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.
“I was really happy that my dad made that decision,” he said. “The hockey in Switzerland is a lot better than in Denmark.”
An incredibly skilled forward, Ehlers makes plays at high speeds and doesn’t mind going to the tough areas in order to score. Scouts see him as an excellent complementary player and have even hesitantly brought up teammate Jonathan Drouin as a comparable, as lofty as that sounds. While playing for Biel last year, he even got to practise with locked-out NHL stars Tyler Seguin and Patrick Kane. And along with getting the Mooseheads back to the Memorial Cup for a title defense, Ehlers will be counted on at the world juniors next season with Denmark.
In the past 12 months or so, he helped the Danes get up to the top bracket at both the under-18s and the world juniors; an obvious point of pride for him.
“The thing we have is team chemistry,” Ehlers said. “Every player and staff member would say the same thing. We step up for each other and from the defense comes the offense.”
Though the Danes will be underdogs, folks around the Quebec League can tell you what happens if you don’t keep an eye on Ehlers at all times. Draft eligible in 2014.
Sam Bennett, C – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
The Ontario League’s player of the week, Bennett just keeps on marching through the season and now has 36 goals and 90 points through 55 games. That ranks him third overall in the OHL, but scouts also love the fact he’s an all-situations player that brings a little bit of bite to the ice. Draft eligible in 2014.
Jeff Smith, G – Powell River Kings (BCHL)
A late 1995 birthday, Smith has been one of the top netminders in the B.C. League with a 2.25 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. The UMass-Lowell commit has a great frame (he comes in a 6-foot-2, 205 pounds), good athleticism and a calm air in the crease. Draft eligible in 2014.
Luc Snuggerud, D – Eden Prairie Eagles (Minn. HS)
Named to the All-Metro first team, Snuggerud helped his Eagles get to the state tournament, despite playing with a broken hand. The University of Nebraska-Omaha commit is an offensive D-man with great vision and tied teammate and fellow NHL prospect Steven Spinner with eight points in three sectional playoff games. Draft eligible in 2014.
Tyler Bird, RW – Kimball Union Academy Wildcats (N.H. HS)
The Wildcats won the New England prep ranks “small school” championship on the weekend with a 5-1 scorching of the Dexter School and Bird did his part. The 6-foot-2 power forward popped in a goal for the Wildcats and that goal-scoring prowess is one of the reasons he’s such a catch for Brown University, where he is committed for 2015-16. Draft eligible in 2014.
Jonny Brodzinski, C – St. Cloud State Huskies (NCHC)
The Huskies split a crucial series against North Dakota on the weekend, meaning St. Cloud still has a shot at the regular season title. As per usual, Brodzinski was in on the scoring. An excellent producer, the sophomore center leads the Huskies in offense with 16 goals and 35 points in 32 games. Drafted 148th overall by Los Angeles in 2013.
Arkhip Nekolenko, LW – Spartak (Rus.)
The MHL, Russia’s junior circuit, is already in the post-season and Nekolenko has made a great early impression. The tall, offensively-gifted winger posted four assists in Spartak’s first two games against Khimik, both of which were big wins. Draft eligible in 2014.
Greg Chase, C – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
A good skater who handles the puck well and can do a bit of everything, Chase has rebounded from a so-so draft year and really turned it on this season. He’s up to 31 goals and 76 points through 63 games, far surpassing the 49 points he had in 2012-13. Drafted 188th overall by Edmonton in 2013.
Sebastian Aho, D – Skelleftea (SHL)
An undersized teen playing in Sweden’s best league, Aho has four points in 20 games for Skelleftea. Smart, calm and mobile, the youngster is a likeable prospect even though he comes in at just 5-foot-9 on the blueline. Draft eligible in 2014.
Ryan MacInnis, C – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
With four points in his past five games, MacInnis is starting to rack up the numbers that eluded him for much of his rookie season. But scouts aren’t worried: They see a lanky 6-foot-4 kid with a lot of space left to fill out on his frame and time to do so. Otherwise, Al’s son supports the play and does a lot of different things well. Draft eligible in 2014.