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Combing through the combine

Viktor Tikhonov is draft eligible and made an impact at the combine. (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

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Viktor Tikhonov is draft eligible and made an impact at the combine. (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

The NHL draft combine is now in the books and The Hot List was on site for one of the two days devoted to fitness testing. Special attention will be paid to those who acquitted themselves well during that session. It’s also signing season for a lot of prospects and if one thing is apparent early on, it’s the London Knights are serious about winning next season.

1. Colin Wilson, C – Boston U. Terriers (Hockey East): You can read my draft combine blog for the gory details, but Wilson essentially owned the day, powering through drills and doing it all with a confident grin. If anyone helped his draft stock, it was Wilson. Draft eligible in 2008.

2. John Carlson, D – London Knights (OHL): That’s right, Carlson’s a Knight. Originally committed to the UMass Minutemen of Hockey East, Carlson is now headed for southern Ontario, where he’ll bring his 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame to the Ontario League. Carlson also had an impressive combine. Draft eligible in 2008.

3. Zach Bogosian, D – Peterborough Petes (OHL): Bogosian has been lauded for his intensity and he sure demonstrated it at the combine. The Petes star is in a death-battle with Guelph’s Drew Doughty for the No. 2 spot in the draft and the combine may have tipped the scales permanently for Bogosian. Draft eligible in 2008.

4. Viktor Tikhonov, RW, Severstal Cherepovets (Rus.): While the draft combine produces an inordinate amount of nervous energy for most NHL prospects, Viktor Tikhonov had a different mindset.

“Being around this atmosphere is great,” he said before his fitness test. “Too bad it’s almost over.”

Tikhonov, grandson of the legendary Russian coach of the same name, isn’t your typical import. For one, he isn’t even really an import – he was raised in San Jose while his father, Vasily, worked for the Sharks. The youngster also made stops in Finland and Switzerland along the way and has played in Russia for the past several years.

So why is the 20-year-old only getting his due now? Paperwork. Tikhonov just received his Russian passport last year, which is why this year’s world juniors – where his seven points in seven games netted him tournament all-star and best forward designations – was his coming-out party.

“I was dying to get my chance (to play for Russia),” Tikhonov said. “But in the past I’d arrive to training camp with my American passport and they’d say, ‘Sorry.’ ”

Tikhonov attended the combine two years ago, but said he felt much better equipped to impress this time around. The 6-foot-2 right winger said he started mountain biking with weights on his back to prepare for the grueling cycle tests at the combine.

“I’m definitely stronger and more mature,” he said.

With a full year in the Russian Super League already under his belt, NHL teams would be wise to tap into that experience.

5. Nazem Kadri, C – London Knights (OHL): The London native returns to his hometown after a shocking trade from Kitchener. OK, it wasn’t shocking at all. Our Ken Campbell said it would happen weeks ago as payback for the lopsided Steve Mason trade earlier in the year. Nevertheless, Kadri is a gem and will climb the leaderboard in points next season. Draft eligible in 2009.

6. Jimmy Hayes, RW – Lincoln Stars (USHL):
The Boston College commit had a fantastic combine, which should help his draft status. Currently pegged as a late second- or third-rounder, expect him to go a bit higher now. Draft eligible in 2008.

7. Alex Goligoski, D – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL):
While the Big Pens duel Detroit for the Stanley Cup, the Baby Pens are taking on Chicago for the Calder Cup and Goligoski is front and center. Though his team is down 2-0 in the series, the defenseman has already set an AHL record for most points by a blueliner in one post-season with 26, including points on all six Wilkes-Barre goals in the final so far. Drafted 61st overall by Pittsburgh in 2004.

8. Joel Champagne, C – Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL):
Champagne isn’t projected to be a sniper, but he’s a big dude. At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, his dimensions are right, but the brute strength he showed at the combine is even better. Draft eligible in 2008.

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9. Taylor Chorney, D – North Dakota Fighting Sioux (WCHA): Technically, Chorney’s NCAA days are done. The standout defenseman has been confirmed for the Edmonton Oilers development camp on the weekend and a signing is imminent. Drafted 36th overall by Edmonton in 2005.

10. Aaron Ness, D – Roseau Rams (Minn. HS): Ness showed just how fit a 5-foot-10, 170-pound teenager can be at the draft combine and likely quelled any fears NHL teams had about his size. The University of Minnesota commit can skate and stickhandle with the best of them and is likely a mid to late first-rounder. Draft eligible in 2008.

11. Braden Holtby, G – Saskatoon Blades (WHL): It’s difficult for goalies to distinguish themselves at the combine (they don’t throw tennis balls at them or anything), but Holtby was noticeable for his overall effort. He stood tall on a middling Blades team this season. Draft eligible in 2008.

12. Jhonas Enroth, G – Sodertalje SK (Swe.): Now under contract with the Sabres, Enroth had a banner year both in Sweden and internationally, where he led the Tre Kronor to silver at the world juniors. In league play, Enroth posted a 2.13 goals-against average in 27 games. Drafted 46th overall by Buffalo in 2006.

13. Tim Kennedy, LW – Michigan State Spartans (CCHA): Another new Sabres signee, Kennedy led the Spartans in all major offensive categories this season. The 5-foot-9 winger also led State in scoring the previous year and is originally from Buffalo, so now he gets a homecoming. Drafted 181st overall by Washington in 2005.

14. Adam Comrie, D – Saginaw Spirit (OHL): The Virginia native (definitely the first time that’s been written on The Hot List) had a big-time combine, where he showed off everything his 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame is capable of. Comrie had 28 points in 58 games during his first OHL campaign. Draft eligible in 2008.

15. Tyler Myers, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL): It goes without saying the 6-foot-7 Myers owned the vertical jump at the combine, but it was his all-round effort that showed he belongs in the top 10 this year. Draft eligible in 2008.

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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