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Bouncing back

John Tavares has exploded out of the gate with 10 points in four games for Oshawa. (Photo by Ian Goodall)

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John Tavares has exploded out of the gate with 10 points in four games for Oshawa. (Photo by Ian Goodall)

Back from a swing through the Western U.S., The Hot List returns for a new season. And what would a road trip be without hockey?

I took in my first ever Western League game during the trip, as the hometown Portland Winter Hawks bested a shorthanded Kelowna squad (no Luke Schenn, no Tyler Myers, no Jamie Benn) 2-1.

This week’s Hot List – our weekly rundown of players we can’t wait to see in the NHL someday - features a handful of players from that match, plus some early returns from major junior and abroad.

1. John Tavares, C – Oshawa Generals (OHL): Consider notice served in the Ontario League. Johnny T’s last season in junior has started with a bang, as the top-ranking prospect piled up 10 points in his first four games. Draft eligible in 2009.

2. Teemu Pulkkinen, RW – Jokerit Jr. (Fin): Trying to read even translated Finnish websites is a nightmare proposition, but here’s the early lowdown on Pulkkinen: The dynamic young winger put up three points against Espoo, followed by a hat trick and an assist in a recent 7-3 demolishing of TPS. So he’s got that going for him. Draft eligible in 2010.

3. Dmitry Kulikov, D – Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL): The Volts snagged Kulikov out of Yaroslavl in the import draft and he is immediately paying dividends. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound defender has racked up eight points in five games as Drummondville has jumped out to a 5-0-1 record. Draft eligible in 2009.

4. Riley Boychuk, RW – Portland Winter Hawks (WHL): As a strapping young lad from B.C., it’s not hard to predict who Riley Boychuk models his game after.

“Bertuzzi in his prime,” he said. “I like bumping and grinding out there.”

Unfortunately for the Winter Hawks power forward, much of the grinding in his junior career to date has been performed on his hip bones.

Boychuk has undergone surgeries on both sides to correct a ball-and-socket problem, which limited him to just six games as a rookie last season. Being on the shelf for so long obviously wasn’t a lot of fun.

“I’ve played hockey all my life,” Boychuk noted. “I’m not used to watching it.”

But watch he did, as the Hawks struggled through a miserable season. While expectations aren’t much higher this year, Boychuk projects to be a future star. He’s a big body (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) who can shield the puck well. Right now his skating is still getting back up to speed, but it’s not hard to project the 17-year-old as a hot prospect once his health is sound.

Next year, Portland will welcome young sniper Ty Rattie into the fold, potentially giving Boychuk an elite linemate and the fans a dynamic duo to cheer on.

“This is a big barn,” said Boychuk of Memorial Coliseum. “It’s nice to play in front of a big crowd. And of course we want to win and play with guts.” Draft eligible in 2009.

5. Jake Allen, G – Montreal Juniors (QMJHL): They’re not a new team (just relocated from St. John’s), but Montreal is off to a good start and Allen is a significant reason why. The Quebec League’s defensive player of the week is boasting a 1.50 goals-against average and .955 save percentage through two wins in two games. Drafted 34th overall by St. Louis in 2008.

6. Tyson Barrie, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL): With Schenn and Myers in NHL training camps, Barrie and fellow underclassman Collin Bowman were given the weight of Kelowna’s blueline responsibility and both performed admirably. With that added weight, Barrie focused on solid defensive play, but did look dangerous on a third-period rush that was put offside by a teammate. Draft eligible in 2009.

7. Stepan Novotny, RW – Kelowna Rockets (WHL): Novotny may not have scored against Portland, but he showed off a wide variety of offensive skills and seemed incredibly tuned in to how a play was going to develop. With NHL linemates, he’ll be special. Draft eligible in 2009.

8. Colin Reddin, C – Portland Winter Hawks (WHL): After playing just 23 games last season, this California kid is ready to make noise. Reddin pumped in both goals for the Hawks against Kelowna and did so by crashing the net and anywhere else the puck went. Draft eligible in 2009 (undrafted in 2008).

9. Michael Latta, C – Ottawa 67’s (OHL): After a solid, yet not headline-grabbing rookie season in 2007-08, Latta has burst out of the gates this year. He’s amassed seven points in his first five games, statistically putting him in the esteemed company of Tavares and Taylor Hall. Draft eligible in 2009.

10. Drew Shore, RW – U.S. NTDP (NAHL): Early in the season, Shore leads a very talented NTDP team in scoring with eight points in four games. The budding power forward, who stands 6-foot-2 and is closing in on 200 pounds, is also a plus-4 to boot. Draft eligible in 2009.

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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