays the game, he’ll be a role model soon, too. Drafted 15th overall by Detroit in 2014.
Sonny Milano, LW – Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
His Ontario League debut was delayed by a broken orbital bone from the Traverse City prospects tourney, but Milano was worth the wait in Plymouth. Since joining the lineup, the ultra-skilled winger has been held pointless just three times in 12 games, racking up 18 points in the process, mostly in a playmaking role. Drafted 16th overall by Columbus in 2014.
Will Butcher, D – University of Denver Pioneers (NCHC)
Team USA may have nearly half its blueline back for the world juniors, depending on Steven Santini’s health, but Butcher is ready to go again and it shows. The thick two-way rearguard was just named conference defenseman of the week thanks to his penalty-killing acumen, overall defense and three points vs. Air Force. Drafted 123rd overall by Colorado in 2013.
Lawson Crouse, LW – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
A big power forward, Crouse is getting scouts’ attention thanks to his size and physicality. His performance at the recent CHL-Russia Super Series was a definite checkmark on his resume and though he isn’t putting up huge points yet, this is the type of player who dominates as he grows. Draft eligible in 2015.
Robin Kovacs, RW – AIK (Swe.)
Speed is the calling card of this Swedish youngster, who leads all junior-aged players in scoring on Sweden’s second-best circuit for men, the Allsvenskan. Kovacs has racked up eight goals and 13 points in 25 games, getting decent minutes on a scoring line for AIK. Draft eligible in 2015.
Ryan Bednard, G – Johnstown Tomahawks (NAHL)
Right now, Bednard’s best traits are his 6-foot-4 frame and his work ethic. The Bowling Green State commit was solid at the All-American Prospects Game and was just named the North Division’s star of the week in the North American League on the strength of two gutsy performances in which he made 72 stops on 75 shots. Draft eligible in 2015.
Brayden Point, C – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
A smaller center who plays big, Point is not afraid of traffic and his offensive totals prove it. One of the top scoring threats in the ‘Dub’ last year, the skilled pivot is on the warpath again with 10 points in his past five games. Drafted 79th overall by Tampa Bay in 2014.
Francis Perron, LW – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
He’s still a skinny kid, but Perron can’t be stopped lately so it doesn’t really matter. Blessed with vision, instincts and high-end skill, the left winger has dinged the scoresheet in all nine games this month, racking up an impressive 18 points during the stretch. Drafted 190th overall by Ottawa in 2014.
Brandon Carlo, D – Tri-City Americans (WHL)
A towering blueliner who plays with some snarl and has nice reach and mobility, the 6-foot-5 Carlo has really found his footing in Tri-City. The Colorado native has almost surpassed his offensive totals from all of last year with just one-third of the season in the books, with 10 points on the ledger and 13 the target. Draft eligible in 2015.
William Lagesson, D – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
A physical defenseman who excels in his own end, Lagesson has a great edge to his game. But the Swedish import has also been great on the offensive end, putting up 11 points in his first 16 games for the Saints. That’s the best among blueliners on the team. Drafted 91st overall by Edmonton in 2014.