Wednesday, November 28, 2018

UNH Commit Nick Ardanaz: A Quick, Agile Defenseman

Nick Ardanaz
2020 or '21 UNH Commit
"Nicolas Ardanaz (is) a smooth, balanced skater with quickness and agility." Neutral Zone
"Nick is a gifted skater with dynamic edges and ability to control the puck." Kevin Pedersen, Arizona Coyotes Scout, Head Scout and Assistant Coach, Vernon Vipers
Nicolas Ardanaz Defenseman, 5'8", 152 lbs. Shoots Left
Hometown: Surrey, British Columbia
DOB: 5-30-2002 Turned 16 in May
Undrafted by WHL or USHL
Neutral Zone Rating: 3.75 out of 5 Stars
Current Teams: Delta Hockey Academy Midget Prep & Vernon Vipers
                       ~ Alternate Captain; Starting Left Defenseman; 1st Power Play Unit
Committed to UNH: November, 2018 at Age 16 years, 6 months.

2018 BCHL Preseason Highlight Reel

The British Columbia Hockey League allows each team to have two 16-year-old players. Nick Ardanaz turned 16 last May and in August he participated in the Vernon Vipers training camp and preseason games with the goal of making the final roster. These video highlights are from the final exhibition game on August 31st against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Ardanaz wore #2 in the white Vipers jersey. The reel shows a number of Ardanaz's skills including carrying the puck up ice, shooting, passing, quarterbacking the power play, body checking, and handling 2-on-1 rushes into his defensive zone.

Interview

I had an opportunity to interview Nick Ardanaz, via email, about his hockey career and commitment to UNH:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on your commitment to play for the University of New Hampshire. What are the main reasons you chose UNH?

Nick Ardanaz: The main reasons why I chose to commit to UNH were the coaches, the culture surrounding the school and the hockey program, and the beautiful campus and facilities. I really wanted a school where hockey is a big part of its identity, where I can get a great education all while playing in a great atmosphere.
Coach Stewart’s tour around the campus really exposed me to all parts of the university, and it offered everything I was looking for. As a family, it was easy for us to say that UNH has all the pieces to the puzzle for me as a player and as a future college student.

Mike Lowry: What other college programs were you considering? Which schools did you visit and which ones made an offer to you?

Nick Ardanaz: I had an offer from one WCHA school, but never visited. I considered a couple of Ivy League schools. UNH was my first official visit but I had unofficially visited one Big 10 school last year.

Lowry: Have you and the UNH coaches agreed on a target date for you to enroll as a freshman at UNH and join the team?

Ardanaz: Talking to Coach Souza and Coach Stewart, if we both agree that after one year of junior I’m ready to make the jump, I can potentially go in as a true freshman. Otherwise, I will spend two years in junior and come into UNH after that.

Lowry: At this stage in your hockey development, what are the strengths of your game? What areas are you trying to improve?

Ardanaz: My main strengths are my skating, my ability to make a good first pass and my ability to create offensive opportunities from the back end. I like to become the fourth forward off the rush, and I see myself as a good power play defenceman.
An area I need to improve is my strength which will overall help me improve my ability to defend in our own zone, as well as my stick control against bigger and faster forwards.

Lowry: In June, you committed to play for the Vernon Vipers in the British Columbia Hockey League. You attended their training camp in August, played in some exhibition games, and was one of eight defensemen to make their 23-player roster in early September. What are the biggest adjustments you will need to make as you transition from high school hockey to the Junior A level?

Ardanaz: The BCHL is a much faster and heavier league than high school hockey, so I’m going to have to adjust to making decisions with the puck a lot quicker. I’ll have to learn to take more hits more often against heavier guys and simplify my game to play against older players.

Lowry: While you wait to play in a Vipers' regular season game, you have been playing for the Delta Hockey Academy Midget Prep team and have tallied 14 assists in 19 games. When do you think you may be called up to play for Vernon?

Ardanaz: I’ll be going up to Vernon after Christmas for some time and could get a game in there, and from what I know, I’ll be joining them after my season with Delta is over. If they run into some injuries within the d-core throughout the year, I could get some games in as well. I’m not too worried about being called up to play, but when the time comes it’ll be an exciting experience for me.

Lowry: Your coach on the Delta Academy Prep team is Spencer Bennett, a former 5th-Round pick of the Calgary Flames who played in the AHL and East Coast Hockey League. What is the most important lesson you have learned from Coach Bennett?

Ardanaz: Something Coach Bennett has always preached to me is to keep my game simple. It’s easy to overcomplicate things as an offensive defenseman and he’s always made me look for the easy plays. Even as a forward during his career, he has great knowledge on defenseman and knows right from wrong on the back end. He prepares me for the next level while allowing me to play my style of game.

Lowry: When do you plan to graduate from high school? What are your academic strengths and interests? Have you thought about what you might major in when you enroll at UNH?

Ardanaz: I plan to graduate next year out of South Delta Secondary School. I’m strong in English and Math so I plan on majoring in business or finance when I enroll.

Scouting Reports
"3.75 Star prospect Nicolas Ardanaz commits to UNH. A smooth, balanced skater with quickness and agility who sees the ice, has soft hands and precision passing ability. Skilled PP defenseman;" Neutral Zone
"The decision to commit to Nick a year out was based on his development as a player. Nick is a gifted skater with dynamic edges and ability to control the puck. He has great vision and excels in the offensive side of the game.These attributes will be pushed while playing for the Delta Hockey Academy Midget Prep team this season (2018/19). This will allow Nick to step into the Vernon Vipers lineup the year after with more confidence and with a larger role. We thank Nick and his family for the commitment to be a part of the Vipers organization and we know our fans will love watching him play in the future. Our staff are excited to helping Nick earn an NCAA scholarship in the future and we believe his ability will help achieve that goal.” Kevin Pedersen, Arizona Coyotes Scout, Head Scout and Assistant Coach, Vernon Vipers

Youth Hockey and Prep School Statistics

Player Season Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
Nick Ardanaz  (D) 2018-19 Delta Hockey Academy Midget Prep CSSHL 19 0 14 14 6
Vernon Vipers BCHL - - - -
2017-18 Delta Hockey Academy Midget Prep CSSHL 2 0 0 0 0
Delta Hockey Academy Elite 15s CSSHL U15 33 13 18 31 14
Playoffs 2 0 2 2 0
2016-17 Delta Hockey Academy Bantam Prep CSSBHL 29 5 8 13 6
Playoffs 5 0 2 2 0
2015-16 Delta Hockey Academy Bantam Varsity CSSBVL 21 1 6 7 6
Playoffs 3 0 0 0 0


Friday, November 16, 2018

UNH Commits Update 11-16-18: Tim Stützle Dominating DNL U20

Tim Stützle
2020 UNH Commit
Player Spotlight - Tim Stützle
"Tim Stützle: The next big thing in German hockey! 02 born and already best player on the U20-team." Thomas Roost, NHL Central Scouting
"No doubt about it. Easily at least a top-15 NHL pick in my eyes. #2020NHLDraft" Janik Beichler, Regional Scout Germany, Future Considerations Hockey
At the age of 16 years, 10 months, Tim Stützle (DOB: 1/15/2002) is the leading scorer in the Under 20 German Development League (DNL). The 5'11", 172 lbs. center for the first-place Mannheim Young Eagles (Jungadler Mannheim U20) leads the league in goals (19), assists (30), and plus/minus (+32). The second through fifth-leading scorers in the league range in age from 17 years, 3 months to 19 years, 8 months.

These video highlights, from the Young Eagles' 6-3 win over the Bad Tolz U20 team on November 4th, show Stützle scoring his 18th and 19th goals of the season and dishing his 30th assist. He's wearing #8 in the Young Eagles' blue jersey.



Tim Stützle verbally committed to UNH and Coach Mike Souza late in 2017. Last week, two NHL scouts described his prospects for being drafted in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft in glowing terms (see quotes above). Needless to say, the UNH coaching staff want Stützle's journey to a professional hockey career to include a stretch in Durham in a Wildcat uniform.

In general, elite, young players from Germany have at least two alternative avenues to professional hockey which do not involve playing NCAA hockey and would compromise their NCAA eligibility. First, the Canadian Hockey League ("Major Junior") conducts an annual Import Draft in late June or early July. Stützle will be eligible for the 2019 CHL Import Draft. Second, players as young as 17 can play professional hockey with a team in the Germany Hockey League (Deutsche Eishockey Liga/DEL). The youngest player in the DEL this season is Moritz Seider, a 17-year-old player for the Mannheim Eagles. He and Stützle were teammates last season on the Mannheim Young Eagles U19 team.

In an interview on August 31st with Janik Beichler, Regional Scout for Future Considerations Hockey, Stützle said this about his commitment to UNH:
"It's not 100% certain yet (...) but I think if I go to North America, it'll probably be the college route because there I can connect school and athletics. I was over there a while ago and got to see everything. I had a lot of fun there and it was great to see everything. They really want me to come over, that was very important for me too."

2018-19 Statistics

NOTE
The statistics for the commits, presented in the following table, are categorized by the projected year they will enroll in UNH. For example, the "2019 Commits" are projected to begin playing for UNH in the Fall of 2019. I have based these projections on a number of factors including:
~ If a National Letter of Intent has been signed.
~ The year the commit and UNH coaches originally targeted for enrollment in UNH.
~ How old the commit would be upon admission.
~ Number of years in junior hockey prior to admission.
~ The commit's performance in recent seasons as well as injuries.
~ Anticipated date of high school graduation.
~ Number of UNH players leaving the team at the end of the previous season and the position they played.

Player Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
2019 Commits
Lucas Bahn 9/11/99 (D) West Kelowna Warriors BCHL 25 1 9 10 2
Nolan McElhaney 4/22/99 (D) Omaha Lancers USHL 5 0 0 0 2
Chase Stevenson 1/13/99 (F) Surrey Eagles BCHL 25 10 12 22 37
2019 or '20 Commits
Will Margel 3/16/01 (F) Selects Academy 18U Overall 31 20 15 35 12
USPHL 18U - - - - -
BEAST Series 10 9 5 14 8
NE Regionals 5 3 3 6 -
Connor Sweeney 5/5/00 (F) Lawrence Academy NE Prep - - - - -
Islanders Hockey Club NCDC 1 2 0 2 0
Little Bruins 18U Mass Regionals 2 1 0 1 -
Marek Wazny 2/21/00 (F) Maryland Black Bears NAHL 20 1 8 9 10
2020 Commits
Aidan Curran 1/22/01 (F) NH Jr Monarchs NCDC 22 3 25 28 16
Zack Jones 3/31/01 (F) Boston Bandits NCDC 21 4 13 17 4
Tim Stützle 1/15/02 (F) Mannheim Young Eagles DNL U20 18 19 30 49 32
Team Germany U17 Intnl - - - - -
2021 Commits
Liam Devlin 1/7/01 (F) St. Sebastian's NE Prep - - - - -
Boston Jr. Eagles EHF Selects 11 3 5 8 8
Mass Regionals 3 3 0 3 -
2021 or '22 Commits
David Sacco 1/3/02 (F) Lawrence Academy NE Prep - - - - -
* = Signed National Letter of Intent

News & Notes

State/Regional 18U Championships:

~ 2021 UNH commit Liam Devlin and the Boston Junior Eagles won the Massachusetts Hockey 18U Tier I State Championships last weekend. Devlin scored 3 goals in 3 games, including two in the 4-2 win in the championship game. The team earned a berth in the USA Hockey 18U Tier I Nationals next April. Devlin begins the regular season with the St. Sebastian's School on November 28th.

~ 2019 or '20 commit Connor Sweeney and the Little Bruins also competed in the Massachusetts Hockey 18U Tier I State Championships. Sweeney tallied one goal in 2 games and the Little Bruins lost in the quarterfinals. Sweeney begins his senior season with Lawrence Academy on November 30th.

~ 2019 or '20 commit Will Margel and the Selects Academy/Central Connecticut 18U team competed in the New England District 18U Tier I Tournament last weekend. The Selects Academy lost to Yale 18U in the Championship Game. Margel scored 3 goals and added 3 assists in the 5 games.

Monday, November 12, 2018

UNH Commit Liam Devlin: A Smooth-Handed, Cerebral Playmaker

Liam Devlin
2021 UNH Commit
"Liam Devlin is a crafty distributor who both sees the ice well and is able to kick start the St. Sebastian offense with possession. Strong on the puck but great at closing down space on the forecheck. Should pair well with the other strikers coming onboard for UNH." Mark Bilotta, Neutral Zone
Liam Devlin Forward, 5'11", 180 lbs. Shoots Left
Hometown: Needham, Massachusetts
DOB: 1-7-2001 Turned 17 in January
2017 National Collegiate Development Conference Draft: South Shore Kings
Neutral Zone Rating: 3.75 out of 5 Stars
Current Teams: St. Sebastian's School & Boston Jr. Eagles U18
                       ~ Winger
Commits to UNH: September, 2018 at Age 17 years, 8 months.

Interview

I had an opportunity to interview Liam Devlin, via email, about his hockey career and commitment to UNH:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on your commitment to play for the University of New Hampshire. What are the main reasons you chose UNH?

Liam Devlin: The reasons that I chose UNH are because of the coaching staff, the great hockey tradition, the beautiful campus and the interest the coaches showed in me as a hockey player. When I visited UNH, I was more than impressed with Coach Souza and Coach Giuliano’s tour.
Along with falling in love with all that the campus and hockey program had to offer, as a family, we felt that the coaches really believed in me as a player and as a person. I knew they were going to help me get to the next level in hockey, and I wanted to be part of their team so that I could make an impact. Also, the rink and all of the facilities exceeded our expectations.

Mike Lowry: What other college programs were you considering? Which schools did you visit and which ones made an offer to you?

Liam Devlin: During my recruiting process, in addition to UNH, I visited an Ivy, two AHA conference schools and another Hockey East college, all which extended offers to me.

Lowry: Have you and the UNH coaches agreed on a target date for you to enroll as a freshman at UNH and join the team?

Devlin: When I visited UNH’s campus, Coach Souza said that I should go ahead and graduate from St. Sebastian’s, and then following my senior year, I would play one year of juniors before coming in to UNH as a freshman.

Lowry: At this stage in your hockey development, what are the strengths of your game? What areas are you trying to improve?

Devlin: I’d say that the main strengths of my game are my ability to move the puck, creating offense, being able to shoot and pose a scoring threat at all times in the offensive zone, and making the players around me better.
I think that the main areas of my game that need improvement are making plays on the wall in the defensive zone, along with defensive zone coverage. Also, even though I have been putting in work in the weight room, there is always room to get bigger and stronger.

Lowry: Over the last three summers, you participated in the USA Hockey Selects Player Development Camps. How do you think your skills compare with the other top US forwards born in 2001? In which skill area have you shown the most improvement?

Devlin: Throughout the USA Hockey camps, I have always believed that my skills are comparable to other top end 2001 players. We have all either played together or against each other over the years, and I always have been a strong competitor. As the years have gone by and I keep developing, any gap that separated me from the top named players has become much smaller.
The area of my game that has improved the most has been my strength on the puck. Earlier in the USA Hockey camps, I may not have been as strong, and it was easier to be knocked off the puck. But with more work in the gym and attention to my diet, I have been able to add strength to my game, and it is harder for defenders to take the puck away from me.

Lowry: Perhaps the biggest highlight of your youth hockey career came in a semifinal game at the 2016 USA Hockey U14 Tier I National Championship. The Boston Junior Eagles advanced to the Championship game thanks to your overtime goal against the Little Caesars team. Would you describe what that goal and the entire tournament experience was like? (Video Credit: Adam Harrington)



Devlin: I’ve been asked the question about what is the most memorable hockey experience before. Every time, I refer back to scoring the OT winner vs Little Caesars in the 2016 USA Hockey Nationals semifinal game in Anchorage, Alaska. That was the most exciting tournament that I have ever been a part of because I was on a team with a bunch of my best friends, who I still consider my best friends to this day.
During that tournament, we were considered the underdogs, and almost every critic didn’t even have us advancing out of our bracket. It felt great to prove the doubters wrong and make it all the way to the championship, even though we didn’t win the whole thing. The experience I had in Anchorage will always remain with me and last for a lifetime.

Lowry: You're currently playing for the Boston Jr. Eagles U18 Elite team for the fall season as you prepare for your junior season with the St. Sebastian's School in the New England Prep School Ice Hockey Association. You were drafted by the South Shore Kings of the National Collegiate Development Conference in January, 2017. Did you consider playing junior hockey this season? What factors lead to your decision to return to play for St. Seb's?

Devlin: I have always said that unless hockey determines that I should leave St. Sebastian's, I will graduate from there. I believe that we will be one of, if not the best teams in prep hockey, and I’m really looking forward to the upcoming season.
With almost all of our main guys returning besides the seniors we graduated, the two who left to play juniors and our starting goalie who went to the National Team Development Program, I am confident that we have what it takes to win the majority of our games and make it to the end of the season tournament.

Lowry: Do you plan to play in either the United States Hockey League, British Columbia Hockey League, or North American Hockey League before you come to UNH?

Devlin: As of right now, I am not sure which league I would play in following my senior year. Coach Souza said whether it’s somewhere in Canada or the USHL, whatever is the best fit, he will help me make that decision.

Lowry: When do you plan to graduate from high school? What are your academic strengths and interests? Have you thought about what you might major in when you enroll at UNH?

Devlin: I plan to graduate from high school in 2020. My academic strengths are math and science. Right now, I am leaning toward majoring in business or finance.

Neutral Zone Scouting Reports

From 2017 Beantown Classic
"Liam has slick hands and excellent edges. He can control the puck and change directions quickly and that made him tough to defend. When he finds space, watch out. He was direct and creative in transition where he got to full speed quickly. He scored a goal on a 2v1 where he caught a pass from Colangelo, held and dragged it to his backhand and scored. He has soft, slick or fast hands depending on the situation and can use them at top speed. He made spin moves on the rush, used his backhand to distribute, possessed the puck and was around a lot of positive plays. Play without the puck and in his end was just above average but that will be more important once prep hockey starts. Here, he showed off his skills and skating and we liked what we saw."

From the 2018 USA Hockey Select 17 National Development Camp
"Devlin is a much improved and more complete player this year than his past two national camps as a 15 and 16-year-old. He’s a gifted puck carrier and likes to play with poise and possession; but he’s stronger on his skates, he’s hard to separate from the puck and he’s got a more potent shot. He’s a heads up shooter who looks where he wants to score and has real power behind his wrist shot and snap shot. He passes the puck firmly and on tape and was able to trick defenders in the corners and in tight areas with quick juke moves and clever stick skill. His lone goal on the week happened from driving the net hard which was missing from his game a year ago. A smooth handed cerebral playmaker with added strength and confidence. He’ll return to St. Sebastian’s next season and be one of the top uncommitted forwards in prep hockey."

Youth Hockey & Prep School Statistics

Player Season Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
Liam Devlin  (F) 2018-19 St. Sebastian's School NE Prep - - - - -
Boston Jr. Eagles EHF Selects 11 3 5 8 8
18U Regionals 3 3 0 3 -
2017-18 St. Sebastian's School NE Prep 28 9 17 26 -
Playoffs 2 1 0 1 -
Boston Little Bruins MA Selects U18 7 2 1 3 -
USA Selects 17 5 1 2 3 2
2016-17 St. Sebastian's School NE Prep 27 4 11 15 -
Playoffs 2 0 1 1 -
USA Selects 16 5 1 1 2 -
2015-16 Boston Jr. Eagles 14U Nationals 5 1 2 3 4
All-American World Selects U15 Inv 5 2 4 6 0
USA Selects 15 3 0 1 1 0

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Jackson Pierson, UNH True Freshman, Hockey East Rookie of the Week

Jackson Pierson - Hockey East Rookie of the Week
(Photo Credit: Mike Nothnagel)
"(Pierson has been) able to play center in college and to do so seamlessly." Mike Souza, UNH Head Coach, October 24th Press Conference
(Photo Credit: Mike Nothnagel)
When I first saw Jackson Pierson play hockey, he had recently turned 18 years old, was a senior at Culver Military Academy (Indiana), and was competing against kids his own age and younger. That was less than 10 months ago at the 2017 Edward G. Watkins Invitational Tournament at Cushing Academy. Yesterday, Pierson was named Hockey East Rookie of the Week. Needless to say, his transition from high school hockey player to freshman NCAA center has been impressive.

Rapid Progress at Culver Military Academy

Jackson Pierson verbally committed to UNH in Spring, 2017. He was 17 years old and had just completed his junior year season with the Culver Military Academy Eagles Prep team. Culver ended up ranked as the #5 18U Tier 1 team in the nation and Pierson lead the team in scoring with 28 goals and 34 assists in 36 games. Based on his age, size (5'10", 170 lbs.), level of competition (major midget teams), and Neutral Zone rating (3 and 3/4 Stars out of 5), I projected that he would enroll at UNH in the Fall of 2019 or '20. Boy, was I wrong.

Pierson signed a National Letter of Intent with UNH last November during the early signing period. That signaled that the UNH coaches were considering Pierson's matriculation in the Fall of 2019 and possibly 2018. Here are a few video clips of Pierson's play at the 2017 Watkin's Prep Holiday Tournament at Cushing Academy near the end of December, 2017:



Pierson's quickness, anticipation in the offensive zone, and moves to the net were impressive. He was named the Most Valuable Player and Culver won the Watkins/Cushing tournament. In addition, the Culver Prep team became the top ranked U18 Tier 1 team in the United States.

In early March, 2018, Culver Academy won the USA Hockey Mid-American Regional Tournament. Pierson tallied 4 goals and 3 assists in 4 games and upped his season totals to 24 goals and 50 assists in 39 games. A few days later, Mike Souza was officially introduced as the new Head Coach of the UNH Men's Hockey Team. In the press conference at the end of the proceedings, Souza announced that Jackson Pierson would enroll at UNH this Fall.

UNH Hockey Preseason Media Day

I had an opportunity to interview Jackson Pierson at the UNH Media Day on October 3rd. The team had been participating in "Captain's practices" for a few weeks with occasional input from the UNH coaches (per NCAA rules). I asked Jackson about his first structured interactions with older, mostly bigger NCAA hockey players.

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Now that you've had a few weeks of practice with the team, how does your game shape up compared to the upperclassmen? Are there any things that surprised you in terms of how well you're doing? Are there areas where you say this is an area I need to work on?

Jackson Pierson: The game's a lot faster so I'm getting used to the pace. Then there are the little things that you do, you need to bring every day. You have to be more consistent.

Mike Lowry: Coach Souza has talked about the speed of this team with a lot of speed up front and speed on the back end, and focusing on the transition. That's a strong part of your game. Do you think that's going to be an enjoyable aspect of playing at UNH?

Jackson Pierson: It's fun to play fast. It's the reason I came here. Playing fast, moving the puck a lot, that's what I'm looking to do.

First 4 Games on the Road

The 2018-19 UNH Wildcats faced the challenge of playing the first 2 games of the season at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY and the next 2 at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. In the opening game against Colgate, Jackson Pierson scored UNH's first goal of the season on his first official shot in his first NCAA game. It came on a UNH power play in the second period. As the Colgate play-by-play announcer said in this highlight video, Pierson is a "dynamic offensive player":



UNH lost 3 out of 4 games on the road, each by one goal, and tied Colorado 3-3 in the third game. Pierson played center on a line with sophomore Charlie Kelleher on right wing. Sophomore Kohei Sato played on the left wing in the first Colgate game while fellow freshman Angus Crookshank was on left wing in the other three games. Pierson's line was UNH's second in 2 games and the 3rd in the other 2 games. He also played meaningful minutes on UNH's power play.

Pierson notched his first NCAA assist on a nifty backhand pass to Ara Nazarian on a UNH power play in the first period of the 3-4 loss to Colorado College. Overall, he registered 8 shots on goal on the road and compiled a +3 plus/minus statistic.

At the midweek press conference following the Colorado College games, Coach Souza singled out Jackson Pierson's performance:
"We've been very impressed, in the early going, with Jackson Pierson. Being a freshman and a kid right out of high school and to be able to play center in college and to do so seamlessly. Both he and Marcus Vela have done a nice job for us in the middle of the ice."
Win Over Vermont & Hockey East Rookie of the Week

UNH earned it's first win of the season in the home-opener against the University of Vermont last Saturday. Trailing 0-2, the Wildcats scored 2 goals in the third period and won on a Benton Maass goal in overtime. Jackson Pierson scored UNH's first goal immediately after a power play had ended. He slid between the Vermont defenders into the low slot and banged home a centering pass from sophomore Patrick Grasso.

Pierson initiated the overtime, game-winning play by gathering a loose puck on the half-wall in the Vermont zone. He dumped a pass to Kelleher then headed toward the net. Charlie threaded a perfect, cross-ice pass to Benton Maass who sent it home. These video highlights of Jackson Pierson show this exciting goal as well as his goal against Colgate and his two assists.



Hockey East Rookie of the Week Jackson Pierson, and the rest of the UNH Wildcats, return to action this Saturday night at the Whittemore Center against the University of Massachusetts.

Friday, October 26, 2018

UNH Commits Update 10-26-18: Spotlight on Stützle, Margel & Stevenson

Tim Stützle
2020 UNH Commit
Will Margel
2019 or '20 UNH Commit
Chase Stevenson
2019 UNH Commit


This is the first "UNH Commits Update" of the 2018-19 season - a series which began in October, 2011. In that first update, I highlighted Andrew Poturalski and provided the scoring statistics for all the players committed to play for UNH. At the time, Poturalski was 17 years old and playing for the Buffalo Junior Sabres in the Ontario Junior Hockey League. He went on to play two seasons with UNH and was a Hobey Baker Finalist as a sophomore. Poturalski then signed a free agent contract with the Carolina Hurricanes organization. To date, he has played two games in the NHL and has scored 116 points in 173 games with the AHL Charlotte Checkers. Is there another Andrew Poturalski caliber player in the current crop of UNH commits? Stay tuned.

Player Spotlight - Tim Stützle

Last season, Tim Stützle was the fifth leading scorer in the regular season of the Under 19 German Development League (DNL). As a 15/16-year-old forward, he tallied 18 goals and 29 assists for the Mannheim Young Eagles (Jungadler Mannheim U19) in 25 games and 4 goals and 4 assists in 5 playoff games.

Early in the 2018-19 season, Stützle has picked up right where he left off. Over the first 14 games of the DNL U20 season, he has scored 12 goals and 22 assists and is the league's leading scorer.

This highlight video shows Stützle's 7th and 8th goals of the season - he is #8 in the Young Eagles' white jersey. In the first clip, he steals the puck behind the opponent's net, carries it through the neutral zone and passes. He then steals the puck again in the offensive zone, wheels down the slot, and wrists it between the goalie's pads. The final clip shows Stützle get tripped up in the neutral zone, then receive the puck in the offensive zone. After setting up his teammate for a shot on goal, another teammate centers a pass to him in the low slot, and he buries it:



Player Spotlight - Will Margel

Earlier this week, I posted this profile of UNH's newest commit Will Margel. Over the weekend, Margel and the Selects Hockey Academy at South Kent School U18 team competed in the playoffs of the Beast Tournament Series. The competition featured some of the top midget hockey programs on the East Coast.

Selects Academy began the playoffs as the 10th-ranked U18 team in the nation. In the opening round, Selects Academy U18 downed the 4th-ranked Yale Bulldogs U18 4-3 in OT. In the semis, Margel scored 2 goals, including the game-winner as SAU18 beat the Neponset Valley River Rats U18 (#3 National Rank) 6-1. Margel capped off the playoffs with another game-winning goal in the 3-1 win over the Springfield Rifles U18 (11th-ranked) in the finals. Margel lead the Beast Playoffs in goal-scoring (3) and finished tied for 2nd in scoring (3). On the strength of the Beast Series Championship, the Selects Academy at the South Kent School U18 team moved up to the #8 team in the country.

In the overall Beast Tournament Series, Will Margel totaled 9 goals and 5 assists in 10 games. Although he played in 2 or 3 fewer games than many of the other players, he finished as the second-leading goal-scorer and the leading scorer. Overall, Margel has scored 17 goals and 13 assists in 26 games with the Selects Academy U18 team. He is the team's leading goal-scorer and scorer.

Player Spotlight - Chase Stevenson

2019 UNH Commit Chase Stevenson is off to a fast start in his third season in the British Columbia Hockey League. The 19-year-old, 5'11", 170 lbs., left-shot forward has scored 8 goals and 9 assists over the Surrey Eagles' first 19 games. He leads the team in goal-scoring and is tied for 6th in the BCHL. Last season, Stevenson tallied 12 goals and 11 assists in 40 games. He missed games in December and January due to a lower body injury suffered at the World Junior A Challenge selection camp.

As the Alternate Captain of the Eagles, Stevenson has been playing center and left wing. He is the center for their first power play unit. Last Sunday, Stevenson earned the #1 Star in a 5-4 overtime victory over the Victoria Grizzlies on the strength of 2 goals and 3 assists. He set up the game-tying goal late in the third period. These video highlights show both goals and the key assist:

2018-19 Statistics

NOTE
The statistics for the commits, presented in the following table, are categorized by the projected year they will enroll in UNH. For example, the "2019 Commits" are projected to begin playing for UNH in the Fall of 2019. I have based these projections on a number of factors including:
~ If a National Letter of Intent has been signed.
~ The year the commit and UNH coaches originally targeted for enrollment in UNH.
~ How old the commit would be upon admission.
~ Number of years in junior hockey prior to admission.
~ The commit's performance in recent seasons as well as injuries.
~ Anticipated date of high school graduation.
~ Number of UNH players leaving the team at the end of the previous season and the position they played.

Player Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
2019 Commits
Lucas Bahn 9/11/99 (D) West Kelowna Warriors BCHL 16 0 6 6 2
Nolan McElhaney 4/22/99 (D) Omaha Lancers USHL 5 0 0 0 2
Chase Stevenson 1/13/99 (F) Surrey Eagles BCHL 18 8 9 17 31
2019 or '20 Commits
Will Margel 3/16/01 (F) Selects Academy 18U Overall 26 17 13 30 12
USPHL 18U - - - - -
BEAST Series 10 9 5 14 8
Connor Sweeney 5/5/00 (F) Lawrence Academy NE Prep - - - - -
Islanders Hockey Club NCDC 1 2 0 2 0
Marek Wazny 2/21/00 (F) Maryland Black Bears NAHL 14 1 7 8 6
2020 Commits
Aidan Curran 1/22/01 (F) NH Jr Monarchs NCDC 14 2 10 12 12
Liam Devlin 1/7/01 (F) St. Sebastian's NE Prep - - - - -
Boston Jr. Eagles EHF Selects 10 3 5 8 8
Zack Jones 3/31/01 (F) Boston Bandits NCDC 14 2 7 9 4
Tim Stützle 1/15/02 (F) Mannheim Young Eagles DNL U20 14 12 22 34 24
Team Germany U17 Intnl - - - - -
2021 or '22 Commits
David Sacco 1/3/02 (F) Lawrence Academy NE Prep - - - - -
* = Signed National Letter of Intent

News & Notes

United States Hockey League:

~ 2019 Commit Nolan McElhaney experienced a lower body injury in the Omaha Lancers' game against the Fargo Force on October 12th. He was placed on the injured reserve list and is out of the lineup indefinitely.

New England Prep School Hockey:

~ Three UNH Commits are planning to play New England Prep School hockey this season. Connor Sweeney and David Sacco are at Lawrence Academy and Liam Devlin is at St. Sebastion's School. Their season begins in late November.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

UNH Commit Will Margel: A Speedy, Creative Forward

Will Margel
2019 or '20 UNH Commit
"A skilled, slippery, puck possession forward with speed, creativity, slick hands and a quick release." Neutral Zone
“Average size yet plays speedy, high pace game with offensive thoughts, and good hands." Russ Bitely, HockeyProspects.com
Will Margel Forward, 5'9", 170 lbs. Shoots Left
Hometown: Potomac, Maryland
DOB: 3-16-2001 Turned 17 in March
2017 United States Hockey League Draft: 10th Round, 131st Overall by Sioux Falls Stampede
2017 National Collegiate Development Conference Draft: 6th Overall by Islanders Hockey Club
Neutral Zone Rating: 3.75 out of 5 Stars
Current Team: Selects Academy South Kent School
                       ~ Center & Left Wing
Commits to UNH: October, 2018 at Age 17 years, 7 months.

2018 Highlight Reel

Interview

I had an opportunity to interview Will Margel, via email, about his hockey career and commitment to UNH:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on your commitment to play for the University of New Hampshire. What are the main reasons you chose UNH?

Will Margel: First off Hockey East made it a no brainer, it’s the best league in college hockey. Coach Souza, Coach Stewart, and Coach Giuliano were all great. They have many years of experience from college all the way up to the NHL and they know what it takes to get to the NHL.
The rink, Whittemore Center is unbelievable. I was wowed by pictures of it, but seeing it first hand when I visited was surreal. I love playing in front of many people and the atmosphere at games there is second to none and can’t wait to be a part of it. They’re a program with a very rich tradition and are determined to move players on to the NHL and that’s my goal.

Mike Lowry: What other college programs were you considering? Which schools did you visit and which ones made an offer to you?

Will Margel: I visited about half of the Hockey East schools along with a couple ECAC and NCHC schools. At the end of the day, the moment I stepped foot on campus at the University of New Hampshire I knew it was the perfect place for me. The conversations with all three coaches cemented it. They're very direct with their approach, and Coach Souza laid out a plan for success for both the student and athlete sides of the coin.

Lowry: Have you and the UNH coaches agreed on a target date for you to enroll as a freshman at UNH and join the team?

Margel: They left it up to me, and I would love to come in as a true Freshman. It’s been a dream of mine to play college hockey, and to be able to have the opportunity to do it at as a true Freshman would be breathtaking.
Although they left it up to me, it’s also a group decision in order to find the right time. I don’t want to rush things, and it's the same thing for them, because UNH is looking to win games every weekend, and whenever they see me being able to contribute every night is when I will make the jump to the next step.

Lowry: At this stage in your hockey development, what are the strengths of your game? What areas are you trying to improve?

Margel: My speed, hockey IQ, and shot release are definitely my top three traits. I like to use my speed all over the ice, and with how the game is changing now, skating is such an important aspect and to be one step ahead of everyone else gives me a greater advantage.
I think my hockey IQ is very strong. I feel I see the game in a way where I am able to anticipate where the puck is going and how the play is going to unfold before it actually does.
I have a really fast shot release off my stick. Not being 6 feet and 200 pounds, it was always something I wanted to work on. With goalies being so good these days, quickness and power are very important, and I specifically work on those things in the gym and on the ice to get better at it everyday. Whether it's my one-time or my snapshot, I just don't think I'm ever satisfied. I feel like I always have room to improve.

Lowry: Over the last three summers, you participated in the USA Hockey Selects Player Development Camps. How do you think your skills compare with the other top US forwards born in 2001? In which skill area have you shown the most improvement?

Margel: I know that at each camp I got better and better. It’s good to see what one improves at year after year, and also what you can add to your game. Being able to go to the National Festival three years in a row provided me a good measuring stick by comparing myself to others and where they had improved. When I’m at the top of my game, I know I’m an impact player every time I step on the ice. I know that I can compete with anyone.
The two biggest area of improvement I’ve made are my speed and strength. Growing up and playing up with older kids meant that I was smaller, so speed and quickness have always been my biggest strengths. Every summer and throughout each season, I'm always focused on getting a quicker first step and more powerful strides. With speed comes power, and that’s where I specifically excelled over the past two summers.
I've also put a big focus on my off-ice strength and conditioning My strength off-ice has directly translated over to my game on the ice. I have been very fortunate that South Kent has a direct partnership with Ben Prentiss of Prentiss Performance, and his trainers to come up to the school every week and work with our hockey teams. They have a general strength and conditioning program, but they also truly understand what I personally need based on my playing style and size in order to be the best player I can be.

Lowry: You are from Potomac, Maryland and you played pee wee and bantam hockey for Team Maryland based in Bethesda. When did you start playing hockey and who was a major influence during your early development?

Margel: I started skating at the age of 2. The biggest influence on me growing up would be Rob Keegan. He is the Head Director of Montgomery Blue Devils. He is the one that really helped shape me into the player I am today. He was my first coach and even up to this day I still do power skating and skills sessions with him.

Lowry: Since the age of 14, you have pursued your education at the South Kent School in Connecticut and have been a top scorer for the Selects Academy 15U, 16U, and 18U teams. Would you describe a couple of your most memorable on-ice experiences?

Margel: South Kent has been so great for me. The hockey here is like you have never seen before. There's a true partnership between the school and Selects Academy (the hockey program), and I think it's been the perfect 4 year lesson to help me get prepared to play Division 1 College hockey.
The first time I put on the Selects Academy jersey was a moment I will ever forget. There was also the Cancer Awareness fundraising game vs NJ Avalanche last year. That was a special night for everyone. It seems that cancer impacts everyone one way or another, whether you're suffering yourself, or a loved one or friend has it. It made me feel great to be able to give my commemorative jersey to my aunt who is a breast cancer survivor.

Lowry: In May, 2017 you were drafted by the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League (USHL) and the Islanders Hockey Club of the National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC). Do you plan to play in either the USHL, NCDC, British Columbia Hockey League, or North American Hockey League before you come to UNH? Do you have a preference?

Margel: Being drafted was a great moment for me. It was the first real eye opener in my hockey career that I was being recognized as being one of the top players in my age group.
Everyone has their own thoughts on each league, but when the time comes, the coaches, my parents and I will discuss what league will be best for me, if Junior Hockey is the route I take.

Lowry: When do you plan to graduate from high school? What are your academic strengths and interests? Have you thought about what you might major in when you enroll at UNH?

Margel: I will be graduating in the spring of 2019. I want to study Kinesiology at UNH. I know some of that can help with off-ice and add that to my training.

Neutral Zone Scouting Reports

From the 2017 U15 USA Tier 1 Nationals
"We thought Will was perhaps the most interesting player here. He is fast, smart, involved and explosive. He stole a puck at his blue line and took off up ice for a pretty backhand score. He put rebounds home as he used leverage and his body to find space. He passed to linemates in positions to succeed, he made them better. He had some stretches of inconsistency but overall he looked engaged, athletic and balanced."

From the 2018 USA Hockey Select 17 National Development Camp
"Margel came to camp this year after a breakout season with Selects Academy where he notched 31 goals and 37 assists in just 45 games. He’s small but clever and plays a skilled, puck possession style. His hands are slippery, he’s creative and thinks the game with pace. He made a lot of plays off the rush and in the transition game with his speed and vision and his passing ability and ease with the saucer pass made him a threat anytime he entered the zone with possession.
He scored a beautiful quick release snipe top corner when he picked off a pass in the neutral zone and took it in all alone for the go-ahead goal. He has a deceptively hard shot and quick release and is able to create time and space for himself with his quickness, agility and hockey sense. More than his crafty playmaking ability is his detailed approach; one goal his team scored was off a 3v2 where he drove the far post with speed splitting the defender which opened up space for his teammates and created a 2v1 of which they scored upon. That kind of heads up play away from the puck is what makes Margel a D1 prospect and led to his impressive 2-3-5 line in 5 games here. Margel will return to Selects Academy next season to play for the defending U18 Champion squad."

Youth Hockey & Prep School Statistics

Player Season Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
Will Margel  (F) 2018-19 Selects Academy 18U Overall 26 17 13 30 12
USPHL 18U - - - - -
BEAST Series 10 9 5 14 8
2017-18 Selects Academy 16U Overall 47 31 34 65 -
USPHL 16U 5 4 1 5 8
Playoffs 4 1 1 2 2
16U Nationals 4 1 5 6 2
USA Selects 17 5 2 3 5 2
2016-17 Selects Academy 15U Overall 51 46 49 95 -
15U Nationals 4 2 3 5 0
USA Selects 16 5 0 2 2 0
2015-16 Selects Academy 15U Overall - - - - -
USA Selects 15 3 0 1 1 0
East Coast Selects World Selects Inv 8 1 4 5 0
2014-15 Team Maryland Bantam Minor AYHL 37 28 26 54 -
East Coast Selects World Selects Inv 9 2 1 3 0

Friday, October 12, 2018

UNH Freshman Eric Esposito: A Hard-Nose, Tenacious Player

Eric Esposito
UNH Forward #12
"Eric is a hard-nose tenacious player who had a great season last year in the USHL. As team captain he led the Youngstown Phantoms to the USHL finals." Mike Souza, UNH Head Coach
"A tough, hard nosed competitor." Neutral Zone
Eric Esposito UNH Jersey #12
Forward, 5'11", 183 lbs. Shoots Right
Hometown: West Haven, Connecticut
DOB: 8-24-1998 Turned 20 in August
Neutral Zone Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Last Team: Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
                  ~ Captain; 1st & 2nd Line Left Wing
Commits to UNH: July, 2014 at Age 15 years, 11 months
"Meet Eric Esposito: UNH's Newest Recruit"

2017-18 Highlight Reel



Scouting Report
"A tough, hard nosed competitor who is relentless on the forecheck, finishes checks and has deceptive speed. The former Loomis Chaffee star has played a bottom six role in the USHL this season (2016-17) but done so with grit and energy. He'll likely be passed in this years NHL draft but our scouts are confident his best hockey is ahead of him." Neutral Zone
Junior Hockey Statistics

Player Season Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
Eric Esposito  (F) 2017-18 Youngstown Phantoms USHL 60 23 10 33 109
Playoffs 11 4 5 9 10
2016-17 Youngstown Phantoms USHL 52 9 7 16 123
Playoffs 5 0 0 0 0
2015-16 Youngstown Phantoms USHL 48 2 8 10 36
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