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First the world, then Ontario

Steve Mason was brought into Kitchener to help shore up the crease.  (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

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Steve Mason was brought into Kitchener to help shore up the crease. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

With playoffs in full swing in most junior, college and minor pro leagues, we take another look at the 15 players we can’t wait to see in the NHL one day.

1. Steven Stamkos, C – Sarnia Sting (OHL): When you lead a team to its first playoff series victory since anyone can remember, it’s time to celebrate. Stamkos did it in style, dusting Windsor for nine goals – including four in a game – over five games. Draft eligible in 2008.

2. Kyle Turris, C – Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA): The Badgers came up short in their quest for the Frozen Four, but that’s just dandy if you’re a Phoenix Coyotes fan. Turris signed an entry-level contract with the Desert Dogs Monday, meaning the slick center will graduate from The Hot List when he plays his first NHL game Thursday. Drafted third overall by Phoenix in 2007.

3. Julius Hudacek, G – Spisska Nova Ves (Svk.):
Just as he was at the world juniors, Hudacek has been stellar for his club team this season, even if he didn’t see a ton of action. The teen posted a stingy 1.49 goals-against average and blistering .940 save percentage in eight appearances for the big club, which took first place in Slovakia’s second division. Draft eligible in 2008.

4. Kevin Porter, LW – Michigan Wolverines (CCHA):
A strong favorite for the Hobey Baker Award, Porter has led his charges to the Frozen Four, where the No. 1 ranked Wolverines will take on Notre Dame. Porter was named outstanding player in the East regional. Drafted 119th overall by Phoenix in 2004.

5. Remi Blanchard, D – Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL):
Blanchard stands just 5-foot-9, but that hasn’t stopped him from contributing to the second-round bound Titan. The blueliner had six points in five games against St. John’s. Draft eligible in 2008.

6. Steve Mason, G – Kitchener Rangers (OHL):
As the goaltender for a London Knights team that featured current NHLers Patrick Kane, Sam Gagner and Sergei Kostitsyn last year, star goaltender Steve Mason (now with the Rangers) knows a little something about firepower. And he says this year’s Kitchener squad is better than those Knights.

“The thing that separates this year’s team is we’re so deep,” Mason said. “All four lines can play and put points on the board. And I don’t think there’s a harder working team out there.”

Mason, Canada’s gold medal savior at the World Junior Championship this year, was brought to the Rangers to provide veteran goaltending for this year’s Memorial Cup hosts. Of course, with a lineup featuring the likes of Mikkel Boedker, Nick Spaling, Matt Halischuk, Yannick Weber, Nazem Kadri and OHL scoring champ Justin Azevedo, the Rangers certainly have weapons in front of him.

Which is great, because although Kitchener is guaranteed a berth in the Memorial Cup, the Rangers want that OHL title first.

“The entire team’s goal is to go in through the front door,” Mason noted. “It’s all we talk about in meetings.”

Mason has a very bright future and got a glimpse of it earlier this season when he was an emergency call-up to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The young keeper didn’t log any NHL time, but took in a lot nonetheless.

“It’s a great experience,” he said. “You can’t really buy that; just seeing the day-to-day, how coaches talk to players and how players conduct themselves on the ice and away from it.”

Teamed with Pascal Leclaire, Mason would help form quite the tandem in Columbus.

Drafted 69th overall by Columbus in 2006.

7. Michal Repik, RW – Vancouver Giants (WHL):
The Giants swamped Chilliwack in the first round and leading the way was Czech import Michal Repik, who posted seven points in the four-game sweep. Drafted 40th overall by Florida in 2007.

8. Olivier Roy, G – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL):
The 16-year-old has been sensational for Marc-Andre Fleury’s old squad, driving the Eagles to the second round with a 1.80 GAA and .926 save percentage through six games. Draft eligible in 2009.

9. Adam Lapsansky, C – Poprad HK (Svk.):
Poprad bowed out to second-seeded Kosice in the Slovakian Extraliga, but Lapsansky had built up enough of a resume that the junior was there for every game. The 18-year-old has been playing for the men’s team all season long. Draft eligible in 2008.

10. Nikita Filatov, LW – CSKA 2 (Rus.):
Filatov ended the season in style, hanging a hat trick and an assist in a 7-2 romp over St. Petersburg as the junior Red Army took third place in the league. Skills are there, but will contract status drop him on the draft board? NHL GMs, better be brave. Draft eligible in 2008.

11. Zac Dalpe, C – Penticton Vees (BCHL):
Dalpe has scored 12 points in 11 playoff games as the Vees head to the league final to do battle with the Nanaimo Clippers. This is when the best players step up. Draft eligible in 2008.

12. Justin Schultz, D – Westside Warriors (BCHL):
Schultz’s Warriors may have fallen to Dalpe’s Vees, but the 17-year-old still showed why he has been recruited to shore up the Wisconsin Badgers’ blueline next year. The defender had eight points in 11 post-season games to go along with 40 points in 57 regular season contests. Draft eligible in 2008.

13. T.J. Galiardi, LW – Calgary Hitmen (WHL):
Calgary disposed of a troublesome Moose Jaw Warriors squad in the first round on the weekend and were paced by Galiardi, who leads the Dub in playoff points with 13 (11 assists) in six games. Drafted 55th overall by Colorado in 2007.

14. Jason Bast, C – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL):
Not that those Warriors lay down. Bast, a 5-foot-9 dynamo, was right behind Galiardi in the points race with 11 of his own in the six-game series. Draft eligible in 2008.

15. P.K. Subban, D – Belleville Bulls (OHL):
Subban was hot in the playoffs last year, as well, though anything short of an appearance in the final this season will be a disappointment for the loaded Bulls squad. The blueliner had eight points through five games in a series win over Peterborough. Drafted 43rd overall by Montreal in 2007.

The Hot List, a weekly 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.

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

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