For a second there, it looked like Team Canada was cursed. First, defender Chris Bigras was hit hard in a game against Guelph, then Jonathan Drouin was concussed when U.S. hopeful Adam Erne of the Quebec Remparts slammed him into the boards from behind. But Bigras recovered from his bump and Drouin sounds like he’s in decent shape, even if he needs a bit more recovery time. Bullet dodged? Canadian brass probably just hopes things don’t come in threes this time. Here’s a look at some of the other players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Michael Dal Colle, LW – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
The Ontario League has been a bastion for high draft picks in recent years and the Greater Toronto Area has done more than its fair share of producing talent, from John Tavares and Steven Stamkos to Sean Monahan. Dal Colle is part of this year’s wave and coming from the northern Toronto suburb of Woodbridge, he’s obviously keen on the idea of the NHL expanding to nearby Markham.
“That would be pretty awesome, they’d get a great fan base,” he said. “When you look at Connor McDavid and Sam Bennett coming out of that area, there’s some pretty good players being developed up there.”
Currently third in OHL scoring with 22 goals and 54 points in 32 games, Dal Colle is a big winger with great hands and a strong creative streak. Improving on his rookie year physique was a big goal for him over the summer.
“I was determined in the off-season to get stronger,” he said. “Being a winger, I need to win the board battles and I’ve done a good job of doing that this year.”
And though he was producing right from the get-go, Dal Colle has been very happy that Philadelphia returned Scott Laughton to junior, as the pair has made sweet music on the ice together. That, in turn, has lifted up the Generals to first place in the Eastern Conference.
“We’ve got a good amount of creative players that I can play with,” Dal Colle said. “Obviously getting ‘Lotty’ back was a huge addition for us, not only on the ice, but off it as well. I found some chemistry with him early and hopefully we can keep going.”
With an extra spot available for the Memorial Cup in the OHL this year, Dal Colle and crew can go really far. Draft eligible in 2014.
Vladislav Gavrikov, D – Loko Yaroslavl (Rus.)
A defensive defenseman who plays with an edge, Gavrikov is one of only two 2014 draft prospects to make Russia’s final world junior camp (Moncton’s Ivan Barbashev being the other). Gavrikov brings nice size to the table at 6-foot-2, 194 pounds and has represented Russia internationally on numerous occasions. Draft eligible in 2014.
Gustav Olofsson, D – Colorado College Tigers (NCHC)
A rare NCAA player up for the Swedish world junior team, Olofsson would bring a great dimension to the Tre Kronor should he make the final cut. Poised with the puck and smooth as a skater, the Tigers freshman has four points in his first 11 college games while also earning power play time. Drafted 46th overall by Minnesota in 2013.
Maxim Lazarev, RW – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
His major junior career was pre-empted by a lower body injury, but Lazarev has been soaring since getting into the Cape Breton lineup. The skilled teen has great vision and is clutch in the shootout; he’s already 2-for-2. Lazarev has put up nine points in his first 12 games with the Eagles. Draft eligible in 2014.
Shane Gersich, C – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
A phenom with Holy Family of the Minnesota high school ranks last year, Gersich is now plying his trade in Ann Arbor and has fit in seamlessly. His shot and his speed are two big assets and he helped the NTDP knock off the University of Michigan last Thursday: Gersich had points on the team’s last two regulation goals in a comeback that ended with an OT victory. Draft eligible in 2014.
Luc Snuggerud, D – Eden Prairie Eagles (Minn. HS)
The nephew of former NHLer Dave Snuggerud also played forward growing up, so it’s no surprise he has some playmaking talent. The University of Nebraska-Omaha commit has five assists and six points in his first three games for Eden Prairie, while also spending time with USHL Muskegon before the high school season began. Draft eligible in 2014.
Julius Honka, D – Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
With Olli Maatta in Pittsburgh for good and Rasmus Ristolainen injured and no sure thing for the world juniors, Honka is looking a lot more important to the Finns than in the summer. Fortunately, his freshman season in Swift Current has been a dream, with 11 goals and 34 points in 32 games. That ranks him second in the ‘Dub’ among blueliners and rookies. Draft eligible in 2014.
Devin Williams, G – Erie Otters (OHL)
As a rookie, Williams faced a ton of shots on a rebuilding Otters team, but now he and starter Oscar Dansk are reaping the rewards. Williams is a late 1995 birthday, giving him a little more time to develop in front of NHL scouts, but they’ll love his results this year: The young American boasts three shutouts, a 2.44 goals-against average and just one loss in 13 games so far. Draft eligible in 2014.
Jeff Wight, C – Merritt Centennials (BCHL)
A playmaking pivot who sees the ice well and excels at distribution, Wight is essentially a point-per-game player in the B.C. League this season. The UConn commit had the bronze-medal winning goal for Canada West at the World Jr. A Challenge and brings a nice 6-foot-2 frame to the table. Draft eligible in 2014.
Jason Fuchs, LW – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
Fuchs isn’t big, but he is quick and smart. The Swiss national is vying for a spot at the world juniors and his first year in the ‘Q’ has offered promising glimpse. The 5-foot-9 winger has five goals and 25 points through 31 games for the Huskies. Draft eligible in 2014.