The World Jr. A Challenge has kicked off in Yarmouth, N.S., with two Canadian teams plus Russia, Switzerland, Team USA and the Czechs vying for supremacy. A patented Hot List road trip touched down in Ithaca, N.Y., where Cornell played host to Quinnipiac, so there’s a lot to get to this week in our roundup of players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Brian Ferlin, RW – Cornell University Big Red (ECAC)
A native of Jacksonville, Fla., Ferlin is one of Cornell’s leading scorers with two goals and six points through four games. He plays the game fast and tenaciously and clearly has a lot of pride in the school he plays for.
“It’s obviously one of the most beautiful campuses in the country,” Ferlin said. “The atmosphere at the games is second-to-none and the community within Ithaca is awesome. It’s just a great place to play.”
The Boston Bruins prospect grew up a Tampa Bay Lightning fan, even though his dad is from Chicago and reps the Hawks. Ferlin remembers the Bolts’ Stanley Cup run and sees hockey growing in his home state, even if his friends didn’t understand his passion for ice right away.
“I quit football and all other sports when I got to high school and everyone thought it was weird, like ‘what are you doing?’ ” he said. “All my buddies played football. But after seeing what has happened since, they’re all cheering for me.”
Though the Big Red lost to Quinnipiac on Saturday, the game could have gone either way early on. Cornell’s attack has dangerous players on several lines and Ferlin is certainly one of the best threats.
“I protect the puck well and take it to the net,” he said. “I use my speed to take guys wide when I can. My vision is one of my better assets, I try to think the game one step ahead.”
Now a junior, his early numbers put him on pace to shatter his previous season highs – and they love a winner at Lynah Rink. Drafted 121st overall by Boston in 2011.
Sam Bennett, C – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Scouts love Bennett’s combination of hockey sense, elite offensive skill and strength on the puck. He’s quickly rising up the draft charts and though the young Frontenacs have cooled after a hot start, Bennett still has 10 goals and 22 points in 16 games. Draft eligible in 2014.
Nikita Kucherov, RW – Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
The American League’s player of the week already has three four-point outings this year, giving him a gaudy line of 11 goals and 20 points in just 10 games. The young Russian brings excellent vision and high-end skill to the ice and he’s clearly been putting both into practice. Drafted 58th overall by Tampa Bay in 2011.
Connor Clifton, D – Quinnipiac Bobcats (ECAC)
Having watched the Bobcats on the weekend, it’s hard to find a reason why they won’t contend once again for a national title. The blueline was strong last year and Clifton is a new addition that is already helping replenish the back end. The freshman had a huge hit against Cornell to break up a scoring chance and did not look out of place, despite his youth. Drafted 133rd overall by Phoenix in 2013.
Adrian Kempe, RW – Modo (Swe.)
Though he’s playing on the fourth line and has just two points in 12 games, scouts are still happy with Kempe’s play so far in Sweden’s top league. He’s getting decent minutes with Modo and is playing a nice power game, combining size and skill. Draft eligible in 2014.
Jacob Middleton, D – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Middleton was the big prize when the 67’s sent Cody Ceci to Owen Sound last year and the big, strapping defenseman is paying dividends. A two-way player who is good in transition and eats up a lot of minutes, he’s another scout favorite. Draft eligible in 2014.
Cal Petersen, G – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
Last year, Petersen split duty with eventual Isles pick Eamon McAdam, but with the latter at Penn State, Petersen is taking the lion’s share of minutes back in Iowa. The Notre Dame commit boasts a 6-1 record with a solid .928 save percentage and is part of Team USA’s squad at the World Jr. A Challenge. Drafted 129th overall by Buffalo in 2013.
Kelly Summers, D – Carleton Place Canadians (CCHL)
Summers has a big-time shot from the point, but when he doesn’t have a lot of time to unleash, he also has the important skill of just getting the puck to the net. The Clarkson University commit is comfortable on the power play and has decent size, which he’ll put to work for Canada East at the World Jr. A Challenge. Draft eligible in 2014.
Eric Comrie, G – Tri-City Americans (WHL)
If there’s an accurate word to describe Comrie, it’s “workhorse.” The youngster leads the Western League with 18 games and 1,060 minutes played and has put up an impressive .927 save percentage, good for second on the circuit. Comrie will make a push to be one of Canada’s goalies at the world juniors. Drafted 59th overall by Winnipeg in 2013.
Christopher Clapperton, LW – Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)
The BB’s are flying high with 15 wins and just one regulation loss through 18 games and they’re doing it by putting pucks in one net and keeping them out of their own (sounds so simple, doesn’t it?). Clapperton is helping the first part, notching nine goals and 27 points in 16 games using his speed and skill. Drafted 122nd overall by Florida in 2013.