The post-season is fast approaching in the major junior and NCAA ranks, so the performances of the best prospects will soon be under the microscope. Speaking of under the microscope, THN's annual Future Watch edition is hitting newsstands as we speak. In the meantime, here's a look at some of the players we're excited to see in the NHL one day.
1. Derek Forbort, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL): Playing for the national team development program means a lot of travel, but that’s just fine for Forbort, a rookie at the Ann Arbor, Mich., institution.
“Bus trips are a great time,” said the blueliner, calling from a lunch stop on the way to Des Moines, Iowa.
Along with USHL competition, Forbort and his mates have taken on European national teams and NCAA schools, so the itinerary is a unique one.
“Finland was great,” Forbort recalled. “But I really liked Boston and our weekend playing Boston University and Boston College.”
Obviously the NCAA experience has long intrigued the Minnesota native, who is committed to the University of North Dakota next season. A 6-foot-4, 195-pound blueliner who cites Nicklas Lidstrom as an influence, Forbort is an all-around talent who can lug the puck out of his own end.
“I like to play a solid game out there,” he said. “I can contribute offensively, but I like to be solid on defense.”
With his size and skill set, don’t be surprised to hear Forbort’s name called on the first day of the NHL draft this summer rather than the second. Draft eligible in 2010.
2. Mark Olver, C – Northern Michigan University Wildcats (CCHA): With a big weekend to close out the regular season, Olver became the first NMU player to claim the conference scoring title since Jeff Pyle 29 years ago. Olver, a junior, topped the list with 46 points in 35 games. Drafted 140th overall by Colorado in 2008.
3. Nicolas Deschamps, C – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL): Talk about bang for your buck. Since being acquired from Chicoutimi, Deschamps has only been held off the scoresheet once in 25 games with the Wildcats. The young pivot has now amassed quite a lead atop the Quebec League scoring race, with 93 points in 57 games. Drafted 35th overall by Anaheim in 2008.
4. Jacob Markstrom, G – Brynas IF (Swe.): Ranked second in Future Watch behind St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo, Markstrom is the top Hot List-eligible player in the issue (Petro’s already played in the NHL). The Swedish keeper still leads the Elite League in save percentage at .926, goals-against average at 2.05 and is tied for the most shutouts with five. Drafted 31st overall by Florida in 2008.
5. Jeff Skinner, C – Kitchener Rangers (OHL): In just his second OHL season, Skinner has put up an impressive 47 goals through 61 games and has a real shot at cracking 50 on the year. In a league featuring Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, it’s Skinner who’s tops in draft-eligible sniping right now. Draft eligible in 2010.
6. Tomas Jurco, RW – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL): Given his late December birthday, NHL teams will have to wait another year to get a shot at Jurco’s services, but that’s just fine with the Sea Dogs. The Slovakian rookie has posted 43 points in 58 games this year to go along with an exemplary plus-34 rating. Draft eligible in 2011.
7. Jared Spurgeon, D – Spokane Chiefs (WHL): An undersized defenseman, Spurgeon has nonetheless been a premier playmaker for the Chiefs, setting up 41 goals in 47 games this season to go along with seven of his own markers. Those 48 points in an injury-shortened campaign still represent a career-high. Drafted 156th overall by the New York Islanders in 2008.
8. Tom Kuehnhackl, RW – Landshutt Cannibals (Ger.): A highly rated European prospect for this year’s draft, Kuehnhackl is going where many potential first-rounders have landed lately: Windsor. The German pivot will suit up for the Ontario League’s Spitfires next season, because Windsor doesn’t rebuild, it reloads. Draft eligible in 2010.
9. Patrick Killeen, G – Brampton Battalion (OHL): The reigning OHL player of the week, Killeen won three straight games, two by shutout. Overall, his 2.43 GAA is third in the league and his five shutouts are tied for first. Drafted 180th overall by Pittsburgh in 2008.
10. Brian Day, RW – Colgate Red Raiders (ECAC): Day hit the 20-goal mark for the first time in his college career this season, accumulating 34 points and a plus-14 rating through 32 games. A big Red Raiders win over RPI last weekend gave Day and crew a first-round bye in the ECAC tournament, too. Drafted 171st overall by the New York Islanders in 2006.
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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