Another patented Hot List road trip landed the crew in Kitchener Friday for an Ontario League showdown between the hometown Rangers and visiting Sarnia Sting. The Sting came in with two of the most exciting underclassmen in the OHL, Russians Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk. And although the game wasn’t a barnburner – Kitchener won 1-0 – there was plenty of talent on hand. Stay tuned to THN.com for a video of the Russian pals. Otherwise, here are some of the best prospects from that game and around the hockey world, with notes on Canada’s world junior team camp roster.
Gabriel Landeskog, RW– Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Not only is Landeskog the first European captain in Kitchener’s illustrious history, but he earned the ‘C’ by doing all the things leaders need to do, not just by being a high-scoring winger. The Swedish national throws stiff hits, blocks shots and even fights when the time is right. All part of the job, according to him.
“It’s about doing whatever it takes to win the game,” Landeskog said. “If I have to drop the gloves to protect a teammate, that’s what I’m going to do. And blocking shots is a big part of our penalty kill.”
Landeskog is in his second OHL season and with this being his draft year, the initial foray allowed him to get his feet wet in the North American game. With no learning curve to navigate, he’s proven to be a quick study with 36 points in 24 games this year, putting him among the top-15 in the league.
“I think I’m a strong, powerful guy,” Landeskog said. “I have a good shot, I know how to score and I have good speed down low and know how to protect the puck and play physical.”
The Swede, who speaks English with no accent, considers his language skill just another element to be efficient at.
“I try to do little things, like watch movies without subtitles,” he said.
Plus, some of the other Rangers have him listening to country music. Hits, fights and country? Guess Landeskog is just another good ol’ boy. Draft eligible in 2011.
Pascal Zerressen, D – Krefeld 81(Ger. Jr.)
At 6-foot-5, 194 pounds, Zerressen is a tower of power in the German junior ranks. Dominant on the power play, the blueliner leads the league in points by a defenseman with 27 in 18 games. One-third of that total came on the man advantage. Zerressen has also seen action with Krefeld’s men’s team. Draft eligible in 2011.
Ryan Murphy, D – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
One of the most talked-about prospects in the draft this year, Murphy can definitely skate and there’s no doubt he can shoot. The offensively gifted blueliner scored the only goal against Sarnia Friday and did so on a slapshot that appeared to break the sound barrier. The trick happened twice more on shots that missed. Draft eligible in 2011.
Alex Chiasson, RW – Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)
With 13 points in 11 games, Chiasson is already approaching his offensive totals from all of last season when he had 19 points as a freshman. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Montreal native is doing his share on a young Terriers team with a lot of weapons. Drafted 38th overall by Dallas in 2009.
Tobias Rieder, RW– Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
He’s not big (5-foot-10, 172 pounds), but Rieder uses that to his advantage in the form of elusiveness. Tenacious on the puck, the German national can disappear from a defender’s sight then pop up when there’s an offensive opportunity. His 25 points in 24 games ranks fourth among OHL rookies. Draft eligible in 2011.
Justin Schultz, D – University of Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA)
The sophomore blueliner owned Michigan State on Saturday, putting up a hat trick on the Spartans in a 4-1 Wisconsin win. Schultz came into college as a skinny kid, but has since rounded out and now he’s the Badgers’ second-leading scorer this season with 19 points in 16 games. Drafted 43rd overall by Anaheim in 2008.
Reilly Smith, RW – Miami University RedHawks (CCHA)
With 19 points in 15 games, Smith is third on both his team and his conference in scoring, but is doing so as a sophomore. Swift and skilled, particularly as a playmaker, Smith’s great start with Miami landed him an invite to Canada’s final world junior camp, which is even more impressive because he wasn’t part of the summer roster. Drafted 69th overall by Dallas in 2009.
Louis Leblanc, C – Montreal Juniors (QMJHL)
One of a handful of players singled out by Canadian coach Dave Cameron for having impressive summer camps with the team, Leblanc is one of the few Quebec League players in the mix for the world junior squad. The Montreal star has 28 points in 20 games, not to mention a year of experience playing older competition in the NCAA already behind him. Drafted 18th overall by Montreal in 2009.
Brayden McNabb, D – Kootenay Ice (WHL)
While competition on Canada’s blueline will be tight, don’t be surprised if McNabb lands a spot. The 6-foot-4, 218-pound physical force is scoring at slightly more than a point per game pace for Kootenay, which has one of the best records in the Western League. McNabb has also gone from a minus to a plus-player this season. Drafted 66th overall by Buffalo in 2009.
Alex Galchenyuk, C – Sarnia Sting (OHL)
As the more North Americanized half of Sarnia’s dynamic duo, Galchenyuk may not have the speed of buddy Yakupov, but his attention to detail is quite sharp. The American-born, Russian-raised pivot is a dogged checker who also happens to have great vision and offensive skill. But his 25 points in 26 games as a rookie attest to that already. 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.
For more great prospect profiles and news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.