NHL Prospect Hot List: Could Sam Bennett go first overall?

Sam-Bennett

The CHL is down to its final six teams as all three major junior circuits are on to the final. Meanwhile, the United States League got its draft on, assigning teams to players over the course of two days. And in international news, draft eligible prospects Kevin Fiala, Sam Reinhart and Leon Draisaitl were all given chances with the men at the warm-ups for the World Championship in Belarus. Here’s a look at some of the other prospects making noise in the hockey world right now.

 

Sam Bennett, C – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)

Even though his season ended weeks ago and he couldn’t go to the under-18s due to a groin injury, Bennett’s stock is sky-high. The versatile pivot could quite possibly go first overall at the draft in Philadelphia and even if he doesn’t, Bennett’s combination of skill, strength and valor will have him in the NHL sooner than later. Even though he grew up a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, Bennett has been watching two out-of-towners for inspiration.

“I like Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews,” he said. “They’re great leaders, great players and they play a 200-foot game.”

Bennett prides himself on his compete level and would like to improve on his overall strength, though to hear scouts talk, it’s already hard enough to get the puck off him. Had he been available, Canada might have done better than bronze at the under-18s. Last year, Bennett and former midget teammate Connor McDavid helped the Canucks win gold in Russia.

“That was my best hockey experience,” Bennett said. “We weren’t favored to win, but we rallied together. We got to play in the rink where the gold medal was won in Sochi, too.”

In the off-season, Bennett enjoys wakeboarding and waterskiing, but he’s also excited when he gets to train with guru Andy O’Brien.

“I’ve met so many NHLers through him,” he said. “John Tavares, Jeff Skinner, Nathan MacKinnon…it’s great to see the work they put in.”

And before long, some lucky NHL fan base is going to have the chance to see the work Bennett puts in on a long-term basis. Draft eligible in 2014.

William Lagesson, D – Vastra Frolunda (Swe.)

A big, strong defenseman who is nasty to play against, Lagesson also chipped in three goals for the Tre Kronor at the world under-18s. Already 6-foot-2 and nearly 200 pounds, Lagesson was picked up by Dubuque in the first round of the USHL draft, so perhaps we’ll see him over here sooner than later. Draft eligible in 2014.

Felix Girard, C – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)

Girard has won an outstanding 68 percent of his faceoffs through the first two games of the Quebec League final, helping the Drakkar take one of two from the Val-d’Or Foreurs. The hardworking pivot is actually getting better as the playoffs go deeper. Drafted 95th overall by Nashville in 2013.

Phil Baltisberger, D – Guelph Storm (OHL)

The Swiss national plays a fundamentally sound game on the back end – not flashy, but he keeps things safe. A sturdy 6-foot-1 and 214 pounds, Baltisberger has five points in 17 playoff games for the Storm and also represented Switzerland at the world juniors. Draft eligible in 2014.

Axel Holmstrom, C – Skelleftea (SHL)

Playing on a line with Willie Nylander certainly didn’t hurt, but Holmstrom proved what a sparkplug he can be at the world under-18s, ringing up 11 points in seven games. An injury at the start of the season cast a shadow on the strong young pivot, but now the world knows just what kind of skill he can bring. Draft eligible in 2014.

Keegan Iverson, C – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

On a deep team, Iverson will have to bide his time before he gets the big minutes. But the burgeoning power forward already plays the game heavy and with a great edge, so scouts are happy. In the meantime, he’s contributing to the Hawks’ run with seven points in 16 playoff games. Draft eligible in 2014.

Chase Perry, G – Wenatchee Wild (NAHL)

Big, flexible and athletic, Perry is a netminder to watch for in the middle rounds of the draft this summer. The Colorado College commit was just named to the North American League’s all-rookie team and put up a 1.83 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in 10 playoff games. Draft eligible in 2014.

Seth Griffith, RW – Providence Bruins (AHL)

Griffith has always been a sniper and now that he’s in the pros, he’s starting to round out his game. Nonetheless, shooting the puck with confidence and producing has always been his ace in the hole. Through five post-season games, Griffith has two goals and six points, tying him for second among rookies. Drafted 131st overall by Boston in 2012.

Josh Jacobs, D – Indiana Ice (USHL)

The Michigan State commit started off slow offensively in the playoffs, but hit his stride with two points in a three-game series sweep of Dubuque. Now Jacobs and the Ice have a chance to win the USHL title before the franchise goes dormant due to arena issues. The stage is set versus Waterloo for the smooth-skating, athletic defenseman. Draft eligible in 2014.

Cal Petersen, G – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)

The Hawks will meet Indiana in the final with a hot goaltender on their side. Petersen turned aside 37 in the semifinal clincher against Sioux City and is rocking a solid .922 save percentage overall in the playoffs. The big Notre Dame commit’s only loss so far in the post-season came in overtime. Drafted 129th overall by Buffalo in 2013.