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Welcome to the future

Steven Stamkos is the projected No. 1 pick in the '08 draft.

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Steven Stamkos is the projected No. 1 pick in the '08 draft.

Welcome to The Hot List, our new weekly wrap-up of players we can’t wait to see in NHL uniforms.

Culled from major junior, NCAA, Europe and any other league with a phenom in the making, this is an exhibition, not a competition. So if your favorite young star drops off the list, it’s not because we hate him, we’re just trying to spread the love.

Each Tuesday will feature a mini-profile on one player; the aim being to get you familiar with the stars of tomorrow. We’ll also make sure to include at least one real sleeper pick every week – an underclassman who hasn’t even hit junior or NCAA yet, just so we can say we told you first.

The rules of the list are simple: as soon as a player steps on NHL ice, they’ve graduated and will no longer be featured.

Otherwise, let the games begin.

1. John Tavares, C – Oshawa Generals (OHL): The phenom continues his dominant ways, notching 18 goals and 41 points in just 17 games.

2. Steven Stamkos, C – Sarnia Sting (OHL): Excuse the pun, but until further notice, it’s Stammer Time.

While John Tavares may get all the publicity, it’s Sarnia’s Stamkos who is the front-runner to be drafted No. 1 overall at the NHL entry draft this year.

And why not?

The offensively gifted youngster from Unionville, Ont., blew up the OHL for 92 points in 63 games last year and is on pace to break 100 this season.

If you still have doubts, check out his sick OHL skills competition goal on YouTube.

With the offensive question answered, Stamkos is free to round out both his game and his team’s, as Sarnia has stumbled out the gate this year.

“It took us a while to get that team chemistry going,” Stamkos said. “But now we’ve got it.” Sarnia is 7-3-0 in its past 10 and holding tough in the OHL’s monster West Division.

Since Stamkos was drafted by the Sting first overall, the team has steadily improved, but with this season being somewhat of a statement year for the lightning-quick center, a big jump is expected.

“We’re hoping for a long playoff run,” Stamkos recently told thehockeynews.com. “Sarnia fans are pretty loyal and they haven’t had a lot to cheer about recently.”

As for the issue of a still draft-ineligible Tavares stealing his thunder? The humble Stamkos says it’s all good.

“It’s OK that he’s in the spotlight,” Stamkos said. “Because I can go about doing my own thing.”

And if that means putting the draft world on notice, so be it.

3. Kyle Turris, C – Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA): How would the former junior-A talent adjust to NCAA? By tearing the doors off with 13 points in his first six games.

4. Mattias Tedenby, LW – HV71 (Swe): Just 17 years old, the tiny terror is ripping up the Swedish under-20 circuit with 15 points in 17 games.

5. Tuukka Rask, G – Providence Bruins (AHL): Not that the Bruins need goaltending now, but top prospect Rask is settling into the pro game nicely with a 2.00 goals-against average and a record of 6-1-0.

6. Patrik Berglund, C – Vasteras (Swe Division II)
: Absolutely killed at St. Louis’ rookie camp, now the youngster is torching his homeland for 12 points (eight goals) in 11 games.

7. Kyle Beach, RW – Everett Silvertips (WHL): The mercurial Beach puts up all kinds of numbers; 28 points in 17 games, plus an eye-popping 74 penalty minutes.

8. Derick Brassard, C – Syracuse Crunch (AHL): Columbus prospect is having fun in his first pro season, ranking third in the ‘A’ with 17 points in 14 games.

9. Ben Bishop, G – Maine Black Bears (Hockey East): The Blues’ big, bad goalie of the future is leading the conference with a .935 save percentage.

10. Nikolai Kulemin, LW – Mettalurg Magnitogorsk (Rus): Maple Leafs draft pick is among league leaders in goals (12) and points (17) through 24 games.

11. Claude Giroux, RW – Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL): Philadelphia pick maturing nicely in the ‘Q,’ racking up 31 points in 19 games.

12. Josh Unice, G – Kitchener Rangers (OHL): Rookie goaltender has three shutouts in his first 12 games and a 2.28 GAA.

13. Joe Colborne, C – Camrose Kodiaks (AJHL): Two years ago he was reportedly 5-foot-11 and 155 pounds; Now Colborne is 6-foot-3, 175 and leading the Alberta Junior League with 36 points in 18 games.

14. Jakub Voracek, RW – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): First-rounder only has four goals in 12 games. Oh, wait, he also has 24 assists. That’ll make Columbus happy.

15. Karl Alzner, D – Calgary Hitmen (WHL): Washington’s future rock is plus-11 after 20 games and contributing some offense, too.

The Hot List appears every Tuesday, only on thehockeynews.com.

For more great prospect profiles and news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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