October wasn’t a particularly busy month for the 2007 class but as many of the top prospects in this age group adjust to the junior level we are already starting to some separation and shuffling in the rankings as some players rise to the challenge while others struggle to make the adjustment. Most of the bigger moves this month were seen in the USA and West ranks. With the World U17 Hockey Challenge starting in early November, we are sure to see more substantial movement in the following months.
New 5 Star!
The only new addition to the 5-star ranks is U17 NTDP centreman Jack Murtagh who jumps from #42 to #32 on our rankings after a strong start to the year. Murtagh thrives below the hashmarks in the tough areas on the ice as his powerful stride allows him to muscle through contact along the wall. He shows great touch with the puck as he feeds teammates in the slot from behind the goal-line and his ability to make quick decisions and one touch passes makes him a great small area asset. He is especially adept at finding seams off the rush on zone entries and he follows up his natural playmaking ability by driving the net hard off-puck for give-and-go’s. The U17 team has not gotten off to a roaring start this year but Murtagh has certainly been a positive piece.
Jake O’Brien is one of the few Ontario region players who really caught our eye as a bright spot on an otherwise underwhelming Brantford Bulldogs team and he jumps from 137th to 91st. He’s brought a maturity to his first few OHL games that belies his age as he is already an accomplished centreman off-puck, showing excellent support down low and using his hockey sense to maintain sound positioning as an outlet option. His transition game and efficiency on zone exits means that he doesn’t spend a ton of time defending and he uses his motor to consistently drive to dangerous areas, getting his stick free for potential tips and rebounds. In addition to his instincts around the net he also carries a sneaky quick release with the ability to beat goaltenders from tough angles.
William Sharpe is one of our biggest risers in the West jumping from 146th up to 69th. It has been an incredibly smooth transition into the WHL for Sharpe as he has jumped into a regular role on the backend for the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He leans on his mobility and explosiveness through transitions to stay in the thick of the action. He is incredibly aggressive up ice and fills up the available space at every opportunity. His confidence up-ice is matched by his competency with the puck on his stick and increased production is sure to follow. Like many young defenders, he will need to improve his play without the puck and become a more patient defender, but the upside is undeniable.
Another West standout to start the year has been Regina Pats forward Corban Almen who has brought his trademark well rounded game and honest effort level to the WHL. He makes a big jump from 236th to 146th. Almen is all spit and vinegar as he keeps his feet moving constantly throughout a shift. He is not the biggest player, but he wins battles with his intensity and willingness to throw himself into the fray. His offensive ceiling isn’t sky-high but he is well balanced and takes advantage of his opportunities.
There are five new additions to the 2007 group. Cameron Aucoin is the highest at #92 as he has impressed in his first few games for Muskegon in the USHL. The Notre Dame commit is a stocky and athletic defender who has earned a spot at this level by playing a safe and simple game to date.
Andrew Thomson has been a shining light for the rebuilding and last place Kamloops Blazers, and he slots in at #230 on our list. We really value his headsy play and ability to stay ahead of the play in all three zones. He has a great feel for positioning and despite possessing little flash, he always seems to be active offensively by being in the right place at the right time. Him and his fellow 2007 born linemate Nathan Behm, have both been standouts to start the year and give Blazers fans hope for the future.
In the USA minor hockey ranks, Jackson Schroeder has gotten off to a roaring start as the point leader for 16U Team Wisconsin. The diminutive skater maneuvers really well in tight spaces, showing an agility and evasiveness needed at his size. He is surprisingly tough to knock off the puck and over-aggressive defenders are quickly introduced to his skill level and ability to beat players 1-on-1 to generate chances at the net.
St. Louis product Cruz Martin and University of Massachusetts commit John Alex Banks round out the new additions.