Delayed gratification

The seasons are in full swing now, so expect to see a lot more variety in The Hot List –’s weekly roundup of players we can’t wait to see in the NHL some day – honorees from here on out.

A lot of high-profile NCAA prospects are just beginning their journeys, but some familiar names from major junior are already heating up.

1. Ryan Ellis, D – Windsor Spitfires (OHL): Hard to believe anyone could keep pace with John Tavares in the league scoring race, but Ellis is just one point behind (22 in 13 games) and he’s a defenseman. Given the NHL’s infatuation with offensive D-men, this bodes well for Ellis’s future. Draft eligible in 2009.

2. Peter Mannino, G – Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL): Though the majority of starts have gone to Yann Danis so far, Mannino is leading the whole league statistically, giving up just two goals in two games for a 0.96 goals-against average and .970 save percentage. Not bad for the rookie out of the University of Denver.  Signed as a free agent with the New York Islanders in 2008.

3. Justin DiBenedetto, LW – Sarnia Sting (OHL): If you go by points per game, DiBenedetto is blowing away both Tavares and Ellis, with 21 points in an incredible seven games. It helps, of course, when you score five goals and add two assists against the Soo in one of those games. Drafted 175th overall by the New York Islanders in 2008.

4. Jordan Escott, C – Amherst Ramblers (MJAHL): The St. John’s, Nfld., native is putting up nice numbers in Jr. A, tallying 21 points in 14 games, but he’ll really get a chance to make a name for himself as part of Canada East’s team at the World Jr. A Challenge in November. Draft eligible in 2010.

5. John McFarland, C – Sudbury Wolves (OHL): As a 15-year-old, John McFarland wanted to play in the OHL. Sure, lots of kids have that dream, but like fellow phenom John Tavares, McFarland wanted to play right away.

The youngster applied for the same age exemption Tavares got, but the league felt McFarland needed the extra year. And the Sudbury Wolves center is now glad they did.

“It gave me a chance to get stronger and bigger,” he said. “Also, it made me grow as a person and as a player.”

As expected, McFarland was the No. 1 pick in the OHL draft last year and though he has not set the league on fire yet, he has begun to find his footing and has five points through 10 games.

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“My expectation in myself was to work hard,” McFarland said. “The points will come.”

And with Jared Staal on his wing most of the time, the young pivot will get there. McFarland definitely has a nose for the net and can be strong with the puck, it’s just a matter of execution.

Going from the suburbs of Toronto up to Sudbury has also been an adjustment, but McFarland has been pleased with his new surroundings.

“You’re not living at home, but everyone’s been great there,” he said.

With at least another two years in junior, McFarland hopes to add to the greatness.
Draft eligible in 2010.

6. Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi, LW – Timra Red Eagles (Swe): Big MSP has made a great transition from junior to the Swedish Elite League, scoring eight points in 13 games, despite averaging just 11:47 of ice time per game. Look for the kid to challenge for a top-five draft position this year. Draft eligible in 2009.

7. Zac Dalpe, RW – Ohio State Buckeyes (CCHA):
Dalpe is making his presence felt early in Columbus, notching a point per game in four contests. Much like Kyle Turris, Daple’s transition from Jr. A to NCAA looks pretty good so far. Drafted 45th overall by Carolina in 2008.

8. Ben Duffy, C – P.E.I. Rocket (QMJHL):
Posting 12 points in 13 games for a poor team is pretty good, but Duffy is doing it as a 16-year-old, which is even more of an eye-catcher. Draft eligible in 2010.

9. Brian Foster, G – New Hampshire Wildcats (Hockey East): Foster is finally getting starter minutes with the Cats and boy is he making the most of them. Through three games, the goalie has given up just two goals for a sparkling 0.67 GAA and .975 save percentage. Drafted 161st overall by Florida in 2005.

10. Brett Connolly, LW – Prince George Cougars (WHL): At 6-foot-1, 162 pounds, Connolly can definitely afford to put on some weight, but as a 16-year-old, he still has plenty of time to do so. The 12 points in 12 games gives us our fill, anyway. 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

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