Can you believe the playoffs are already here? The NCAA has already started playing post-season games, while the Quebec League is ramping up to do the same. Minnesota’s annual high school classic is up this week, so there are a lot of prospects to get into. Once again, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Nicklas Jensen, RW – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
He may have been born and raised in Denmark, but Oshawa’s not so foreign for Jensen. His father is from Toronto and moved to the Scandinavian nation to play hockey, so Jensen is a very different kind of import.
“My dad’s Canadian, so we’ve talked in English since I was born,” he said. “Of course we had the Canadian culture in our house and I had visited like, seven times before.”
Maybe that explains why Jensen has had such a nice transition to North America. The 6-foot-3, 186-pound rookie has 28 goals and 54 points through 55 games for Oshawa along with a robust plus-17 rating. He also helped Denmark earn a promotion to the top rung of the world juniors with five points in five games in the Division 1B tourney this year.
“It was really cool,” Jensen said. “I played last year, too. You’re always proud to play for your national team.”
The big Dane still wants to work on his defensive zone play and shore things up all around, but there’s no mistaking his instincts on the rush and his ability to shield the puck with his long frame.
“When I have the puck,” he said, “that’s when I’m at my best.”
International Scouting Services has Jensen ranked 10th overall for this summer’s draft, which would make him the second top-10 Danish pick, after Phoenix’s Mikkel Boedker. Draft eligible in 2011.
Carl Klingberg, LW – Chicago Wolves (AHL)
Swedish writer Uffe Bodin broke the news Monday that Klingberg, a gritty banger of a winger, was taking his talents to the American League since his season with Timra has come to a close. While he may play in Sweden again next year, this will still be a good trial for the youngster. Drafted 34th overall by Atlanta in 2009.
Zack Phillips, RW – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
It’s hard to avoid Sea Dogs prospects this year and with Saint John earning the No. 1 seed in the Quebec League playoffs, the focus will only magnify. Phillips ended the regular season on a great tear, nabbing seven points in the last three games and 90 points overall on the season. The smart, determined right winger more than doubled his offensive totals from last year. Draft eligible in 2011.
Matt Frattin, RW – University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux (WCHA)
Frattin’s career with the Sioux had previously been marked by his two arrests and subsequent ousting from the team, but this year it’s all about Hobey Baker buzz. The physical right winger leads the conference in goals with 29 and is second in points with 49 in 37 games. North Dakota enters the playoffs as the WCHA’s No. 1 seed. Drafted 99th overall by Toronto in 2007.
Jon Merrill, D – University of Michigan Wolverines (CCHA)
Just named to the conference all-rookie team, Merrill has been an outstanding freshman for the Wolverines. His seven goals and 21 points in 34 games led all first-year blueliners and his squad heads into the CCHA playoff tournament as the No. 1 seed. Drafted 38th overall by New Jersey in 2010.
Joe Cannata, G – Merrimack Warriors (Hockey East)
The Warriors have a conference quarterfinal date with Maine, so Cannata will have to be sharp in net. Luckily, the junior goaltender has been a rock all year, posting a 2.37 goals-against average and a 22-8-4 record, both good for second in Hockey East. Drafted 173rd overall by Vancouver in 2009.
Danny Biega, D – Harvard Crimson (ECAC)
The Crimson swept Clarkson to earn a playoff date with No. 3 Dartmouth and Biega was an integral part of the attack. The sophomore has been a bright spot on an otherwise unremarkable team, leading Harvard in scoring with 17 assists and 28 points in 31 games. Drafted 67th overall by Carolina in 2010.
Mark McNeill, C – Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Other than a couple droughts that have lasted three or four games, McNeill has been quite prolific this season (68 points in 64 games) and has scored two points in each of the past three games for the Raiders. A power forward whose hockey sense allows him to man the point on the power play, McNeill has a lot of intriguing skill. Draft eligible in 2011.
Kyle Rau, C – Eden Prairie Eagles (Minn. HS)
The Eagles enter the Minnesota State High School Tournament on a high, knocking off another titan in Wayzata to earn the sectional berth and the No. 1 seed. Rau, once again, was a focal point. The diminutive pivot scored the double-OT winner in that game and tallied 33 goals and 69 points in 25 regular season games to lead the Eagles. Draft eligible in 2011.
Markus Granlund, C – HIFK (Fin. Jr.)
A slight pivot with great vision and devastating power play acumen, Granlund has ruled the Finnish junior ranks this season, totaling 20 goals and 52 points in 40 games. That ties him for second overall and he leads his team, despite missing games to play up in the men’s division. Draft eligible in 2011.
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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