The Frozen Four lineup may be Cinderella’s dream with Bemidji State, Vermont and Miami, Ohio joining Boston U., but that doesn’t mean the action will be any less intense in Washington, D.C. next weekend.
Burst bubbles also mean signings, as Michigan’s Mark Mitera inked a deal with Anaheim and Notre Dame’s Christian Hanson joined the Toronto Maple Leafs. While Mitera and Hanson don’t make this week’s list of players we can’t wait to see in the NHL someday, their names are sure to appear sometime soon. In the meantime, here are 10 other up-and-comers who have caught our attention.
1. Nick Leddy, D – Eden Prairie Eagles (Minn. HS): A lot of responsibility comes with being named Mr. Hockey (best high school player in the state), but Leddy has no problem with the extra attention. In leading his Eden Prairie team to the Minnesota state championship, Leddy has been doing more press than any high schooler not named Miley Cyrus these days.
“After we won, there was a press conference with about 10 to 15 reporters,” Leddy recalled. “That was pretty sweet.”
And there is more on the way for this year’s Mr. Hockey. Come June 26, Leddy will likely face another throng of media when his name is called in the first round of the NHL draft. A game-changer on offense and a shutdown man on defense, Leddy models his game after a couple of solid Chicago Blackhawks.
“The two I really like are Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell,” he said.
And as the reigning Mr. Hockey, he’s off to the University of Minnesota, where he’ll be teammates with last year’s winner, defenseman Aaron Ness.
“I actually met him during one of my official visits,” Leddy noted. “Being a Minnesota kid, you always watch the Gophers and (playing there) was one of my dreams when I was younger.”
Based on Leddy’s performance this season, his presence will be a dream come true for the Gophers as well.
Draft eligible in 2009.
2. Taylor Hall, C – Windsor Spitfires (OHL): After the thrashing of Owen Sound, Hall’s Spits will get a tougher test from Plymouth in the second round of the playoffs. The consensus No. 1 for the draft a year from now leads the Ontario League with 12 points through four games. Draft eligible in 2010.
3. Tyler Seguin, C – Plymouth Whalers (OHL): Another underager making noise in the playoffs, Seguin finished up the regular season strong and hasn’t stopped. The young playmaker is right behind Hall (and tied with Cody Hodgson) with 11 points in five games. Draft eligible in 2010.
4. Brian Dumoulin, D – New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (EJHL): Dumoulin couldn’t get his Monarchs past the New Jersey Hitmen in the league final, but he did garner EJHL defenseman of the year honors. The 6-foot-3, 197-pound Boston College recruit ended his regular season with 30 points in 41 games. Draft eligible in 2009.
5. Toni Ritter, RW – Montreal Juniors (QMJHL): Since coming over from his native Germany midway through the season, Ritter has slowly picked up steam and is now on fire in the playoffs with six points in six games. Of course, with Drummondville up next, he and the Juniors will have to play big. Draft eligible in 2009 (undrafted in ’08).
6. Brock Higgs, C – Kingston Voyageurs (OPJHL): A growth spurt has put Higgs up to 5-foot-11, making his 165-pound frame a little easier to work with. Otherwise, the numbers are looking great. Higgs’ 29 points through 19 playoff games had the Voyageurs in the league final and his four game-winning goals were better than the three he had the whole regular season. Draft eligible in 2010.
7. Timo Pielmeier, G – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL): San Jose knows goaltenders and even though the Sharks traded Pielmeier’s rights to Anaheim in the Travis Moen/Kent Huskins deal, the German stopper is a future asset. He’s leading all Q playoff goalies with a 1.63 goals-against average through four games. Drafted 83rd overall by San Jose in 2007, traded to Anaheim in ’09.
8. Tyler Ennis, C – Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL): The Tigers may or may not make it to the second round – they’re tied at three games apiece with Swift Current – but it certainly isn’t for a lack of effort from Ennis. The pint-sized speedster leads the league in playoff points with 11 through six games. Drafted 26th overall by Buffalo in 2008.
9. Jamie Benn, LW – Kelowna Rockets (WHL): Right behind Ennis, Benn has 10 points in just four games so far in the playoffs. The Rockets veteran is having his best Dub season yet and is looking NHL-ready since adding more weight to his frame this year. Drafted 129th overall by Dallas in 2007.
10. Viktor Stalberg, LW - Vermont Catamounts (Hockey East): The Cats are dancing in the Frozen Four next weekend and Stalberg has been an offensive engine all year. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Swede posted 24 goals this year and garnered a Hobey Baker nomination in the process. Drafted 161st overall by Toronto in 2006.
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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