The 2022 National Hockey League Draft on July 7th and 8th is just over the horizon and could be one of the deepest in team history for the Waterloo Black Hawks.
The forthcoming month of January will be an intriguing time for draft-watchers. United States Hockey League clubs have almost reached the mathematical midpoint of their schedules; Waterloo is on target to play the 31st of 62 games on January 15th. Two days later, the BioSteel All-American Game will bring together top United States prospects in Plymouth, Michigan. Somewhere around that same time, NHL Central Scouting will release its midterm ranking of draft-eligible players.
In October, NHLCS noted eight skaters with Black Hawks ties as part of the service’s “Preliminary Players to Watch” list. The group has already had many notable moments this season, with more to come as the USHL prepares for games during the week after Christmas. The group includes:
-defenseman Sam Rinzel, who was selected Sunday to appear in next month’s BioSteel All-American Game. The format for this year’s exhibition will mix skaters from USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program and the United States Hockey League’s 15 other member clubs for the first time. Rinzel has appeared in three Waterloo games with a goal and two assists. He is committed to Minnesota.
-forward Michael LaStarza, Waterloo’s second-leader scorer. LaStarza has produced six goals and 11 assists in 20 games, just one point behind top scorer John Waldron. He is already within seven points of equaling his total from 50 appearances in 2020/21. LaStarza is a Boston University recruit.
-forward Owen Baker, the top point-producing rookie for the Hawks. Baker is a future Michigan State Spartan. He has four goals and five assists. His season has included a two-goal performance versus the Sioux Falls Stampede on November 6th. Baker scored the game-winning goal that night.
-forward Gavin O’Connell, recruited earlier this year by Minnesota-Duluth. O’Connell announced his commitment to the Bulldogs on November 1st. He scored his first USHL goal later that week. For the season, he now has two goals and six assists.
Other players on October’s NHLCS Watch List include active defensemen Adam Cardona and Patrick Geary, affiliate forward Grayson Badger, and alumnus Matthew Argentina, a freshman forward at Boston College.
During the 2013 NHL Draft, five players who had been Black Hawks in 2012/13 or a prior season where chosen by professional teams. On two other occasions (2016 and 2017), four then-active or former Waterloo skaters were chosen. Fourteen former Hawks have appeared in the NHL this season.
Waterloo takes the ice this Tuesday versus the Sioux City Musketeers at 7:05 p.m.