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A great gamble

Jason Zucker helped Team USA capture gold at the recent world juniors in Saskatchewan. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

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Jason Zucker helped Team USA capture gold at the recent world juniors in Saskatchewan. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

The Hot List is in Las Vegas right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s a week off.

In fact, let’s show some love for one of Sin City’s own – and if you think they don’t produce elite talent in ‘non-traditional’ hockey markets, you haven’t looked at the U.S. national team development program’s roster.

Once again, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.

1. Jason Zucker, LW – U.S. NTDP (USHL):
As one of the few draft-eligible Americans at the world juniors, Zucker definitely put himself on the map with a great tourney filled with speed, hands and hard work. And yes, he was born and raised in Las Vegas. So how did he get into hockey?

“My brother Evan got me started when I was young,” Zucker noted. “Then I moved to L.A. when I was 10 years old and went from there.”

Zucker also played for Detroit Compuware before joining the NTDP, where he has soaked in the experience. The gritty winger also believes the team’s global schedule (which includes tournaments against European squads) helped prepare him for the WJC.

“It’s big for me because we play international teams over there as well,” Zucker said. “So we learn how to play the international style. You learn the teams.”

And the U.S. certainly did that in Saskatoon. But what can NHL teams expect from the youngster?

“I think I’m a fast, skilled player that can score goals and I’m a gritty player,” he said. “I’m gonna get in the corners and hit and do everything I can to help my team win.”

So far, so good on that account.
Draft eligible in 2010.

2. Tyler Seguin, C – Plymouth Whalers (OHL):
It’s almost like Seguin is taking all this Taylor Hall talk personally. The Whalers pivot has been on the warpath lately, with 11 points in his past three games, including a trio against Hall’s Spitfires (the Whalers won 7-4, then beat St. Mike’s 5-1 for good measure). Seguin now leads the OHL with 79 points in just 44 games. It ain’t over. Draft eligible in 2010.

3. Ryan Murphy, D – Kitchener Rangers (OHL):
A Prep Watch alum from last season, Murphy looks like the heir apparent to Ryan Ellis: an undersized but effective offensive defenseman who can really move that puck. Murphy has 22 assists and 26 points in 44 games. Draft eligible in 2011.

4. Tyson Barrie, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL):
Maybe Barrie is Ryan Ellis West. The son of Bolts co-owner Len Barrie is having another great campaign in the Dub with 50 points in 41 games and he’s doing it without past teammates such as Tyler Myers and Jamie Benn. Barrie will break his career-best season marks by next week. Drafted 64th overall by Colorado in 2009.

5. Joe Colborne, C – Denver Pioneers (WCHA):
It may not be a great season to be a Boston Bruins fan, but how about this: Colborne is now running at a point-per-game clip for the Pios. That’s great news for followers of the 6-foot-5 power forward, who is also closing in on the 200-pound mark (that’s a good thing). Drafted 16th overall by Boston in 2008.

6. Ryan Johansen, C – Portland Winterhawks (WHL):
The Winterhawks seem to be doing everything with kids this year and hey, if it’s working, go with it. The 6-foot-3, 188-pound Johansen leads a youth brigade, that also features Nino Niederreiter, Luke Walker and Ty Rattie, with 50 points in 50 games. Draft eligible in 2010.

7. Etienne Marcoux, G – Montreal Juniors (QMJHL):
True, it’s early in his ‘Q’ career, but Marcoux is having a stellar showing so far. Through four games, the youngster is boasting a 2.25 goals-against average and .930 save percentage for Montreal. The six-footer will probably want to add at least a little weight to his 155-pound frame in the future, though. Draft eligible in 2011.

8. Mark Alt, D – Cretin-Derham Hall Raiders (Minn. HS):
A 6-foot-3, 200-pound blueliner, Alt is also his high school’s starting quarterback in football. As long as the athletic Alt decides hockey is the sport he wants to pursue, NHL scouts will love his talents. Draft eligible in 2010.

9. Marek Hrivik, LW – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL):
The Slovakian winger is having himself a tidy little rookie campaign in North America, with a plus-23 rating through 48 games. On top of that, Hrivik has three game-winning goals and 43 points overall. Draft eligible in 2010 (undrafted in 2009).

10. Jaden Schwartz, C – Tri-City Storm (USHL):
If you’re looking for a player who excels on special teams, look no further than Schwartz. The former Notre Dame Hound has 23 of his 55 points on the power play for the Storm and another three shorthanded. Draft eligible in 2010.

Related Links

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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