Brett Connolly had 30 goals and 60 points in 65 games for Prince George last season. (Photo courtesy Prince George Cougars)
Major junior camps are now open so we’re getting closer to the official start of the 2009-10 season. While visions of the Memorial Cup are dancing in many-a-youth’s head, not everyone will begin the campaign on a powerhouse squad. Here is a look at some prospects from a variety of circuits who will need to play big for their teams this year, plus some newsmakers. Once again, this is a roundup of kids we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
1. Brett Connolly, LW – Prince George Cougars (WHL): In the very dangerous Dub, Prince George has struggled to remain competitive lately, but one particular bright spot has been Connolly. In his first full campaign with the Cougars, Connolly led the team in scoring with 30 goals and 60 points in 65 games, despite being just 17 at season’s end.
“Everything just fell into place,” Connolly recalled. “They accepted me right away. The team in general believed in me and that gave me a lot of confidence.”
That confidence has carried over. The strong-skating left winger had a solid showing at the Ivan Hlinka tournament this summer, winning gold for Canada in the process.
“It was definitely something else,” Connolly said of the experience. “I got to bond with a lot of great players.”
Connolly spent the summer getting his strength up (he’s now 6-foot-2, 185 pounds) and basically worked through his ‘holiday.’ In the end, however, the youngster hopes that extra work will aid his goals for the 2009-10 campaign.
“Go deeper in the playoffs,” he vowed. “I think we have the guys in Prince George – and the coaching staff – to do it. We’re going to open some eyes.” Draft eligible in 2010.
2. Dylan Olsen, D – University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (WCHA): The Dogs of UMD usually get dwarfed by the rival Golden Gophers in recruiting, but Olsen was a coup. The former Jr. A standout plays a complete game and can produce on the power play. Drafted 28th overall by Chicago in 2009.
3. Alexander Burmistrov, C – Barrie Colts (OHL): Landing Burmistrov from the Ak Bars Kazan system is a big addition for the Colts. The talented center has been a frequent partner-in-crime of Kirill Kabanov on the international stage and will be given all the room he needs to produce in Barrie thanks to tough stars Stefan Della Rovere and Kyle Clifford. Draft eligible in 2010.
4. Matt Dumba, D – Red Deer Rebels (WHL): Just 15 years old, Dumba will return to bantam this year, but he has proven his worth early in Red Deer scoring the first two goals in a 3-0 exhibition win over Moose Jaw on the weekend. Draft eligible in 2012.
5. Ryan Bourque, LW – Quebec Remparts (QMJHL): Finding early success can really help a prospect and Bourque is on the right track. The NTDP grad is already contributing offensively for the loaded Remparts and can be a real threat despite being just 5-foot-9, 163 pounds. Drafted 80th overall by the New York Rangers in 2009.
6. Tyler Pitlick, C – Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks (WCHA): The Mavs finished near the bottom of the conference last season, so the addition of Pitlick will be welcomed. The freshman loves to throw his weight around, but also has a sick pair of hands. He was a top-20 scorer in the state last season for his high school team and will be looking to bring his game to the next level. Draft eligible in 2010.
7. Robin Lehner, G – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL): A big ol’ import from Sweden, Lehner will help bolster a Soo team on the rise. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, the youngster takes up a lot of net and will work in tandem with fellow keeper Bryce O’Hagan. Drafted 46th overall by Ottawa in 2009.
8. Tomas Jurco, RW – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL): Another European import who has found his away across the pond, the Slovakian is already putting up points in the pre-season for the Dogs. Should Saint John manage to coax Stanislav Galiev away from the United States League’s Indiana Ice, it will be a very interesting season in New Brunswick. Draft eligible in 2010.
9. Brandon Maxwell, G – Kitchener Rangers (OHL): Straight out of Florida (by way of the NTDP), Maxwell will get a chance to make a name for himself in Canada with the Rangers, who once again look dangerous. The netminder turned aside 20 of 21 shots in just a half-game’s work in a 7-1 pre-season victory over Brampton. Drafted 154th overall by Colorado in 2009.
10. Daniel Catenacci, C – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL): The top selection in the 2009 Ontario League draft, Catenacci will look to make an impact right away in the Soo. The young pivot has done well in camp so far and brings a great mixture of skill and grit to the table. Draft eligible in 2011.
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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