Stephen Harper has nine goals and 20 points in 34 games for Erie this season. (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)
It’s been a good news-bad news week for fans of Team USA’s World Junior Championship entry. On the positive side of the ledger, Alex Galchenyuk was named Ontario League player of the week thanks to eight points in two games. But the black cloud concerns Stefan Noesen, the power forward whose 10-game suspension for charging is being upheld by the International Ice Hockey Federation, meaning he is ineligible to play in Russia. Here’s a look at some of the other names making noise in the prospect world.
Stephen Harper, LW – Erie Otters (OHL)
As a second-year man on the Otters, Harper has seen the lows. Last season’s basement finish earned Erie the services of exceptional status talent Connor McDavid, but his housemate would prefer not to have such a high pick again this summer.
“We’re still a young team,” Harper said. “We’re better than last year, but we’re still near the bottom of the league, so that’s unacceptable. But we’ll improve.”
In the name of bonding, the Otters have put on a bunch of fun events already this year, one that saw the rookies testing their mettle when it came to some scorching-hot chicken wings.
“Definitely wing night was pretty funny,” Harper said. “We have ping pong tournaments and Sewer Ball (aka two-touch soccer) before games – that gets heated, I’m not gonna lie. And we have games night every few weeks, so that’s fun.”
When he’s not playing Jenga, Harper is busy making his presence felt on the ice with his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame. He’s been hot of late, picking up five points in the midst of a four-game streak, the last three being Erie wins.
“When I’m hitting out there, using my speed, getting down low in the corners and along the boards, I can be pretty dangerous,” he said. “And when I can get my shot off, I can put the puck in the net.”
Overall, Harper has 20 points through 34 games. Putting together more strings like the one he’s on right now is a goal.
“For me, it’s consistency. I need to bring it day in and day out. If I work hard in games and practices that will lead to success.”
And with a growing core in Erie, that success will steadily improve as the kids find their way. Draft eligible in 2013.
Tyler Wotherspoon, D – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
The quietest name on Team Canada’s splashy blueline, Wotherspoon nevertheless will be an important cog at the world juniors. His enviable size (6-foot-2, 209 pounds) and safe play will allow his defensive partners to freelance without worrying too much about the consequences of a rush gone wrong. Drafted 57th overall by Calgary in 2011.
Riley Barber, RW – University of Miami RedHawks (CCHA)
Noesen’s loss may be Barber’s gain at the world juniors. Though the Miami freshman was not invited to Team USA’s summer camp, his play for the Hawks warranted winter inclusion and he currently leads the conference in scoring with 22 points in 18 games. Now there’s one less winger to contend with for the final cut. Drafted 167th overall by Washington in 2012.
Artur Gavrus, C – Neman Grodno (Bel.)
The former member of the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack was named best forward at the WJC’s Division 1A tourney, notching five goals and 10 points in five games to lead the bracket for Belarus. Hard-working and talented, Gavrus went home in the summer and never returned, though the Attack hope to see him again soon. Drafted 180th overall by New Jersey in 2012.
Dexter Dancs, LW – Vernon Vipers (BCHL)
Struggling on a deep Penticton team, Dancs got just what he needed when a trade sent him to the similarly scuffling Vipers. After recording just five points in 24 games with Penticton, the University of Michigan commit has four in his first five outings with Vernon. Dancs is a smart player with great size at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds. Draft eligible in 2013.
Adam Clendening, D – Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
OK, so no one is going to catch Justin Schultz in the scoring race, whether they be rookies or defensemen. Clendening also happens to be both and were it not for the blazing Baron, he’d be getting a lot more press. Rockford’s offensive defenseman has put up four goals and 20 points in 24 games, confirming his instincts that he was ready to leave Boston University after just two seasons. Drafted 36th overall by Chicago in 2011.
Philippe Desrosiers, G – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
The confident keeper has won four straight since getting pulled in a wild loss to Blainville-Boisbriand, surrendering just seven goals in the span. Desrosiers boasts good size and positioning and has improved his save percentage up to .906, putting him top five in the league. Draft eligible in 2013.
Brock Nelson, C – Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL)
With six points in his past three games, Nelson is on a rampage for the Sound Tigers. The University of North Dakota alum is a top five rookie scorer in the ‘A’ with 22 points in 25 games overall. Nelson knows the game, knows where to be and has the talent to bury his opportunities when he gets them. Drafted 30th overall by the New York Islanders in 2010.
Markus Soberg, RW – Frolunda Indians (Swe.)
Norway is heading back up to the top rung of the world juniors, going 5-0 in Division 1A to earn promotion. Soberg, a speedy and determined winger, ranked second in team scoring with a goal and seven points in that span and has been a solid contributor to Frolunda’s junior edition. Draft eligible in 2013.
Zach Glienke, LW – Eagan Wildcats (Minn. HS)
Currently sitting on a devilish stat line of six goals, six assists in six games, Glienke is a whole lot to handle in the offensive zone at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, plus he can move well for a big man. A matchup with Burnsville Tuesday night was the latest measuring stick for Glienke and the Cats, who have played a lot of quality teams already. Draft eligible in 2013.
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 on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play their first NHL game.
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