Reid Boucher was selected 99th overall by the Devils this past summer. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
It was a patented Hot List road trip this past weekend, with stops in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Sarnia, Ont., along the way. The Michigan Wolverines fell 3-2 at home to the Andy Murray-coached Broncos from Western Michigan, but the student section at Yost Ice Arena was crazy and bumping. And the hometown Sting lost to Guelph Saturday, though there were some good showings there, too. Top prospect Nail Yakupov was slowed by a choppy tempo that saw him sit long stretches while Sarnia killed penalties, but the elite skill was still evident. Here’s a look at the highlight players and more from around the prospect world.
As a true freshman in his draft year, Di Giuseppe is a bit of a rarity in the NCAA, but he doesn’t play like a newbie. At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, he already has NHL size and often plants himself in prime scoring areas. Legendary coach Red Berenson has trusted him with tons of minutes and time on the top power play unit. Needless to say, Di Giuseppe is happy with his decision to come to Ann Arbor.
“I think it’s the greatest place to play hockey in the NCAA,” he said. “And it’s the best place for development of a young player.”
Di Giuseppe is the latest coming down a Michigan pipeline from the Greater Toronto Area, a legacy that has included Mike Cammalleri, Andrew Cogliano and Louie Caporusso. Their shared Italian heritage makes for good networking and Di Giuseppe’s father knows Cammalleri’s dad, who gave Michigan high marks. A rare draft -eligible college player, focusing on the task at hand and not the NHL hype is important for the left winger.
“I just try to block it out,” Di Giuseppe said. “Play the best I can and help my team win every game.”
The Wolverines are off to a great start and their prized freshman has been all over the scoresheet with five goals and nine points through 10 games. Di Giuseppe would still like to improve his positioning and backchecking, but he’s found a home at Yost Arena and a great place to develop in the coming years. Draft eligible in 2012.
Originally a Michigan State commit, Boucher immediately found success in Sarnia where he has totaled 12 goals and 18 points in 17 games, often playing on a different line from Yakupov. The Michigan native has great hands and sends hard, crisp passes when he’s on the playmaking side. Drafted 99th overall by New Jersey in 2011.
A point-per-game player through the first month of the season, Kosmachuk has very good awareness and instincts on the ice. At six-foot, 177 pounds, the right winger isn’t huge, but he is strong on the ice and displays quick hands out there. He also takes shifts at the point on Guelph’s power play. Draft eligible in 2012.
Always athletic, Bennett brings a great rushing ability to the Maize and Blue defense corps and often plays with fellow Habs prospect Greg Pateryn, who is more of a stay-at-home player. Bennett distributes on the power play and has an excellent knack for keeping the puck in the zone. He’s off to a hot start with nine points in his first 10 games, too. Drafted 79th overall by Montreal in 2009.
The IceCaps are in the flow early this season and Pasquale has been a solid contributor to the cause. A big body with a fiery competitive streak, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound goaltender is a perfect 5-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. Drafted 117th overall by Atlanta (Winnipeg) in 2009.
The World Jr. A Challenge is on right now in Langley, B.C., and Dansk kicked his tournament off in style with a 1-0 shutout over Team USA, which always fields a good team. Great at taking away the bottom of the net, Dansk hasn’t rung up stats back home, but is known for rising to pressure situations. International Scouting Services has him as the top goalie in this year’s class. Draft eligible in 2012.
It’s been a quick ascension for Duclair, the midget AAA star now in his rookie ‘Q’ season. The skilled winger has a plus-10 rating and 14 points through 21 games for the Remparts and he parlayed that into a spot on Team QMJHL for the Subway Super Series, going on now. Draft eligible in 2013.
Touted as a defenseman with nice offensive hops, Welinski didn’t have much of an opportunity for numbers last year on a stacked Green Bay team. But now with a year under his belt, he’s breaking through, with eight points in his first nine games and a spot on Team USA’s World Jr. A Challenge squad. Drafted 83rd overall by Anaheim in 2011.
With four points through 10 games, Haar is already contributing to the Broncos, who are glad they have him. The California product was originally slated to attend Northeastern, but switched up when coach Greg Cronin left for the NHL. Haar plays a lot of minutes, but still needs to get stronger. Western Michigan’s deep team and great coaching staff bring the perfect elements to do that. Drafted 207th overall by Washington in 2011.
There hasn’t been a lot to cheer for in Victoria this year (other than the fact the team is there and not in Chilliwack), but Sundher has been a source of pride. The veteran junior has torn up the ‘Dub’ this season with 23 assists and 36 points in 19 games, putting him third in league scoring. Drafted 75th overall by Buffalo in 2010.
The Hot List, a 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. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play in their first NHL game.
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