With NHL training camps starting in an abridged format, there won’t be much time for prospects to make a name for themselves, but a handful will graduate from Hot List status nonetheless after playing their first big league game. Elsewhere, the CHL’s Top Prospects Game is Wednesday in Halifax, so there’s a lot to pay attention to. Here’s a look at some of the kids we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Ryan Kujawinski, C – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Kujawinski’s been everywhere, man. Raised in tiny Iroquois Falls in northern Ontario, the skilled youngster played midget in the relative metropolis of Sudbury, four and a half hours away. He was then drafted into the Ontario League by Sarnia and traded halfway through his rookie year to Kingston, where he immediately made an impact last season. Now he’s settled, which is nice for a kid who has enlisted in a lot of high schools.
“It’s been quite a few,” Kujawinski said. “I think five. It was pretty tough, but there were a lot of people that helped me along the way.”
Kujawinski, who will participate in the CHL Top Prospects Game, will also be a big help to the rebuilding Frontenacs as time goes on. He already leads the team in scoring with 12 goals and 35 points in 42 games and won’t be alone next year as players such as Roland McKeown, Spencer Watson and Sam Bennett mature. First-year coach Todd Gill has also helped.
“He’s been through everything,” Kujawinski said of the former NHLer. “We learn a lot from him. He’s a great leader.”
A 6-foot-2, 205-pound pivot, Kujawinski would like to work on his defensive zone play and positions himself as a Rick Nash type of player.
“I’m a pretty good skater,” he said. “Once I get going, I create a lot of space out there.”
If there’s anyone who knows about wide-open spaces, it’s the teenaged traveller himself. Draft eligible in 2013.
Jordan Subban, D – Belleville Bulls (OHL)
It’s been a good winter for Subban, who was named an academic player of the month in the OHL and then was named to the CHL Top Prospects Game as an injury replacement for Brandon’s Ryan Pulock. The offensive defenseman is one of the top-scoring blueliners in the league and recently had a four-point game against rival Kingston. Draft eligible in 2013.
Valentin Zykov, RW – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Zykov’s January totals have been nothing short of spectacular: Six games played, six multi-point outings. The big-bodied offensive wizard has 17 points during that stretch, bringing his season totals with the Drakkar up to 28 goals and 53 points in 43 games. Scouts love his shot, his release and his skating. Draft eligible in 2013.
Shea Theodore, D – Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
On a team that has struggled Theodore has taken on a big burden, which has lead to gambling, but scouts aren’t worried. They see a big kid who skates well and can rush the puck. With nine goals and 29 points in 44 games, Theodore is one of the top D-men scorers in the ‘Dub.’ Draft eligible in 2013.
Tobias Liljendahl, C – Djurgarden (Swe.)
Liljendahl’s junior team is now competing in a sort of super-division in Sweden, where the best squads from two divisions were amalgamated. In his first four games in the J20 SuperElit Top 10, the stocky pivot has four assists in four games, even though Djurgarden has struggled to score. Draft eligible in 2013.
Tommy Vannelli, D – Minnetonka Skippers (Minn. HS)
With 20 points in 14 games, Vannelli is living up to billing as an offensive defenseman who uses his skating to make things happen. The University of Minnesota commit had three points in a recent win over Blaine, a fellow top-10 school. Draft eligible in 2013.
Scott Laughton, C – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Philadelphia has a weird boom-bust record of development, but in inviting Laughton to its abbreviated training camp, the Flyers made a statement. The fact Laughton made his name on responsible, two-way play jives with recent rookie sensations Sean Couturier and Matt Read and with veteran Scott Hartnell offering him a place to stay, it looks like Laughton has been welcomed to the City of Brotherly Love with open arms. Drafted 20th overall by Philadelphia in 2012.
Brendan McMenimen, G – Governor’s Academy Governors (Mass. HS)
A true competitor with a great glove hand and solid fundamentals, McMenimen has turned in back-to-back gems for the Govs. He earned his first shutout of the season over Buckingham Browne & Nichols, then helped his squad to an upset over Phillips Exeter with a 36-save performance in a 3-2 win. Draft eligible in 2013.
Quentin Shore, C – University of Denver Pioneers (WCHA)
The Pios are undefeated in five against top-flight competition and Shore has been a catalyst. The third of four hockey brothers, Quentin has seven points during Denver’s run, including a game-winning goal. There were talks of him jumping to Portland in the WHL, but he seems to be in a pretty good place right now. Draft eligible in 2013 (undrafted in 2012).
Matt Murphy, D – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Murphy was humming along just fine in Val-d’Or, but a recent trade to the powerhouse Mooseheads will give him a higher profile in his draft year. Big and mobile, he’ll be a valuable asset as Halifax rumbles towards the Quebec League playoff and possibly the Memorial Cup. Draft eligible in 2013.
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 on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play their first NHL game.
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