For the second straight year, Team USA took the World Jr. A Challenge crown in Summerside, P.E.I., this time with a 2-1 victory over Canada West.
With a squad mainly made up of United States Leaguers, the Americans rolled after an initial shootout setback to Canada East. Along with a couple of the champs, here’s a look at some of the prospects we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
1. Andrej Nestrasil, RW – Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL): When it comes to top prospects in the Quebec League, French is no longer the first language for many. Along with a boom in players from the Maritimes and Russia, the Czech Republic has also begun developing top talent in the ‘Q.’ Nestrasil, who is also comfortable speaking English, is glad he came over to play with the Tigres.
“Hockey here is way better than there,” Nestrasil said. “If I stayed at home, there was a chance scouts would see me at the under-18s, but we were really bad.”
Instead, Nestrasil brought his big 6-foot-2, 200 pound frame and his quick hands to Victoriaville last year, where he’s been making magic ever since. His 28 points in 21 games this season is among the best in the league and ties him with countryman Tomas Kubalik for tops on the Tigres. â€¨â€¨
Nestrasil, in his second year, has helped the rookie Kubalik adjust to life in Quebec, though ironically the two play better apart.
“We make two great lines,” Nestrasil said.
One of the biggest advantages to playing in the ‘Q’ for Nestrasil was the competition. Back home, it’s not hard to get top minutes in the junior ranks.
“There are two or three good players and they don’t have to fight for their place on the team,” he noted. “And there is no space on the senior league teams for young guys.”
Drafted by the Red Wings, Nestrasil will likely be brought along slowly, but having attending his first camp in Detroit, the gifted Czech quickly learned from the pros.
“You can see how they guys work, their preparation,” he said. “It was great.”
With his willingness to play physical and ability to put up points, Nestrasil has a very good chance of joining those pros one day. â€¨
Drafted 75th overall by Detroit in 2009.
2. Taylor Hall, C – Windsor Spitfires (OHL): It’s basically been a two-man race for the OHL scoring title this year, but Hall is beginning to put some distance between himself and Plymouth’s Tyler Seguin. With 43 points in 22 games, it’s not hard to see the Spitfires star tightening his grip on that No. 1 draft pick crown. Draft eligible in 2010.
3. Anton Khudobin, G – Houston Aeros (AHL): Khudobin has played everywhere from Magnitogorsk to Florida, Texas to Saskatoon, but his play with the Aeros has him high on the Minnesota Wild’s prospect chart. Through eight games this season, the Russian netminder is boasting a 1.70 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. Drafted 206th overall by Minnesota in 2004.
4. Shane Berschbach, LW – Indiana Ice (USHL): Berschbach was all over the scoresheet in P.E.I., leading the champs from Team USA with eight points in five games. Small at 5-foot-8 and just 140 pounds, Berschbach hasn’t let that stop him from putting up nearly a point a game in the USHL this season. Draft eligible in 2010 (undrafted in ’09).
5. Jeff Petry, D – Michigan State Spartans (CCHA): The Spartans are riding high once again and having offense from the back end never hurts. Petry is leading the way in that category, chalking up 10 points in 10 games; nine coming on assists. At 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, he’s a formidable all-round defender. Drafted 45th overall by Edmonton in 2006.
6. Trevor Parkes, RW – Montreal Juniors (QMJHL): As the reigning offensive player of the week in the ‘Q,’ Parkes is certainly making an impact. The rookie now has 20 points in 21 games to go along with a smart plus-11 rating. The Fort Erie, Ont. native has seven points in his past three games. Draft eligible in 2010 (undrafted in ’09).
7. Gustav Nyquist, RW – University of Maine Black Bears (Hockey East): Yeah, yeah, Detroit looks to have found another gem from Sweden. Seriously though, Nyquist is on a tear this year after garnering conference all-rookie team honors last season. The slick right winger has 13 points through eight games this year. Drafted 121st overall by Detroit in 2008.
8. Ryan Martindale, C – Ottawa 67’s (OHL): Playing on a poor 67’s squad, Martindale is nonetheless having a great campaign so far. His 28 points through 20 games is good for eighth in the OHL, while his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame will intrigue NHL scouts. Draft eligible in 2010.
9. Nino Niederreiter, LW – Portland Winterhawks (WHL): The Swiss national always fares well internationally, but s transition to the Dub can be difficult. Nevertheless, Niederreiter is humming along with 18 points in 21 games on a young and surprising Portland squad. Draft eligible in 2010.
10. Mac Bennett, D – Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (USHL): Named to the World Jr. A Challenge’s all-tournament team, the athletic American blueliner helped his team take the title thanks to his solid defensive game. Bennett is committed to the University of Michigan. Drafted 79th overall by Montreal in 2009.
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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