Olympic buzz is everywhere, so why not put some international flavor into The Hot List this week? Russia, Canada and the U.S. always get love, but how about Norway and Germany? Sure, none of these kids are playing in Vancouver, but we are excited about seeing them in the NHL one day.
1. Stanislav Galiev, C – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL): With 54 points in 55 games, Galiev is one of the top-scoring rookies in the Quebec League this year, but what is most impressive is the plus-34 rating he brings to the table.
Not that Galiev didn’t have a bit of a head start – he played for the United States League-champion Indiana Ice last season, where he won a Clark Cup and began to adjust to North American life, even if it was tough to be a Russian teen in America’s heartland.
“At first it was so hard,” Galiev said. “You miss your friends, you miss your parents, but later on (that season) it was easier. On the ice, you forget about everything.”
And Galiev can have the same effect on fans. The dazzling pivot has become a premier setup man in the ‘Q,’ dishing out 40 assists already this year. He cites his skill set and vision as his best assets and still wants to work on his defensive-zone coverage. A quick student, he has even graduated out of ESL (English as a second language) classes in Saint John thanks to his improving English. The youngster also has a rare chance to win titles in two different junior leagues in consecutive years.
“It’s awesome because it was my first season in the U.S.,” Galiev said of last year’s Clark Cup. “This year we will keep working for the Memorial Cup.”
As for any worries about the center ducking back to Russia in the future, his words about the NHL draft seem to betray his choice.
“I can’t wait,” he said. “I’m so excited.” Draft eligible in 2010.
2. Matt Puempel, LW – Peterborough Petes (OHL): The Petes’ first round pick last year and a Prep Watch alum, Puempel has really picked up steam in the second half of the season. He’s a point-per-game player since the calendar flipped over to 2010 and his 43 points in 48 games is tops in the league among rookies. Draft eligible in 2011.
3. Kyle Beach, LW – Spokane Chiefs (WHL): The bad boy of prospects, Beach is on fire in February, totaling 13 points through seven games and still dropping the gloves on occasion. The burly winger’s PIMs are still high (160), but so are his points this season, at a career-best 68 through 56 games. Drafted 11th overall by Chicago in 2008.
4. David Musil, D – Vancouver Giants (WHL): Frantisek’s son is leading the Giants in plus-minus with a plus-32, also good for top-10 in the Dub. The 6-foot-3, 191-pound rookie man-child has a very respectable 28 points in 59 games. Draft eligible in 2011.
5. Brandon Pirri, C – R.P.I. Engineers (ECAC): The playmaker extraordinaire is showing no signs of intimidation in his first NCAA campaign, despite being a true freshman. Pirri leads the conference with 29 assists and his 39 points overall in 32 games is second only to teammate Chase Polacek. Drafted 59th overall by Chicago in 2009.
6. Matthew Nieto, C – U.S. NTDP (USHL): A late birthday, Nieto is playing well above his age this season, no matter where he goes. In the USHL, he has 15 points in 13 games. Internationally, he leads the NTDP with 12 points in nine games, including a hat trick and an assist in the final game of the Six Nations Cup. Draft eligible in 2011.
7. Lars Volden, G – Stavanger Oilers (Nor.): One of the top-rated Euro goalies for the draft this summer, Volden is holding it down for Stavanger in Norway. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound youngster has an excellent 2.37 goals-against average and .914 save percentage with a pair of shutouts in 11 appearances. Draft eligible in 2010.
8. Taylor Beck, RW – Guelph Storm (OHL): A real solid body at 6-foot-2 and 211 pounds, Beck is leading the Storm with 77 points in 52 games, killing his old career high. He’s also top-five in the Ontario League points race. Drafted 70th overall by Nashville in 2009.
9. Tom Kuehnhackl, RW – Landshut Cannibals (Ger.): Playing in Germany’s second-best men’s league, Kuehnhackl is contributing, despite his young age. The teen winger has 18 points through 31 games, including four points on the power play for a very solid Cannibals team. Draft eligible in 2010.
10. Mark Pysyk, D – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL): There hasn’t been a lot to cheer for in Edmonton these days, but at least there’s Pysyk, a solid player for a team that has seen few of them in its short tenure. The stalwart blueliner is enjoying a career season with the Oil Kings, putting up 24 points in 48 games. Draft eligible in 2010.
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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