The Frozen Four was clinched by Boston College over the weekend, so we gotta give it up to the Eagles in this week’s list of player we can’t wait to see in the NHL.
The Under-18s have kicked off in Russia, too, and all the eligible hot prospects are there, so we’re feasting on the early returns.
1. Taylor Hall, LW – Windsor Spitfires (OHL): After some exhibition struggles, Canada walloped the Germans 9-2 at the Under-18s and Hall, as he did in Windsor this season, led the charge. The super 16-year-old had a goal and four points in the game. He will be a superstar in the OHL next year. Draft eligible in 2010.
2. Nikita Filatov, LW – CSKA 2 (Rus.): Guess who’s leading the Under-18s in scoring early on? That’s right, the top draft-eligible European has six points through two games and apparently is hell-bent on playing in North America next year, even if it’s in junior or the AHL. This kid’s attitude is helping his stock rise every day. Draft eligible in 2008.
3. Nathan Gerbe, C – Boston College Eagles (Hockey East): You couldn’t ask for much more from Gerbe in the NCAA championship game. The wily pivot counted on all four Eagles goals (two goals, two assists) in a 4-1 victory over Notre Dame. Gerbe also had a hat trick in the semis versus North Dakota. Drafted 142nd overall by Buffalo in 2005.
4. Josh Godfrey, D – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL): The Hounds have been barking and biting through opponents all season long, so it’s no surprise the Western Conference final of the OHL playoffs comes down to Soo and the high-flying Kitchener Rangers.
Anchoring the Greyhounds defense is Washington draft pick Josh Godfrey, an offensive blueliner who has rounded out his game this year, upping a meek 2006-07 minus-2 rating to a meaty plus-31 this season.
“At the year-end meeting last summer, coach (Craig) Hartsburg told me he wanted me to take a bigger step defensively,” Godfrey noted. “They told me the same thing at NHL camp in Washington, so I’ve tried to be more aware and get quicker jumping to opponents.”
With 51 points from the blueline in the regular season and another five in nine playoff games so far, Godfrey certainly has the pedigree to take his game to the next level, which is likely where the four-year OHL veteran is headed in 2008-09.
The defenseman will get a shot at the Caps roster, but he’ll more likely start off at AHL Hershey, which is fine with him.
“I welcome the challenge,” he said. “It’s another step to where I want to get to.”
Drafted 34th overall by Washington in 2007.
5. Magnus Paajarvi, LW – Timra IK (Swe.): The other underage Swedish prodigy people can’t stop talking about (Victor Hedman being the first), Paajarvi posted three assists in his first game at the Under-18s and played for Timra’s big club this year. Draft eligible in 2009.
6. Jake Allen, G – St. John’s Fog Devils (QMJHL): Allen could be a fantastic sleeper pick in this year’s draft. The backup to San Jose pick Timo Pielmeier in St. John’s, Allen nonetheless, was the goalie in the Fog Devils’ only two wins in a 4-2 playoff series loss to Acadie-Bathurst. Playing at the Under-18s for Canada will help, too. Draft eligible in 2008.
7. Phil McRae, C – London Knights (OHL): The highly skilled son of former NHLer Basil McRae is leading the Americans in scoring through two games with five points and has a tournament-best plus-5 so far at the U-18s. This tourney could really boost McRae’s profile. Draft eligible in 2008.
8. John Muse, G – Boston College Eagles (Hockey East): Freshman Muse gave up just two goals in the final two games of the Frozen Four, capping off a very successful season that saw him go 25-11-8. Undrafted.
9. Toni Rajala, LW – Ilves Jr. (Fin.): The Finnish wunderkind ended his season with 35 points in 33 games and continued the flashiness at the Under-18s. Rajala, a 5-foot-8 terror, posted two goals and an assist in the Finns’ opening victory over the Swiss. Draft eligible in 2009.
10. Andrei Loktionov, C – Yaroslavl 2 (Rus.): Playing with Filatov at the Under-18s, Loktionov is right behind his linemate with five points in two games. The Yaroslavl product had a great world junior tournament and even played five games with the big club this year, garnering one assist. Draft eligible in 2008.
11. Jeremy Morin, C – U.S. NTDP (NAHL): Morin ran roughshod over the Swiss in a 7-2 American romp at the U-18s, tallying two goals and an assist. The underager also had a power play goal in a 5-0 exhibition win over Denmark. Draft eligible in 2009.
12. Brian Salcido, D – Portland Pirates (AHL): He was second among all AHL defensemen in scoring this year with 53 points in 71 games and now the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Californian is leading his Pirates to the playoffs. Drafted 141st overall by Anaheim in 2005.
13. Nicolas Deschamps, C – Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL): Deschamps narrowly won the Q’s rookie scoring title this season with 67 points in 70 games and now he’s producing on the world stage, tapping in two goals for Canada versus Germany. Draft eligible in 2008.
14. Luca Sbisa, D – Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL): After a very competent regular season (33 points, plus-19 in 62 games), Sbisa has stormed the gates in the playoffs, leading all defensemen in scoring with 13 points in 11 games. Draft eligible in 2008.
15. Dustin Tokarski, G – Spokane Chiefs (WHL): Spokane has beaten some very good teams on its way to the Dub’s Western Conference final and once again Tokarski is at the forefront. The 18-year-old leads the league in playoff save percenage (.939) and goals-against average (1.57). Draft eligible in 2008.
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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