Prospect Hot List: Zach Senyshyn running with the big dogs

Zach Senyshyn (photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

The Frozen Four tournament may be the most deadly in hockey. It’s not long, but that’s the danger: it’s one-and-done, so even titan teams can get grounded in the first round, as top seed MSU-Mankato found out against RIT. But in the end, we have two teams from the two best conferences in the semifinal: Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota from the NCHC and Hockey East’s Providence College and Boston University. Major junior playoffs are in full swing now too, so let’s look at the kids making noise in the prospect world right now.

Zach Senyshyn, RW – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)

They’re going for it all in the Soo this year and with the team adding players such as Justin Bailey, Anthony DeAngelo and Nick Ritchie before the trade deadline, it’s almost easier to name the Hounds who haven’t been drafted by NHL franchises at this point. Senyshyn is one, but that’s because he’s not eligible until this summer. In the meantime, he’s been happy to soak up lessons from his elder peers.

“It’s a great learning process every day,” he said. “Working with guys like Jared McCann and Darnell Nurse in practice is a special experience.”

This is actually Senyshyn’s first full year with the Hounds. The skilled, swift skater played most of last year with the Jr. A Smiths Falls Bears near Ottawa. He had his eye on playing NCAA, with Penn State, Princeton and nearby Clarkson all on his radar. But the siren sound of the Hounds drew him to the OHL and he signed with the squad in December, playing a handful of games before returning to the Bears to work on his defense and round out his game. There was a Hounds-Bears link, too.

“The assistant coach in Smiths Falls was Walt Dubas,” Senyshyn said. “He’s Kyle Dubas’ uncle. It’s pretty cool the way things worked out.”

Kyle Dubas of course, was the Hounds’ GM last year and now works for the Toronto Maple Leafs. But it’s a member of the Colorado Avalanche that Senyshyn counts as a role model.

“I’d say Matt Duchene,” Senyshyn revealed. “He plays the game at such a high pace and uses his creativity to create offense.”

With three points in his first two playoff games, Senyshyn’s not doing too bad in that category himself. Draft eligible in 2015.

Michael Mersch, LW – Manchester Monarchs (AHL)

The former University of Wisconsin Badger tied a franchise record by notching five points in a win over Hershey on Friday, but he didn’t stop there. The sturdy Mersch, who doesn’t mind heading to the front of the net, also collected points in his next two games. Drafted 110th overall by Los Angeles in 2011.

Nicolas Roy, C – Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)

When you’re 6-foot-4 and 202 pounds, it pays to use your frame and that’s what Roy has been doing in the Sags’ first-round series against Moncton. Despite being the underdogs, Chicoutimi has the showdown tied 1-1 in part due to Roy’s four points. Defensively responsible, it’s good to see his offense busting out. Draft eligible in 2015.

Mike Robinson, G – Lawrence Academy Spartans (Mass. HS)

A big goaltender who comes in at 6-foot-4, Robinson had to stop a lot of pucks for the Spartans this season and even though it didn’t result in team success, he did catch the eyes of scouts. Along with his size, the University of New Hampshire commit has great technique and quickness. Draft eligible in 2015.

Travis Konecny, RW – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

The 67’s got Konecny back from injury right in time for the post-season and he has rewarded them with his presence. The highly skilled heart-and-soul captain has come out guns a’ blazing with seven points in the first three games in what has been a high-scoring affair versus Niagara. Draft eligible in 2015.

Joel Ek Eriksson, C – Farjestad (Swe.)

A 200-foot player with size and a good shot, Ek Eriksson couldn’t get Farjestad past the quarterfinal in Sweden’s under-20 playoffs, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. The big pivot had five goals and 10 points in six games for Farjestad, who dropped their second post-season series to Djurgarden. Draft eligible in 2015.

John Quenneville, C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

The Wheaties have aces all through their lineup, but early on in Brandon’s playoff series against Edmonton, Quenneville has been a driver with five points in three games. The sturdy pivot has a great shot, skates hard and really competes. Drafted 30th overall by New Jersey in 2014.

Jake Walman, D – Providence College Friars (Hockey East)

The Friars had the benefit of playing their regional games in Providence, but they still had to beat two very good NCHC teams and Walman was key against Denver in the final. The offensively talented blueliner notched three assists in the 4-1 win over the Pioneers. Drafted 82nd overall by St. Louis in 2014.

Nick Boka, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL)

A noted gym rat, Boka has pretty good size ay 6-foot-1, 197 pounds and generally plays a physical, defense-first game. But the University of Michigan commit can also wheel when he wants to and has a nice offensive upside, even if it’s not his go-to skill. Draft eligible in 2015.

Vaclav Karabacek, RW – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)

Baie-Comeau has taken care of business at home, winning both games in their opener against Saint John, with Karabacek doing a lot of damage. The gifted Czech, who plays at a high pace and has some dazzling skill, has four assists already in the series to lead the Drakkar. Drafted 49th overall by Buffalo in 2014.

Prospect Hot List: Casey Fitzgerald’s deep hockey roots

Casey Fitzgerald (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

Since I did a big NCAA dig on Monday, it’s time to focus on some other circuits. Major junior playoff brackets are set and there will be some barnburners – Quebec vs. Cape Breton is intriguing, while a potential second-round match between Erie and the Soo Greyhounds is dizzying to think of. But the big story right now is Youngstown of the United States League. The Phantoms just broke a USHL record by winning 17 straight – and Chicago gave them a good game in that last one. But enough about teams, here are the players making noise in the prospect world right now.

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Prospect Hot List: Hunting for Hobey in Denver

Joey LaLeggia (Photo By Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The playoffs are almost upon us in major junior, while the NCAA conference tournaments are in full swing. Since some teams have already been eliminated, early signing season has begun too, with Brandon Montour leaving UMass for Anaheim and Ben Hutton ending his career in Maine to ink a deal with Vancouver. More are sure to come, but until then, here’s a look around the world of prospects.

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The Prospect Hot List: Captain of the undefeated

Jack McNeely (photo courtesy of Mark Hvidsten)

It’s getting down to crunch time in the prospect world, as the most wonderful time of year is upon us. College hockey has already entered the conference playoff stage while major junior is down to jockeying for berths in the post-season. The high schoolers in Minnesota are already finished and the story of the winners is pretty compelling. Meet the captain of that squad, plus nine other NHL prospects making noise in our weekly round-up.

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Prospect Hot List: Thomas Chabot is burning up the draft charts

Thomas Chabot grabs the puck (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Though a lot of draft choices were moved at the NHL trade deadline, not a lot of prospects changed addresses. Dallas got a couple mid-table guys from Detroit in the Erik Cole deal, but the big prize was Maxim Letunov. The smart and skilled Russian went from St. Louis to Arizona, though he’ll hit up Boston University first. Here’s a look at some of the other players making noise in the prospect world.

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Prospect Hot List: San Jose’s Swiss grinder, Noah Rod

Switzerland's Noah Rod celebrates at the world juniors (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)

Weather permitting, Boston’s NCAA Beanpot tournament will end next week and hopefully I’ll be there. In the meantime, some more important dates were established when the CHL announced the hosts of next year’s Super Series with Russia: Kamloops, Kelowna, Owen Sound, Windsor, Rouyn-Noranda and Halifax. With that out of the way, let’s take a trip around the world of prospects.

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Prospect Hot List: Christian Fischer’s connection to the Tkachuks

Team USA's Christian Fischer (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

Well, I’m writing this week’s Hot List in Toronto because the Beanpot tournament in Boston was postponed due to weather. Not fun, but at least I can try again in two weeks. In the meantime, the Five Nations tournament just wrapped up in the Czech Republic, with Russia winning and Team USA boasting the highest scorers in Matthew Tkachuk (Keith’s kid) and Jack Roslovic. Below you’ll find some of the best performers from that shindig plus other prospects from around the hockey world.

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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.