Five Standouts from the All-American Prospects Game
On a night where American draft-eligible prospects were on display, some prospects stood out above the rest.
The United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP, or Team Blue for this game) faced off against a team of USHL all-stars in the 2021 BioSteel All-American Game, with the national team coming out on top 7-1.
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With the 2021 NHL Draft only three months away, FCHockey’s scouts were watching closely, keeping an eye out for which prospects that were able to elevate their game in this highly-talented matchup.
After some deliberating post-game, here are FCHockey’s five standouts from the 2021 BioSteel All-American Game.
Shai Buium, D, Team White (USHL All-Stars)
A defenseman from the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers, Team White’s Shai Buium was an easy player to notice in the showcase. The six-foot-three, 214-pound defender is an extremely reliable rearguard at both ends of the ice and he proved that in a big way. He had nine takeaways in the game and played 18:37, just behind team ice-time leader Ryan Ufko who came in at 18:40. Buium is having a solid season in the USHL, collecting four goals, 18 assists, and 22 points in 44 games. Not ranked in FCHockey’s Winter top-100, look for Buium to move up in the updated rankings.
“Buium was a very pleasant surprise for me in this game,” FCHockey scouts Derek Neumeier started. “There wasn’t one highlight-reel play, but rather a steady stream of subtle, effective ones. His pacing was great, frequently using his skating and quick awareness to open up space and get involved in the play. He also made some nice plays with the puck and was effective at breaking up opposing possession. Those little plays add up in a huge way in the NHL.”
Liam Gilmartin, RW, Team Blue (USNTDP)
Possibly the biggest surprise of the night was Team Blue forward Liam Gilmartin, who played just 15:31 on the night but came away with a goal and an assist. He also played a minute and a half on the penalty kill, showing off his steady two-way ability. The six-foot-two, 190-pound right winger made an impact every time he hit the ice, ensuring that his team always had the puck. Another player not ranked in FCHockey’s Winter top-100, Gilmartin has collected 18 goals, 28 assists, and 46 points in 66 games this season between the USDP and USHL.
“Gilmartin had a very strong game for Team Blue as he was very noticeable on just about every shift,” FCHockey scout Brandon Holmes said after the game. “Gilmartin picked up one goal and an assist and though he isn’t the flashiest player on the ice he consistently stood out thanks to his strong situational awareness and high motor on every shift. He did a great job of hounding pucks in the offensive zone to create turnovers, making smart and efficient plays to keep the cycle going and maintain offensive zone possession, and also did a good job of supporting his defensemen in his own zone. Gilmartin played the role of the hard-working two-way forward to perfection in this showing against Team USHL.”
Kaiden Mbereko, G, Team Blue (USNTDP)
While it was expected that the goaltenders in both ends of the rink would switch out at the halfway mark, Team Blue goalie Kaiden Mbereko stayed in the net for the full first two periods – and for good reason. The five-foot-11, 182-pound netminder stopped all 21 shots he faced for a perfect 1.00 save percentage, despite an expected goal conceded of 1.99. The netminder was solid in net and became the only goaltender to stop every shot he faced on the night. Spending most of his time with the U18 National Team this season, the goaltender is 10-4-0 with a .873 save percentage and one shutout.
“Mbereko was a wall in net,” FCHockey scout Josh Bell said. “Despite facing the top talent in the USHL like Matt Coronato, Matthew Samoskevich, and Cole Sillinger, Mbereko remained calm and collected in his play. He shows excellent tracking through traffic, good rebound control, and quick reflexes. Team White really put the pressure on through the second period, but he stood tall, absorbing pucks and maintaining his perfect stat line on the night.”
Sasha Pastujov, RW, Team Blue (USNTDP)
The most valuable player of the night, Team Blue’s Sasha Pastujov tied the record for goals and points in the All-American Game, potting two goals and getting an assist for three points. FCHockey’s No. 50 prospect in the Winter rankings, the winger plays an incredibly calm game, making plays look effortless. The six-foot, 175-pound forward played just 13:52 on the night but had four shots, keeping the pressure on the opponent. He also blocked a shot in his own end. The forward has had a very impressive season, collecting 33 goals, 45 assists, and 78 points in 52 games between the USDP and USHL.
“As expected, Pastujov was able to use his electric hands and vision efficiently to create many scoring chances,” FCHockey scout Dylan Krill noted. “Despite having concerns about his skating, Pastujov was able to create space for himself effectively in this game. On one play, separating himself from a defender with speed, he was able to form a two-on-one with Lucius, just missing the net with a nice forehand-backhand deke. He was rewarded with two goals, both resulting from being in front of the net, locating the loose puck, and finishing the rebound. He also finished the night with an assist as well, poking a loose puck forward to set up Rutger McGroarty on a two-on-one. He played an overall strong two-way game, applying pressure, actively using his stick to take away passing lanes and space, while also using his body to bring a physical presence to the game.”
Matthew Samokevich, RW, Team White (USHL All-Stars)
Chicago Steel star Mackie Samoskevich came into the game with some star power and didn’t disappoint, despite just one assist on the night. The winger was constantly driving play, looking to make something happen for an offense that just couldn’t get going. In his 15:57 of play (including 2:11 on the power play), he managed two shots but really impressed in his ability to create opportunities and maintain possession in the offensive zone. Ranked 33 in FCHockey’s Winter ranking, the Steel alternate captain has 12 goals, 21 assists, and 33 points in 31 USHL games this season. Right on the fringe of the first round in many draft rankings, this performance could give Samoskevich a little push over the edge.
“On a night when his team’s offense sputtered, Samoskevich still managed to consistently create scoring chances with his up-tempo puck-possession style,” FCHockey’s Shaun Richardson said. “In fact, Team White’s only goal came on the power play when a net-front scramble was banged in off a play Samoskevich started. He was repeatedly dangerous off the rush and on one of the few shifts of the game that Team White was able to maintain extended zone time in the other end it was Samoskevich who controlled the play. He circled the zone and froze the defense before generating a high-quality scoring chance for a linemate that, on most nights, would have found the back of the net. It was that sort of game for Samoskevich and Team White.”