The hopefuls for Team Canada’s World Junior Championship team are battling for their roster spots this week, while Michigan dumped Michigan State 5-0 at the Big Chill outdoor game, now the world record holder for attendance at a hockey game (113,411 people). With so much prospect fun out there, let’s get right to the kids we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Ty Rattie, RW – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
As the season goes on, Rattie’s draft ranking moves up. Now firmly ensconced in the projected first round, the six-foot, 170-pounder is making concerns about his size and positioning seem secondary to the tremendous offensive skill he possesses.
“I know how to find the net,” Rattie said. “I know how to find the open guy through skates and sticks.”
And he has done just that for Portland this season. His 45 points in 35 games ranks fifth in the ‘Dub’ and just one back of linemate Sven Bartschi. It’s also a far cry from the pedestrian numbers he put up as a highly touted rookie last season.
“Rookie years are always tough,” Rattie said. “Moving to a different country, leaving my family and friends…I got a little homesick. The biggest thing right now is I’m confident.”
Picked second overall in the 2008 bantam draft, Rattie may always be in the shadow of the fellow picked No. 1, Red Deer’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. And while critics don’t see Rattie as a top-3 pick, that doesn’t bother him.
“I know of it, obviously I’m aware of it,” he said. “Those are the kinds of things that motivate me.”
And ironically, right now, it’s Rattie who’s ahead of Nugent-Hopkins on the scoresheet. Draft eligible in 2011.
Jon Merrill, D – University of Michigan Wolverines (CCHA)
A Team USA possibility for the world juniors, Merrill scored two goals in the first period of the Big Chill game, setting the stage for the Maize and Blue rout. At 6-foot-3, 209 pounds, the freshman puckmover is a load to handle from the blueline, where he now has three power play goals and 13 points overall through 19 games. Drafted 38th overall by New Jersey in 2010.
Marcus Foligno, LW – Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
With two goals in Canada’s first intrasquad game, Foligno instantly put his name out there for a roster spot, but the Sudbury winger has other qualities that make him a world junior possibility. Foligno has good size (6-foot-3, 216 pounds), plays with an edge and is great on the forecheck, not to mention the penalty kill. And with 33 points in 28 games for the Wolves, yeah, he can score. Drafted 104th overall by Buffalo in 2009.
Riley Sheahan, C – Notre Dame Fighting Irish (CCHA)
Playing on a line with Foligno and Curtis Hamilton at the Canadian camp, Sheahan has been getting on the scoreboard, which is a nice bonus for a player whose experience at Notre Dame has prepared him to play excellent defensive hockey. If Canada is looking at forming an elite shutdown line, Sheahan is a great candidate to center it. Drafted 21st overall by Detroit in 2010.
Jamie Oleksiak, D – Northeastern Huskies (Hockey East)
On a team that has struggled to notch wins this season, Oleksiak has been a player to look up to - literally, as the kid measures 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds. A hopeful for Team USA’s world junior team, Oleksiak is plus-6 with four points in 16 games on a team with many minus players. Scouts see him as a Zdeno Chara-type, not just because of size, but because he plays with an edge. Draft eligible in 2011.
Jake Allen, G – Peoria Rivermen (AHL)
Last year’s world juniors may not have been a highlight for Allen, but the New Brunswick product has put all that behind him in the pros. As a rookie American Leaguer, Allen is killing it, leading the circuit in shutouts (four), goals-against average (1.59) and save percentage (.952). The Rivermen are one of the better teams in the West, to boot. Drafted 34th overall by St. Louis in 2008.
Zack Phillips, RW – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Scouts have been fascinated with Phillips’ growth as the season progresses and the right winger’s bag of tricks seems to be expanding. Now tied for sixth in ‘Q’ scoring, Phillips hasn’t been held off the scoresheet since Nov. 14. Since then, he has 24 points in 10 games and his plus-minus for the season is up to plus-25. Draft eligible in 2011.
Cody Eakin, C – Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
With a goal and an assist in Monday’s intrasquad game, Eakin put in a good showing for Team Canada coach Dave Cameron, who singled out the Swift Current sniper as one of the more impressive forwards at the summer camp as well. Eakin is also the reigning WHL player of the week. Drafted 85th overall by Washington in 2009.
Anders Jecha, G – Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knights (Minn. HS)
The top goalie in the state when it comes to stats, Jecha is boasting a .067 GAA and .962 save percentage in three straight wins, including a victory over top-10 opponent Hill-Murray. At 6-foot-2, 165 pounds, Jecha has that Ryan Miller frame going for him, though a couple more pounds probably wouldn’t hurt. Draft eligible in 2012.
Jordan Schmaltz, D – Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
The lanky Schmaltz is the United States League’s defensive player of the week and his four-game point streak has a lot to do with it. A rookie blueliner, Schmaltz’s game is steadily improving and with seven of his 10 points on the power play, he clearly has a specialty. At 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, he’ll need to fill out, but the frame is there. Draft eligible in 2012.
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.
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