The brackets are set, the regular seasons finished. Playoff time has hit the prospect ranks and there are some devilishly good teams looking to make runs in their respective circuits.
Will draft rankings get flipped in the process? You know what they say about the post-season: Anything is possible.
Also on a quick note, it looks like the Minnesota Wild win the award for first college free agent signing of the season, landing UMass standout center Casey Wellman.
Once again, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
1. Brock Nelson, C – Warroad Warriors (Minn. HS): Small in size, but not in stature, Warroad High School in northern Minnesota has produced NHLers such as T.J. Oshie, Henry Boucha and Dave Christian. Nelson, who happens to be Christian’s nephew, looks to be the next Warrior in that category.
Warroad was knocked out of the Minnesota State High School tournament by eventual Class A champ Breck, but Nelson did all he could along the way.
“I thought we played pretty well,” Nelson said. “To get to play at the Xcel Center and hang out there is unreal. It’s quite the deal.”
A 6-foot-3, 205-pound pivot, Nelson was the offensive focus of a potent Warriors attack this season. So what does he do well?
“I would have to say my scoring, my vision and my ability to create plays,” Nelson noted, adding that he wants to improve on his quickness and his first couple strides.
Committed to the University of North Dakota, Nelson may play in the United States League before joining up with the Sioux, where both Christian and Oshie also played before him. The Minnesota high school ranks seem to churn out a first-rounder every year these days and while Nelson is poised to be in that number this summer, he doesn’t have an answer for the recent prolific success.
“State of Hockey, I guess,” he said.
Draft eligible in 2010.
2. Sean Couturier, C – Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL): Forget for a second that Couturier won the Quebec League scoring title with 96 points and forget that the 6-foot-3, 185-pound pivot isn’t draft eligible until next year. How about the fact Couturier finished plus-62 in just his second season of major junior? He may be the top forward available next summer. Draft eligible in 2011.
3. Jack Campbell, G – U.S. NTDP (USHL): International Scouting Services is pegging him as the top goalie available at the draft and a potential first-rounder at that. In 10 United States League games this season, Campbell was hot, posting a 2.12 goals-against average and .921 save percentage, but it’s his international play (including a gold medal at the world juniors) that makes him one to watch in the future. Draft eligible in 2010.
4. Jordan Weal, C – Regina Pats (WHL): With Jordan Eberle moving on to greener pastures next season and no post-season for the Pats, the future is Weal’s to hold. The present isn’t too bad, either, as the waterbug center finished third in Dub scoring with 102 points, but next season will be his true coming-out party. The fact he was a plus-3 on a bad team is also a good sign. Draft eligible in 2010.
5. Nick Jensen, D – Green Bay Gamblers (USHL): The Gamblers were the best team in the USHL this year and having Jensen on board certainly didn’t hurt. The solid-sized blueliner had an impressive three shorthanded goals (and a shorthanded assist) this season to go along with career-highs in goals (six) and points (25). He’ll join a quickly improving St. Cloud State program next year. Drafted 150th overall by Detroit in 2009.
6. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW – Sibir Novosibirsk (KHL): His team may not have made the playoffs, but the teen titan did have a great individual campaign. His plus-9 was tops on Sibir and Tarasenko’s 24 points ranked fourth, despite him averaging just 12:25 of ice time, some of the fewest minutes on the squad. Draft eligible in 2010.
7. Alexander Burmistrov, C – Barrie Colts (OHL): The Colts are on a crash-course to meet St. Mike’s in the Eastern final of the playoffs, but first they’ll have to get past the Sudbury Wolves. Burmistrov, who finished his first North American season with 65 points in 62 games, will be called upon to use his excellent offensive instincts throughout. Draft eligible in 2010.
8. Martin Marincin, D – HK Orange 20 (Svk.): An intriguing, but raw contributor to a down Slovakian squad at the world juniors this year, Marincin brings a lanky 6-foot-4, 187-pound frame to the table, not to mention a promising future once he puts some weight on. He may be a long-term project, but the Slovak is the top European D-man available this summer. Draft eligible in 2010.
9. Brooks Macek, RW – Tri-City Americans (WHL): Tri-City has been good for a while and it’s usually thanks to having a veteran squad that knows how to step up when necessary. But don’t overlook the offensive contributions of Macek. The young right winger ended the season with 73 points in 72 games, which is triple his production from the previous campaign. Draft eligible in 2010.
10. Jordan Schroeder, C – University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (WCHA): Schroeder may not be a Gopher much longer; the stout pivot is believed to be deciding on whether to go pro sometime this week. The Canucks first-rounder had a down season, but maybe a stint with American League Manitoba could turn things around. Drafted 22nd overall by Vancouver 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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