By Jacob Messing
The puck drops on the 2017 Bauer Motown Classic — streamed live right here on FloHockey — next weekend in Detroit. The tournament, presented by Legacy Global Hockey, has featured plenty of players who headed to the NHL, and you can bet this year will be no different.
Three of the top 11 picks in the 2015 NHL Draft (No. 3 Dylan Strome, No. 8 Zach Werenski, and No. 11 Lawson Crouse) participated in the Bauer Motown Classic as youngsters.
The following year, five of the top 16 picks (No. 6 Matthew Tkachuk, No. 7 Clayton Keller, No. 14 Charlie McAvoy, No. 15 Luke Kunin, and No. 16 Jakub Chychrun) were all drafted and are alumni of the tournament.
Of those players, only Kunin has yet to play an NHL game, but each of the other seven has left a mark during his short NHL career. Below you’ll find a closer look at a handful of these budding stars.
Clayton Keller | 19 Years Old | Arizona Coyotes
NHL Stats: 6 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 Pts.
In his freshman year last season with Boston University, Keller finished 19th in NCAA scoring with 21 goals and 45 points in 31 games. The center trailed only behind Denis Smirnov (47 pts.) in freshman scoring.
The Missouri native joined the Coyotes following his season with the Terriers, adding two assists in three games. The undersized Keller has outplayed his 5-foot-10 frame everywhere on the ice and uses a keen hockey IQ to out-duel his opponents.
In Arizona’s season opener, Keller reaffirmed his NHL status by scoring his first goal and recording six shots on net in just under 20 minutes of ice time. He’s an important piece of Arizona’s offense moving forward on a team trending upwards.
Jakob Chychrun | 19 | Arizona Coyotes
NHL Stats: 68 GP, 7 G, 13 A, 20 Pts.
Chychrun was projected as a top-five pick ahead of the 2016 NHL Draft, but the defenseman slipped all the way to the Detroit Red Wings at No. 16, who flipped the pick to Arizona to unload Pavel Datsyuk’s deadweight cap space.
Chychrun stepped right into a full-time NHL role, fitting in with poise, albeit with some learning curves as a teenage blue liner on a bottom-dwelling team.
First box jumps of the summer. pic.twitter.com/m0wWqRcfqf— Jakob Chychrun (@j_chychrun7) June 27, 2017
The Florida native went viral on hockey Twitter over the summer, appearing ready to take the next step among the game’s greatest players.
Chychrun was injured in offseason training and underwent knee surgery on August 4. His timeline is unknown, and while he has not yet begun skating again the organization stated last week that he is ahead of schedule.
First NHL goal for Charlie McAvoy and his mom and dad love it! pic.twitter.com/zW6qEzbrjA— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) October 6, 2017
Charlie McAvoy | 19 | Boston Bruins
NHL Stats: 2 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 Pts.
A teammate of Keller’s last season at BU, McAvoy has the potential to grow into a top-10 NHL defenseman. In 75 games over two years with the Terriers, McAvoy scored eight goals and 51 points alongside a plus-19 rating.
The New Yorker joined the Bruins’ AHL affiliate Providence at the end of last season, where he tallied two assists in four games before joining Boston for six playoff games, dishing three assists and averaging a whopping 26:12 of ice time.
McAvoy will be a top defenseman for Boston for years to come. He’s a defensive stalwart with offense in tow, proven by his regular season debut of a goal and assist.
Matthew Tkachuk | 19 | Calgary Flames
NHL Stats: 79 GP, 13 G, 37 A, 50 Pts.
Tkachuk had a solid rookie year with Calgary a season ago and showed his future in four words: like father, like son. The eldest son of hall of famer Keith Tkachuk, known for his balanced offense and tenacity, Matthew was a mirror image of his dad.
With 13 goals, 48 points and 105 PIM in 76 games as a rookie, the versatile left winger is just scratching the surface. Calgary’s youth of Tkachuk, Sean Monahan, Johnny Gaudreau, and others has pinned them as an up-and-coming team ready to fight the Pacific Division’s top spot.
Tkachuk’s ability to beat opponents on the scoresheet or toe to toe is a seemingly dying art in pro hockey, which makes him a fascinating player to watch.
Zach Werenski | 20 | Columbus Blue Jackets
NHL Stats: 81 GP, 12 G, 36 A, 48 Pts.
After just 81 NHL games, Werenski has shown he is a future Norris Trophy winner. The Michigan native scored a combined 20 goals and 61 points in 71 games during his two years at the University of Michigan.
The defenseman played with future NHL players including Dylan Larkin, Zach Hyman, and others, where they mutually benefitted from each others’ strong play. Werenski placed third in 2017 Calder Trophy voting, behind only Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine.
Currently partnered with Seth Jones on the Blue Jackets’ top pair, the two former top-10 draft picks have the ability to grow into the game’s best tandem for a Columbus team finally putting the pieces together.
FloHockey will live-stream the Bauer Motown Classic, which kicks off on October 20 at 8 AM EST and runs through October 22; the final game is scheduled for 4:30 PM.
The hockey extravaganza is made up of nine divisions, split up between U18, U16, and U15, as well as six more for skaters born in each year between 2003-08.
Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @JMessing23.