Major junior playoffs have reached the final series, while the AHL post-season is well into the second round. An incredibly exciting 2014-15 campaign is nearing its end, so I’m opening up the Hot List a bit to younger prospects. Like those that came before them, they are the players you’ll want to know and that we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Ryan Kennedy is the associate senior writer and draft/prospect expert at The Hockey News. He has been with the publication since 2005 and in that span, Don Cherry, Lil Jon and The Rock have all called his house. He lives in Toronto with his wife and kids where he listens to loud music and collects NCAA pennants.
NHL players can make tens of millions of dollars in their careers, but the years they can earn such sums are limited. Making the most of that nest egg is important, which is why Michael Peca’s wife Kristin was heartbroken when it became apparent that the man they trusted with their savings may not have been who he seemed.
Based on his record-breaking year with the U.S. National Team Development Program, Auston Matthews is looking like a game-changer for the 2016 draft. But where he plays next season may be just as revolutionary.
The Oshawa Generals knew they had a tall task on their hands. Facing Erie in the OHL final, the Gens had to figure out a way to stop Otters superstar Connor McDavid, who came into Game 1 with a dizzying 42 points in 15 playoff games. At the end of the night, McDavid had been on the ice for more goals-against than goals-for and the Gens thrilled their fans with a 4-1 win.
If Game 1 was any indication, this series will be fought in both the trenches and the war rooms. Oshawa’s strategy for battening down McDavid was to have Vancouver Canucks prospect Cole Cassels on against the consensus No. 1 pick overall in the NHL draft this summer as much as possible.
Sifting through the ashes of another early playoff exit for a talented team, it would be easy to give up on this current iteration of the Minnesota Wild. After all, there’s a lot going against the franchise if you’re looking at next year’s Stanley Cup chances.
As I’ve noted before, the Western League does things a little differently than the other CHL circuits in Ontario and Quebec. Players are drafted out of bantam instead of midget, then spend a year developing, as opposed to jumping into major junior right away as 16-year-olds.
So it’s going to be a while before the name Ty Smith becomes relevant to NHL fans, but folks in Spokane can start to get excited.
The final matchups in major junior have been set: Quebec takes on Rimouski in the Quebec League; Brandon will duke it out with Kelowna in the West and Erie gets Oshawa in the OHL. Whatever the results, it’s going to be a power-packed Memorial Cup. Meanwhile, the USHL draft is taking place, with Minnesota high school standout Ryan Poehling going first to Lincoln in Phase One (for 1999 birthdays) and some interesting pickups elsewhere in Phase Two (older players). Let’s take a whirl around the prospect planet to see what’s up.
Wherever center Dylan Larkin ends up next season, some folks in Michigan are going to be happy – specifically which folks is still up in the air.