The NCAA tournament starts with its regionals this week en route to the Frozen Four. On top of that, major junior playoffs begin as well, so it’s going to be a hot week for prospects. But in this space, when isn’t it, right? Once again, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Scott Mayfield, D, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
The Phantoms have all but been eliminated from playoff contention, but for the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Mayfield, at least they’re in the hunt this year.
“I think our attitude is a whole lot different than last year,” he said. “We have something to play for.”
With Youngstown in just its second United States League campaign, growing pains were expected, but at least Phantoms fans can hang their hat on having a legitimate first round talent on the blueline. Mayfield was part of Team USA’s winning entry at the World Jr. A Challenge this season and has embraced his role as a leader in Youngstown, helping newcomers find their place in the room.
“I know it’s hard your first year,” Mayfield said. “That was my first goal this year, to help out and lead by example.”
Though his offensive numbers are down this season, Mayfield noted that with Youngstown adding more offensive pop this year, he could concentrate more on defense. Either way, scouts love Mayfield’s physical attributes and the blueliner is aware of what makes him a highly ranked prospect.
“I try to focus on my skating and my size,” he said. “I can get the puck out of the zone, kind of grind it out and block shots.”
Mayfield still wants to work on his decision-making in the offensive end, but with a commitment to the University of Denver next year, he’ll be getting top teaching to round that out. Draft eligible in 2011.
Danny Kristo, RW – University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux (WCHA)
Kristo is thankfully back in the lineup after a frostbite scare and putting up numbers like he was never gone. In the thrilling 3-2, double-OT conference tourney final win over Denver, Kristo had two points for the Sioux, now the No. 2 seed in the Frozen Four. Drafted 56th overall by Montreal in 2008.
Gustav Bjorklund, LW – VIK Vasteras (Swe. Jr.)
At 5-foot-6, 150 pounds, there isn’t a lot of mass to Bjorklund, but he gets his points anyway. The diminutive winger leads the under-18 playoffs with 14 points in three games to go along with a plus-9 rating. VIK now meets AIK in the quarterfinal. Draft eligible in 2011.
Keegan Lowe, D – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
It’s been a big turnaround season for Lowe and the Oil Kings, who head into the playoffs as the seventh seed in the East and a date with Red Deer. Lowe, son of former Oiler Kevin Lowe, boasted a plus-33 this year, way up from last season’s minus-16 and best on the Oil Kings. Draft eligible in 2011.
Jordan Binnington, G – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Binnington saved the best for last this year, putting up a 2.16 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in March. He didn’t lose in regulation in that month either, as Owen Sound grabbed an unexpected Western Conference title. The 6-foot-2 netminder also looked great at the Top Prospects Game this winter. Draft eligible in 2011.
Tyler Toffoli, C – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
With a scoring crown on the line, Toffoli took it to the house on the last day of the season, notching four goals and an assist to tie Kitchener’s Jason Akeson for the points title and surpassing Oshawa’s Christian Thomas in goals, ending up with 57. Drafted 47th overall by Los Angeles in 2010.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C – Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
When Pageau scores – which is often – he likes to do it in bunches. In March alone, the 5-foot-9, 164-pounder had four multi-point games in six attempts. The diminutive pivot tallied 10 assists and 12 points overall in that span. He’s also a late birthday. Draft eligible in 2011.
Joe Sova, D – University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks (CCHA)
The Nanooks won’t be dancing, but Sova’s season continues. The 6-foot-3, 193-pound blueliner has signed on with the New Jersey Devils after his second straight 24-point campaign in Fairbanks. He’ll catch on with American League Albany for the remainder of the season, alongside former University of Minnesota left winger Mike Hoeffel. Signed as a free agent by New Jersey in 2011.
Destry Straight, C – Coquitlam Express (BCHL)
The Express fell to Surrey in the first round of the playoffs, so Straight is finished after three points in four post-season games. As the top prospect in the B.C. League, he acquitted himself well this year, posting 67 points in 59 games. He’s committed to Boston College in the future. Draft eligible in 2011.
Matt Killian, D – Delbarton Green Wave (NJ HS)
The Green Wave stayed on top this season, eking out a state title over a very game St. Augustine team. Killian tied the game late, helping Delbarton to its fourth straight championship. The 6-foot-1, 191-pound defenseman skates well and has an excellent point shot. 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.
For more great prospect profiles and news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.