With the NHL All-Star Game in the bag, it’s time to shift attention to the next wave, as the Canadian League Prospects Game steps up to the plate on Wednesday. Hosted by B.C.’s Kelowna Rockets, the game will be missing top prospect Nail Yakupov (precautionary after his return from injury) and the latest victim of the Curse of 2012, Ottawa’s Cody Ceci. But there’s still talent aplenty and some of those players are featured on our weekly roundup of players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Dalton Thrower, D – Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Thrower will be in Kelowna for the Prospects Game and take part in the hardest shot competition for Team Cherry. Playing for a Saskatoon team that traded for junior superstar Brayden Schenn last year, only to get bounced in the second round of the playoffs, means Thrower knows how to take a bullet as well.
”What happened in the playoffs, we’re just not sure of,” he said. “I’m not naming names, but Brayden played great and some other guys didn’t show up.”
With Schenn, Stefan Elliott and Curtis Hamilton among the departures over the summer, the Blades needed youth to step up and Thrower has been front and center. Playing on a pairing with Colorado first-rounder Duncan Siemens, the six-foot, 185-pounder has been tasked with shutting down opponents and learning the craft from his older partner.
“Duncan’s a great player,” Thrower said. “He’s a very good stay-at-home defenseman and that’s what I need to improve on. He’ll call me out when I need it and I thank him for that.”
Scouts love Thrower’s overall game, from hitting to power play acumen and puck-rushing. With 28 assists and 40 points through 50 games, he’s also burning up the scoreboard from the back end. Of course, getting that elusive Memorial Cup is the ultimate goal in Saskatoon.
“This year we don’t have any superstars,” Thrower said. “But we’re a hardworking bunch.”
And Thrower is at the top of that list. Draft eligible in 2012.
Alexander Killorn, C – Harvard University Crimson (ECAC)
The Crimson aren’t exactly setting the world on fire yet this season, but with Boston’s annual Beanpot Tournament nearing, look for Killorn to be in the spotlight. The sturdy Nova Scotia native notched both game-winning goals on the weekend for Harvard (archrival Yale was one victim) and has 14 goals and 26 points through 20 games this season. Drafted 77th overall by Tampa Bay in 2007.
Mario Lucia, LW – Penticton Vees (BCHL)
Penticton made a unique move over the summer, loading up on talent from the great state of Minnesota. So far, it’s kinda worked: The Vees are on the cusp of breaking the league record for consecutive wins (they’re at 28, the record is 29) and eight of the top-10 scorers in the Jr. A circuit are Vees. One of those snipers is Lucia, the Notre Dame commit who has ravaged the competition for 30 goals and 72 points in 41 games. Drafted 60th overall by Minnesota in 2011.
Damon Severson, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
With the hometown crowd behind him, look for Severson (and teammate Colton Sissons) to be in the spotlight at the Prospects Game. The big defenseman boasts rushing ability and a great shot, while generating a lot of buzz about him this season when he plays a simple game. Severson is definitely a scout’s favorite and will participate in the fastest skater competition in Kelowna. Draft eligible in 2012.
Teuvo Teravainen, RW – Jokerit (Fin.)
Teravainen tends to offensively dominate at his own age level, so it’s good to see him getting a shot at the elite SM-Liiga this season. Creative and sharp with the puck, the youngster has seven goals and 10 points in 25 games with Jokerit, while boasting nearly two points per game at the junior and international levels. Draft eligible in 2012.
Max Iafrate, D – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Iafrate can dish – and absorb – a lot of punishment on the ice and he’s not afraid to drop the gloves when the situation arises. Like his dad, former NHLer Al Iafrate, Max wears No. 34 and a trade from Plymouth over the summer has seen him already double his offensive output with a third of the season left to go. Draft eligible in 2012.
Matej Beran, C – P.E.I. Rocket (QMJHL)
Carrying on the tradition of Baltic bombers in the Quebec League, Beran has been excellent for the Rocket in his first season out of the Czech Republic. The 6-foot-5, 208-pound giant is second on the team with 19 goals and 51 points in 49 games, while his minus-4 is admirable on a squad whose majority of players trend in double-digit negatives. Draft eligible in 2012.
Andrei Vasilevski, G – Tolpar Ufa (Rus.)
He was the darling of the world juniors, but now Vasilevski is back in the Kontinental League’s junior circuit, where the cameras aren’t so blinding. Good news, though: The big Russian is showing why many see him as the top netminding prospect in the draft, dropping only two of seven decisions since his return from Calgary and boasting an overall goals-against average of 2.15. Draft eligible in 2012.
Justin Kloos, C – Lakeville South Cougars (Minn. HS)
You can’t really say Kloos is heating up, because he was never cold this season. The speedy scoring machine has points in every single game this year and the Cougars have no cream-puff schedule. Even in losses against big teams, Kloos has made an impact and he sits third in the state with 28 goals and 62 points in just 18 games. Draft eligible in 2012.
Vincent Trocheck, C – Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
A setback against London snapped Trocheck’s recent point streak, which had stretched eight games before the loss. The boxing enthusiast’s run included five multi-point entries and he leads the Spirit with 36 assists and 59 points in 45 games. Drafted 64th overall by Florida in 2011.
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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