Talk about a Disney ending. With teammate Jack Jablonski paralyzed since Dec. 30 after a crash into the boards, the Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knights went out in his honor and won the whole Minnesota State high school tournament. Wisconsin commit Grant Besse had every Red Knight goal in the 5-1 win over Hill-Murray. Meanwhile, NCAA playoffs are in full swing, so there’s a lot to cover in this week’s compilation of players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Colton Sissons, RW – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
If you can believe it, nobody wanted the captain of the Rockets – and Team Orr at the CHL Top Prospects Game – when he was a bantam and eligible for the Western League draft.
“It was tough getting missed on,” Sissons said. “It was a pretty big deal to me at the time, but now I look back and it wasn’t so traumatic.”
Maybe that’s because Sissons has become a two-way standout for Kelowna and is in line to go in the first round of this summer’s NHL draft. With 26 goals and 41 points in 56 games, he can hit the scoresheet. But his work ethic and character add to the package.
“I can put up some offensive numbers,” he said. “But I’m also reliable in my own zone. I still need to work on my leg strength, though.”
A big fan of Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler and the gritty game he plays, Sissons almost followed in the American’s footsteps to the NCAA when the WHL didn’t come knocking right away.
“I was underdeveloped, a bit of a late-bloomer,” he said. “That was definitely on the radar.”
Options included Northeastern, New Hampshire and North Dakota, but when Kelowna did come around, Sissons knew it was a chance he didn’t want to pass up. The Rockets are sure glad he did, too. Draft eligible in 2012.
Brian Dumoulin, D – Boston College Eagles (Hockey East)
The Eagles are soaring once again and Dumoulin is doing his fair share on the scoresheet. The junior defender scored the game-winner over UMass to get his squad to the conference semifinal and based on his overall talent, it may be his last college season before heading to the pros. Drafted 51st overall by Carolina in 2009.
Justin Kloos, C – Lakeville South Cougars (Minn. HS)
Following in the footsteps of recent NHLers such as Nick Leddy and Ryan McDonagh, Kloos was named Mr. Hockey for 2012, marking him as the top senior in the state. Based on the fact he tallied 41 goals and 103 points in 31 games this season (including playoffs), that’s not surprising. The smallish University of Minnesota commit had two points in the 2-1 win over Moorhead to earn third place at the state tourney. Draft eligible in 2012.
Emerson Etem, RW – Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
It’s getting silly in ‘The Hat.’ Etem is now up to 60 goals on the season, making him the first WHLer to hit the mark in a decade. With that speed and goal-scoring ability, he’ll be a nice consolation prize for the Ducks if Teemu Selanne hangs up the blades this summer. Drafted 29th overall by Anaheim in 2010.
Michael Bitzer, G – Moorhead Spuds (Minn. HS)
Winner of the Frank Brimsek Award as the state’s top senior netminder, Bitzer was lights-out at the state tournament, propelling the Spuds to the semifinal. The stocky goaltender gave up just one goal in three sectional playoff games and four tallies in three state tournament matches, including a shutout of high-powered Eagan. Draft eligible in 2012.
Cristoval ‘Boo’ Nieves, C – Indiana Ice (USHL)
With his career at the Kent School finished, Nieves jumped on board with the United States League’s Ice, as many high schoolers do this time of year. An impact player with size, the pivot gets up to speed quickly and creates turnovers. In his first two games with the Ice he notched two assists. Draft eligible in 2012.
Ben Hanowski, RW – St. Cloud State Huskies (WCHA)
Coming out of a small high school (Little Falls in Minnesota), there were questions about how Hanowski would fare against elite competition at the next level. Answer? Just fine. The big right winger took the Huskies to the WCHA’s Final Five this year after doubling his offensive production (42 points in 38 games) and led the team in scoring. Drafted 63rd overall by Pittsburgh in 2009.
Jaroslav Janus, G – Norfolk Admirals (AHL)
The Admirals are on fire and with Dustin Tokarski up in the NHL, the mantle has fallen to Janus, the past world juniors hero from Slovakia. Janus has rung up seven straight victories and his goals-against average has plunged in that time. His save percentage in February was .932 and so far in March it’s .938. Drafted 162nd overall by Tampa Bay in 2009.
Connor Murphy, D – Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Knee problems delayed Murphy’s Ontario League debut extensively, but now the first-rounder is back in the saddle and contributing greatly. In his past four games, the big rearguard has seven points, as Sarnia prepares for what will be a very intriguing post-season. Drafted 20th overall by Phoenix in 2011.
Christian Djoos, D – Brynas (Swe.)
Playing in Sweden’s under-20 circuit, Djoos put up a solid 16 points in 22 games during the regular season with a plus-10 rating attached. Now that Brynas is in the playoffs, his playmaking ability will be key to the team making some noise. He’s also the son of ex-NHLer Per Djoos. 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.
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