Darnell Nurse has 17 points and 53 PIM in 23 games this season. (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)
Now that the dust has settled on a score of international tournaments, it’s time for a quick breather before world junior talk begins to dominate the scene in December. Lots of players are making draft noise, while the high school hockey season starts soon in the hotbeds of Minnesota and New England. Meanwhile, the NCAA is in full swing and some freshmen are already hot. Here’s a look at some of the prospects we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Emile Poirier, LW – Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
Last year during the world juniors, Gatineau went into rebuild mode, trading away star players such as Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Mathieu Gagnon and Christian Ouellet. Poirier, along with import Tomas Hyka, is part of the new core and is now tied for the Piques’ scoring lead with linemate Martin Reway, another star import.
“He makes good passes and has great vision,” Poirier said. “There’s a real chemistry there.”
Poirier cites departed Piques such as Pageau and Ouellet as influences, though in general he’d like to model his game after L.A. Kings star Anze Kopitar. At 6-foot-1, 183 pounds, he doesn’t have the same size as the Slovenian, but Poirier will get physical and has dropped the gloves more times than his idol.
“When you need to, you need to do it for your team,” he said. “No big deal.”
Gatineau has struggled in the standings this season, but Poirier is still making his mark individually, garnering a ‘C’ rating from Central Scouting. He’s great with the puck on his stick and uses his body to shield it when he’s making plays.
“I try to keep the game simple, do things right,” he said. “I listen to the coach and work hard. And it’s working right now. I have offensive vision, so I can make plays out there. I want to get better at defensive play and 1-on-1 battles in the corner.”
He’ll get plenty of opportunities in Gatineau – a team ready for a player to put his stamp on. Draft eligible in 2013.
Darnell Nurse, D – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
The book on Nurse coming into the Ontario League was that the 6-foot-5, 192-pounder brought excellent skating and snarl to the table – offense was there, but not at the forefront. Well, Nurse has 17 points through 23 games in his sophomore season, so throw that out the window. And with three fights – two beatdowns and a lively scrap with 6-foot-7 Hunter Smith – the snarl hasn’t gone away either. Draft eligible in 2013.
Jacob De La Rose, C – Leksand (Swe.)
With three points in his past three games, De La Rose is starting to open up offensively, which is nice to see since he’s never lacked in the effort department. A big, physical center, De La Rose has been throwing his weight around against older competition all season; now he’s getting on the scoresheet for his troubles. Draft eligible in 2013.
Matt Grzelcyk, D – Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)
Quick offensive defenseman has an explosive stride and has given the Terriers a nice boost of scoring from the back end so far. Boston fans can forget about Adam Clendening’s early departure to the pros now that local product Grzelcyk is knocking off a point per game. Drafted 85th overall by Boston in 2012.
Max Domi, C – London Knights (OHL)
The best checkmark on Domi’s resume is actually the fact London’s coaching staff trusted his defensive play enough to keep him and rookie Bo Horvat in the lineup during last year’s playoff run over older players. But make no mistake – Domi’s a scoreboard kinda guy. With a never-give-up attitude on the puck, Tie’s kid has amassed 13 goals and 32 points in 23 games, putting him top-12 in the OHL. Draft eligible in 2013.
Mario Lucia, LW – Notre Dame Fighting Irish (CCHA)
Potting a goal in his first weekend of college hockey, Lucia helped the Irish sweep rival Michigan and give the squad an early Christmas present. The big-bodied winger – who ran wild in Jr. A last season – had broken his leg in the summer and originally wasn’t expected back until December. Now he’ll have ample time to get prepped for a spot on Team USA’s world junior edition. Drafted 60th overall by Minnesota in 2011.
Marcus Hogberg, G – Linkoping (Swe.)
Every year there’s at least one or two European goalies who seem to come out of nowhere and the backstory is that an NHL scout saw them when they were backing up another netminder. Hogberg, who plays for top junior squad Linkoping, could be that guy. Backing up the older Jacob Johansson, Hogberg has clawed away more starts lately and boasts a .906 save percentage, good for fourth overall in the South division. Draft eligible in 2013.
Adam Tambellini, C – Vernon Vipers (BCHL)
Brother Jeff went to Michigan, but young Adam is committed to North Dakota, where a player with his skill and size (6-foot-4, 177 pounds with time to fill out) is always welcome. Tambellini moves well for a big man and ranks second in B.C. League scoring with 30 points through 23 games. A recent six-point outing didn’t hurt; hopefully dad/Oilers GM Steve Tambellini was watching. Draft eligible in 2013.
Ryan Pulock, D – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Always a great offensive performer in Brandon, Pulock has also taken over the captaincy this season and is leading by example. His 25 points through 24 games puts him second on the team and tops in the league among defensemen (Myles Bell has been playing forward for Kelowna). Pulock has great size and a deft passing touch, especially on the rush. Draft eligible in 2013.
Jimmy Vesey, LW – Harvard University Crimson (ECAC)
A natural scorer coming into a program not known for offense lately, Vesey has lived up to billing, leading the Crimson with five goals and eight points in seven games. Harvard is nationally ranked thanks in part to their dangerous freshman. Drafted 66th overall by Nashville 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 on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play their first NHL game.
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