Welcome back to my weekly wrap of the prospect world. It's a big time for college hockey, as the Frozen Four tournament looms and a few teams are still vying for bids to the 16-team showdown. This weekend's conference tourneys will decide everything and some bubbles will unfortunately pop. For some who miss, however, NHL contracts await. R.P.I. goalie Jason Kasdorf, for example, just signed with the Sabres, who acquired the big guy's rights from Winnipeg in the Evander Kane deal. Let's take a look at some other names you need to know:
Noah Gregor, C – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL): At the start of the season, scouts weren't paying too much attention to Gregor, who missed most of last year due to a collarbone injury. But his play with the Warriors has made him one of the biggest surprises in the WHL and now scouts can't get enough of his quickness, his smarts with the puck and his compete level. Not that the injury was a blessing in disguise, exactly.
"It was frustrating, but I learned to accept it," Gregor said. "I took what I could from watching the game and tried to apply it to the off-season."
Gregor's biggest observation? He had to get stronger. At six-foot, 173 pounds, he can still add on some pounds, but he has thrived this season on a line with Tampa prospect Brayden Point and recent Florida signing Dryden Hunt. Those guys also put the draft into perspective for their young linemate.
"Brayden is one of the best players in the WHL, if not the CHL," Gregor said. "And he was a third-rounder. Dryden has 55 goals and he wasn't even drafted."
So being under the radar is just fine with Gregor, who models his game after another player who had to prove himself in junior and beyond, Ottawa's Mike Hoffman. Two other Warriors will be prominent at the 2016 draft, in center Brett Howden and goalie Zach Sawchenko, so the future and the present is promising.
"It's been a pretty good season," Gregor said. "I don't think we were expected to be in a playoff spot."
Instead, Moose Jaw has already clinched an invite and Gregor's point-per-game production has played a nice role. Perhaps the post-season will hold even more surprises.
In the Pipeline
Nick Schmaltz, C (Chicago): Schmaltz has been the premier set-up man in college hockey this year, killing it in North Dakota with Vancouver pick Brock Boeser and in-demand free agent Drake Caggiula. The Blackhawks pick has more than an assist per game as a sophomore.
Christian Dvorak, C (Arizona): Smart, responsible and oh-so-talented with the puck, Dvorak became this year's first OHLer to notch 50 goals (closely followed by Calgary pick Andrew Mangiapane in Barrie). Dvorak's next mission? Steer his London Knights back to the championship.
Adam Gaudette, C (Vancouver): The freshman pivot has a big weekend ahead, as his Northeastern Huskies need to do serious damage in Hockey East if they want to make the Frozen Four. Tenacious and talented, Gaudette has 27 points through 38 games - not bad for a fifth-rounder in 2015.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, RW (Flyers): A sharp two-way player on a very good Val-d'Or team, Aube-Kubel has 81 points in 59 games for the Foreurs. The Philly second-rounder from 2014 also continues his great work on the PK, where he has four short-handed goals this season.
2016 Draft Stars
Boris Katchouk, LW – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL): The Hounds got off to a tough start this season, but they've rallied enough for a playoff spot and now anything can happen. The fast and dangerous Katchouk has done his part, with points in his past four games and 50 overall through 62 contests.
Frederic Allard, D – Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL): A big leader on a team that has found itself under new coach Yanick Jean, Allard was named third star of the week in the 'Q' thanks to six assists in three games. The late 1997 birthday is deadly on the power play and has already doubled his production year over year, with 59 points to date.
Joseph Woll, G – U.S. NTDP (USHL): The Boston College commit has great size at 6-foot-3, 196 pounds and moves well when he's down in the butterfly. With the world under-18s coming up, Woll will have to be sharp, though his 2.25 goals-against average and .916 save percentage suggests he's ready.
Jamie Armstrong, LW - Avon Old Farms Winged Beavers (Conn. HS): The son of St. Louis Blues scouting director Bill Armstrong had a lot of eyes on him this year, for obvious reasons. It will be interesting to see where the Northeastern commit goes in the draft, as he is not a finished product, but does have a good wall game and a pretty good touch around the net.
2017 Draft Star
Jaret Anderson-Dolan, C – Spokane Chiefs (WHL): He's a bit on the small side, but Anderson-Dolan can seriously wire the puck. His Chiefs will be very intriguing next year, with fellow 2017 small guy Kailer Yamamoto also returning, plus the addition of rookie defenseman Ty Smith, the top bantam draft pick.