This past weekend, the NAHL held their Top Prospects Tournament, a yearly occurrences to give players who have not committed to a college a chance to show themselves off against other players in league who are in the same predicament. This event has been hosted in the last two seasons in Attleboro, MA in mid-February, but with the way the world is today; the league decided to have this event coinciding with the Robertson Cup Finals. This year, the Maryland Black Bears had six representative for the event, their most in their three year history.
First and foremost, wonderful job by the NAHL to keep this event going, especially this season. Recruiting wasn’t as up-close and personal this season, but for the league to find a way around it and to be able to put this in during the Robertson Cup festivities was tremendous and they were able to run it as smooth as possible throughout.
Onto the Black Bears side of things, six players and head coach Clint Mylymok attended this event: Michael Morelli, Kevin Scott, Sean Kilcullen, Conor Cole, Tanner Rowe, and Jude Kurtas. For the most part, coach Mylymok kept the team forwards as a line, as well as keeping the defense pairing together. Twice, from what I saw, all five Black Bears were on the ice at the same time. Morelli split time with Northeast’s Anton Castro in net, with Morelli stopping 18 of 19 shots, his only goal-against being a breakaway goal from Minot’s Jay Buchholz. Morelli was able to see through screens, reposition quickly, as well as keep the puck out at all costs in traffic situations.
Defensively, Kilcullen and Scott played strong in their own end. Both of them were able to keep plenty of chances to the outside, as well as take away some passing and shooting lanes on the rushes into their end. They had some chances offensively, with Scott getting the bulk of those when there was a power play to be had, though Kilcullen made time and space of himself to get a couple of shots off.
On the forward side of things, it was a mixed bag. There were some chances the trio had, but what they did for the intangible portions could probably get them noticed more. Cole was solid in the face off dot, as well as the forecheck. Rowe was strong on the forecheck and putting the body on the puck carrier when he could to muck up the neutral zone. Kurtas was solid on the breakout, making some decent decisions with the puck in his own end to get out of the zone, while also getting some shots towards goal.
Coach Mylymok did a solid job of keeping players with guys they were familiar with. In an event like this, you want to make sure the players show off their best and to keep them with teammates or guys they’ve played with before is something that will make guys looked better in front of scouts overall.
All in all though, this isn’t the way the team would have liked to have visited Blaine this week. When speaking with Mylymok, he mentioned the takeaway that this weekend could bring to the players in attendance.
“It’s not the way we would like to be here, obviously,” remarked Mylymok, “But I think it’s good for the guys to be here to watch the (Robertson Cup) games. Just to sit in the stands and see how good all these teams who got there are and the style they play and take it all in.”
You’d have to also think that these players being able to play with their rivals and against players they may have never crossed paths with will only add to what these players take away. A fresh look at the game and how others play it, as well as being able to measure themselves up to the competition and hearing feedback from potential schools looking at them.
As far as this weekend was concerned, it’d be interesting to see if these two events will intertwine in the future or will stay their separate entities. For a scouting outlook, it’s really a good one-stop shop for schools to go to, especially since it will be out of season for them. That said, the four teams in the Robbie Final didn’t participate, which could lead some to believe they get missed out in playing outside of what their team is– which is good or bad depending on how it goes. It also puts a big load on the shoulders of the league– though it takes out a travel date for them to have things set up in a certain area.
From this experience in being there– it worked well. There was little down time between games, but scouts were out and about, talking to players while not missing out on action and all that jazz. Add the Robbie Cup games in there, it worked to be able to have it all in one spot, but we’ll have to see what next year brings for the league and the look at scouting by that point.