The world under-18s are in full swing, with numerous European dynamos ruling the scoresheet. Meanwhile, the cream of the crop have all risen to the top in the Ontario League playoffs, meaning there will be some heavily scouted games on the road to the Memorial Cup. As always, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
1. Jacob Josefson, C – Djurgarden (Swe.): Amidst the deluge of Swedish teens poised to be first-rounders this summer, Josefson ranks just behind Victor Hedman and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson. And like those two, Josefson played against men in the Eliteserien, even though it meant much less ice time than he would have gotten in junior. Experience was the key.
“Twelve minutes a game against men is good, too,” Josefson said. “They’re smarter, stronger and faster. One little mistake can give them a goal.”
Playing for Djurgarden also meant Josefson could lean on former NHLers Marcus Ragnarsson, Michael Blomqvist and David Printz for info on North America, a continent he has enjoyed on initial trips and hopes to live in full-time in the not-so-distant future.
“They tell some stories,” Josefson said. “It makes me want to go even more. I’ll have to practise a lot more.”
As a fan of Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg, it’s not hard to figure out that Josefson prides himself on playing a responsible offensive game.
“Two-way center with pretty good vision,” he said. “I think those are my strengths.”
Currently playing for Sweden at the under-18s in Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn., Josefson is getting a chance to show the world what he can do on a big stage and so far, the results are good. Through three games, the young pivot has four assists and six points along with a plus-6 rating. Draft eligible in 2009.
2. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW – Sibir Novosibirsk (KHL): Busting out of the gates with 10 points in his first three games, the 5-foot-10, 170-pound terror is not to be taken lightly. Tarasenko notched 10 points in 38 games for Sibir this season, which for a youngster in the Kontinental League is incredible. Draft eligible in 2010.
3. Eric Tangradi, C – Belleville Bulls (OHL): Naturally, Tangradi would prefer not to be known as the guy who smacked Chris DiDomenico in the face with his stick from the Team USA bench at the world juniors, so leading his Bulls past Brampton in the OHL playoffs will be a good start. Tangradi is an offensive monster and is tied for tops in the OHL with 20 points in the post-season. Drafted 42nd overall by Anaheim in 2007, traded to Pittsburgh in ’09.
4. Colby Cohen, D – Boston University Terriers (Hockey East): The Terriers are your 2009 Frozen Four champs and Cohen gets the final glory thanks to his overtime-winner against Miami, Ohio. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound defenseman doubled his point total to 32 this season. Drafted 45th overall by Colorado in 2007.
5. Ethan Werek, LW – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL): Playing on a poor Frontenacs team all year, the U-18s are crucial for Werek’s draft status. The 6-foot-2 scorer leads all Canadians with four goals in three games and is tied with two others for the team lead in points with six. How’s this for a bitter pill to swallow, though: Werek was committed to Boston U., before jumping to Kingston. Draft eligible in 2009.
6. Marco Cousineau, G – Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL): Backstopping the Volts isn’t the toughest job in the world, but maybe the skaters are so confident because they know Cousineau is behind them. The elite goaltender is rocking a 1.99 goals-against average in the playoffs, even better than his regular season mark of 2.42. Drafted 83rd overall by Anaheim in 2008.
7. Toni Rajala, LW – Ilves (Fin.): Size has always been a question with Rajala, so it’s good to see the youngster use his skill to the fullest. Rajala leads the U-18s in scoring with 12 points in just three games. A hat trick and six points vs. Norway certainly didn’t hurt. Draft eligible in 2009.
8. Adam Murray, G – U.S. NTDP: The Stars and Stripes are soaring on home ice at the U-18s and Murray has been solid in net. The Denver Pioneers commit leads the tourney in save percentage (.944) and GAA (1.51) among starters. Draft eligible in 2009.
9. Brayden Schenn, C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): Big brother Luke’s Leafs won’t be getting a top-two pick in the lottery, so Brayden may be in line to join him in Blue and White. In the meantime, the Wheat Kings are locked into a battle of undefeated playoff teams when they begin their series with Calgary. Draft eligible in 2009.
10. Tim Erixon, D – Skelleftea (Swe.): Another one of those top-end Swedes poised to go in the first round this year, Erixon has six points through three games at the U-18s, backing up his offensive defenseman reputation. 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 thehockeynews.com.
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