In this week’s rundown of prospects we can’t wait to see in the NHL some day, the spotlight shines on Keegan Kanzig, a rough-and-tumble defenseman for WHL Victoria.
Everything is happening right now. NCAA conferences are either in or close to the playoffs, while major junior squads aren’t far behind. In Minnesota, the Edina Hornets claimed back-to-back state high school titles with an 8-2 thrashing of Lakeville North and Wild draft pick Avery Peterson was named Mr. Hockey as the state’s top senior player. Here’s a look at some of the other prospects making noise around the hockey world.
Keegan Kanzig, D – Victoria Royals (WHL)
The Royals are 9-1-0 in their past 10 games and sitting pretty in the standings – though they still have two of the best teams in the nation (Kelowna and Portland) ahead of them in the Western Conference. But Victoria will never get pushed around thanks to Kanzig, a monster 6-foot-5, 242-pound defenseman who is one of the toughest players in the league and has nine tilts to his credit this year. But he doesn’t want to be known as a goon and does have a plus-18 rating this season.
“Fighting isn’t the only thing I do,” Kanzig said. “A lot of my focus is on playing smart defensively. There are times when I need to stick up for my teammates and I’m certainly comfortable doing that.”
With his imposing size and reach, Kanzig can clear out a crease, though he does want to round out his game by getting a step quicker and making decisions faster. Fortunately, he can do that with the peace of mind that the Calgary Flames are very interested in him; the franchise signed him to his entry-level deal just months after he was drafted.
“It was a very exciting day for me,” he said. “They’re headed in the right direction and there’s a lot of opportunity there.”
Kanzig showed off his stuff early to Calgary, participating in the YoungStars prospects tournament in Penticton, B.C. and dropping the gloves with heavyweight Ty Bilcke of Windsor, who was playing for the Edmonton squad. Even in a summer tournament, the Battle of Alberta was obvious.
“Even in the YoungStars tournament,” Kanzig said, “there’s a rivalry.”
With the future in mind, Calgary won’t be going into battle unarmed with Kanzig in a Flames jersey. Drafted 67th overall in 2013.
Anthony Mantha, RW – Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
With just a handful of games remaining, Mantha has locked up the Quebec League scoring title with 115 points and counting. The offensively devastating winger will take the crown despite missing games due to the world juniors and is on pace to finish with more than a goal per game. Drafted 20th overall by Detroit in 2013.
Leon Draisaitl, C – Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Draisaitl is in a dogfight with Sam Reinhart for the WHL’s draft-eligible scoring crown and the German made a big recent push, earning player of the week honors with nine points in three Raider wins. A complete player with great awareness, he will almost definitely hit 100 points this season. Draft eligible in 2014.
Austin Poganski, RW – Tri-City Storm (USHL)
Hobbled by a bad ankle and some rookie tentativeness earlier in the season, Poganski has finally gotten on track for the woeful Storm. The University of North Dakota recruit has 10 points in his past seven games, using his great size and speed. Draft eligible in 2014.
Dylan Malmquist, C – Edina Hornets (Minn. HS)
Malmquist is now a two-time winner of the vaunted Minnesota state tournament and though the result was lopsided, he did contribute two assists to the final game, bringing his stat line to eight points in three tournament outings. The Notre Dame commit has good hands and vision, enabling him to make tight passes around the net. Draft eligible in 2014.
Logan Halladay, G – Janesville Jets (NAHL)
The craziness of this year’s draft is just how wide open it is. So don’t be surprised if Halladay’s name gets called in the middle rounds. An athletic goalie who plays deep and reacts well to the play, Halladay is an excellent puckhandler and the North Division’s player of the week. Draft eligible in 2014.
Maxim Letunov, C – Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
At 6-foot-2 and just 155 pounds, it’s not hard to deduce what Letunov needs in the future. But weight and strength will come; hockey sense like his doesn’t grow on trees. The Russian has loads of offensive skill and is committed to Boston University, where time will be on his side. Draft eligible in 2014.
Joni Tuulola, D – HPK (Fin.)
A responsible defenseman who can also put up some offense, Tuulola has a nice 6-foot-2 frame to build off and has made the jump up to HPK’s men’s team from junior. When he takes to the ice, he will reportedly be paired with his father, veteran blueliner Marko Tuulola, who will no doubt instill confidence in his kid. Draft eligible in 2014.
Matt Mistele, LW – Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
It’s been a tough year for the Whalers, who lost Tom Wilson and Connor Carrick earlier than expected (both to Washington). But the team secured a playoff berth and now Mistele is finding his groove. The intelligent scorer has three goals in his past four games and continues to fill out his 6-foot-2 frame. Draft eligible in 2014.
Gus Young, D – Yale University Bulldogs (ECAC)
Though he prides himself on his shutdown abilities, Young also popped in a goal for the Bulldogs as Yale knocked out archrival Harvard in the first round of the ECAC playoffs. Young is a returning member of the national championship squad and Yale has the experience to be dangerous again. Drafted 184th overall by Colorado in 2009.