This will be the last Hot List until I touch down in Sweden for the world juniors and there’s a lot to cover. First off, Carolina has lent Elias Lindholm to the Tre Kronor for said tournament. Toronto is still on the fence about sending Morgan Rielly to play for Canada, but either way it’s going to be a star-studded affair.
This will be the last Hot List until I touch down in Sweden for the world juniors and there’s a lot to cover. First off, Carolina has lent Elias Lindholm to the Tre Kronor for said tournament, making the Swedes even more of a favorite. Toronto is still on the fence about sending Morgan Rielly to play for Canada, but either way it’s going to be a star-studded affair. Meanwhile, the CHL named its rosters for the annual Top Prospects Game in Calgary, so there’s a lot to get to on our look at players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Taylor Leier, LW – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
As a bit of an underdog at Canada’s world junior camp, Leier has made sure that his quickness and attention to detail are on point, because he won’t necessarily be counted on for big goal-scoring should he make the final cut. Which is funny, because the Portland winger sits eleventh in league scoring with 43 points through 31 games. Instead, he played on a defensive line with Scott Laughton and Felix Girard in Canada’s exhibition game against a select group of CIS (Canadian university) players.
“Everyone knows what their role is coming in here,” Leier said. “It's fine to shut down the other team’s top line. I’m willing to play any role.”
Thanks to his time with the Winterhawks, Leier is used to pressure situations and has used past WHL experience to calm himself during the tryout process.
“I’ve been to the final every year I’ve played in the WHL,” he said. “Those are big stages. Last year the Memorial Cup was a big stage too. All the experience helps in the long-run.”
Coming from a team that frequently graduates players into the NHL has also been an eye-opener for the Saskatoon native, whose growth in the PDX earned him the captaincy on the U.S. Division-leading team this season.
“When I was 17 I played with guys like Sven Baertschi and Ty Rattie,” Leier said. “You look up to those guys and they were a bonus for me.”
While he wants to improve on his skating, Leier is already pretty speedy out there and being able to score as well as prevent can only help his case, as Canada decides which two forwards won’t make the final roster for Malmo. Drafted 117th overall by Philadelphia in 2012.
Zach Sanford, LW – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
The power forward-in-the-making has been hot for the Hawks, knocking in eight points in his past four games in a span where the team went 3-0-1. The Boston College recruit still needs to fill out his 6-foot-4 frame, but once he does, Sanford has the hands and puck possession skills to make a difference. Drafted 61st overall by Washington in 2013.
Damon Severson, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
In Canada’s 3-0 win over the CIS Selects, Severson once again killed penalties effectively, but also moved the puck with poise and purpose on a pairing with Portland’s Derrick Pouliot. Back home, he’s a point-per-gamer with the Rockets. Drafted 60th overall by New Jersey in 2012.
Jack Eichel, C – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
The youngest kid in camp is certainly getting an opportunity to shine. Eichel was a surprise addition to USA’s final world junior camp roster, but the Boston University commit has size and hands, so putting him on a line with Adam Erne and Ryan Hartman indicates coach Don Lucia is serious about giving him a shot. Draft eligible in 2015.
Markus Granlund, C – Abbotsford Heat (AHL)
Don’t look now, but Mikael’s little brother is en fuego for Abbotsford. Granlund has an 11-game point streak going, with seven in the past four games. A highly skilled producer known for his playmaking, Granlund has actually turned up his goal-scoring acumen with the Heat. Drafted 45th overall by Calgary in 2011.
Josh Ho-Sang, RW – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Losing Kerby Rychel as a teammate may actually be a blessing for Ho-Sang, who now gets to prove what he can do as The Man on this rebuilding Windsor team. Mad puck skills were never the issue with the right winger, who has 10 points in seven December games, but responsibility was. To that end, Ho-Sang is getting much more dependable and that will boost his stock. Draft eligible in 2014.
Thatcher Demko, G – Boston College Eagles (Hockey East)
Unfortunately the goalie of record when the Eagles fell to Holy Cross for the first time since 1946, Demko rebounded to take a key conference win over New Hampshire. The freshman boasts a 4-1-1 record with a stellar 2.31 goals-against average and .911 save percentage, using his athleticism and big frame to his advantage. Draft eligible in 2014.
Pavel Buchnevich, LW – Severstal Cherepovets (KHL)
Big, fast and in possession of a dangerous shot, Buchnevich is making noise in his first full KHL season with six goals and 12 points in 31 games, despite not getting top-six minutes. The world juniors will be a great stage for the young winger, as Russia boasts a nice array of talent. Drafted 75th overall by the New York Rangers in 2013.
Patrik Koys, RW – HK Orange 20 (Svk.)
Once hailed as the Next Big Thing out of Slovakia, Koys never found his footing as a rookie in the Quebec League with Shawinigan and returned home for his draft year. He’ll get a crack at Slovakia’s world junior team and has been playing with the nation’s version of the U.S. NTDP – though this squad plays men’s teams. Quick and dynamic, he has nice individual skills. Draft eligible in 2014.
Clark Bishop, C – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
A smart player who skates well and excels in the defensive end, Bishop is one of seven Quebec Leaguers slated to play in the CHL Top Prospects Game. Though he’s not known for his offense, the youngster does have two goals in his past three games. Draft eligible in 2014.