While rule changes were the impetus for the NHL’s Research, Development and Orientation Camp, it quickly became apparent in Year 2 of the experiment that prospects held the interest of the assembled scouts and GMs. Pitting 36 of the top 2012 kids against each other in the middle of summer brought fire to the event and gave an excellent preview of the season to come. With an emphasis on the R&D camp, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Steven Fogarty, C – Penticton Vees (BCHL)
As a member of the Edina Hornets in Minnesota, Fogarty was a key member of one of the best high school teams in the state last season. He already has a state title to his credit from 2010, but learned just as much when his team came up short last year.
“The hardest thing to do in sports is defend and repeat,” Fogarty said. “We had the target on our backs all season and we learned to battle through adversity. I learned so much at Edina and it was a privilege playing there.”
After a season in Penticton, Fogarty will turn his attention to South Bend, where he’ll suit up for a Notre Dame Fighting Irish program that’s been one of the nation’s best recently.
“I wanted a balance between academics and athletics,” he said. “If hockey doesn’t work out, I have a degree to fall back on and Notre Dame is the perfect place for that.”
Fogarty has a great frame at 6-foot-2, 194 pounds and uses it to create offense. He led the Hornets with 23 goals and 40 points in 24 games last season.
“I’m a team player, I use my teammates,” he said. “But I feel I’m a goal-scorer. I generate offense, that’s my main role.”
The Vees will have an incredible seven players from Minnesota on their roster this season, including Wild second-rounder Mario Lucia. Fogarty will feel right at home. Drafted 72nd overall by the New York Rangers in 2011.
Zemgus Girgensons, C – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
Fighting Saints coach Jim Montgomery has lauded his Latvian star in the past for his Jonathan Toews-esque drive and seeing Girgensons in the flesh leads me to believe him. Always involved in the play, Girgensons is strong on his skates and gets physical out there. Having his Latvian squad at the top level of world junior play this winter will be a big showcase for him. Draft eligible in 2012.
Matt Dumba, D – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
We already know this will be a great year for defensemen and Dumba is part of the elite crop. He’s got a game made for TV, with bone-crushing hits headlining the skills package. Dumba is also a fluid skater who makes a lot of offense happen from the point and isn’t afraid to rush the puck. Draft eligible in 2012.
Ryan Murray, D – Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Right now, Murray is the top defenseman available in 2012 and depending on how forwards Nail Yakupov (also excellent at the R&D Camp) and Mikhail Grigorenko (joining the Quebec League) fare, it’s not crazy to see Murray going No. 1 overall. Not only does he make excellent decisions with the puck, but he can also disarm and flatten forecheckers. Draft eligible in 2012.
Matia Marcantuoni, C – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Marcantuoni is known for his blazing speed, but my biggest takeaway from his play at the R&D Camp is how he uses his skating for more than just offense. In essentially an All-Star Game, Marcantuoni was a dogged defensive presence, using his speed to give the puck carrier fits. Draft eligible in 2012.
Jarrod Maidens, C – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Even though he wasn’t a go-to guy at the time, Maidens’ experience from helping Owen Sound to the Ontario League title last year clearly gave him confidence. At 6-foot-2, Maidens has imposing size and used it to his advantage at the R&D Camp, establishing territory and giving himself room to make some very slick plays that cashed in goals. Draft eligible in 2012.
Raphael Bussieres, LW – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
The second-leading scorer on a bad Drakkar team last year, Bussieres will get plenty of opportunities to produce this season and he’s got the makeup to do it. Big, fast and aggressive, the left winger was both a threat and a thorn in the side of his R&D competition. Draft eligible in 2012.
Collin Olson, G – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
The R&D Camp can be a cruel place for goaltenders thanks to the offensive talent on display (not to mention rule changes often designed to create goals), but Olson showed all the trademarks of the modern elite goalie. The Minnesota native is 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, stays composed in his crease and has a nice glove hand on top of it all. Olson is committed to Ohio State for 2012-13. Draft eligible in 2012.
Nick Ebert, D – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
You get a sense of it from his head shot, but when you see Ebert in person, you realize just how thick his frame is. Using that mass to exert force, Ebert can be a nasty customer out there and doesn’t appreciate players getting near his goalie. Of course, with 41 points in 64 games last year, the New Jersey native also brings offense to town, too. Draft eligible in 2012.
Jonathan Drouin, C – Lac St-Louis Lions (Quebec Midget)
The second overall pick in the Quebec League draft, Drouin is currently planning on playing another year of midget instead of making the jump to the Halifax Mooseheads. Tremendously skilled, Drouin also has the United States League as an option, so his whereabouts will be an intriguing subplot this season. Draft eligible in 2013.
The Hot List, a 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. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play in their first NHL game.
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