The World Junior Championship is about to pop off in Ottawa and since we already know how important the tourney will be for to-end players such as John Tavares and Victor Hedman, this week’s list focuses on some other prospects who can make a lot of noise.
1. Mikael Granlund, C – Karpat Oulu (Fin. Jr.): Finland’s current class of older juniors is seen as uncharacteristically weak, which is why under-agers such as Granlund, Toni Rajala and Joonas Nattinen are getting their shots now. Granlund is the youngest at 16, but he already has 37 points in 23 games playing just below the SM-Liiga. Draft eligible in 2010.
2. Tyler Ennis, C – Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL): Ennis has played alongside Tavares in Canada’s warmups and will likely continue as J.T.’s wingman going into the real competition. The diminutive pivot is best known for his skating and playmaking and will have a pretty good forum to show those skills off in Ottawa. Drafted 26th overall by Buffalo in 2008.
3. Sergei Ostapchuk, RW – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL): Ostapchuk’s absence from last year’s draft combine likely dropped him off a lot of radars, but the right winger is making up for it this season. In his first North American campaign, Ostapchuk is cruising along at about a point-per-game pace, ranking third among ‘Q’ rookies with 31 points in 32 games. Draft eligible in 2009 (undrafted in 2008).
4. David Rundblad, D – Skelleftea (Swe.): Playing in the Swedish Elite League, the 6-foot-2, 187-pound Rundblad has held his own with six assists and a plus-5 rating through 30 games. He’s also the top draft eligible Swedish defenseman behind Hedman, but Tim Erixon is right behind him, so a good tournament will go far in the eyes of scouts. Draft eligible in 2009.
5. Danny Kristo, RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL): Team USA is boasting Kristo could be the fastest player in the whole tournament this year and you know what that means; now he’ll have to go out and prove it. The University of North Dakota commit is a point-per-game player with the Lancers to date. Drafted 56th overall by Montreal in 2008.
6. Harri Sateri, G – Tappara Tampere (Fin.): Sateri’s skills will go a long way in determining how far Finland can go this year and if his domestic stats are any indication, he could be a fortress. The 19-year-old is humming along in the SM-Liiga with a 2.07 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. Drafted 106th overall by San Jose in 2008.
7. Keith Aulie, D – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): On a Canadian defense corps filled with first- and second-rounders, Aulie is the unknown soldier. The Wheat King has already matched his offensive output from last season (17 points), but his most important numbers are 6-foot-6 and 222 pounds. With this stage, Aulie doesn’t have to be unknown for long. Drafted 116th overall by Calgary in 2007.
8. Maxim Mayorov, RW – Syracuse Crunch (AHL): At 6-foot-2, 213 pounds, Mayorov has bulked up a lot recently, which is probably for the best in the long run. He’s been average for the Crunch so far, putting up 12 points in 29 games, but maybe he and buddy Nikita Filatov can make some magic in Ottawa. Drafted 94th overall by Columbus in 2007.
9. Teddy Ruth, D – Notre Dame Fighting Irish (CCHA): Currently known as the prospect traded straight-up for Sergei Fedorov, the world juniors will be a great showcase for Ruth, a stalwart American defenseman whose Irish are sitting atop the conference right now. Drafted 46th overall by Washington in 2007, traded to Columbus in 2008.
10. Felix Bruckmann, G – Heilbronner Falken (Ger.): Bruckmann has played sparingly for his Bundesliga team, but acquitted himself well when he has gone in. He’ll battle San Jose pick Timo Pielmeier for crease time with the always-tough German squad. 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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