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RPI Recruit Season Recap
How did all the commits do and what's their outlook for next season?
We’re almost halfway through the offseason, so I thought it would be a good time to take a look at all of the commits and how their years went. We’ll also have an outlook for them for next season.
Easton Adrian - Adrian had an outstanding year with Drumheller in the AJHL. He led the league in U18 scoring among defensemen with 35 points in 52 games. He was selected by the Madison Capitols in the 7th round of the USHL draft and made the 30 man roster for training camp. He will need to make the 25 man roster out of training camp next. One thing that works in his favor is that Madison went through a coaching change and overhauled nearly the entire roster; every spot is up for grabs there.
If Adrian doesn’t make the team in Madison, I expect he’ll go back to Drumheller, and he’d be one of the best defensemen in the league. He’s a promising young prospect who looks like a 2024 arrival.
Xander Babich - Babich was a key two-way player for the Spruce Grove Saints in the AJHL this year. He was one of their top penalty killers and had good offense too with 42 points in 56 games. I believe he will be going back to junior hockey this year, and I’d assume he would just return to Spruce Grove. He will get top 6 minutes with 2 of the other two centers leaving the team.
Mathieu Bourgault - It wasn’t the easiest year for Bourgault. He had a few different injuries that caused him to miss a vast majority of the season. It was essentially a lost year for him. He has signed with the Corpus Christi IceRays in the NAHL for next year. This should be a really good spot for him because he will step in as one of their go-to guys offensively right away. With his talent, he could be one of the best players in the NAHL, and hopefully, a full summer will have him ready to fully bounce back from his injury-ridden year.
Felix Caron - Caron had a good first year of junior hockey with West Kelowna in the BCHL. He was a top 9 wing for them and had 24 points in 36 games. Unfortunately, he also had to deal with some injuries, but he played most of the season. Next year, he should be getting top line minutes because they are losing 3/4 top 6 wingers. Ideally, he can jump up to a point per game or more with the increased ice time plus his development before he heads to RPI in 2024.
Matt Hanscom - In his second year with Westminster, Hanscom improved and was said to be their best defenseman. He improved his offense with 13 points in 26 games, but it wasn’t to the degree that we had hoped for. That’s ok because his defensive play is his real calling card and by all accounts, he was great in his own end. Next year, he is headed to the AJHL to play for the Blackfalds Bulldogs. Blackfalds’ defensemen were pretty young last season, so they are probably returning most of their blue line. He will likely have to fight to earn minutes there to start. Expect Hanscom to play 2 seasons of junior hockey and enroll at RPI in 2025.
Noah Heinrich - Heinrich had a solid first full season with Bonnyville in the AJHL with 15 points in 49 games. I expect he will be returning there next season. Heinrich has always been a player who is a bit more raw due to his lack of size, but his skating is elite. I think he’ll probably spend another 2 years in junior hockey. For next year though, Bonnyville is losing 3 out of the other 6 main defensemen, minimum. He’ll be able to get even more opportunities next season; he should be in their top 4.
Landen Hilditch - Hilditch had a very good year in the BCHL for his age as a 17 year old. He struggled a bit in the first half of the year with Surrey as he adjusted. Then, he was traded mid-season to West Kelowna. The trade was great for him; he played more minutes with West Kelowna and had more opportunity. Not only did he have more minutes, but he also played great. In Surrey, he had 1 point in 18 games, but after the trade, he had 8 points in 20 games. For next season, West Kelowna will have a lot of turnover on the blue line as they are losing 4 of their regular defensemen. With his strong play for them, I expect Hilditch will be one of their top defensemen next season.
Hilditch is really athletic with his skating, strength and size. His ceiling is really high. He’s also really raw and still only 17 (turns 18 in August), so originally, I thought he would enroll at RPI in 2025. With his strong play in the second half of the year though, I could see him coming in 2024 now. He is a very interesting recruit to watch for next season because of that.
Tyler Hotson - There’s not too much to say about Hotson that has not already been said. He’s probably the best forward recruit RPI has had come in since Todd Burgess, but Burgess also had double knee surgery before coming, which made him miss his freshman year. If you don’t count Burgess, he’s probably the best since either Riley Bourbonnais or Drew Melanson. It’s just not everyday that you get to bring in a point per game player from the USHL (although hopefully we get to that point!). I expect Hotson to immediately make an impact in the top 6.
Luke Janus - Janus was a really good player in the MJHL this season with 52 points in 58 games. The MJHL is a pretty weak league, so it was good to see him sign with the Maryland Black Bears of the NAHL for next season. I expect he will play in their top 6. Originally, I had slated Janus as a 2024 arrival, but since he’s in the NAHL, I think he might end up being for 2025. We’ll have to see how his season plays out.
Jackson Kyrkostas - I’m not sure if he’s the best recruit, but I think Kyrkostas is my favorite recruit. I love his skill and playmaking at the center position. His skating is elusive and agile. He is incredibly smart and creative. All these gifts showed up in spades this season as Kyrkostas was arguably the best player in prep hockey. Neutral Zone named him Forward of the Year for prep hockey and runner-up for MVP. He was an All-NEPSAC selection. Numerous coaches voted for him as the best player in prep hockey. His 55 points led all of New England prep hockey and was 13 points more than his next closest teammate. He was simply dominant all year as the captain and leader of a young team that had lost a lot of players from the year before.
I’m not sure right now if Kyrkostas plans on playing in the USHL or the BCHL next season. I assume Muskegon still has his USHL rights, and considering he made the team last year before going back to KUA, he could definitely make it this year. West Kelowna tendered him in the BCHL, and they lost their top 3 centers. He would immediately be one of their best forwards.
Personally, I’m hoping he picks the USHL. He’s good enough to be a top 6 player immediately in both leagues. Usually, players pick the place that give them more ice time since that’s best for development. In this case, I think Kyrkostas would get quality ice time in either league, so the tie would go to the tougher league, in my opinion. Players like Dylan Hryckowian and Ryan Walsh followed the prep to USHL path last year, and both were immediately two of the best players in the USHL despite that jump. We’ll have to wait and see what Kyrkostas picks.
Dylan Lariviere - Lariviere played for Ridley College this season and was their best forward. He’s an athletic and raw power forward with great hands and goal scoring ability. His skating is also pretty good for his size. Lariviere will be headed to play for the Brooks Bandits next year. Obviously, plenty of RPI commits have played there in the past, and they are known as one of the best development teams in North America. They always are by far the best team in the AJHL due to their ability to recruit and develop talent. I look forward to seeing him develop there for the next 2 years before a projected 2025 arrival in Troy.
Lucas Lemieux - RPI’s youngest recruit, Lemieux had a good first season of junior hockey in the AJHL with 19 points in 54 games. I expect he will return to Camrose next season and get some quality ice time with them.
Brody Maguire - Maguire had 17 points in 52 games for the Okotoks Oilers, and he was one of their top defensemen. Maguire is another defensive defenseman whose offensive numbers won’t be gaudy, but he can play key minutes and make stops. I expect Maguire to be one of Okotoks’ leaders on the blue line next season.
Brad McNeil - McNeil had a great year for Maryland in the NAHL with almost a point per game, and he was also their captain. McNeil is a smart, two-way center with some skill. He has the ability to contribute immediately in the bottom 6, and he will also add key leadership off the ice.
Carter Oakenfold - Oakenfold is another player who was in his first year of junior hockey in the AJHL. He had about half of a point per game with the Spruce Grove Saints, which is a solid first year as a 17 year old. I expect Oakenfold will be returning to Spruce Grove along with Babich, and both of their top 6 centers are leaving. Oakenfold and Babich should be taking the mantle in the top 6 down the middle.
Jeremie Payant - Payant is an electric player to watch due to his elite speed, agility and hands. He had many highlight-reel goals due to his ability to put defenders on their heels with his skating while also having the hand skill to dangle them. Like McNeil, I think he can make an immediate impact in the bottom 6. Even though I just described his offensive gifts, he also has a lot of grit to go with it and is a great forechecker.
Ryan Sanborn - Sanborn had a bit of a step-back numbers wise at the Hill School this year. He had a 0.929 SV% last year, but that fell to 0.913 this year as the team around him struggled. Sanborn signed with the Prince George Spruce Kings in the BCHL, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does in junior hockey. At Prince George, Fairlie was the starter last year and has aged out of juniors. Feddema was the backup last year, and I expect the two of them will battle it out for the starting role.
Ryan Shaw - Another player with an absolutely electric year in prep school, Shaw had 42 points in 26 games with Westminster as their undisputed best player and MVP. He was also one of the best players in prep hockey after leading Westminster to the Elite 8. He made the West All-NEPSAC team, and he got some votes as the best player in prep hockey. “Every time he stepped on the ice, he was the most dangerous player out there,” said a coach. “Played hard, controlled the puck and made plays.”
Shaw was selected in the 5th round by the Youngstown Phantoms, who just won the Clark Cup this year. He made the team’s 30 man roster for training camp, and I expect he will make their final 25 man roster as well after the year he had.
Nathan Sullivan - Sullivan is the most recent RPI commitment (not including any transfers in this), and he just led his team in points per game as just an 18 year old. He missed most of the year with an injury but looked like the best player on the ice when he returned. Based on his commitment press release, it appears Sullivan is part of the incoming freshman class. I think he will start slow out of the gate, but he could be a lineup regular once he adjusts to the college game.
Jagger Tapper - Tapper had just an okay first year with the Okotoks Oilers in the AJHL. I was expecting more from him based on what he did at U18 level, but he will be fine because of his skill and speed. It wasn’t a bad year by any means; he had 19 points in 47 games. Next year, Okotoks loses 5 forwards who were higher up in the lineup than him, including the two top 6 centers. He should have a clear path to their top 6, especially because he has the versatility to play both center and wing.
Jack Ziliotto - Ziliotto had an excellent year with Mississauga in the OJHL despite the team being horrible. Seriously, I think this is the worst junior hockey team I’ve ever seen. They were 6-45-2, scored only 117 goals in 54 games, and had a -189 goal differential. Ziliotto had 62 points in 54 games while the next highest scorer had 40 points, and the 3rd highest scorer had 23 points. 62 points on only 117 goals means he had points on over 50% of the team’s goals; that’s insane. Anyways, luckily he is switching teams and leagues next season. Ziliotto signed with Alberni Valley in the BCHL, and they just made it to the league finals so he doesn’t have to worry about them being bad. Alberni Valley is losing 7 or 8 forwards out of their lineup and only return one RW. He should get a pretty good look at minutes with them.
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