Another Hot List road trip turned out to be a barnburner, as Guelph pulled out a dramatic 5-4 win in the dying seconds against visiting Plymouth, but that wasn’t the only action going on. The American League starts real action on Friday, while junior and Euro circuits are going strong. Let’s take an especially star-heavy look at some of the prospects we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Ryan Hartman, C – Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Two weekends ago, Hartman was touring the Buffalo Sabres’ newly renovated facilities and skating on NHL ice as part of the first All-American Prospects Game. But this weekend it was back to the grind of the Ontario League, where the Illinois native has three points in his first four games as a rookie on a stacked Whalers squad. Hartman was at one time committed to Miami University, but changed course in the spring.
“I had a year of high school left so I would have had to wait another year before college,” he said. “I’ve seen OHL games, I’ve known guys in the OHL and I definitely like the league a lot.”
While he’s not huge at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Hartman plays big, mixing it up and using deft hands to tip pucks in front of the net. On a team that also has power forwards Stefan Noesen and Tom Wilson, Plymouth is a great atmosphere for the teen.
“I like to be physical and make plays for my teammates, open up opportunities,” Hartman said. “Get shots on net too. I changed roles this year, going from wing to center. So I need to work on defensive zone routes and learning how to play center.”
Hartman’s previous address was in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he suited up for the National Team Development Program. That Team USA experience has already become a fond memory for him.
“They teach you how to be a hockey player,” he said. “Not just on the ice, but the right things to do off the ice. Good training in the weight room and personality-wise, they teach you the right things there.”
And now the youngster is putting them into practice. Draft eligible in 2013.
Nathan MacKinnon, C – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
He’s beginning to seize hold of the imagination. MacKinnon’s hat trick performance in an 11-2 drubbing of Saint John included a shorthanded marker in which his explosiveness completely unraveled the defender he proceeded to blow past. He’s already put up seven goals and 13 points in seven games. Draft eligible in 2013.
Mikael Granlund, C – Houston Aeros (AHL)
Four goals and an assist in a 6-2 pre-season win over Oklahoma City. I don’t need to say anymore, but I will. Granlund was NHL-ready when he came over this summer, now he’ll lay waste to the ‘A’ while the lockout works itself out. His smarts with the puck are going to be devastating. Drafted ninth overall by Minnesota in 2010.
Nail Yakupov, RW – Neftekhimik Nizhnekhamsk (KHL)
With his international status finally cleared up, Yakupov is back doing what he does best – pulling fans out of their seats. The jet-powered winger has three goals in his first four Kontinental League games and added a dramatic shootout winner over Ilya Kovalchuk’s St. Petersburg squad. Drafted first overall by Edmonton in 2012.
Jason Dickinson, LW – Guelph Storm (OHL)
Tabbed as a first-rounder this year by Central Scouting’s initial list, Dickinson has size and skill, plus he plays in all situations. Versus Plymouth, he scored a highlight-reel goal by swooping in on net past a defenseman and sits at six points through seven games. He can also play center. Draft eligible in 2013.
Gianluca Curcuruto, D – Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
A puck-moving defenseman and ace on the point, Curcuruto suffered through a down draft year while playing for Sault Ste. Marie. But a summer trade to Plymouth may have been the perfect change of scenery as he’s been a point per game player with the Whalers so far. Drafted 182nd overall by Columbus in 2012.
Tristan Jarry, G – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Jarry won’t be expected to carry the water in Edmonton this year – that’s Laurent Brossoit’s job – but he has been solid as the backup, posting a 1.51 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in two games. He’s got nice size at 6-foot-2, 181 pounds and is definitely on the scouting radar. Draft eligible in 2013.
Nicklas Jensen, RW – AIK Stockholm (Swe.)
The Great Big Dane was drafted out of Oshawa, so he’s not AHL-eligible yet. But Jensen wanted to face older competition, so he headed back overseas to Sweden where he has been the light on a poor AIK squad. The emerging power forward leads the team in scoring with seven points in his first 10 games. Drafted 29th overall by Vancouver in 2011.
Blaine Byron, C – Kemptville 73’s (CCHL)
Byron recently committed to the University of Maine, and Black Bears fans will be happy to know the skilled pivot is lighting it up in Jr. A with the 73’s. Through 12 games the Ontario native has 17 points, with five coming in the past two contests. That’s tops on his team and seventh league-wide. Draft eligible in 2013.
Steven Duda, D – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
An interesting player to watch because of this precedent: last year blueliner Troy Vance went from the Eastern Jr. League to Victoriaville and parlayed that experience into a podium call from Dallas at the draft. Duda also comes from the EJHL and brings a 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame to Saint John. He even had an assist in his second game. 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 only on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play their first NHL game.
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