Matthew Peca was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning at last June's draft. (Photo courtesy of Quinnipiac)
Special shout-out to Erie Otters center Connor Crisp, who played his first game of the season on the weekend – as a goalie. With the backup injured and starter Ramis Sadikov knocked out of the game in a collision, the Otters had to dress Crisp (who was listed as the backup since he wasn’t dressed anyway due to a shoulder injury) or else forfeit. The end result was 13 goals against on 46 shots – and first star of the game. Here’s a look at some of the other youngsters making noise this week.
Matthew Peca, LW – Quinnipiac Bobcats (ECAC)
Though there was a fevered battle in major junior for his services, Peca stuck with his guns and joined the Bobcats after his draft year. The freshman has been money for the team all season, with 27 assists and 35 points in 36 games and carrying that success into the ECAC tournament. At one point, he had a hand in 11 straight goals.
“I’m a great skater – that’s what I use to be effective,” Peca said. “I can get away from tight situations and also get to pucks first.”
Strength is something the first-year winger would like to improve on, not surprising given his 5-foot-9, 166-pound frame. But part of the reason Peca came to Quinnipiac was the school’s Athletic Training program, which can lead to anything from physical therapy and med school to business (where Peca is leaning), so he’s in the right place. A natural center, Peca has been playing with twins Connor and Kellen Jones and the trio top the Bobcats in scoring.
“The way we play, all three forwards can be creative,” Peca said. “They read well off each other and their teammates.”
With an opening round victory over Brown out of the way, the Bobcats now prepare to take on Colgate on the road. If Quinnipiac can get a couple upsets, they’ll dance at the ECAC’s final four bracket in Atlantic City, N.J. Peca hopes his crew can start a ‘Boardwalk Empire’ in town.
“It would be huge,” he said. “This program is still trying to gain respect.”
With a player like Peca on board, it’s a much easier path. Drafted 201st overall by Tampa Bay in 2011.
Devin Tringale, LW – Lawrence Academy Spartans (Mass. HS)
The Spartans had never won a New England Championship until this weekend, when Tringale’s goal with 18 seconds left in the second turned out to be the decider in a 3-2 win over Nobles. A bullish playmaker who sees the ice well, Tringale needs to be more consistent, but when he’s on, he’s on. Draft eligible in 2012.
Johan Gustafsson, G – Lulea (Swe.)
With six shutouts in the Elite League, Gustafsson is among the best in Sweden. Lulea is riding high and for a team that doesn’t score often, goaltending is important. The world junior hero’s .933 save percentage ranks fourth overall and his 1.70 goals-against average is fantastically scant. Drafted 159th overall by Minnesota in 2010.
Rhett Holland, D – Okotoks Oilers (AJHL)
The tough, defensive defenseman was just named to the Alberta League’s South Division All-League team and is currently helping the Oilers navigate their way through the AJHL playoffs, where they are coming off a first-round sweep of Drumheller. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound beast is committed to Michigan State next season. Draft eligible in 2012.
Michael St. Croix, C – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
No Oil King had scored 40 goals in a season since the team joined the ‘Dub’ again in 2007-08, but St. Croix busted that mark over the weekend, with games to spare. The creatively gifted pivot is a plus-39 and only needs a couple more points to hit triple digits for the playoff-bound squad. Drafted 106th overall by the New York Rangers in 2011.
Olli Maatta, D – London Knights (OHL)
A concussion wrecked his world juniors with Finland, but Maatta is back on the horse with London and producing at a solid clip. The 6-foot-2 blueliner has seven points in his past six games for the Knights and is reminding everyone of the potential the patient, poised D-man brings to the table. Draft eligible in 2012.
Quentin Shore, C – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Shore might not be the highest scorer on Team USA, but he has a knack for getting them when it counts. The University of Denver commit has a team-high five game-winning goals this season and two shorties as well. He’ll be the third Shore brother to play for the Pioneers next season and both Nick and Drew may still be there to greet him. Draft eligible in 2012.
Brendan Shinnimin, C – Tri-City Americans (WHL)
Eventually, 120 points in the Western League becomes too hard to ignore. With that in mind, the Phoenix Coyotes stepped in and signed Shinnimin on the strength of his silly offensive season for the Ams. That’s right: the diminutive pivot is averaging nearly two points a game for a very good Tri-City squad. Signed as a free agent by Phoenix in 2012.
Ty Bilcke, RW – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Go ahead and debate Bilcke on fighting – he plays the game and he’s well educated. The beefy right winger was named Windsor’s academic player of the month for February. At 6-foot-2, 217 pounds and with 36 tilts to his credit this year, you know what you get with Bilcke. And the kid doesn’t shy away – he’s thrown bombs with the toughest in the Ontario League. Draft eligible in 2012.
Mikael Wikstrand, D – Mora (Swe.)
Scouts have been very pleased with Wikstrand in recent international play, lauding his all-around game and the confidence he brings to the blueline. Promoted to Mora’s top team from junior this season, Wikstrand is seen as a late-bloomer who is making the most of his chances. Draft eligible in 2012 (undrafted 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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