With the NCAA in full swing, all prospects are now playing meaningful games – so it’s a beautiful time for The Hot List. And while the draft spotlight is beginning to heat up for the Big 3 of Sean Couturier, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Larsson, there’s more to this crop than just the top. With the future always in mind, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Gianluca Curcuruto, D – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
The Soo Greyhounds are young this season, with several draft eligible players and a trio of 1994 birthdays playing on a regular basis. Fortunately for the Hounds, one of those ’94s is Curcuruto, a slick-passing two-way defenseman who looks like an old pro already.
“I think I bring poise on the back end,” Curcuruto said. “Sometimes the guys get frustrated on the bench when things don’t go our way, so I try to bring calm and confidence on the back end just to bring the guys down a bit.”
And even though he has just three assists through 11 games, he’s an even player on a team with its fair share of minuses. He’s also shown a deft passing touch, finding lanes in traffic and working well on the power play with center Daniel Catenacci, who we featured in video form. The fact Curcuruto moves the puck so well as an underclassman is vital to his game.
“I try to be as confident as possible out there,” he said. “I make sure I get rid of the nerves before the game, so that I’m out there poised and confident with the puck and making sure I’m on my game.”
If there’s one thing the blueliner is still getting used to, it’s the travel that comes with playing on one of the more remote teams in the league, especially for a kid who grew up in the Greater Toronto Area.
“The first couple road trips were a bit of an adjustment,” Curcuruto noted. “I’m from the GTA, so the games I used to go to were half an hour away.”
Now he’s showing his skills off on a bigger stage – and it won’t be his last promotion. Draft eligible in 2012.
Joel Armia, RW – Assat Pori (Fin.)
With 10 points in nine SM-liiga games, Armia is producing at the highest level of Finnish hockey and has vaulted himself into first round draft talk (ISS has him at No. 15 overall right now). A big-bodied skill player, his style is drawing comparisons to Mats Sundin. Draft eligible in 2011.
Tony Cameranesi, C – Wayzata Warriors (Minn. HS)
The speedy Cameranesi is leading the Upper Midwest Elite League in scoring with 29 points in 18 games for first-place Team Northwest. The league, a precursor to the Minnesota high school season (which doesn’t kick off until late November), hot-houses the best players in the state and also includes teams from Shattuck St-Mary’s and Norway. The 5-foot-9, 162-pound Cameranesi has committed to Minnesota-Duluth for the future. Draft eligible in 2011.
Myles Bell, D – Regina Pats (WHL)
Solidly built at six-foot, 202 pounds, Bell looked good at the NHL’s R&D camp in August and has carried that play back to Regina. The blueliner has nine points in his first 10 games this season and though he doesn’t drop the gloves often, his strength makes him lethal when he does. Draft eligible in 2011.
Erik Haula, LW – University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (WCHA)
It seems like the Finnish Haula has been in North America forever, but the feisty import is just now reporting for NCAA duty. After stints with Shattuck St-Mary’s and the United States League, Haula has been clutch early on for Minnesota, grabbing a goal and six points through four games. Drafted 182nd overall by Minnesota in 2009.
Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, D – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
The Quebec League announced its roster for the Russian Super Series and Gauthier-Leduc is one of the prominent names on the blueline. The 6-foot-2, 194-pound rearguard is also having a nice offensive campaign so far, notching 12 points in 11 games for his best career pace. Drafted 68th overall by Buffalo in 2010.
Ryan Strome, C – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Could Strome be this year’s Greg McKegg? Much like the Erie Otter last season, Strome’s offensive pace is way up and the talented pivot is already leading the league in scoring with 20 points in 10 games. Ironically, Strome just passed McKegg to take the points throne. He was originally acquired from Barrie as part of the Alex Pietrangelo trade last year. Draft eligible in 2011.
Sam Brittain, G – Denver Pioneers (WCHA)
At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Brittain is a whole lotta goalie and the freshman is showing his worth even if he’s not getting results early on. Despite a 0-1-1 record, the Calgary native has some of the best stats in the conference, rocking a 1.47 goals-against average and .951 save percentage, both good for second in the WCHA. Drafted 92nd overall by Florida in 2010.
Calle Jarnkrok, C – Brynas (Swe.)
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Detroit got a bargain draft pick from Europe last summer. Jarnkrok, who generated a lot of pre-selection buzz thanks to a solid second half, was nabbed by the Wings in the second round and now he’s leading the Eliteserien in scoring by a junior-aged player. The skilled producer has nine points in his first 11 games. Drafted 51st overall by Detroit in 2010.
Sven Bartschi, LW – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
The Hawks may not get Nino Niederreiter back from the NHL’s Islanders this season, but they can take solace in the fact his fellow Swiss national is providing ample offense in his stead. Bartschi leads all Dub rookies in scoring early on with 18 points in 11 games for high-flying Portland. 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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