The pre-season is already getting underway in the major junior ranks, though the Ontario and Western Leagues have a head start on the Q.
In this week’s Hot List – our weekly compilation of players we can’t wait to see in the NHL someday – it’s time to get going on those 2009 draft picks, not to mention a couple other boys making early noise.
1. Evander Kane, C – Vancouver Giants (WHL): With a handle like Evander, Vancouver’s 16-year-old rising star knows he needs to have a knock-out draft year.
“Obviously I’m going to try and set myself apart,” said Kane, who is in fact named after boxer Evander Holyfield (a favorite of Kane’s grandfather).
And while Kane did drop the gloves several times in his rookie season with the Giants, he’d rather be punching in pucks.
“I consider myself a goal-scorer,” Kane said. “I’m not a fighter, but I’m not afraid to stick up for myself, either.”
Like many young players in the Dub, Kane cites Jarome Iginla as an idol. Ironically, Kane’s power forward game has been compared to another Iggy acolyte, Kyle Beach.
And much like Beach, Kane has been a much-talked about prospect on the Internet message boards, though Kane said he tries to avoid what can be venomous forums.
“I have people telling me things that are said,” Kane noted. “But I stay away from it.”
The Vancouver native has already started off this year in style, winning a gold medal with Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. His next mission is to take his hometown Giants to a Memorial Cup.
“We have a real good team with a lot of guys returning,” he said. “I think we have a real good shot at being the best team in the Western League.”
Draft eligible in 2009.
2. Ty Rattie, RW – Portland Winter Hawks (WHL): He isn’t eligible to play regular season games for the Hawks until 2009-10, but Portland fans are already seeing what will be an exemplary Dub career. The 15-year-old Rattie tallied twice in a 4-3 exhibition loss to Seattle. Draft eligible in 2011.
3.Garrett Wilson, LW – Owen Sound Attack (OHL): Acquired from Windsor in June, Wilson is already showing off his skills in the pre-season, notching two goals in a 5-3 win over Barrie. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder may be proof there’s light at the end of the tunnel for the Attack. Draft eligible in 2009.
4. Cam Fowler, D – U.S. NTDP (NAHL): Team USA named its Under-18 NTDP team recently and Fowler leads the charge on defense. The 6-foot-2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish recruit has been highly touted for years, especially because of his skating ability on the back end. Draft eligible in 2010.
5. Vern Cooper, C – Plymouth Whalers (OHL): Cooper has blasted out of the gates on fire, ringing up three goals in Plymouth’s first two exhibition games against Windsor (both wins for the Whalers). At 5-foot-9 he’s not real big, but the youngster (and late birthday) already has an OHL championship and some Memorial Cup experience under his belt. Draft eligible in 2009.
6. Oscar Moller, RW – Chilliwack Bruins (WHL): There’s always an outside chance Moller will end up with the NHL’s Kings at some point this season, but in the meantime he’ll have to settle for flaying the competition in the Dub once again. Three helpers against Everett in a 3-2 exhibition game victory is a good start. Drafted 52nd overall by Los Angeles in 2007.
7. Brandon Maxwell, G – U.S. NTDP (NAHL): The returning starter for the NTDP squad, Maxwell is a Florida native who tied Rick DiPietro’s mark for wins with 21 last year as a member of the Under-18 squad. Maxwell split time between the U-18 and U-17 teams. Draft eligible in 2009.
8. Jordan Eberle, C – Regina Pats (WHL): Eberle’s lack of bigness (5-foot-10, 174 pounds) was no deterrence on NHL draft day and with his stickhandling skills and sick wrist shot, it’s no wonder. Eberle kicked his pre-season off the right way with three points in two wins over Prince George and Edmonton. Drafted 22nd overall by Edmonton in 2008.
9. Jan Latal, D – Plymouth Whalers (OHL): The Czech national will have a great opportunity to show off his game to North Americans this year in Plymouth and he’s off to a great start, drawing an assist in a 3-2 exhibition game win over Windsor. Draft eligible in 2009.
10. Andrew Agozzino, C – Niagara IceDogs (OHL): On a team that has groomed several NHL prospects recently, Agozzino has put his name out there, scoring twice in a 6-3 victory over Oshawa. Draft eligible in 2009.
The Hot List, a weekly 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.
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