Major junior playoffs have reached the final series, while the AHL post-season is well into the second round. An incredibly exciting 2014-15 campaign is nearing its end, so I’m opening up the Hot List a bit to younger prospects. Like those that came before them, they are the players you’ll want to know and that we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Travis Dermott, D – Erie Otters (OHL)
In a few years, we’re likely going to marvel that Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome played on the same junior team – but we may also be including Dermott in the conversation. A terrific offensively-inclined defenseman, Dermott has flown under the radar a bit for obvious reasons, but his draft year has also been bountiful.
“Jay McKee, our 'D' coach, gave me a lot of ice time, so it gave me an opportunity to get better,” Dermott said. “I took it and rode with it. Got a lot of power play time, got some penalty-kill later in the season and it’s worked well for me.”
Dermott leads all OHL blueliners in playoff scoring with 17 points through 18 games and though he’s not huge at 5-foot-11 and 197 pounds, he defends well with his stick and moves fluidly.
“I feel like I’m a pretty quick guy,” he said. “Not the fastest at top speed, but I get places quick. I don’t have the most size, but I try to work on the small things, to be strong on the puck.”
Dermott is in his second season with the Otters after considering the NCAA route. He visited Michigan, Western Michigan, Canisius and Bowling Green and kept his grades up just in case.
“I visited Erie and figured out that the OHL was probably my best bet to get me to the NHL, which is the place I want to go to,” he said. “I made the decision and never looked back.”
That decision got him to the OHL final and a shot at the Memorial Cup this season, so it’s looking pretty solid right now. Draft eligible in 2015.
Kieffer Bellows, C – Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
It’s amazing to think how dangerous Bellows will be next season, since his rookie campaign with Sioux Falls has been so stunning. The son of Brian Bellows has been a game-breaker for the Stampede, who have a stranglehold on Muskegon in the USHL final. Bellows has eight goals and 11 points through 11 games. Draft eligible in 2016.
Josh Brown, D – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Brown and partner Dakota Mermis did an excellent job shutting down McDavid in the first two games of the OHL final, though No. 97 did get the better of them in Game 3. Nonetheless, Brown’s size and awareness will be key moving forward if Oshawa is going to take the series. Drafted 152nd overall by Florida in 2013.
Tyler Bertuzzi, LW – Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL)
When he was a member of the Guelph Storm, Bertuzzi evolved from an agitator into a pesky, high-end scorer. Todd’s nephew has continued his great work in the AHL, netting six points in five games for the Griffins, who have won five playoff games in a row. Drafted 58th overall by Detroit in 2013.
Tyson Jost, RW – Penticton Vees (BCHL)
The RBC Cup is in full swing right now, as the best Jr. A teams in Canada vie for a national title. Penticton has been a factory for prospects lately and Jost is one to watch for sure. Still deciding between major junior and college, the prolific youngster has a quick release on his shot and protects the puck well. Jost has two points in two RBC Cup games so far. Draft eligible in 2016.
Matt O’Connor, G – Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)
He was the biggest college free agent on the market and now O’Connor has a home in Ottawa. The big Canadian netminder helped the Terriers all the way to the Frozen Four title game before a bizarre gaffe shifted momentum, but the kid still has athleticism and a 6-foot-5 frame. Signed as a free agent by Ottawa in 2015.
Dmytro Timashov, LW – Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
Born in Ukraine but Swedish by international hockey standards, Timashov is the top-scoring freshman in the ‘Q’ playoffs with 18 points in 18 games. The offensively superb left winger has great vision, a stocky frame and is quite strong on his skates. Draft eligible in 2015.
Rourke Chartier, C – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
It’s been a breakout season for Chartier, who flirted with Canada’s world junior team in December but was ultimately cut. The smart center is so creative with the puck and that has been on full display in the WHL final against Brandon. Chartier has six points in three games – all Kelowna wins. Drafted 149th overall by San Jose in 2014.
Samuel Laberge, LW – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound rookie made his impact on the Quebec League final with two goals in Game 3, a crucial Rimouski win. Laberge is a net-front presence who also does work along the boards and will drop the gloves when needed. Draft eligible in 2015.
Nolan Patrick, C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
The Wheaties may not be long for the WHL final against Kelowna, but Patrick continues to prove why he is one to watch in the future. James Patrick’s nephew leads all rookie scorers in the playoffs with 15 points in 18 games, using a quick release and excellent speed. Draft eligible in 2017.