NHL Prospect Hot List: Calgary’s Keegan Kanzig walks tall

Ryan Kennedy

Everything is happening right now. NCAA conferences are either in or close to the playoffs, while major junior squads aren’t far behind. In Minnesota, the Edina Hornets claimed back-to-back state high school titles with an 8-2 thrashing of Lakeville North and Wild draft pick Avery Peterson was named Mr. Hockey as the state’s top senior player. Here’s a look at some of the other prospects making noise around the hockey world.

Keegan Kanzig, D – Victoria Royals (WHL)

The Royals are 9-1-0 in their past 10 games and sitting pretty in the standings – though they still have two of the best teams in the nation (Kelowna and Portland) ahead of them in the Western Conference. But Victoria will never get pushed around thanks to Kanzig, a monster 6-foot-5, 242-pound defenseman who is one of the toughest players in the league and has nine tilts to his credit this year. But he doesn’t want to be known as a goon and does have a plus-18 rating this season.

“Fighting isn’t the only thing I do,” Kanzig said. “A lot of my focus is on playing smart defensively. There are times when I need to stick up for my teammates and I’m certainly comfortable doing that.”

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NHL Prospect Hot List: Nikolaj Ehlers sizzles for Halifax

Ryan Kennedy

The NHL trade deadline is tomorrow, which means a flurry of future draft slots and prospects themselves will likely move around the league. Whether teams are more willing to give up first and second round picks for 2014 rather than 2015 (which is seen as a stronger draft headlined by Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel) will be something to watch. In the meantime, watch out for these names – they could be coming to your favorite NHL team in a few years.

Nikolaj Ehlers, LW – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

Gird yourself if Ehlers is coming down the wing against your favorite team anytime soon. The Danish phenom has put up back-to-back hat tricks, plus an assist in each of those contests, to push his points total to 91 with 43 goals through 57 games.

“It’s been a great season so far,” Ehlers said. “I definitely do not regret coming over and it’s not just the hockey, but the city of Halifax, too.”

Born in Denmark, Ehlers is the son of a hockey coach who moved the whole family to Switzerland when Nikolaj was 11 years old. That helped the burgeoning winger turn into the prospect he is today.

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NHL Prospect Hot List: Future Spartan Josh Jacobs

Ryan Kennedy

Hard to believe how quickly this season is going, as the NCAA is almost entering the playoffs already. But before the college boys get at it, the prep ranks will gun for titles. As mentioned last week, the Minnesota high schoolers are in their sectional playoffs, while the New England prep schoolers kick things off this week. There’s a lot to cover before the NHL draft in Philadelphia, so let’s look at some of the prospects we’re excited to see in the pros one day.

Josh Jacobs, D – Indiana Ice (USHL)

Jacobs has all the attributes you could ask for in a modern-day defenseman. The kid is already 6-foot-2, 193 pounds, he plays at both ends of the rink and he can move.

“I think my skating is very good,” he said. “I have a big, long stride and I can switch up from backwards skating pretty quickly.”

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NHL Prospect Hot List: Another Karlsson coming from Sweden

Ryan Kennedy

While the Olympics get to the good stuff, playoffs are also coming up in the prospect ranks. First and foremost are the Minnesota high schoolers, who now know the brackets for the regionals and what hopefully will be a trip to St. Paul and the Xcel Center for the state final. Elsewhere, the first 12 of 16 teams in the Quebec League have clinched post-season berths, with Blainville-Boisbriand and Baie-Comeau duking it out for the top seed. With prospects in mind, let’s take a look at some of the kids we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.

Anton Karlsson, LW – Mora (Swe.)

Karlsson is looking like one of those juniors who is just a little too good for the kid’s table, but can’t quite make an impact at the men’s level. The youngest player on Sweden’s silver-medal world junior team, he saw very little ice time by the end, but will be an important piece next year in Canada.

“I am a very physical player and I love to take the positive energy to my team,” he said. “I like my role in the game.”

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NHL Prospect Hot List: Baillie battles haters

Ryan Kennedy

It may be an Olympic break for the NHL, but all the prospect circuits are still playing and some of the games are biggies. First and foremost, Boston College beat Northeastern 4-1 Monday night to clinch the school’s fifth straight Beanpot tournament, with Harvard taking a 6-2 consolation win over Boston University in the other match. Also, Sweden’s Farjestad team will take on the American League’s finest at the AHL All-Star Game in St. John’s this Wednesday. With all that in mind, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.

Tyson Baillie, C – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)

You would think the second-highest scorer on the best team in the nation would get a little more love, but Baillie has fought an uphill battle for respect all season long. Central Scouting has him ranked just 90th among North American skaters for the draft and he wasn’t included in the CHL Top Prospects Game. But he won’t let the snubs get him down.

“My coaches have talked to me about it,” he said. “I just use it as motivation to work harder.”

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The NHL Prospect Hot List: Gustav Olofsson helping Colorado through tough season

Ryan Kennedy
Gustav Olofsson

The big prospect news of the week is Boston’s Beanpot tournament, where the four schools from the city compete for one coveted trophy. Harvard, Northeastern, Boston U. and Boston College take this very seriously and with the semifinals finished, Boston College and Northeastern will meet to win the prize. Boston College has won the past four Beanpots. Here’s a look at some of the key players from there and all around the world of prospects.

Gustav Olofsson, D – Colorado College Tigers (NCHC)
Swedish born, but having spent many of his past few years living in Colorado, Olofsson had a unique take on this year’s world juniors in Malmo, where he helped the hosts to a silver medal.

“Off the ice it was really nice, just the food and stuff,” he said. “Chocolate, ice cream…just so much to choose from. Maribou chocolate.”

Hopefully the smart, puck-moving defenseman stocked up, because back in Colorado his Tigers have gone through a tough season, where they’ve been pushed around in the first year of NCHC conference play, winning just three games out of 24 in regulation.

“It’s been up and down,” Olofsson said. “Individually it’s been good, but for the team we’ve struggled. But we’re getting on track and all the guys are nice and I’m developing well.” Read more

The NHL Prospect Hot List: Brendan Perlini all over the map

Ryan Kennedy
Brendan Perlini

A Hot List road trip took me to Niagara last week to see the IceDogs host Mississauga and the hosts were all over the Steelheads, winning an easy one 4-1. Meanwhile, the Quebec League’s Moncton Wildcats got a lot more dangerous thanks to the addition of Ivan Barbashev’s buddy from back home, while there’s a new goalie to know over in Sweden. Here’s a look around the world of prospects and some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.

Brendan Perlini, LW – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
One of the highest-scoring draft prospects in the Ontario League, Perlini has been making magic on a line with Toronto Maple Leafs pick Carter Verhaeghe. Ironically, that’s the franchise his father, Fred Perlini, had a couple cups of coffee with back in the early 1980s before becoming a star in Great Britain. So that’s where Brendan spent his winters until age 11, falling in love with both Manchester United soccer and the world of puck.

“Obviously it’s not the biggest hockey market,” Perlini said. “But growing up there gave me an international perspective to my game, playing in Sweden, Finland and Russia. It definitely contributed to my play today.”

Unorthodox, sure. But very effective. Perlini has 28 goals and 61 points through 46 games and has really come along after getting traded to Niagara from Barrie midway through last season.

“My skill sets are the biggest part of my game: skating, stickhandling and shooting,” he said. “I’m a big guy out there and I bring a lot of speed. I tend to create a lot of plays and I try to make my linemates better.” Read more

The NHL Prospect Hot List: Julius Honka golden for Broncos

Ryan Kennedy

With major junior trade deadlines behind us, teams are heading into the home stretch and the Ontario League in particular is looking crazy. Memorial Cup hosts London are in a rough patch and just lost starting goalie Anthony Stolarz for a month to a bad leg injury. With Erie and Guelph in the same conference, that second OHL bid for the final tournament might be gone before the Eastern teams even get a sniff. Here’s a look around the world of prospects and some of the prospects we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.

Julius Honka, D – Swift Current Broncos (WHL)

Honka arrived in Swift Current this fall and immediately went to work, piling up points from the blueline thanks to his puckhandling skills and excellent skating ability. His vision and escapability make him a prototypical offensive defenseman and his 12 goals and 39 points through 38 games put him second among all Western League rookies. Needless to say, the move from Finland has worked out.

“It’s been great, the culture is awesome,” Honka said. “It’s a little bit different, Swift Current is a small town but it doesn’t matter: I play hockey there. There’s a lot of nice people there.”

A newly-minted gold medalist thanks to his Finnish team’s shocking victories over Canada and Sweden at the world juniors, Honka was more of a depth player on the squad, but will be key to any chance of a repeat next year. In the meantime, heading over to the ‘Dub’ for his draft year has opened his eyes and helped his study of the game.

“I’ve learned about how to play Canadian hockey, like North American style,” he said. “The rink is a little different from Europe so that’s the biggest thing. But it hasn’t affected my game. I try to play my game no matter what kind of rink I’m in.”

And that’s a high skill game. Expect to see Honka taken in the first round of a draft that isn’t flush with blueliners. His physicality is a work in progress, but playing over in Canada has at least given him some basics to go off.

“Maybe a little,” Honka said. “But I still keep my focus on my strengths and how I can play hockey.”

That tends to be with a lot of skill and confidence. When the defensive side of the game catches up, he’ll be a load to handle. Draft eligible in 2014.

Shane Eiserman, LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)

With his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame, Eiserman is shaping up to be a potent power forward and sometimes those kids take a little longer to get going. The University of New Hampshire commit had a slow start to the campaign, but now he’s buzzing with five points in his past three games. Draft eligible in 2014.

Scott Kosmachuk, RW – Guelph Storm (OHL)

As part of a murderers’ row of forwards in Guelph, Kosmachuk has more than pulled his weight, leading the attack with 33 goals and 63 points in 46 games. Skilled and quick, Kosmachuk has been held off the scoresheet just three times in the past 20 games. Drafted 70th overall by Winnipeg in 2012.

Josh Archibald, RW – University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (NCHC)

A hardworking player with nice speed, Archibald has been a great offensive producer in Omaha, as well. He’s ahead of his sophomore point pace right now and a hat trick that paced the Mavs to a recent win over Miami didn’t hurt. Drafted 174th overall by Pittsburgh in 2011.

Jack Glover, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL)

Size and skating ability are two of Glover’s best attributes and the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder has also been a prime playmaker for the NTDP. A University of Minnesota commit, Glover is a right-shot ‘D’ who can rush the puck and just needs to let the game come to him. Draft eligible in 2014.

Michael Prapavessis, D –Toronto Lakeshore Patriots (OJHL)

A two-way blueliner with decent size, Prapavessis is a deft playmaker, particularly on the power play. The RPI commit leads the Ontario Jr. A League in scoring by a defenseman with three goals and 41 points in 38 games and has six points in his past five appearances. Draft eligible in 2014.

John Quenneville, C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

A point-per-game player for the Wheaties, Quenneville is riding a five-game streak that has seen the pivot pick up eight points. Detail-oriented, Quenneville is big, strong and has a nose for the net. He distributes the puck and sees the ice well, meaning second cousin Joel Quenneville, the Chicago coach, should keep tabs on the kid. Draft eligible in 2014.

Fabrice Herzog, RW – Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)

Switzerland’s top goal-scorer at the world juniors with three in five games, Herzog is a big, power forward-type with a nice offensive touch and a solid battle level. He’s heating up in the Quebec League, with eight points in his past five games for the Remparts. Drafted 142nd overall by Toronto in 2013.

Oscar Dansk, G – Erie Otters (OHL)

Dansk just had a 10-game winning streak snapped by the Guelph Storm and even in defeat, he surrendered only one goal. Fantastic at the world juniors for the silver medal-winning Swedes, Dansk can really take away the bottom of the net and his 1.97 goals-against average is tops in the OHL. Drafted 31st overall by Columbus in 2012.

Miles Gendron, D – Rivers Red Wings (Mass. HS)

A converted forward now playing defense, Gendron is a great skater with a fluid stride playing for former NHLer Shawn McEachern. The University of Connecticut commit has three goals and 12 points in 15 games, meaning he has been in on nearly half of Rivers’ goals. Draft eligible in 2014.