Team USA won the world under-18s on the weekend, earning the gold over Finland in impressive fashion. While this appeared to be a vulnerable year for the perennial favorites, reinforcements from the NTDP's under-17 squad and an NCAA freshman helped the cause. For a look at some final standouts from the tournament plus post-season action and names to watch in the prospect world, let's get to our weekly round-up.
Jack Dugan, LW - Northwood Huskies (NY HS): Every draft has sleepers, dark horses and late bloomers and Dugan may be a hidden gem that encompasses all three. A big, aggressive and raw talent who was passed over last year, he has been building up his game at the Northwood prep school in Lake Placid under the tutelage of former AHL coach Chadd Cassidy.
"He persuaded me to come last year," Dugan said. "He had confidence that I could earn a Division 1 NCAA scholarship; all I had to do was follow his program and get my academics up. It's really paying off."
And it's pretty fun practising five days a week in the rink where the Miracle on Ice happened. The D1 part is all set, as Dugan has committed to Providence College, a heavy hitter in Hockey East not far removed from a national title. While the Friars have a lot to offer, Dugan was sold on Nate Leaman's coaching ensemble, which also includes Kris Mayotte and Scott Borek.
"I'd start off with the coaching staff," Dugan said. "I was lucky to meet all three of them and right away I had a connection. And academically, they wanted to help me out."
Dugan's mission is to play in the USHL next season. He was originally drafted by Youngstown, but the timing didn't work out. Then Sioux City wanted him to fly out on weekends for games, but that schedule would have seen him leave on 3 a.m. flights and returning late Sunday - for a kid who needs to get his schooling squared away, it just wasn't going to happen.
But NHL scouts are very interested in the kid. Dugan knows he needs to work on his defensive zone play and when it comes to NHL models, he tries to play like Jamie Benn. But he also keeps an eye on Sidney Crosby, for good reason.
"I watch a lot of stuff on his mentality towards the game," Dugan said. "The guy just puts himself in a position to win."
And if Dugan can continue to grow his game - not to mention his 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame - he can be a winner, too.
In the Pipeline
Nicolas Roy, C (Carolina): No team had beaten Saint John in the QMJHL playoffs until Roy's double-overtime goal clinched Game 2 for Chicoutimi in the Sags' series against the Sea Dogs. Roy's big frame and two-way game are well-known at this point and he's been hot in the post-season with 16 points in 13 games.
Keegan Kolesar, RW (Columbus): The big, nasty power forward has really found his offensive stride in the post-season, helping Seattle to the conference final against the deadly Kelowna Rockets. Kolesar has put up 20 points in just 10 games to lead his Thunderbirds in scoring.
Tyler Bertuzzi, LW (Detroit): The Grand Rapids Griffins have a 2-0 series lead against Milwaukee and Bertuzzi has been a factor with three points already. A great combination of skill, grit and annoyance, Bertuzzi has the type of game that can translate to the NHL - not that anyone will be stoked to play against him.
2017 Draft Stars
Nick Suzuki, C - Owen Sound Attack (OHL): Suzuki's ability to create offense has been on display all season, so why would he stop for the playoffs? The gifted Owen Sound pivot leads his team with 21 points in 14 post-season games and more importantly, a 2-1 series lead over the stacked Erie Otters.
Ryan Poehling, C - St. Cloud State Huskies (NCHC): Brought in to complement the NTDP core of Team USA's world under-18 squad, Poehling provided some key offense and got to showcase his game more after playing for a young Huskies squad in a tough conference this season. Poehling had five points in seven tournament games.
Ostap Safin, RW - Sparta Prague (Cze.): Though the Czechs fell in crushing fashion in the quarterfinal, the team had a good showing at the under-18s and Safin chipped in with four points in five games. There's a lot of upside to the big kid and he has already played against men, so he'll be one to watch on draft weekend.
Mark Rubinchik, D - Saskatoon Blades (WHL): Rubinchik will be interesting to follow on the second day of the draft, since his under-18s were very strong for Russia. The offensively-inclined defenseman had six points in seven games for the bronze medallists and was named a top-three player by the coaches. Back in the WHL, scouts wanted to see better decision-making in the future.
Tomas Vomacka, G - Corpus Christ IceRays (NAHL): The Czech national was just named to the NAHL's All-Rookie Team thanks to his solid freshman season with the Rays. The UConn commit has kept the good times rolling in the playoffs, rocking a 3-0 record and .963 save percentage to lead the league.
2018 Draft Stars
Ryan McLeod, C - Mississauga Steelheads (OHL): Playing on a line with older brother Mikey McLeod, Ryan has been putting his stamp on the OHL playoffs. A smart and skilled playmaker, McLeod assisted on his brother's double-overtime winner to give the Steelheads a 3-0 stranglehold on Peterborough and has 15 points through 14 post-season games.
Jesse Ylonen, RW - Espoo Blues (Fin.): A late 1999 birthday, Ylonen was a stone-cold killer for Finland at the under-18s, using his speed and skill to put up offense. He rang up nine points in seven games en route to silver and has already played against men back home in Finland's second division with Espoo United.