We all know about the race for the No. 1 spot in the entry draft this summer, but what about the rest of the top 10? From No. 3 on, it’s anybody’s guess right now.
With the world juniors finished, the next big proving ground will be the playoffs. In the meantime, good showings at skills competitions never hurt.
This week in the The Hot List – our weekly rundown of players we can’t wait to see in the NHL someday – we look at players whose stock is on the rise.
1. Chad Johnson, G – University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks (CCHA): The Nanooks are having a breakout season and like most good teams, having a solid anchor in net has been a big factor.
With a 1.50 goals-against average and .945 save percentage, Johnson is leading the conference in both categories and inspiring the troops in front of him. But last year, it was another member of the Nanooks helping Johnson, who missed almost the entire season due to injuries.
“Being able to sit back and watch (goalie) Wiley Rogers, I could pay attention to little things I normally wouldn’t have,” Johnson noted. “In the future if I get injured, I know how to handle it.”
Johnson has certainly handled the workload this season and prefers to be busy. In terms of his strengths, the Pittsburgh prospect knows where he excels.
“Composure,” he said. “I think I’m pretty mentally strong.”
Johnson added that he thinks he’s good at rebound control and recovering on saves, but also knows there is much work to be done, especially with quickness.
“The higher up you get, the quicker guys are going to be,” he said. “I don’t want to have any weaknesses.”
With a Frozen Four berth within the realm of possibilities this season, Johnson and his crew will have to continue to play with that ironclad mentality. Drafted 125th overall by Pittsburgh in 2006.
2. Landon Ferraro, C – Red Deer Rebels (WHL): Ferraro, son of former NHLer Ray, won the fastest skater competition at the Canadian League Top Prospects Game and his buzz has been growing all season long. With 43 points in 45 games, Ferraro will easily double his offensive output from last year, likely in a week or two. Draft eligible in 2009.
3. Jared Cowen, D – Spokane Chiefs (WHL): Cowen was the No. 3 rated pick coming into the season and due to some high-profile performances by his peers, has been a little slept on lately. But you can’t teach size and the 6-foot-5, 218-pound blueliner was solid in the Top Prospects Game and already has a Memorial Cup run under his belt, so he knows how to win. Draft eligible in 2009.
4. Zack Kassian, RW – Peterborough Petes (OHL): I’ve been waiting to jump on the Kassian bandwagon, and now I firmly can. Sure, he’ll likely be known as the guy who nailed John Tavares at the Top Prospects Game, but Kassian is so much more. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder can throw his weight around, but he’s looked real dangerous offensively for the Petes lately and has 43 points in 39 games to prove it. Draft eligible in 2009.
5. Paul Byron, C – Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL): Gatineau took a big win against Drummondville the other night and Byron once again demonstrated his dazzling speed. Small in stature, Byron is proving to be a prototypical Sabres prospect thanks to his high skill level. Drafted 179th overall by Buffalo in 2007.
6. Jamie McBain, D – Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA): McBain had a pretty good tournament for Team USA at the world juniors, but he’s really bringing the thunder to Madison again this year, leading the conference in scoring by a defenseman with 28 points in 26 games. Drafted 63rd overall by Carolina in 2006.
7. Brayden Schenn, C – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): Another high draft candidate with family ties (older brother Luke plays for the Leafs), Schenn is the reigning Dub player of the week thanks to some sublime playmaking skills. He posted six assists and seven points in his past two games and the Wheat Kings haven’t lost in regulation for 13 straight games. Draft eligible in 2009.
8. Jacob Josefson, C – Djurgardens (Swe.): Josefson clearly has his fans and his detractors in Sweden, because he didn’t get much play at the world juniors, but definitely has potential. Playing in the Elite League, he has seven points in 37 games, but his draft stock is still quite high. Draft eligible in 2009.
9. Olivier Roy, G – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL): Roy may or may not be the top goalie available in the draft right now, depending on who you talk to, but around here there’s no question. The Screaming Eagles netminder was killer in the Top Prospects Game and stats aren’t everything in the ‘Q.’ Draft eligible in 2009.
10. Calvin de Haan, D – Oshawa Generals (OHL): The Gens lost a lot of firepower with the trading of John Tavares and Michael Del Zotto, so the rest of the season will act as a showcase for de Haan, who has been consistently effective from the blueline. His 43 points in 44 games ranks fourth among all Ontario League defensemen. Draft eligible in 2009.
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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