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Taking it to the next level

Six-foot-two, 175-pound Jake Gardiner is projected to be taken in the first two rounds of the upcoming NHL entry draft. (Photo courtesy of Steve Ellingsworth)

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Six-foot-two, 175-pound Jake Gardiner is projected to be taken in the first two rounds of the upcoming NHL entry draft. (Photo courtesy of Steve Ellingsworth)

After their head-to-head showdown, Hot List Hall of Famers Steven Stamkos and John Tavares return to their thrones. With pre-draft scouting reports beginning to pick up, expect to see some fresh new names on the list in the weeks to come.

1. Nathan Gerbe, C – Boston College Eagles (Hockey East): Gerbe has been absolutely tearing it up as of late, leading the conference in scoring with 37 points in 23 games. He led Hockey East in goals last year and is likely to do it again. Drafted 142nd overall by Buffalo in 2005.

2. Jake Gardiner, D – Minnetonka Skippers (Minn. HS): They say high school can be the best years of your life, but for Minnetonka’s Jake Gardiner, the fun has just begun.

An offensive defenseman who started his career at forward, Gardiner is slated to be taken in the first two rounds of the NHL draft this summer and will be attending the University of Wisconsin in the fall.

But wait – a Minnesota kid donning the Badger red and white?

“I really liked the campus and the coach’s philosophies,” Gardiner said. “And the whole staff there was great.”

Gardiner has been gaining attention for his speed and playmaking abilities, but as a high school student, his attention still must be trained on hard work on and off the ice.

“I worry about school during the day,” he said. “Then after I go to practice, I lift (weights) to keep in shape.”

And while being the Big Man on Campus at the suburban Minneapolis school is fun, Gardiner has tried to keep his feet on the ground.

“It doesn’t phase me,” he said of the draft buzz. “I know it’s a long way off.”

In the meantime, Gardiner is focused on a Minnesota title. The Skippers are ranked third in the state right now and already have a big tournament win at the prestigious Schwan Cup. Gardiner likes the way his team is playing.

“We’re all good friends,” he said. “And it shows on the ice.”

Draft eligible in 2008.

3. Tyler Ennis, C – Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL): At 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, Ennis isn’t the biggest cat on the ice, but his other numbers are sweet: The pint-sized pivot has 30 goals and 66 points in 51 games, smashing his totals from last year. Draft eligible in 2008.

4. Tyler Myers, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL): On the other end of the Dub spectrum is goliath defenseman Myers. The 6-foot-7, 200-pounder has raised quite a few scouting eyebrows and while his offensive numbers are slight, word is the kid can skate. Draft eligible in 2008.

5. Brett MacLean, LW – Oshawa Generals (OHL): Lost in all the Tavares talk is the OHL’s leading scorer basically since Day 1 this season. MacLean is scoring more than a <i>goal per game<i>, racking up 98 points in 45 contests. Drafted 32nd overall by Phoenix in 2007.

6. Jeff Zatkoff, G – Miami RedHawks (CCHA): The Kings’ draft pick is getting stodgier as the season goes on. His conference-leading goals-against average is down to 1.50 and his save percentage is a fantastic .937. Drafted 74th overall by Los Angeles in 2006.

7. Billy Sauer, G – Michigan Wolverines (CCHA): If you’re going to score in the CCHA, don’t expect to do much of it against Miami or Michigan. Sauer is tied with Zatkoff in save percentage and is second in GAA at 1.68. Drafted 201st overall by Colorado in 2006.

8. Marc-Andre Bourdon, D – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL):
Not only is Bourdon leading the Q in scoring by a defenseman with 48 points in 52 games, he’s also posting a very favorable plus-minus rating of plus-30. Draft eligible in 2008.

9. Ryan Ellis, D – Windsor Spitfires (OHL):
Despite just turning 17 this month, Ellis has eclipsed the other Spitfires D in points this season and he’s done it on the power play. The young blueliner has 28 of his 44 points on the man advantage, including 20 assists. Draft eligible in 2009.

10. T.J. Oshie, C – North Dakota Fighting Sioux (WCHA):
Oshie wants that elusive national title and this is his last kick at the can. He’s up over the point-per-game mark, which is always good news for the Sioux. Drafted 24th overall by St. Louis in 2005.

11. Jonathan Blum, D – Vancouver Giants (WHL):
Averaging just more than a point a game, the California native is making the most of his time in junior. Blum’s numbers have increased dramatically each year in Vancouver. Drafted 23rd overall by Nashville in 2007.

12. Mikkel Boedker, RW – Kitchener Rangers (OHL):
Denmark’s finest is having a banner year on a loaded Rangers squad. He’s putting up points on the power play and scoring with regularity. At 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, he’s definitely got NHL bulk. Draft eligible in 2008.

13. Kelsey Tessier, C – Quebec Remparts (QMJHL):
A former Shattuck-St. Mary’s charge, Tessier doesn’t let his size (5-foot-9, 172 pounds) become a factor. Coach Patrick Roy loves how the pivot battles and with 59 points in 49 games, he’s winning a lot of those encounters. Draft eligible in 2008.

14. Viktor Tikhonov, LW – Severstal Cherepovets (Rus):
The late bloomer with the famous name (the coach is his grandfather) has hit the draft board hard thanks to a dynamite showing at the World Junior Championship this year. Playing on a weak elite league team, he still has 10 points in 33 games. Draft eligible in 2008.

15. Zac Dalpe, C – Penticton Vees (BCHL):
In just 36 games, Dalpe has 48 points. The Ohio State commit has also shown a penchant for special teams thievery, already notching three shorthanded goals. Draft eligible in 2008.

The Hot List, a weekly roundup of minor league, junior, college and high school players we’re exciting to one day see in the NHL, appears every Tuesday, only on thehockeynews.com.

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