All American Prospects Game sets draft stage

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It was a spectacle that 40 of the top American-born 2013 NHL Draft eligibles will not soon forget.

As prospects gathered in Buffalo last week for the inaugural All American Prospects Game, it was a chance for players to make a lasting impression in front of National Hockey League teams.

There was tremendous talent shown from both the victorious Team McClanahan and Team Housley, with Seth Jones of Team McClanahan leading the way. Jones, the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones who currently plays for the Portland Winterhawks, displayed why he is currently 2nd overall in Future Considerations September Ranking for the 2013 NHL Draft.

There was speculation that Jones may have to miss the game due to scheduling and travel conflicts. Jones had to leave Portland’s game midway through the third period on Friday night, flying throughout the evening to arrive in Buffalo just in time for his teams practice at 10:30am. With minimal sleep, Jones still showed why he is the top ranked defenseman for the draft.

He played a very consistent 60 minutes looking like a man playing against boys. His poise, patience, skating and smarts, coupled with a six-foot-four, 205-pound frame, make him an NHL ready player. The potential for Jones to be a top NHL defenseman is already there, he just needs to keep progressing on the path he is on. Jones is the complete package that NHL scouts look for in blueliner.

Jones, however, was not the only reason scouts showed up in big numbers for the game.

Jimmy Lodge, who plays with the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit, showed why he is going to be turning scouts heads all season long. He is a big, strong, skilled forward who thinks the game well. Being six-foot and only weighing 166-pounds, Lodge will need to fill out and add some muscle. If he does, look out.

Under 18 NTDP Team’s Michael McCarron, who is committed to Cornell University for 2013-2014 season, was one of the more noticeable forwards on either team. He’s not a flashy player, but he gets the job done well. He is physical in your face type of player. Standing a towering six-foot-five, and weighing 227-pounds, McCarron has no problem using his size to his advantage. As he continues to develop his skating and puck skills, McCarron will be a draft pick in 2013 that will not be missed. He has NHL size, which scouts adore.

Ryan Fitzgerald, the son of former NHLer Tom Fitzgerald, put on a performance that earned him game MVP and opened a few eyes. Fitzgerald, who plays for the Valley Junior Warriors of the Eastern Junior Hockey League and is committed to Boston College for 2013, was integral to Team McClanahan, setting up three goals with two terrific tape-to-tape passes and the other off a clean face- off win. His vision and skill with the puck make him a dynamic player. Fitzgerald is also a dynamo in the faceoff dot, which NHL teams love. At five-foot-nine and 165-pounds, he might make some NHL scouts worry about his size, but his undeniable skill with the puck will have scouts taking a second look.

Dubuque Fighting Saints forward Frank Vatrano can best be described as a power forward and wasn’t shy to put his skills on display. He stands only five-foot-10, but weighs 218-pounds and possesses a rocket of a shot. He is great at finding open ice and getting his shot off quickly. Vatrano is a constant threat to score when he has the puck in the offensive zone and, if he works on his skating ability, his overall game will only become better. Scouts will have no choice but to take notice to his shot, which will help his draft stock rise.

Edmonton Oil Kings defenseman Cody Corbett is a big, positionally sounds and very smart blueliner passed over in the 2012 NHL Draft. At six-foot-one and 196-pounds, Corbett plays with a lot of confidence and consistency. He makes strong decisions with the puck and plays his man hard. He uses his strength and size to his advantage. Undrafted last June at the Draft in Pittsburgh, Corbett will be out to show NHL teams they’ve made a mistake.

The All American Prospects Game was truly a showcase of how far USA Hockey and their development program have come in recent years. It will be exciting to see how many of these 40 NHL draft eligible players will have their names called next June at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

If the talent level from the Prospects game is any indication, it could be quite a high number.

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