Much like the top USHL teams remained consistent in their winning ways in January, the top prospects continued to impress scouts in the stretch.
Players like Brian Cooper, Austin Cagelosi, and Austin Farley continued to impress while AJ Michaelson began to show why he was one of the preseason elites in the USHL.
Much of the Fargo Force’s success this season has been from the play of the Cooper, the team’s top defenseman, and forward Farley. When the team turned their two game win streak at the end of December into a stretch of nine wins that ended in late January, it would be easy to assume Farley and Cooper played a major role.
Farley, who ended January tied for second in the USHL with 48 points, had seven goals and 11 assists during the win streak that now has Fargo just two points behind Waterloo for the third seed in the Western Conference. The Minnesota-Duluth bound forward continues to look more poised with the puck every month.
Cooper continues to anchor the Force’s defensive corps with his solid, physical play in the defensive end. Cooper has played bigger than his five-foot-10 frame and showed this consistently throughout the month of January, including in the USHL Top Prospects Game with several big hits.
Cooper even managed to put up three goals—all of which came on special teams—and four assists during the month. In all likelihood, Cooper will fall short of the 33 points he put up in his sophomore season, but much more can be said about his all-around game in his third and final season in Fargo.
Youngstown’s Cangelosi continued his dominate season in the month of January, recording a point in eight of his 10 games. Along the stretch, Cangelosi netted five goals and seven assists—his highest point total in a month while playing for the Phantoms.
Like many of the draft eligible players in their first year playing in the USHL, Cangelosi’s game continues to grow by leaps and bounds by the month. Cangelosi did not have a particularly impressive Top Prospects Game in Muskegon, Mich., but I do not think it hurt his overall chances of being selected in one of the later rounds come June.
After a solid showing at the USHL Top Prospects Game wrapped around an impressive month with the Waterloo Blackhawks, Michaelson avoided another month of scoring struggles. In the month of January, Michaelson doubled his point total with three goals and four assists in nine games.
The main reason for Michaelson’s offensive increase? An elevated confidence level is one. More shots on net is the other.
The Minnesota commit headed into the USHL Top Prospects Game with five points in his last five games and it was easy to tell the streak contributed to him being the most confident with the puck all season. Playing alongside Farley and Lincoln’s Luke Johnson, Michaelson registered a goal and an assist and contributed on many other plays that created quality scoring chances.
Michaelson had 16 shots in the month of January, an increase on the average of just over eight shots in previous months. Michaelson traditionally has a strong second half so look for him to continue to make up ground lost in the eyes of scouts in the last three months of the season.
Muskegon’s Matt DeBlouw continues to impress. DeBlouw had a big month by his standards and had four goals and three assists in 10 games all while playing on a last place Muskegon team that ranks second to last in offense this season. While the Michigan State bound centre did not record a point in the USHL Top Prospects Game, he played his game and may have been the best player on the ice.
Another player that caught eyes in the month of January has come out of almost nowhere.
Cedar Rapids’ Dennis Kravchenko, who was playing Tier II junior in Wichita Falls (NAHL) up until the USHL Holiday Break, was instrumental in the team’s highly effective power play in January. The Irvine, Calif. native has seven goals and six assists in 13 games and six of his points have come on the power play. Despite being just five-foot-seven and 155 pounds, Kravchenko also provides the RoughRiders with some grit. He has five fighting majors between the Wichita Falls and Cedar Rapids this season.
Will he get drafted in his first year of draft eligibility? Probably not, but look for Kravchenko to make some noise as he heads to the University of Vermont with Dubuque’s Zemgus Girgensons and joins Connor Brickley upfront next season.
With just two and half months remaining in the regular season, time is slowly running out on players to make an impact in the eyes of NHL teams. Look for first year USHL players like Cangelosi and Indiana’s Robbie Baillargeon to continue to grow in the month of February and improve their draft stock.
Some aspects of players’ stock are not so certain such as whether or not DeBlouw will continue to show scoring pop and whether or not Kravchenko will continue to turn heads and keep up his point-per-game pace in his second full month at the Tier I level.