The Frozen Four is set and the NCAA will have a first-time champ no matter who takes the trophy in Pittsburgh. Quinnipiac, Yale, UMass-Lowell and St. Cloud State will duke it out for college supremacy and it’s going to be an interesting battle. Meanwhile, The Canadian Hockey League playoffs are on to the second round and there have already been some big upsets and surprise performances. With all that to consider, here’s a look at some of the prospects we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Riley Barber, RW – Miami RedHawks (CCHA)
The conference rookie of the year couldn’t get the RedHawks back to the Frozen Four, but there’s no taking away from the freshman campaign Barber had with Miami. The Michigan native ended his season with 15 goals and 39 points in 40 games, one behind linemate Austin Czarnik for the conference lead. Needless to say, chemistry was not a problem for the pair, who worked alongside Dallas pick Curtis McKenzie to terrorize the opposition.
Barber won gold with Team USA at the world juniors this winter, where his offensive awareness and instincts came in handy. But it was his year with Dubuque in the United States League that first set the tone, as the Fighting Saints won the league championship.
“It mattered immensely,” Barber said. “You learn to play in tight games that really matter. I played with some great guys and for my development at that age, it was huge.”
After Dubuque, the right winger went on to the U.S. National Team Development Program, where he followed in the footsteps of old friends John Gibson and J.T. Miller. Along with Vince Trocheck all had played for the midget Pittsburgh Hornets under Barber’s dad.
“My dad knows a lot about hockey and it was great to have him,” Barber said. “It really helped my development.”
With Miami expected to return all but five of this season’s CCHA regular season champs for the team’s first year in the new NCHC conference, Barber and his RedHawks will be primed for a return to the Frozen Four playoffs. Drafted 167th overall by Washington in 2012.
Emile Poirier, LW – Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
The Piques pulled off a big upset in the Quebec League, knocking off Rimouski in six games. Poirier proved to be the executioner with a goal and an assist in the 2-1 clincher, but he’s been hot for a while, ending the regular season with 12 points in his last five games. The left winger brings a nice combination of grit, skill and puck protection to Gatineau’s attack. Draft-eligible in 2013.
Laurent Brossoit, G – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
He’s got the size, the athleticism and the experience – what else do you want in a playoff goaltender? If it’s numbers, Brossoit is on top of that too. The big netminder leads the ‘Dub’ with a miniscule 0.76 goals-against average and is second with a strong .968 save percentage. He also notched two shutouts in an opening round series win over Kootenay. Drafted 164th overall by Calgary in 2011.
Matthew Peca, C – Quinnipiac Bobcats (ECAC)
The Bobcats torched Union en route to a Frozen Four berth and Peca wielded the flamethrower. His natural hat trick in the first period was the fastest in tourney history and he added an assist for good measure in the second frame. The speedster will be a key part of Quinnipiac’s effort for the school’s first-ever national title. Drafted 201st overall by Tampa Bay in 2011.
Zach Nastasiuk, RW – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
A character player who can kill penalties and brings great size to the table, Nastasiuk has been lighting it up during the playoffs, helping the Attack to the second round with three goals and seven points in seven games. That ranks him second on a very talented team. Draft-eligible in 2013.
Lucas Wallmark, C – Karlskrona (Swe.)
On loan from Skelleftea, Wallmark has been a godsend for Karlskrona, a team attempting to stave off relegation in Sweden’s Allsvenskan, or second division. A gifted playmaker, Wallmark is living up to his rep with five assists in his first five games of the win-or-get-bumped tournament. Draft-eligible in 2013.
Adam Tambellini, C – Surrey Eagles (BCHL)
Though their respective semifinal series aren’t over, the Eagles and Penticton Vees seem to be on a collision course for the B.C. League final. And while the Vees have an assortment of elite talent, the Eagles counter with the post-season’s top scorer in Tambellini, who nine goals and 13 points in 10 games. The North Dakota commit has been a wonder since coming over from Vernon, using his shot, vision and skating to dominate. Draft-eligible in 2013.
Kevin Gravel, D – St. Cloud State Huskies (WCHA)
If the Huskies are going to slow down the Quinnipiac attack at the Frozen Four, Gravel will be key. A towering stay-at-home defenseman at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Gravel has big-game experience from his time on Team USA’s world junior squad and uses his reach and physicality to shut down the opposition. Drafted 148th overall by Los Angeles in 2010.
Dominik Kubalik, LW – Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
The Wolves have played the spoilers before in the playoffs and this year Brampton was the first victim. Kubalik, a rookie from the Czech Republic, held most of the daggers by netting three game-winning goals for Sudbury in the series. The left winger brings a nice combination of strength and skill and his older brother is Winnipeg prospect Tomas Kubalik. Draft-eligible in 2013.
Ross Olsson, RW – Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (USHL)
Definitely a long-term project, Olson has scouts intrigued because of his size (6-foot-4, 200 pounds but still growing), his hard shot and his willingness to play physical. He still needs to get stronger, but once he does, the Northeastern commit will be a force on the ice. Since a trade from Lincoln, Olson has 11 points in 18 games, doubling his rate of productivity. Draft-eligible in 2013.
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 on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play their first NHL game.
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