NHL Prospect Hot List: Kevin Fiala, plus the rise of Sam Bennett

Ryan Kennedy

The NHL’s Central Scouting bureau made waves this week, naming Kingston’s Sam Bennett and Prince Albert’s Leon Draisaitl its top two North American skaters, despite the fact this year’s No. 1 overall debate had centered around Aaron Ekblad and Sam Reinhart. The latter two will captain the CHL’s Top Prospects Game Wednesday in Calgary. Now, Central Scouting has missed on two of the past four No. 1 selections overall (They had Tyler Seguin and Seth Jones), so take the listing with a grain of salt. But it is an interesting debate point. Let’s take a whirl around the world of prospects to catch up with some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.

Kevin Fiala, LW – HV 71 (Swe.)

A Swiss national playing in Sweden, Fiala is a dogged competitor who was one of the more noticeable players in Canada’s world junior win over Switzerland in the quarterfinal. It was interesting to see him stand out, particularly since he also played well against the Canucks in the summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament.

“I was pretty good, but I can always be better,” he said. “Gotta keep on going.”

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NHL Prospect Hot List: Ivan Barbashev and World Junior Championship wrap

Ryan Kennedy

Another world juniors is in the books and no one could have guessed how this one would wrap up. When I began writing this at the Copenhagen airport, members of the champion Finnish team were dining a few tables away at a pizza restaurant. They came in with golden hockey helmets on and yes, they had their gold medals (wonder if they had to take them off to go through airport security) around their necks.

The Finns would lose just one game in the tourney, while Canada dropped three in the end. Sweden lost only once, but it was on the wrong day. Here’s a look at some of the players from the tournament we’re excited to see in the NHL soon.

Ivan Barbashev, LW – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)

The youngest player to suit up for the bronze-medal Russians, Barbashev had to adjust his game from the one he usually plays in the Quebec League, where he’s the go-to guy on the Wildcats.

“Coach told me I need to play much better in the defensive zone because I was on the third line,” Barbashev said. “I didn’t get a chance to be on the power play much, so I played on the penalty kill.”

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The Hot List: Canadian world junior hopeful Taylor Leier

Ryan Kennedy

This will be the last Hot List until I touch down in Sweden for the world juniors and there’s a lot to cover. First off, Carolina has lent Elias Lindholm to the Tre Kronor for said tournament, making the Swedes even more of a favorite. Toronto is still on the fence about sending Morgan Rielly to play for Canada, but either way it’s going to be a star-studded affair. Meanwhile, the CHL named its rosters for the annual Top Prospects Game in Calgary, so there’s a lot to get to on our look at players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.

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The Hot List: Answering Dal Colle

Ryan Kennedy

For a second there, it looked like Team Canada was cursed. First, defender Chris Bigras was hit hard in a game against Guelph, then Jonathan Drouin was concussed when U.S. hopeful Adam Erne of the Quebec Remparts slammed him into the boards from behind. But Bigras recovered from his bump and Drouin sounds like he’s in decent shape, even if he needs a bit more recovery time. Bullet dodged? Canadian brass probably just hopes things don’t come in threes this time. Here’s a look at some of the other players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.

Michael Dal Colle, LW – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
The Ontario League has been a bastion for high draft picks in recent years and the Greater Toronto Area has done more than its fair share of producing talent, from John Tavares and Steven Stamkos to Sean Monahan. Dal Colle is part of this year’s wave and coming from the northern Toronto suburb of Woodbridge, he’s obviously keen on the idea of the NHL expanding to nearby Markham.

“That would be pretty awesome, they’d get a great fan base,” he said. “When you look at Connor McDavid and Sam Bennett coming out of that area, there’s some pretty good players being developed up there.” Read more

The Hot List: McGinn making it rain for Storm

Ryan Kennedy

Canada’s final WJC camp roster is out, with just three cuts to go – two forwards and a defenseman. That means the pressure is off goalies Zach Fucale and Jake Paterson (at least until the tournament starts). More announcements from Team USA and Sweden are coming this week, so you know the world juniors are close. Let’s take a look around the prospect world at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.

Brock McGinn, LW – Guelph Storm (OHL)

Though he didn’t get an invite to Canada’s WJC camp, McGinn has been one of the breakout players in the Ontario League this season. His Guelph Storm squad has outscored opponents 144 to 86 and if it weren’t for division mates Erie, Guelph would be the best crew in the league.

“We’re definitely a fast team,” McGinn said. “When you play good defensively, the offense comes and we’re getting our breaks on 3-on-2’s thanks to that defense.”

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The Hot List: Tkachev shines on the big stage

Ryan Kennedy

For the first time ever, Russia took both games of the CHL-Russia Super Series against the Ontario League. Overall, the series is tied 2-2 thanks to a Quebec League sweep, but the OHL result was surprising, since the Russians left a lot of talent at home and had only beaten the OHL once ever. With an eye on that showdown and the rest of the prospect world, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.

Vladimir Tkachev, C – Omskiye Yastreby (Rus.)
One of the early stars of this year’s CHL-Russia series, Tkachev leads his team in scoring with two goals and four points in four games. To say Tkachev is slight is an understatement; listed at 5-foot-8, 139 pounds, he is downright skinny. But he’s comfortable on the ice and uses a dynamic skill package to make things happen. While he wouldn’t reveal what he thought he did well, Tkachev did relay through journalist/translator Andrey Osadchenko what he can improve on.

“I want to work on my defense and the physical aspect of my game,” he said.

Taken by Moncton in the CHL Import Draft, Tkachev was expected to report this season, where he would have played with fellow draft-eligible Russian Ivan Barbashev. But he stayed on with the KHL’s Avangard Omsk organization and is now playing for their junior team, where he has six goals and 13 points in 12 games. Tkachev was great at the Junior Club World Cup, where his host team took bronze gold and that helped his exposure with the KHL team (he played two games for Avangard this year), but he insists that showing wasn’t a factor.

“Not really,” he said. “That was just a competition for me. We understood what we needed to do and we did well. As for why I didn’t come to Canada, it wasn’t just my decision. I talked to my agent, my parents and we decided that for now it would be better for me to stay in Omsk.”

After the Super Series, the next time NHL scouts will see him play North Americans will likely be at the world juniors in Sweden. And Tkachev is pretty good on big stages. Draft eligible in 2014.

Charles Hudon, LW – Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
Playing on a huge line with Jonathan Drouin and Anthony Mantha, Hudon was excellent for the QMJHL in the two Super Series wins. Combining offensive talent with a great two-way game, Hudon is practically a lock for the world junior team and finding chemistry with Drouin now is a great boon for the winger, who missed last year’s tourney due to injury. Drafted 122nd overall by Montreal in 2012.

Kerby Rychel, LW – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
One of the few bright spots for the OHL in the Oshawa game of the Super Series, Rychel brings an excellent combination of physicality and skill to the table. One second he’s putting an opponent through the boards, the next he’s wiring a wrist shot home for a goal. He would be an excellent addition to Canada’s world junior team. Drafted 19th overall by Columbus in 2013.

Vincent Trocheck, C – San Antonio Rampage (AHL)
Leading the Rampage in scoring as a rookie pro, Trocheck is continuing the fine offensive play that he honed with Saginaw and Plymouth in the OHL. The hardworking center has nine goals and 18 points through 19 games. Drafted 64th overall by Florida in 2011.

Curtis Lazar, C – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
The final challenge for the visiting Russians in the Super Series will come from the Western League, where Lazar will captain the locals for one of two matchups. Lazar was an excellent penalty-killer for Canada at the Lake Placid summer camp and has the offensive hops to contribute at both ends of the ice. Drafted 17th overall by Ottawa in 2013.

Jayce Hawryluk, C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
A hardworking kid who was a surprise addition to Canada’s Ivan Hlinka team in the summer, Hawryluk clearly took those gold medal experiences and put them into practice back in Brandon. The Manitoba native can really throw his weight around, but also has some nice offensive flair, which has given him a team-high 25 points in 26 games. Draft eligible in 2014.

Adam Wilcox, G – University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (Big Ten)
No one in the Big Ten has played as many minutes in net as Wilcox, who is proving that his excellent frosh campaign was no fluke. The local kid from South St. Paul leads the conference in wins with eight, has faced more shots than anyone and is rocking a sturdy 2.25 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. Drafted 178th overall by Tampa Bay in 2011.

Daniel Audette, C – Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
Playing in front of his home crowd in Sherbrooke, Audette paced the ‘Q’ in Game 2 of the Super Series with a goal and an assist in a 4-3 win. Though he’s on the smaller side, Audette has great quickness and offensive prowess. Draft eligible in 2014.

Ryan Mantha, D – Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
A big, stay-at-home defenseman, Mantha actually has two points in his past four games, but it’s the 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame that entices scouts. The University of North Dakota commit is a crease-clearing presence and an ace on the penalty kill. Draft eligible in 2014.

Connor Hellebuyck, G – UMass-Lowell RiverHawks (Hockey East)
Lowell got off to a slow start, but now the preseason fave is rolling and Hellebuyck is in the fighting form that got the team to the Frozen Four last year. The big sophomore leads to conference in both GAA (1.57) and save percentage (.951). Drafted 130th overall by Winnipeg in 2012.

The Hot List: Andrighetto adjusting to the pros

Ryan Kennedy

The CHL-Russia Super Series has begun, with the Quebec League first up for the visitors. This showdown has become much more competitive in recent years and with a lot of players trying to prove their worth for the upcoming world juniors, expect the best from all involved. The last prospect leagues worth following also kick off their schedules this week as high school hockey in Minnesota and New England take to the ice. That and more in our look at players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day. Read more

The Hot List: Sweet Swede

Ryan Kennedy
Linus Arnesson

Team USA had another great weekend of international play, finishing second in the Four Nations in Finland and winning the World Jr. A Challenge in Nova Scotia. The latter featured a star-studded lineup of United States Leaguers, while the former was an NTDP affair. With an eye on those gatherings and the rest of the prospect world, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day. Read more