Sam Rinzel was a highly regarded NHL prospect throughout the season; Emmett Croteau became one on Thursday. The two Waterloo Black Hawks each took a prominent place in the final NHL Central Scouting rankings announced in preparation for the 2022 NHL Draft, which is scheduled for early July in Montreal.
Rinzel moved up to 19th among North American skaters from a January midterm ranking of 26th. The defenseman spent most of the 2021/22 season at Chaska High School in Minnesota but joined the Hawks fulltime for the last two months of the USHL schedule, plus the playoffs. The 6-foot, 4-inch, 181-pound 17-year-old contributed two goals and eight assists in 21 regular season Waterloo appearances. He also took the ice in all six Hawks playoff contests. Rinzel is committed to the University of Minnesota.
Croteau was not on the midterm list, but he rated 10th among North American goaltenders on Thursday’s chart. After splitting time early in the season, the Red Deer, Alberta, native became the Hawks’ primary option in the crease during mid-February. Croteau finished the year 16-16-3, ranking fifth among USHL netminders in save percentage (.899) and tying for sixth in goals-against average (3.00). He was even better in the playoffs (.913; 2.71), playing in all six Waterloo games with a 3-3 record. Croteau announced his commitment to Clarkson as the season was beginning last fall.
Several other current, future, or former Black Hawks were also listed in NHL Central Scouting’s final report:
-defenseman Adam Cardona played in 42 games as a Waterloo rookie this season. His +9 plus/minus differential led the team in 2021/22. Cardona also produced three goals and five assists, highlighted by a game-winning goal against the Des Moines Buccaneers on December 10th. He is a Massachusetts-Lowell recruit. Central Scouting ranked Cardona 174th among North American skaters.
-forward Gavin O’Connell enjoyed a strong finish, with a goal and four assists in the last five Hawks games. He followed up with three playoff assists, and was slotted 178th by Central Scouting. The future Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog was one of only two Black Hawks to play in all 62 regular season games. His 24 regular season points (eight goals, 16 assists) tied him for 16th in scoring among rookies leaguewide.
-defenseman Aaron Pionk was Waterloo’s first pick during Phase II of the 2022 USHL Draft on Tuesday. Central Scouting placed him 132nd on its North American list. He had nine goals and 19 assists in 51 games for the Minnesota Wilderness of the North American Hockey League.
-forward Grayson Badger was on Waterloo’s affiliate list this winter while playing for the Dexter School in Massachusetts. Central Scouting ranked him 165th.
-defenseman David Gucciardi skated for the Black Hawks in 2020/21 and was a freshman at Michigan State this season. In Waterloo last year, he had seven goals and 10 assists over 29 games. As a Spartan, Gucciardi produced five goals and six assists in 36 appearances. He ranked 57th Thursday.
-forward Michael LaStarza spent last year with the Hawks and opened 2021/22 in Waterloo before being traded to the Sioux Falls Stampede. LaStarza was 91st according to NHLCS. His time with the Hawks included 19 goals and 27 assists in 75 contests.
During the 2021/22 season, 15 Waterloo alumni appeared for NHL clubs. The group included All-Star Game participant Joe Pavelski (who led the Dallas Stars with 81 points), goaltender Cal Petersen (who won 20 games for the Los Angeles Kings), and defenseman Brandon Montour (who eanred a career-high 37 points for the Florida Panthers). Three former Black Hawks skaters made their NHL debuts this season: Tom Novak (Nashville Predators), Jack Drury (Carolina Hurricanes), and Dylan Samberg (Winnipeg Jets).