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Gunning for No. 3

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The big news out of the prospect world this week is that mammoth Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman has separated his shoulder and will be out at least three weeks.

Now, the World Junior Championship in Ottawa isn’t for another five weeks, so The Tall One should still suit up, but will he be at full strength? Whether this affects the Hedman-or-Tavares debate for the No. 1 draft pick remains to be seen, but it certainly doesn’t help Hedman.

You can be sure The Hot List – our rundown of players we can’t wait to see in the NHL someday – will be keeping close tabs.

On to this week’s list:

1.Jared Cowen, D – Spokane Chiefs (WHL): Playing in the Dub means lots of long bus rides and for Cowen, whose Chiefs are currently on one of those swings, it means repetition.

“We watch a ton of movies, a stupid amount of movies,” he said. “Right now it’s The Dark Knight…again.”

Ironically, at 6-foot-5, 217 pounds, it’s Cowen who looms ominously over opposing players who wish to do harm to his goalie’s save percentage.

A versatile and physical defenseman who won a Memorial Cup last year in his rookie campaign, Cowen is now opening up his game more thanks to the experience.

“I think I can do a lot of things out there,” he said. “I’m getting more power play time this year…and concentrating on taking more shots per game instead of not making mistakes.”

Right now, Cowen is a likely No. 3 in the draft behind Hedman and John Tavares, though he’ll get competition from Swedish forward Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi, a player he was assigned to shut down at the Ivan Hlinka tournament over the summer.

“Hubert Labrie and I were on the ice with him every time,” Cowen noted. “And I think – actually, I know – we did a real good job shutting him down.”

So if NHL scouts are looking for a tiebreaker, they can give Round 1 to Cowen.

Draft eligible in 2009.

2. Evgeny Grachev, C – Brampton Battalion (OHL):
To say Grachev has figured out the North American game is an understatement. The big, brawny Russian hung four goals on Ottawa over the weekend and now has 21 points in 19 games. Watching him and Matt Duchene on a line is a thing of hockey beauty. Drafted 75th overall by the New York Rangers in 2008.

3. Oskar Osala, LW – Hershey Bears (AHL): With his first American League hat trick recently, Osala is another big Euro (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) taking the West by storm. His 12 goals in 18 games ties him with Portland’s Nathan Gerbe for best among rookies. Drafted 97th overall by Washington in 2006.

4. Jordan Schroeder, RW – University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (WCHA):
Size remains a question (5-foot-9, 180 pounds), but results do not. Schroeder has excelled at every level and continues to do so in the NCAA. He’s second on the Gophers in scoring with 14 points in 10 games. Draft eligible in 2009.

5. John Moore, D – Chicago Steel (USHL): A late birthday, Moore is showcasing himself well in his draft year, putting up 11 points in 12 games from the back end, but more importantly, garnering the league’s defensive player of the week honors for a mediocre Steel team. The blueliner is a Colorado College commit. Draft eligible in 2009.

6. Olivier Roy, G – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL): The front-runner for first goalie taken in 2009, Roy did nothing to harm that status in turning away 18 of 19 shots faced in two periods as Quebec defeated Russia 5-3 in the first ADT Challenge game of the season. Draft eligible in 2009.

7. Aaron Palushaj, RW – University of Michigan Wolverines (CCHA): Palushaj led the conference in assists last year as a freshman and now he leads the points crown with 20 in just 12 games. Drafted 44th overall by St. Louis in 2007.

8. Ryan Spooner, C – Peterborough Petes (OHL): Still just 16, Spooner nonetheless has 18 points in 21 games on a middling Petes team. Watch for him with Team Ontario at the World Under-17 Challenge in late December. Draft eligible in 2010.

9. Brett Connolly, LW – Prince George Cougars (WHL): At 6-foot-1 and just 162 pounds, Connolly certainly needs some more heft, but as a 16-year-old he has more than enough time to hit the buffet. Most impressive is the hometown hero’s 27 points in 24 games. Draft eligible in 2010.

10. Nick Leddy, D – Eden Prairie Eagles (Minn. HS): Leddy is currently playing in the Upper Midwest Elite League, which precedes the high school season. But for the early going, Leddy hasn’t wasted any time, putting up 20 points in 24 games and turning heads at the recent National Invitational Tournament. He’s a Minnesota Gophers recruit, too. Draft eligible 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

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