September was a big month for getting quality views in for the 2008s as there were some big 15O events in the US; the Minnesota Blades Showcase and USHL Fall Classic being chief among them. It's a big year for this group as they enter their CHL, OHL and QMJHL draft years. Let's take a closer look at some of the highlights from the September ranking update.
New Kids On The Block
We added a handful of new players to the ranking after they left a strong impression on us early this season. Caden Harvey (92nd) stood out on a very talented Penguins Elite team at the USHL Fall Classic. His work on both sides of the puck was admirable, and he showed impressive skill with the puck on his stick the way he confidently drove at the defense and generated chances for those around him.
Defenseman Christopher Baird-Gajdos (101st) just missed out on our top-100, but if he continues his strong play going forward he just might crack it in the near future. A big bodied defenseman who uses his reach well against the rush and enjoys getting involved in the offense, there’s a lot to like about his game. His positional soundness and ability to disrupt plays and quickly hit a stretch pass to jumpstart a counter attack are a few reasons we felt he deserved to debut reasonably high in our rankings.
Coming off a Rockets victory at the USHL Fall Classic, Nicholas Desiderio’s (131st) addition was a no-brainer. He’s the driving force of that offense and demonstrated that in nearly every Rocket's game we have viewed. He plays quick and makes smart decisions, much of his success comes from the fundamentals that he just does very well.
Tanner Esterberg (132nd) and Booker Toninato (151st) are the other new additions to the 2008 ranking as the two of them have looked strong to start the season. Toninato is playing up with the Dallas Stars Elite 16U squad, while Esterberg is playing for the Minnesota Polars 15O team.
Plenty of players received bumps this past month, but some that we want to highlight are Jackson Marthaler, David O’Brien, and Grandon Echols. After the pair’s impressive performances at the Blades Showcase for Team Wisconsin and BK Selects respectively, Marthaler (84th) and O’Brien (92nd) catapulted up the rankings. Marthaler’s strong skating and ability to create shooting lanes for his heavy shot was impressive. He was the primary offensive creator for Wisconsin and did so from all over the offensive zone. The big defenseman moves well and uses his size effectively when closing down puck carriers.
O’Brien was a big piece of Bishop Kearney’s National Championship run last year and his play has carried over into this season. He is capable of providing an offensive spark from the back end and loves to get himself involved when he can. Despite his diminutive stature, he can play a hard-nosed defensive game and goes into corners to battle for the puck.
Grandon Echols has switched from one Michigan-based team to another, leaving Little Caesars to play for Honeybaked this season, and the early returns are good. He has an opportunity to establish himself as a bigger part of the offense and it looks like he is taking his chance early on. He’s got a nice blend of speed, size, and skill, and he put them all together very nicely as he proved to be one of the primary creators for Honeybaked at the Fall Classic. Echols is an intelligent player who gives you maximum effort each shift and he could find himself moving up the list again in the near future.
Newest 5-Star Member
Chicago Mission’s very Aurelio Garcia has moved into 5-star territory moving up five spots to sit at 28th. He looked very strong at the Minnesota Blades Showcase as he used his speed so well with off the puck movements to attack openings in the defense moments before the puck wound up there and he was able to get chances as a result. He’s a confident puck carrier who can attack head on with crafty moves, knows when to use his speed to blow past his man, but is capable of slowing the game down as well to pick out an open teammate. We expect a fair amount of movement at the top of this class throughout the season but for now we felt Garcia was worthy of a 5-star ranking.
Check out the full 2008-born North American skater ranking.