The Ivan Hlinka tournament and Team USA’s National Junior Evaluation Camp are both in full swing, meaning international squads at the under-18 and under-20 level are up and running. And with Canada, Sweden and Finland joining the U.S. party in Lake Placid, N.Y. (we’ll be there starting Wednesday), there’s a lot of talent to watch. Here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day, listed with their expected 2013-14 teams.
Austin Poganski, RW – Tri-City Storm (USHL)
Team USA brings a minimal amount of National Team Development Program players to the Ivan Hlinka, meaning opportunities abound for kids who play elsewhere. Poganski was a standout with St. Cloud Cathedral high school in Minnesota and will head to Tri-City this season before beginning his college career at North Dakota.
“I played for the Jr. Sioux when I was growing up and ever since then I’ve liked North Dakota,” he said. “I was lucky enough to tour there a couple times and I felt that was the best place for me. My goal is to play there as a true freshman.”
At 6-foot-1, 204 pounds, Poganski already has some great size to him and he used that to his advantage in high school, leading the Crusaders with 25 goals and 47 points in just 23 games. That will help in Tri-City, where the Storm struggled for goals last season.
“I see the ice pretty well,” he said. “I like to pass more than shoot and my strongest asset is going into the corners and playing strong.”
A big fan of Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, Poganski had an assist in Team USA’s opener at the Ivan Hlinka, a 3-2 overtime loss to Finland. Playing in the United States League will offer a nice challenge for the youngster, who will be joined by fellow talented newbies Kevin Kerr and Chris Wilkie, among others. And Poganski knows he has work to do before he heads to North Dakota.
“You can always improve on strength and speed,” he said. “So that’s what I work on.”
Since he’s already earned international duty, it seems the strategy is paying off. Draft eligible in 2014.
Teuvo Teravainen, LW – Jokerit (Fin.)
The star of Team Finland early on in Lake Placid, Teravainen teamed up with Habs pick Artturi Lehkonen for a four-point outing in the opener and dominated the ice. A slight player who nonetheless creates space for himself thanks to his elite skills, Teravainen continues to grow while playing against men back home. Drafted 18th overall by Chicago in 2012.
Aaron Ekblad, D – Barrie Colts (OHL)
Thanks to the exceptional status he was granted by Hockey Canada, Ekblad joined the Colts a year early, meaning he has a year more experience than his Ivan Hlinka teammates. No surprise then that Ekblad earned the captaincy, but then he proved why he’s the top-rated defenseman in the 2014 draft by ventilating the Czechs for three points and setting up a penalty shot for the other marker in a 4-0 win. Draft eligible in 2014.
Taylor Cammarata, C – University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (Big Ten)
Cammarata’s vision and offensive playbook is quite advanced and helped him to the USHL scoring title last season, but his 5-foot-7 frame has always been questioned. So far at Team USA’s junior camp, he has put those fears to bed, with three points in two games and a spot on the final roster. Drafted 76th overall by the New York Islanders in 2013.
Maxim Lazarev, LW – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
The Russians got all they could handle from Slovakian goalie Maximilian Pajpach in their opener, but fortunately Lazarev was there with a goal and an assist to eke out a 2-1 win. Cape Breton’s top import draft pick, Lazarev will bring great hands and puck skills to the rebuilding Eagles. Draft eligible in 2014.
Kaapo Kahkonen, G – Espoo Blues (Fin.)
The only Finnish goalie on Central Scouting’s 2014 Watch List, Kahkonen has already shown his mettle at the Ivan Hlinka, staring down Team USA in the overtime opener. Back home, he guided the Blues to the junior final, recording a 2.43 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in the regular season. Draft eligible in 2014.
Jack Dougherty, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Like Poganski, Dougherty was a star in the Minnesota high school ranks last year, winning a title with St. Thomas Academy. Now he’s heading to Ann Arbor and Team USA, where his mixture of grit and skill is always welcome. Dougherty had a goal and an assist in a crucial Ivan Hlinka win over Russia and is mulling his NCAA options after decommitting from Ohio State. Draft eligible in 2014.
Olli Maatta, D – London Knights (OHL)
Like Teravainen and Lehkonen, Maatta enjoyed a four-point outing vs. the Americans in Lake Placid and will be a crucial part of the blueline for Finland at the world juniors. The big, smart blueliner will also get a chance to play in his third straight Memorial Cup this year with London, the hosts. Drafted 22nd overall by Pittsburgh in 2012.
Will Butcher, D – University of Denver Pioneers (NCHC)
A mobile defenseman who can do a bit of everything, Butcher was finding the scoresheet early and often in Lake Placid. The U.S. has a lot of good options on defense this year, so the Pios commit did well to push himself through to the final roster. Drafted 123rd overall by Colorado in 2013.
Gustav Possler, LW – Modo (Swe.)
Making magic with Montreal pick Sebastian Collberg in Lake Placid, Possler had a three-point game against USA Blue. The sturdy youngster gets his shot off fast and knows how to bury his chances. More than a point-per-game player last year in Sweden’s junior ranks. Drafted 130th overall by Buffalo in 2013.
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 on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play their first NHL game.
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