Picked 26th overall by Washington in 2010, Evgeny Kuznetsov has 17 points in 32 games with the Kontinental League's Traktor Chelyabinsk. (Photo by Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images)
Congratulations one more time to the Russians for their dramatic World Junior Championship victory in Buffalo, but those party animals weren’t the only winners over the holidays. At the World Under-17 Challenge in Winnipeg, director of operations and team architect Rob Kitamura led Team Ontario to the title over the U.S. for his third gold medal in four years.
Gabriel Landeskog is your new No. 1 according to Central Scouting. Here’s a look at some of the other kids we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C – Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)
He stole the show against the Finns in the quarterfinal and helped break Canada’s collective hearts in the gold medal game, doing so with his sublime offensive skills and ability never to give up on a play or a game. Kuznetsov earned all-tourney honors in Buffalo thanks to his 12 points in seven games – only Brayden Schenn tallied more – and he’s already more than doubled his production in the Kontinental League year over year.
“I have experience and I have a great new coach,” Kuznetsov said through a translator. “That’s why I’m playing well this season.”
And with Washington fans seeing just what this young Russian can do with the spotlight on him, it’s fair to say the question of when he’ll come to North America is fresh on everyone’s mind. Kuznetsov took part in the Capitals’ rookie camp over the summer and used the opportunity to check out the team facilities and get a sense of what life would be like over here.
“Right now,” he said, “I’m thinking about what to do next season.”
Based on the early returns (and his new gold medal), it’s safe to say that decision will be an important one for the Caps’ near future. Drafted 26th overall by Washington in 2010.
Matt Dumba, D – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Give Dumba the Ryan Whitney award for his play at the under-17s with Team Pacific. The Rebels rookie led all tournament scorers with 12 points – all assists – in six games for his third-place team. A true competitor with puck-moving skills, Dumba has, ironically, been more of a goal-scorer with Red Deer this year, notching 10 goals and 14 points in 38 games. Draft eligible in 2012.
Jacob Trouba, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
A key member of the national team development program’s under-17 team, Trouba was second in scoring by a blueliner in Winnipeg with two goals and nine points in six games for the silver medal squad. Scouts liken the 6-foot-1 youngster to Anaheim’s Cam Fowler, but with more snarl. Intrigued yet? Draft eligible in 2012.
Jonathan Huberdeau, C – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
A fast riser in the Central Scouting books, Huberdeau has been on a monstrous tear pretty much since late last season for the Sea Dogs. The lanky pivot has great hands, great speed and he’s not afraid to play through traffic, which helps explain why he has shot up to second in Quebec League scoring with 27 goals and 65 points in 40 games. Draft eligible in 2011.
Justin Faulk, D – University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (WCHA)
One of Team USA’s most impressive players in Buffalo, Faulk was very active from the blueline and looked great on the power play. He’s also been an offensive catalyst for UMD, leading the Bulldogs in scoring by a defenseman with 15 points in 18 games. Drafted 37th overall by Carolina in 2010.
Daniel Altshuller, G – Nepean Raiders (CJHL)
With the best goalie stats at the under-17 tournament, Altshuller boasted a perfect 5-0 record for Team Ontario en route to the gold. The Nepean netminder ended the tourney with a 1.66 goals-against average, .924 save percentage and a shutout. Playing against older competition in Jr. A, Altschuller has used his size and lateral movement to earn the second-best save percentage in the league at .916. Draft eligible in 2012.
Cody Eakin, C – Kootenay Ice (WHL)
One of Canada’s best forwards in the medal round, Eakin was a constant threat to the opposition in Buffalo thanks to his speed and tenacity. Though he left the Dub as a member of the Swift Current Broncos, he’s now back from the world juniors with a new team in Kootenay, where the Ice will love his 39 points through 30 games. Drafted 85th overall by Washington in 2009.
Eric Locke, C – Barrie Colts (OHL)
One of the feel-good stories of the year in the Ontario League, Locke went from being a late-round draft pick to one of the circuit’s top rookie scorers, notching 19 goals and 33 points in 38 games for Windsor. Unfortunately for Locke, the Spitfires are taking another run at the top, so he was dealt to rebuilding Barrie, but he’ll get a chance to shine there both now and next season. Draft eligible in 2012.
Rickard Rakell, RW – Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Gritty, gifted and active, Rakell was constantly mixing it up on behalf of Sweden at the world juniors. Back in Plymouth, he’s been nearly a point-per-game player. A plethora of tools has even put him past high-scoring teammate Stefan Noesen in Central Scouting’s latest rankings. Draft eligible in 2011.
Miikka Salomaki, C – Karpat Oulu (Fin.)
Salomaki was all over the ice for Finland at the world juniors and though his physical play sometimes got him in penalty trouble, the grit he displayed was likely a plus for scouts in attendance. The youngster tallied three points and a plus-3 rating in six games for the Finns and has played most of the season against men with Karpat’s top team. Draft eligible 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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