Well, I’m writing this week’s Hot List in Toronto because the Beanpot tournament in Boston was postponed due to weather. Not fun, but at least I can try again in two weeks. In the meantime, the Five Nations tournament just wrapped up in the Czech Republic, with Russia winning and Team USA boasting the highest scorers in Matthew Tkachuk (Keith’s kid) and Jack Roslovic. Below you’ll find some of the best performers from that shindig plus other prospects from around the hockey world.
Christian Fischer, RW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Fischer may not be the son of a former NHLer, but he’s getting a similar experience this season thanks to a unique living situation. The Illinois native’s parents are alternating billet duties at a house with the Tkachuks, so half the time the Fischers watch the teens and half the time the Tkachuks mind over them. Fischer has known Matthew Tkachuk since they were kids and at one point both were committed to Notre Dame, but Matthew has since re-opened his options.
“I’d say it’s my hometown school,” Fischer said. “It’s not in Illinois, but it’s probably closest to Chicago. And it’s the overall package: They have the hockey, the education and the school has a reputation as being prestigious.”
Speaking of prestigious, Fischer is part of the latest crop of draft prospects at the NTDP and has been one of the top offensive players on the squad with 37 points in 43 games, including three in the last two games of the Five Nations. And he likes to keep it simple.
“Just being a power forward,” he said. “Take the puck hard to the net, but also make the skilled plays and put the puck in the back of the net. I’d like to be more physical. With my big body, getting in the forecheck and throwing in a big hit every once in a while isn’t too bad.”
And there are few soft games for Team USA. Whether the squad is facing national teams, college teams or USHL teams, no one wants to lose to the hot-house program from Ann Arbor.
“That definitely brings a lot of energy to the game,” Fischer said. “There might be a little bit of jealousy on the other team. Definitely having that logo on your chest brings a target both in the USHL and internationally; everyone wants to beat you.”
But with Fischer in the lineup, losses haven’t happened that often this season. Draft eligible in 2015.
Ilya Samsonov, G – Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk (Rus.)
The top goaltender at the Five Nations tourney, Samsonov logged a .942 save percentage in two wins, narrowly beating out Sweden’s Adam Werner (.941). The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Russian has ideal pro size for a netminder and has a great compete level. Draft eligible in 2015.
Kyle Connor, C – Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
Connor has evolved from a great scorer to a deadly one in the United States League, using his size, speed and fast hands to befuddle goaltenders. The University of Michigan commit has four goals in his past three games and is one of the highest scorers in the league. Draft eligible in 2015.
Michael Spacek, C – Pardubice (Cze.)
A quick center with great hands, Spacek led the Czechs in scoring with six points in four games at the Five Nations. Back home, he’s been playing against men all year for Pardubice, garnering five goals and 11 points through 32 games. Draft eligible in 2015.
Jack Sadek, D – Lakeville North Panthers (Minn. HS)
Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Award for the top high school senior has its field of 10 and Sadek got one of the nods. The University of Minnesota commit is a converted forward who can really skate and has a big point shot. Sadek has 24 points in 23 games for the undefeated Panthers. Draft eligible in 2015.
Ethan Bear, D – Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Sure, it’s nice to have spent time playing with Anaheim first-rounder Shea Theodore, but Bear earned it as a perfect complement for the Canadian world junior gold medalist. Strong on his feet and great at moving the puck, Bear finishes his checks and has 30 points in 50 games. Draft eligible in 2015.
Matt Murray, G – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)
A big, smart goalie who has great technique, Murray is wowing the American League in his first pro campaign. The 6-foot-5 netminder is the reigning AHL player of the week and now leads the league with a 1.86 goals-against average. His five shutouts also put him tied for best on the circuit. Drafted 83rd overall by Pittsburgh in 2012.
Joel Ek Eriksson, C – Farjestad (SHL)
With four goals in four games, Ek Eriksson paced the Swedes at the Five Nations, though the team overall struggled. The pivot has split his season between junior and the Swedish League, using good size, a 200-foot game and a good shot to his advantage. Draft eligible in 2015.
Zach Senyshyn, RW – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
A pleasant surprise for scouts this year, Senyshyn played Jr. A most of last season, but has made an impact with the high-octane Hounds this time out, notching 32 points in 49 games. Size, skill and very good skating acumen are Senyshyn’s hallmarks and he’s hot with four points in his past three games. Draft eligible in 2015.
Mathieu Joseph, RW – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
A feisty winger who can kill penalties, Joseph exploded for five points the other night against Sherbrooke, vaulting him into fifth in scoring on the team. Joseph doesn’t have a lot of size, but he is willing to stick up for his teammates if necessary. Draft eligible in 2015.