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2016 NHL Entry Draft Profiles: Meet Me In St. Louis

St. Louis is becoming more and more of a hockey town in recent years. With the rise of the Blues to the upper echelons of the NHL, has come an increase in the number of kids playing hockey at high levels in the St. Louis area, and moving on to even higher levels of college and major junior play. Here's a look at three players eligible for the year's NHL Entry Draft who have emerged from the "Gateway To The West" to become leaders of the US National Team Development Program.

"All in all, he's just a... nother brick in the Woll." Photo by
"All in all, he's just a... nother brick in the Woll." Photo by
Brian Weidler, "St. Louis Game Time"

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In recent print editions of "Tomorrow's Blues," we’ve been focusing upon a number of players with St. Louis connections. For this edition of "Game Time Prospect Sunday," we'll supplement the observations previously made in our game-day paper with some in-person observations of several of these players.

The current incarnation of Team USA (as we will hereafter refer to the USNTDP U18 squad) has four players from the St. Louis area, three of which are eligible for this year's NHL draft.  The three draft-eligible players are:

-- Clayton Keller, C, 5' 9 / 168. Ranked 9th in North America by Central Scouting.

-- Trent Frederic, C, 6' 2 / 203. Ranked 47th in North America by CSS.

-- Joseph Woll, G, 6' 2 / 195. Ranked 5th (goaltender) in North America by CSS.

The fourth St. Louis area native on Team USA is defenseman Luke Martin, a right-shooting 6' 2, 201-pounder who is committed to Red Berenson's University of Michigan Wolverines for 2016-17. Martin is pretty mobile for his size, but his Sep. 20, 1998 birthday makes him too young by five days for selection in the 2016 Draft. He is absolutely a player to keep an eye on for 2017, however.

A couple of months back, your "Game Time" Prospect Department had a chance to be part of history by attending the first-ever game between Arizona State University and the US National Team Development Program. The Sun Devils are transitioning into a Division I program after many years of success (and several consecutive national championships) at the club level, and the matchup with Team USA would prove to be a good test of where they're at in their road to full-time D1 competition.

Arizona State plays an aggressive, "in-your-face" brand of hockey, and this straight ahead style seemed to confound Team USA somewhat in this contest. The Sun Devils took a 2-0 lead in the second period with goals less than a minute apart before Team USA struck back with a power-play tally before the end of the second, and an even-strength marker by Patrick Khodorenko midway through the third to tie things up. After a scoreless overtime, the teams went to the shootout; Clayton Keller was the only player to find the back of the net in the shootout, sealing the win for Team USA, and it is with the highly-regarded forward that we will begin this report.

The Keller Instinct

The 2015 Hockey Prospect.com "Black Book" scouting report on Keller reads, in part:  "His hockey IQ is off the charts and he sees the ice so well. He knows when he can slash, drive to the net himself or makes a pass through the seam look easy. He is a very gifted offensive player and he shows it whether playing against older opponents or age appropriate. He skates very well as quite agile on his skates and handles the puck with ease and confidence."

The Swansea, Illinois native lived up to his reputation, and to his scouting reports, in the game vs. Arizona State. He is a real waterbug on the ice, easily one of the best skaters on Team USA, and despite his relatively diminutive stature, he is not afraid to go into the dirty areas in pursuit of the puck, or a scoring chance.

Keller’s speed was responsible for at least two penalties against Arizona State, and while he did not score on any of the power plays, he did see first-unit power play time and also took a regular shift centering Team USA’s top line. His offensive creativity came into play in the game-deciding shootout, where he was the only player on either side to dent the twine with a quick wrister high to the stick side of ASU netminder Robert Levin, who was deservedly named the game’s first star.

Keller led the U18 squad in scoring this year with a 37-70-107 line (40 PM, 11 PP, 4 SH, 8 GW) on 62 bgames, and added a team-leading 4-10-14 line (plus-11, 2 PM, 1 GW) for bronze medialist Team USA at the U18 World Junior Championships in April.

Frederic The Great

The next player on your GTPD’s radar is St. Louis native Trent Frederic, a 6' 2, 203-pound left-shooting center currently toiling for the USNTDP U18 squad, and committed to Wisconsin of the Big 10 for next season.

The 2015 edition of the Hockey Prospect.com "Black Book" posted this scouting report on Frederic: "He is another upcoming product from the St. Louis, MO area ... continuing to grow and with that he likes to play the power forward game by taking the puck to the net, grinding out some goals. He competes hard in all three zones, and shows some good offensive instincts with his playmaking abilities while seeing the ice."

Against Arizona State, Frederic took a regular shift as Team USA's third-line center, and also played on -– and led -- the first penalty killing unit. Arizona State's aggressive style resulted in several retaliatory penalties for Team USA on the evening, and Frederic got a lot of shifts on the penalty kill.

As mentioned, he also took a regular shift as the third-line center, but Frederic did not see any time on the power play for Team USA in this game. He did get a couple of shifts at 4-on-4, and had his best scoring chance of the night in that situation on a one-timer from the high slot midway through the third period.

Where he was used most often, and to best effect, on the penalty kill was in taking defensive zone faceoffs. In total, Frederic took 16 faceoffs for Team USA in this game (he was tossed out of three more), and 12 of those were defensive-zone faceoffs. He won eight of those faceoffs in his own end, and on the penalty kill was 4-for-7 in defensive zone faceoffs, giving Team USA puck possession and helping to kill all but one of the seven power plays they faced.

He took three neutral zone faceoffs on the night, one on the penalty kill (which he won), and only one faceoff in the offensive zone (which he also won).  He was tossed from two faceoffs in the offensive zone, and once in the defensive zone.

Frederic, who did not find his way onto the scoresheet in the game we saw, finished the season with a 20-20-40 scoring line (73 PM, 4 PP, 2 SH, 3 GW) in 61 games played, and added a 4-3-7 line (plus-6, 4 PM, 1 PP, 1 SH) in seven games for Team USA at the U18 World Juniors.

Another Brick In The Woll

In last year's draft, the Blues went to the USNTDP to select a local product in goal, Luke Opilka, currently playing for Kitchener of the OHL. There's a good chance that, if the Blues are looking for another goalie to add to their already-excellent prospect stable, they could dip into their own backyard well once again and tab USNTDP netminder Joseph Woll.

Woll, also a St. Louis native, finished the year as the fifth-ranked goalie in North America by Central Scouting. The 2015 "Black Book" scouting report on him is brief, but interesting: "He has good size and brings great athleticism ... extremely explosive laterally and with movements ... does a very good job getting square to pucks and is sharp and crisp in movements and reads ... works hard and his game is continuing to trend upward. Woll is a Boston College recruit for fall 2016."

In the USA-ASU game we saw, Woll performed exactly as the scouting report above indicates: excellent lateral movement, very quick up-and-down motion for a bigger goalie, and did a very good job of getting square to the shooter. Team USA's defense kept the Sun Devils at bay most of the night, allowing only 24 shots on goal despite having to kill seven penalties, and Woll turned aside all but two of those shots, including all three shootout attempts he faced.

In 33 games for Team USA this year, Woll posted a solid 20-9-1 record (two shutouts), a GAA of 2.15 and save percentage of 91.8. In the World Juniors, Woll posted a 2-1 record with a shutout over Switzerland, and a 1.34 GAA with a 94.7 save percentage.