There’s plenty for fans of Scottish Ice Hockey to get excited about when it comes to players coming up through the junior ranks.
After an overtime victory for the Under 19s against England to kick off EIHA Conference Weekend, the U13 and U17 teams reached their respective finals only to fall at the final hurdle.
However they shouldn’t be disheartened – there’s a lot of talent coming through and I’ve selected players from each age group who particularly caught my eye and who could be prospects to watch in future years.
Despite losing all four games – three by just one goal – there were some real stand-outs in the youngest category.
Firstly Joe Somerville, a quick forward who can carry the puck and find the net. I was really impressed with his battling qualities and how he fought to retrieve the puck if he lost it, which was rare.
Ruby Newlands first caught my eye at the U11 development tournament in December. One of the taller players on the team she’s very good at holding the puck and finding space to skate into.
Finally there was Cody Adams, just nine-years-old but showed some great defensive awareness and was excellent on the transition from defence to attack. With two years left at Under 11 for the Murrayfield junior I’ll be looking out for him in future conference tournaments.
Goals were the order of the day for the U13 team as they reached the final with 18 goals in their four group games.
Naturally it was the forwards who stood out in this group and Gary Kelly was named to the U13 tournament all-star team.
Conner McNulty was another forward who found the net regularly and the Kilmarnock forward will now move up to U15 from next season.
The major positive for this squad is that 14 of the 20 players will be eligible for the U13s next season.
The U15s will feel a little unlucky that they didn’t progress further, losing just once in the group stages.
Forwards Harvey Toppen and captain Jake Grubb looked very good on offense, both scoring twice in the game against the South East.
In defence Lee Murison was the stand out player and found himself added to the U15 all-star team at the end of the tournament. A boost for him as he moves up to U17 level from next season.
There is an embarrassment of riches at U17 level and they were only prevented from taking the Conference title by a Northern side that boasted the likes of Kieran Brown and Jordan Griffin – both Sheffield Steelers players.
So many players stood out, so it was difficult to narrow down to just a few, but the absolute star was Scott Jamieson. He’s clinical in front of goal, strong enough to hold off defenders and create his own chances, but also fits superbly into any forward systems.
Reece Cochrane was one of the triumphant Great Britain U18 team that won gold in Estonia. Cochrane is what I would call an old-fashioned defenceman, taking care of his own end first before he looks to transition. That said, he is excellent at taking the puck into the offensive areas and creates chances for the forwards as well as popping up with a few goals himself.
Scoring an overtime winner against England will tend to get you noticed, but Liam Stenton was excellent all Conference weekend and was selected for the U17 all-star team, along with netminder Dale Shearer.
Comfortable playing in defence or as a forward he linked up very well with his Solway Sharks teammate Lewis Houston, another player who caught the eye as an extremely skilful forward with an ability to take the puck around players to find the net or set-up a teammate.
Scottish Ice Hockey has a lot to be optimistic about. There are some great players coming through and it will be interesting to see how they progress over the next few years, especially as the U11s and Under 13s will have regular development tournaments throughout 2018/19.
This allows the teams to get together more regularly, give more players an opportunity to play at Conference level and ultimately increase the standard further.