Matt Dumba is expected to go early at the 2012 NHL draft. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)
The world under-18s are in full swing right now in the Czech Republic, where many of the top 2012 and 2013 prospects are showcasing their skills. On top of that, American League playoffs are kicking off and USA Hockey announced an All-American prospect game to be played Sept. 29 in Buffalo. As if that wasn’t enough, we took a field trip to Barrie for some Ontario League playoff action as the Colts faced the Ottawa 67’s. With so much to draw from, let’s look at some of the prospects we’re excited to see in the NHL some day.
Matt Dumba, D – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Heading into the under-18s, it was pretty obvious Dumba would captain Team Canada. After all, he wore the ‘C’ at the Ivan Hlinka tourney in the summer and his Red Deer coach, Jesse Wallin, was behind the bench this time. Sure enough, Dumba has led with aplomb, tallying three goals and six points through three games to lead all blueliners in scoring. With a marquee game compared to Dion Phaneuf’s and P.K. Subban’s, it’s fair to say Dumba’s routine works on big stages and he loves the international battles against the skilled Euros he doesn’t usually get to see.
“What you take away from it is battling and competing,” he said. “Out-willing them, playing that Canadian style where you go out and work hard every shift. Get gritty, get dirty, don’t be afraid to block shots.”
A linchpin on the Rebels blueline this season, Dumba had to do a lot of heavy lifting when injuries ravaged the back end (and claimed hot-shot goalie Patrik Bartosak) and though he struggled early in his role, the Red Deer star evolved by simplifying and thrived in the second half.
“I learned a lot about myself and the character we had in our room,” Dumba said. “It was great seeing us band together as brothers.”
Part of the elite grouping of Western League defenders who all look like they’ll go in the top half of the first round this summer, Dumba was still coy about just how high he’s projected to be selected.
“I’m not even thinking about that right now,” he said. “I’m still playing hockey.”
And Team Canada is sure glad he is. Draft eligible in 2012.
Emerson Etem, RW – Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
Can Etem score at the pro level? Well, so far so good. The former Medicine Hat sniper kept his lofty offensive season going by tallying the game-winning goal in Syracuse’s final game of the season, helping the Crunch secure a playoff spot in the process. Drafted 29th overall by Anaheim in 2010.
Anton Slepyshev, LW – Metallurg Novokuznetsk (KHL)
A big winger with great reach and a willingness to play gritty, Slepyshev has been knocked for his inconsistency. So far at the under-18s, however, it’s been the effective Slepyshev running things, with five points in his first three games for Russia. Draft eligible in 2012.
Nathan MacKinnon, C – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Facing elimination at the hands of the Quebec Remparts, MacKinnon showed why he’s the best forward available next year, popping in a goal and three points in a 5-2 victory to force Game 7. Overall, the talented youngster has 11 goals and 18 points through 10 games, putting him top-5 in the league. Draft eligible in 2013.
Mike Matheson, D – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
The two-way defender was the United States League’s defensive player of the week thanks to his clutch ways. The Boston College commit assisted on the game-tying goal and scored the game-winner in overtime against Muskegon. It was the second straight week he personally sunk the Lumberjacks. Draft eligible in 2012.
Ryan Van Stralen, LW – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
A raw farm boy who already dropped 16 pounds between his first and second Ontario League seasons, Van Stralen is developing into a fine young grinder for the 67’s. His 6-foot-3, 218-pound frame is naturally a lot to handle and his awareness on the ice makes him a perfect candidate for an NHL team’s third line in the future. Draft eligible in 2012.
Collin Olson, G – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Tough to beat perfection. Olson posted two straight shutouts for the Stars and Stripes at the under-18s heading into a showdown with Canada. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Ohio State commit also posted one of the USHL’s best goals-against averages at 2.55 this season. Draft eligible in 2012.
Alexei Marchenko, D – Red Army (Rus.)
The Kontinental League’s junior circuit, the MHL, is down to two teams: Red Army and Omsk. Marchenko has been an excellent engine from the blueline for his squad, dishing out 14 assists and 16 points in 14 post-season games while maintaining a plus-8 rating. His offense is tops among all defensemen and only an injury held him off Russia’s world junior squad this year. Drafted 205th overall by Detroit in 2011.
Niklas Tikkinen, D – Espoo Blues (Fin.)
A fast-rising prospect, Tikkinen has netted two assists in his first three games for the thriving Finns at the under-18s. The mid-sized defender had an offensive impact at several junior levels back home this year and is learning when to most effectively jump into the rush. Draft eligible in 2012.
Alex Dubeau, G – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
It’s never too late to make a great impression on scouts and Dubeau is doing some serious work in the late stages of competition. The Cats keeper boasts a 1.90 GAA and .931 save percentage since taking over in net for Gabriel Girard in the Chicoutimi series. At 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, Dubeau doesn’t have the big, trendy netminder frame, but he does have Shawinigan one game away from the conference final. Draft eligible in 2012.
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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