The Frozen Four is now set, with Harvard, Denver, Notre Dame and Minnesota-Duluth emerging from regionals. That’s one heckuva field and the final games in Chicago should be hot ones. For the teams that lost, we’ve already seen some big-name attrition, with Brock Boeser jumping from North Dakota to the Vancouver Canucks and Clayton Keller making his debut with the Arizona Coyotes once his tournament with Boston U. was finished. Will we see more? I wouldn’t be surprised to see more Hawks and Terriers make the leap soon. In the meantime, let’s take a whirl around the world of prospects.
Artyom Minulin, D – Swift Current Broncos (WHL): A city of about 15,500 people, Swift Current is one of the smallest markets in all of major junior. But it has also been an institution in the WHL for decades and churned out a good amount of pro talent. Minulin is one of the latest, a top-60 prospect for the 2017 draft. And the native of Tyumen, Russia is happy to be in small-town Saskatchewan, despite the culture shock.
“It’s a little bit hard, but I like Swift Current – it’s a nice city,” he said. “Everything is good. My teammates help me so much. I have a really great billet family and a billet brother who’s a really nice guy. He used to play on his high school’s football team. He helps me wash dishes.”
Minulin’s main chores, however, involve getting the Broncos some wins. At 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds, he has great size and contributes at both ends of the ice. He led all Swift Current defensemen in points this season with 50 in 70 games and prides himself on his defensive positioning.
This is his second year in Swift Current and having a year in the rough and tumble ‘Dub’ before his draft campaign seems like a good decision right now.
“Yeah, first time I found it real hard,” Minulin said. “Everything is physical – in every corner, on every piece of ice. Now I play all right and play physical against everybody.”
He’s also more than happy to take punishment in the dressing room. As the only Russian on the squad, Minulin gets some not-so-serious queries about his homeland from cheeky teammates.
“Yeah, they ask me, joking ‘how’s the Russian mafia? How are the bears? How cold is the winter?’ ” he said. “Just funny jokes; I like it.”
But based on his contributions on the ice and his outgoing personality, it’s safe to say Minulin gets teased from a place of love in Swift Current.
In the Pipeline
Anders Bjork, RW (Boston): Despite being a No. 4 seed, Notre Dame’s run to the Frozen Four doesn’t really surprise me – the Irish have a lot of talent. Bjork has done his part, using his great quickness and offensive skill set to put up five points in two tournament wins.
Merrick Madsen, G (Philadelphia): Madsen led Harvard into hostile territory as the Crimson had to face Providence in Providence, despite the Friars being the lower seed. Nonetheless, the big stopper repelled all 41 shots he faced for the victory, then fought off a dangerous Air Force squad to get Harvard back to the semifinal.
Troy Terry, C (Anaheim): The Real American Hero was at it again, helping top-ranked Denver knock off Penn State in the regional final with a five-point effort, which included a hat trick. Seriously, Terry’s got the same clutch gene as Justin Williams.
Joey Anderson, RW (New Jersey): One of the best freshmen surprises of the year, Anderson put up two points in Minnesota-Duluth’s OT win over Boston U. in the regional final. The traffic-crashing scorer also had two points in the Bulldogs’ tourney opener against Ohio State.
Victor Mete, D (Montreal): Mete’s London Knights are locked in an OHL playoff death battle with Windsor, but the blueliner already has a personal victory: he just signed his rookie deal with the Habs. An excellent skater who is tailor-made for the modern NHL, Mete has two points through two games.
2017 Draft Stars
Brannon McManus, LW – Chicago Steel (USHL): Traded mid-season from Omaha, McManus has thrived with the Steel, putting up nearly a point per game. The University of Minnesota commit has a deadly, accurate shot and is very dangerous in open ice.
Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D – Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL): Don’t be surprised if Joseph sneaks into the first round this summer. Joseph has great hockey IQ, keeps his gaps tight and puts the puck in good places on the power play. All he needs is strength on his six-foot frame – and that’s the easy part for an NHL team.
Zach Gallant, C – Peterborough Petes (OHL): I’m intrigued by Gallant, who had an up-and-down season when it came to point streaks, but has been hot in the playoffs so far. Gallant was also named the Eastern Conference’s top faceoff man and top defensive forward in the annual OHL coaches survey, which never hurts.
Jesse Koskenkorva, C – Karpat Oulu (Fin.): Smart, skilled and physically raw, Kosenkorva reminded one scout of Carolina pick Janne Kuokkanen of the London Knights. Koskenkorva split his season between the Liiga and Finland’s under-20 circuit. He put up more than a point per game at the junior level.
2019 Draft Star
Nolan Foote, LW – Kelowna Rockets (WHL): Scouts are really liking Foote, the second of ex-NHLer Adam Foote’s kids to play for the Rockets after Cal. Nolan has more of an edge, similar to his dad, and has put up nice numbers as a WHL rookie, including two points in two playoff games so far. Due to a late birthday, he’s not eligible for two more drafts.