Daniel Catenacci was the first overall pick in the 2009 OHL draft. (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
Is it too early to talk about the 2011 draft? Never! And though there is a lot of time for players to rise and fall, scouting books are already being filled up on players such as Sean Couturier, Adam Larsson and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. But who is this year's Tyler Seguin, the unanticipated fast-riser? How about Niagara's Ryan Strome? He, along with the following players, are some of the kids we're excited to see in the NHL one day.
Daniel Catenacci, C – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Expectations were high for Catenacci coming out of the 2009 Ontario League draft, where he was tabbed first overall by the Greyhounds. And while his rookie campaign was good (30 points in 65 games), it wasn’t exceptional in terms of offensive production. But as a sophomore, the speedster is proving he can be an elite junior player, with 20 points in 16 games.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself last year to perform well,” Catenacci said, “and I think it messed up my head a bit mentally. I let the pressure get to me.”
At 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Catenacci isn’t the biggest player on the ice, but he works hard in both ends and his creativity with the puck makes him dangerous at all times. His faceoff work is also a strong suit, as he can dominate on the dot.
International Scouting Services ranked him 24th overall for this year’s NHL draft and the fact he is a top-20 OHL scorer on one of the league’s weakest teams will only benefit his ranking as time goes on. As for expectations, Catenacci isn’t worried about what being a No. 1 overall pick in the OHL is supposed to mean.
“This year I’m not thinking about it,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the next draft.” Draft eligible in 2011.
Louis Domingue, G – Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
A strong candidate to tend Canada’s net at the world juniors, Domingue is also the Quebec League’s first star for October, thanks to his 10-0 record, 1.96 goals-against average and .913 save percentage on the month. The 6-foot-3 netminder is a perfect 12-0 on the season with a 1.88 GAA and .916 save percentage overall. Drafted 138th overall by Phoenix in 2010.
Oskar Norlov, LW – Rogle BK (Swe. U18)
The leading scorer in Sweden’s under-18 South League, Norlov is a playmaking whiz with 25 assists and 32 points in just 10 games. The six-foot, 157-pound youngster is also dazzling with a dumbfounding plus-29 rating and has yet to take a penalty. Draft eligible in 2012.
Zack Kassian, RW – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Sure, a third straight Memorial Cup isn’t looking like it’s in the cards right now, but the Spits do boast a potent power forward in Kassian, who has put his off-season legal troubles behind him and is producing at a great rate. His 20 points in 11 games is his best pace ever and he’s a plus player (plus-5) for the first time in his career. The Sabres have taken notice and signed Kassian to an entry level contract. Drafted 13th overall by Buffalo in 2009.
Brandon Gormley, D – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
His stock may have slid in the draft, but his skills did not. Gormley, a tremendous all-around defenseman, is back with a vengeance, posting 16 points in 12 games – including eight goals – for the best pace of his career. He even scored a shootout-winner in his only attempt of the season. Drafted 13th overall by Phoenix in 2010.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
It’s incredible Nugent-Hopkins is stuck on three goals through 16 games, but his 21 assists allay most of the fears. On top of that, both scouts and rival coaches in the Dub are still marveling about his overall upside and unmatched offensive creativity on the ice. Plus, he’s killing any worries about his size by throwing some big hits early in the campaign. Draft eligible in 2011.
Mac Carruth, G – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
The Hawks have used three goaltenders this season, but with Ian Curtis having been shown the door, the mantle falls to Carruth and Keith Hamilton. Fortunately, Carruth leads the Dub with a 1.56 GAA and robust .952 save percentage. Carruth is a technically solid goaltender, and his 6-foot-3 frame doesn’t hurt matters, either. Drafted 191st overall by Chicago in 2010.
Zach Redmond, D – Ferris State Bulldogs (CCHA)
Redmond is a big load to handle at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds and so far teams haven’t been handling him well. The Ferris State senior blueliner has eight points in eight games to lead all CCHA defenders and all Bulldogs. The Michigan-by-way-of-Houston product has an accurate shot and is useful on the power play. Drafted 184th overall by Atlanta in 2008.
Cason Hohmann, C – Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (USHL)
After posting a four-goal game against Dubuque on the weekend, Hohmann is riding high in the league standings, sitting second overall with 11 points in seven games. A waterbug at 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds, the former Detroit Compuware star has speed to burn and a pair of sick stickhandling hands. He’s also the United States League’s offensive player of the week. Draft eligible in 2011.
Kyle Palmieri, RW – Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
In his first pro campaign, the NTDP product is making his name known quickly, with seven goals and nine points in nine games. Palmieri, who played for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish last season, is a feisty competitor who plays a two-way game. He grabbed his first American League hat trick last week and nabbed player of the week honors as a reward. Drafted 26th overall by Anaheim in 2009.
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.
For more great prospect profiles and news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.