U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) Under-18 team Head Coach Ron Rolston has received nice dividends early this season from his squad that returns the nucleus of the group that he coached with last season’s Under-17 USNTDP team.
The Ann Arbor, Michigan, based program has already beaten the University of Alaska this fall and has fallen just short of the same result against perennial NCAA powers Boston College and the University of Michigan, losing to both the Eagles and the Wolverines in overtime.
Coach Rolston sat down with Hockey’s Future to discuss several of the team’s prime prospects for the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
Ian Cole, D
This big Ann Arbor native was snatched away from his hometown University of Michigan Wolverines by Notre Dame University head coach Jeff Jackson, due mostly to Jackson’s relationship with the Cole family from the years he spent in Ann Arbor coaching with the USNTDP program.
A stay-at-home defender, the 6’1, 211-pound left shot tallied four goals among his 16 points for the Under-17 team last season to go along with 103 penalty minutes over 70 games.
Rolston comments: “Ian’s a big, strong kid who plays with a physical presence. He’s solid defensively and keeps the game simple. Ian has a great work ethic and is able to dominate opponents physically.”
Colby Cohen, Dh4>
A native of Villanova, Pennsylvania, the 6’3, 193-pound right-shooting defenseman notched 8 goals, 13 assists and 56 penalty minutes in his 65 games with the Under-17 team last season. Cohen has committed to play college hockey with Boston University.
Rolston comments: “Colby plays at a very high skill level. He’s got a very good shot, especially his one-timer. He has very good vision of the ice, but needs to work on his decision-making in games.”
Sought by nearly every NCAA program, the Boston University-bound Shattenkirk is a solid performer in both offensive and defensive zones. The 6’1, 190-pound, right-shooting New Rochelle, New York, native chipped in 13 goals and 21 assists for the Under-17 team last season from his spot on the blue line.
Rolston comments: “A team leader and captain, Kevin is an elite player on offense with very good tools on that end of the ice. He has an extremely good shot and makes good offensive reads. His defensive game is also strong.”
Teddy Ruth, D
Slated to join current teammate Cole at Notre Dame, the 6’1, 200-pound right-shooting native of Naperville, Illinois will give Fighting Irish coach Jackson a high quality incoming tandem on the blue line with skills that complement each other nearly perfectly. Ruth posted three goals, eight assists for the Under-17 team last season in 66 games.
Rolston comments: “Teddy is a competitor and a leader. You get the same product from him every night. He puts it all on the line consistently and possesses a lot of character and grit to go with his high skill level.”
Joseph Lavin, D
Providence College will reap the benefit from this 6’1, 195-pound, left-shooting defenseman’s experience with the national squad. The Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, native posted an identical 13 goals and 13 assists for the Under-17 team last season in 68 contests.
Rolston comments: “Lavin has improved greatly this season. He skates, shoots and moves the puck well. He’s a good defender, but he skates so well that sometimes he puts himself out of position because of that ability.”
Matt Rust, C
The Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, native’s size belies his tenacity. A left shot, the 5’10, 188-pound pivot scored 16 goals and added 13 assists for the Under-17 team last season will serving on both the penalty kill and power play. He is committed to the University of Michigan.
Rolston comments: “Matt has put together a real strong start to this season for us. He brings high energy to the team on a daily, consistent basis. He has good speed, is good on faceoffs and plays a solid two-way game. Matt still has to improve his finish to the net, but continues to get himself into position to score.”
A prototypical power forward with a good scoring touch, the left shooting 6’3, 198-pound native of Middletown, New Jersey, is considered a very high prospect for next summer’s NHL draft. Committed to the University of New Hampshire, he put up a 26 goals, 16 assists for the Under-17 team last season in 55 games.
Rolston comments: “James is a talent. He’s got great strength and will be an elite level forward. He skates well and already shoots like a pro. He’s improved his consistency level, has great makeup and is a hard worker to complement the high skill level.”
Justin Vaive, LW
Both the pedigree and the size are already in place with Vaive, the son of former NHL forward Rick Vaive. The left-shooting native of Buffalo, New York, is slated to move on to Miami University next season. Already 6’5, 205 pounds, Vaive scored eight goals and added 14 assists in 42 games with the Under-17 team last season.
Rolston comments: “Justin has to make room driving to the net to be successful. He’s still adding strength to his frame and coordination to go with his size. He plays very physically and has a lot of upside.”
Mike Hoeffel, C
The left-shooting native of North Oaks, Minnesota, is committed to play for his home state Minnesota Gophers. At 6’3, 183 pounds, Hoeffel has good size for a center and solid skills to go along with that size. He played high school hockey last season before moving on to the USNTDP this year.
Rolston comments: “Mike has good speed, good size and is a great kid. He has the skill level to compete at the higher levels of the game. He’s still adapting to the change from playing high school players last season to college players this season.”
Ryan Hayes, F
A natural right-shooting center, Hayes has played both center and right wing for the USNTDP team this season. Highly skilled with good quickness, the native of Syracuse, New York, is a tenacious forechecker and battler. At 5’9, 170 pounds, he mostly likely will return be positioned at center when he moves on to Boston College next season. Hayes had a team-leading 31 goals for the Under-17 team last season along with a feisty 90 minutes in penalties. He moved up to the Under-18 team also last campaign, putting up four goals in the 12 games he played at the higher level.
Rolston comments: “Ryan is a pure goal scorer, has a great release and creates a lot of offense. He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time on offense and is good at slipping in behind the opposing defense.”
Brad Phillips, G
Phillips will join Cole and Ruth at Notre Dame. The slender 6’2, 160-pound netminder, a native of Farmington Hills, Michigan, had a 2.39 goals against average and a 92.2 save percentage in 38 games with the Under-17 team last season.
Rolston comments: “Brad is gifted physically and athletically. He has great height and will have to work hard off the ice to help fill out his frame. He needs to continue to work on improving his consistency.”
Two other players excelling for the USNTDP team who won’t be eligible for the NHL draft until 2008 because of their late birthdates are worth noting – forwards Jimmy Hayes and Colin Wilson.
Of the 6’4, 201-pound, future Boston College Eagle Hayes, Rolston said, “If he keeps improving at the rate he’s going, he’ll be a very high pick in two years. He’s a top-level talent with good instincts and good reach. He has both the size and the ability to make room for himself on the ice. Above all, he’s just a great kid. He still even thanks the coaches for the on-ice instruction he receives.”
Of Boston University-bound 6’1, 205-pound Wilson, Rolston said, “He’s just a warrior. He’s very strong and takes great pride in his off-ice conditioning program. He’s got good size and positions himself effectively on offense.”
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