With Taylor Hall almost suspended for a hit from behind and Tyler Seguin poised to hit 100 points any game now, things are getting exciting at the top of the prospect pile in the Ontario League. And while the phenoms duke it out in the OHL, there are plenty of big games being played elsewhere as the stretch drive begins. With that in mind, here are some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL some day.
1. Emerson Etem, C – Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL): As an American living in Alberta, you’d think Etem would be in a huge trash-talk war with his teammates regarding the Olympic men’s hockey tourney. You’d be close.
“We actually got into a heated argument about the women’s game,” he said.
On the ice, of course, Etem is a Tiger through and through and his 33 goals as a rookie in the Dub are an impressive testament to his skills.
“I think my speed is my best asset,” said Etem, who counts Marian Gaborik as a model. “I chase down loose pucks and drive to the net.”
Born and raised in California, Etem is one of the top prospects in the WHL right now and playing in Minnesota before coming to Medicine Hat certainly helped his development.
“The transition was pretty smooth because at 14 I left to go to Shattuck-St. Mary’s,” Etem said of the famed prep school. “(Medicine Hat) is a small town, a hockey town, and that’s what I love about it. I have a lot of respect for the fans here.”
And based on his 59 points in 64 games, it’s fair to say the locals respect his work, too.
Draft eligible in 2010.
2. Gustav Nyquist, RW – University of Maine Black Bears (Hockey East): The Swedish import leads the entire nation in scoring with 49 points in just 30 games. Named to last season’s conference all-rookie team, Nyquist has kicked it up a notch and obliterated his freshman totals of 32 points in 38 games. Drafted 121st overall by Detroit in 2008.
3. Greg McKegg, C – Erie Otters (OHL): A fast-rising pivot, McKegg has displayed a knack for potting shootout-winning goals this year in Erie. Not only does the kid lead the Otters in goals with 33 to go along with 72 points in 59 games, he has also obliterated his rookie mark of 18 points last season. Draft eligible in 2010.
4. Richard Bachman, G – Idaho Steelheads (ECHL): At 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, Bachman may not be big, but he does get results. To wit: the rookie pro leads the ECHL with a stingy 2.31 goals-against average. Getting major minutes in Idaho also allows the Stars prospect to stay in game shape as the organization begins to look at its future in net. Drafted 120th overall by Dallas in 2006.
5. Jamie McBain, D – Albany River Rats (AHL): The Carolina Hurricanes will bring in a lot of young players this season and next – and McBain will certainly be in that group. The freshman pro has almost eclipsed his best offensive numbers from college this year, putting up 26 assists and 31 points in 58 American League games. That ranks him among the best on defense in the AHL. Drafted 63rd overall by Carolina in 2006.
6. Charlie Coyle, RW – South Shore Kings (EJHL): The Boston University commit has been lethal on special teams this season, mostly in a playmaking role. Coyle has 18 assists and 24 points on the power play, plus five points shorthanded. All in, the big-bodied winger has 62 points through 41 games for a Kings team that has lost just five times in regulation. Draft eligible in 2010.
7. Kevin Connauton, D – Vancouver Giants (WHL): One of only three Dub blueliners averaging more than a point per game (Tyson Barrie and Travis Hamonic are the others), Connauton is having a fantastic rookie campaign since coming over from Western Michigan University. The Edmonton native also has seven fights to his name this season, so he’s no pushover, either. Drafted 83rd overall by Vancouver in 2009.
8. Ludvig Rensfeldt, LW – Brynas IF (Swe. Jr.): Rensfeldt has dominated Sweden’s Superelit Top 8 junior circuit, tallying 17 points in nine games and registering a plus-10 rating in the process. A big kid at nearly 6-foot-3 and 192 pounds, Rensfeldt will be one of the more sought-after European skaters this summer. Draft eligible in 2010.
9. Nicola Riopel, G – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL): Another goaltender who doesn’t boast a ton of size (6-foot, 175 pounds), Riopel has never suffered for it. The Wildcats netminder is working on the Q’s fifth-longest shutout streak right now; it’s been more than 162 minutes and counting since anyone scored on him. If he can maintain for just a little more than two more periods, the all-time record (Mathieu Chouinard, 207 minutes in 1997-98) is his. Drafted 142nd overall by Philadelphia in 2009.
10. Brandon Archibald, D – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL): The young Hounds are in a playoff-positioning battle right now and the play of defenders such as Archibald has certainly helped. The sturdy 6-foot-3, 200-pound blueliner has 25 assists and 29 points through 59 games. Draft eligible in 2010.
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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