We start off the week with a shout-out to Paul Kelly, who has left his post at College Hockey Inc., where the former NHL Players’ Association head put the group on the map. He’s a friend of The Hot List, so let’s all hope his next job is hockey-related. Here’s a look at some of the players Kelly has helped put in the spotlight, plus the rest of the usual suspects we can’t wait to see in the NHL one day.
Filip Forsberg, RW – Leksand (Swe.)
Though 2012 is only two months old, it’s been a pretty good year for Forsberg. He kicked off the campaign by helping Sweden to its first world junior gold in 31 years, then went over to Finland a month or so later and took a Five Nations tourney title back with him. “Two great tournaments,” Forsberg said. “I hope it continues with the under-18s in April.”
That would give the budding scorer a rare Tre Kronor trifecta and the fact he already has two wins to his credit is part of the reason some NHL GMs think the Swede could go as high as second overall in the draft this summer. The kid’s got size (6-foot-1, 181 pounds) and great hands, but also knows he can work on his skating. “I think I could be quicker,” Forsberg said. “Both at the beginning of my stride and when I’m at top speed.”
A faster Forsberg (no relation to Peter) is a scary notion indeed, especially since scouts love his complete game already. Though he seems like a sure thing to come over to North America next season, Forsberg wants to see if he can get Leksand, the team he grew up idolizing, promoted to Sweden’s top division first. “It really depends on if we play up next year,” he said. “It would be so sick to be up in the first league.”
Depending on how things go in the fall, he may even have a shot at the best league in the world, instead. Draft eligible in 2012.
Dillon Fournier, D – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
He may not be able to get the Huskies out of the West Division basement, but Fournier is at least putting himself in good draft position. The No. 1 pick in the 2010 Quebec League draft (and the Lewiston dispersal draft), Fournier has a four-game point streak going to bring his totals to 33 points through 46 games. Not bad for a solid-skating blueliner who shades a bit more on the defensive side of the puck. Draft eligible in 2012.
Nikolai Prokhorkin, LW – CSKA (Rus.)
Playing in the Kontinental League’s junior ranks, the 6-foot-2, 183-pound Prokhorkin has been hot of late, with three, count’em three, four-point games in his past eight outings. Overall, the talented left winger has eight goals and 25 points in 14 games after spending time with the big club up in the KHL. Draft eligible in 2012.
Billy Jenkins, LW – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
He’s undersized at 5-foot-10, 165 pounds and Central Scouting didn’t even list him in the mid-term rankings, but Jenkins has come alive in Kingston since a trade from Niagara. Players do get buried on good teams and now Jenkins has been given the opportunity to put up numbers. With 14 assists and 19 points in 20 games with the Fronts, the kid is making the most of it. Draft eligible in 2012.
Mark Visentin, G – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
Speaking of the IceDogs, Visentin is on fire down in Niagara after an unexpected slow start to the campaign. The big netminder recaptured Canada’s hearts at the world juniors and in the past two months has put up a cumulative goals-against average of 0.86 in January and 1.29 so far in February. He now leads the Ontario League with an overall mark of 2.08 and has won 16 straight games. Drafted 27th overall by Phoenix in 2010.
Zemgus Girgensons, C – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
‘Latvian Lightning’ broke out of a slump recently and now has a six-game point streak. The Saints have lost only once in that span and once again are near the top of the United States League standings. Girgensons, a University of Vermont commit who can do anything on the ice, now has 15 goals and 38 points in 36 games. Draft eligible in 2012.
Damon Severson, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Kelowna has been a hotbed for defensemen over the years (Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Tyler Myers, Luke Schenn) and Severson is raising a lot of eyebrows himself. Scouts love his 6-foot-2 frame and the nasty edge he plays with. He’s mobile and has some offensive upside, but he also knows when to jump in the play. Draft eligible in 2012.
Scott Wilson, C – University of Massachusetts-Lowell RiverHawks (Hockey East)
The RiverHawks are flying high this year, giving the traditional powers in the conference all sorts of problems. Freshman Wilson is a big part of that, with 15 goals and 31 points in 28 games, putting him near the top of the conference in several offensive categories. Drafted 209th overall by Pittsburgh in 2011.
Christopher Clapperton, LW – Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)
A right forearm injury slowed him down in January, but Clapperton is still a point-per-game player in his rookie ‘Q’ season. Smallish but dangerous, Clapperton has excellent speed and a creative offensive mind, which can result in some highlight-reel goals. Draft eligible in 2012.
Reece Willcox, D – Merritt Centennials (BCHL)
A Cornell University commit, Willcox will bring puck-moving capabilities and size to the Big Red when he decamps from the B.C. Jr. A ranks next season. The two-way defender has 17 assists and 20 points through 45 games with the Cents and plays on the team’s top pairing. Draft eligible 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 in their first NHL game.
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