Victor Hedman will battle John Tavares all season for the right to be drafted No. 1 overall in 2009. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Most leagues are well underway now, so the early returns are in. Look for more NCAA prospects on The Hot List – our weekly countdown of players we can wait to see in the NHL - soon, since that circuit has yet to play any meaningful games. In the meantime, we introduce a few new names to the honor role.
1. Victor Hedman, D – Modo (Swe): Everyone’s favorite No. 1A draft choice is already playing major minutes in the Swedish Elite League and chipping in points at the same time. The mammoth defenseman – 6-foot-7, 220-pounds - has charted five points (all assists) in eight games to lead all junior-aged players in the big league. Draft eligible in 2009.
2. Alexei Cherepanov, RW – Avangard Omsk (KHL): Rangers fans rejoice! Cherepanov has kicked his young career into overdrive, scoring at a point-a-game pace after two good, but not mind-blowing, seasons previously. The wicked winger has seven goals and 12 points in 12 games. Drafted 17th overall by the New York Rangers in 2007.
3. Steven Shipley, C – Owen Sound Attack (OHL): A lot of young players act coy when draft talk comes up, but the Attack’s Steven Shipley is blunt when asked how aware he is of his 2010 competitors.
“Very aware,” he said. “Every night I’m checking to see how they’re doing and how I compare.”
With the first week-and-change of his OHL career in the bank, Shipley is stacking up pretty well so far. On a basement-dwelling Owen Sound squad, the youngster is tied for the team lead with a plus-four rating and has contributed four points in five games. Notching a goal and an assist in his first game (a win over Kitchener) eased some of the pressure the highly-touted Shipley had put on himself.
“I wanted to show I could produce offensively right away,” he said. “Make plays, set up plays…It was a bit of an adjustment, but I think I’ve fit in so far.”
And while this season may be a struggle for the team, Shipley knows every learning experience helps. He’s hoping to get more of that with a spot on Team Ontario’s Under-17 team.
With his eye on the prize, Shipley isn’t shy about his ultimate goal for the 2010 draft.
“I want to be No. 1,” he said. “That’s what everybody wants, to be No. 1. Nothing better than that, right?”
Draft eligible in 2010.
4. Jordan Weal, C – Regina Pats (WHL): If you’re looking for dangerous, diminutive centers named Jordan, Regina is the place to be. Last year it was Jordan Eberle, now underclassman Weal is making noise, ringing up 11 points in seven games. And the 5-foot-8 playmaker still has Eberle on his team for support. Draft eligible in 2010.
5. Derek Grant, C – Langley Chiefs (BCHL): Committed to Michigan State for the 2009-10 season, Grant is making the most of his last season in Jr. A, where so far he has piled up eight goals and 21 points in just nine games. He is already one-third of the way to his totals in goals and assists from last year, when he played 57 games. Drafted 119th overall by Ottawa in 2008.
6. Sergey Ostapchuk, RW – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL): Ostapchuk was invited to the draft combine last summer, but couldn’t make it due to a personal commitment. That lack of exposure may have damaged his stock, as he went unselected. Now he’s using the Q as his own personal showcase, tallying nine points in seven games and boasting a plus-six rating. Draft eligible in 2009 (unselected in 2008).
7. Peter Di Salvo, G – Barrie Colts (OHL): A late birthday kept Di Salvo from being eligible for the 2008 draft, but the goaltender is certainly making a name for himself early this year. The Colts keeper leads the OHL in goals-against average (1.64) and save percentage (.946) and has a shutout to boot through three games. Draft eligible in 2009.
8. Morgan Ellis, D – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL): At just 16 years of age, Ellis is already leading all Q rookies with a plus-seven rating, which is also good for top-10 in the entire league. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound rearguard has also chipped in three assists in nine games. Draft eligible in 2010.
9. Casey Pierro-Zabotel, LW – Vancouver Giants (WHL): If someone hasn’t anointed him ‘CPZ’ by now, consider it done here. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound winger is blitzing the Dub so far, posting 13 points in seven games after being a point-per-game player last year. Drafted 80th overall by Pittsburgh in 2007.
10. Lars Eller, C – Frolunda Indians (Swe): The skilled playmaker is up with the big club again, but his impact has been much greater already. The Danish teen has two goals and four points in his first five games. Drafted 13th overall by St. Louis 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.
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