Dallas pick Julius Honka (LUDVIG THUNMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Julius Honka won gold at the world juniors with Finland and is one of the top defensemen up for the 2014 draft thanks to his work in Swift Current.
With major junior trade deadlines behind us, teams are heading into the home stretch and the Ontario League in particular is looking crazy. Memorial Cup hosts London are in a rough patch and just lost starting goalie Anthony Stolarz for a month to a bad leg injury. With Erie and Guelph in the same conference, that second OHL bid for the final tournament might be gone before the Eastern teams even get a sniff. Here’s a look around the world of prospects and some of the prospects we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Julius Honka, D – Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Honka arrived in Swift Current this fall and immediately went to work, piling up points from the blueline thanks to his puckhandling skills and excellent skating ability. His vision and escapability make him a prototypical offensive defenseman and his 12 goals and 39 points through 38 games put him second among all Western League rookies. Needless to say, the move from Finland has worked out.
“It’s been great, the culture is awesome,” Honka said. “It’s a little bit different, Swift Current is a small town but it doesn’t matter: I play hockey there. There’s a lot of nice people there.”
A newly-minted gold medalist thanks to his Finnish team’s shocking victories over Canada and Sweden at the world juniors, Honka was more of a depth player on the squad, but will be key to any chance of a repeat next year. In the meantime, heading over to the ‘Dub’ for his draft year has opened his eyes and helped his study of the game.
“I’ve learned about how to play Canadian hockey, like North American style,” he said. “The rink is a little different from Europe so that’s the biggest thing. But it hasn’t affected my game. I try to play my game no matter what kind of rink I’m in.”
And that’s a high skill game. Expect to see Honka taken in the first round of a draft that isn’t flush with blueliners. His physicality is a work in progress, but playing over in Canada has at least given him some basics to go off.
“Maybe a little,” Honka said. “But I still keep my focus on my strengths and how I can play hockey.”
That tends to be with a lot of skill and confidence. When the defensive side of the game catches up, he’ll be a load to handle. Draft eligible in 2014.
Shane Eiserman, LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
With his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame, Eiserman is shaping up to be a potent power forward and sometimes those kids take a little longer to get going. The University of New Hampshire commit had a slow start to the campaign, but now he’s buzzing with five points in his past three games. Draft eligible in 2014.
Scott Kosmachuk, RW – Guelph Storm (OHL)
As part of a murderers’ row of forwards in Guelph, Kosmachuk has more than pulled his weight, leading the attack with 33 goals and 63 points in 46 games. Skilled and quick, Kosmachuk has been held off the scoresheet just three times in the past 20 games. Drafted 70th overall by Winnipeg in 2012.
Josh Archibald, RW – University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks (NCHC)
A hardworking player with nice speed, Archibald has been a great offensive producer in Omaha, as well. He’s ahead of his sophomore point pace right now and a hat trick that paced the Mavs to a recent win over Miami didn’t hurt. Drafted 174th overall by Pittsburgh in 2011.
Jack Glover, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Size and skating ability are two of Glover’s best attributes and the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder has also been a prime playmaker for the NTDP. A University of Minnesota commit, Glover is a right-shot ‘D’ who can rush the puck and just needs to let the game come to him. Draft eligible in 2014.
Michael Prapavessis, D –Toronto Lakeshore Patriots (OJHL)
A two-way blueliner with decent size, Prapavessis is a deft playmaker, particularly on the power play. The RPI commit leads the Ontario Jr. A League in scoring by a defenseman with three goals and 41 points in 38 games and has six points in his past five appearances. Draft eligible in 2014.
John Quenneville, C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
A point-per-game player for the Wheaties, Quenneville is riding a five-game streak that has seen the pivot pick up eight points. Detail-oriented, Quenneville is big, strong and has a nose for the net. He distributes the puck and sees the ice well, meaning second cousin Joel Quenneville, the Chicago coach, should keep tabs on the kid. Draft eligible in 2014.
Fabrice Herzog, RW – Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
Switzerland’s top goal-scorer at the world juniors with three in five games, Herzog is a big, power forward-type with a nice offensive touch and a solid battle level. He’s heating up in the Quebec League, with eight points in his past five games for the Remparts. Drafted 142nd overall by Toronto in 2013.
Oscar Dansk, G – Erie Otters (OHL)
Dansk just had a 10-game winning streak snapped by the Guelph Storm and even in defeat, he surrendered only one goal. Fantastic at the world juniors for the silver medal-winning Swedes, Dansk can really take away the bottom of the net and his 1.97 goals-against average is tops in the OHL. Drafted 31st overall by Columbus in 2012.
Miles Gendron, D – Rivers Red Wings (Mass. HS)
A converted forward now playing defense, Gendron is a great skater with a fluid stride playing for former NHLer Shawn McEachern. The University of Connecticut commit has three goals and 12 points in 15 games, meaning he has been in on nearly half of Rivers’ goals. Draft eligible in 2014.