Teddy Blueger has eight points in 14 WCHA games this season, after being drafted in the second round (52nd overall) by Pittsburgh last summer. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
Preliminary world junior rosters are seeping out and already there are some surprises. Sweden, which has to go young thanks to injuries and AHL commitments, did not pick 2013-eligible Andre Burakowsky, though several others will get a chance. And it looks like Team Canada will get ‘The Nuge,’ as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins says he wants to suit up. There’s a whole lot going on, so let’s take a look at some of the other players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Teddy Blueger, C – Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks (WCHA)
The Latvian preliminary roster is out and to much less fanfare than the power nations, but that’s OK; the scrappy Baltic boys are still excited to be in the mix and for Blueger, this will be his second go-around against the best in the world.
“It was tough for us being the underdog in every game last year,” he said. “But it was good. We know what it’s like now, what to expect and what the pace is.”
As a freshman at MSU-Mankato, Blueger is used to playing tougher, older competition and the Latvians will lean on him and Buffalo Sabres first-rounder Zemgus Girgensons (currently in the AHL) for offense and leadership. Coming off a national championship with Shattuck St-Mary’s, the gritty and talented Blueger is getting accustomed to NCAA hockey and had a three-assist night on Sunday, pushing his point total up to eight points in 14 games.
“Personally, I feel I’ve adjusted pretty well,” he said. “I can go into the corners with these guys so physically, I feel fine.”
The Mavs are hot right now, sweeping Wisconsin and Bemidji State in their past four games. With Blueger joining an array of scorers and sizzling freshman netminder Stephon Williams, the team’s mission this season doesn’t seem far-fetched.
“The goal is to get home ice for the playoffs and reach the Final Five,” he said. “We’re capable of doing that.”
And with Blueger in the lineup for a few more years, the Mavs look to be on their way up the ladder. Drafted 52nd overall by Pittsburgh in 2012.
Dmitri Jaskin, LW – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
Saturday marked the first time in more than a month that Jaskin was held off the scoresheet. The Russian-born Czech now has 22 goals and 45 points through 28 games, putting him among the top-five scorers in the league. That bodes well for the Czech world junior squad, which will have a stronger arsenal of weapons to work with than in previous years. Drafted 41st overall by St. Louis in 2011.
Brett Pesce, D – University of New Hampshire Wildcats (Hockey East)
Though he has tallied just two points through 14 games, Pesce is a true freshman on one of the best NCAA teams in the nation and he’s being trusted with ice time – a very good sign. Pesce is excellent with the puck and rarely gets rattled, plus he’s a good skater. Draft eligible in 2013.
Thomas Aldworth, C – Cushing Academy Penguins (Mass. HS)
A speed demon whose dash is being compared to Chris Kreider’s, Aldworth will be a key player to watch in the prep ranks this season. The Providence College commit has already rescued his Penguins once, notching the game-tying goal in a 2-2 tie versus Avon Old Farms. Draft eligible in 2013.
Morgan Klimchuk, LW – Regina Pats (WHL)
A five-point outing against Spokane certainly helped, but Klimchuk is now averaging more than a point per game, with 36 through 30 contests. More telling is the fact he’s been a plus player in games when he hasn’t registered a point and has an even rating this season despite skating for a team that has given up 23 more goals than it has scored. Draft eligible in 2013.
Parker Reno, D – Edina Hornets (Minn. HS)
It’s important for scouts that Reno be a dominant player this season. He’s got a big frame and all the tools to be a pro, which is why Saturday’s four-assist performance against Maple Grove is so positive. Reno’s nine helpers in five games is tops in the state. Draft eligible in 2013.
Luke Johnson, C – Lincoln Stars (USHL)
After a slow start to the season, Johnson is catching fire with six points in his past five games, scoring in each contest. A two-way player who was a warrior for the Stars last season, the North Dakota commit can be tough to play against and also brings vision and hockey sense. Draft eligible in 2013.
Alexander Wennberg, C – Djurgarden (Swe.)
A decent-sized player who’s not afraid to go to the dirty areas to score, Wennberg also possesses a nice shot. He’s second among all junior scorers in Sweden’s second-best league with 10 goals and 16 points in 27 games and made the cut for the world junior preliminary roster ahead of older, bigger names. Draft eligible in 2013.
Frank Corrado, D – Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
Though the road to Ufa will be treacherous, Corrado’s play this season earned him the spot on Canada’s preliminary world junior roster. He’s physical, shuts down top opponents and can even chip in offensively, meaning he has a chance to crack that vaunted top seven blueline corps. Drafted 150th overall by Vancouver in 2011.
Garret Sparks, G – Guelph Storm (OHL)
Ever since getting blitzed by Brampton last month, Sparks has been on a tear for the Storm. The big netminder has given up two goals or less in his past seven starts, losing just one in regulation. If John Gibson’s hip is still wonky for the world juniors, Sparks will have a good shot at Team USA’s crease in Russia. Drafted 190th overall by Toronto 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 on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play their first NHL game.
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