A showcase schedule of league-play doesn't always make for the best rivalries as teams can go months between playing each other, if at all. In the case of the Tier 1 Hockey League, however, the lulls in the regular season seem to have little effect on the competitiveness of games when teams in the league link up for showcase games.
Belle Tire looks to be the class of the Tier 1 Bantam Major loop
Such was the case in the Taylor showcase which was headlined by a star-studded Belle Tire roster and several more top-end Bantam Major teams from the United States. While Belle Tire would come out on the wrong end of their first game against a fellow top-10 team, the Colorado Thunderbirds, the squad would regroup to win their next three games in fairly convincing fashion.
Belle Tire has excellent team strength from the blue line with Andrew Perrott and Davis Pennington both projecting as prospective top-20 players as we close in on the mid-way juncture of the season. Hulking 6-foot-2 defenseman Marcus Gretz already possesses pro size and is also an impact defenseman in the age group as he continues to harness his tools and expand his skill-set with the puck.
Is he exceptional?
Perhaps the most intriguing player of them all isn't a 2001 birthdate at all. Enter Belle Tire winger Ty Smilanic, a 2002 birth year player who doesn't just fit in with the age group above him - he excels with them. Smilanic has very good size at 5-foot-10 and is blessed with some of the most impressive skating you'll see in minor hockey. His ability to maximize his impact and adjust the pace at which he plays is still coming to him but there's no doubting the fact that he has the tools to play well beyond junior hockey some day.
In goal, Logan Stein put together a very impressive showcase which was highlighted by an excellent performance in a 1-0 loss against Belle Tire where he turned away 38 of 39 shots. Stein displays plus composure in net and has the ability to put together big-time games like he did with excellent positioning, limiting bad rebounds, and showing the athleticism to turn away a surefire goal.
An eye on the WHL
The WHL Bantam Draft was also well represented in the tournament as western teams from Los Angeles, San Jose, and Colorado were on-hand for the showcase. For Colorado, centre Killian Kiecker Olson is a big body who looks like a high-end pick if he opts to pursue the major junior rout, something that might be a good fit for his rugged style of play. Brady Berlin is a projectable two-way winger who should see no shortage of NCAA interest come his way while the Sandoval twins continue to be offensive spark plugs who can produce with as much consistency as anyone in the league.
It wasn't a great showing for the LA Jr. Kings but team captain Hunter Campbell is an intriguing winger who has good size and skating ability. His offensive instincts are somewhat average and limit what he's able to generate from the blue-line in, but there's no doubting him as a player who has a good combination of tools to play at the next level. Heading up the coast to San Jose, the Jr. Sharks top line of Barak Braslavski, Coalson Wolford, and Sami Hakkarainen were one of the better trio's in the showcase.
For detailed scouting reports on the Tier 1 Bantam Major loop, head over to our Players section and register today!