Brandon Pirri skates in the 3-on-1 drill in the recent Jr. A prospects skills competition. (Photo by Nancy MacPhee/Transcontinental Media)
There was no bigger trade this season than John Tavares going to London in the Ontario League and J.T. worked his magic early for the Knights. But since we’ve become well accustomed to the ways of Tavares, let’s shine the spotlight elsewhere this week and catch up a bit on Central Scouting’s mid-term movers and shakers.
1. Brandon Pirri, C – Georgetown Raiders (OPJHL): While most of the cameras were focused on Ottawa over the Christmas break, Pirri and his Jr. A mates were defending the Canadian flag on another front, at the World Jr. A Challenge in British Columbia. Though Pirri’s Canada East squad would settle for bronze, the pivot led the team in scoring with seven points in four games.
“It’s a whole different game when you’re playing for your country,” Pirri said. “Everyone played with their hearts on the line.”
This season, Pirri has put everything on the line, tallying 72 points in 34 games split between Georgetown and the team that traded him, the Streetsville Derbys.
“It’s a more structured program here,” Pirri said of the Raiders. “It’s a little older of a group and hopefully we can take a run at the RBC Cup.”
With a commitment to R.P.I., Pirri will be bound for upstate New York next season and though he will be drafted this year, he is in no hurry to get to the NHL.
“For me to be successful, I need to get bigger,” he said. “I think I haven’t fully developed. By playing consistently well, scouts will see that I’m a player, that I’m a leader and that I can take a team far. My work ethic defines me as a player.”
With his offense, Pirri can make it happen and is equally adept at playmaking as he is with scoring.
“I like to have the puck on my stick,” he noted. So far, the Raiders have enjoyed it too.
Draft eligible in 2009.
2. Nazem Kadri, C – London Knights (OHL): He’s the one wearing No. 91 in London, but the addition of Tavares will give Kadri some needed exposure as broken jaw hindered his world junior aspirations. With 47 points in 30 games, the slick center can do it all himself and gaudy stats never hurt in your draft year. Draft eligible in 2009.
3. Martin Jones, G – Calgary Hitmen (WHL): Geez, has anyone noticed the Hitmen have only lost eight times in 46 games this season? Jones, a big-framed goaltender, has certainly helped the cause, leading the Dub with a 1.92 goals-against average and an incredible 27-3-2 record. Signed as free agent with Kings.
4. Casey Pierro-Zabotel, LW – Vancouver Giants (WHL): As impressive as Calgary has been, Vancouver has only lost six times in 40 outings and CPZ has played a big part. The hotshot left winger is threatening to go wire-to-wire for the Dub scoring crown and currently has 69 points and a sick plus-44 through 40 games. Drafted 80th overall by Pittsburgh in 2007.
5. Dmitry Kulikov, D – Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL): After a successful WJC appearance, Kulikov and the Volts will be looking for more than a bronze medal in the second half. Still more than a point-per-game player from the blueline, the young Russian is also a solid plus-20. Draft eligible in 2009.
6. Austin Smith, RW – Colgate Raiders (ECAC): After a solid campaign with Penticton of the BCHL last year, Smith is continuing his scoring prowess in the NCAA. The slight right winger (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) has 21 points in 20 games, including two shorthanded goals. As a Dallas native, he could suit up for his hometown Stars in the future. Drafted 128th overall by Dallas in 2007.
7. John Moore, D – Chicago Steel (USHL): Ranked highly by Central Scouting right now, Moore is rounding into a real nice prospect this season. He leads all United States League defensemen in scoring with 27 points in 29 games, with just more than half that production coming on the power play and a couple shorthanded points to boot. Moore has an NHL frame to work with, so the draft combine could be huge for him. Draft eligible in 2009.
8. Simon Despres, D – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL): As the top-ranked player in the ‘Q’ according to Central Scouting, Despres will be one to watch down the stretch, especially since he has vaulted past big names such as Kadri and Jared Cowen in the North American rankings. At 6-foot-4, 216 pounds, the defenseman is an imposing figure. Draft eligible in 2009.
9. Edward Pasquale, G – Saginaw Spirit (OHL): Pasquale’s .913 save percentage isn’t bad, but it’s the fact he has seen a league-high 1,257 shots and maintained decent stats that make this workhorse one to watch. The burly Pasquale (6-foot-2, 216 pounds) is the top-rated North American goalie according to Central Scouting. Draft eligible in 2009.
10. Jordan Caron, RW – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL): A solidly built winger, Caron will get a chance to shine on the national stage in the Memorial Cup thanks to his Oceanic hosting the event. He currently sits at 30 points in 32 games. Draft eligible in 2009.
The Hot List, a weekly 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.
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