October 16, 2013

Juniors Journal: Three USPHLers on NHL Watch List

By Shawn Hutcheon

Islanders Hockey Club's Brendan Robbins (Nashua, N.H.) is among the locals in the USPHL that Central Scouting will be keeping close tabs on.

Every boy who puts on skates dreams of playing in the National Hockey League. For some, the dream is a fleeting moment, but for others, that dream becomes more of a possibility as they grow older.

For three United States Premier Hockey League players -- Brendan Robbins of the Islanders Hockey Club, Beau Starrett of the South Shore Kings and James Winkler of the Portland Jr. Pirates -- the dream is becoming closer to reality as they have been identified by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service as Players to Watch for the 2013-2014 season.

Robbins (Nashua, N.H.) is in his third season with the Islanders organization. Last year, he saw action in 27 games, scoring six goals and six assists. After the 2011-2012 season, Robbins was drafted in the 13th round (221st overall) by the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but the forward is planning on pursuing the college route and remained with the Islanders this season.

Robbins is off to a fast start, as he has three lamplighters and seven helpers for 10 points in the team’s first 10 contests.

Robbins, who has impressed scouts with his skating ability and hockey sense, uses his quickness to generate speed through the neutral zone while making smart decisions with and without the puck.

Starrett (Bellingham, Mass.) is a rookie in the USPHL after posting a stellar high school career at Massachusetts powerhouse Catholic Memorial. He has registered four goals and seven assists for eleven points in 14 tilts. His scoring contributions have assisted in South Shore currently occupying second place in the league standings.

At 6-foot 2, the forward has the size scouts love and the puck-handling and skating ability not often seen in a big man.

Winkler (York, Maine) joined the Jr. Pirates from Berwick Academy. The big (6-foot-3) forward has made the adjustment from prep school hockey to junior quickly. In eight games, he has notched six goals. After his junior career, Winkler will move on to the NCAA level and has committed to play at Northeastern University.

Known for his size and strength, Winkler’s shooting ability is compared to that of professional players. Improved skating should enhance that shot and result in loading opposing nets with pucks at the college and pro levels.

Game of the Week

The USPHL produces this week’s top contests as the Islanders Hockey Club will travel to New Jersey for a rematch of last year’s Eastern Junior Hockey League playoff finalists in a weekend series. The Hitmen won the league crown in three games and the Islanders are looking to exact some revenge on Jersey. The Hitmen occupy third place in the USPHL’s standings while the Islanders are sixth, but you can throw the stats out the window when these clubs meet. This is as fierce a rivalry as you will find in junior hockey.

New England Junior Power Rankings

1) New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (9-2-0-0) - Coach Ryan Frew’s club posted three victories last week and have won nine of their last ten contests and remain in first place in the Eastern Hockey League’s North Division.

2) Boston Jr. Bruins (9-2-0-0) - BJB won both games they played in last week and sit atop the United States Premier Hockey League. The Jr. Bruins have also emerged victorious in nine of their last ten tilts.

3) Connecticut Oilers (8-1-0-1) - The Oilers picked up three wins over the weekend and have registered six victories in their last seven games. Coach Eric Lind has engineered an epic turn around. His squad occupies first place in the EHL’s Central Division.

4) South Shore Kings (7-5-1-1) - Coach Scott Harlow’s club went to Long Island, New York and returned home with two wins over the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders. South Shore is in second place in the USPHL.  

5) Boston Bandits (6-2-1-0) - The Bandits went 1-1-1-0 over the weekend. After sprinting out to five consecutive wins to start the season, Coach Steve Stirling’s team has let off the gas and have slid down to second place in the EHL’s North Division.

6) Northern Cyclones (5-1-0-0) - Head Coach Bill Flanagan’s club won all three of its EHL games last weekend by an aggregate score of 23-5 and are third in the North Division.

7) Portland Jr. Pirates (5-5-1-1) - In fifth place in the USPHL, Portland continues to show improvement over last season. Coach Brad Church’s club won two of three last week with one win coming over the Islanders Hockey Club.

8) Islanders Hockey Club (5-4-1-0) - Coach Sean Tremblay’s squad played once last week and were defeated by the Portland Jr. Pirates. This weekend the sixth place Islanders will travel south for a two game USPHL series versus the Jersey Hitmen.

9) Bay State Breakers (5-3-1-1) - An 0-2-0 weekend against the Jr. Bruins resulted in Coach Dave McCauley’s club sits in fourth place in the USPHL.

10) Connecticut Yankees (4-4-0-0) - The Yankees are beginning to make some noise in the USPHL. They split a weekend series with Portland. Connecticut is currently in eighth place but look for them to move up in the standings as the season progresses.

11) Walpole Express (3-2-3-0) - Coach Jon Lounsbury’s squad picked up points in all three games last weekend by going 1-0-2 which included a tie with the Boston Bandits. The Express are fourth in the EHL’s Central Division.

12) Valley Jr. Warriors (4-4-0-0) - After a season that included a trip to the playoffs last season, the Warriors are struggling this season. They went 1-2-0 over the weekend and are fourth of the five clubs that make up the EHL’s North Division.

13) Boston Jr. Rangers (1-5-1-0) - The Rangers move out of the rankings basement this week due to the team registering their first points in the EHL standings over the weekend by going 1-1-1. The tie came against Walpole and the club’s first victory on the season came against Hartford. The Rangers are currently fifth in the circuit’s North Division.

14) Hartford Jr. Wolfpack (2-5-0-0) - The Wolfpack are in the midst of a four-game losing streak including three losses over the weekend. The ‘Pack are in sixth place in the EHL’s Central Division.  

Twitter: @ShawnHutcheon
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