NHL Prospect Hot List: Washington’s Andre Burakovsky

Andre-Burakovsky

Playoffs in the junior leagues are in full stride, while developments at the world under-18s have been intriguing to say the least. Team USA lost its first game to the Swiss before rebounding, while the Czechs are flying high and Canada is doing just enough to stay up top. Here’s a look at some of the top NHL prospects playing around the world right now.

Andre Burakovsky, LW – Erie Otters (OHL)

With 10 goals and 13 points through 12 playoff games, it goes without saying that Burakovsky is doing well for Erie, but you really have to see him live to appreciate the magic of the winger. Burakovsky loves to control the puck and uses his slick hands to weave through traffic, where a lethal wrister can then be employed to finish off the play. Considering he played against men last year in Sweden, it’s probably no wonder he is flourishing against players his own age now.

“Of course it was a little harder back home,” he said. “It’s older guys that know what they’re doing so you have to be really smart. Here it’s more physical; you have to keep your head up all the time and go a bit faster. And the hockey over here fits me better; I like the smaller ice.”

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NHL Prospect Hot List: Sanheim stands tall for Canada

Ryan Kennedy
Travis-Sanheim

With his NHL debut in Calgary, Johnny Gaudreau officially exhausted his eligibility on The Hot List. But it was a great run for the speedy ball of talent, starting as a member of the United States League’s Dubuque Fighting Saints. In fact, thanks to his three years at Boston College, Gaudreau is likely the most frequent name ever to appear on the list (John Gibson is a likely second). But back to the present: Here are some of the new players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.

Travis Sanheim, D – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)

Currently over in Finland with Team Canada’s under-18 team, Sanheim has made a remarkable jump up the draft rankings this season. This was his first season with the Hitmen, as he spent last year in midget, building up his game and his strength.

“I could get more ice time and play every role,” Sanheim said. “I could go to the gym more, get stronger and prepare for this year to not only make the team, but make a difference on the team. And I think I did that, I jumped into a pretty key role.”

A ninth-rounder in the bantam draft, Sanheim ended this season with a very respectable 29 points and a plus-25 rating in 67 games. But he started off slow, with just three points through 21 games. Once he adjusted to life in the ‘Dub,’ things picked up. He also got more opportunities when captain Jaynen Rissling went down with an injury in December. Another defenseman who has helped Sanheim is fellow draft prospect Ben Thomas. The two formed a pairing in Calgary and also skated together as Canada took off for the under-18s.

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NHL Prospect Hot List: Brayden Point returns for Canada

Ryan Kennedy
Brayden-Point

A Hot List stalwart graduated from eligibility Monday night, as goalie John Gibson made his NHL debut with the Anaheim Ducks, notching a shutout for good measure. Elsewhere, Radek Faksa headed to AHL Texas while Henri Ikonen headed to Syracuse. Most importantly, the world under-18s are coming up in Finland, so here’s a look at some of the names to know there and around the prospect galaxy.

Brayden Point, C – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)

Canada has been tremendous at the under-18 level, dominating the summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament for years and even snagging gold at the worlds last season despite facing a favored American squad in the final. Why were the Americans favored? Because Canada’s roster is hampered by the ongoing major junior playoffs. Fortunately, this year’s edition will have a good amount of experience and Point is part of that cohort. He helped the Canucks win gold in the summer and he learned from playing in Europe. That’s important since the under-18s are in Finland next week.

“I learned how to play on the big ice and what works over there, rather than in the CHL” Point said. “You learn how the pace is.”

And the international duty is also fun because Point gets to play on all all-star team from across three different major junior circuits – not to mention view his competition for the NHL draft this summer.

“It’s cool to see,” he said. “It’s cool to see what they’re good at and the skills they bring. It’s good to see some of the guys I know here and meet some new guys.”

A smaller player who models his game after Buffalo’s Tyler Ennis, Point rang up an awesome 36 goals and 91 points for Moose Jaw this season. Incredibly, the next-highest producer on the Warriors had just 55 points.

“Personally I had a really good season, but obviously I would have liked a few more wins and more team success,” he said. “Hopefully next year we can get to the playoffs.”

But Moose Jaw’s loss is Canada’s gain and when Point is distributing the puck, it usually ends up in the back of the enemy’s net. Draft eligible in 2014.

 

Kasperi Kapanen, RW – KalPa (Fin.)

Scouts have been empathetic to Kapanen’s plight this season, as the teen was overburdened on a KalPa team that leaned heavily on him. Now the responsible winger will get a chance to spread his wings at the under-18s, where he can show off his dazzling two-way abilities and dominate his age class. Draft eligible in 2014.

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NHL Prospect Hot List: Peterborough’s Nick Ritchie

Ryan Kennedy
Nick Ritchie (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

There’s a lot of movement in the prospect world right now as juniors and Europeans find their seasons ending, but the American League is still chugging along. From Robert Hagg and Dylan Labbe playing their first AHL games to Jake Paterson joining Grand Rapids, it’s an exciting time. There are also two intense Game 7s in the Ontario League playoffs Tuesday night, with Peterborough erasing a 3-0 deficit on Kingston and Niagara trying to hold off the favored North Bay Battalion. On top of that, Boston College, North Dakota, Union and Minnesota punched their tickets to the Frozen Four. Let’s take a look at some of the other names in the prospect world that we’re keeping an eye on.

Nick Ritchie, LW – Peterborough Petes (OHL)
When Ritchie goes into beast mode, it’s tough to stop the young winger. At 6-foot-3 and 229 pounds, he’s got the carriage to be an NHLer right now, but the Petes are happy he’s still with them. The power forward had two goals and a helper in Peterborough’s shocking come-from-behind Game 6 win over Kingston, a game in which the Petes trailed 3-0 before Ritchie got the 5-4 comeback started. But to hear the kid tell it, this was always a tight series.

“We were down 3-0 and all three games we lost were close ones,” he said. “Because we were playing so well, we knew the series was far from over.”

Part of the Petes’ success lately has been the top line of Ritchie and fellow 2014 prospect Eric Cornel with speedy center Hunter Garlent, who came over in a trade from Guelph and once played lacrosse with Ritchie.

“Ever since we picked up Garlent, we’ve been clicking,” Ritchie said. “We complement each other pretty well and we all like to move the puck.”

Citing Milan Lucic and Jamie Benn as NHL models for his game, Ritchie also has older brother Brett, the Dallas prospect, to lean on.

“I’ve tried to do everything he’s done,” Nick said. “I still try to watch his games when I can and we get excited for each other when we do well.”

Thanks to his combination of size, skill and snarl, Nick will likely be chosen in the top 12 this summer, besting his second-rounder brother. But Brett is already succeeding in the pros with AHL Texas, so Nick will have to keep working hard if he wants to keep the family tradition going. Draft eligible in 2014.

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NHL Prospect Hot List: Tri-City’s Austin Poganski

Ryan Kennedy
Austin-Poganski

Major junior playoffs are in full swing now, while the NCAA has its field of 16 for the Frozen Four tourney in Philadelphia. As we wait for more college games to be played, there were numerous signings, from free agent Greg Carey to Chicago to draft picks such as Josh Archibald (Pittsburgh) and Gustav Olofsson (Minnesota) leaving school early to join the pro ranks. Let’s look at some of the other names we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.

Austin Poganski, RW – Tri-City Storm (USHL)

The Green Bay Gamblers finally kept Poganski off the scoreboard off the weekend, but it had been a solid run for the United States League rookie, who had 12 points in his previous eight games. On a struggling team, Poganski has been streaky but improving in the second half and scouts like that he has been more assertive as the campaign has worn on. A big fan of Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, Poganski is quite adept at getting in deep offensively.

“I see the ice pretty well,” he said. “I like to pass more than shoot and my strongest asset is going into the corners and playing strong.”

Committed to the University of North Dakota, Poganski is psyched about the chance to wear the green of the Grand Forks boys next season.

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NHL Prospect Hot List: Boston College commit Alex Tuch

Ryan Kennedy
Alex-Tuch2

Two CHL regular seasons went into overtime this week – one controversial, one compassionate. In the Ontario League, the Saginaw Spirit had a game rescheduled in the wake of center Terry Trafford’s death, while a knot in eighth place in the Western League set up a tiebreaker between Red Deer and Prince Albert. Red Deer got two points in the Rebels’ final game against an Edmonton team that rested stars Curtis Lazar, Griffin Reinhart and Tristan Jarry. For more from the prospect world, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.

Alex Tuch, RW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)

Coming in at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds with a heavy power game, Tuch may have had the oddest choice for favorite player growing up: finesse pivot Tim Connolly. Of course, it makes a bit more sense when you know that Connolly’s parents lived next door to Tuch outside of Syracuse, N.Y. and seeing Connolly suit up for the Islanders and Sabres had an effect on young Tuch. And while Connolly played major junior, Tuch is looking forward to playing at Boston College next season.

“I had my official visit two weekends ago,” he said. “I love Boston College, it was my dream school and I wanted to play for a winning program.”

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

Ryan Kennedy
Calgary pick Keegan Kanzig (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

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
Nikolaj-Ehlers

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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