Cody Eakin had 44 points in 26 games with Kootenay after being traded from Swift Current. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
We’re in the thick of the Memorial Cup and so far offense has proven to be the victor over defense when it comes to team strategies. One team that doesn’t have to be worried about strategy anymore is the Dubuque Fighting Saints, who won the United States League’s Clark Cup over Green Bay and did it as an expansion team. With those big games in mind, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Gabriel Bourret, D – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
There will be a lot of Sea Dogs drafted this year and one of the most underappreciated of the lot is late birthday Bourret. A hard-working defenseman with vision and a good first pass, Bourret had eight goals and 33 points during the regular season, but spent his opening night at the Memorial Cup tangling with Mississauga’s most dangerous players in front of the net, including Casey Cizikas and Devante Smith-Pelly.
“I know I’m not the biggest guy,” said the six-foot, 190-pound Bourret. “But I try to be good with my stick to compensate when I battle in front of the net.”
A bit of a late-bloomer, Bourret made a name for himself during last year’s Quebec League playoffs, when an injury to Kevin Gagne opened the door. Bourret played 19 games in the post-season, which was close to the 37 he dressed for during the whole 2009-10 regular season.
“Last year was a pretty good year for me, I learned a lot,” Bourret said. “We lost in the final and we didn’t want to do that again, so we worked really hard this year.”
That hard work paid off as Saint John clinched a QMJHL title and has been the class of the Memorial Cup so far. While the team is known for its offensive weapons, players such as Bourret have been just as crucial. Draft eligible in 2010.
Tomas Jurco, RW - Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
It’s been an impressive Memorial Cup for Jurco so far. In the opener against Mississauga he showed off the scoring prowess he’s known for, plus some robust physical play; the Slovak dished out hits just as well as he took them. Against Owen Sound, he had points on two of three Saint John goals. Draft eligible in 2011.
Matt Morris, G – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
He’s not getting a lot of respect from the scouting bureaus, but Morris now has a league title and a playoff MVP crown to his name. At 5-foot-10, he’s not a huge netminder, but he did boast a 1.53 goals-against average and .943 save percentage during the post-season and stopped 37 shots in the finale. Draft eligible in 2011.
John Gaudreau, C – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
Very small, but very skilled, the 5-foot-6, 141-pound Gaudreau was once again an offensive catalyst for the Saints in the playoffs. He led the team in scoring with 11 points in 11 games, putting him second in the USHL in the category. Draft eligible in 2011.
Stuart Percy, D – Mississauga-St. Michael’s Majors (OHL)
Some scouts aren’t sure what kind of defenseman Percy is, but maybe it’s because he does everything. The youngster kills penalties, works the power play and logs a lot of ice time in general for the Majors. During the regular season, he was an incredible plus-50 for Mississauga. Draft eligible in 2011.
Andrew Shaw, C – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
The Attack’s excellent run to the Memorial Cup couldn’t have happened without big contributions from undrafted players such as Shaw. The feisty pivot actually sat atop the tourney’s leaderboard after two games with four points (tied with Saint John’s Michael Kirkpatrick) and was a demon on the penalty-kill. Draft eligible in 2011 (undrafted in 2010)
Cody Eakin, C – Kootenay Ice (WHL)
It’s been a bit of a nightmare tournament for the kids from Kootenay so far, having lost captain Brayden McNabb to suspension for a game and scoring just one goal through two losses, but Eakin has done his darndest. The Team Canada alum has the Ice’s only tally and created a lot of chances in the shutout loss to Owen Sound. Drafted 85th overall by Washington in 2009.
Jonathan Huberdeau, C – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
How can you keep Huberdeau off this list? The elite center had the overtime-winner against Owen Sound that guaranteed the Dogs a berth in the final and has been magic in both of his games. The quick hands are dazzling to watch and are matched by how fast he thinks the game. Plus, Huberdeau kills penalties, so he’s always a threat. Draft eligible in 2011.
Jordan Binnington, G – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Hard to believe Binnington didn’t even start the OHL final for the Attack, but that just proves what depth the team has in net. Once the kid took over in Game 6, however, Owen Sound has been magic, with an overtime loss to Saint John the only blemish. Binnington is big (6-foot-2) and quick and knows how to control a scramble in front of his castle. Draft eligible in 2011.
Rob Flick, C – Mississauga-St. Michael’s Majors (OHL)
A punishing customer who loves to throw his weight around, the 6-foot-2, 208-pound Flick can put the puck in the net, too. Against Kootenay, the junior veteran’s timing couldn’t have been better as he potted the winner midway through the third period. Drafted 120th overall by Chicago in 2010.
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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