Frozen Four scouting Report: Ben Hanowski and Kenny Agostino



pic via Brace Hemmelgarn

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The NCAA championship Frozen Four was held last weekend in Pittsburgh and, pretty much by total chance, the two Flames prospects acquired in the Jarome Iginla trade with the Penguins participated. The Yale Bulldogs, with Kenny Agostino in tow, rolled past two heavily favored teams in UMass Lowell and Quinnipiac to win their first-ever national title, while the recently-signed Ben Hanowski and his St. Cloud State Huskies were bounced in the semifinals by No. 1 Quinnipiac.

Here is some stuff I saw from each of them on the weekend (the first time I’ve ever seen either in person) with the obvious caveat that I got to see Agostino twice and Hanowski just once in what was a rather grim losing effort. Between them, the two snipers — who combined for 34 goals this season, a not-bad number in NCAA hockey — had between them a solitary assist, that being Agostino’s in the championship game, so it also wasn’t all that productive.

Kenny Agostino

Obviously he had the far more successful weekend (what with all the national title winning) and it was pretty easy to see why. He was a decent-sized cog in Yale’s ultra-aggressive forecheck, which really unbalanced both Lowell and the Q, which relied on strong transitions for their offenses all year. The Bulldogs allowed just two goals in six-plus periods, as the Lowell game went to overtime.

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Agostino is blazing fast and skilled, playing on the wing for Yale’s top line, which got heavy minutes. Again, Agostino only had one assist, on a great seam pass to spring captain Andrew Miller for a breakaway that made the national title game a 3-0 joke-a-thon, but his line was busy busy busy all weekend, combining for three of Yale’s seven goals. In particular, they devoured the Lowell defense, putting up 14 of Yale’s 47 shots against a team that was one of the best in the nation defensively. They did more or less the same thing — recording 12 of the team’s 31 shots — in the national title game against Quinnipiac, which was definitively the best possession team in the country; they had among the fewest shots allowed, fewest goals allowed, one of the highest shot totals, and was in the top-5 in faceoffs. Shots ended 36-31 in that game but very few actually appeared all that threatening.

None of this, however, is to say that in the actual course of the game, I never really had my attention grabbed by Agostino himself, which I guess is a weird thing to say about a guy who had 11 shots in two games against probably the two best teams in the country (insofar as they were ranked at Nos. 1 and 2 in the country headed into the Frozen Four).

From everything I’ve read, though, Agostino’s best gifts are those he bears as a leader of men, because he was apparently a leader in the dressing room, and despite winning 3-2 and 4-0 this weekend, it’s not as though the Bulldogs didn’t face adversity, because they really did. They went up two goals on Lowell in the national semifinal, and the River Hawks have a reputation for bouncing back incredibly in the face of difficult situations.

Case in point: They scored twice in 14 seconds to tie the game, and for a little while Yale looked like it would be very much in tough against the hottest team in the country, which had won 24 of its previous 28 games. The Lowell offense mustered relatively little the rest of the way and with Agostino on the ice, Miller scored on a partial break about seven minutes into overtime to put Yale, the very last at-large bid in the tournament, through to the championship game.

Likewise, the Bulldogs weren’t getting much done against Quinnipiac either until last in the second period, when a bout of prolonged offensive zone possession led to a goal to put Yale up 1-0 with just 3.5 seconds to go. Quinnipiac is, again, a deep, experienced, very good team — or rather, was one — and being down one goal with a whole period to go wasn’t likely to discourage them, but Yale didn’t relent, scoring again about three and a half minutes into the third, and putting a stake in the heart of Quinnipiac’s hopes. The Miller breakaway goal five and a half minutes after that, from Agostino, really and truly cemented it.

Ben Hanowski

Hanowski obviously had far less to do than Agostino this weekend, and he honestly barely even made an impression on me. But as with Agostino, I guess saying that is weird because the stat sheet says he had eight shots. Hell if I can remember the details of any of them.

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I do remember thinking he was good enough along the boards and obviously he was fairly active around the net given that he put up those eight shots, but again, none really stood out to me as being all that dangerous, and you have to keep in mind I was trying to keep an eye on him given his status with the Flames. Couldn’t tell you if the reports of his skating being a bit underwhelming were true, and obviously didn’t get a look at his goalscoring ability. He was, however, complicit in allowing the opening goal, just 1:49 into the game because he made a no-effort defensive "play" in trying to stop Oilers prospect Jordan Samuels-Thomas on the wraparound. I mean, just look at this in abject terror. Woof. He was also on the ice for Quinnipiac’s fourth goal, but by then the game was academic, so really, who cares?

I wasn’t all that impressed. Now that he’s in the NHL, though, you’ll all obviously be able to form your own opinions (82 goal pace projected over a full season).

  • Lordmork

    Ryan…your impressions appear to be purely based on goals scored and that is fine.

    With Hanowski what I really like are his size, grit, leadership and work ethic. He also has a personality and presence about him.

    Do you think those are characteristics a team like the Flames clearly requiire given the results they have shown the past 4 years?

  • Lordmork

    Hanowski I can see in the AHL for a full year and being a Moss kind of player that can float through the lineup. I don’t think that he skates as well as Moss but he has better hands and hockey sense.

    It’s too bad that Agostino and Arnold both decided to go back to the NCAA for another year. It would have been good to get them into the AHL next year and start developing their potential. Not sure that there is anything more that they can learn and develop at the college level.

    Agostino gives me the vibes as a guy that might finish his college next year and then become a UFA. There is no good hockey reason to go back to Yale next season.

    • seve927

      No good hockey reason, maybe (maybe not), but an Ivy League degree is definitely a good reason to go back.

      My understanding was that he would not be able to be a free agent next year. He went directly to Yale after the Penguins drafted him, so if he decides not to sign with the Flames, he ain’t playing hockey (just my understanding, I’m not sure).

    • Parallex

      … It’s Yale, an Ivy League school that competes with, pretty much, just Harvard in terms of prestige. I’m sorry but anyone who would burn a scholarship (and accompanying degree)to Yale University to make 67K before taxes in minor-pro hockey is crazy.

      Based on everything I’ve heard (and the 1 game sample size with Hanowski). I think they’re looking like they have a chance to be for the future Flames what Glencross and Moss were to the past Flames… and that’s actually pretty good. Before Daz decided to over-invest on blueliners Glencross and Moss were significant parts of the Flames success… Successful third-liners who can outplay other third-liners. They still might bust of course but that’s true of every other unestablished prospect.

  • Lordmork

    Well I guess we can say we are getting more options in the cupboard sort of speaking. All these kids have talent or they wouldnt be playing in the Frozen 4. Its a fine line between realizing potential & a dream or not & that line is called opportunity. Thats what Flames will be over the next few years, that fine line of opportunity for these young kids. Next year will be audition time for many. The 2014-15 season we will really see the face of this team going forward.

  • beloch

    Hanowski actually looked pretty good last night, especially for a guy fresh off the plane playing his career first NHL game. He might make the team out of camp next year. If Agostino is the more impressive acquisition, I can’t wait to see him in the flaming C!

  • RexLibris

    A good read. Agostino sounds interesting. Both players are going to take time to assess.

    btw, Samuels-Thomas is a Jets prospect. Selected 7th round (203rd overall), 2009 by the Thrashers.

  • supra steve

    Agostino can still get his degree. Lots of players finish their degrees over a couple of summers between the season. If the only reason for him to go back is for his degree than I question what he sees himself in the future.

    Is he a professional hockey player with a degree or is he an activist/lobbyist that played college hockey?

    A hockey player should be doing everything to accomplish a goal of playing in the NHL and I do not see what there is left to accomplish in the college game. His size, strength, speed, etc need to be enhanced at the next level of competition.

    • SmellOfVictory

      Kids who go the NCAA route are smart. They realize that your chances of being a successful NHLer, even if you’re drafted, are fairly slim.

      Don’t think of this from a fan’s perspective, think of it from a practicality perspective: if you’re the kind of guy who’s got, given the round he was picked in, a 1/20 chance of making the NHL, are you going to quit school in your final year just so you can maybe make it in the NHL a year earlier? It’s not like the Flames are going to refuse to sign him just because he stayed in school a little longer.

      And yes, he could finish his schooling over the summer, but that would cost a horrendous amount of money, and he’s currently getting his schooling for free explicitly because he’s still playing in the NCAA.

      • supra steve

        All you have said is true.

        However, this is a 21 yr old hockey player with a best before date not all that many years from now. If he thinks he has a legit shot at making the Flames, all logical arguments against may fail.

        As for the expense of finishing school on his own dime, you can’t be serious? If he really thinks he will be able to bring in an NHL paycheque, that expense is peanuts (estimate $30,000-40,000? for tuition).

        • seve927

          I think the point was, if you don’t make the NHL… Whether you think you’re good enough or not, sometimes it’s not in your control – one shot to the head in your first AHL game… And I don’t know if Yale would be the same as just any school as far as just going back when it suits you.

          At any rate, it certainly doesn’t make me think him less of a prospect because he’s choosing to finish school first.

    • Parallex

      Tuition at Yale is $40,000.00… I repeat $40,000.00. And it’s Yale! This isn’t some podunk community college it’s one of the most sought after admittances in North America.

      So the choice is burn your scholarship and somehow find 40K on a $67,000.00 (before tax) salary to half-ass your way through the final credits you need to graduate part-time (If Yale even allows that) while doing all the things that a pro-athlete has to do… Or wait a year and begin your career with a degree from one of the most prestigious schools in the world to back you up in case you don’t make it, while still getting to work on your athletic game through the NCAA. Not a hard choice.

  • seve927

    Clearly the important part of the trade was the 1st round pick, the salary off the books and, some would say, addition by subtraction in removing Iggy. So based on this I think if either guy makes the flames roster at any point, this will be a bonus. I think one of them will just like one of Mark Cundari or Yogi Berra will probably be a Flame at some point.

    If I had to guess (and really it’s a complete guess) I would say Agostino is on this team in 2014/15 and Cundari makes the final D pairing next season. The other two go on to form a boy band with Nemo and Irving called “4Guyz”

  • seve927

    I can’t believe some people are actually surprised that Agostino is going back for his final year of college (AT YALE!!!!) to finish his degree. You realize he has parents, right?

    Which do you think they’d prefer: their son playing in the NHL after he had achieved the Yale degree, or their son playing in the NHL and trying to half-ass his degree over four summers?

    And that’s assuming he makes the NHL at all.

  • seve927

    Staying the full years in school (especially Yale… one more time YALE!) is the smart, safe and practical thing to do. I would think Agostino was making a poor decision if he didn’t go back. One shift, hit, injury in one game can end a career, no matter how good a player is. Having a degree from Yale is the best 2nd option/safety net he could have.

    Nobody should be blaming him or thinking he isn’t going to make it because he stayed in school to complete his degree. That would be foolish and short sighted.

    That is my take, agree or disagree.

  • Willi P

    “None of this, however, is to say that in the actual course of the game, I never really had my attention grabbed by Agostino himself, which I guess is a weird thing to say about a guy who had 11 shots in two games against probably the two best teams in the country (insofar as they were ranked at Nos. 1 and 2 in the country headed into the Frozen Four).”

    Let me qualify my comments by saying I don’t know if Agostino will ever play in the NHL but….in that tournament versus his peers the kid was dominant.

    Agostino was smothering on the fore check, he was extremely physical, turned over pucks in the offensive zone, other than score more (which would be great) he did all “the heavy lifting” for Yale’s top line (arrgghhh I just made a Simmer).

    It has been mentioned on here several times concerning whether a player benefits from his line or the line benefits from the player and in my opinion with Agostino it is definitely the latter.

  • supra steve

    Two questions:

    Is he on track to earn his degree after his fourth year? Not all students do, even fewer student athletes.

    What degree is he going to earn. There is quite a range from the Yale Law degree to the Yale Basket Weaving degree.

  • McRib

    People do understand that at Yale like other Ivy leagues schools only a Liberal Arts degree is offered as an undergraduate….. You select a major but most of the prestige is getting in… Once you do get in its not any harder than a Canadian undergraduate. My Canadian Universities textbooks were the same that they use at Yale. The graduate degrees at Ivy league schools are far more superior to our graduate degrees as they have the best professors in the world, but the undergraduates are at par. If he took classes this summer he honestly could only have 5-6 more courses to complete his degree. So he would be out of pocket $20,000 or so to finish the next couple of summers…. What is a 3 Year Entry level signing bonus these days…. Haha. He clearly wants to go back for more than just education!!!

    I hear that Yale’s Senor Hockey Captain is often offered a membership into the secret society Skull & Bones… Hahah. What kind of elite person might be showing up to Calgary in a year…. Hahah

  • RKD

    Cool to see Hanowski score in his debut, his skating will need work but it’s been one game. It will take time for him to get used to the pace of the NHL. I would like to see Agostino in a Flames uniform to see what he brings to the table.