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NHL Prospect Report

USHL Stock Watch: Andrew Strathmann thriving in leadership role with Youngstown Phantoms

We're about a third of the way into the USHL season, and the cream is starting to rise to the top. In particular, many NHL-affiliated prospects are stealing the show, taking full advantage of an extra year before making the jump to college.

The eligibles crop has seen a few candidates step up in the past month, as well. Let’s take a look at a few players, both drafted and undrafted, who have turned some heads in the past month, as well as a couple who still have some work to do.

Stock Rising 📈

Andrew Strathmann, D, Youngstown Phantoms (Columbus Blue Jackets)

NCAA commitment: North Dakota

We were high on Andrew Strathmann as a scouting group last year, and he hasn't disappointed this season, captaining a young Youngstown that's third in the Eastern Conference. It's all the same strong habits in Strathmann's game that drew us to him in the first place that are driving this success, allowing him to pick up 18 points in his first 17 contests.

He doesn’t wow you with any particular skill, but Strathmann’s offensive awareness is elite; he picks his spots to join the rush and activates in transition well, especially through the weak side of the ice. He flashes deception with the puck, using feints and dangles to beat a man up the ice or open up a shooting lane from the point. He's reprised his role as the cornerstone of the Phantoms' power play, operating from the top of the umbrella and generating shots at a greater frequency than last year.

The physical skills are still impressive too and he wins a good amount of his battles along the boards and below the goal line. He’s off to North Dakota next year which will be a good challenge for him, but for now, he’s looking like a steal in the fourth round of the draft.

Zam Plante, C, Fargo Force (Pittsburgh Penguins)

NCAA commitment: Minnesota-Duluth

Last month's USHL Stock Watch shined a light on Max Plante's play, and now it's his older brother's turn in the spotlight. The Hermantown High product has been playing well since transitioning to the USHL, but looks like he’s starting to break out.

With 12 points in his last 10 games, Zam Plante is a major part of Fargo’s success this year. He’s not an exceptional skater, but churns his feet with possession, forcing defenders to respect him in open ice. Plante is a crafty distributor too, using slips and hooks to find teammates in soft spaces in the offensive zone. Off the puck, he works hard to slip behind defenders and lose coverage. He’s versatile on the rush and has developed a mature delay game when he doesn’t have the speed or numbers to create off the initial rush.

The work rate is useful on both sides of the puck, as he works in transition to take away options of the backcheck or cut off passing lanes. It seems like Fargo has been the right environment for Plante to really flourish, he’ll be someone to keep an eye on as he moves on to Minnesota Duluth next year.

Christian Humphreys, C, USNTDP U18s (2024 NHL Draft)

NCAA commitment: Michigan

It’s easy to fixate on James Hagens and Cole Eiserman, but there’s a secondary crop of talent on the NTDP 18s squad that also warrants your attention. Christian Humphreys is one of these players and has been heating up recently, with nine points in his last 10 contests.

Humphreys shows some intelligence off the rush, he can get between the dots when he’s given space but also delays and finds support when he’s siphoned off towards the boards. He passes well in transition and reads pressure well. There’s a ton of merit to his defensive game, too; he eats up some kill minutes and displays good details in his own zone. He’s a workhorse on the backcheck, wins foot races to loose pucks, and is strong along the wall on the breakout. Humphreys’ offensive retrievals are smart, too; he pre-scans, gets pressure on his back and looks for teammates. He could be a second-round candidate.

Stock Steady ↔️

EJ Emery, D, USNTDP U18s (2024 NHL Draft)

NCAA commitment: North Dakota

EJ Emery was a player we really liked at our last meeting and for good reason. He’s an anchor for the NTDP blueline, and his mobility makes him a nightmare for attacking forwards on the rush.

Emery plays a strong, physical brand of hockey that helps him in board battles and play below the goal line. He leverages his reach to disrupt passing lanes and kill plays high in the defensive zone. While Emery certainly plays a shutdown role, he’s got a little bit of touch with the puck too. He can make simple transition plays and wows you every once in a while with a great find. There’s little to no offensive activation, but the skating ability is good enough that there’s room for this area of his game to grow. Right now, he has the makings of a late first-rounder.

Stock Falling 📉

Will Felicio, D, Madison Capitols (2024 NHL Draft)

NCAA commitment: Denver

This isn’t so much a knock on Will Felicio, I think I may have been overzealous on him from the start. His activation and transition ability are exciting, and he’s a good defender for his size. The mobility allows Felicio to challenge more on rushes against and he’s generally responsible in his own zone. Given his frame and lack of explosiveness, I’m not sure how confident I am about his ability to continue these habits at the collegiate and professional levels.

The decision-making is inconsistent, particularly in transition, but he definitely shines brightest in the offensive zone given his handling skill and edgework. He had some showings that made me think he was a first-rounder earlier in the year, he’s still a high level prospect but he’s more likely a mid to late second.

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This article is about:
NHL Prospect Report Columbus Blue Jackets Fargo Force Madison Capitols Pittsburgh Penguins U.S. National U17 Team U.S. National U18 Team Univ. of Michigan Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth Univ. of North Dakota USNTDP Juniors Youngstown Phantoms USHL NCAA EJ Emery Will Felicio Christian Humphreys Zam Plante Andrew Strathmann
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