The month of January started off strong with the International Silver Stick Tournament in Port Huron which highlighted plenty of teams from around the country in a heightened competitive environment. Outside of that there were also a number of exciting high profile matchups such as Pittsburgh Pens Elite vs Chicago Mission, Mount St. Charles vs BK Selects, and more. These games are not only fun to watch, but they also display plenty of high level players on the ice at once and are must-see games for ranking purposes.
Plenty of movement in this edition of the rankings as I continue to kind of fill out the list and broaden my views, but some of the moves I want to begin discussing all have one common denominator: Los Angeles Jr. Kings. The Kings find themselves sitting 6th in the country according to MyHockeyRankings for the 14U age group and that is largely thanks to the trio that I frequently refer to as “The Three-Headed Monster.” Logan Stuart (20th to 14th), Tyus Sparks (25th to 20th), and Noah Davidson (35th to 28th) are the three leading scorers on the team and each average at least two points per game. They each have certain unique parts to their game, but they also have similarities that allow them to really excel together and operate as such a dynamic group on the ice together, and watching them work with a man advantage is mesmerizing.
Chicago Mission are another team that I tinkered with the rankings after some more views. Shaeffer Gordon-Carroll (22nd to 16th) received a nice bump after some very strong performances in which he stepped in as the main man after Lukas Zajic missed some time. His shooting ability is such a strong weapon of his and he was letting it rip often as he looked to generate rebounds or bag a goal himself. Aurelio Garcia (14th to 18th) saw himself slide a little, but through not much fault of his own as the competition around that level is so fierce I simply felt the other players deserved to move up. Garcia’s speed is still his strongest asset and he can beat just about anyone to the outside once he gets going.
Fresh Faces Making Waves
Of course there are plenty of new names as the rankings are increasing from 60 to 80 players, but some players are debuting high on the list after impressing with a string of strong performances. Shattuck St. Mary’s defensive duo Odin Vauhkonen (50th) and Tyler McCracken (51st) were quick to establish themselves as high ranking defensemen on the list. Vauhkonen is a real stay at home presence who excels at breaking up plays and playing a physical game, while McCracken is a little less physical and brings some more offensive involvement to his game. The two of them are cornerstones on the back end for the Sabres and are enjoying fine seasons at both ends of the ice.
I already touched upon some Chicago Mission players stepping up in the absence of Lukas Zajic, Robin Kuzma (54th) is another player who did just that in the month of January. He was a key part of the offense and was contributing well by getting to the net and shooting the puck from dangerous areas. He showed some flashes of skill and played an up tempo game that he took to the opposition, I liked what I saw out of him. Abe Barnett (59th) is another player who stood out for Chicago as his strong work on the back end was worth highlighting. A big and mobile defenseman, Barnett is versatile and does an excellent job maneuvering the point and facilitating play with his puck movement.
Alec Johnson (64th) of the Colorado Thunderbirds is a shifty player and the pulse of his team’s offense. I really enjoyed what I saw out of him and look forward to seeing more.
Syracuse Nationals forward, Greg Manzi (65th), is a player who packs so much into his game. From high energy forechecking, good vision, and finishing ability in tight, he is a talented player who plays with a chip on his shoulder making him a fun watch.
Landon Amrhein (67th) and Cameron Dillard (68th) are key pieces of a high flying Dallas Stars Elite team and it is time for them to be acknowledged for it. Amrhein is a skillful power forward with slick hands, a deft touch for finishing in tight, and a strong wrist shot. Cameron Dillard is a smooth skater on the back end and has shown some good vision from the point to help keep the attack spread out and his long reach paired with his strong edgework makes him a difficult defender for puck carriers to beat.
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