With the NCAA and American League swinging into action, we now have prospect watches at all levels. And while a lot of rookies are making noise in the NHL already, it’s fair to say quite a few more are in the pipeline. Here’s a look at some of those youngsters we’re excited to see in the NHL some day.
1. Jordan Weal, C – Regina Pats (WHL): You’ll forgive Pats fans if they don’t mind seeing a very similar show. After all, Jordan Weal is speedy, skilled and small (5-foot-8, 158 pounds), just like team star Jordan Eberle. And while Eberle has a world junior gold medal and fans of the Edmonton Oilers breathless, the younger Weal has Ivan Hlinka gold and a whole season to show every NHL team what he can do during his draft year.
“I feel I make plays,” said Weal, who has 13 points through 10 games this year. “Just playing hard and helping my team win.”
And while the Dub is known for bruising hockey, being a smaller player has not been a detriment for Weal; he just has to focus on what he’s doing out there.
“You just have to move your feet in the offensive zone,” he offered. “There’s a lot of big defensemen in this league.”
Playing in Regina (which will host the world juniors alongside Saskatoon this year), Weal also feels the love from a fan base that has watched generations of Pats grow before their eyes.
“It’s an old team with lots of history,” Weal said. “It’s fun. It’s a great organization and the fans always come out.”
With the show the two Jordans can put on, it’s no small wonder. Draft eligible in 2010.
2. Matt Donovan, D – Denver Pioneers (WCHA): A standout with Cedar Rapids of the United States League last season, Donovan is continuing his good work with the Pios. The offensively-inclined blueliner already has two points in two games, meaning he’s not intimidated by the NCAA game. Drafted 96th overall by the New York Islanders in 2008.
3. Drayson Bowman, LW – Albany River Rats (AHL): After a great rookie camp, Carolina pick Bowman was sent to the ‘A’ to keep honing his game, where he’ll grow alongside players such as Chris Terry, Jamie McBain and Zach Boychuk. So far, so good for the strategy as Bowman has five points in his first three games. Drafted 72nd overall by Carolina in 2007.
4. Braden Holtby, G – Hershey Bears (AHL): That goaltending pipeline set up by Washington GM George McPhee just keeps on hustling down the track. Holtby, making his pro debut out of junior, has been lights-out in the AHL, posting a sparkling 1.01 goals-against average and .967 save percentage through three games. Drafted 93rd overall by Washington in 2008.
5. Christian Thomas, RW – Oshawa Generals (OHL): Getting traded for one of the best junior players in history can be tough, but Oshawa’s got to be happy Thomas came to them as part of the John Tavares deal. Undersized at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, Thomas has nonetheless been superb so far this season, racking up 14 points in nine games. Draft eligible in 2010.
6. Geoffrey Schemitsch, D – Owen Sound Attack (OHL): Playing for a bottom-dwelling team doesn’t usually help your visibility, so let’s give a shout-out to Schemitsch, who has a solid eight assists and nine points in 11 games, not to mention a plus-4 rating on a team that has given up way more goals than it has scored. All but one of the blueliner’s points have come at even strength, too. Draft eligible in 2010.
7. Derek Grant, C – Michigan State Spartans (CCHA): After the brutal run the Spartans had last season, it’s nice to see the traditional power get off to a better start. Grant, who plied his trade in Jr. A last year, has his NCAA career off to a banner start with four points in two games, tying him for tops in the conference. Drafted 119th overall by Ottawa in 2008.
8. Shane McColgan, RW – Kelowna Rockets (WHL): Another Prep Watch alum, McColgan is playing his game just as he wants to in the Dub, registering 12 points in his first nine games and getting into a fight. The feisty California native dropped the gloves for the first time in his major junior career, duking it out with 19-year-old Vancouver rookie Kevin Connauton. Draft eligible in 2011.
9. Alexandre Sirard, G – Swift Current Broncos (WHL): At 5-foot-11, 163 pounds, Sirard isn’t your typical monster goalie; he just puts up those kinds of numbers. The Calgary native was still playing midget hockey at this time last year, but has given up just eight goals in his first five games in the Dub, good for a 2.19 GAA. Draft eligible in 2010 (undrafted in 2009).
10. Philippe Cornet, LW – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL): Drafted second overall into the ‘Q’ back in 2006, Cornet’s numbers have gotten better every year – and this season he’s got a shot to crack triple digits if he can stay hot. The sturdy left winger has 19 points in his first 12 games. Drafted 133rd overall by Edmonton in 2008.
The Hot List, a weekly 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.
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