Pavel Laplante is finally healthy and has high expectations for himself for 2013-14. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
It may be the middle of the summer, but I just can’t stay away from The Hot List for too long. And technically there have been prospects on the ice recently, with many NHL teams holding their rookie orientation camps, complete with on-ice components. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the big leagues one day.
Pavel Laplante, LW – Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
If there’s one player poised to rocket up the charts in terms of visibility next season, it’s Laplante. Also known as Yan Pavel, the left winger is dropping the ‘Yan’ since everyone calls him ‘Pavel’ anyway and he’ll be wearing a new uniform since the PEI Rocket have rebranded as the Charlottetown Islanders. But most important is the fact Laplante is healthy. He wrecked his shoulder at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka tourney and got into just 18 games during his draft season.
“It was the worst part of my life,” Laplante said. “It was so hard mentally and physically. I came back strong after my surgery, but now everything is perfect. I don’t even think about the surgery.”
Laplante hit the ground running with 13 points in 18 games before leading PEI with five points in six playoff games. With veterans Ben Duffy and Josh Currie graduating, Charlottetown will need the full Pavel in 2013-14 and he can do more than score.
“I’m the kind of guy who is going to play physically, going to bring character and play PK, play my role,” he said. “Sometimes I try to do too much, play too physical and take myself out of the play, so I do need to work on that.”
Luckily, he’ll be learning in a comfortable environment. At one point it looked like the Rocket were moving to Sorel in Quebec, but they’re staying put now and Laplante is definitely cool with that.
“It’s a small island, so everybody knows everybody and everybody’s close,” he said. “It’s perfect.”
Drafted 62nd overall by Phoenix in 2013.
Michael McCarron, RW – London Knights (OHL)
Yes, McCarron made his decision and unfortunately for Western Michigan University, it was to sign a pro contract with Montreal. That means the 6-foot-5, 228-pound specimen will head to London where he will be guaranteed a trip to the Memorial Cup (the Knights are hosting) and may play on a line with fellow first-rounders Max Domi and Bo Horvat. Drafted 25th overall by Montreal in 2013.
Aaron Ekblad, D – Barrie Colts (OHL)
Canada has been an overwhelming force at the Ivan Hlinka tourney in recent years and a good showing by Ekblad would kick off his draft year in style. The big two-way defenseman grew by leaps and bounds this season and will vie for the No. 1 spot overall with Kootenay’s Sam Reinhart. Draft-eligible in 2014.
Rasmus Ristolainen, D – Rochester Americans (AHL)
Like Zemgus Girgensons before him, Ristolainen is going straight from the draft to the pros and depending on how his NHL training camp goes, that could be the Amerks or the Buffalo Sabres. Either way, the big two-way defenseman is jumping into North American play with both feet, where his grit and big point shot will serve him well. Drafted eighth overall by Buffalo in 2013.
Vladimir Tkachev, LW – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
One of the bigger names taken in the CHL Import Draft, Tkachev will join world under-18s teammate Ivan Barbashev in Moncton and the two have made beautiful music together in the past. Tkachev is a late birthday who needs to put on weight, but the 17-year-old knows how to put up points. Draft-eligible in 2014.
Petter Granberg, D – Toronto Marlies (AHL)
Leafs camps always attract attention, but one of the understated gems this year was Granberg, a no-nonsense blueliner who comes in at 6-foot-3, 209 pounds and is solid in his own zone. The Skelleftea product already has gold medals from the world juniors and World Championship to his name and is coming over to play pro next season. Drafted 116th overall by Toronto in 2010.
Reid Boucher, LW – Albany Devils (AHL)
With Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson gone, the Devils’ offensive needs have become even more dire, but perhaps Boucher can ease the pain. After notching 62 goals with Sarnia in the Ontario League, the crafty sniper proved he could score against men in a short spell with Albany this season. Will he pick it up there or get a shot at the NHL now? Drafted 99th overall by New Jersey in 2011.
Mark Jankowski, C – Providence College Friars (Hockey East)
A late add-on to Canada’s world junior camp roster, Jankowski has packed 15 pounds onto his frame since the Flames took a flyer on him in the first round last year. The project centerman is coming off a nice freshman year with Providence, where he put up seven goals and 18 points in 34 games. Drafted 21st overall by Calgary in 2012.
Anton Cederholm, D – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
The Hawks have some holes to fill on their blueline (Seth Jones, for example), so grabbing Cederholm in the import draft was paramount. A big blueliner who can play at both ends of the ice and do so with authority, he’s slated to join Portland from Rogle in Sweden, where he mostly played at the junior level this year. Drafted 145th overall by Vancouver in 2013.
Chase Phelps, LW – Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
The U.S. doesn’t send many National Team Development Program kids to the Ivan Hlinka summer tourney, meaning others get a chance to shine in the Stars and Stripes. Phelps will be one of those players in 2013. The left winger is coming off an exemplary stint with Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school and is very defensively aware on the ice, while also putting up numbers offensively. Draft-eligible in 2014.
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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