Johan Larsson has six points in 35 games with Brynas in the Swedish Elite League this season. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Draft winds are changing as the season enters its final stanza and conventional wisdom is out the door. In Quebec, Sean Couturier is no longer the slam-dunk choice as top prospect; many scouts and execs see Jonathan Huberdeau as a smart alternative. Meanwhile, Kitchener’s Ryan Murphy is no lock for the top 10, unless there’s a team that really wants his offensive package. With an eye on all the prospects fit to print, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Johan Larsson, LW – Brynas (Swe.)
Not every Swedish prospect can come from the hockey factory of Ornskoldsvik or a big city such as Stockholm. Larsson’s dream began on the island of Lau, renowned as a getaway for Swedes - part of the time at least.
“Party island?” Larsson said. “In the summer it’s a party. The rest of the year it’s not so busy.”
And it’s not known for hockey, with the exception of one Swedish great, Hakan Loob. But Larsson has emerged from Lau as well, with some comparing him to Sammy Pahlsson thanks to his grit and defensive awareness. Larsson welcomes the connection, but doesn’t want to limit himself.
“Definitely, but I can be an offensive player, too,” he said. “I’m strong, have a good shot, good around the boards, good skater.”
He logged important ice time for the Swedes at the world juniors in Buffalo and is playing for a young prospect-laden team in Brynas. Although he isn’t putting up a lot of points, the fact Larsson is responsible out there is pointing him toward a bright future. Drafted 56th overall by Minnesota in 2010.
Ryan Strome, C – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
With his hands and creativity, Strome is already a prized draft asset, but the fact he’s been piling up the points lately makes his future look all the more bright. The IceDogs pivot has 13 points in his past five games and now sits second in Ontario League scoring with 82 points through 50 matches. Draft eligible in 2011.
Tyler Biggs, RW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Quite likely the first player from the United States League who will hear his name called in Minnesota, Biggs is a tough, mean power forward who hasn’t been afraid of older competition this season, particularly when the NTDP took on college teams. He sits fifth in Team USA scoring this year with 12 goals and 21 points in 36 games. Draft eligible in 2011.
Marcus Foligno, LW – Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
There was much trade buzz surrounding Foligno thanks to his performance at the world juniors, but he’s still with the Wolves and still contributing. The Sabres prospect has nine points in his past six games and leads the OHL with five shorthanded goals on the season. Drafted 104th overall by Buffalo in 2009.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Hard to keep ‘The Nuge’ off the list when he puts up a six-point night against Moose Jaw. The Western League’s top prospect had a hat trick and three helpers and with 79 points in 52 games, is within striking distance of that Dub scoring title. Draft eligible in 2011.
Oleg Misyul, D – Yaroslavl Loko (Rus. Jr.)
A sturdy 6-foot-1, 196 pounds, Misyul has also proven to be a tough customer, leading his Yaroslavl team with 93 penalty minutes in 43 games. But the left-shooting defenseman can also contribute to the scoresheet in other ways, as his three goals and 10 points will attest. Draft eligible in 2011.
Nick Shore, C – Denver Pioneers (WCHA)
For a college freshman in his draft year, Shore has adapted remarkably well to his surroundings. It’s likely a great help that older brother Drew is also on the squad, but Nick’s 15 points in 19 games are all his doing. Using hockey sense and a good shot, Shore is proving the benefits of having family in Denver. Draft eligible in 2011.
Christopher Gibson, G – Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
The Sags have been in turmoil lately and ex-NHLer Guy Carbonneau is now behind the bench, but will his defensive instincts pay off? With Gibson in net, that end of the ice probably doesn’t need much help. The Finnish-American netminder still leads the ‘Q’ with a 2.10 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. Three of his 10 wins have come via shutout. Draft eligible in 2011.
Stefan Elliott, D – Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
The top-scoring blueliner in the Dub, Elliott boasts totals of 22 goals and 60 points through 52 games, along with a stunning plus-42 rating. The Avs have graduated a steady stream of young defensemen lately, but Elliott is proving there’s still talent in the pipeline. Drafted 49th overall by Colorado in 2009.
Craig Wyszomirski, D – The Gunnery Highlanders (Conn. HS)
At 6-foot-3, 202 pounds, Wyszomirski has great NHL size and his stride is one of his best attributes. He recently scored his first two goals of the season for the Highlanders, who have had a few games wiped out due to East Coast weather. A Providence College commit, Wyszomirski led The Gunnery in scoring by a defenseman last year. 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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