December 17, 2010

NEHJ's Prep Top 10 plus team capsules

by Chris Carlson

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

NEHJ’s Prep Top 10

1. Avon Old Farms — Last season might have been the year to beat the Winged Beavers, and they still won the New England championship. This season, they’re loaded again with a region-high five players on the NHL Central Scouting watch list.

2. Kent School — Won the Founders League title last season but fell to Avon in the playoffs when forced to use its second-string goaltender due to an ejection. There’s unfinished business here.

3. Cushing Academy — We love a team with a reliable backstop, and when that team also returns a bunch of leading scorers, that makes it even better.

4. Choate — Phillippe Hudon is getting older, so it’s time he turns all that talent to points. He has plenty of players around him as well.

5. Salisbury School — Putting together a modus operandi similar to Avon where, it doesn’t matter how much comes back, whatever does is super-skilled. This season is no exception.

6. Milton Academy — Every coach in New England likes how Pat McNally runs the show for Milton from the back. In prep school, his speed allows him to take over both ends.

7. Kimball Union — Any time a coach tells you he’s deeper than he’s been in four years — and especially when that team is coming off a small school tournament win — you have to listen.

8. Northfield Mount Hermon — Advanced to the finals of the New England championship against Avon last season and return the dangerous Cangelosi brothers.

9. Belmont Hill — Only thing keeping it from the top is the depth that the bigger prep schools can bring in each year. Belmont has top-shelf talent and only needs its checking lines to hold their own.

10. The Gunnery — Teams strong on the blue line can usually find a competent goaltender, and teams that score as much as Gunnery did last season have a good system in place. We’ll bet on a pair of defensemen that could be pros someday.

ALL CAPSULES COMPILED BY CHRIS CARLSON

FOUNDERS LEAGUE

Avon Old Farms School

Coach: John Gardner

2009-10 record: 18-7-4

Strengths: No surprise here — the defending champions have plenty of talent. Last season’s run to the title may have been a surprise, but it won’t be this season. Avon has five players listed by NHL Central Scouting as potential NHL draft picks, easily the most in the region, including three defensemen.

Weaknesses: Avon will have a say in the season’s finish, but it will have to have new players answer that call. Seniors were involved in all four goals in the 4-1 championship game win over Northfield Mount Herman, while goaltender Josh Dionne — who started all three playoff games — also graduated.

Players to watch: Mark Neclario (13-19-32), Greg Gozzo (10-21-31), Eric Neclario (1-7-8), Colin Sullivan (1-8-9), Mike Flynn (0-2-2)

Choate Rosemary Hall

Coach: Pat Dennehy

2009-10 record: 10-4-1

Strengths: Choate returns 16 seniors, eight of whom have played together for three seasons, and 16 players from last season. Four are already Division 1 commitments, including leading scorer Alex Hagan, who will attend St. Lawrence, and Danny Linell, who will go to Harvard.

Weaknesses: Choate’s two top goaltenders are gone, with sophomore Alex Joyce returning after playing just 21 minutes last year. Post-graduate Sal Magliocco will certainly see time as well. Forward Phillipe Hudon is loved by scouts and has all the skills, but Choate would certainly like to see a little more productivity.

Players to watch: Hudon (8-11-19), Hagan (19-22-41), Linell (15-16-31)

Deerfield Academy

Coach: Brendan Creagh 

2009-10 record: 12-13-2

Strengths: Two of Deerfield’s top four scorers return in Steven Victor and Alex Ward, meaning Deerfield has at least two players with double-digit scoring potential.

Weaknesses: Connor Riley, a senior goaltender last year, played all but 36 minutes between the pipes and Deerfield returns no one with any game experience.

Players to watch: Victor (13-10-23), Ward (10-9-19)

Hotchkiss School

Coach: Damon White

2009-10 record: 11-13-2

Strengths: Petr Placek, last season’s leading goal scorer, is a monster at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds. He’s one of just two New England players rated ‘A’ by NHL Central Scouting. Goalie Jay Williams played with the U.S. Under-18 Selects at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial over the summer.

Weaknesses: Placek might have to do a lot of the work himself. He’s the only one of the team’s top five scorers to return.

Players to watch: Placek (16-16-32), Williams (.890 save percentage)

Kent School

Coach: Matt Herr

2009-10 record: 21-5

Strengths: Last season’s Founders title was a surprise. Another run this season wouldn’t be. Kent brings back its top two scorers, Drew Brown, a Union College commit, and Noel Acciari. Defenseman Mike McKee and Logan Roe, both over 6-foot-4, lead a big bunch of defenseman.

Weaknesses: When two goaltenders both have a save percentage above .930, there’s a good chance there’s a solid defensive system in place. But both went on to play in college and three new faces are in front.

Players to watch: Brown (26-15-41), Acciari (18-20-38), Ryan Rosenthal (8-7-15), McKee (3-8-11), Roe (0-15-15)

Loomis Chaffee School

Coach: Bob Howe

2009-10 record: 3-22

Strengths: Senior goaltender Stephen Michalek, a Harvard commitment, helped the U.S. Under-18 Selects win a silver medal at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. He finished last year with a .936 save percentage and a 2.02 GAA and is on the NHL Central Scouting report’s A-list, one of three in New England.

Weaknesses: Loomis lags behind skill-wise almost everywhere else, so Michalek will have to stand on his head just to keep the team competitive.

Players to watch: Michalek, Dylan Pazulinek (2-9-11), Fred Pfund (1-6-7)

Salisbury School

Coach: Andrew Will

2009-10 record: 15-6-5

Strengths: Clarkson commit and starter Gabe Antoni will be back in the net for a team that allowed very few goals last season. The offense should be capable as well, with eight forwards returning that earned letters last season.

Weaknesses: The team graduated all but two of its defenseman, but Caito, who recently committed to Miami, will at least help bring the group up early on, as will newcomer Marc Biega, whose brothers went on to play for Harvard.

Players to watch: Caito (2-15-17), Antoni (.933 save pct.), Biega

Taft School

Coach: Dan Murphy

2009-10 record: 11-11-3

Strengths: Lost much of its talent from last season, but system-based team allowed three goaltenders to finish with save percentage of .900 or better. Low-scoring games likely to be team’s best bet.

Weaknesses: Departures leave the team without any player who scored more than 10 goals last season.

Players to watch: Matt Tetro (5-5-10), Alex Root (1-1-2).

Trinity Pawling School

Coach: Rob Hutchinson

2009-10 record: 10-16

Strengths: New coach Hutchinson takes over as the head coach on a senior-heavy team (at least seven seniors return) that is comfortable with the level of competition in the Founders. Trinity also brings back its top two goaltenders, with Alex Burdekin the save percentage leader and Zach Kizitaff the saves leader.

Weaknesses: Comfortable, however, should not be confused with overly successful, and Trinity-Pawling returns just two players who scored at least 10 goals last season and just three double-digit scorers.

Players to watch: Josh Roberts (7-15-22), Paul Falanga (11-6-17), Mike MacDonald (12-10-22), Ciccio Biundo (0-8-8)

Westminster School

Coach: Tim Joncas

2009-10 record: 10-4-2

Strengths: Good disciplined defensive system that limits the number of goals allowed two goaltenders to save more than 90 percent of the shots they faced last year. Patrick Spano, now a junior, was particularly good, at .944, the second-best of anyone with more than 450 minutes played in New England.

Weaknesses: Team will have to be as disciplined as ever. The top of the roster has been gutted. All six of the top scorers from last season were seniors, leaving no one with more than six goals returning.

Player to watch: Spano

NEW ENGLAND PREP SCHOOL HOCKEY CONFERENCE

EAST DIVISION

Cushing Academy

Coach: Rob Gagnon

2009-10 record: 22-7-2

Strengths: One of three teams with a top-notch backstop listed on the NHL Draft watch list in Chad Hardy, Cushing also returns five players that scored at least 20 points last season, led by Robbie Baillargeon, who is only a sophomore this season.

Weaknesses: Given the number of offensive weapons back it’s hard to pick one, but Cushing did lose its two players with the best knack for finding the back of the net. Cushing lost two 30-goal scorers and doesn’t bring back anyone who scored more than 15.

Players to watch: Hardy (.911 save percentage), Baillargeon (15-30-45), Jake Butler (15-11-26), Corey Scammon (5-24-29)

Holderness School

Coach: Alan Skelley

2009-10 record: 4-19-3

Strengths: Leading scorer Derek Pimental returns after an excellent season. Unfortunately, he’s the only one of Holderness’ top five in points that is back this year. New coach Alan Skelley is in after last year’s tough season.

Weaknesses: Colby Drost was so good playing in front of a bad team that he drew the attention of NHL scouts last season. Now, the security blanket is gone.

Players to watch: Pimentel (15-24-39)

Kimball Union Academy

Coach: Ryan Miller

2009-10 record: 24-8-2

Strengths: The defending small school tournament champions are deeper on the forward lines than they’ve been in any of the previous four years, with four of their top five scorers back, led by Yale commit Ryan Cole and Vermont commit Dennis Kravchenko

Weaknesses: Six of the team’s top eight defensemen are new to the program and will need to jell quickly to solidify that end.

Players to watch: Cole (16-11-21), Kravchenko (19-35-54), Peter LaFosse (29-20-49), Gabriel Veilleux (18-23-41), Pat Doherty (6-23-29)

Northfield Mount Hermon

Coach: Tom Pratt

2009-10 record: 22-9-2

Strengths: The Cangelosi brothers (Austin and JC) are going to make sure NMH scores plenty. Three of the top five scorers are back, along with five different players who had at least 30 points last season.

Weaknesses: Two new goaltenders and one returner will have plenty of help in the forward lines, but they’ll also be the assumed weak link and face pressure in every close game. They’ll only have three returning blueliners in front of them.

Players to watch: Austin Cangelosi (26-28-54), JC Cangelosi (18-30-48), Garrett MacMullen (19-19-38), Joe Birmingham (14-20-34)

Phillips Exeter Academy

Coach: Dana Barbin

2009-10 record: 17-11-1

Strengths: Eric Neiley is one of the team’s two captains and coming off a big 52-point effort. Nate Morgan has looked strong throughout the team’s preseason and more than capable of building off a campaign that earned him a captainship.

Weaknesses: The team graduates Max Fenkell, who leaves with the most wins, minutes and best save percentage of any goaltender the school has produced. He played all but 101 minutes last season. Newcomer Paul Roche is likely to take over.

Players to watch: Neiley (26-26-52), Morgan (6-8-14), Roche

Tabor Academy

Coach: Gerald Dineen

2009-10 record: 13-9-4

Strengths: Good disciplined defense helped three different goaltenders put up good numbers last year and should allow for a similar effort in its own end despite a number of key departures. Newcomer Brian Oulette, a defenseman, is on Central Scouting’s C-list and will guide that effort.

Weaknesses: Goaltender Robbie Kang soaked up the majority of that time, playing more than 1,300 minutes. He’s one of two goaltenders that graduated, leaving Tabor inexperienced in net.

Players to watch: Oulette, Tim Coffey (19-34-52)

Tilton School

Coach: Pat Norton

2009-10 record: 15-15-4

Strengths: William Flachsbinder, a goaltender from Sweden, proved capable of standing up to any barrage last year, finishing with a save percentage of .922 in more than 1,300 minutes. A defense that graduated two of its six-player rotation ought to keep the shots from a distance.

Weaknesses: The top five scorers graduated, leaving Tilton without a player with a prep season scoring more than five points.

Players to watch: Flachsbinder, Johney Parise-Cormier (2-9-11), Scott McMenimen (1-5-6)

NEW ENGLAND PREP SCHOOL HOCKEY CONFERENCE

WEST DIVISION

Albany Academy

Coach: Eric Cavosie

2009-10 record: 10-20-1

Strengths: Very young team that actually turned in a decent year last year. Captain Albee Daley is the team’s leading returning scorer, while four of the top six are all back. Conor Riley, the team’s top-scoring defenseman is the other captain.

Weaknesses: Should become more competitive and perhaps win a few more games, but there’s a difference between Albany and the truly top-shelf teams.

Players to watch: Delay (13-24-37), David Limoges (12-11-23), Riley (3-8-11)

Berkshire School

Coach: Dan Driscoll

2009-10 record: 20-11-0

Strengths: Berkshire has started to develop a reputation for reloading rather than rebuilding, perhaps best symbolized by center Kevin Rooney, new to the program and also a member of the NHL Central Scouting watch list as a C-player. Goaltender Mitch Gillam is one of three New England prep schoolers listed by the NHL and the only one in the league.

Weaknesses: It’s hard to tell what you’ll get. Collecting talent hasn’t been an issue but losing 12 seniors or post-grad players means a lot of new guys trying to get with the program.

Players to watch: Gillam (.897 save pct.), Rooney, Eric Robinson (2-7-9), Corey Wiznowski (1-4-5)

Canterbury School

Coach: Padraic McCarthy

2009-10 record: 10-21

Strengths: Most of the team will have forgotten last season’s struggles with 17 players that were seniors or post-graduates. That’s the best way to keep 11 straight losses to end the season from lingering. None of the team’s three goaltenders saved 90 percent of the shots they faced.

Weaknesses: Losing that much experience, even if it wasn’t successful, means the team is starting from scratch.

Players to watch: Niall Cahill (9-16-25), Ryan Fernandes (5-7-12), Anthony DiRienzo (0-5-5)

The Gunnery

Coach: Chris Baudo

2009-10 record: 26-5-3

Strengths: Return two defenseman listed on NHL Central Scouting’s draft watch list, which should help a team that graduated its top netminder. Adam DeSanctis finished last season plus-35, while Craig Wyszomirski is committed to Providence.

Weaknesses: The team lit it up last season with seven double-digit goal scorers but bring back just one, UMass-Lowell bound Terrence Wallin. Alex Vazzano played all but 217 minutes in net and is gone to Vermont (see Page 18).

Players to watch: DeSanctis (4-15-19), Wyszomirski (7-17-24), Wallin (15-26-41), Jake Wood (7-12-19)

Millbrook School

Coach: Vincent Sorriento

2009-10 record: 3-24-4

Strengths: Ten contributors from last season’s team return, including second-leading scorer Kevin Altidore and top defenseman Carl D’Amour-Belizario.

Weaknesses: Despite the returning scoring punch, the team was pretty punchless last season, and bringing back similar talent is unlikely to change much.

Players to watch: Altidore (9-10-19), D’Amour-Belizario (0-12-12), Josh Freitas (4-2-6)

Pomfret School

Coach: Bruce Wolanin

2009-10 record: 12-13-4

Strengths: Two double-digit point producers return and a strong core of three sophomores who saw game action last season allow the team some young depth.

Weaknesses: The team tried four different players in net last season, finding little success with any of them. It starts the process all over again this season. Only two defenseman did not graduate, leaving little help on the blueline.

Players to watch: Danny Palumbo (15-12-27), Ray Zeek (8-11-19), Jay Kourkoulis

Williston Northampton School

Coach: Derek Cunha

2009-10 record: 12-14-2

Strengths: Two best players are solid blueliners Rich Spiker and Justin Coachman, both of whom are at least 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds. They should help keep games close and limit opposing offenses.

Weaknesses: Graduated eight seniors that will play collegiately, including every player with at least five goals. Forward Alex Paolo is the returning leading scorer, coming off a five-goal, five-assist season.

Players to watch: Spiker (2-8-10), Coachman (1-3-4), Paolo (5-5-10)

Winchendon School

Coach: Sean Hayes

2009-10 record: 13-12-2

Strengths: Because the team reloads with post-graduates, it will be bigger, stronger and more physically advanced then many of the teams it plays.

Weaknesses: Only two players from last season’s team were juniors, with the rest graduating as seniors or post-graduates.

Players to watch: Ryan O’Toole, Mike Restuccia, Frederic Raymond, Jordan Saunderson

INDEPENDENT SCHOOL LEAGUE

KELLER DIVISION

Belmont Hill

Coach: Ken Martin

2009-10 record: 21-8-2

Strengths: Belmont Hill has a boatload of top of the line players, led by Jimmy Vesey, headed to Harvard; left wing Mike McNamara, committed to Holy Cross; freshman Matt Grzelcyk, committed to Boston University; and Brandon McNally, an NHL Central Scouting C-lister and the team’s leading returning scorer.

Weaknesses: Belmont Hill has plenty of strong pieces in place; the big question is how they fare at the back of the board. Dave Cunningham looked very capable, saving 96 percent of the shots he faced in 441 minutes, but he’ll have the job full time this year. He’s super-talented, but only a junior. Depth below the top-level guys is always a concern.

Players to watch: Vesey (13-17-30), McNamara (19-16-35), McNally (18-25-43), Grzelcyk, Cunningham

Buckingham, Browne & Nichols

Coach: Terrence Butt

2009-10 record: 14-14

Strengths: Should be stronger in the defensive end with six returning letter-winners on defense and two goaltenders back. Neither Sam Parker nor Drew Michals saved more than 88 percent of their shots faced last year, however.

Weaknesses: Top three scorers depart from a squad that struggled within the league anyway. Some solid two-way forwards are back that will have to increase their focus on the offensive end.

Players to watch: Alex Quinn (13-15-28), Matt Pugh (10-10-20), Aiden Hartigan (1-21-22), James DiBlasi (3-11-14)

Governor’s Academy

Coach: Michael Delay

2009-10 record: 14-14-1

Strengths: Governor’s lost only one defenseman from last season’s team, meaning the group should be sound on the defensive end and the blueliners could jump into the rush to add to the offense. Nathan Ferriero is young but already committed to attend Northeastern in 2013.

Weaknesses: Last season’s leading scorer, Brian Ward, jumped to the Tri-City Storm of the USHL and was one of five forwards to depart, leaving the squad without a returning double-digit scorer, and Nick Wirth the returning leader in points with 16.

Players to watch: Ferriero (8-5-13), Wirth (8-8-16), Greg Rooney (2-8-10), Greg Tallet (2-12-14)

Lawrence Academy

Coach: Kevin Potter

2009-10 record: 15-13-2

Strengths: Top six scorers are back, all of whom scored more than 20 points, allowing Lawrence to rotate through plenty of bodies.

Weaknesses: Defense will need to improve. Two of the team’s four graduates were blue-liners and it added only one impact defenseman this season.

Players to watch: Mike Jamieson (21-25-46), Devin Tringale (19-18-37), Andrew Cerretani (10-26-36), Tyler Whitney (11-16-27), Matt Baldino (17-7-21), George Hunkele (4-16-20)

Milton Academy

Coach: Paul Cannata

2009-10 record: 19-7-2

Strengths: Three returning senior defensemen are joined by newcomer Robby O’Gara, a member of the NHL Central Scouting draft list. Offense will be anchored by Woodruff Hudson, a member of the draft list as well. Harvard-bound defenseman Pat McNally was picked in the fourth-round last year and led the team in points.

Weaknesses: Much of the team’s offense actually comes from its defense, so Milton will have to be careful not to get caught cheating too often. But there’s no defense you’d likely rather have.

Players to watch: McNally (14-21-35), O’Gara, Aaron Deutsch (7-18-25), Hudson (15-12-27), Sean Dougherty (.918 save percentage)

Noble and Greenough School

Coach: Brian Day

2009-10 record: 23-5-1

Strengths: Very good star power in the form of wingers Matt Harlow and Stephen Miller, both of whom are B-listers by NHL Central Scouting. Defenseman Michael Reardon makes it three, second-most in New England behind Avon Old Farms and equal with Choate.

Weaknesses: It doesn’t matter how much talent you have, it’s hard to replace a forward that was picked in the first round of the NHL draft at age 18, like Kevin Hayes was. His 25-44-69 will be tough to duplicate, too.

Players to watch: Harlow (20-19-39), Reardon (8-15-23), Miller

St. Paul’s School

Coach: Mark Bozek

2009-10 record: 12-13-1

Strengths: Goaltender Derek Roy is back and that’s a good thing. His save percentage of .918 beat out St. Paul’s two other goaltenders by more than 23 percent ,and he played all but 71 minutes in net. Two of the team’s top goal scorers return as well.

Weaknesses: Only one of the top four defenseman in points is back from a team that didn’t light the world on fire. That puts a lot of pressure on the goal scorers, particularly since the team’s three top playmakers are gone. They’ll be adjusting to a new system under Bozek.

Players to watch: Roy, Josh Dickman (10-13-23), Brandon Borgea (14-3-17)

St. Sebastian’s School

Coach: Sean McCann

2009-10 record: 13-13-2

Strengths: Three of the top six scoring forwards are back, led by NHL Central Scouting C-lister and Brown commit Joe Prescott. The other two, Stephen Burke and Brendan Brown, were just sophomores last year and have some room for growth.

Weaknesses: The team will have to settle on a goaltender. Gordon Donnelly put up better numbers, but played fewer minutes, while Don McGuirl was the starter but not quite as good on paper. Neither one was stellar.

Players to watch: Prescott (11-22-33), Burke (11-5-16), Brown (4-10-14), Desmond Bergin.

Thayer Academy

Coach: Tony Amonte

2009-10 record: 3-20

Strengths: You’ve got to figure Amonte (Hingham, Mass.) — the former NHL standout and first-year coach at Thayer, where he starred as a schoolboy — knows what he’s doing and should be able to attract talented players to the program. After last season, that’s a start. He’s also got all but six players back.

Weaknesses: The returning players didn’t have much success last year, and it’s hard to see that changing significantly.

Players to watch: Scott Mathieu (9-4-13), Pat Finn (.906 save pct.), Jay Matthews (10-2-12)