The major junior season has kicked off and this year the first few games will be more accurate than usual. Because top prospects aren’t at NHL camps, teams have their full complement – which Erie phenom Connor McDavid found out on his first shift when he was dumped by Boston first-rounder Dougie Hamilton, back patrolling the blueline in Niagara. The United States League also had its Fall Classic (still technically pre-season), so let’s round up some of the kids we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Jonathan Drouin, LW – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
This time last year, Drouin was a highly-touted Mooseheads draft pick who wasn’t so sure about making the leap to major junior and instead stuck with the Quebec midget powerhouse Lac St-Louis Lions. Now he’s the leading scorer in the league with seven points in two games. Playing alongside potential 2013 No. 1 NHL pick Nathan MacKinnon helps, but Drouin’s got enough skill by himself to make opponents look foolish.
“It’s probably my vision and hockey IQ,” he said. “I see stuff maybe others don’t see.”
Even MacKinnon is enamored with his buddy’s hockey mind and when you add goalie Zachary Fucale to the mix, ‘The Herd’ is shaping up to have three players go in the first round of the draft this summer. So what made Drouin change his mind about Halifax last year?
“I put on more weight during the first half in midget,” he said. “Then I felt I was ready for major junior.”
It wasn’t until later in the season that Drouin and MacKinnon became a combo and the pair was excellent in the playoffs, which included the remarkable upset of Quebec in the second round when the Mooseheads were down three games to none before rallying. Now the pressure’s on for a Memorial Cup run, but the boys sound ready.
“We have a really good team and high expectations,” Drouin said. “A lot of people have us top-three, though we’re still going to take it one game at a time.”
One high-scoring game at a time, it would seem. Draft eligible in 2013.
Colin Jacobs, C – Prince George Cougars (WHL)
Looks like the new kid is doing OK. Jacobs came over from Seattle and in his debut for the Cougars he torched Everett for three goals and five points in a 6-0 slaughter. Along with the obvious offense, Jacobs brings great size and experience to Prince George. Drafted 107th overall by Buffalo in 2011.
Sasha Barkov, C – Tappara (Fin.)
At this rate, Barkov is going to pass last year’s totals in about a week. The kid has four goals and eight points through four games to sit third in league scoring, while terrorizing the enemy on the power play. At nearly 6-foot-2, 210 pounds already and coming from hockey DNA (his Russian dad played pro), Barkov is the Finnish Freak – in the best possible sense of the nickname. Draft eligible in 2013.
Andrei Vasilevski, G – Tolpar Ufa (Rus.)
Though Mississauga holds his major junior rights, the world junior standout was not expected to come over this season. Instead, Vasilevski is already hot back home in Russia, where he boasts a 9-1 record with a 1.60 goals-against average and .943 save percentage. The WJC is in Ufa this year, so it’ll be fun to see what the kid can do in front of the home crowd. Drafted 19th overall by Tampa Bay in 2012.
Curtis Lazar, C – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
No debate the Oil Kings are going to win a lot of games again this year, so really the question centers on Lazar and how high he can boost his own draft stock. In a splendid performance against Red Deer, the sturdy pivot notched a hat trick and probably could have had a couple more. Lazar’s production began to take off last year once aligned with Henrik Samuelsson and Stephane Legault and that line is back together. Draft eligible in 2013.
Josh Morrissey, D – Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
The Raiders will be ascendant this season and Morrissey will drive the engine from the back end. The gifted D-man, who takes some of his cues from Washington rover Mike Green, tossed up three assists in P.A.’s first win and is prepped for a breakout campaign. Draft eligible in 2013.
Conor McGlynn, C – Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
It was quite a weekend for McGlynn, a New Englander who spent the past couple years in the Toronto suburb of Oakville. A big player who relies more on skill than he does brawn, McGlynn posted three points in a 5-4 loss to Team USA, then tallied Sioux City’s only two goals in a loss to Omaha. He’s committed to Boston College. Draft eligible in 2013.
Tyler Biggs, RW – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
He didn’t have a point in his Ontario League debut, but Biggs sure proved one: The 6-foot-4, 224-pounder laid a quick beating on Peterborough’s Clark Seymour (an experienced fighter himself), who had stepped into Oshawa 16-year-old Michael Dal Colle. And don’t worry – Biggs got an assist in his second OHL game, so he does more than brawl. Drafted 22nd overall by Toronto in 2011.
Scott Savage, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
A California native committed to Boston College, Savage has been soaring early for Team USA, posting two points in two games at the Fall Classic and leading his squad in points from the back end with four in five pre-season games. Needless to say, Savage has some offensive inclinations. Draft eligible in 2013.
Stefan Matteau, LW – Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)
How would Matteau adjust to the major junior game after spending the past two years with the U.S. NTDP? Pretty well, apparently. The big, tough son of Stephane Matteau rang up two goals and four points in his first two games for the Armada, who are looking strong. Drafted 29th overall by New Jersey 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 their first NHL game.
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