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Smart move

Omaha Lancers center Louis Leblanc has nine points in nine games this season. (Photo by USHL Images)

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Omaha Lancers center Louis Leblanc has nine points in nine games this season. (Photo by USHL Images)

Central Scouting has released its initial ‘Players to Watch’ list, meaning scores of young men can now confirm that, yes, they are indeed being followed, no matter who they play for.

Check for some of these new names as The Hot List – THN.com’s weekly countdown of players we’re looking forward to seeing in the NHL someday - unfurls in the weeks to come.

1. Jake Gardiner, D – Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA): High school draft picks make some scouts squirrelly, but Gardiner has been a madman since arriving in Madison for his frosh NCAA campaign. How does five points in six games from the blueline strike you? Drafted 17th overall by Anaheim in 2008.

2. Louis Leblanc, C – Omaha Lancers (USHL):
The province of Quebec has always been known for butterfly goalies and high-scoring snipers. Those players are still coming out, but now you’re seeing them in some unusual locales.

For example, would you believe Harvard, by way of Omaha?

Leblanc absolutely crushed his Quebec midget league last year, but instead of heading to major junior, he went west to join the Lancers, where he already has nine points in nine games.

“It’s a lot faster than midget,” Leblanc noted. “The players are older and stronger.”

And that will also be the case next year when Leblanc heads to Boston to suit up for the Crimson of the NCAA. So of all the schools that play hockey, why pick the brainiest?

“I didn’t go the major junior route because of the school issue,” Leblanc said. “So I might as well pick the best school there is. If I don’t end up playing in the NHL, at least I’ll have the best degree possible.”

Of course, with his combination of speed and quick hands, Leblanc is likely to be taken in the first round of the draft, so the NHL isn’t exactly a stretch for someone with his skills. And when he does get that entry-level contract, he can put that Harvard education to immediate use.

“I plan on majoring in economics,” he noted.
Draft eligible in 2009.

3. Richard Bachman, G – Colorado College Tigers (WCHA):
Another season of Bachman dominance begins. The super sophomore is kicking things off in style, posting a 0.97 goals-against average and .963 save percentage through five games. That’s sicker than the head cold I’ve been fighting. Drafted 120th overall by Dallas in 2006.

4. Aaron Palushaj, RW – Michigan Wolverines (CCHA): When it rains, it pours, eh? Not only is St. Louis piling up offense in the NHL early on, but Blues prospect Palushaj is leading the CCHA with five goals and 10 points in six games. Drafted 44th overall by St. Louis in 2007.

5. Jonathon Blum, D – Vancouver Giants (WHL): It feels like a different Giant is on The Hot List every week, but what can I do when Blum leads the league in plus-minus (plus-19) and tallies 13 points in nine games from the point? What can I do, Jonathon, what can I do? Drafted 23rd overall by Nashville in 2007.

6. Ville Leino, LW – Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL):
Cracking the Red Wings roster isn’t exactly a cakewalk, so it’s no slight on Leino that he begins his North American career in the ‘A.’ And just to show he’s a pro, the Finn has put up nine points in his first five games. Signed as a free agent by Detroit in 2008.

7. Colten Teubert, D – Regina Pats (WHL): We know Teubert can deliver the rock-hard shoulders and fists, but 12 points in 14 games puts the first-rounder on a real nice trajectory for career-highs. Drafted 13th overall by Los Angeles in 2008.

8. Peter Holland, C – Guelph Storm (OHL): No Doughty? No problem. Guelph has recovered nicely from the loss of its premier player and Holland is a big factor. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound pivot has almost hit his career high in points already (he’s at 19 through 16 games; he had 23 in 62 as a rookie) and has completely turned around his plus-minus. Right now he’s a plus-14; last year he was minus-8. Draft eligible in 2009.

9. Anton Lander, LW – Timra Red Eagles (Swe): Another one of those young guns playing up for Timra this year, Lander is holding his own with five points in 13 games. The left winger plays a solid all-round game and has captained internationally, too. Draft eligible in 2009.

10. Chris Doyle, C – P.E.I. Rocket (QMJHL): The league’s reigning player of the week, Doyle is killer on faceoffs and is developing into quite the playmaker, averaging an assist per game so far, while posting 22 points in 15 games. Drafted 141st overall by the New York Rangers 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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