Before The Hot List – our weekly rundown of players we can’t wait to see in the NHL – kicks off in earnest this week, big shout-out to the University of Michigan’s Steve Kampfer, who was assaulted on the ice by two Michigan State players after a clean open-ice hit.
Kampfer, an Anaheim draft pick, has already recovered from a fractured skull this year after he was assaulted off the ice by a Michigan football player. No one can say he’s not a survivor.
In the meantime, here’s a look at a couple other players who never give up and some more who never give an inch on the ice.
1. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D – Leksands Stars (Swe): A third-generation player, Ekman-Larsson is showing off a range of good traits in the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second-highest circuit. A blueliner with great offensive upside, the youngster has 16 points in 35 games and is a staggering plus-39; in fact, he’s only been on the ice for seven opposing goals all season. Draft eligible in 2009.
2. Brayden Schenn, C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): After the first couple picks in this year’s draft, who gets selected in what order becomes a mystery. There’s a coven of strong forwards available and a couple of stud defensemen; almost the inverse of last year. For Brandon’s Schenn, he knows how he will distinguish himself.
“One thing that separates me is the physical aspect and my two-way game,” he said, dropping Mike Richards and Jarome Iginla as career models.
And while the draft is always a nerve-wracking experience for a young man, at least Schenn won’t be there alone. His linemate, Scott Glennie, is also a potential first-rounder.
“We’re going through the same things at the same time,” Schenn noted.
This season, the trend was an early graduation to the NHL for many high-ranking draft picks, but don’t look for Schenn or Glennie to make the jump right away. It’s not that the drive or talent isn’t there, but Brandon will be hosting the Memorial Cup next season, meaning an automatic berth for the Wheat Kings and a raucous home crowd supporting them.
“Not many guys get a chance to play in the Memorial Cup,” Schenn said. “There’s always a buzz around town and they treat us well.”
When Brayden does make it to the show, he can also get pointers from older brother Luke, Toronto’s prized rookie blueliner. And depending on how high the Leafs pick in this year’s draft, they might have to add an “L.” to the back of the defenseman’s jersey.
Draft eligible in 2009.
3. Alexander Fallstrom, RW – Shattuck St. Mary’s Sabres (Minn. HS): Tied for the team lead in scoring with fellow Euro Erik Haula at 49 points, Fallstrom is part of yet another impressive Shattuck’s team. At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, he’s got a nice frame to work with as well. Draft eligible in 2009.
4. Mikko Koskinen, G – Espoo Blues (Fin): A mature choice for this year’s draft at age 20, Koskinen is nonetheless justifying his No. 2 rank among Central Scouting’s Euro goaltenders. In 20 games for the Blues this year, the netminder has a .923 save percentage and ranks in the top five of all goalies with a 2.08 goals-against average. Draft eligible in 2009.
5. Kyle Beach, LW – Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL): As is his style, Beach makes the list for his ability to agitate. OK, that’s a bit of an understatement – he drove the Medicine Hat Tigers absolutely up the wall with his slow-playing of an empty-net goal last week. But lost amidst that line brawl was the fact Beach is on his best points pace of his career since joining the Canes nine games ago. Drafted 11th overall by Chicago in 2008.
6. Cameron Gaunce, D – Mississauga-St. Mike’s Majors (OHL): As a Colorado Avalanche pick, Gaunce is timing his development quite well. While the Avs will be looking for some new blueliners in the near future, Gaunce has already surpassed his career-best in points with 41 in 46 games and is the reigning Ontario League defenseman of the month. Drafted 50th overall by Colorado in 2008.
7. Thomas McCollum, G – Brampton Battalion (OHL): Yeah, so the world juniors weren’t exactly a shining moment for the American netminder, but McCollum is back in the saddle with his new squad in Brampton. The OHL’s player of the week is boasting a 2.13 GAA and .927 save percentage, both good for second in the league. Drafted 30th overall by Detroit in 2008.
8. Brandon Hynes, RW – Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL): A whippet at 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, the 16-year-old Hynes is already carving a nice niche for himself as a prolific sniper on the power play; 10 of his 18 goals have come on the man advantage and he has three game-winners as well. The future looks bright for the kid luckily born one day before the draft eligibility deadline. Draft eligible in 2010.
9. Garrett Roe, LW – St. Cloud State Huskies (WCHA): Undersized, but not underappreciated, Roe is following up on his great freshman campaign with a similar 2008-09. The 5-foot-8, 160-pound Virginia native leads the conference in scoring with 36 points in 26 games. Drafted 183rd overall by Los Angeles in 2008.
10. Dylan Olsen, D – Camrose Kodiaks (AJHL): Leaning towards playing NCAA next year, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound blueliner is a popular kid right now thanks to his frame and his upside. Olsen is the top-ranked Jr. A player for this year’s draft, according to Central Scouting. Draft eligible in 2009.
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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