The NCAA Frozen Four bracket of 16 is set and the major junior playoffs are already in full swing, so there’s action aplenty out there for all fans of prospects.
New heroes are being born every day, so let’s give them their due.
1. Alex Stalock, G – University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (WCHA): The scrappy Dogs pushed their way into the tourney by winning the WCHA title as a seventh seed and Stalock’s performance was front and center. The netminder threw back-to-back shutouts at powerhouses North Dakota and Denver to win the final two games of the conference tournament. Drafted 112th overall by San Jose in 2005.
2. Nazem Kadri, C – London Knights (OHL): Ask Kadri if he learned anything while laid up with a broken jaw earlier in the season and he’ll tell you it helped his game. Ask him how it felt to have his mouth wired shut and you’ll get a different tale.
“Ohhhh, it was sad,” recalled the affable youngster. “It’s something I wouldn’t wish on anybody. You have to drink out of those big 7-11 straws and of course keep those teeth clean…I sounded like a bit of an idiot when I tried to talk.”
But Kadri doesn’t sound like an idiot when he talks playoffs. After all, he went all the way to the Memorial Cup final with the Kitchener Rangers last season and has been an integral part of the London Knights’ success this time around, garnering a career-high 78 points in 58 games heading into the post-season. He knows not to look ahead and has told his teammates what it takes.
“When push comes to shove,” Kadri said, “everyone’s gotta step up.”
And with four goals and seven points in two playoff games so far, Kadri is leading by example. A versatile forward who can play all three positions, Kadri is a lock to be taken in the top 10 of the draft this summer and it’s his hands that will get him there.
“I really like to handle the puck and play a puck-possession game,” he said.
And if he can get his hands on the Memorial Cup this year, all the better.
Draft eligible in 2009.
3. Marco Cousineau, G – Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL): The Volts have been a juggernaut this season and the late addition of Cousineau has buoyed their Mem Cup hopes. The veteran goalie had an impressive 2.42 goals-against average in the regular season since joining Drummondville and has been solid in the playoffs, too. Drafted 83rd overall by Anaheim in 2008.
4. Mattias Tedenby, LW – HV71 (Swe.): The swift and slight Tedenby has been a lifesaver for HV71 in the post-season and leads all Swedish junior-aged players in playoff scoring with six points (to go with a plus-7 rating) through nine games. Drafted 24th overall by New Jersey in 2008.
5. Brayden McNabb, D – Kootenay Ice (WHL): Any team looking for a tough customer this summer should probably have McNabb on its list. The 6-foot-4, 195 pound defenseman frequently dropped the gloves this season and more than tripled last year’s offensive production, tallying 36 points in 67 games. Draft eligible in 2009.
6. Tomas Tatar, C – HKm Zvolen (Svk.): Once again, Tatar is making noise when it matters most. One of Slovakia’s heroes at the world juniors, the young pivot is now doing it for his local club team, notching seven points through 10 playoff games for Zvolen. Draft eligible in 2009 (undrafted in ’08).
7. Keven Veilleux, RW – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL): At 6-foot-5, 214 pounds, Veilleux could be a dramatic impact player if he shakes his injury woes long enough. He had 48 points in 28 games for the Oceanic this year and in the playoffs it’s so far so good, as Veilleux has piled up eight points in his first two matches. Drafted 51st overall by Pittsburgh in 2007.
8. Ryan Ellis, D – Windsor Spitfires (OHL): Guess who’s on top of the Ontario League playoff scoring race for blueliners? The same guy who won the regular season title, of course. Ellis has four goals and seven points through three games for the Spits, who are rolling once again. Draft eligible in 2009.
9. Tyler Myers, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL): After completing the regular season with a plus-31 rating and career-high 42 points in 58 games, Myers is continuing to make things happen in the post-season. The 6-foot-7 tower of power already has three points in two games. Drafted 12th overall by Buffalo in 2008.
10. Louis Leblanc, C – Omaha Lancers (USHL): Harvard-bound and draft eligible, Leblanc has been instrumental in the Lancers’ season, leading the team in scoring with 58 points in 56 games. Look for him to go in the first round this summer. 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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