As hockey is now in full swing in Europe, another NHL prospect heads over to begin his 2020-21 season. Two more junior teams in the United States have suspended operations for the upcoming season. Plus, we look at an American defensive prospect who fits the bill for today’s NHL blueliner.
Marody Latest to Head to Europe
The Edmonton Oilers announced on Friday morning that they have loaned forward Cooper Marody to the Dornbirn Bulldogs of the Austrian Hockey League. The plan is for him to return to Edmonton for the start of training camp in December.
Marody was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the sixth round (158th overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. The Oilers acquired him, in March of 2018, for a third-round draft pick. In his three seasons at the University of Michigan, Marody scored 31 goals and 90 points.
The 23-year-old center made his professional debut for the Bakersfield Condors at the end of the 2017-18 season. He played in 58 American Hockey League (AHL) games the following season, scoring 19 goals and 64 points. He also made his NHL debut for the Oilers but did not find the scoresheet in six games.
Marody had a bit of production dip during the shortened 2019-20 season. In just 30 games for the Condors, he scored five goals and 17 points. He was part of the Oilers’ Return to Play roster but did not appear in any of their four games during the Qualifying Round.
Two U.S. Junior Teams Suspend Operations
This has not been a good week for junior hockey in the United States as a team from each of its top two leagues announced they would be sitting out the 2020-21 season.
The Cedar Rapids Roughriders of the United States Hockey League (USHL) officially suspended operations for the upcoming season on Friday. While other teams have paused for the 2020-21 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Roughriders’ home arena, the ImOn Ice Arena, suffered major damage during a severe storm on Aug. 10.
“The property damage in the Cedar Rapids area is widespread. Our community will rebuild and recover from the storm”, said Mark Carlson, president, general manager and head coach of the RoughRiders in an official statement.
Meanwhile, earlier in the week, the Springfield Jr. Blues of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), confirmed that their 2020-21 season will not take place. The state of Illinois, where the Jr. Blues play, is currently not allowing gatherings of over 50 people, which will make playing games impossible.
“It has been a very difficult and trying time for all of the Springfield community and the great businesses that make up the Capital City Area” said Dan Ferguson, owner of the Jr. Blues, on the team’s official website. “I am extremely saddened by the decision I had to make for the upcoming season, but I feel it is the right decision for the safety of all parties including our staff, players, housing families, and fans.”
The Jr. Blues are the longest-tenured franchise in the NAHL and this will be the first season since 1993 that will not have them competing. Springfield is the league’s third team to sit out the season, joining the Corpus Christi IceRays and Kansas Scouts.
Both the RoughRiders and Jr. Blues plan to return for the 2021-22 season.
Prospect of the Day – Mitchell Miller
We will stay in the USHL for our Prospect of the Day feature. Miller, a 5-foot-11, 194-pound defenseman, is ranked 49th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. In his final rankings, THW’s Larry Fisher his him as the 21st rated defenseman and 78th among all skaters.
Related – THW’s 2020 Draft Guide
Miller, a right-handed shot, fits the mold of today’s NHL defenseman. He is an offensive-minded, undersized defender who is a smooth skater. He had eight goals and 33 points in 44 USHL games for the Tri-City Storm last season.
He is great at getting the transition game going from his own of the ice into the attacking zone. Miller excels with his outlet passing and rarely folds under pressure. He will look to jump into the offensive play when he can, but he usually doesn’t get caught out of position. While he isn’t a bruiser on the ice, by any means, he is not afraid to amp up the physicality when the situation calls for it.
Our own Mathieu Sheridan warns that whichever team drafts him, they will need to be patient with his development.
With Miller, he will need a few years to fully blossom and develop his all-around game. He will most likely need some time in the minors but I can see him becoming a second or third pairing defender. An NHL comparable to me would be someone like Matt Niskanen. They both love to contribute on offense but know when to come back. They both aren’t afraid to be physical and use that to their advantage when battling for puck possession.
Miller has the vision, skating ability and physical presence that will get him drafted next month. He still needs to improve on his play in his own zone and when he doesn’t have the puck. He’s committed to the University of North Dakota, so he will be in a very good place to make the progressions needed.