If you really enjoy digging deep in the prospect crates, then this is a good time for you. The Youth Olympic Games just finished in Norway, with Team USA beating Canada for gold. The players were 2000 birthdays, so you’re looking at the 2018 NHL draft for most – and there were many talents there. Look for a couple of them below. Also, the Minnesota State High School tournament is almost here, with teams grinding through sectionals now. Potential 2016 first-rounder Riley Tufte has already been bounced and now the big center has re-joined the USHL’s Fargo Force, but other prospects such as Michael Graham, Casey Mittelstadt (2017) and Mitchell Mattson (below) are still alive. Let’s traverse the land of prospects again, shall we?
Dante Fabbro, D – Penticton Vees (BCHL): It’s exhilarating watching what Fabbro and the Vees have been doing this season, Along with fellow 2016 first-round hopeful Tyson Jost, Fabbro has burned up the scoring charts and the Jr. A organization is once again a juggernaut out west.
“With Tyson leading the team, we’ve got a great leadership core,” Fabbro said. “Great coaching staff and trainers and the people behind the scenes have been awesome. They don’t get the recognition, but we’re all pretty thankful for them.”
The Vees have to be thankful for Fabbro, as well. The Boston University commit is a top-20 scorer in the BCHL, despite being a defenseman. He has 63 points in 42 games and has scouts on high alert. One NHL evaluator even told me that Fabbro is “basically like an NHL player already,” thanks to the way he processes the game and gets pucks through. While WHL Seattle pushed hard for his services, Fabbro stayed in Penticton this year to preserve his NCAA status.
“It was the right decision for me,” he said. “My whole family has gone to college, but it was my decision alone. I really went through the background of both routes.”
And what made the Terriers the right play for the high-end two-way blueliner with a big shot?
“The biggest thing was fitting in with the coaches,” Fabbro said. “The players down there are pretty special and they have some pretty good recruits coming in next year, so hopefully I can be a part of that and win a national championship some day.”
With Fabbro joining a class that could include fellow 2016 prospects Clayton Keller, Kieffer Bellows and Chad Krys, plus Charlie McAvoy (already a freshman at B.U.), Terriers coach David Quinn will add to an already impressive roster. Fabbro will be popular on campus – as long as he lets people know that this ‘B.C. boy’ is repping British Columbia, not Boston College.
In the Pipeline
Michael Dal Colle, LW (NY Islanders): When Dal Colle is on, he is deadly. The Kingston Frontenacs left winger just broke 300 points in his OHL career, so he’s been deadly a lot thanks to his wicked release. Now let’s see if the Memorial Cup winner with Oshawa can get Kingston to win a playoff round.
Evgeny Svechnikov, RW (Detroit): Svechnikov was very solid for Russia at the world juniors, even if the points didn’t come. But back in Cape Breton, offense has not been a problem for the big, potent force. Svechnikov has 12 points in seven February QMJHL contests.
Juuse Saros, G (Nashville): Goalies don’t really come as small as Saros anymore (5-foot-11, 182 pounds), but few have the intelligence he does, either. The Finnish kid has been hot for the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals lately, allowing just one goal total in his past two starts. Overall, the positionally sound stopper is bumping top-10 numbers for the hot Ads.
2016 Draft Stars
Jake Ryczek, D – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL): An offensive defenseman who can rip the puck and really help a power play, Ryczek was just acquired from Sioux City in a late-season trade. The Providence College commit has two points in two games with his new squad.
Mitchell Mattson, C – Grand Rapids Thunderhawks (Minn. HS): A big, hard-working player who is still learning the game, Mattson has piled up points for Grand Rapids this year under coach Trent Klatt. Now the North Dakota commit has the Thunderhawks one win away from the state tournament – if they can beat the always-tough Duluth East.
Vitalii Abramov, RW – Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL): Tenacious and talented, Abramov has shown no signs of let-up in his rookie ‘Q’ season. The smallish Russian was the league’s third star of the week with seven points in three games for the playoff-clinching Piques.
Otto Makinen, C – Tappara (Fin.): Makinen is the type of smart player you want on your team. A two-way center who always makes the right play and works on the defensive end, the kid is always involved with the play.
2018 Draft Stars
Ryan Merkley, D – Toronto Jr. Canadiens (GTHL): Merkley was great for Canada at the Youth Olympics with five points in six games and will duel Bode Wilde for No. 1 status in the OHL draft this year. Though he’s not big, Merkley has smarts that rival Connor McDavid according to one scout and possesses incredible skill.
Jake Wise, C – Central Catholic Raiders (Mass. HS): With 10 points in six games, Wise led the offensive charge for the golden Americans at the Youth Olympics. His Massachusetts address has Jack Eichel comparisons being tossed around, especially thanks to his skating and skill set.