NHL Draft

Hunter Skinner’s Three Assists Help Knights Shoot Down Spitfires

Hunter Skinner (Terry Wilson/ OHL Images)

With just six New York Rangers prospects seeing action on Friday night, it was a very good night for the prospect who plays for the London Knights. When 2019 fourth-round pick defenseman Hunter Skinner was selected, he was at the time expecting to attend Western Michigan University.

WMU is a good hockey school coached by former NHL coach Andy Murray and in most cases, my personal preference is for those selected after the third round to attend an NCAA school if given the chance. Skinner thought otherwise and de-committed from WMU and signed a junior contract to play for the London Knights of the OHL.

The Knights are coached by former NHL player and coach Dale Hunter (who is also one of the owners), Hunter is a demanding coach and that made him perfect to help Skinner become a better two-way defender. Entering Friday’s game against the Windsor Spitfires, Skinner was leading the North American Rangers prospects in scoring at 3-14-17.

Skinner would earn the game’s first star with a solid three-assist, +4 effort to help the Knights earn a 6-3 win. All three of the assist were primary assists as Skinner improved to 3-17-20 after 22 games. The game highlights can be found right here

Hunter Skinner would all three of his points on London’s first three goals of the game. Skinner earned his first assist of the night when a shot of his missed the mark but bounced off the back -boards right onto the stick of teammate Connor McMichael who tucked it into the net. London led 1-0 at 16:39 of the first period.

On the second assist, Skinner would carry the puck into the zone handing it off to Nathan Dunkley who would beat Windsor’s goalie through the “five-hole” giving London a 2-0 lead at 13:15 of the second period.

Still in the second, Hunter Skinner would earn his third point of the night when the rebound of his shot went right to a teammate who would put it right in for the goal. Skinner, it should be pointed out was carrying the puck into the offensive zone leading the attack. The goal made it 3-0 as the Knights would go on to win their fifth straight game.

Hunter Skinner in addition to being 3-17-20 is also a +17 which is tied for third-best on the Knights. Skinner and his teammates held a team skills competition in which Skinner won the “hardest shot” recording a 99 MPH blast as well as the elimination shootout.

Tyler Wall (Rich Gagon)

Tyler Wall won his eighth game of the season when he stopped all 23 shots that he faced to lead his UMass-Lowell River Hawks to a 4-0 win over fellow prospect defenseman Simon Kjellberg’s Rensselaer Engineers. The non-conference game was part of the “Turkey Leg” Classic as the River Hawks improved to 8-3-4 on the season.

For Wall, it was his second shutout of the season and ninth career shutout as he earned the game’s second star. It was just another solid performance from the Ranger’s sixth-round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

Check out the nice glove save Wall makes off a deflected shot (at the 40-second mark of the clip). Wall improves to 8-2-4 with a 1.60 goals against (6th NCAA) and a 0.947 save percentage (4th NCAA).

Saturday Wall will be one of his toughest tests this season when the River Hawks host seventh-ranked Penn State in the finale of the Turkey Leg Classic. You can watch the game via the CBS All-Access app starting at 6 PM EDT.

Tyler Nanne scored his second goal of the season an unassisted tally with the teams skating “4-on-4” but it wasn’t enough to prevent his Minnesota Golden Gophers from losing to second-ranked North Dakota 3-2.

Nanne in addition to the goal was a +1 on three shots while blocking three shots as well. For Nanne, the goal improved him to 2-4-6 on the season with a team-best 33 blocked shots.

Zac Jones (Thom Kendall/UMass Athletics)

Zac Jones didn’t show up on the scoresheet but one had to like what they saw from him as his 10th-ranked Massachusetts Minutemen earned a 3-0 win over Quinnipiac. Jones did have two shots but what stood out for me while watching him was how poised the freshman defender played.

Jones was the power play quarterback but one play really stood out as to why the Rangers drafted him in the third round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. With Massachusetts on the power-play, Jones started a play at the top of the point but after handing off the puck to a teammate was able to sneak down the left side and wind up in from of the Quinnipiac goalie ready to tuck a rebound home.

Zac Jones was used on the power-play as well as the penalty kill to go along with his regular shifts. In the third period with the outcome still in doubt, Jones was out there almost every other shift.

Jones and his teammates will host Quinnipiac on Saturday evening, a game that will also be streamed on the CBS All-Access app starting at 7 PM EDT.

Riley Hughes and his 13th-ranked Northeastern Huskies travel to Ireland to take part in the “Friendship Four” tournament. Hughes was scoreless as his Huskies earned a 4-0 win over Hockey East rival New Hampshire for their fourth straight win.

Want To Watch?

If you want to see some of the Ranger NCAA prospects play then I suggest you sign up for the CBS All-Access app which shows Hockey East games (Wall, Jones, and Hughes) or the ESPN+ app which shows the ECAC (Morgan Barron and Simon Kjellberg). Both are reasonably priced but with the ESPN+ app, you can typically also catch NHL games as well.

Let’s Talk The Draft (Rd’s 3-7)

The easy part of the 2019 NHL Entry is over and one can say that the Rangers are already having a winning draft. But the Rangers still need to find depth as well as talent with their remaining five picks so here goes.

68— If Shane Pinto RW (6’2 195) of the Lincoln Stars (USHL) is here then grab him. Pinto who is headed to North Dakota is big RW who can also play center. He is a work in progress which is why you are looking at him here.

Strong passer who can read the ice well is also a good skater. Despite his size he needs work on in play in traffic as well as his shot selection. Worthy gamble if available but if not then would rather see the Rangers trade down to add more picks.

112— Rangers have to wait 42 picks due to trades before selecting in the 4th round and I am headed back to the WHL. I really like Reece Newkirk of the Portland Winterhawks here mainly because when I watch him play I see Ryan Callahan (also a fourth round pick).

The 5’11 170 center/left wing Newkirk had 59 points in 68 games and his size is why he is here in the fourth. Like Callahan, Newkirk plays with no fear at any end of the ice and is a human wrecking ball. Ranger fans will fall in love with this kid because of his heart and fight.

130— In the fifth I like a kid I got to watch when following Riley Hughes in Massimo Rizzo of the Penticton Vees (BCHL). The name alone says he is made to be playing at Madison Square Garden but seriously the 5’10 170 center/left wing is super fast and an excellent stickhandler.

Also heading to North Dakota, Rizzo plays bigger than his size and is rock solid in all three zones. Really love the way Rizzo’s on-ice vision works as he reads plays before they develop. Will be a serious threat on the power play the way he controls the puck.

161— Right Wing Aaron Huglen of Roseau Jr. Sr. High School in Minnesota. One of the more dominate high players in Minnesota, Huglen is a hard working forward who plays much bigger than his 5’11 size. A smart player who wins puck battles in the paint and will take a hit if it makes a play.

Huglen is heading to the Minnesota Golden Gophers where he will continue to grow and improve.

205— With their last pick, the Rangers are going to repeat their seventh round idea from 2018 and select another Boston high school player. Defenseman Braden Doyle of Lawrence Academy a Boston University recruit follows the path that last year’s seventh rounder Riley Hughes did by taking an extra year before heading off to college.

This one could be one of the better kept secrets as Doyle was selected by the Boston Bruins as the winner of the John Carlton Memorial Trophy. The award is given annually to the high school “who combine exceptional hockey skills with academic excellence.”

Doyle will play next season for Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL. He is an offensive-minded defender who can take the puck from his end and lead the rush. An excellent puck-handler, Doyle is also impossible to take the puck from once he gets going.

Fits David Quinns system because he can either skate or pass the puck up the ice in a hurry. Needs work on his defensive side which is why he lasts to the seventh round but that is OK the Rangers will be happy to have him.