Another NHL Draft Combine is in the books and while the kids are exhausted, the GMs and their scouts are the ones with the sleepless nights coming up. Who will soar and who will flame out? This is where the real guesswork comes in. Chris Calnan of Noble and Greenough prep school was the big winner in the physical tests with multiple victories and several other notable names did well. Here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the big league some day.
Anthony Stolarz, G – Corpus Christi IceRays (NAHL)
Only one player from the North American League was invited to the draft combine and it should be no surprise that it was a goalie. After all, the NAHL’s big contributions to the game have come in net lately, from Ryan Miller to Chicago prospect Mac Carruth. Stolarz is a prototypical modern goalie, with a long frame and an affection for Nashville’s Pekka Rinne. In fact, Stolarz’s 81-inch wing span was tops among combine competitors and he showed off his fitness by placing top-10 in the gruelling VO2 Max bike test. Not bad for a kid who was snubbed by the United States League over the summer. In his 19 interviews at the combine, Stolarz was frequently asked about how he wound up in Texas.
“A lot of them were surprised that I went to an open NAHL camp in New York, that I wasn’t invited to the main camp until then,” he said. “I wanted to go to the USHL, but it didn’t work out.”
Their loss. Stolarz put up a .920 save percentage on a bad Corpus Christi team, where his 1,602 saves ranked second in the league. That’s an average of 32 shots a game (nearly 10 more than some of the other NAHL stats leaders), but the New Jersey native wasn’t complaining.
“I thrive when I face a lot of shots – it keeps me mentally focused and it’s fun,” Stolarz said. “The more pucks you stop, the better you look.”
The 6-foot-5 200-pound keeper is committed to Nebraska-Omaha for next season, so much so that he went straight from Toronto to Omaha to begin training. As for the reasoning behind his destination, it’s all about the leadership behind the bench.
“Dean Blais’ track record speaks for itself,” Stolarz said. “He’s a legendary coach. And Brian Renfrew is the assistant and the goalie coach. I’m looking forward to meeting him and actually having a goalie coach.”
Stolarz prides himself on his athleticism and ability to use his stick, but still wants to work on his foot speed. Considering the Texas two-step he navigated this summer, he’ll be just fine in that regard. Draft eligible in 2012.
Alex Galchenyuk, C – Sarnia Sting (OHL)
No one produced more peak power at the combine’s Wingate bike test than Galchenyuk, who is cementing himself high in the draft after a lost injury season had him all over the map. His hands and head were never in question, so the Russian kid born in Milwaukee is looking more dangerous than ever. Draft eligible in 2012.
Ryan Murray, D – Everett Silvertips (WHL)
While Murray had an excellent combine, particularly in the tough V02 Max bike test, his juice is coming more from buzz than actions right now. That is to say, it’s more likely the all-around ace will be selected within the top two picks, perhaps even going to Edmonton where they sorely need his presence. Draft eligible in 2012.
Taylor Cammarata, C – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
The playmaking Hawks rookie earned second-team All-USHL honors and did so as a 16-year-old. Imagine what the University of Minnesota commit has in store for the future. As it is, Cammarata came away from his first USHL season with 69 points in 60 games, placing him sixth overall. Draft eligible in 2013.
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW – SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
Evgeny Kuznetsov is staying behind, but the other top Russian prospect is on his way to the NHL. Tarasenko signed his deal with the Blues, giving St. Louis a powerfully built scorer who has proven to be clutch. Definitely a pre-season Calder pick. Drafted 16th overall by St. Louis in 2010.
Matt DeBlouw, C – Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
Scouts love the upside that DeBlouw brings to his two-way game and they’ll be pleased with his combine results. The Michigan State commit was second to Galchenyuk in peak power output and was top-10 in mean output as well. Draft eligible in 2012.
James Melindy, D – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
Interesting result for Melindy at the combine. The Cats D-man had the best fatigue index of any competitor, which hopefully translates into those crucial shifts at the ends of close games. Big, skilled and mobile, Melindy was even trusted with taking shootouts for Moncton. Draft eligible in 2012.
Malcolm Subban, G – Belleville Bulls (OHL)
When one brother is in the NHL and another is your teammate in Belleville, it’s fair to say there’s something in the genes for Subban. At the combine, he showed great athleticism, particularly in leg-based events. The Bulls netminder was also invited to participate in Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence goalie camp next week, so don’t be surprised to see him internationally in the near future. Draft eligible in 2012.
Olli Maatta, D – London Knights (OHL)
Already one of the best defensive defensemen in the draft, Maatta’s offensive outburst through the playoffs put another feather in the big Finn’s cap. He had a great showing at the combine, so now the question is, how high will he go in Pittsburgh? Draft eligible in 2012.
Kenton Helgesen D – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
A late riser in the rankings, Helgesen is a shutdown defender who’s not afraid to drop the gloves when duty calls. At the combine, the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder also proved to be one of the most physically fit of the lot, too, tying goalie Matt Tomkins in several physique-based categories. Draft eligible in 2012.
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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