Injuries have blighted the top end of the 2012 draft class so far and the news is getting worse. Sarnia’s Alex Galchenyuk will now have surgery on his torn ACL and will be out of the lineup for quite some time. Galchenyuk and Everett Silvertips defenseman Ryan Murray (high ankle sprain) join Halifax’s Martin Frk (upper body), who has yet to suit up for the Mooseheads this season. All three are known quantities, but there are still going to be scouts ripping up their travel plans in the meantime. Here’s a look at some of the healthy prospects we can’t wait to see in the NHL one day.
Brendan Gaunce, C – Belleville Bulls (OHL)
As a rookie with the Bulls last year, Gaunce and some fellow freshmen got up in front of their school and did the “Jingle Bell Rock” dance routine from the movie Mean Girls dressed, naturally, as the titular females.
“I have never been more nervous in my life,” said Gaunce, who was also featured in a school production of Hairspray the year prior.
And if you want to make fun of the Belleville pivot, go ahead: Gaunce is already 6-foot-2, 212 pounds and not afraid to drop the gloves. The sophomore is still learning how to make the most of his big frame, however.
“When I look at my game on video,” he said, “there are plays where I can use my strength and I’m cutting to the net and looking natural.”
Gaunce is definitely looking natural as a scorer right now. He leads Belleville with five goals and 11 points in 11 games, putting him on pace for nearly double the offensive output he created last season. His draft stock is soaring and with brother Cameron already in the pros as a Colorado prospect, Brendan has got the pedigree of an NHLer.
“I think I bring composure and confidence to the ice and hopefully it rubs off on my teammates,” Gaunce said. “I play at full intensity and I’m not afraid to get dirty for goals.”
As for his theatrical career, it may be on hold for a while – Gaunce already has a starring role with the Bulls. Draft eligible in 2012.
Tomas Hertl, LW – Slavia Praha (Cze.)
Despite his young age, Hertl is having an incredible start to the 2011-12 campaign with Slavia Praha’s top team. He’s tied for second on the squad with 11 points in 14 games and has the shoulders of a rugby player. At 6-foot-2, 196 pounds, he brings a lot of bulk to the lineup and is plus-2 on one of the Czech League’s weakest teams. Draft eligible in 2012.
Austin Cangelosi, C – Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
Your current United States League scoring leader is none other than Cangelosi, who has exploded out of the gate with eight goals and 11 points in six games. The 5-foot-8 Florida native may be undersized, but there’s no questioning his results and he’s not a one-game wonder: Cangelosi has points in every contest this year and five have been multi-point efforts. With three shorthanded goals, he’s also deadly on the penalty kill. Draft eligible in 2012.
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW – Sibir Novosibirsk (KHL)
The Russian Tank carries on his ascent in the hockey world. Briefly the Kontinental League’s goal-scoring leader, Tarasenko has tallied nine times in his first 15 games and is among the league leaders in points as well with 18 overall. Drafted 16th overall by St. Louis in 2010.
Matt Finn, D – Guelph Storm (OHL)
It’s a great year for blueliners in the draft and though the Western League has the biggest names, it doesn’t end there. Guelph’s Finn can handle the puck and his 12 points in 11 games shows he knows what to do with it too. The Storm D-man also plays the point on the power play. Draft eligible in 2012.
Matthew Peca, C – Quinnipiac Bobcats (ECAC)
There was a battle over Peca’s services in major junior, but the undersized pivot stuck to his guns over the summer and touched down in Connecticut. The Bobcats are sure glad he did, too: Peca has eight points in eight games as Quinnipiac is off to a solid 6-2 start. Drafted 201st overall by Tampa Bay in 2011.
Patrik Bartosak, G – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Boasting Cam Ward, James Reimer and Darcy Kuemper as alums, Red Deer knows goaltending. And the Rebels seem to have another star in the making with Bartosak, whose 1.87 goals-against average and .940 save percentage back up his CHL goaltender of the week accolades. He’s opening eyes after playing solid for Vitkovice’s under-20 team last season. Draft eligible in 2012 (undrafted in 2011).
Mark Stone, RW – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Let’s just entrench this now: All Stone does is put up points. Doesn’t matter who his linemates are or how good or bad his team is, the kid produces. He’s leading the ‘Dub’ right now with 19 assists and 28 points in 13 games and looking like the perfect wingman for Canada’s world junior team. Think Stone can keep it going with Jonathan Huberdeau, Ryan Strome or Mark Scheifele as his center? Drafted 178th overall by Ottawa in 2010.
Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, D – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
Leduc just had an eight-game goal-scoring streak snapped – and don’t forget, he’s a blueliner. With 26 points in 12 games overall, offense has been coming strong for the sturdy rearguard, who will also rep the Quebec League versus Russia at the upcoming Summit Series. Drafted 68th overall by Buffalo in 2010.
Matt Fraser, LW – Texas Stars (AHL)
Graduating to the pros after helping Kootenay to a surprise WHL title and Memorial Cup showing, Fraser has hit the ground running with Texas. The 6-foot-2 left winger has four goals and six points in five games, 27 shots on net and a fight to his credit. Signed as a free agent by Dallas in 2010.
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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