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THN.com Blog: Prospects on the verge of the NHL

21-year-old Tuukka Rask was drafted 21st overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs before being dealt to the Bruins. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

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21-year-old Tuukka Rask was drafted 21st overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs before being dealt to the Bruins. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Surely I’m biased, but I think we have a plethora of great features here on THN.com.

Among the stand-outs is Ryan Kennedy’s weekly prospect countdown, The Hot List, an inventory of 10 youngsters from near and far who are sure to one day make it to The Show.

One of the provisos of the feature, however, is that as soon as a player skates in a single NHL game, he’s no longer eligible.

But it’s time to give some love to those who fall into that category. Here’s a quick update on five blue-chippers who’ve had only a taste of the big time, but are soon to have a permanent NHL home.

Ondrej Pavelec, G, Atlanta
After a play-me-or-trade-me tirade from his agent in the pre-season, the 21-year-old 2005 draft pick has played out of his mind for Chicago of the American League (1.54 GAA, .947 save percentage in nine games), but only so-so in his three NHL appearances (2.57 GAA, .889 save percentage). He was recalled again Wednesday with Kari Lehtonen on the shelf, but Pavelec, who played seven times last season as well, may take the No. 1 spot sooner than later. Rumors have current starter Lehtonen on the trade block.

Tuukka Rask, G, Boston
The B’s have a nice thing going with Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez, but neither is a spring chicken and Rask’s time draws near. He was pretty shaky in a four-game NHL stint last season, posting a 2-1-1 record with a 3.26 GAA and .886 save percentage, but he’s been much better with AHL Providence this campaign with a GAA of 2.48 and a .915 save percentage.

Nikita Filatov, LW, Columbus
The sixth overall pick in 2008, the Moscow native tried the Jackets jersey on for four games, scoring a single marker in October before being reassigned to AHL Syracuse. The demotion didn’t phase the 18-year-old, though, as he’s averaging a point per game with five goals and eight points.

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Jonathan Ericsson, D, Detroit
The Red Wings sure do have luck with Swedish blueliners, don’t they? Following in the footsteps of Nicklas Lidstrom and Niklas Kronwall is the 24-year-old Ericsson. Yet another late-round gem (291st overall in 2002), the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder has only eight unimpressive games and a single goal on his NHL resume, but a 100 mph slapshot will earn him his ‘Wings’ soon enough.

Ilya Zubov, C, Ottawa
The 21-year-old was eighth on Ottawa’s prospect list in The Hockey News’s Future Watch ’08 rankings, but this year’s AHL leaderboard tells a different story. Zubov is tied for fourth in the league with 18 points in 13 games for Binghamton. With a single NHL game under his belt from last season, Zubov is poised to have a lot more in the near future.

A few other not-quite-Hot-Listers to keep an eye on:
Andrew Ebbett, C, Ana.; Corey Crawford, G, Chi.; Rob Schremp, C, Edm.; Shawn Matthias, C, Fla.; Jonathan Bernier, G, L.A.; Teddy Purcell, RW, L.A.; Brian Lee, D, Ott.; Mike Iggulden, C, NYI; Chris Bourque, LW, Wsh.

HOCKEY NO. 2 FOR THE GREAT ONE?
In the December issue of Go magazine, the NHL’s top scorer of all time and current bench boss in Phoenix talks about life away from the rink.

"I love watching hockey, but to this day there’s nothing I love more than going to the park to watch my son play baseball,” Gretzky said.

Don’t expect to see Gretz in the running for the Diamondbacks skipper job, however.

"I have one goal in hockey,” Gretzky said. “I want to win the Stanley Cup here in Phoenix.”


Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog normally appears Thursdays.

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

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