Possible NHL futures for Oakland County stars?
|Mackenzie MacEachern (right) and former Calumet and|
current Windsor forward Ben Johnson pose for a picture
after being drafted by St. Louis and New Jersey in last
week's NHL Draft in Pittsburgh.
Now, he's still coming to grips with being drafted by the St. Louis Blues with the 67th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. In between he stood out in the MDHL fall league, dominated high school hockey this past winter - winning a state title and the Mr. Hockey award - and then led Team Michigan to victory at the Minnesota NIT Championship.
He's received a scholarship offer from Michigan State and was drafted fourth overall by the Chicago Steel in the USHL Draft in May. He told me he plans to report to the Steel in September and will play a year before hopefully getting his chance to play for the Spartans.
But like I wrote in the story, who knows what will happen. I think the sky's the limit for this young man. He's got great size and hockey skills to be a playmaker at any level. I think it won't be long before you see him in a Blues' uniform.
Before I heard about MacEachern being drafted by the Blues, I had learned about Connor Hellebuyck being taken in the fifth round by the Winnipeg Jets. Now this is an interesting story. While MacEachern came from relative obscurity - Rice's JV team as a sophomore - he stormed onto the big scene at a high school powerhouse these past two years. He was a two-time first-team all-county selection.
But Hellebuyck, who played his prep hockey at Walled Lake Northern, has quietly made a name for himself. Because he played for the Knights - who have risen up as a program over the past couple years but are nowhere near the household name the Warriors are - he didn't get the credit he deserved for being a great goalie. He was my fourth-team all-county goalie a year ago. In my defense, I had not seen him play and no one else was giving him much attention, either.
But I do recall a conversation with a coach this past offseason from a well-known hockey powerhouse who said Hellebuyck was very talented. He had a great year with the Odessa (Tex.) Jackalopes this past year. So in a sense, it didn't surprise me to hear that he had been drafted. But this year? OK, maybe a little.