NHL training camps are on and the kids are once again making their names known. Before they graduate to the bigs, we like to round ‘em up for The Hot List. With an eye on camp standouts, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
The Winterhawks were a pleasant surprise in the Western League in 2009-10 and a big part of the reason was the rapid ascension of top-liners Johansen, Nino Niederreiter and Brad Ross. With a slew of kids drafted this summer, Portland further put the Dub on notice, but Johansen wasn’t stunned at last year’s success.
“We looked around the room during exhibition play and knew we had a lot of skill and good coaching,” he said. “We knew right from the start we had a good team.”
Johansen, whose fourth overall selection by Columbus was a shock to some pundits, is still finding his stride and the sky’s the limit for his upside. After a solid 69 points in 71 regular season matches, he torched the playoffs for 18 points in 13 games. A skilled playmaker with great reach, the Jackets wasted no time signing him to an entry level deal this summer, though the lanky pivot knows he has work to do.
“I’m not a big kid yet, so I need to bulk up and get stronger,” Johansen said. “I was on the road a lot this summer with the draft, combine and camps, but anytime I was home or at the gym I was working out hard.”
A return to Portland makes sense and though Niederreiter has a shot at sticking with the New York Islanders, the Winterhawks will be armed to the teeth again this year. A Memorial Cup is a legitimate target.
“That’s what we were talking about in the room,” Johansen said. “If we all come back we have a really good shot at making the push. I know for myself, that’s my goal.” Drafted fourth overall by Columbus in 2010.
Makarov has impressed early in Chicago, showing tenacity around the puck and a great wrist shot – just ask Marty Turco. At 23, Makarov is an older prospect, but the Hawks have a lot of roster spaces to fill and he’s looking to leap over some other hopefuls. Drafted 33rd overall by Chicago in 2006.
With Marc Savard’s post-concussion status still in the air, all of a sudden the depth chart logjam in Boston doesn’t seem so binding. But Seguin has also seen time on the wing, playing with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi – pretty good company for a teenager looking for his first NHL job. Drafted second overall by Boston in 2010.
Jonathan Huberdeau, C – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Expect to see a lot of Sea Dogs on The Hot List this year as they’ve got a lot of draft-eligible gems. Also expect Huberdeau, a quick pivot with excellent instincts, to make a name for himself. With nine points in his first four games for Saint John this season, it hasn’t been hard to notice him. Draft eligible in 2011.
Robbie Russo, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
The NTDP’s under-18 team was announced recently and there are some intriguing names on the roster. Russo is definitely one to watch. A total-package defenseman who is just as comfortable quarterbacking the power play as he is killing off penalties, he looked good at the NHL’s research and development camp over the summer. Russo was the highest-scoring blueliner on the NTDP’s under-17 team last season with 20 points in 34 games. Draft eligible in 2011.
John Gibson, G – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Another American who looked good at the R&D camp, Gibson has a great new-school NHL frame at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. He moves fairly quickly for a goalie his size and considering he was handicapped by rule changes and in facing the best offensive players his age group, fared well. Draft eligible in 2011.
As a teen in the Finnish SM-Liiga last year, Granlund was impressive. For an encore, he’s off on the right foot. One of the smartest players in his draft class, Granlund has three points in his first two games, tied for third in the league. Drafted ninth overall by Minnesota in 2010.
Matej Stransky, RW – Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
A big import at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Stransky had a successful junior career in his native Czech Republic with Vitkovice before coming over to the Dub. He finished off the pre-season with a strong two-point performance against Regina, but with the Blades trying to secure Andrej Stastny and already having Marek Viedensky on the roster, Stransky may be the odd import out. If he is traded, his new team will be extremely pleased. Draft eligible in 2011.
A recent ruling on eligibility by the NHL means Morin won’t likely be a Ranger this year. Since he was drafted out of the NTDP, not major junior, the slick-shooting sniper can join the American League’s Rockford IceHogs as a teenager, thus helping rebuild a Chicago system that has experienced a great deal of attrition this summer as AHLers become NHLers. Drafted 45th overall by Atlanta in 2009, traded to Chicago in 2010.
Jimmy Appleby, G – Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
With starter Louis Domingue off at Phoenix’s training camp, Appleby has been given an early chance to shine and the Quebec native has done just that. Despite his slight 5-foot-10, 165-pound frame, Appleby has some of the best stats in the ‘Q’ so far, with a stingy 1.47 goals-against average and .932 save percentage through four contests. Draft eligible 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 regularly throughout the off-season only on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play in their first NHL game.
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