When Mark Jankowski was taken 21st overall by Calgary in the 2012 draft, it helped put Stanstead College in Quebec on the prospects map. Many prep schools are attempting to replicate the success of Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota, where alumni include Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews, and the South Kent School in Connecticut is no exception.
“We’re basically following the Shattuck-St. Mary’s model for the Northeast,” said coach Matt Plante. “Midget AAA is starting to filter into the East Coast.”
Though South Kent still has a varsity squad, the school has also partnered with the Selects Hockey Program (Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog and Jonathan Huberdeau all played on spring teams for Selects) to form under-16 and under-18 teams that were christened Selects Academy. The under-18 team plays a combination of well-known prep schools such as Northwood and Culver Academy, as well as a league schedule in the midget United States Eastern League, making the team eligible for the U.S. national championship. The Selects were quite successful this season, losing in the USEHL final to the Boston Jr. Bruins 2-1. One of the main reasons was captain and defenseman Anthony Florentino, who may be the prospect that helps make a name for the team internationally.
“He can hit like a truck,” Plante said. “And one of his best abilities is the way he can escape opponents with the puck.”
Florentino rang up 20 goals and 50 points in 58 games this season and is committed to Providence College next year. He had offers to jump up a level to either Indiana in the United States League or the U.S. NTDP in recent years, but chose to stay at South Kent.
“With the Selects program, it’s a junior schedule with a good education,” Florentino said. “It’s the best of both worlds.”
When he gets to Providence, he’ll join Jankowski and another Flames pick, goalie Jon Gillies, on a Friars team that is rapidly accumulating assets under coach Nate Leaman. Fellow 2013 draft prospects Brian Pinho and Thomas Aldworth are scheduled to join in 2014-15.
“The coaches are all great guys and the campus is beautiful,” Florentino said. “If I wasn’t playing hockey, I’d still want to go there.”
Scouts love Florentino’s tools, noting that he doesn’t have a glaring weakness in his game. Still seen as a raw talent, they predict a long college career would unlock his highest potential. Some talent hawks would have liked to see him dominate more in certain games and the Selects’ schedule had something to do with that since the midget competition wasn’t always too challenging. To that end, Plante is hoping to schedule games against Shattuck St-Mary’s as early as next season, but he also knows the interest surrounding Florentino now.
“There’s a reason he’s projected to be a top three-round pick,” Plante said. “It’s his mindset, his temperament. I’ve seen him battle through illness and injury and still play at a high level. When we played the Hill Academy, he was throwing up all game.”
That drive endeared him to the NHL scouts in attendance, but he wasn’t the only one to watch for the Selects Academy this season: Two other teammates cracked Central Scouting’s watch list. Goalie Shane Starrett is a 6-foot-5 Boston U. commit, while center Jason Salvaggio led the team in scoring with 49 goals and 85 points in 54 games before heading off to USHL Indiana.
“He’s really started to identify his strengths as a player,” Plante said. “It’s just been an assault all season. He has an unbelievable trigger and he wants the puck. He’s a go-getter.”
Salvaggio had eight points in his first 12 games with the Ice and is committed to UConn.
With all that talent coming out of one program, it’s not hard to see South Kent and Selects building toward something great. And if and when the names get called at the draft, the profile will jump even more.