The Frozen Four is in the books and it was a classic, with Providence College winning its first-ever hockey title over Boston University. But the season still might not be over for Terriers frosh Jack Eichel, as he and Nashville pick Jimmy Vesey of Harvard were expected to play for Team USA at the World Championship in Switzerland. Meanwhile, we’re getting very close to the world under-18s as well in the Czech Republic. With CHL playoffs still going strong, let’s cruise around the prospect world once again.
Mitch Vande Sompel, D – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
The Gens have some dynamic players this year, from Isles pick Michael Dal Colle to Ottawa selection Tobias Lindberg. But one of the most fun players to watch hasn’t even been drafted yet. Vande Sompel is a smooth-skating blueliner with some great offensive chops and if you’ve seen him play, it may not be surprising to learn he hasn’t always been a defenseman.
“I played a bit of forward in minor hockey and I was put up there a bit last year when we had a couple extra defensemen,” he said. “My OHL draft year was the first year I completely played defense.”
Vande Sompel credits Oshawa bench boss D.J. Smith and assistant coach Eric Wellwood with helping his defensive zone play, though offense is the youngster’s best trait. The London Jr. Knights product was tied for second in league scoring by a defenseman with eight points through seven playoff games, maintaining the point-per-game-plus pace he had in the regular season. Trust from Smith has helped Vande Sompel’s rushing instincts.
“He has given me the green light, but you have to be careful,” Vande Sompel said. “You have to know the clock and the score, take care of your own zone first.”
The swift blueliner models his game after exciting NHLers such as Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty and like Doughty, he can throw a pretty good hip check when the situation presents itself. At 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds however, Vande Sompel knows that sort thing won’t be his stock and trade.
“It’s learning how to outsmart your opponent, not outmuscle them,” he said. “I have to use my stick to my advantage, that’s the biggest thing for me.”
And that stick is already lethal in the offensive end. Draft eligible in 2015.
Jon Gillies, G – Providence College Friars (Hockey East)
Well, Gillies certainly won the goaltending battle in the title game, even if his first period wasn’t the best. But the big stopper got on his horse in the final 40 and was almost unstoppable, using a quick and effective butterfly to stymie one of the most dangerous attacks in the nation. Drafted 75th overall by Calgary in 2012.
Connor McDavid, C – Erie Otters (OHL)
There isn’t much more to be said about McDavid’s skill, vision and hockey IQ at this point; all three are generationally stupendous. So let’s just dine out on his playoff stats for a minute: The Otters star has a five-goal game already, 12 points in three games versus London and 21 points in eight games overall. Draft eligible in 2015.
Nikolaj Ehlers, LW – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Much like McDavid, Ehlers is in danger of boring us with his consistent excellence. The Danish wunderkind has been tearing up the Quebec League playoffs with his elite skill and speed, notching 22 points through nine games. Against Moncton, a team that supposedly was a bad match-up, Ehlers has seven points in two wins. Drafted ninth overall by Winnipeg in 2014.
Anthony Florentino, D – Providence College Friars (Hockey East)
A well-rounded blueliner who plays a physical style, Florentino kicked off the national championship scoring with his third goal of the year. The sophomore ended up with three points in four Frozen Four games, dating back to regionals, and will be a key returnee for the Friars next season. Drafted 143rd overall by Buffalo in 2013.
A.J. Greer, LW – Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)
Highly anticipated coming into the season, Greer had trouble making a dent at first as an 18-year-old freshman. But by the end of campaign, the bruising power forward was elevated to the second line and three of his seven points came in the last five games of the season. Draft eligible in 2015.
Julius Nattinen, C – JYP (Fin.)
A big center who is adept at creating offense and putting up points, Nattinen began to play more physical as the season went on and that has scouts pricking up their ears. The 6-foot-2 pivot will have a great stage at the world under-18s too, since several other top Finns are either too old for the tournament (Mikko Rantanen and Roope Hintz are late ‘96 birthdays) or too young for the draft (Jesse Puljujarvi). Draft eligible in 2015.
Madison Bowey, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Kelowna has been a favorite all year but the Rockets still have to play the games and so far in the post-season, they’ve been rolling. The team is a perfect 6-0 and Bowey has led the attack from the back end. Mobile with a big shot, Bowey has seven points in the post-season so far. Drafted 53rd overall in 2013.
William Nylander, C – Toronto Marlies (AHL)
Well, something’s going right in Toronto: The Marlies have jumped into a playoff spot thanks to a 7-3-0 run and only a few games remaining on the sked. Numerous players have contributed, but it’s hard not to notice the incredibly skilled Nylander, who has eight points in his past five games. Drafted eighth overall by Toronto in 2014.
Jean-Christophe Beaudin, RW – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
A riser in the draft charts, Beaudin is a lanky kid with great hockey sense who moved all the way up to the Huskies’ top line, where he continued to produce. Beaudin had five points in Rouyn-Noranda’s six game series loss to Val-d’Or. Draft eligible in 2015.