Prospect Hot List: Meet the D-man filling Aaron Ekblad’s skates in Barrie

Rasmus Andersson (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

After a one-day weather delay, Boston’s famed Beanpot tournament kicks off tonight with Northeastern vs. Boston College and Harvard vs. Boston U. I’ll be heading out to cover the final of the college classic next week, so in the meantime, here’s a look at a couple recruits for future Beanpots, plus more prospects making noise around the hockey world right now.

Rasmus Andersson, D – Barrie Colts (OHL)

When Andersson decided to leave his home in Sweden for North America, one of the reasons was that he would get more ice time than he had received last year with Malmo. But there was also some trepidation, as the Colts would need a lot of minutes filled due to the loss of another defenseman: Aaron Ekblad, who was headed to the NHL after Florida selected him first overall in the summer. Luckily, the pressure hasn’t been an issue.

“I thought it would be a lot of worse, but it’s been nothing at all,” Andersson said. “Guys have been taking care of me and no one has said anything about him.”

Andersson wasn’t content with his start in Barrie, but after an initial 15-game trial period, he has been producing at more than a point-per-game rate. Familiarity helps and it only makes sense that a kid raised on the European game would need time to adjust, even though his father Peter played a couple seasons in the NHL with the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers.

“I have really good billets and a really good coach who has taught me about the Canadian style of hockey,” Andersson said. “I’m comfortable in Barrie and they’ve taught me a lot.”

Scouts would like to see his conditioning and lateral movement improve, but they also like Andersson’s tools. A great offensive weapon on the back end, he uses his shot, playmaking ability and smarts on the point to make things happen. On the power play, he and Buffalo pick Brendan Lemieux have been lethal together, with Lemieux leading the OHL in power play goals and Andersson tied for third in assists.

“We work a lot on shot tips,” Andersson said. “We try to keep it positive between each other and not too fancy. Get a lot of shots, tips, criss-cross here and there. And we score a lot of goals.”

And while Barrie fans won’t forget Ekblad, that kind of production certainly serves as a nice consolation prize. Draft eligible in 2015.

Ryan Shea, D – B.C. High Eagles (Mass. HS)

A polished blueliner with an offensive bent, Shea is a converted forward, which explains why he’s pretty comfortable putting up points. The Northeastern commit has four points in his past two games for the Eagles and his skating is also a great asset. Draft eligible in 2015.

Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, C – Omaha Lancers (USHL)

A smart pivot with a good worth ethic, ‘JFK’ has been hot for the Lancers, notching six points in his past three games. The Boston University commit is one of the highest scorers in the United States League and put in a good effort for the losing side at the USHL Top Prospects Game last month. Draft eligible in 2015.

Jeremy Bracco, RW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)

Team USA will play at a Five Nations tournament in Russia this week and the other teams better pay attention to Bracco, a scintillating offensive talent who has been hot lately. The Boston College commit has speed to burn and his 54 points in 38 games is best among 2015 prospects on the team. Draft eligible in 2015.

Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

He was incredible for Denmark at the world juniors and Bjorkstrand has continued his excellence back in Portland, where he has always been a big producer. Fast and blessed with sizzling hands, the right winger has nine points in his past two games and is up to 70 through 40 contests. Drafted 89th overall by Columbus in 2013.

Samuel Montembeault, G – Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)

While guessing which goaltenders will become NHLers has become a grisly task for scouts, Montembeault is at the top of the list for this year’s crop. The lanky 6-foot-3 stopper won seven of his 10 starts in January and has become a lot more confident in the crease this season. Draft eligible in 2015.

Adam Tambellini, C – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

One of the top snipers in the ‘Dub,’ Tambellini boasts great size and a sick shot release, which gives fits to defenders trying to thwart him in the offensive zone. He moves well for a big guy and is riding a seven-game point streak where he has put up four multi-point games. Drafted 65th overall by the New York Rangers in 2013.

Roope Hintz, LW – Ilves (Fin.)

Big and fast, Hintz looked pretty good for the underwhelming Finns at the world juniors, but he has really been solid on the local scene. Playing against men back home in Finland’s top league, the 6-foot-2 teenager has 15 points in 33 games, putting him second among all rookies. Draft eligible in 2015.

Dante Salituro, C – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

Between Travis Konecny and Salituro, the 67’s are getting good things out of small packages. The 5-foot-9, 178-pound Salituro just had a seven-game point streak snapped, but he had 15 points during that span. A lethal shooter with great quickness, Salituro leads Ottawa in scoring. Draft eligible in 2015.

Zach Hyman, RW – University of Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten)

The Wolverines have awoken from their early-season slumber and are wrecking the Big Ten now. Hyman, an alternate captain, has been a big part of that success. The two-way senior (who is also a children’s author) leads the conference in scoring with 36 points in 23 games. Drafted 123rd overall by Florida in 2010.

AHL moving West just one of several key U.S. hockey projects

The Ducks and Sharks will move their AHL teams to California (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Say hello to the American League’s Pacific Division. The dramatic shift that will see five AHL teams shifted to California not only shakes up the continent’s second-best circuit, but will also have big ramifications for how the game is embraced by the population in the Golden State.

“Hockey is growing in California and the West Coast,” said Anaheim GM Bob Murray at the official press conference. “This is going to take it one step further.”

From a grassroots perspective, the Pacific Division will nurture more hockey fans in a state that is already producing some pretty nice talent. Because it’s not just important that kids can watch players and prospects in the process of achieving NHL dreams, but that cities such as San Diego and Stockton get anchor teams that hopefully help the kids themselves start to play the game locally.

The AHL announcement is one of just several big projects on the go that will help the game as a whole. Here are four others to keep an eye on:

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The Hot List: Nicolas Roy can shoot with a stick or a rifle

Nicolas Roy (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

The busy season continues, with lots to report on in the prospect world. The CHL Top Prospects Game was last week, while the North American League Prospects Tournament field was just announced. Toss in the American League’s All-Star Game and there’s a lot to cover off, so let’s look at some of the kids we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.

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Travis Konecny delivers huge hit during Top Prospects Game

Jared Clinton
(Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Though most had come to watch Erie Otters center Connor McDavid during last night’s BMO CHL Top Prospects Game, it was hard to miss Ottawa 67’s winger Travis Konecny.

Voted the game’s MVP, Konecny potted a pair of goals and had three points for Team Orr en route to a 6-0 victory over Team Cherry. But the most memorable part of Konecny’s night may have come when he cleaned out Charlottetown Islanders center Filip Chlapik with a booming open-ice hit with time winding down in the first period. Read more

Ten players to watch for at the CHL Top Prospects Game

Ryan Kennedy
Nick Merkley (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

The CHL Top Prospects Game runs tonight in St. Catharines, Ont., home of the Ontario League’s Niagara IceDogs. The all-star contest features the best major junior players available for the 2015 draft and this year has the potential to be a high-scoring affair. That’s because the top goalies have been dropping like flies and one replacement (Ottawa’s Liam Herbst) is being rushed in so last-minute that he wasn’t even in St. Catharines yesterday during the on-ice testing portion.

With that in mind, here are 10 players who could have very highlighty nights, wooing both NHL scouts and hockey fans in general. These aren’t necessarily the best 10 players overall, but they’re all fun to watch.

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2015 draft prospect Timo Meier headlines The Hot List

Timo Meier (Photo by Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year if you’re an NHL scout, as all-star games for draft hopefuls are in full swing. Last week, the United States League held its Top Prospects Game, while this week the CHL takes its turn. Though the USHL game was a bit lopsided (a 7-4 contest that was never close), many players stood out. And injuries in the CHL have given some previously overlooked players a second chance. Let’s take a look at some of those kids and more in our weekly wrap-up of players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.

Timo Meier, RW – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

You could say that Meier has been lucky to line up beside two of the most dynamic teenagers in the world this year – Kevin Fiala on the Swiss world junior team and Nikolaj Ehlers with Halifax – but there’s a reason the talented right winger earned those plum assignments: He’s pretty good in his own right, as evidenced by the 25 goals and 56 points he has put up for the Mooseheads in 37 games.

“I had a good start to the season, it’s going pretty good,” Meier said. “We’re a young team and we’re improving every day. It’s been fun so far.”

The Swiss may have bombed out at the world juniors, but Meier showed a lot of great attributes and he’ll be back to defend his country’s honor next year as well. In the meantime, the late 1996 birthday is honing his skills in the Quebec League as he prepares for the NHL draft.

“It’s a fast league, with a lot of fast players,” he said. “It’s really intense. I can improve my game a lot in this league.” Read more

2015 draft phenom Jack Eichel does it again for Boston University

Ryan Kennedy
Jack Eichel (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

When Boston University needs a boost, the Terriers know where to find it. Freshman Jack Eichel has been money for the team all season long, leading the Terriers in scoring and coming through in the clutch. The latest example came this weekend with B.U. facing off against UMass-Lowell in a game that would decide first place in Hockey East.

The Terriers got a power play in overtime and that’s when Eichel went to work. Fast-forward to 1:45 in the clip below to see Eichel win the faceoff and then moments later blast home the winner:

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