Simon Despres skates during the warmup period prior to facing the Drummondville Voltigeurs. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
With the Windsor Spitfires signing Cam Fowler (and expected to bring Richard Panik into the fold) this week, this year's top Ontario League team is already loading up for next season. In other news, Notre Dame is on top of the NCAA once again and the Minnesota state high school championship is nearing, so let's talk prospects again.
1. Simon Despres, D – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL): With his draft stock rising seemingly every month, it’s no surprise Despres is hockey humble when it comes to his future.
“I just think one game at a time,” he said.
Nice and simple, but it’s a philosophy that has been paying dividends. Despres has been lauded for his consistent play this year and is known as a solid, gritty, all-round defenseman who plays the game with coolness. He even has a consistent role model: Florida defenseman Jay Bouwmeester.
“I think I make a good first pass,” Despres said. “I’m physical and I can join the rush.”
Despite Despres’ success, the season hasn’t been entirely rosy in Saint John, however. The Sea Dogs essentially threw in the towel when they traded star Chris DiDomenico and though they’re a playoff team, it certainly sent a mixed message to the dressing room.
“It was a big shock and a little bit disappointing,” Despres recalled. “I thought we would be going for it, but it does mean more ice time for the young guys.”
However the Quebec League season ends, Despres will likely be the first representative of the circuit on stage at the NHL Entry Draft and at nearly 6-foot-4 and 214 pounds, has the size to go straight to The Show. That’s a notion he once again tries to keep in check.
“That would be a great honor,” he noted. “But I’ll just concentrate on the rest of the season, then the playoffs, then the draft, then training camp.”
Talk about a model of consistency. Draft eligible in 2009.
2. Chris Kreider, LW – Andover Phillips Academy Big Blue (Mass. HS): One of the first high schoolers who will be taken this summer, Kreider has an NHL frame at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and a great touch around the net. The left winger has goals in six of his past seven games for the Big Blue. Draft eligible in 2009.
3. Simon Hjalmarsson, RW – Boras HC (Swe.): The young right winger had a pretty solid world juniors playing with ‘Ultra’ Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, but he has also put up numbers consistently this year in Sweden’s second-best league, the Allsvenskan. Hjalmarsson has nine points in his past 11 games for a total of 31 in 38. He’s also a plus-9 on the year. Drafted 39th overall by St. Louis in 2007.
4. Evander Kane, C – Vancouver Giants (WHL): Who will be the second forward taken in the draft this summer? Kane, Matt Duchene and Ultra Magnus all have good odds and the Vancouver Giant helped his case by hitting the 40-goal mark over the weekend. That gives the Dub star a very even 81 points through 49 games. Draft eligible in 2009.
5. Louie Caporusso, LW – University of Michigan Wolverines (CCHA): The Wolverines tend to lose players to the pros early, so Caporusso’s ascent in Ann Arbor has naturally been welcome. After a solid freshman campaign, Caporusso is tearing it up as a sophomore, putting up 40 points in 34 games, tops in the CCHA alongside teammate Aaron Palushaj (who also has 40). Drafted 90th overall by Ottawa in 2007.
6. Richard Panik, C – HC Ocelari Trinec (Cze.): The Slovakian star has bounced around the Czech Republic this season, but in the junior ranks, he was gold. The 6-foot-1 180-pounder tallied 19 points in 16 games and is likely headed to Windsor in the Ontario League next year, which should pump up his NHL stock. Draft eligible in 2009.
7. T.J. Brodie, D – Saginaw Spirit (OHL): Brodie is getting it done from the blueline this year, surpassing last year’s offensive totals and beefing up his plus-minus. The Saginaw defenseman is nearly a point-per-game player with 49 in 54 games and he’s a plus-12, up from 30 points and a plus-2 last season. Drafted 114th overall by Calgary in 2008.
8. Mikhail Stefanovich, RW – Quebec Remparts (QMJHL): The Q’s offensive player of the week, Stefanovich earned the honor courtesy of nine points in four games, including a shorthanded marker. The talented winger now has 62 points through 48 games and a solid plus-23 rating. Drafted 98th overall by Toronto in 2008.
9. Ben Scrivens, G – Cornell Big Red (ECAC): Look for Scrivens to get some interest this summer from NHL teams looking for quality young free agents. The Cornell junior has a nasty 1.68 goals-against average and .940 save percentage. At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, he’s got that size that is so trendy among NHL keepers these days, too. Eligible for unrestricted free agency.
10. Logan Couture, C – Ottawa 67’s (OHL): Once highly touted, Couture slipped out of the hockey world’s consciousness for a while thanks to a concussion that kept him out of the 2008 world junior picture. Healthy again this season, the young pivot heralded for his leadership is back putting points on the board. Drafted ninth overall by San Jose 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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