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Prospect Need to Know: Colorado's Kovalenko starts hot

A new season is dawning and that means new hope for teams and prospects alike. Sure, the regular campaign is still a ways off, but the action has started in the pre-season, while Europe is getting into full swing already. In the meantime, there is plenty of news in the prospect world as players find their present and future destinations, so let’s kick off the year and take a look around the world of prospects.

Nikolai Kovalenko, RW, Loko Yaroslavl (Rus.): The MVP of the Junior Club World Cup (a nice little tourney in Russia), Kovalenko led Loko to gold to kick off his season in style. The son of former NHLer Andrei Kovalenko, Nikolai is a Colorado Avalanche pick who battles, goes to the net and has a nice set of hands. He’ll be in Russia for the next few years - and he just scored in his KHL season debut. NHL arrival: 2021-22

Hugo Alnefelt, G, HV71 (Swe.): Alnefelt led HV71 to the final of the JCWC this year, falling to Kovalenko’s team in the golden game. A big dude who tracks the puck well and moves quickly, Alnefelt was the top goalie at the JCWC and played well at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament before that. He’s a 2019 draft candidate. NHL arrival: 2022-23

Bode Wilde, D, Saginaw Spirit (OHL): A big summer pick-up for the Spirit, Wilde looked good in his first exhibition game with the team. His skills and patience with the puck turned into a highlight reel goal and his upside is obvious. The New York Islanders pick still made some turnovers, but pairing him with stay-at-home tower Keaton Middleton looked like a nice option going forward. NHL arrival: 2021-22

Rasmus Kupari, C, Karpat Oulu (Fin.): Kupari made a big splash in early Champions League action, putting up four points in his first two games as Karpat thrashed Rouen and the Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers (I love that name). The Los Angeles Kings first-rounder brings a lot of speed to the table, not to mention offensive skills. NHL arrival: 2020-21

Alexander Khovanov, C, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL): I think I’ve figured out the key to Khovanov: he has to play angry. The Minnesota Wild pick showed off a lot of surliness in a pre-season game against OHL Kitchener and that got him involved more. When he has the puck, he can dazzle and he’ll go right to the net. NHL arrival: 2021-22

Michael Kesselring, D, Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL): A raw project defenseman with great size, Kesselring is a puckmover who just needs time to develop. He was committed to Merrimack, but over the long weekend he switched up and will now spend his college days at Northeastern. In the meantime, the Edmonton Oilers pick will get much-needed seasoning in Des Moines. NHL arrival: 2022-23

Josh Lawrence, C, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL): He’s not up for the NHL draft until 2020, but Lawrence is already looking like a top-tier guy. The dynamic speedster registered six points in his past two pre-season games, including a hat trick against Moncton. Lawrence was originally on track for the NCAA and Boston U., but the Sea Dogs convinced him otherwise and they’re reaping the rewards already. NHL arrival: 2021-22

Andrew Peeke, D, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (BigTen): Though the college season doesn’t kick off for a while, there was news out of South Bend, with the Irish naming Peeke their captain for the upcoming campaign. The Columbus Blue Jackets pick brings nice size and mobility to the back end and there will be more chance for offense with Jordan Gross off to the pros. NHLarrival: 2020-21

Josh Williams, RW, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL): Last year was a bit forgettable for Williams, as he broke his collarbone right before the World Under-17 Challenge. But he made up for it this summer, scoring the winning goal in Canada’s controversial win over Team USA at the Hlinka-Gretzky. A sniper who is eligible for the 2019 draft, Williams had three points in his first two exhibition games of the season. NHL arrival: 2021-22

Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound Attack (OHL): This is going to be a big year for Suzuki, the Vegas Golden Knights first-rounder. On top of being a candidate to lead the OHL in scoring, the talented pivot will also be a top gun for Canada at the world juniors. I spoke to Suzuki last week and he told me the mission is to win a title with Owen Sound and nowhere else: he’s got a no-trade clause and he seemed pretty serious about it. NHL arrival: 2019-20

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