It's all sunshine this season for California native Nicolas Kerdiles who's lighting it up in the USHL. (Photo by Tom Sorensen)
The world juniors are achingly close and teams are already playing warmup games (Denmark got a particularly rude awakening against the University of Alberta). But before the Hot List becomes completely focused on the comings and goings in Edmonton and Calgary, let’s spin around the prospect world to see some of the kids we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Nicolas Kerdiles, C – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
OK, try to keep up here: Kerdiles' parents came from France and moved to Texas, where the future NTDP center was born. The family spent more time in France and then shipped off to California where the talented pivot took up roller hockey at seven and the ice game a year or two later. Now he's one of the top players on Team USA's under-18 squad, with 11 goals and 16 points in 26 games. He has also been a big-game player for the NTDP, tallying a tourney-high five goals in three games at the recent Four Nations Cup, where the U.S. took first place.
"My speed and puck protection are my biggest attributions," Kerdiles said. "Going wide and using my speed or getting gritty for goals."
A big Jonathan Toews fan, Kerdiles enjoys the leadership aspect of the game and also plans on going the NCAA route with the Wisconsin Badgers.
"It was really an easy decision," he said. "Right off the bat they showed interest and you can't go wrong with the coaching staff there and the community's involvement."
One of the more unique skills of the 6-foot-1, 194-pound pivot is the fact he's an American player who speaks French. Funny enough though, he's got a teammate in the same situation in Stefan Matteau, whose French-Canadian father is ex-NHLer Stephane Matteau.
"We like to mess around with one of our trainers, because he hates it when we speak French," Kerdiles said.
In any language, Kerdiles’ game speaks volumes and he will be highly valued by NHL teams this summer. Draft eligible in 2012.
Radek Faksa, LW – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
The leading rookie scorer in the Ontario League, Faksa has needed little adjustment to the North American game and it certainly eases the transition when you’re 6-foot-3, 202 pounds. A strong shooter with good instincts, the Czech national has 16 goals and 33 points in 31 games. Draft eligible in 2012.
Emil Lundberg, RW – Sodertalje (Swe.)
A power forward who uses his 6-foot-3, 198-pound frame to the fullest, Lundberg is a physical winger who doesn’t mind getting in the dirty areas to create offense. Among draft eligible players in the Allsvenskan (Sweden’s second-best men’s league), Lundberg’s eight points in 30 games is tops. Draft eligible in 2012.
Derrick Pouliot, D – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
In a Western League season where injuries have slowed down several top ‘D’ prospects, Pouliot has quietly marched along in Portland, with an impressive 22 assists and 27 points in 35 games. Largely tabbed as an offensive defenseman with vision and rushing ability, Pouliot’s no liability in his own end, either. He is already close to eclipsing his numbers from last season. Draft eligible in 2012.
Adam Johnson, LW – Hibbings/Chisholm Blue Jackets (Minn. HS)
Leading the Blue Jackets with 12 points in eight games, Johnson’s seven goals account for nearly one third of the team’s tallies. An explosive offensive force, Johnson made a name for himself in last season’s state tourney and is committed to Minnesota-Duluth. Draft eligible in 2012.
Ryan Ellis, D – Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)
There were legitimate questions about how the undersized Ellis would perform at the pro level and so far, he has answered those objections just fine. The superb offensive blueliner has tallied four goals and 17 points in 26 games for the Admirals, making him the leader amongst rearguards on the team. The plus-6 rating is not too bad, either. Drafted 11th overall by Nashville in 2009.
Robbie Baillargeon, C – Indiana Ice (USHL)
Ranked as an ‘A’ list prospect by Central Scouting before the season, the New Englander and Boston U. commit has put down roots in America’s heartland and adjusted nicely. Baillargeon has a five-game point streak on the run and is an ace on the power play. In total he has 24 points through 23 games, using his hands and hockey IQ to generate opportunities. Draft eligible in 2012.
Brian Ferlin, RW – Cornell Big Red (ECAC)
Right now he’s busy trying to crack Team USA’s world junior roster, but the Florida product has been all sunshine for the Big Red this season. One of the conference leaders with a plus-10 rating, Ferlin has chipped in five goals and 12 points in 11 games to put himself second in team scoring. Speed is a big asset for the 6-foot-2, 201-pound right winger, who also put up nice numbers during his time in the United States League. Drafted 121st overall by Boston in 2011.
Sam Reinhart, C – Kootenay Ice (WHL)
His NHL days are a long time away, but the youngest of the three Reinhart boys might also be the most impactful once he gets there. He’s only been 16 for a month and a half, but the Kootenay rookie has an incredible 31 points in 34 games, largely thanks to his playmaking abilities. Draft eligible in 2014.
Christopher Gibson, G – Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
The Finnish national took to the crease against Canada in Suomi’s first pre-WJC tuneup and looked solid in defeat. Whether Gibson or Sami Aitokallio (who played the third period) takes the reins for Finland when the real games start will be an interesting subplot on a team that has all the makings of a spoiler for the Big Four nations in Alberta. Drafted 49th overall by Los Angeles in 2011.
The Hot List, a roundup of minor league, junior, college and high school players we’re excited to one day see in the NHL, appears every Tuesday only on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play in their first NHL game.
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