If you like hockey, the junior ranks are more than happy to help, even if their big brother is fighting dad over allowance money right now. All three CHL circuits are playing pre-season games now, while tourneys in Europe provide another outlet. Here’s a look at some of the kids we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Griffin Reinhart, D – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
One of the highest risers in the 2012 draft, Reinhart parlayed his size, skill and playoff success into top-five status amid a defense-heavy crop. His 6-foot-4, 202-pound frame and NHL bloodlines (Paul’s middle son) make him an obvious candidate for greatness, but a wrist injury put a damper on his first full season in the Western League. Reinhart rebounded in 2011-12 by doubling his goal output to 12 and helping the Oil Kings to their first ‘Dub’ title.
“The first year is more about getting comfortable,” Reinhart said. “But all through the playoffs and Memorial Cup this year I feel I really picked up my game and my intensity shot up, making me a better player.”
Though Edmonton this year will be without key defender Mark Pysyk, who leaves for the pros, Reinhart believes last season provided some nice challenges and benchmarks.
“Just before Christmas we had a big homestand and won 11 in a row,” he said. “Going into the holidays, some of the guys went off to the world juniors and we were able to step up, which gave us a lot of confidence.”
Along with his size, Reinhart also has the hockey IQ inherited from his dad. His brothers play for Kootenay (older bro Max is a Calgary prospect, younger Sam is an elite talent draft eligible in 2014) and Griffin is the only blueliner in the bunch.
“I’m a two-way defender, able to shut down offensive guys on the other team,” he said. “I’m a pretty simple player – not too flashy but I get the job done.”
Reinhart wants to be more vocal this season and take on a bigger leadership role. With a WHL title and Memorial Cup experience already under his belt, he’s in good shape to talk the talk. Drafted fourth overall by theNew York Islanders in 2012.
Alex Galchenyuk, C – Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Gally’s final destination this season may be moot for now, since he can’t make a Habs team that doesn’t exist. In the meantime, the savvy, gifted pivot is back in Sarnia and looks in fine form with two assists in his first exhibition game. Drafted third overall by Montreal in 2012.
Jordan Martinook, C – Vancouver Giants (WHL)
After signing his entry level deal with Phoenix over the weekend, Martinook is done with the West Coast for now. The Coyotes want the 20-year-old scoring machine playing against pros and after he put up 40 goals for the Giants last season, it’s fair to say Martinook is ready for that challenge. Drafted 58th overall by Phoenix in 2012.
Patrik Zdrahal, LW – Acadie-Bathurst Titan (QMJHL)
It’s pre-season, so there’s no hardware to dish out just yet, but the fans in Acadie-Bathurst must be pleased with how Czech import Zdrahal has busted out of the gates. The mid-sized left winger leads the Quebec League in scoring with nine points in four games and always scored beyond his age while playing back home for Vitkovice. Draft eligible in 2013.
Sebastian Collberg, RW – Frolunda Indians (Swe.)
He’s still a teen, but Collberg has already shown a flair for the dramatic in international play and continued that streak with an overtime goal versus Finland to win the Four Nations tournament in the Czech Republic. The speedy right winger also had two goals in a 10-2 demolition of the host Czechs. Drafted 33rd overall by Montreal in 2012.
Christian Djoos, D – Brynas (Swe.)
The son of former NHLer Per Djoos is continuing the family’s blueline legacy and at the Four Nations, Christian was very effective. Using his two-way ability, the youngster posted a goal and four points in three games – all wins for the Tre Kroner. Still underweight at 5-foot-11, 158 pounds, Djoos nevertheless has a nice skill set to build on. Drafted 195th overall by Washington in 2012.
Alex Broadhurst, C – London Knights (OHL)
Originally committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Broadhurst is now wearing green and gold – and looking good in the early going. The skilled center had a hat trick in a big win over Sarnia and once scored an all-shorthanded three spot while playing in the United States League. Drafted 199th overall by Chicago in 2011.
Anthony Mantha, LW – Val d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
The Foreurs look to be a young team this season, but Mantha will bring man strength to their side. The big winger has a fine scoring touch – as evidenced by his four goals and five points through three pre-season tilts – but also likes to play rough: Mantha has posted 15 PIM so far. Draft eligible in 2013.
Chase Witala, LW – Prince George Cougars (WHL)
The Cougars are assembling a nice roster of talent up front, bringing in Colin Jacobs from Seattle and nurturing elite youngsters such as Alex Forsberg and Troy Bourke. Witala is also looking like a keeper, notching two goals and an assist in his first pre-season game of the year. Draft eligible in 2013.
Oscar Dansk, G – Erie Otters (OHL)
Grabbing underaged phenom Connor McDavid first overall made Erie a team to watch more closely this year, but when Dansk committed to come over from Sweden, it really put the spotlight on the Otters. There was a lot of chatter Dansk was going to be scooped up by London in the CHL Import Draft, but veteran GM Sherry Bassin made sure the accomplished stopper was headed a bit further south. Drafted 31st overall by Columbus in 2012.
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 their first NHL game.
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