It’s the most wonderful time of the year if you like high school hockey. The field is set for Minnesota’s legendary state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center, where a new champ will be crowned after Benilde-St. Margaret’s was knocked out in regionals. Out east in New England, a battery of showdowns are coming up, including the Super Eight championship in Massachusetts. Here’s a look at some of the other prospects making noise in the hockey world right now.
Frederik Tiffels, LW – Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
What’s stranger: that a German national is committed to an NCAA program in Michigan, or that his future coach is fluent in that language? That’s the situation Tiffels finds himself in, as the playmaking left winger recently committed to Western Michigan. Coach Andy Murray speaks German thanks to his time as a bench boss in Europe and along with Murray’s NHL experience, the communication aspect was a selling point for Tiffels. But there was more to the decision than that.
“Hockey-wise, it’s awesome, plus there’s the school side,” Tiffels said. “It’s good to have a degree for life after hockey. My dad and I visited the campus…we don’t have places like that back home.”
Tiffels, who played for Germany at the world juniors, is part of an emerging cast of Teutonic talents alongside rising WHL star Leon Draisaitl and Quebec League goalie Marvin Cupper. All three can return to the international stage next year, where they hope to improve upon their 2013 finish.
“I was proud to play for Team Germany,” Tiffels said. “Obviously we were ninth, but it was such a good experience to play the best players in my age group.”
In his first season over here, Tiffels has shown great promise in the United States League with 19 assists and 21 points in 40 games for the low-scoring but successful Jacks.
“I have good skating technique and I always look for the pass,” he said. “My goal-scoring hasn’t been too good. I need to get to the net and take more shots.”
Once he does, Tiffels will be a greater threat for both the Broncos and the Germans in the future. Draft eligible in 2013.
Sam Reinhart, C – Kootenay Ice (WHL)
The youngest Reinhart brother just hit the 30-goal plateau, continuing to further his career highs in all offensive categories this season. Sam has incredible smarts and great hockey habits and with his late birthday, he’ll be back in Kootenay next year. With the Ice growing along with him, look for even bigger numbers in the future. Draft eligible in 2014.
Filip Forsberg, C – Leksand Stars (Swe.)
Forsberg had one mission last season and it was to get Leksand promoted to Sweden’s Elite League. The second-tier club fell just short, but the big, talented pivot simply doubled his efforts this season. Forsberg was just named the Allsvenskan circuit’s junior player of the year and with Leksand finishing first overall, the Stars have a great shot at promotion. Drafted 11th overall by Washington in 2012.
Zach Fucale, G – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Fucale has just one blemish on his record in 2013, that coming in a debacle against Moncton. Otherwise, the top goaltending prospect has been flawless, reeling off nine victories in those 10 appearances and improving his stats to a 2.39 goals-against average and .906 save percentage. Fucale’s economical style means pucks tend to find his pads and he’s great down low. Draft eligible in 2013.
Cody Ceci, D – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Ceci’s offensive numbers haven’t actually increased since his trade from the sad-sack 67’s, but he has been red-hot of late, so look out. The big, talented defenseman has five points in his past two games and come playoff time, Owen Sound is going to be a real threat in the Ontario League’s loaded Western Conference. Drafted 15th overall by Ottawa in 2012.
Connor Hurley, C – Edina Hornets (Minn. HS)
Hurley and teammate Parker Reno represent the only major prospects in the Minnesota state tourney, the others having been knocked out in regional competition. The Notre Dame commit is an exciting offensive weapon and not surprisingly, his team’s leading scorer this season. Hurley will need to bring his arsenal if the third-seeded Hornets are to win it all. Draft eligible in 2013.
Michael Mersch, LW – University of Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA)
The Badgers were lost in the forest before Christmas, but since then have been back on track and now have a much better chance to do damage in the playoffs. Mersch, the team’s leading scorer, has been a big factor. The left winger is strong on the puck and posted six points in a two-game sweep of Nebraska-Omaha on the weekend. Drafted 110th overall by Los Angeles in 2011.
Dillon Heatherington, D – Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Though Heatherington does have five points in his past four games, there’s more than offense to look at with the 6-foot-4, 196-pound Calgary product. For one, there’s the obvious size. Heatherington uses that frame to his advantage, bringing a nasty streak and an intimidating pair of fists to the Broncos, while his plus-20 rating is tops on the team. Draft eligible in 2013.
Zach Sanford, LW – Middlesex Islanders (EJHL)
The Islanders are already through to the Eastern Jr. League semifinal and they’ll need Sanford’s help to get past Ryan Fitzgerald’s Valley Junior Warriors. A big kid at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Sanford uses that frame to protect the puck and he can wire it, too. The Boston College commit had 12 goals and 36 points in 37 games during the regular season and three points through two playoff matches. Draft eligible in 2013.
Keaton Thompson, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Scouts know that Thompson can skate and they know he can rush the puck. The question on the North Dakota commit has been upside and where on the development curve he is right now. Lately, Thompson has been producing more with three points in his past four games, so maybe the answer is becoming apparent. Draft eligible in 2013.
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 on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play their first NHL game.
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