The University of Minnesota-Duluth took the NCAA Frozen Four championship and major junior teams are battling it out in the second round of the playoffs. The European kids are all done their post-seasons, so the world under-18 tournament is the big story, along with the release of Central Scouting’s final draft ranking. Let’s take a look at some of the prospects involved in those plotlines, plus others we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Vincent Trocheck, C – Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
The Spirit are locked in a dogfight with Windsor and part of the reason the team got to the second round is Trocheck, who has been magic all year on a line with fellow Pennsylvania native and Pittsburgh Hornets alum Brandon Saad. But their paths were different: Saad went to the North American League for exposure while Trocheck headed to Detroit and the Little Caesar’s program.
“Really, it was about getting looks,” Trocheck said. “Pittsburgh is growing as a hockey town, but when I was 12 or 13, there weren’t a lot of players coming out of there.”
But Trocheck is doing his best to put Pitt on the prospect map. Speedy and skilled, he had a highlight goal at the CHL Top Prospects Game and has been a point-per-game player in the post-season. And though he’s not the same size, he loves the game Peter Forsberg played.
“He was always a great role model,” Trocheck said. “He never got away from the physical side of the game.”
While the Spirit center would like to improve on his initial quickness, he prides himself on his two-way play and goal-scoring ability. Whether it will be enough to get Saginaw deep into the playoffs is the next question.
“We have all the puzzle pieces,” he said. “We just need to work hard and we can do it.” Draft eligible in 2011.
Tom Kuhnhackl, C – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
These aren’t the Taylor Hall Spitfires. The squad is no longer favored to roll over opponents, so players such as Kuhnhackl are of the utmost importance. The German import had the Game 7 winner against Erie and has continued his strong play against Saginaw, earning him Ontario League player of the week honors. His seven goals in nine games are tied for tops in the OHL. Drafted 110th overall by Pittsburgh in 2010.
Sebastian Collberg, RW – Frolunda Indians (Swe. Jr.)
Playing on a line with 2011 draft prospect Johan Sundstrom, the speedy and fearless Collberg made his name known in the under-20 Swedish playoffs. The youngster isn’t afraid to play in traffic and his nine points in seven games helped Frolunda to the league title. The right winger had two goals in the final match – the game-winner and the insurance tally. Draft eligible in 2012.
Justin Faulk, D – University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (WCHA)
The Bulldogs are national champions and Faulk finished an impressive freshman campaign with eight goals and 33 points in 39 games. The offensive defenseman also had a great world juniors, so it’s been a banner year for the teen who was named to the Frozen Four’s All-Tournament team, too. Drafted 37th overall by Carolina in 2010.
Nathan Beaulieu, D – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
One of the biggest risers on the high end of Central Scouting’s final rankings, Beaulieu has earned that distinction thanks to his playoff performance, where he has rung up nine points in six games for the Sea Dogs. A great mixture of skill and size, it’s not hard to figure out why CSS has him No. 5 amongst North American skaters. Draft eligible in 2011.
Tyler Bunz, G – Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
Bunz and the Tigers have been able to do something remarkable in their first two games against Red Deer: they’ve kept Ryan Nugent-Hopkins off the scoresheet. In fact, Bunz has only given up one goal in the two Medicine Hat victories and his .938 save percentage is the best playoff mark in the Western League right now. Drafted 121st overall by Edmonton in 2010.
Henri Auvinen, D – JYP (Fin. Jr.)
A late-rising prospect who is peaking at the right time, Auvinen had three points in eight games as JYP took the under-20 title in Finland. The blueliner has good size at 6-foot-1, 176 pounds and plays an all-around game. He’ll get a chance to shine even more at the under-18s in Germany and had an assist in an exhibition loss to Team USA. Draft eligible in 2011.
Brett Ritchie, RW – Sarnia Sting (OHL)
A bout with mono ended Ritchie’s OHL season prematurely, but he’s getting another lease on life thanks to a spot on Canada’s under-18 team. He had a goal and an assist in a 2-1 exhibition win over the U.S. and has been lauded by scouts for his size and the ability to play defensive hockey. Draft eligible in 2011.
Max Reinhart, C – Kootenay Ice (WHL)
The Ice are holding off the high-powered Saskatoon Blades in the second round of the playoffs and Reinhart is a big reason why. The responsible two-way pivot has 11 points in eight playoffs games (five points in two wins over the Blades) and a plus-7 rating during that span. Drafted 64th overall by Calgary in 2010.
Nathan MacKinnon, C – Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres (prep)
He had a great season with Shattuck and took his turn as a star player at the Canada Winter Games, so MacKinnon’s next headline will involve the QMJHL draft. The smart, skilled pivot is the top prospect, but will Baie-Comeau trade the first overall pick to a team that covets MacKinnon’s maritime roots? Anything is possible in the “Q.” Draft eligible 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 only on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play in their first NHL game.
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