Travis Sanheim of the Western League's Calgary Hitmen is a high riser for this year's draft and he'll get even more time in the spotlight while playing for Canada at the world under-18s in Finland.
With his NHL debut in Calgary, Johnny Gaudreau officially exhausted his eligibility on The Hot List. But it was a great run for the speedy ball of talent, starting as a member of the United States League’s Dubuque Fighting Saints. In fact, thanks to his three years at Boston College, Gaudreau is likely the most frequent name ever to appear on the list (John Gibson is a likely second). But back to the present: Here are some of the new players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Travis Sanheim, D – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Currently over in Finland with Team Canada’s under-18 team, Sanheim has made a remarkable jump up the draft rankings this season. This was his first season with the Hitmen, as he spent last year in midget, building up his game and his strength.
“I could get more ice time and play every role,” Sanheim said. “I could go to the gym more, get stronger and prepare for this year to not only make the team, but make a difference on the team. And I think I did that, I jumped into a pretty key role.”
A ninth-rounder in the bantam draft, Sanheim ended this season with a very respectable 29 points and a plus-25 rating in 67 games. But he started off slow, with just three points through 21 games. Once he adjusted to life in the ‘Dub,’ things picked up. He also got more opportunities when captain Jaynen Rissling went down with an injury in December. Another defenseman who has helped Sanheim is fellow draft prospect Ben Thomas. The two formed a pairing in Calgary and also skated together as Canada took off for the under-18s.
“We actually play a very similar game,” Sanheim said. “We like to move the puck. Obviously we just have to watch when one guy jumps up, the other has to stay back. A couple times we got caught during the season, but luckily we didn’t get scored on.”
Sanheim is already 6-foot-3 and 189 pounds and has great mobility. Growing up along the Saskatchewan border on the Trans-Canada Highway, the kid comes from the definition of a small town in Elkhorn, Manitoba.
“It has a population of about 500,” he said. “Not very big. But you know everybody in the community, so it’s pretty cool.”
Come draft time this summer, the whole hockey world will learn about Sanheim – if they haven’t already. Draft eligible in 2014.
Jacob de la Rose, LW – Leksand (SHL)
The talented and gritty Swedish winger just signed his entry-level contract with Montreal, meaning speculation has run rampant that his next destination will be major junior. Right now de la Rose’s rights are held by Windsor and he would be a huge addition to the Ontario League team, especially since Josh Ho-Sang will start next season with a 15-game suspension. Drafted 34th overall by Montreal in 2013.
Cole Cassels, C – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
No doubt the Vancouver Canucks need some help from the next generation and luckily for them, Cassels is rounding into form. The son of former NHLer Andrew Cassels is a 200-foot player who has also been racking up the points for the Gens, with 13 through eight playoff games. Drafted 85th overall by Vancouver in 2013.
Connor Hurley, C – Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
A mid-season addition via trade from Muskegon, Hurley has not only put up numbers for the Gamblers, but he has also been the perfect linemate and motivator for draft-eligible whiz kid Nick Schmaltz. Now in a tough first-round playoff series with Indiana, the Notre Dame commit scorched the Ice for four points in a Game 2 win. Drafted 38th overall by Buffalo in 2013.
Juho Lammikko, RW – Assat Pori (Fin.)
A big, powerful winger who can really move, Lammikko has a great battle level to him and the nearly 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame is undeniably intriguing. He put up 42 points in 37 games for the Assat junior team, while also seeing 20 games of duty up with the men in the Liiga. Draft eligible in 2014.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, RW – Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
Fast, talented and smart, Aube-Kubel isn’t the No. 1 threat on the Foreurs – that would be Anthony Mantha – but the youngster already has two game-winners in the playoffs. Overall, Aube-Kubel has six points in 10 games as Val-d’Or girds for a semifinal showdown with Halifax. Draft eligible in 2014.
Kyle Wood, D – North Bay Battalion (OHL)
Wood is an interesting player to keep on your radar. He mostly played Jr. A last season, then missed a good chunk of this campaign due to a knee injury. But he’s 6-foot-5, 229 pounds and brings a nice offensive dimension to his game along with good hockey sense. Wood’s seven points in 13 playoff games ties him for tops among North Bay D-men. Draft eligible in 2014.
Tristan Jarry, G – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Jarry did give up four goals in one game to Brandon, but otherwise he’s been solid for the Oil Kings, who meet the winner of Kootenay and Medicine Hat in the conference final. The netminder has excellent natural ability and leads the WHL with a 1.78 goals-against average, plus a stifling .933 save percentage. Drafted 44th overall by Pittsburgh in 2013.
Simon Kindschi, D – Davos (Swi.)
Kindschi is the type of no-nonsense, reliable defenseman that doesn’t necessarily get a lot of press, but often plays an integral role in his team’s success. At 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds, he’ll be a lot to get around on the Swiss blueline at the under-18s. Draft eligible in 2014.
Anders Bjork, C – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
A finesse player with lots of offensive skill, Bjork was the driving force behind Team USA’s 9-1 exhibition hammerfest over Germany. The Notre Dame commit had two goals and two helpers and looks ready to carry over that success once the under-18s begin in earnest. Draft eligible in 2014.