The major junior seasons are on and NHL training camps are in full swing, so let’s not waste any time with formalities. Here’s a look at some of the young names making headlines in hockey who we can’t wait to see in the NHL.
1. Jonas Gustavsson, G – Farjestad (Swe.): This will obviously be the last opportunity to feature ‘The Monster’ on the Hot List, since the Swedish goaltender will start the season with Toronto. But in the meantime, let’s reflect back on the sick playoff run he had in Sweden last year and the amazing performance he turned in against the Pittsburgh rookies in his camp debut.
A surgical heart procedure put Leafs Nation on suicide watch for a couple days, but Gustavsson is back now and besides, his best asset is his leg strength.
“I try to be explosive,” Gustavsson said. “I don’t have to lift 400 pounds – I try to do jumps over hurdles because I think it helps me get quicker.”
Of course, the intimidation factor of ‘The Monster’ also helps and the lanky Swede’s frame (6-foot-3, 192 pounds) is part of his success.
“I’m pretty tall,” he said. “So I just try to be in the right position and cover a lot (of net). I try to make it as easy as possible to stop the puck.”
If the Leafs can get that ability out of their prized rookie on a consistent basis, it will be a happier year in Hogtown. â€¨
Signed as a free agent in 2009.
2. Alexander Burmistrov, C – Barrie Colts (OHL): His commitment to North America raises his draft stock, but how about eight points in your first two Ontario League games? Yeah, that’ll do it. Burmistrov clearly has talent, though defensive work is probably on the practice schedule; somehow he’s only an even plus-minus right now. Draft eligible in 2010.
3. Carter Ashton, RW – Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL): Talk about bonus babies – Tampa knew they’d get Victor Hedman second overall this summer, but Ashton was snapped up late in the first round and is already proving his worth with the Bolts. The youngster even played on a line with Vincent Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay in pre-season action. Drafted 29th overall by Tampa Bay in 2009.
4. Dmitri Kulikov, D – Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL): The Florida Panthers have spots open on their blueline and a prospect is expected to step into at least one of those roles. Since Kulikov and his power play wizardry chipped in on both of the Cats goals against Ottawa last week, don’t be surprised to see the teen in Sunrise this year. Plus, coach Peter DeBoer is an early fan. Drafted 14th overall by Florida in 2009.
5. Ryan O’Reilly, C – Erie Otters (OHL): There have been some surprising cuts in Denver (Ryan Stoa the most notable) and O’Reilly may be responsible. The 6-foot, 200-pound pivot has been solid at Avalanche training camp and was rewarded with his first NHL contract in the process. Drafted 33rd overall by Colorado in 2009.
6. Philip Larsen, D – Frolunda Indians (Swe.): He won’t be playing for Dallas this season, but that doesn’t mean the Stars weren’t impressed with his efforts. Larsen is a puck-moving defenseman from Denmark who is on the smallish side (5-foot-11, 185 pounds), but is one to watch for in the future. They’re already whispering the name ‘Sergei Zubov’ in relation to the Dane thanks to his smarts. Drafted 149th overall by Dallas in 2008.
7. Boone Jenner, C – Oshawa Generals (OHL): Prep Watch is returning to THN.com this year and one of last season’s profiles is already making noise. Jenner, who plays a hard-hitting, nasty game, has blasted out of the gates for the Gens with four points in two games, making him a top-10 scorer early on in the OHL season. Draft eligible in 2011.
8. Jordan Eberle, C – Regina Pats (WHL): Eberle’s profile just keeps on growing. The diminutive star was excellent for Canada at the world juniors, a point-per-game player in a nine-game American League stint last year and now he’s surviving the cuts at Oilers training camp. Drafted 22nd overall by Edmonton in 2008.
9. Tyler Cuma, D – Ottawa 67’s (OHL): It’s important for rookies to make a good first impression in the pre-season, so Cuma did whatever he had to in order to stand out in Minnesota. Getting bloodied in a fight with Chicago’s Shawn Lalonde may not have been the most fun way to do so, but that (and his overall play) did raise eyebrows among the Wild brass. Cuma may return to junior this year since last year was largely an injury-based washout. Drafted 23rd overall by Minnesota in 2008.
10. Quinton Howden, LW – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL): Last year was tough sledding for Moose Jaw and Howden’s rookie minus-37 is proof. But it’s a brand new year and the 6-foot-3, 183-pound left winger is already putting up points with five through two games – and he’s a plus-2. Draft eligible in 2010.
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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