Welcome back, prospect followers. The Minnesota State High School tournament is over, with Wayzata grabbing its first-ever big school title in an upset of Eden Prairie. Meanwhile, high school hockey in New England is wrapping up too, with The Gunnery (love that name) taking the Elite Eight tourney. The big winner now, however, will be the USHL. Some of the top names from those high school circuits will join the junior league for the duration of its season and scouts are watching. I profile a couple of those kids below, plus other names you need to know from the rest of the prospect world.
Pierre-Luc Dubois, LW – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL): With 92 points through 59 games, you would think that hockey comes pretty easy for Dubois. But the top-end 2016 draft prospect actually had a pretty early hiccup.
Dubois’ dad, Eric, was playing hockey in Europe when Pierre-Luc was a tot, so he spent time in England and then Germany. When Pierre-Luc was three, a friend of his dad’s got him on a team for five-year-olds. The first practice didn’t go well.
“They didn’t know who I was and I didn’t speak German,” Dubois said. “I started crying. My dad had to come on the ice and explain that I only spoke French.”
Luckily, Dubois stuck with it and now he’s a powerful force in the ‘Q.’ Scouts love his combination of size, smarts, edge and competitiveness and with 10 points in his past three games, he is nowhere close to slowing down. Simply put, he’s the most exciting Quebec product since Jonathan Drouin and may have more pro potential thanks to his two-way game. Just ask Val-d’Or about that: Dubois hung five points on the fourth-seeded Foreurs the other week in a huge 8-1 road win for the Eagles.
“The fact we play in the Maritimes and we’re far away, people seem to doubt us,” Dubois said. “So it was good to make a statement.”
Dubois himself is impossible to ignore. While he is still working on his explosiveness, he has already grown three inches and 35 pounds since Cape Breton drafted him and in the summer, he trains with Tampa Bay strength and conditioning coach Mark Lambert outside Montreal. Meanwhile, he gets to see his dad on the other bench anytime Cape Breton plays Rimouski, where Eric is an assistant coach.
“It’s fun, honestly,” said Pierre-Luc. “I know a lot of guys on his team, too. It’s a friendly competition, but I’m pretty sure my mom cheers for me to win.”
In the Pipeline
Thomas Chabot, D (Ottawa): The slick-skating defenseman was a high-riser in last year’s draft and he is rewarding Ottawa for grabbing his rights in the first round. Chabot has nine points in his past five games and his Saint John Sea Dogs sit in the second seed for the QMJHL playoffs right now, with only a handful of games to go.
Jayce Hawryluk, C (Florida): Brandon is hot, hot, hot right now and Hawryluk is stoking the flames. The gritty, high-end finisher was named WHL player of the week thanks to an eye-popping 16 points in four games and his chemistry with top 2017 prospect Nolan Patrick is for real.
Anthony DeAngelo, D (Tampa Bay): The adjustment to the pro ranks hasn’t taken too long for DeAngelo, a premier offensive defenseman. The competitive blueliner with AHL Syracuse has 11 points in his past 11 games, responding to some healthy scratches in the process.
Will Butcher, D (Colorado): The University of Denver has been scorching of late and the Pioneers will need that heat for the tough NCHC tournament. Butcher, an offense-leaning two-way defender, has 11 points during the team’s nine-game win streak.
James de Haas, D (Detroit): The Clarkson Golden Knights junior was a nightmare for Princeton on the weekend, notching both overtime winners to knock the Tigers out of the ECAC tournament. De Haas showed nice quickness and a sharp release for a 6-foot-3, 212-pounder.
2016 Draft Stars
Riley Tufte, LW – Fargo Force (USHL): Tufte (somewhat) controversially went back for one more year with his Blaine high school team this year, but it turned out to be a master stroke. Starting the year in Fargo, he struggled. But the 6-foot-5 University of Minnesota-Duluth commit went off at Blaine for three points a game and now back in the USHL, he looks like a brand new player – the best raw prospect one scout had seen from the state of Minnesota in decades.
Jakob Chychrun, D – Sarnia Sting (OHL): While usurpers such as Olli Juolevi and Mikhail Sergachev threaten his top defense prospect throne, Chychrun just keeps on humming with the Sting. The big, beastly two-way player has seven points in his past five games and now ranks fourth in OHL scoring among D-men.
Jonathan Dahlen, LW – Timra (Swe.): A superb offensive player with a knack for goal-scoring, Dahlen has four goals in his past two playoff games as Timra fights for promotion to the top-tier SHL. Ulf Dahlen’s son boasts sick hands, great creativity and a sharp release.
2017 Draft Star
Ryan Poehling, C – Lincoln Stars (USHL): A great playmaker with excellent vision and very projectable 6-foot-2 frame, Poehling was a star with Lakeville North HS in Minnesota, but joined Lincoln on the weekend. The St. Cloud State commit promptly tallied two points in two games.