There were two intriguing international tournaments that ended on the weekend – and Team USA took ‘em both. The Stars and Stripes earned victory at the World Jr. A Challenge thanks to a team of United States League stars, while the under-18s bested Sweden in a shootout to take the Four Nations Cup. With an eye on some of the best from those tourneys, plus the hockey world at large, here’s a bunch of kids we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Dougie Hamilton, D – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
There are a lot of great hockey names out there and Dougie Hamilton is a new entry. But why ‘Dougie’ and not ‘Doug?’ Ask Hamilton and he’ll tell you that’s his father’s name. Similarly, older brother and Niagara teammate Freddie Hamilton, a San Jose draft pick, is named after grandfather Fred.
“It’s what we’ve been called since we were kids,” Dougie said. “Right now, I like it.”
And right now, a lot of people are liking Hamilton. At 6-foot-4 and 193 pounds, he’s a big boy on the blueline, but he skates and moves the puck extremely well.
“I like Jay Bouwmeester and Brent Burns,” he noted. “Two-way, tall, lanky players. Both guys are my role models.”
The offensive tilt in Hamilton’s game has produced 13 points in 20 games for the IceDogs, nearly eclipsing the 16 he had in his entire rookie season. He cites his first pass, vision and playmaking as strengths, but knows that, with his frame, more is expected elsewhere.
“With my size, people want me to be more of a defensive player,” he said.
Hamilton is thought of as one of the top defensemen available in the draft this summer, so teams will certainly be happy to wait for his back-end game to fill out. Draft eligible in 2011.
Jimmy Mullin, RW – Fargo Force (USHL)
Mullin was all over the scoresheet for Team USA at the Jr. A Challenge, notching the game-winning goal over Canada East in the gold medal game. He had six goals in four games overall, which led the tournament and helped him earn an all-star nod along with teammate and overall MVP Scott Mayfield. At 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, Mullin needs to put on weight, but he’s certainly got the back-of-the-net part of the game figured out. Drafted 118th overall by Tampa Bay in 2010.
Brendan Ranford, LW – Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
The nephew of former NHL goalie Bill Ranford is making his uncle’s peers look bad lately. The left winger has three points in each of his past three games, giving him 33 points in 21 games and rocketing him up to a tie for third overall in Dub scoring. Drafted 209th overall by Philadelphia in 2010.
Anton Zlobin, LW – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Scouts really wanted to like Zlobin this year, but also tempered their expectations based on the fact he was a European coming into a new league with new rink dimensions and a whole different lifestyle to live away from home. Since starting slow, the Russian import has put up 13 points in his past 10 games and has seen his plus-minus improve from a minus-3 to a plus-9 along the way. He shoots and skates well, and now has 18 points in 20 games. Draft eligible in 2011.
Robbie Russo, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
The star for Team USA at the Four Nations Cup, Russo scored once in regulation and twice in the shootout to help the Yanks over Sweden for gold. Russo, a two-way defenseman with great offensive pop, netted six points in three games - tying him with Rocco Grimaldi for first on the team. His draft stock is on the rise, too - he was rated 13th in November’s ISS rankings. Draft eligible in 2011.
Shane Prince, C – Ottawa 67s (OHL)
Playing the middle on Ottawa’s big line alongside 2010 draft picks Tyler Toffoli and Ryan Martindale, Prince has been on fire of late, leading the 67s in scoring with 35 points in 22 games, which ties him for second in the league. Although it was Toffoli who garnered Ontario League player of the week honors, playmaker Prince was also considered for the accolade. Draft eligible in 2011.
Jussi Rynnas, G – Toronto Marlies (AHL)
Need a positive story, Leafs Nation? How about the American League player of the week? Rynnas was a road warrior for the Marlies, going 3-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and beating powerhouse Hershey in the process. Overall, the Finnish national boasts a 1.95 GAA and .936 save percentage – plus, he’s 6-foot-5 and 212 pounds, which never hurts in net. Signed as a free agent by Toronto in 2010.
Mika Zibanejad, C – Djurgarden (Swe. Jr.)
The Swedish pivot had a goal and an assist in the Four Nations final loss to Team USA and had a strong tournament overall. The nearly 6-foot-2, 187-pound center has won 57 percent of his faceoffs back with Djurgarden and is a plus-7 on the season. Draft eligible in 2011.
Gregory Hofmann, C – HC Ambri-Piotta (Swi.)
The Swiss demolished Canada West in the Jr. A Challenge bronze medal game 8-3 and Hofmann led the way with a pair of goals. The Swiss pivot has played in the country’s top league all season and has five points in 23 games for his efforts. Draft eligible in 2011.
Samu Perhonen, G – JYP (Fin. Jr.)
Finland has been a goaltending factory for years now and the latest name to crop up in prospect circles in Perhonen. Like many of his new-school brethren, Perhonen is big at 6-foot-3, but skinny at 172 pounds. Nevertheless, he lets his .935 save percentage and 2.49 GAA do the talking. 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 every Tuesday only on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play in their first NHL game.
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