Size matters

The big names are putting up big numbers in the major junior playoffs, while we shift some of the spotlight to the American League since the Frozen Four won’t be resolved until the weekend.

1. Steven Stamkos, C – Sarnia Sting (OHL):
Stamkos is the runaway Cy Young winner in the OHL playoffs, with 11 goals, no assists in seven games. Plus, he knows unless Tampa trades the first pick, he’s going to be a Bolt come June, thanks to their lottery win. Draft eligible in 2008.

2. Chet Pickard, G – Tri-City Americans (WHL):
As techniques become honed and fundamentals exhausted, there’s one thing that can still separate a goaltending prospect from the pack: Size.

At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Chet Pickard has the frame a lot of scouts like. He also had a pretty good model to follow.

“That’s a funny story,” said Pickard about his size. “My first two years adjusting to that, I was playing with Carey Price and he’s almost exactly the same size as I am.”

Learning under the Montreal Canadiens phenom gave Pickard a strong base for the great run he has had as the current Tri-City netminder.

“He taught me about managing my crease,” Pickard noted. “And not going so far out that you are out of position to make the second save.”

As the Americans take on Seattle in the second round of the WHL playoffs, Pickard will have been well rested thanks to a first-round sweep of Kamloops. Not that he needed it, of course. The netminder began the season in tip-top shape, earning Tri-City’s most conditioned athlete award at training camp. He also doesn’t mind playing as the workhorse.

“I’d play all 72 games if I could,” he noted. “I’m definitely that kind of guy.”

Pickard made 64 starts this season for the Ams, which tied Saskatoon’s Braden Holtby for the league lead. Pickard also flashed a 2.32 goals-against average to go with a sick record of 46-12-4. His win total also led the league.

Draft eligible in 2008.

3. Cory Schneider, G – Manitoba Moose (AHL):
After a shaky start to his pro career, Schneider has settled down and put up some nice numbers (2.24 GAA, .917 save percentage). Manitoba will have a high seed in the playoffs and Schneider can take some of the credit. Drafted 26th overall by Vancouver in 2004.

4. Jan Mursak, LW – Belleville Bulls (OHL):
The Bulls are on a collision course with Kitchener and Mursak has been one of the driving factors. With 11 points through eight playoff games, he’s tied with blueliner P.K. Subban for the team lead in scoring. Drafted 182nd overall by Detroit in 2006.

5. Zach Boychuk, LW – Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL):
At 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds, Boychuk isn’t towering over anyone, but the late 1989 birthday boy is hovering above a lot of people on the scoresheet. Locked in a second-round battle with Kootenay, Boychuk has 11 points in eight games. Draft eligible in 2008.

6. Cal O’Reilly, C – Milwaukee Admirals (AHL):
O’Reilly was among the top point scorers in the league, amassing 78 in 77 games, but it’s the complete turnaround of his plus-minus that bodes well for the youngster. He went from a minus-11 last season to a plus-11 currently. Drafted 150th overall by Nashville in 2005.

7. Jakub Voracek, RW – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL):
The dangerous Czech national is doing what he does best right now; dishing perfect passes to his teammates and getting on the scoresheet. Voracek has eight assists and 11 points through eight playoff games. Drafted seventh overall by Columbus in 2007.

8. Tyson Sexsmith, G – Vancouver Giants (WHL):
Sexsmith has been money for the Giants all season and has continued that stellar play into the post-season. The Sharks know goaltenders, so keep his name in your memory bank. Drafted 91st overall by San Jose in 2007.

9. Brock Trotter, C – Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL):
After his flight from the Denver Pioneers, Trotter has fit nicely in Steeltown, contributing eight points in his first 17 games as a pro. Signed by Montreal as a free agent.

10. Alex Grant, D – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL):
The Sea Dogs took a 2-0 series lead on Acadie-Bathurst in the second round, where Grant has continued to contribute from the point. The blueliner now has nine points in six playoff games. Drafted 118th overall by Pittsburgh in 2007.

11. Jeremy Morin, C – U.S. NTDP (NAHL):
Team USA will head to Kazan, Russia next week for the Under-18s and you can be sure the other nations will have their eye on Morin, who led the NTDP in scoring this year with 34 points in 30 games. Draft eligible in 2009.

12. Stefan Legein, C – Niagara IceDogs (OHL):
The pesky Legein has been solid throughout the playoffs for Niagara, tallying 13 points in seven games. Drafted 37th overall by Columbus in 2007.

13. Andrew MacWilliam, D – Camrose Kodiaks (AJHL):
The Kodiaks are up 2-0 on Fort McMurray in the Enerflex Cup final and even though The Hot List loves to big-up scoring machine Joe Colborne (second in playoff scoring right now), MacWilliam has also been solid. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound defensive defenseman has five assists through 13 games and will join the North Dakota Fighting Sioux next season. Draft eligible in 2008.

14. Louis Leblanc, C – Lac St. Louis Lions (Que. AAA):
The league’s leading scorer and recipient of a $1000 scholarship from the Montreal Canadiens, Leblanc is already sending hearts a-flutter in La Belle Province as his Lions battle Gatineau in the playoffs. Draft eligible in 2009.

15. Mattias Tedenby, LW – HV71 (Swe.):
Swift and deadly, Tedenby finished third among junior-agers in Elite League scoring, with six points in 23 games against competitors old enough to be his dad. Draft eligible in 2008.

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