24 standouts from the MAHA Showcase
With 33 Michigan AAA teams in action, we key in on some of the top performers over the weekend
September 25, 2023
It’s amazing the more you watch hockey as an evaluator, how quickly you can begin to make baseline assessments on prospects. There’s still some I struggle with, and I’ve got to watch an entire game — or multiple games — before I really have a good read on them. Others? It can take as little as one shift.
‘Oh, he’s got fantastic footwork’
’Great motor, energy guy’
‘Very well coached, understands the game’
I’m far from batting a thousand, don’t get me wrong. Talk to any scout, coach or general manager, and they’ve all got horror stories of players they missed on. I once watched a 14-year-old Connor Bedard in a spring tournament back in 2019 and simply said, “I mean, he’s alright, I guess.” People knew he was good then, but they didn’t know he’d be the first player to receive exceptional status into the WHL and become a teenage phenom projected to overtake the game at its highest level. He had five points in four games! So sue me, I was amazingly wrong! I know.
I watched all 33 Michigan AAA teams in action at the MAHA Showcase last weekend. There were a lot of standouts and top performers to like. I thought it’d be best to highlight at least one player from each team. Not saying each one of these names is the best on their respective teams, although in some cases, they might be. It’s embarrassing how little information is available currently in terms of teams’ rosters. So I did get a little EA Sports NCAA Football 2014 below with ‘LOLB#54’ references below. If you have rosters — and schedules — for any of these teams, EMAIL ME. The following players just seemed to do things that jumped out to me on film.
14U (2009 Birth Year)
Belle Tire, #25, Right-handed defenseman
Pretty decent puck skills and his hands and feet are working in rhythm. Seems to have a decent head on his shoulders. Enters the zone on a line rush and has the awareness to pull up and wait for help. Don’t see that out of many young defensemen.
Victory Honda, Jackson Nakfoor
Real good sense offensively with and without the puck. Was a good source of offense and offensive opportunities. Puts pucks into space for his teammates to go get and doesn’t have bad size for the age group either. Looks pretty big and solid.
OJG, #19, Left-handed forward
Trails the play with effort, gets a drop pass, attacks the net, handles the puck well then boxes out defender and leaves a drop pass for someone else.
Fox Motors, Michael Xendzov
His gaps are real good and does a nice job jumping into passing lanes. I talked about him extensively this week on the pod and how much I like his potential for Fox Motors. Able to be aggressive without being reckless.
Biggby, #16, Left-handed defenseman
He battled pretty well in the corners despite giving up quite a bit in terms of height. He was able to keep pace with a couple high-end opponents, even corralled one kid and plastered him to the boards at one point.
HoneyBaked, #71, Left-handed forward
Real solid puck skills with a strong first stride towards the net. Showed a good feel for the game when he attacked the net, forced the defender to bite and then quickly dished to a line mate who ultimately scored a goal.
Compuware, #78, Left-handed Defenseman
He’s got a good frame for the age group and certainly a capable skater. He’s consistently engaged and flowing with the play. Handles pucks well too and keeps his head up to make plays coming out of the zone.
Little Caesars, #31, Left-handed forward
Pretty dominant at times, may have had a bit to do with the competition level in the opponent. He carved his way through Biggby with ease at times and flashed an ability with his hands and feet that not many have at this age level.
15O (2008 Birth Year)
HoneyBaked, #12 Right-handed forward
He likes to have the puck on his stick and hangs on to it for long stretches. Sometimes good, sometimes, not so much. But he showed an ability to make plays, finding open teammates for scoring opportunities. Also doesn’t hurt that he’s got a good frame to grow into.
Compuware, #88 left-handed forward
Real good size for the age group, enough to be a pretty good power forward type player. Not the prettiest skater but works really hard and is aggressive on the forecheck. Nice effort plays that you like to see out of young forwards.
Biggby, Brayden Wegner
The team was minus-22 in goal differential and under siege most of the weekend. Yet, I thought he showed decent composure on retrievals, would collect pucks, get his head up, go north and make heady plays to get Biggby out of the zone.
OJG, Mak Schaefer
Smaller, shifty prospect with a really good jump about him, moving all over the ice. Doesn’t throw too many pucks away either, pretty smart with it. Attacks through the neutral zone, dishes and dashes to the net for a great scoring opportunity.
Fox Motors, Bryan Richards
The little things: Jumping off draws and doing it consistently. Applying pressure on opposing defensemen. Stops on pucks. Seems so simple, yet very few, especially at the younger levels, really do it as consistently as Richards.
Little Caesars, Cam Nimmer
Dare I say, best hands in the state? He’s super composed with the puck on his stick and always looking to be a threat without it. Loved one moment where he rolled off the wall and attacked the net, forcing two defenders to collapse in on him before he moved to an open guy.
Victory Honda, Henrik Parish
Surprisingly slippery given his wiry frame. Had a nice moment where he basically took on three defenders as he entered the zone. Was able to navigate through the smoke, create separation and get off a high-quality scoring chance. Not something I’d like to see him do every time, but certainly showed an ability to be dangerous.
Belle Tire, #24, Right-handed D
Had to really read between the tea leaves with this team but he has decent hands, and his size and footwork fits. Wasn’t the best defenseman I saw walk the blue line but he did move effectively to find shooting lanes and be a threat to make plays.
Fox Motors, Owen Boucher
Travis Lefere is a do-it-all stud for this team. However, I wanted to give some love to someone else here. Boucher has great jump and compete level, battles so hard in 50-50 pucks and is relentless on the forecheck. He caught one defender from behind and just ‘big brothered’ him to take the puck away and go on the attack.
OJG, #19, left-handed forward
A bit small and thin but a super great skater, very fluid and does a nice job of getting his body in position to constantly be a threat off the pass. Comes up the wall, gets his feet and momentum heading towards the net before the puck ever gets to him. Tough to defend when you do that.
Little Caesars, Evan Jardine
He’s like Lionel Messi in soccer. You hardly know he’s out there sometimes, and then bam, it’s in the back of your net. His first goal of the weekend, I had to go back and watch 2-3 times to figure out where he came from because he wasn’t around the play, then the play comes to him and he scores just like that.
Biggby, Brantlee Hoffman
Good size and compete level. I liked his willingness to jump into battles along the boards. He’s quick to engage and be involved in the play, but I would like to see him be a little stronger on the puck.
Victory Honda, Tommy Spencer
I talked about him at length even before the MAHA Showcase. There’s a lot to like about his game, but most importantly is his positioning. Spencer supports the puck and the play extremely well, and you just don’t see enough of that at this level.
Compuware, Boris Genov
Such a good skater, he makes it look effortless. His changes and speed and direction come with very little visible effort, almost like he’s hovering on the ice. I was so mesmerized by that, I totally spaced on the rest of his game, but the skating part is Grade-A.
HoneyBaked, #18, right-handed forward
A real power forward type player who is pretty determined in getting to the net. Puts a shoulder down, fights through traffic, gets to the scoring areas and then, scores. Maybe not the best skater, but if he gets a full head of steam through the neutral zone, he can be tough to defend with or without the puck.
Belle Tire, #92, Right-handed forward
Another forward that goes to the dirty areas and gets rewarded from it. Scored two goals by just going hard to the net with his stick on the ice. He uses his size and strength well to get to the net front and then a good understanding of the game to anticipate when/where the puck is going to be.
18U (2005 and 2006)
Coming soon! Need to spend more time keying in on this age group. Stay tuned.
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