We don’t rest at The Hot List – holidays be damned. The best teens in the world are playing hockey at the World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic, so we gotta represent.
1. Steven Stamkos, C – Sarnia Sting (OHL): Stamkos may be the name to watch at the world juniors; he had a great camp, put up some points in exhibition play and got ink from every reporter who had previously slept on him. Draft eligible in 2008.
2. John Tavares, C – Oshawa Generals (OHL): Will these world juniors be the coronation many expect? Tavares was cut from last year’s team, apparently the first time he had ever been cut for anything, so he’ll definitely be game this time around. Draft eligible in 2009.
3. Kyle Okposo, RW – Team USA: By far the most controversial player in the tourney, Okposo is no longer a Minnesota Golden Gopher, but thanks to the WJC, he’s not quite a New York Islander yet, either. Okposo had struggled this year at university, but with a pro contract and a new lease on life, look for him to play better for Team USA. Drafted seventh overall by New York Islanders in 2006.
4. Victor Hedman, D – MODO (Swe): Evidently it was Oscar Hedman who sustained a rather nasty concussion, not Victor, so look for the 17-year-old phenom behemoth to do his thing to the fullest in Pardubice. Draft eligible in 2009.
5. Jan Mursak, LW – Belleville Bulls (OHL): Mursak was named the top forward at the WJC Division 1 level (one below the major nations) while playing for rising nation Slovenia. He had a point per game with Saginaw before a recent trade to Belleville. Drafted 182nd overall in 2006 by Detroit.
6. Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi, LW – Timra J20 (Swe): The 16-year-old wunderkind will be the youngest Swede ever to suit up at the WJC and the youngest across the board since Sidney Crosby in 2004. He has 19 points in 13 games for Timra’s junior squad. Draft eligible in 2009.
7. Richard Bachman, G – Colorado College Tigers (WCHA): Netminder No. 1 still leads his conference in save percentage (.939) and isn’t far behind in goals-against average (1.77). He may not be in the world juniors, but you’d be hard-pressed to find more talent anywhere else. Drafted 120th overall by Dallas in 2006.
8. Shawn Matthias, C – Belleville Bulls (OHL): Matthias has been red-hot in exhibition play for Canada, notching two goals in the team’s final tune-up against Finland. Look for the power forward to continue the trend once the real games begin. Drafted 47th overall by Detroit in 2006 (traded to Florida in 2007).
9. Brian Boyle, D – Manchester Monarchs (AHL): The towering blueliner (6-foot-7, 220 pounds) notched a hat trick against Bridgeport Saturday. Boyle is a converted winger, but with 28 points in 30 games as a defenseman, it really doesn’t matter, does it? Drafted 26th overall by Los Angeles in 2003.
10. Kyle Beach, C – Everett Silvertips (WHL): If there’s one thing that jumps out at Kyle Beach’s stat line, it’s that the mercurial center is a nightly contender for a Gordie Howe hat trick.
Beach is sitting at 21 goals and 43 points in 33 games. He also has 118 penalty minutes, so the fighting major part of the Howe trifecta is never a problem.
“I’ve been known as the guy who won’t back down,” Beach, who credits the Wild Western League for throwing him challenges early on, recently told thehockeynews.com. “It’s a battle every night. You have 20-year-olds who won’t back off just because you’re 16.”
As if Beach needed extra motivation, one local merchant in Everett donates a pair of green Converse All-Stars canvas sneakers for every Gordie Howe hat trick achieved by a Silvertip.
“I’ve got a couple pairs,” Beach revealed. “Zach Hamill’s got a couple, Peter Mueller had a couple when he was here. I think it shows a complete game.”
With Beach eligible for the NHL draft this year, he’s leaned on his roommate – and Boston Bruins pick – Hamill as well as goalie Leland Irving, a Flames pick, for advice.
“They understand the pressures,” said Beach. “And are teaching me how to channel those pressures in a proper way.”
Beach has helped his own cause by picking a fine role model – Calgary heart-and-souler Jarome Iginla.
“He scores, drops the gloves, battles,” said Beach. “He doesn’t care what it takes to win.”
Draft eligible in 2008.
11. Tyler Ennis, C – Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL): How does a 5-foot-9, 160-pound center survive in the Dub? Pretty well, apparently. Ennis is steadily climbing the league leader charts with 45 points in 37 games. Draft eligible in 2008.
12. James van Riemsdyk, LW – New Hampshire Wildcats (Hockey East): Our boy J.v.R. has some history with the Canadians, so watch for him to throw his big body around should the two meet (and they always do) at the world juniors. Drafted second overall by Philadelphia in 2007.
13. Brian Lee, D – Binghamton Senators (AHL): The smooth-skating Lee is looking more and more ready to make the Big Jump next year and with Wade Redden’s tenure in flux in Ottawa, there may be a spot available. Drafted ninth overall by Ottawa in 2005.
14. Michael Frolik, LW – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL): The “veteran” Frolik will be an important part of the Czech team as they play host to the world juniors in Pardubice and Liberec. The Czechs have a significant contingent of CHLers on the roster, so don’t think they’ll be intimidated by the North Americans. Drafted 10th overall by Florida in 2006.
15. Alec Martinez, D – Miami RedHawks (CCHA): Martinez is a fleet-footed defenseman on a strong Miami team and his offensive upside is telling with 17 points in 18 games. Drafted 95th overall by Los Angeles in 2007.
The Hot List, a weekly roundup of minor league, junior, college and high school players we’re exciting to one day see in the NHL, appears every Tuesday, only on thehockeynews.com.
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