Sweden's Anton Karlsson brings a great mixture of size, grit and skill. He's having an up-and-down season back home, but is definitely a player to watch, as are the nine other players featured this week.
While the Olympics get to the good stuff, playoffs are also coming up in the prospect ranks. First and foremost are the Minnesota high schoolers, who now know the brackets for the regionals and what hopefully will be a trip to St. Paul and the Xcel Center for the state final. Elsewhere, the first 12 of 16 teams in the Quebec League have clinched post-season berths, with Blainville-Boisbriand and Baie-Comeau duking it out for the top seed. With prospects in mind, let’s take a look at some of the kids we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Anton Karlsson, LW – Mora (Swe.)
Karlsson is looking like one of those juniors who is just a little too good for the kid’s table, but can’t quite make an impact at the men’s level. The youngest player on Sweden’s silver-medal world junior team, he saw very little ice time by the end, but will be an important piece next year in Canada.
“I am a very physical player and I love to take the positive energy to my team,” he said. “I like my role in the game.”
With great size, speed and grit, Karlsson has many tools and must be patient right now. He was captain of Sweden’s Five Nations team in Russia earlier this month, but the squad disappointed and didn’t have the strongest roster possible due to club team commitments. But if Karlsson ever needs advice, he can talk to older brother Erik Karlsson, the Carolina Hurricanes prospect.
“He has helped me very much on the ice,” Anton said. “I don't want to say it, but I love him. We practised together a lot and outside the house I was the goalie because I was younger.”
Anton and Erik began the year together with Frolunda in the Swedish League and both played at the world juniors.
“It is very nice to be on the same team,” Anton said. “We are connected. Since we were kids we played on the same team.”
Unfortunately for Anton, he was loaned out to Mora in the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second-best tier. It’s an opportunity to make a bigger impact and with scouts watching, the crash-and-bang kid will need to bring his best the rest of the season. Draft eligible in 2014.
Nikolaj Ehlers, LW – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
The Danish Ehlers has a ton of great attributes, so his 33 goals and 77 points through 53 games shouldn’t be surprising. The left winger makes plays at high speeds, has off-the-charts hockey IQ and doesn’t mind going to the dirty areas. Not a huge frame, but a lot of NHL potential. Draft eligible in 2014.
Andreas Athanasiou, LW – Barrie Colts (OHL)
With devastating hands and speed, it’s no wonder Athanasiou has made his living on goal-scoring in junior. The Colts sniper was named Ontario League player of the week thanks in part to a seven-point outburst against Niagara and now has 41 goals and 80 points in 53 games. Drafted 110th overall by Detroit in 2012.
Tyler Nanne, D – Edina Hornets (Minn. HS)
Nanne, described by one scout as “Tyler Spurgeon on steroids,” has great vision, acceleration and passing ability from the blueline and has 27 points in 25 games. The Ohio State commit will have to be good for the top-seeded Hornets in their regional, as a tough Burnsville team lurks in the draw. Draft eligible in 2014.
Alex Tuch, RW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
The Americans won the Five Nations in Russia thanks to a final win against the Czechs, but the stage was set by an 8-3 thrashing of Finland. Tuch, a Boston College commit, had three points in that win and brings excellent size and a great shot off the rush. Draft eligible in 2014.
Riley Stadel, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
He doesn’t have a big frame at 5-foot-10, 162 pounds, but Stadel is a feisty customer. Best known as a puck-moving defenseman, the B.C. native is very competitive and has dropped the gloves on numerous occasions for the powerhouse Rockets. Draft eligible in 2014.
Malcolm Subban, G – Providence Bruins (AHL)
Known for his quickness and athleticism in net, Subban has really settled down lately for the Bruins. The first-year pro has won five of his past six contests for Providence and has whittled his stats down to a 2.28 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. Drafted 24th overall by Boston in 2012.
Nic Petan, C – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
With 13 games remaining, Petan has the potential to match his gawdy 120 point total of last season, but even if he falls short he can still be satisfied with his efforts. Smart and competitive, Petan hit the 100-point plateau over the weekend. Drafted 43rd overall by Winnipeg in 2013.
J.T. Compher, LW – University of Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten)
The hard-nosed freshman is starting to heat up for the Wolverines. Compher, who missed the world juniors due to injury, is showing off his skills with three multi-point games in his past seven outings. Skilled and gritty, he’ll look to get that WJC duty in next season for the Americans. Drafted 35th overall by Buffalo in 2013.
Manu Honkanen, C – TPS Turku (Fin.)
Finland’s captain at the Five Nations, Honkanen helped steer his team to a second-place tie amidst good competition. A two-way pivot who is strong on the puck and works his tail off, Honkanen assisted on the winner against Russia in the team’s final game. Draft eligible in 2014.