All three major junior leagues are now in pre-season play, so new reputations are already being forged on the ice. Some of the biggest names – such as Quebec’s Mikhail Grigorenko and London’s Max Domi – have hit the ground running, but who else should you know for the upcoming season? Here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Mike Reilly, D – Penticton Vees (BCHL)
The Columbus Blue Jackets have long danced with talented offensive defensemen in their organization and the results have been middling, from Kris Russell to the still-developing John Moore. But Reilly was impressive at rookie camp this summer and though he’s a long-term project, his efforts bode well for the Blue Jackets.
“I like to jump into the rush and also be reliable in my own zone,” Reilly said. “I like to be that ‘fourth forward.’ ”
A native of Minnesota, Reilly is part of a wave of kids from that state playing for Penticton this year. Two others? His older twin brothers, Connor and Ryan. All three are committed to the University of Minnesota for 2012-13, but in the meantime, the Reilly boys were intrigued by what the Vees offered.
“We saw they played an offensive style and a puck possession game,” Mike said. “It was a good fit for us.”
While the twins played in the United States League last year, Mike honed his game at Shattuck St-Mary’s, the famous Minnesota prep school. For the skilled blueliner, hockey is about taking a new challenge every season.
“Shattucks was a step up from high school,” he said. “And this will be a way for me to get my feet wet in junior before heading off to college.”
While Columbus certainly won’t rush Reilly’s progress, it’s fair to say the Jackets will be very interested in how that step-by-step approach goes. Drafted 98th overall by Columbus in 2011.
Reid Boucher, LW – Sarnia Sting (OHL)
With two goals in his first Ontario League contest, Boucher is paying immediate dividends for the Sting. The former NTDP winger has great puck skills and skates well. He would have suited up in the United States League this season if he had continued on the path to Michigan State, but with both goals being assisted by Nail Yakupov, Sarnia seems like a good home. Drafted 99th overall by New Jersey in 2011.
Jordan Masters, LW – Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
One of the top prospects to watch in the USHL this year, Masters lived up to his name at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, leading Team USA with four goals and seven points in four games. He also recently committed to the University of New Hampshire, where the Wildcats will no doubt love his combination of deft hands and heart. Draft eligible in 2012.
Daniel Altshuller, G – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
A wealth of goalies in Belleville meant Altshuller wouldn’t have gotten much crease in his draft year, but the Gens were more than happy to trade for the big youngster, who will have an exciting squad in front of him. Altshuller helmed Canada’s gold-medal Ivan Hlinka team and played at the NHL’s R & D Camp, so the pedigree is obvious. Lateral movement and his glove hand are among his strengths. Draft eligible in 2012.
Alex Forsberg, C – Prince George Cougars (WHL)
The highly anticipated Forsberg scored in his first exhibition game of the season for the Cougars, who will need his offense. Traditionally a playmaker, the youngster’s vision is his best asset and he already got in some time with Prince George as an underager last season. Injuries slowed him down during that campaign, but now he’s ready for full-time duty. Draft eligible in 2013.
Madison Bowey, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Another Dub rookie itching to make noise, Bowey is already contributing to the Kelowna offense in the pre-season with a goal in his first game. Measuring 6-foot-1, 194 pounds, the blueliner has great size already, but it’s his skating and offensive acumen that makes him such an intriguing prospect. Draft eligible in 2013.
Clint Windsor, G – Barrie Colts (OHL)
Windsor was battered by opponents last season, but who wasn’t in Barrie? With new energy and more experienced players, the Colts won’t be so dreadful and the 6-foot-4, 209-pound keeper is already showing what he can do, stopping 35 of 37 shots in a win over defending league champ Owen Sound. Draft eligible in 2012.
Troy Vance, D – Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)
The 6-foot-5 American blueliner had a great second-half run with the Tigres last season, now he’s looking to continue that path over the full slate. So far so good in the pre-season at least - Vance leads all ‘Q’ defensemen with seven points in five games. Drafted 135th overall by Dallas in 2011.
Anthony Duclair, LW – Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
Grigorenko wasn’t the only prize to land in the province’s capital this summer. Duclair was a highly rated prospect out of the Lac St-Louis Lions midget program whose NCAA aspirations scared a lot of teams away from drafting him. Remparts coach Patrick Roy had no such fears and Duclair has rewarded him with five points in his first four games. Draft eligible in 2013.
Adam Lowry, LW – Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
With two goals in his first pre-season game of the year, Lowry’s off to a good start. At 6-foot-5, 189 pounds, size is obviously a boon for the son of ex-NHLer Dave Lowry, but he can also move for a big man. Cracking the 20-goal mark will definitely be on the agenda for the left winger. Draft 67th overall by Winnipeg 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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