For draft watchers, the pre-season can be a very cathartic time. All those kids you’ve followed for years now have NHL homes - temporary, in many cases, since they often go back to junior, but homes nonetheless. Many youngsters have already pulled the spotlight toward them with great play, but keep in mind The Hot List is for players yet to skate in an NHL game.
That means Jared Cowen will just have to be satisfied with a job well done in Ottawa. For the kids still on the cusp, read on.
Jonathan Racine, D – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
All you really need to know about Racine can be found in his choice for an NHL mentor: recently retired nastiness factory Adam Foote.
“I’m a rough player, 1-on-1,” he said. “I make a good first pass and heads-up plays.”
Offense is not a strength, but big hits are. And when opponents object, Racine is more than happy to throw fists with aplomb. In fact, I’m starting to get the impression opponents would rather not fight the 6-foot-1, 183-pound bomber, based on the results of his card. Keeping the enemy honest is important because Shawinigan hosts the Memorial Cup, a fact that has been somewhat overshadowed by the Saint John Sea Dogs’ failed bid.
“We have a pretty good team this year with players like Michael Bournival, Michael Chaput and Yannick Veilleux,” Racine said of his fellow NHL draftee teammates. “They will have a pretty good team as well.”
And while Racine and Sea Dogs star Jonathan Huberdeau spent time together at the Florida Panthers rookie camp this summer, there will be little love if the No. 3 overall pick dares to cross the Cataractes defenseman’s blueline.
“He’s a good friend outside of hockey,” Racine said. “But on the ice, you have no friends.”
Drafted 87th overall by Florida in 2011.
Brett Bulmer, RW – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Not every prospect makes his bones with big points on the scoreboard. For Bulmer, his niche in Minnesota has been a willingness to get gritty and feisty - OK, super annoying if you play for the other team. But the Wild braintrust has been a big fan so far, keeping the 6-foot-3 winger on the main squad even after a drastic cut to the training camp roster. With Brad Staubitz suspended six games, Bulmer will get even more playing time to make his case. Drafted 39th overall by Minnesota in 2010.
Sean Couturier, C – Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
Based on his ranking going into 2010-11, Couturier was a gift to Philadelphia at eighth overall. The only underager to play for Canada’s world junior entry in Buffalo, Couturier has been active on the scoresheet in the pre-season for the Flyers and with a lot of flux in the lineup he may stick. Drafted eighth overall by Philadelphia in 2011.
Jacob Trouba, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Pre-season action is underway in the United States League and Trouba is off to a fast start. The big Team USA defender is the only point-per-game blueliner on the league leaderboard with four assists in as many games. More importantly, the NTDP has yet to lose in regulation (3-0-1) and Trouba is a plus-3. Draft eligible in 2012.
Mark Scheifele, C – Barrie Colts (OHL)
The Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise has seen its first pick in the draft jump straight to the NHL three straight years (Zach Bogosian, Evander Kane, Alex Burmistrov). Can Scheifele make it four? The rapidly developing center is certainly making his case, putting up great offensive numbers in the pre-season and not looking out of place. His pick was a surprise at the draft, but nothing is shocking when it comes to Scheifele anymore. Drafted seventh overall by Winnipeg in 2011.
Joe Morrow, D – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Not that the Penguins needed any more skill in their coterie, but Morrow has been a revelation at camp, putting up points in exhibition play and demonstrating excellent skating acumen. He’ll likely be sent back to the Western League (no need to rush in Pittsburgh), so look for Morrow to tear it up in Oregon again. Drafted 23rd overall by Pittsburgh in 2011.
Frederic Gamelin, C – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
In midget, Gamelin was the triggerman for Luca Ciampini, who’s now starring for the Halifax Mooseheads. Now with Baie-Comeau, the smallish Gamelin (5-foot-8, 157 pounds) is filling the same role and is off to a great start with six assists and nine points in six games. His plus-2 rating is also nice, considering last year’s minus-29. Draft eligible in 2012.
Adam Larsson, D – Skelleftea (Swe.)
When your supporters include Ilya Kovalchuk and the New York press, you know you’ve done something right. Larsson has come to New Jersey just as advertised, making calm, cool plays and providing a puck-moving option on a ‘D’ corps that sorely needs it. Drafted fourth overall by New Jersey in 2011.
Fredrik Bergvik, G – Frolunda Indians (Swe.)
Although he hasn’t faced a ton of shots, Bergvik is perfect through two outings on the under-18 circuit this season, posting a pair of shutouts for Frolunda. His .924 save percentage in the under-16 ranks last season was best in the league, so the early returns may not be a fluke by the young netminder. Draft eligible in 2013.
Derek Mathers, RW – Peterborough Petes (OHL)
There’s a mini-controversy in Flyerland right now over the fact Philly drafted tough customer Mathers instead of Czech import Tomas Hyka in the seventh round this summer. Hyka, who went undrafted, dazzled at Flyers camp, but he couldn’t be signed due to a clause in the CBA on European free agents. Mathers at least made his case back in Peterborough, registering a Gordie Howe hat trick in his first game of the season. Drafted 206th overall by Philadelphia in 2011.
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 in their first NHL game.
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