7 players to watch at the All-American Prospects Game
The BioSteel All-American Prospects Game is one of the biggest showcases of draft eligible talent on the hockey calendar.
And there’s no shortage of it set to be showcased.
Top American prospects from the U.S. National Team Development Program and the United States Hockey League will assemble in one rink and play an all-star type of game. With a twist.
Normally, the USNTDP would face off against an all-star USHL team, but this year things are a bit different. USHL players and NTDP skaters are being thrown together on two teams for the showcase on January 17. There are a number of players to watch at this year’s event, and all are hopefuls for the 2022 NHL Draft.
Here are seven names to keep an eye on at this year’s game:
Jake Livanavage, Team Blue
Team: Chicago Steel (USHL)
2021-22 stats: 31GP, 2G, 25A, 27P
FC Hockey Rank: 93
The Chicago Steel continue to churn out NHL caliber talent on a yearly basis. Jake Livanavage is just another name on a long list for one of the best Junior programs in North America. He started the year unranked and has been increasing his draft stock all season long, scoring 27 points (two goals, 25 assists) in 31 USHL games this season — leading all draft eligible defensemen in the process.
“Livanavage is a smart player with the puck who contributes offensively more compared to in his own end,” said FCHockey scout Douglas Larson. “He’s calm and doesn’t overhandle the puck while having the patience to make the right decisions.”
Sam Rinzel, Team Blue
Team: Waterloo Black Hawks(USHL)
2021-22 stats: 3GP, 1G, 2A, 3P
FC Hockey Rank: NR
Sam Rinzel might be one of the most intriguing players in the All-American Prospects Game. The big-bodied defender has split time between Waterloo in the USHL and Chaska High in Minnesota.
He’s a raw prospect with great skillset, scoring three points (one goal and two assists) in his three USHL games, on top of 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 13 games with Chaska High. He’s dominant in High School hockey, looking like the best player every time he steps on the ice, so it will be very interesting to see how he fares in a game against some of the best talent the USA has to offer.
Rutger McGroarty, Team Blue
2021-22 stats: 9GP, 3G, 3A, 6P
FC Hockey Rank: 10
Rutger McGroarty had a strong performance in last year’s All-American Prospects Game as an underaged player, and will look to have an even better showing in this year’s event as one of the top American draft eligible players in this year’s class. The talented offensive weapon has six points (three goals, three assists) in nine USHL games, and has 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists) in 26 games of non-USHL action. McGroarty has been passed by Logan Cooley as the top American, but this game will be a chance for McGroarty to remind people why he’s a highly-touted prospect.
“He will recognize holes in defensive coverages and strategically move into open ice to exploit them,” FCHockey scout Sebastian Death said. “He is always in the right place at the right time because he knows how to time his ‘routes’ to elude defenders and gain more time and space when he reaches open ice.”
Frank Nazar, Team Blue
2021-22 stats: 11GP, 9G, 5A, 14P
FC Hockey Rank: 12
Frank Nazar could rival Cooley as the top American in the 2022 NHL Draft class. He has the combination of skill and work ethic that you want in a player and is one of the few players that can drive offensive play from the wing. His offensive output has been off the charts this year, leading the NTDP in USHL scoring with 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in 11 games, and is second in non-USHL scoring with 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists) in 32 games.
“Nazar is a very skilled winger with good speed that puts himself in high-danger areas allowing him to create offense,” said Larson.
Seamus Casey, Team White
2021-22 stats: 9GP, 1G, 5A, 6P
FC Hockey Rank: 14
Seamus Casey is one of the most polarizing defensemen in this draft class. He’s an electrifying offensive blueliner who has high-end skill in every facet of the offensive game. Some consider him the top-ranked defenseman in America. He trails only Lane Hutson in scoring by a NTDP defenseman with 18 points (five points, 13 assists) in 30 non-USHL competitions. While many focus on his offensive upside, people can tend to overlook that he’s a capable two-way defender who can help shut down the opponent’s top line.
“He moves the puck well, really opening up the ice with his passes thanks to his strong vision,” FCHockey scout Josh Bell said in a scouting report. “Casey is very rangy, using his stick very well to get into the puck lanes.”
Logan Cooley, Team White
2021-22 stats: 9GP, 5G, 4A, 9P
FC Hockey Rank: 5
Logan Cooley is the top American in the class and has been garnering potential top-three attention. The dynamic two-way center was the lone draft eligible player to play on Team USA’s World Juniors roster, and should be a standout at the All-American Prospects Game. He has 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 24 non-USHL games for the NTDP and has begun to separate himself from others in the US-region.
“Cooley is a dynamic forward with incredible skating, superior playmaking skills and active play in all three zones,” FCHockey scout Joey Fortin Boulay said. “Cooley is a danger in transition since he possesses elite timing and anticipation, he also shows silky hands to create space for himself.”
Connor Kurth, Team White
Team: Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
2021-22 stats: 29GP, 19G, 24A, 43P
FC Hockey Rank: NR
Connor Kurth was passed over in 2021 and has responded by lighting up the USHL. The Dubuque winger sits third in USHL scoring with 43 points (19 goals and 24 assists) in 29 games.
He’s a big-bodied winger with great offensive instincts and has been a force for the Fighting Saints. It will be interesting to see how he handles playing in a big moment game like the All-American Prospects Game. There will be tons of eyes on him and the rest of the players there, and if Kurth can show he belongs it can go a long way to cementing himself as a player on many teams’ draft lists.
There are many other names to watch that weren’t included above, USNTDP players Hutson, Ryan Chesley, Cutter Gauthier, and Jimmy Snuggerud are names to watch. USHLers Jack Harvey of the Chicago Steel, Quinn Finley and Luke Mittelstadt of the Madison Capitols, and Maddox Fleming of the Sioux Falls Stampede are also players that should garner quite a bit of attention when the puck drops.