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Going small to play big

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

First off, The Hot List sends its condolences to the family of Windsor Spitfires captain Mickey Renaud, who passed away unexpectedly on the weekend. He was 19.

Steven Stamkos and John Tavares remain in the Hot List Hall of Fame.

1. Olivier Roy, G – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL):
Still just 16, Roy put up one of the longest shutout streaks in Q history earlier in the year, besting Jose Theodore in the process. He is also the league’s reigning defensive player of the week. Draft eligible in 2009.

2. Collin Bowman, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL):
The rookie D-man is playing big for the Rockets, sporting a plus-21 rating. At 6-foot-2, the Colorado native has the height, but will probably want to bulk up on his 185-pound frame. Draft eligible in 2009.

3. Evgeny Grachev, C – Yaroslavl Lokomotiv (Rus):
The big, brawny pivot is up on the main squad now, so it’s time for the second-highest rated European prospect (behind Nikita Filatov) to shine. At 6-foot-3, 202 pounds, there’s a lot to like. Draft eligible in 2008.

4. Cal O’Reilly, C – Milwaukee Admirals (AHL):
A smart player who is super-dangerous shorthanded, O’Reilly is putting up some nice numbers for the Admirals this season, with 59 points in 55 games. Drafted 150th overall by Nashville in 2005.

5. Chris DiDomenico, C – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL):
As a product of the Toronto area, it was only fitting DiDomenico would be drafted by his hometown Maple Leafs. For the high-scoring pivot’s development, however, getting drafted by the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec League was just as key.

“It was probably the best thing for me,” DiDomenico said. “Moving to a small town was different, but there’s not many distractions here, so I can just focus on hockey.”

And focus he has. After ringing off 75 points in 70 games last season en route to rookie of the year honors in the Q, DiDomenico has already blown that mark out of the water.

Through 58 games, the center tallied 85 points and was constantly battling for the league lead in scoring. The Leafs, for their part, have largely stayed on the sidelines.

“They just told me to ‘do what you do,’ and have a good season,” he said.

In the meantime, however, DiDomenico’s focus is getting the second-year expansion club some respect out East.

“Our goal is to make the playoffs,” he said. “And I think we’ll do that this year.”

Drafted 164th overall by Toronto in 2007.

6.T.J. Fast, D – Tri-City Americans (WHL): Fast is a sparkling plus-28 and has chipped in 44 points from the blueline; twice as many as he had all last season for the Americans. Drafted 60th overall by Los Angeles in 2005.

7. Claude Giroux, RW – Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL):
Giroux is back on top of the Q points race, despite missing a dozen games while playing at the world juniors. He has 88 points in just 47 contests. Drafted 22nd overall by Philadelphia in 2006.

8. Jeremy Morin, C – US NTDP (NAHL):
Morin made the most of the NAHL’s Top Prospects tournament on the weekend, notching a goal and five points in a win over the South Division all-stars.

9. Nazem Kadri, C – Kitchener Rangers (OHL):
The 17-year-old is averaging a point-per-game on the juggernaut Rangers and showing some serious offensive moves in the process. Draft eligible in 2009.

10. Aaron Palushaj, RW – Michigan Wolverines (CCHA):
Playing in his home state, the freshman has had a fine rookie campaign and leads the Wolverines with 24 assists in 32 games. Drafted 44th overall by St. Louis in 2007.

11. Martin Jones, G – Calgary Hitmen (WHL):
He may be the backup, but the Hitmen lose nothing when Jones is on the prowl. At 6-foot-3, the netminder has intriguing size and a 2.23 goals-against average to go with it. Draft eligible in 2008.

12. Luca Caputi, LW – Niagara IceDogs (OHL):
Newsflash: The Penguins have an offensive force coming into their ranks soon. Caputi has been near the top of the OHL scoring race most of the year and currently sits at 43 goals and 92 points in 56 games. Drafted 111th overall by Pittsburgh in 2007.

13. Josh Godfrey, D – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL):
The blueliner has 43 points in 49 games for the division-leading Greyhounds and is a proven playoff performer. Drafted 34th overall by Washington in 2007.

14. John Carlson, D – Indiana Ice (USHL):
At a solid 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Carlson has NHL size already. He’s also putting up nice offensive numbers in Indiana and will be a coveted pick at the draft this summer. Draft eligible in 2008.

15. Roman Szturc, RW – HC Vitkovice Steel (Cze):
Despite his junior status, Szturc has made the jump to the big club and fared well. The right winger had two goals in his first seven games with the Steel. Draft eligible in 2008.

The Hot List, a weekly roundup of minor league, junior, college and high school players we’re exciting to one day see in the NHL, appears every Tuesday, only on

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