Kenny Ryan speaks to GM Brian Burke of the Toronto Maple Leafs after he was drafted by the Leafs in the second round. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Now that the draft is over, the real work for NHL prospects begins.
Many teams are holding rookie camps now, where their brand new charges are taught how to live like an NHLer (cooking tips, media preparation) and train like an NHLer. While not everyone at the camps is expected to crack the roster, it’s always good for experience.
Along with some follow-up to last week’s Canadian League import draft, here’s a look at some players we’re excited to see in the NHL soon.
1. Tyler Myers, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL): Myers hit Buffalo’s rookie camp this week and the latest numbers are sick: The teen titan is now 6-foot-8, 220 pounds, with an eye on getting his weight up to 235 ultimately. If he can still skate like he did in the Dub last year at that number, watch out. Drafted 12th overall by Buffalo in 2008.
2. Kenny Ryan, RW – U.S. NTDP: One of the biggest storylines in the draft this year was the breadth of talent coming from the U.S. development program. As part of a six-player contingent in the second round alone, Ryan was picked up by Toronto based on his power forward potential and 41 points in 53 games last season.
“I think I’m a solid two-way player,” said the 6-foot, 204-pounder. “I like to pitch in on offense, I like to play a gritty game.”
Ryan, who comes from a football family, will likely attend Boston College next year, though Windsor of the Ontario League owns his rights and already have a commitment from Ryan’s friend, Cam Fowler.
“I’ve played with him the past nine years,” Ryan noted.
Like most players who go to Ann Arbor, Ryan is very proud of the NTDP and credits the program with helping prospects such as himself get drafted highly. The boys even talked about it beforehand this year.
“We said we were all going to go early, hopefully, and we did,” Ryan said. “Physically, the first year (of the program), you’re in the weight room almost every day. Mentally, I think you’re on a different level.” Drafted 50th overall by Toronto in 2009.
3. Jordan Eberle, C – Springfield Falcons (AHL): The former Regina Pats standout ended his season playing up in the American League with the moribund Falcons, but that just meant more opportunity for the youngster. Speedy and skilled, Eberle put up nine points in nine games in his first foray into the pro game. Drafted 22nd overall by Edmonton in 2008.
4. Aaron Palushaj, RW – Peoria Rivermen (AHL): Much like Eberle, Palushaj joined the Rivermen once his season at the University of Michigan finished and immediately had an impact. Palushaj scored two goals in four games before a brief playoff stint, where he added one assist in four contests. How much more youthful skill can the Blues boast? Drafted 44th overall by St. Louis in 2007.
5. Nazem Kadri, C – London Knights (OHL): Fresh from a quick contract signing with the Leafs, Kadri is hunkering down at rookie camp, trying to make a good impression. Based on team depth and his ability to play all three forward positions, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that Kadri makes the leap to the NHL right away. Drafted seventh overall by Toronto in 2009.
6. Alexander Avtsin, RW – Moscow Dynamo 2 (Rus.): It may be difficult to pry Avtsin away from Dynamo, but if anyone can do it, it’s Patrick Roy and his Quebec Remparts, who took the right winger in the CHL import draft. Avtsin put up a huge 110 points in 76 games last year, but also showed a feisty side with 130 penalty minutes. Drafted 109th overall by Montreal in 2009.
7. Christopher Gibson, G – Notre Dame Hounds (Sask. Midget): Gibson propelled the Hounds to a playoff title by going undefeated in six games with a 1.83 goals-against average. Interestingly enough, Gibson is actually Finnish (born in Espoo), so his import rights were picked up by Chicoutimi of the ‘Q.’ Draft eligible in 2011.
8. P.K. Subban, D – Belleville Bulls (OHL): Can’t imagine how stoked Habs fans are to see Subban in the tri-colore, but the time is getting closer. The dynamic offensive defenseman and John Tavares hypeman brought his hard-charging style to rookie camp this week. Drafted 43rd overall by Montreal in 2007.
9. Tomas Jurco, RW – HC Kosice U20 (Svk.): Based on the current lull in Czech and Slovak player development, Jurco may be wise to take his act to North America next year. The talented 16-year-old scorched the Slovak under-20 circuit for 54 points in 51 games and was picked up by Saint John of the Quebec League in the import draft. Draft eligible in 2011.
10. Toni Rajala, RW – Ilves Jr. (Fin.): Taken by the Brandon Wheat Kings in the import draft, Rajala would be guaranteed a spot in the Memorial Cup if he came over from Finland. A year in the Dub would also give Rajala an idea of what he can expect when he gets to the pro ranks, though the youngster said in the past he would stay home a few more years. Drafted 101st overall by Edmonton 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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