Saint John is your Memorial Cup champion and some of the most prominent Dogs will have to make due with a quick celebration; the draft combine starts Tuesday in Toronto. Look for total coverage of the fitness testing later in the week, but for now let’s round up some more prospects we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Tomas Jurco, RW – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
If there was a player who answered a lot of questions at the Memorial Cup, it was Jurco. The Slovakian import is a known quantity when it comes to his hands and high-end scoring ability, but consistency was a concern. In Mississauga, however, Jurco was one of Saint John’s best players each night and his willingness to play physically was impressive.
“That’s why I came over, to get used to the style of play I want to play my entire life,” said the second-year Sea Dog. “I was playing the same way in the (Quebec League) playoffs, trying to be physical and play both ways. I hope I impressed people who may be interested in me and we’ll see what happens at the draft.
Speaking of which, Jurco’s stock must have received a bump thanks to his recent play and now there’s no doubt he will be selected in the first round in Minnesota. Along with Jonathan Huberdeau, Nathan Beaulieu and Zack Phillips, that’s quite the first-round Friday for Saint John.
“It’s great,” Jurco said. “It just shows what a great team we have, how strong we are. I hope we all go in the first round.”
And while a player’s draft year is often full of nerves and wonder, Jurco notes that the best tonic for that ailment is to win hockey games and show the scouts precisely what he can do.
“You cannot change anything during the season,” he said. “The only place you can change your draft position is on the ice.”
Jurco certainly did that in late May. Draft eligible in 2011.
Darcy Kuemper, G – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
The newly crowned CHL goaltender of the year also has an NHL contract to his name now, as Kuemper put ink to paper with Minnesota. Time was running out on the deal and the Rebel’s 1.86 goals-against average and .933 save percentage (both first in the Western League) surely played into negotiations. Drafted 161st overall by Minnesota in 2009.
Nathan Beaulieu, D – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
What made Beaulieu so dangerous in the Memorial Cup final was his willingness to dash up ice with the puck, sometimes carrying it all the way behind Mississauga’s net. Those offensive instincts, coupled with his great size (6-foot-3, 191 pounds), will make him popular come draft day. Draft eligible in 2011.
Casey Cizikas, C – Mississauga-St. Michael’s Majors (OHL)
The Memorial Cup loss was heartbreaking, but Cizikas clearly has a bright future. His speed, skill and attention to detail on the defensive side of the puck have the 20-year-old primed for a job as a shutdown center in the NHL. Drafted 92nd overall by the New York Islanders in 2009.
Anthony DeAngelo, D – Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (USHL)
A highly touted future recruit for Boston University, DeAngelo will instead be taking his game to Sarnia in the Ontario League next season. In 28 games for Cedar Rapids this year, the 15-year-old notched a goal and 15 points from the blueline. Confident with the puck, DeAngelo has great mobility and playmaking skills. Draft eligible in 2014.
Devante Smith-Pelly, RW – Mississauga-St. Michael’s Majors (OHL)
With three goals and six points in five games, DSP was once again in his office during the Memorial Cup. Generally, that area is in high traffic down low and the sturdy right winger uses his 5-foot-11, 211-pound frame and quick stick to make opponents pay. Seems like a great combo for the pro game. Drafted 42nd overall by Anaheim in 2010.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C – Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)
The World Junior Championship hero is reportedly staying in Russia for another season, though he’s only signed a one-year contract. Interestingly enough, it has also been reported that the young center is getting married at Traktor’s arena. That’s hockey passion. Drafted 26th overall by Washington in 2010.
Jakob Silfverberg, LW – Brynas (Swe.)
Hard-working and very creative, Silfverberg was Brynas’ third-leading scorer this season with 18 goals and 34 points in 53 games, despite being just 20 years old. He’ll play another season in Sweden, even though the youngster just signed his entry level deal with the Senators. Drafted 39th overall by Ottawa in 2009.
Ryan Ellis, D – Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)
His long and illustrious junior career now finished, Ellis took two more accolades out the door with him, grabbing CHL defenseman of the year and player of the year titles based on his final season in Windsor, where he hit 101 points in 58 games on the blueline. Drafted 11th overall by Nashville in 2009.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
It’s been awhile since ‘The Nuge’ has actually played competitively, but he’ll be back in the spotlight again this week thanks to the combine. The skills are unquestioned, so the only issue is whether or not the puck wizard has the body to take on the NHL next year or the following season. 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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