NHL Central Scouting’s 2019 midterm report is out and players of color once again hold prominent spots on the list.
The list is a measuring stick for some of the top amateur talent in North America and Europe ahead of the 2019 National Hockey League Draft June 21-22 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
NHL Central Scouting lists Ryan Suzuki of the Barrie Colts as the 10th-best North American skater eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft (Photo/Terry Wilson/ OHL Images).
Ryan Suzuki of the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts is listed as the 10th best North American skater eligible for the draft. The 6-foot center is second on the Colts in scoring with 15 goals and 29 assists in 41 games.
Suzuki, an Ontario native whose great-great grandparents immigrated to Canada from Japan in the 1900s, is the younger brother of center Nick Suzuki, a Montreal Canadiens prospect who plays for the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack.
Tri-City Storm’s Isaiah Saville is the USHL’s top goaltender and the eighth-ranked netminder on NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings.
Isaiah Saville of the Tri-City Storm of theUSHL is NHL Central Scouting’s eighth-best North American goaltender. Saville, an Anchorage, Alaska, native, has a record of 16 wins, 4 loses, and one overtime loss in 26 games.
The 6-foot netminder’s 1.76 goals-against average and .934 save percentage tops all USHL goalies.
Alaska native Isaiah Saville will play for the University Nebraska-Omaha next season.
Saville has committed to play next season for the NCAA Division I University of Nebraska-OmahaMavericks of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
Nick Robertson, a left wing for the OHL’s Peterborough Petes, is the 30th-best North American skater on Central Scouting’s list. Robertson, who is of Filipino heritage, is the Petes’ second-leading scorer with 17 goals and 16 assists in 31 games.
NHL Central Scouting ranks Peterborough Petes forward Nick Robertson as the 30th-best North American skater eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft in June. (Photo/Kenneth Andersen).
The 5-foot-9 resident of Northville, Michigan, is the younger brother of left wing Jason Robertson, a Dallas Stars 2017 second-round draft pick who skates for the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL.
Defenseman Marshall Warren loves the New York Islanders, admires Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban, and will play for Boston College next season (Photo/USA Hockey’s NTDP/Rena Laverty).
Marshall Warren, a defenseman for USA Hockey’sNational Team Development Program, is the 39th-best North American skater. The 5-foot-11 Long Island, New York native, has 5 goals and 12 assists in 29 games for the NTDP’s Under-18 team. He tallied 8 goals and 22 assists in 60 games last season.
Defenseman Marshall Warren of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program is NHL Central Scouting’s 39th-best North American skater (Photo/USA Hockey’s NTDP/Rena Laverty).
Warren, a life-long New York Islanders fan who lists Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban as his favorite player, has committed to play next season for the NCAA D-I BostonCollegeEagles of Hockey East.
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Kyle Bollers’ Twitter bio used to say that he was going to finish what his older brother started – a vow he made to become a professional hockey player after his talented sibling grew tired of the game and quit three years ago.
Now there’s a sibling rivalry going on to see who’ll reach the pros first, Kyle or older brother Cyril Bollers, Jr. They’re each taking distinctively different paths that they hope will lead to the same destination – the National Hockey League.
Kyle, 17, signed with the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League over the weekend after he impressed coaches with his play after he essentially joined the Spirit’s summer team as a walk-on and later out-played and out-hustled Saginaw’s top draft picks in training camp.
“It’s a big jump from where I was last year, a big opportunity for me to show what I have,” Kyle told me recently. “It’s a big step.”
Forward Kyle Bollers begins the 2016-17 season with the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit.
Meanwhile, his 20-year-old brother C.J. flew to Sweden over the weekend to resume his career playing for a team outside of Stockholm, stoked by a renewed sense of passion and a greater appreciation for the game.
“He did kind of finish what I started, he just signed with an OHL team. I never did – I had the opportunity, but I never did,” C.J. said of Kyle’s vow. “Now he just has to make it to the NHL before I do, which I’m not going to let him do. We’ve got a little brotherly bet going on to see who does. It will just raise the competition and raise our games a bit more.”
Kyle is rooting for his brother to reach the NHL first but warned that “if he doesn’t, then I’m coming for him.”
Kyle has been trying to leap-frog a lot of players ever since he was passed over twice by major junior hockey teams in league drafts. He played last season for Michigan’s Traverse City Hounds inthe U.S. Premier Hockey League, which gives young under-the-radar players a chance to showcase their skills for upper-level leagues and top NCAA hockey programs.
A left wing, Kyle finished fourth on the Hounds in scoring last season with 29 goals and 27 assists in 46 games as a 16-year-old rookie. He notched a goal and 2 assists in seven USPHL playoff games.
Kyle Bollers, left, finished fourth in scoring for the USPHL’s Traverse City Hounds last season with 56 points as a 16-year-old rookie (Photo/Jay Johnston/Game Day).
When his USPHL season ended, Kyle asked Spirit head scout Ian Meahgher if he could play on the OHL team’s summer squad.
“He eventually ended up being one of our top scorers and earned an invite to main camp,” Spirit General Manager Dave Drinkill said. “In camp, Kyle showed the skill and speed we were looking for when rounding out our forward group.”
Drinkill noted that “Very few players have come as far as Kyle has since being passed over in the OHL draft twice, and being able to earn a roster spot as a free agent invitee is quite the accomplishment.”
But he stressed that Kyle making the team isn’t a happy ending. It’s just a beginning.
“It’s one of those really feel-good stories but, like we told Kyle, ‘We’re not signing you just because it’s a feel-good story,'” he said. “‘We’re signing you because we think you have the ability to be a good hockey player down the road.'”
A lot of hockey people said the same about defenseman C.J. Bollers. The Guelph Storm liked him enough to take him in the ninth round with the 169th overall pick of the 2012 OHL draft.
After quitting the game three years ago, hockey is fun again for C.J. Bollers. He played in a showcase All-Star game in Toronto in June (Photo/AlexD’Addese/TEP Showcase)
But C.J. never signed with Guelph. A combination of hockey burnout and a bum collarbone took the joy out of the game. Instead of hockey, C.J. wanted to make a go of it in music or acting.
“After breaking my collarbone twice within six months, it kind of got into my head,” C.J. told me. “After that, I felt like I kind of plateaued because I wasn’t on teams I felt I should have been on. I was around the wrong people. They weren’t people with high aspirations in hockey. They were playing hockey to play minor hockey. I kind of developed that same mentality…I kind of felt bad for myself and then I couldn’t get out of that slump for a bit. I just dropped out of the game because I felt there was nothing left for me.”
“I think I cried for about two years straight,” the elder Bollers told me. “Couldn’t watch the OHL on TV because he should have been there. I couldn’t watch the NHL draft because he could have been there, or should have been there. I spent a lot of time just driving, thinking, and ending up different places that I don’t know how I got there.”
But what dad didn’t know was that his son was having second thoughts. After talking to a friend whose soccer career ended because of a devastating knee injury and watching former youth hockey buddies like New York Islanders prospect Josh Ho-Sang, MontrealCanadiens 2015 draftee Jeremiah Addison and Columbus Blue Jackets farmhand Dante Salituro climb the hockey ladder, C.J. realized he loved the game and missed it.
“Coaches always tell you that you don’t want to be the one who looks back and say ‘What if?'” he said. “Unfortunately, I was that person who had to look back at all my friends grow up, do well, and succeed. Now it’s just my turn to catch up with them and…surpass them.”
C.J. Bollers suited up for Team Jamaica in June as part of his hockey comeback. (Photo/Tim Bates/ OJHL Images).
After first telling his mother, C.J. told his father in May that he wanted to return to hockey. Dad’s reaction?
“I got on the phone and the next day he’s on the ice for three sessions,” the elder Bollers said.
C.J. has no illusions about the challenges ahead in shaking off three years of rust, living in a different country, and playing on larger European ice surfaces where skating skills are a must to survive.
“I know for a fact that if I put in the hard work, it will take me four or five years to maybe get to the NHL, and then from there maybe a bit more to get to Team Canada,” he said. “It took Joel Ward until he was 26 to get into the NHL.”
As for Kyle’s Twitter bio, he recently amended it to say “me and my brother are going to finish what we started.”
If you’re searching for diversity in hockey look no further than Windsor Spitfires right wing Josh Ho-Sang – a skating United Nations.
The Canadian-born 17-year-old’s father is a black Jamaican of Chinese descent, his mother is Chilean with Russian and Swedish bloodlines, and is Jewish. It’s not unusual to hear Spanish spoken in the Ho-Sang household, where Chanukah and Christmas are celebrated.
“I’m kind of a jack of all trades,” he told me recently.
Josh Ho-Sang (left) celebrates a goal. (Photo: Tim Cornett, WindsorSpitfires.com)
Ho-Sang’s family roots are intriguing but his hockey potential is fascinating.Gifted with a dangerous blend of blinding speed and sick soft hands, Ho-Sang is a natural goal-scorer who scored an “A” rating among North American skaters on the NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary “Ones to Watch” list ahead of the 2014 draft.
He’s scored 8 goals and 7 assist for 15 points in 12 games this season for the Ontario Hockey League Spitfires, a pace that assures he’ll surpass last season’s 14 goals, 30 assists for 44 points in 63 games. More important, he’s improved his plus/minus from -23 last season to a +5 thus far this season.
Ho-Sang isn’t a household name in the United States yet, largely because the OHL only has three U.S.-based teams – Pennsylvania’s Erie Otters, and the Saginaw Spirit and Plymouth Whalers, both Michigan franchises.
But more U.S. hockey fans will likely get a glimpse of him when the Spitfires play the Spirit Dec. 29 outdoors at Detroit’s Comerica Park – home of Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers – as part of the NHL Winter Classic festivities in Hockeytown leading to the main event: a New Year’s Day tilt between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs at the University of Michigan’s massive football stadium in Ann Arbor.
Ho-Sang is “very proud” of his diverse background, but says its only a part of who he is.
“I obviously try not to make it a race thing,” he told me recently. “But the biggest thing for me is the amount of kids I have the ability to inspire. Even around the rink, one of our Zamboni guys is of color and, I think, it was two weeks ago I had a really rough game. After the game he came up to me and said ‘You know, you’re doing us proud.'”
“Little things like that, and seeing little coloured kids, more kids coming to the game, that’s kind of what you play for,” Ho-Sang added. “I don’t just want to inspire kids of race. I want to inspire everyone.”
Ho-Sang is learning that it takes more than raw talent to succeed.
And the way Ho-Sang plays might inspire some NHL team to make him a high pick in 2014, according to Cyril Bollers, coach and president of Skillz Hockey, a Toronto-area-based youth hockey training and development program.
Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers, Joel Ward of the WashingtonCapitals, Chris Stewart of the St. Louis Blues, and NHLers-turned broadcasters Kevin Weekes,Anson Carter and Jamal Mayers are all Skillz alums.
Ho-Sang played on predominately-minority hockey teams coached by Bollers for several summers.
“Josh should be a first-rounder,” Bollers told me. “I think he’s one of the most gifted and talented kids in the entry draft. He’s very skilled with the puck, very talented with it. He stick handles the puck and doesn’t lose speed.”
When Ho-Sang played AAA minor midget hockey for the Toronto Marlies, former Toronto Maple Leafs legend Doug Gilmour, general manager of the OHL’s KingstonFrontenacs, told The Toronto Star in 2011 that the youngster was “the elite of the elite.”
Former NHLer Warren Rychel, the Spitfires’ general manager, told The Star that Ho-Sang “gets you out of your seat.”
“I think of all the guys since I’ve been here – (Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven) Stamkos, (Edmonton Oilers’ Taylor) Hall, (New York Islanders John) Tavares – he’s the deadliest I’ve ever seen one-on-one with a goalie. He puts pucks away like nobody I’ve ever seen at that age.”
Ho-Sang has an athletic pedigree: his dad, Wayne Ho-Sang, is a highly-regarded tennis pro in Canada. When Josh was a toddler, Wayne and Erika Ho-Sang gave him a tennis racquet and a ball, thinking he would someday follow in his father’s footsteps.
“He’d put the ball on the ground, take the racquet and stickhandle…I guess hockey made more sense to him than tennis,” Wayne Ho-Sang told The Star.
Josh Ho-Sang chuckles when he recounts the story.
“When they put hockey on (TV), it was the only time of the day I would sit still for three hours,” he told me. “They said when they put me on the ice, I didn’t want any help, I didn’t need any help. I don’t remember all of that, but from the stories that they told me, it seems like I was made to do it.”
Ho-Sang said that raw hockey talent helped him make a meteoric rise through the hockey ranks. But he realizes that it will take more than talent for him to succeed in the OHL and beyond. He understands that he’s still a work in progress.
“I have to learn how to use my gifts in the right spots,” he said. “When I was playing minor hockey, the hockey was more one-on-one, right? I would come up the ice faster than everyone, I was even stronger than the guys I was playing against, so I would just take it to the net and do my thing. But now you’re coming up the ice and they have two defensemen back or three guys back. So it’s pull up and make plays. I’ve had double coverage on me…you have to learn how to adapt.”
And Ho-Sang has had to learn to adapt off the ice, too. The life of a major junior hockey player is complicated. Players drafted by OHL teams move away from home and live with billet families during the hockey season.
In between home games, road games, practices, meetings and other team obligations, major junior players also attend school.
“I had a little bit of a tough time at school last year because the school I go to is difficult and it’s really different from the Toronto school,” he said. “Little things like balancing homework and hockey, and all that stuff, and trying to stay away from the stress on top of that. You have three assignments to do, and you have practice, and you didn’t play well the last game.”
He says he’s balancing school work and hockey work better in his second OHL season, thanks in part to sage advice from his general manager and his mom.
“One of the most important things my general manager said to me was ‘Josh, if you do well off the ice and around the ice, the ice will become easier,'” he told me. “Something my mom said to me, too: ‘If your mind is clouded with all the stuff around you, it’s hard to see on the ice.’ It’s so true. The more calm I am about everything going on outside the rink, the way better I see the ice.”