Grant Besse scored five goals in a win over Hill-Murray to earn the state championship. (Photo by Kyle Oen/VintageMNHockey.com)
The Frozen Four is set, with Boston College taking on Minnesota while Union tangles with Ferris State. Major junior playoffs are also in full swing, while a bunch of college kids have jumped to the pros. Drew Shore signed with the Panthers, Riley Sheahan inked a deal with the Red Wings and Torey Krug is hooking up with the Bruins. Here are a few more players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Grant Besse, RW – Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knights (Minn. HS)
Though the main thrust of BSM’s state championship victory was the way the team pulled together after teammate Jack Jablonski was paralyzed in late December, it goes without saying Besse was the on-ice story. The 5-foot-10 winger scored every Red Knights goal in the 5-1 win over Hill-Murray, capping off an incredible season that saw him rack up 40 goals and 75 points in just 25 games.
“I find the soft spots around the net,” Besse said. “That’s how I score a lot of my goals. Also on high-percentage rebounds.”
The BSM star credited his teammates with springing him on several of the five goals in the state final, but it’s fair to say the University of Wisconsin commit (2014-15) has some individual skill in that department. He’s weighing his pre-college options for now and a stint with the United States League’s Muskegon Lumberjacks is a possibility. In the meantime, his all-around game is something he’d like to improve on.
“Being more reliable on defense,” he said. “My freshman year I was terrible, but I’ve progressed. I’m on the right track.”
Though the final seemed like a cakewalk, the Red Knights did come up against a very good Minnetonka team in the sectional final and that win gave the team a big boost.
“You’re the third seed, they’re the No. 1 and had only lost three games,” Besse said. “Everyone thinks the No. 1 seed is going to win. After that, we realized we had a shot.”
For Besse, there were at least five of them. Draft eligible in 2012.
Morgan Ellis, D – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Since joining the Cats from Cape Breton, Ellis has been more than a point-per-game player and popped in five points in a pair of playoff games for good measure. The recently signed Habs prospect also took home the Quebec League’s Kevin Lowe Trophy as the defensive defenseman of the year. Drafted 117th overall by Montreal in 2010.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C – Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)
As he proved at the world juniors, Kuznetsov has no problem with pressure or the spotlight. His two goals (including an empty-netter) against Ak Bars in Game 6 of the conference semifinal helped Traktor go through to the next round and the youngster now has five tallies in seven post-season games. Drafted 26th overall by Washington in 2010.
John Gaudreau, LW – Boston College Eagles (Hockey East)
The Eagles are dancing in the Frozen Four again and the diminutive Gaudreau is proving size won’t hold him back. The 5-foot-6 freshman had the final goal in a 4-0 regional final win over defending national champ Duluth, which came on the heels of his MVP performance at the Hockey East tournament. Gaudreau has been nearly a point-per-game player as a rookie. Drafted 104th overall by Calgary in 2011.
John Gibson, G – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
The death-knell of the Rangers last season came in net, but with Gibson at the helm, it’s been smooth sailing so far. The big American is rocking a league-leading .957 save percentage so far and has Kitchener up 3-0 in its opening series against Owen Sound. Drafted 39th overall by Anaheim in 2011.
Ryan Murray, D – Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Barring a huge change in momentum, the Tips are not long for these playoffs. Facing an ace Tri-City team, that’s no surprise. But Murray is not going quietly into the night. The all-round blueliner has points on all three Everett goals through two games and is still a plus-1 despite being in a 2-0 hole. Draft eligible in 2012.
Tyler Johnson, C – Norfolk Admirals (AHL)
At this point, it’s just easier to tell you the last time Johnson didn’t get on the scoresheet: Feb. 25 vs. Hershey. Since then, the undersized pivot has been on a tear, with goals in his past nine games and points in his past 12. The rookie pro is now up to 29 goals and 61 points in 67 games and the Admirals’ amazing win streak stands at an even 20. Signed as a free agent by Tampa Bay in 2011.
Charlie Coyle, RW – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
As if Boston U. hasn’t suffered through a painful enough season, ex-Terrier Coyle is laying waste to Cape Breton while BU watches rival Boston College play in the Frozen Four. Coyle kicked off his QMJHL post-season experience with back-to-back five-point nights, obviously making him the top scorer overall. Drafted 28th overall by San Jose in 2010; traded to Minnesota in 2011.
Marcus Hogberg, G – Linkoping (Swe.)
Starring in net for Linkoping’s under-20 squad, Hogberg has already posted two shutouts through four games and a .961 save percentage in the post-season. The playoffs are a great time for Hogberg, an underage goalie, to get his rep going and his 6-foot-2, 176-pound build gives him that big, trendy frame. Draft eligible in 2013.
Justin Florek, LW – Providence Bruins (AHL)
The P-Bruins have brought in a couple rooks lately and Florek made sure his name wasn’t lost in the shuffle. Four-point games will do that. The 6-foot-4 winger pulled that trick off in a recent win over Manchester – not bad for a guy who was playing college hockey for Northern Michigan just a few weeks ago. Drafted 135th overall by Boston in 2010.
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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