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Numbers game

Minnesota's Jordan Schroeder can improve his draft position with a good showing at the combine. (Getty Images)

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Minnesota's Jordan Schroeder can improve his draft position with a good showing at the combine. (Getty Images)

The draft combine is this week and The Hot List is going to make a special trip out to the ’burbs of Toronto to cover it. But before the bench presses begin and before the shoes are electrical-taped to the stationary bikes, let’s take a look at a few players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day who need to have a good showing at the annual fitness and interview exhibition.

1. Jared Cowen, D – Spokane Chiefs (WHL):
Ironically, Cowen will not be participating in the physical portion of the combine as he is still rehabbing his injured knee. He will be interviewing, however, and his official medical examination will either quell or exacerbate the fears of the scouting world. If everything’s cool, he’s a top-four selection. Draft eligible in 2009.

2. Zach Budish, C – Edina Hornets (Minn. HS):
Budish, a bull of a power forward from the Minnesota high school circuit, is in the same boat as Cowen in terms of recovering from injury (torn ACL while playing football), but is expected to participate in the full combine. Naturally, the first question in his interviews will be, no more football, right? Draft eligible in 2009.

3. Dylan Olsen, D – Camrose Kodiaks (AJHL):
The early schedule of the combine is reserved for players with NCAA eligibility, since college rules stipulate the amount of time they can be at an NHL function. Olsen, who was great for Canada at the under-18s, fits in this category and has the chance to turn some heads that may not have seen him too often this season. Draft eligible in 2009.

4. Zack Kassian, RW – Peterborough Petes (OHL):
The Petes are renowned for churning out elite NHL talent, but Kassian will have to prove himself based on merit alone. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound power forward must convince some scouts he can keep the fire going for a full season and maybe show them he’s the next Milan Lucic. Draft eligible in 2009.

5. Seth Helgeson, D – Sioux City Musketeers (USHL):
Gritty, edgy, physical – that’s Helgeson’s game. Big (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) and nasty on the ice, the University of Minnesota commit will attract a lot of eyeballs when he hits the bench press at the combine. Draft eligible in 2009.

6. Toni Rajala, RW – Ilves Jr. (Fin.):
Just how big is Rajala? The measurements at the combine won’t lie, so the pint-sized speedster with the great skill set will have to prove he is mentally and physically ready for the rough-and-tumble North American game. Draft eligible in 2009.

7. Ben Hanowski, RW – Little Falls Flyers (Minn. HS):
Like Jr. B’s Daultan Leveille last year, Hanowski played against lesser competition in Minnesota’s small-school circuit and while his numbers were incredible (he holds the state goal-scoring record), it’s tough to gauge what they mean. Hanowski can get that conversation going in a positive manner with a good showing in Toronto. Draft eligible in 2009.

8. Jordan Schroeder, RW – University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (WCHA):
The world juniors will certainly come up in Schroeder’s combine interviews, as the American kid didn’t exactly light it up. As a Gopher, however, he still put up 45 points as a freshman this year, just one short of team leader (and senior) Ryan Stoa. It will be interesting to see how the smallish Schroeder does in the physical tests as well. Draft eligible in 2009.

9. Dmitri Orlov, D – Metallurg Novokuznetsk (KHL):
The interview process at the combine should be pretty simple for Orlov: Will you come over here to play? The youngster is already on a Kontinental League roster, so that payday will have to be factored into any NHL team’s drafting decision of the mobile, skilled blueliner. Draft eligible in 2009.

10. William Wrenn, D – U.S. NTDP:
Character and leadership have been cited as two of Wrenn’s better qualities, so teams will likely line up to pick his brain at the combine. Otherwise, the stalwart defenseman plays a solid, stay-at-home game. Draft eligible in 2009.

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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