Photo courtesy of the Sioux Fall Stampede
In hockey, having good center depth is very important to an NHL franchise. Lucky for the NHL teams preparing for the upcoming draft, there are quite a few potential top centers coming out of the leagues in the USA region that are pretty exciting to watch.
Take a look below:
Cole Sillinger, Sioux Falls Stampede
Sillinger is a Canadian centerman who currently plays for the Stampede in the USHL. He played last season with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL, but because of the shutdown for most of the year, he transferred to play this season in the States. So far, Sillinger has made a strong impact on the Sioux Falls team with 12 goals and 10 assists for 22 points in 14 games played. Sillinger is not the best skater on the ice by any means, but he is very strong and can hold his ground well. He can also make good plays with his skilled stickhandling ability or use his powerful shot to try and score.
Chaz Lucius, USNTDP
Being injured for half of this year was definitely not what Lucius thought would be the case going into his draft year. Lucky for him, his first few games back with the US team was like he never left. In three games since his return, he has scored four very solid goals. With the skill Lucius has, it makes him one of the most thrilling players in the draft class. He has an excellent shot that he can rip from anywhere in the offensive zone. His hockey IQ makes him a very good passer as well.
Matthew Beniers, University of Michigan
Beniers made headlines after an appreciable showing at the 2021 World Junior Championship with Team USA. He plays a strong 200-ft game and battles hard in puck battles along the boards. His motor seems to never stop moving every time he steps on the ice, as he has a great work ethic and elite ability to drive the play. While Beniers made an impression at the WJC, he has also shown his talents at the University of Michigan, where in 18 games played, has posted six goals and 10 assists for 16 total points. He will look to make a push for the first overall pick come draft time.
Kent Johnson, University of Michigan
Coming straight out of the BCHL to the NCAA can be a hard transition for some players. In 112 games with the Trail Smoke Eaters, Johnson managed to post 61 goals and 86 assists for 147 total points. The worry scouts had was, because the BCHL is a weaker league, they wondered if he would be able to keep up with the speed and bring his skillset to a high-level of play. It turns out, it hasn’t been a problem for him at all. He currently leads the Wolverines in points, with three goals and 12 assists for 15 points in 12 games. He has shown the ability to make elite-level plays, as well as bring shifty footwork and puck skills to the lineup.
Matthew Samoskevich, Chicago Steel
Samoskevich is a very intriguing player. While he has been out quite a few games this season, he managed to post seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points in 17 games played. One thing you notice about Samoskevich when you watch him play is his phenomenal skating ability. He is quick and smooth with the puck on his stick and can control it very well at full speed. Samoskevich also possesses a strong and accurate shot. Defensively, he still needs some work.
Jack O’Brien, Lincoln Stars
O’Brien is one of the few players who switched over to the USHL because of the WHL season shutdown. In his rookie year with the Portland Winterhawks last season, O’Brien recorded 14 goals and 16 assists for 30 points in 55 games. As of now, he currently plays with the Lincoln Stars, and in 13 games played, he has only notched three assists. Despite a slow start with the Stars, O’Brien is very sound defensively and consistently attacks the puck with pressure. He is an overall solid skater who does well in front of the net and has the ability to show some flashy skill.
Dylan Duke, USNTDP
Duke is a versatile forward who can play both the center and wing position. The University of Michigan commit currently has 20 goals and 16 assists for 36 points in 32 games played. Duke is not the best skater, but it doesn’t hold him back from being a good player who attacks the puck hard. He is on the smaller side, standing at 5-foot-10, but he does well to battle in front to try and score goals. He is a great net front presence with his strong hands in tight areas.
Other Notable Centers: Red Savage (USNTDP), Andre Gasseau (USNTDP), Hunter Strand (Tri-City Storm)
Hope you enjoyed reading on a few centers in the USA region! Come back soon to read about some wingers in my region. Make sure to follow me on Twitter @claremcmanuss