First up is Arlington Native Colten Martin who is in the middle of his 1st season with the Kelowna Rockets (WHL). Colten is a defensemen where his strong suits including his great passing abilities, speed to occasionally join in on the counter attack and improving his game on the faceoff. He's showing his ability to improve his offensive abilities recently by being more aggressive with setting up forwards like Shane McColgan, Brett Bulmer & Carter Rigby.
Even though he was ranked #146 among NA Skaters Rankings, Kelowna Rockets Assistant Coach Ryan Cuthbret sees a lot of room of improvement over the 2nd half of the season coming up. It was also mentioned that has a great hockey IQ and is a fast learner as well. He will be looking to continue to gain NHL Scouting Interest & increase his Scouting Ranking when the End of Season Rankings come out in April by playing a big role in getting his team in the WHL Playoffs this season.
So far, the Rockets sit in 6th Place in the WHL Western Conference (3rd in the B.C. Division) with a 17-20-5 record (39 PTS). If the Regular Season ended today, the Rockets would face the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
"Colten has put himself on the map by being a competitive kid. He thinks the game well and has good instincts." Said Kelowna Rockets Assist Coach Ryan Cuthbret. Warren Henderson who is the Kelowna Rockets Beat Writer for the Kelowna Capital News, has also mentioned "that he has exceeded expectations and continues to gain confidence during his 1st season in the Western Hockey League (WHL)," about him in an email.
So far through this season, he has scored 9 points (1G 8A) in 40 games played this season. He also has 2 Multi Point Performances this season, 1st it was a 2 assist performance in a 4-2 win over the Prince George Cougars on 11/19. He also has scored his only goal of the season back on December 14th against the Regina Pats where he scored the OT Winner that night & to this point, it's his only goal of the season so far.
He's not going to be one of those players that will score a lot of points as he is more of an energy & speed guy to help out the defense get out of trouble when needed and to help set up the team's more skilled forwards. He's also looking to improve his game on faceoffs to help get the puck out of trouble, especially on defensive zone faceoffs and looking to increase the amount of time he gets on special teams (Especially on the PK).
Corpus Christi Icerays Goalie Anthony Stolarz was the only North American Hockey League (NAHL) Player to make the rankings where he was ranked #21 among North American Goalies. The Native of Jackson, New Jersey has all ready announced his NCAA commitment to the University of Nebraska-Omaha in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) starting next season. So far this season for the Ice Rays, he has a strong 13-10-2 Record with a 2.54 GAA & a .924 SV% as well.
His only shutout of the season came back on December 16 against the New Mexico Mustangs with a 4-0 shutout win that came just before the league's Christmas Break, recently he has been coming up big where he has given up in 5 of the last 6 games where he has given up 2 or fewer goals and has a 4-2 record during that time going back to December 30 against the Wichita Falls Wildcats.
He will continue to need to be big as the Ice Rays have been having issues finding a suitable back-up goaltender for Stolarz as no one else has been able to play more then 6 games all season to help Stolarz. His current back up Matt Laprade gave up 5 goals in his only performance which was part of a 10-3 loss where he was pulled just after the mid-way point of the game back on January 6 against the Amarillo Bulls. So he will have to continue the carry a heavy load as he looks to impress over the 2nd half of the season.
The Good News is that his effort is beginning to pay off as the Ice Rays are looking to pull away from the New Mexico Mustangs, Wichita Falls Wildcats & Odessa Jackalopes thanks to a weekend sweep which included a pair of victories over Odessa (2-1 & 3-0), as well as a win yesterday afternoon against the Texas Tornado (4-1). These results takes his record to 15-10-1 and takes his GAA to an impressive 2.38. Also, this increases the gap between the Ice Rays and the 5th Place Jackalopes to 9 points for the 4th & Final Spot in the South Division race.
Regardless of how well the team plays, it will have to go on a major hot streak in order to catch up to the Texas Tornado & Topeka Roadrunners who are still a good 14 & 16 points ahead in the Race for the 2nd Spot which would get them Home Ice in the 1st Round of the NAHL Playoffs as they will look to make a shock run to the NAHL Robertson Cup Tournament that will be in Frisco in early May.
In addition to looking to get the Icerays to the Playoffs for the 1st time in the NAHL Era, he will be looking to impress during the upcoming NAHL Top Prospects Tournament that will be taking place from February 20-22 coming up in Troy, Michigan where he will most likely be playing on the NAHL Selects Team which will be for the best players in the NAHL Under the age of 18.
He will be looking to be the torch barer for the North American Hockey League as he is the only NAHL Player to be ranked in the NHL Central Scouting Mid-Season Rankings this year and will look to climb the rankings over the 2nd half of the season.
A pair of Russians in Nail Yakupov (Sarnia Sting OHL) & Mikhail Grigorenko (Quebec City Remparts, QMJHL) are currently 1 & 2 in the NA Skaters Rankings who are coming off strong performances at the recent WJHC Tournament in Alberta, Canada. Yakupov is currently the front runner to be the #1 Overall Pick this year, while Grigorenko could have a jump of taking him down for the #1 if a major injury or something happens to Yakupov.
Overall, 7 of the top 10 players in the NA Rankings are defensemen which begins with Everett Silvertips Defensemen Ryan Murray, along with the likes of Rielly Morgan with the Moose Jaw Warriors & Matthew Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels. In all, the Western Hockey League lead the top 10 with 5 Players being ranked. The Ontario Hockey League (OHL), while the USNTDP U18 & QMJHL each had 1 player each in the top 10 among North American Skaters.
The Top American in the rankings is Jacob Trouba who was the only member of the USNTDP U18 Team that made Team USA for the World Junior Hockey Championships that wrapped up in Alberta where the Americans finished in a disappointing 7th Place this season. Which was one of the worst showings for the Americans since 1999, by finishing 7th and playing in the Relegation Round. Other members of the USTNDP U18 Team that made the Draft Rankings include Stefan Matteau who's 13th & Brady Skjei who's ranked 18th as well.
Among NA Goaltenders is Malcom Subban of the OHL's Belleville Bulls is on top of the Goaltending Lists right now. The top 5 also had Matthew Murray (Sault St. Marie Greyhounds/OHL), Brandon Whitney (Victoriaville Tigers/QMJHL) was ranked #3, Jon Gillies (Indiana Ice/USHL) is 4th, and Jake Paterson (Saginaw Spirit/OHL) round out of the top 5 this season.
Leading the European Lists has Filip Forsberg who's with Leksand in the Swedish 2nd Division. Finally among European Goaltenders has Andrei Vasilevski who's with Ufa 2nd Division which plays in the Russian 2nd Division.
Were only half way through the season right now and the End of Season Rankings will be coming out in Late April. While the 2012 NHL Draft will be taking place June 22 & 23 in Pittsburgh this upcoming summer.
Here's the Full NHL Central Scouting Mid-Season Rankings.