Finally there is some good news on the 2012 draft injury front. Top prospect Nail Yakupov is nearing a return from his world junior knee injury, while I’m hearing Sarnia teammate Alex Galchenyuk’s healing from his ACL tear at a rate that makes a return this season more possible. Quebec Remparts’ Mikhail Grigorenko is also back from his WJC ankle injury. Here’s a look at some of the other kids we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Tyler Toffoli, C – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
The 67’s tend not to get a lot of outside respect – look at the North American world junior rosters in the past few years – and Toffoli in particular seems to get snubbed, even though his point totals are always impressive. This year he nabbed a camp tryout with Team Canada, but still wasn’t picked for the final roster, even though he’s been near or at the top of the Ontario League scoring table most of the season.
“I learned a lot,” Toffoli said. “Obviously there’s things I need to improve on, but it was a great experience.”
Toffoli is pacing the league with 36 goals and 74 points through 42 games. It’s shaping up to be a nice swan song before the skilled forward turns pro.
“It’s been a lot of fun, especially with me taking a pretty big role with my team,” he said. “I’m just going out there every night trying not only to lead my team with points, but being a strong player on the ice and being strong in all three zones.”
Defensive play has been a criticism of Toffoli in the past, but he already has four shorthanded goals on the season, so that’s coming around. With youngsters Cody Ceci (2012 draft) and Sean Monahan (2013) maturing quickly, Toffoli knows he’s leaving the 67’s in good hands.
“They’ve been doing a great job for us this year,” he said. “Really handling all the workload they’ve been given with all our injuries.”
The next stop for Toffoli is likely AHL Manchester, where he scored in a one-game audition last year. The Monarchs certainly won’t overlook him. Drafted 47th overall by Los Angeles in 2010.
Kerby Rychel, LW – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Though his late birthday relegates him to next year’s draft, Rychel is already a top-20 scorer in the OHL with 26 goals and 50 points in 47 games. The son of Spits GM/co-owner Warren Rychel has gotten leaner and quicker this year and trained alongside NHL Calder Trophy candidate Adam Henrique in the summer. Rychel can score goals using both skill and grit. Draft eligible in 2013.
Jake McCabe, D – University of Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA)
A freak hand injury robbed McCabe of 11 games in the middle of his freshman season, but since coming back, the NTDP product has three goals and six points in eight games. For a Wisconsin native who was more known for being steady in his own zone, that’s a big plus. The Badgers have only lost twice since his return. Draft eligible in 2012.
Robbie Baillargeon, C – Indiana Ice (USHL)
The Boston U. commit entered the United States League’s first-ever prospect game on a decent offensive run and kept the good times going with two goals in Team East’s 5-3 win over Team West. With Dubuque’s Zemgus Girgensons and Michael Matheson both missing the game, Baillargeon was one of the bigger names involved. Draft eligible in 2012.
John Draeger, D – Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres (Minn. HS)
Scouts are high on Draeger, who boasts great reach and good feet for a 6-foot-2 blueliner. The kid’s tough to play against, but also brings a fairly decent modicum of offense, with nine goals and 32 points in 39 games for the famed prep school. That’s tops on the team for a D-man. Draft eligible in 2012.
Mark Barberio, D – Norfolk Admirals (AHL)
Youth is being served in Norfolk, where Barberio and teammate Cory Conacher were both named American League All-Star Game starters. Barberio, who was a star in junior with Moncton, makes the grade in just his second pro season, where he leads the league in points by a blueliner with 37 through 41 games. Drafted 152nd overall by Tampa Bay in 2008.
Alexey Filippov, RW – Chelyabinsk (Rus.)
Standing 6-foot-2 already, Filippov obviously brings an enviable frame to the table and he’s beginning to heat up in the MHL, the Kontinental League’s junior division. In the past four games, Filippov has two points and is starting to show more consistent offense. Overall, the right winger has potted 11 goals and 17 points in 33 games. Draft eligible in 2012.
Tim Bozon, LW – Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
The Blazers are flying high in the ‘Dub’ this season and rookie Bozon has been a big part of the success. The son of former NHLer Philippe Bozon has posted nearly a point per game so far, but also backs it up with a sturdy plus-23 rating, good for top-20 in the league. Draft eligible in 2012.
Richard Sabol, G – Banska Bystrica (Svk.)
On a middling Banska Bystrica junior team, Sabol has put up some pretty decent numbers while facing approximately 33 shots per game. Though not a big netminder, the kid’s rocking a .924 save percentage and even saw time at the world juniors, though he will be counted on as the starter at the under-18s in April. Draft eligible in 2012.
Brian Hart, LW – Exeter Academy Lions (N.H. HS)
A two-sport star in New Hampshire, Hart also holds the school record for goals in soccer. On the ice, he’s a burgeoning power forward who is hard to stop once he gets his feet moving. A heavy shot bolsters his offensive arsenal. Draft eligible in 2012.
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 only on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play in their first NHL game.
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