Toni Rajala suited up for Team Finland at the World Junior Championship and the World Under-18 Championship. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/NHLI via Getty Images)
All hail the U.S.A. The home team took the World Under-18 Championship with authority, smacking down Russia in the final 5-0. With many unheralded prospects getting a chance to shine in Fargo, N.D. and Moorhead, Minn., The Hot List – our weekly rundown of the players we’re excited about seeing in the NHL one day – takes one final look at the players who made the tournament their showcase for future drafts.
1. Toni Rajala, LW – Ilves Tampere (Fin.): The runaway leader at the tourney with 19 points in six games, Rajala was also the only player to break double digits in plus-minus (plus-10). Not only that, but the pint-sized speedster had the game-tying goal and shootout winner in Finland’s bronze medal game against Canada. Draft eligible in 2009.
2. Jerry D’Amigo, LW – U.S. NTDP: D’Amigo entered the under-18s touted as a fourth-rounder for the summer, but leading the gold-medal Americans in scoring should give the youngster a bit of a boost. The 5-foot-11, 192-pound playmaker had 13 points in seven games and is committed to RPI next season. Draft eligible in 2009.
3. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D – Leksand (Swe. 2): One of the most buzzed-about prospects lately, Ekman-Larsson did not disappoint at the under-18s, putting up consistent offense with eight points in six games and dazzling with his puck control. Draft eligible in 2009.
4. Evgeni Kuznetsov, RW – Traktor Chelyabinsk (Rus. 2): Don’t expect the Russians to make a big splash in the draft this year, but watch out in 2010. Along with Kirill Kabanov and Vladimir Tarasenko, Kuznetsov showed a great deal of skill at the under-18s, with 13 points in seven games. Draft eligible in 2010.
5. Cam Fowler, D – U.S. NTDP: Lauded for his skating and puckhandling abilities, Fowler certainly showed off his skill set in Fargo/Moorhead, dishing off seven assists (and a goal) in seven games for the Americans. He’s off to Ontario League’s Windsor Spitfires next year. Draft eligible in 2010.
6. Byron Froese, C – Everett Silvertips (WHL): With many of Canada’s best players still ensconced in major junior playoff battles, guys like Froese got a chance to grab some spotlight. The first-year Dub pivot tallied seven points in six games for Canada and showed what he could offer an NHL team in the process. Draft eligible in 2009.
7. Reto Schappi, C – ZSC Lions (Swi.): Schappi and Nino Niederreiter look to be the offensive future of the Swiss alliance and both were point-per-game players at the tourney. At 6-foot-4, 192 pounds, Schappi is already a load and could be even more dangerous when he fills out his frame. Draft eligible in 2009.
8. Jack Campbell, G – U.S. NTDP: Campbell went largely untested in the tourney, facing just 89 shots in five games. He did, however, make the most of his team’s defense, putting up a sparkling .075 goals-against average and notching two shutouts in the process. Even more staggering? Campbell didn’t give up an even-strength goal. Draft eligible in 2010.
9. Benjamin Conz, G – Geneve-Serviette (Swi.): The Swiss goaltender’s stats may look pretty rough (4.95 GAA, .875 save percentage), but keep in mind it was with a weak team in front of him. Perhaps the most telling stat? Sixteen of Conz’s 27 goals-against were on the power play, while another came shorthanded. Draft eligible in 2009.
10. Jeremy Morin, LW – U.S. NTDP: A player whose star had faded this season, Morin made up for it at the under-18s, putting up consistent offense for the golden Yanks and finishing the tournament with a solid 10 points in seven games. He’ll likely suit up for the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers next year. Draft eligible in 2009.
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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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