Zack Kassian was selected 13th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2009 draft. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
We’ve reached the mushy middle of the summer, where the Ivan Hlinka is finished, but the pro camps have yet to begin. No matter; still plenty of news to go around in the world of prospects. With that in mind, here’s another scrappy group of youngsters we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
1. Zack Kassian, RW – Peterborough Petes (OHL): As a first round NHL draft pick, Kassian has already achieved an important milestone in his young career, but the power forward prototype won’t be happy until his Petes are back on top of the league.
“We were a young team last season,” Kassian noted. “We don’t like using that as an excuse, but we had a lot of young guys and your first year in the league compared to your second could make a big difference. You come back with confidence.”
At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Kassian can already be confident he won’t be pushed around by anyone and despite being an underclassman, he embraced a leadership role on that young Petes team. Having the benefit of playing for the hockey factory that is Peterborough was not lost on the right winger, either.
“Obviously our GM, Jeff Twohey, is known for his hard work with the kids he brings in,” Kassian said. “There have been a lot of players from Peterborough who have played in the NHL. I think it’s a plus, but at the same time, you have to put the work in.”
With a maturing cast around him, Kassian will be able to do that work deeper into the post-season this year. Drafted 13th overall by Buffalo in 2009.
2. Mike Lee, G – Fargo Force (USHL): According to the excellent Western College Hockey Blog, Isles pick Jase Weslosky has been deemed ineligible to return to St. Cloud State’s Huskies next season, meaning Lee ascends up the ladder. Based on his play in the United States League, Lee is ready for that challenge as a freshman this fall. Drafted 91st overall by Phoenix in 2009.
3. Aaron Ness, D – Minnesota Golden Gophers (WCHA): A high school teammate of Lee’s, Ness is also in the news, though he himself didn’t do anything. The Memorial Cup-hosting Brandon Wheat Kings acquired the offensive defenseman’s Western League rights from Prince George late last week, casting speculation Ness would join the Dub squad. The kid always wanted to be a Gopher, though, so it’ll be a tough sell prying him away at this point. Drafted 40th overall by the New York Islanders in 2008.
4. Brock Beukeboom, D – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL): Team Canada teammate Gregg Sutch – a THN.com blogger (http://www.thehockeynews.com/blogs/189-Gregg-Sutch.html) - credited Beukeboom’s massive first-period hit on Kirill Kabanov with taking the talented Russian out of the gold medal game mentally at the Ivan Hlinka tourney. Already 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Beukeboom will be fearsome as he continues to get stronger in the Soo. Draft eligible in 2010.
5. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW – Novosibirsk Sibir (KHL): Averaging just nine minutes of ice time per game last year, Tarasenko still potted seven goals and 10 points for Sibir in 38 games. He was plus-2 on a bad team and some insiders have him ranked as the best Russian available in the draft this summer. Draft eligible in 2010.
6. Alexander Avtsin, RW – Moscow Dynamo (Rus. Jr.): In a recent Puck Daddy interview, Alex Ovechkin called Avtsin the face of Dynamo in junior hockey and with 56 goals and 110 points in 76 games last season, it’s easy to see why. Avtsin will likely stay in Russia for at least one more year. Drafted 109th overall by Montreal in 2009.
7. Mark Pysyk, D – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL): It’s been tough sledding in the early years of the expansion Oil Kings, but Pysyk has been a bright spot. The team’s first-ever bantam draft pick and a gold medal winner for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka, Pysyk has been compared to Shea Weber for his edgy two-way game. Draft eligible in 2010.
8. Kevin Lind, D – Chicago Steel (USHL): Lind, who represented Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka, has committed to Notre Dame for the 2010-11 season. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound defenseman will have an increased roll on the Steel this year thanks to attrition and his own growth as a player. Draft eligible in 2010.
9. Evgeny Kuznetsov, RW – Traktor Chelyabinsk (Rus. Jr.): Another high-flying Russian prospect for this summer’s draft, Kuznetsov missed the Ivan Hlinka due to injury, but has shown in past international tournaments that he will be one to watch in the near future. Draft eligible in 2010.
10. Sean Couturier, LW – Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL): The youngest member of Team Canada’s Ivan Hlinka team, Couturier nonetheless has already shown he has the frame (6-foot-3, 185 pounds) and skill to do some big things as a sophomore in the ‘Q’ this season. Draft eligible in 2011.
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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