Sweden has its first world junior gold in 31 years and the major junior trade deadline sees big names such as Jamie Oleksiak, Ryan Spooner and Austin Watson all in different locales. Yes, it’s been a busy time for prospect news, but not all of it is positive. The WJC claimed more 2012 victims, with Nail Yakupov, Mikhail Grigorenko, Olli Maatta and Pontus Aberg all felled either before or during the tourney. Here’s a look at some of the players still standing that we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Sebastian Collberg, RW – Frolunda Indians (Swe.)
While Sweden got a gift goal to tie up its semifinal match with Finland at the world juniors, the eventual champs still needed the shootout to get through. One of the players to chip in during the 1-on-1 competition was also one of the youngest on the squad. But Collberg, a speedy and skilled right winger, was happy to get the chance to perform under pressure.
“Coach Roger (Ronnberg) asked me very quickly if I wanted to shoot,” Collberg said. “I had made one shootout goal against the Swiss, so I did the same thing. It went in, so it was good.”
It certainly was. Collberg, 17, had a breakout tournament for the Swedes, finishing second in team scoring with seven points, including four goals in six games. Back home, he’s been suiting up for Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League, where the lessons for a teen come fast and furious.
“I must be more strong,” he said. “So I train a lot to get stronger along the boards.”
Though he’s not the biggest player at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Collberg doesn’t shy away from tough situations. Still, skill is his trademark and it shows when he talks about the NHLer he’d most like to emulate.
“I like Ovechkin,” Collberg said. “He’s a real great skater and shoots a lot. That’s how I play my game.”
With a successful world juniors behind him, Collberg will no doubt rise up the rankings this year and join his idol in the near future. Draft eligible in 2012.
Kevin Gravel, D – St. Cloud State Huskies (WCHA)
At 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, Gravel is known more for his shutdown play than he is for offense, but he really cracked one against the Swiss in Team USA’s final game of the world juniors. While he may not be the most gifted player, his work ethic is second to none, something his NHL rights holders have been very pleased with. Drafted 148th overall by Los Angeles in 2010.
Jani Hakanpaa, D – Espoo Blues (Fin.)
Another defensive tower at the world juniors, Hakanpaa gave the Finns a huge presence on the back end, shadowing opponents and delivering big, thundering checks every game. Boasting an advanced 6-foot-5, 218-pound frame, the 19-year-old played big minutes and showed a very mature, responsible game. Drafted 104th overall by St. Louis in 2010.
Stefan Matteau, LW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
The son of former NHLer Stephane Matteau (note the subtle difference) just dropped the news on Twitter that he will be suiting up in the Quebec League next season for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. A sturdy power forward who studies the game closely and has great on-ice awareness, Matteau leads the NTDP with 23 points and 110 PIM through 30 games. Draft eligible in 2012.
Sergei Tolchinski, RW – Red Army (Rus.)
A solid contributor in the Kontinental League’s junior circuit, the MHL, Tolchinski made a name for himself at the World Under-17 Challenge in Windsor, Ont., by notching a hat trick in the gold medal victory over Team USA. Small, but offensively gifted, Tolchinski has great hands and plays the game with flair. Two of his six goals in the tournament came shorthanded. Draft eligible in 2013.
Dougie Hamilton, D – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Let it be stated for the record that Canada’s ill-fated comeback against the Russians in the WJC semifinal never would have happened if Hamilton hadn’t decided to rush in from the blueline to pop in that first backdoor goal to get the run started. The big defender was solid in Calgary and now he has Oleksiak joining him in Niagara for a playoff run. Gonna be huge. Drafted ninth overall by Boston in 2011.
Andrey Makarov, G – Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
With a lot of young talent in front of him in Saskatoon, Makarov has a chance for more heroics this season after his stellar performances at the end of the world juniors for Russia. The talent is there, now scouts just want to see consistency from the netminder, who was passed over in the Lewiston dispersal draft before landing in the Dub. Draft eligible in 2012 (undrafted in 2011).
J.T. Miller, C – Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Another player who fought right to the end for Team USA at the world juniors, Miller demonstrated his penchant for great physical play at the tourney, even if his offense wasn’t lights-out. Back in Plymouth, he has rung up 13 goals and 39 points in 33 games, so scoring is not a long-term problem. Drafted 15th overall by the New York Rangers in 2011.
Ville Pokka, D – Karpat Oulu (Fin.)
With the absence of Maatta for most of the world juniors, Pokka became crucial to the Finnish defense, particularly in a puck-moving role. He ended up leading the team’s blueline corps in scoring with four points in seven games and acquitted himself well with a smooth overall game. Draft eligible in 2012.
Henrik Samuelsson, C – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Originally slated to play NCAA, Samuelsson instead followed his famous father Ulf to Sweden, where the ex-NHLer took the job coaching Modo in the Elite League. But points were not forthcoming at the top level and the pressure of being the coach’s son wasn’t helping. Now the talented 6-foot-2, 192-pounder gets a fresh start with a very talented Oil Kings squad. Draft eligible in 2012.
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.
For more great prospect profiles and news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.