With the Canadian League finals all in mid-swing, there are plenty of great performances to speak of and with two priority drafts also taking place on the weekend, the next generation of juniors earns some time in the spotlight, as well.
1. Marc-Andre Bourdon, D – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL): Rouyn-Noranda isn’t the easiest place in the world to get to. With the exception of Val d’Or, the northern Quebec destination is pretty remote, which may explain why scouts had the Quebec League’s best defenseman at the bottom of the draft rankings when the midterm rankings came out.
“For the first list I was pretty surprised,” said Bourdon, who was ranked No. 202 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. “I panicked a bit.”
Fortunately, Bourdon got good advice from his coaches and agent, who pointed out he doesn’t get the exposure other prospects from the Q get.
With that in mind, Bourdon torched the league this year, tallying 59 points, 114 penalty minutes (including eight fights) and an outstanding plus-39 rating en route to being named the league’s defenseman of the year and a first team all-star.
On a team that also features Dallas blueline prospect Ivan Vishnevskiy and another defensive scoring machine in Sebastien Piche, Bourdon’s Huskies rolled through the playoffs, sweeping their first three opponents.
“The most important thing is our veterans,” Bourdon said. “Other teams took leads on us in games, but we were able to stay cool and come back.”
Having down time never hurts, either.
“We have had a lot of rest between series,” he added. “It gave us time to study our opponents.”
Right now, the Huskies are locked in a final battle with Gatineau, where the Olympiques have finally pierced Rouyn-Noranda’s armor for a 1-1 series tie. In the meantime, Bourdon’s draft stock has shot up; he was No. 125 in the NHL’s final rankings.
“Now I don’t panic,” Bourdon said. “I just won defenseman of the year, so what else can I do?”
2. John McFarland, C – Sudbury Wolves (OHL): The OHL’s next big hype player finally has a team to call his own after the priority draft. McFarland will join the Wolves next year after dazzling with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens. Draft eligible in 2010.
3. Zac Dalpe, C – Penticton Vees (BCHL): This is where recruiting battles really heat up. Dalpe, a standout for the Vees, is committed to Ohio State, so why would the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL take him in the second round? Because if you’re Plymouth, you never know (though in Dalpe’s case, it’s pretty unlikely he’ll change his mind). Draft eligible in 2008.
4. Mikkel Boedker, RW – Kitchener Rangers (OHL): The Danes probably wish they had Boedker at the World Championship right now, but the winger has instead spent his time tearing up the OHL playoffs with 30 points in 16 games. Draft eligible in 2008.
5. Ondrej Roman, LW – Spokane Chiefs (WHL): They say a series hasn’t started until the home team loses, but you have figure the Chiefs feel pretty good about being up 2-0 on Lethbridge. Roman leads the Dub playoffs in game-winning goals with four, to go with 19 points in 19 games. Drafted 136th overall by Dallas in 2007.
6. Josh Unice, G – Kitchener Rangers (OHL): Don’t call it a comeback; Unice has been electric since replacing the injured Steve Mason. The young American tender boasts a 2.15 goals-against average and 10-1 record in the playoffs. Drafted 86th overall by Chicago in 2007.
7. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C – Red Deer Rebels (WHL): The first pick overall in the Dub draft, some are calling RNH the Steven Stamkos of the west, at least in terms of his style of play. The young pivot tallied 10 goals and 14 points in five games at the B.C. bantam championship. Draft eligible in 2011.
8. Hubert Labrie, D – Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL): Labrie has put up a fantastic plus-19 rating during Gatineau’s playoff run, good for second in the league behind teammate Claude Giroux. And get this: The kid’s still only 16. Talk about poise at a young age. Draft eligible in 2009.
9. Dustin Tokarski, G - Spokane Chiefs (WHL): Tokarski is elbowing his way into the conversation as to who the first goalie taken in this summer’s NHL draft will be. Spokane’s last line of defense leads the league with a 1.42 GAA and .944 save percentage in the playoffs. Draft eligible in 2008.
10. Karl Alzner, D – Calgary Hitmen (WHL): His Hitmen couldn’t get by the Lethbridge Hurricanes, but Alzner gets a consolation prize by being named both the Dub’s top defenseman and player of the year. Drafted fifth overall by Washington in 2007.
11. Julien Sprunger, RW – Fribourg Gotteron (Swi.): After leading Fribourg in goals with 29 in 54 games Sprunger has taken his game to the World Championship, where he notched three goals in his first two games for the Swiss. Drafted 117th overall by Minnesota in 2004.
12. Antti Niemi, G – Pelicans (Fin.): In the tradition of Niklas Backstrom and Johan Holmqvist, Chicago is bringing a young, yet experienced European netminder over in hopes of hitting gold. The 24-year-old Niemi posted a 2.35 GAA this year and fills the net with his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame. Signed by Chicago as free agent in 2008.
13. Derek Grant, C – Langley Chiefs (BCHL): Grant made the biggest leap in draft rankings among the top 60 from midterm to final, which likely had to do with his 63 points in 57 games and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame. He also worked his way up from the fourth to the top line in Langley. Draft eligible in 2008.
14. Jan Mursak, LW – Belleville Bulls (OHL): Kitchener hasn’t given Belleville a sniff in the OHL final, but Mursak has still established himself as the second-best Slovenian hockey player around (behind Anze Kopitar) with 22 points in 17 playoff games. Drafted 182nd overall by Detroit in 2006.
15. Ben Lovejoy, D – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL): The former Dartmouth defender is having a breakout post-season, posting five points (all assists) in his first eight games. Lovejoy is also second overall with a plus-8 rating. Signed as free agent by Pittsburgh in 2007.
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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