For most of the media attending the NHL’s Research & Development Camp last week, the exhibition provided insights into how potential new rules would work in a game situation. But since the games involved more than 30 of the best players available for the 2011 draft, it was a Hot List gold mine. Here’s a look at some of the players who stood out and, as always, the ones we can’t wait to see in the NHL some day.
1. Nathan Beaulieu, D – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
An excellent two-way defender who knows when to rush the puck and when to pull back, Beaulieu has a chance to make a great name for himself this season on a young and talented Dogs squad. A former defense partner of Vancouver second-rounder Yann Sauve, Beaulieu picked his battery mate’s brain during their time together.
“I was like a sponge,” Beaulieu said. “There are a lot of key things about him that got him drafted so high.”
But Beaulieu could go even higher. His plus-43 rating last year was a franchise record and the fact he has to wait almost an extra year to be drafted (he’s a late birthday) doesn’t faze him.
“This year I could have an even better year,” Beaulieu noted. “I have one more year to develop. There are more positives than negatives.”
Beaulieu played 2008-09 under his father, Jacques, who is now an assistant coach with the Ontario League’s London Knights. Even though his dad was several provinces away last year, the two stayed close.
“We’d talk after every game,” Beaulieu said. “He was always there for me, just like a father should be.”
And you have to assume his dad will be there in Minnesota next summer when the younger Beaulieu steps up to the NHL draft podium. Draft eligible in 2011.
2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
> We’ll take a break from RNH after this list, but it has to be said this kid is lethal with the puck. In person, he makes goal-scoring look effortless, picking corners and generally deceiving both goalies and defenders. His vision is the key. Draft eligible in 2011.
3. Scott Mayfield, D – Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
Already 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Mayfield has a great frame and he’s also fast for a big blueliner. He knows when to make rushes and was very noticeable during the game for all the right reasons. Committed to the University of Denver in the future, Mayfield also has some offensive pop. Draft eligible in 2011.
4. Matt Nieto, LW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Talk to California kids and they’ll all name-drop Nieto as one to watch in the future. Based on his work at the R&D camp, it’s no surprise. Nieto is a very slick customer with speed and offensive smarts. He played on a line with fellow Cali export Shane McColgan and was dangerous all game long. He’s bound for Boston University. Draft eligible in 2011.
5. Seth Ambroz, RW – Omaha Lancers (USHL)
Another big-bodied kid from the United States League, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Ambroz threw his weight around at the R&D camp, but also demonstrated his deft offensive touch. Ambroz has a very good wrist shot and gets up the ice well. Another year with Omaha will allow him to rack up points and maximize his draft potential, which is top five already. Draft eligible in 2011.
6. Jonathan Huberdeau, C – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
With basically the exact same frame as Nugent-Hopkins, Huberdeau, naturally, has to put on some weight himself, but he does bring great instincts to the ice and some nice quickness. Huberdeau was also a member of Canada’s gold medal Ivan Hlinka team and certainly did his part along the way. Draft eligible in 2011.
7. Dougie Hamilton, D – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
The younger brother of IceDog Freddie Hamilton (sensing a theme?), Dougie is a big blueliner with a great point shot. He works the power play well, but it’s his defensive prowess that really shines. Think of Hamilton as a shutdown blueliner with offensive upside. Draft eligible in 2011.
8. Carter Sandlak, LW – Guelph Storm (OHL)
Listed at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Sandlak plays even bigger than his measurements. The son of former NHLer Jim Sandlak, Carter isn’t afraid to crash the net in search of offensive opportunities. He also demonstrated in Guelph last season that he wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves or throw a huge hit, even as a rookie. Draft eligible in 2011.
9. Ty Rattie, RW – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Don’t sleep on Rattie; he was taken right after Nugent-Hopkins in the 2008 ‘Dub’ bantam draft and probably would have gotten more offensive opportunity in Portland last year had the Hawks not become a powerhouse thanks to unexpected heroes Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter. Nevertheless, Rattie has speed and sick shot placement, which he demonstrated at the R&D camp when he buried a breakaway chance top corner. Draft eligible in 2011.
10. Shane McColgan, RW – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Feisty, fast and nasty, McColgan has a lot of fans out there; some in high places. Listed at 5-foot-10, the Cali native still throws his body around with abandon and plays that antagonistic gritty game you hate unless he’s on your team. Even scarier, he had 69 points in 71 games for the Rockets last year, so the kid can hurt you a lot of ways. 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 regularly throughout the off-season only on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play in their first NHL game.
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