NHL rookie camps are already underway, with tournaments in Traverse City, Mich., and Kitchener, Ont., offering the most concentrated action. Some young stars are getting attention early, so we’re showing them some love, plus other players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day. For players on the cusp of the NHL, their last teams are noted.
1. P.K. Subban, D – Belleville Bulls (OHL): He made Canadians fall in love with him at the world juniors and now Subban is hoping to do the same with the Habs, the team his father followed. Though he’ll likely start the season in the American League, Montreal has given the slick-skating puckmover a chance to make the NHL leap.
“They told me there’s an opportunity there,” Subban said. “I have to come in and take somebody’s job. It’s basically up to me…I’m pretty sure they know what I can do out there, but it’s about me showing I can do it at this level now.”
Thanks to several stellar campaigns with Belleville, the young blueliner at least knows he has done all he can at the junior level. En route to a Memorial Cup appearance in 2008, Subban had 23 points in 21 post-season games and followed it up with a brilliant 76-point season in ’08-09. His goal now, is to build on that further.
“I’m going into camp with a lot of confidence, I had a great year of junior hockey,” Subban said. “It’s different now, though, it’s pro.”
But with his skills and enthusiasm, it’s hard not to see Subban streaking down the boards of the Bell Centre in the near future (Click HERE to see video of THN’s full interview with Subban).
Drafted 43rd overall by Montreal in 2007.
2. Evander Kane, C – Vancouver Giants (WHL): Atlanta isn’t the deepest team to begin with, so the Thrashers must be over the moon with Kane. The Vancouver product has already scored in both his rookie tournament games even though the talent around him isn’t necessarily blue-chip. Drafted fourth overall by Atlanta in 2009.
3. Jonas Gustavsson, G – Farjestad BK (Swe.): Stopping 35 of 36 shots in his first appearance earned ‘The Monster’ a lot of kudos in the Toronto press over the weekend, as Gustavsson stoned the Penguins in Kitchener. The fact he scrambled and fought to keep the puck out is a very endearing trait. Signed as a free agent by Toronto in 2009.
4. Drayson Bowman, LW – Spokane Chiefs (WHL): Carolina’s prospects are really coming together early in Traverse City and Bowman is among the best. He had goals in his first two games and is looking great alongside fellow youngsters such as Zach Boychuk and Jamie McBain. Drafted 72nd overall by Carolina in 2007.
5. Matt Calvert, LW – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): Playing on a Brandon line with Scott Glennie and Brayden Schenn, Calvert is used to success, which could explain his early returns for Columbus. The left winger notched a hat trick in a win over the Blues in Traverse City, including a shorthanded empty-netter with time running down. Drafted 127th overall by Columbus in 2008.
6. Erik Karlsson, D – Frolunda Indians (Swe.): The Senators are pinning a lot of hopes on Karlsson, a future power play quarterback in Ottawa. Thankfully, the youngster looked good in his debut, scoring and adding an assist in a win over Pittsburgh in Kitchener. While he’s not huge (5-foot-11, 165 pounds), Karlsson does bring the skills Ottawa needs on the back end. Drafted 15th overall by Ottawa in 2008.
7. Austin Mattson, RW – Plymouth Whalers (OHL): An Ontario League rookie, but with previous USHL experience, Mattson has been a consistent scorer for the Whalers in the pre-season. His dazzling shorthanded marker against Windsor Monday proved to be the momentum-shifter that eventually earned Plymouth the win. Draft eligible in 2010 (undrafted in ’09).
8. Maxime Clermont, G – Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL): One of the top-rated NHL draft prospects in the ‘Q’ this season, Clermont isn’t wasting anytime in the pre-season. He beat the OHL’s 67’s in Ottawa, then played half the game in the rematch in Gatineau, blanking the opposition in another Olympiques win. Draft eligible in 2010.
9. Troy Rutkowski, D – Portland Winterhawks (WHL): Heading into his second season in the ‘Dub,’ Rutkowski is proving to be lethal on the power play, garnering two points in a big pre-season win versus Everett on the weekend. The 6-foot-1, 219-pounder has done well when given the spotlight; he had four assists for Team Pacific in the semifinal of the 2009 under-17 World Championship in B.C. Draft eligible in 2010.
10. Jordan Eberle, C – Regina Pats (WHL): Eberle would love to join the Edmonton Oilers this season, but his small frame isn’t exactly a team need right now. Nonetheless, he is one of the best prospects in the system and if he has to light up the Dub again to prove it, he will. Drafted 22nd overall by Edmonton in 2008.
The Hot List, a weekly roundup of minor league, junior, college and high school players we’re excited to one day see in the NHL, appears every Tuesday only on thehockeynews.com.
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