Well, the NHL lockout is upon us. But that doesn’t mean hockey’s on ice - there is plenty of action going on right now in Europe, plus the beginning of the major junior regular season. So let’s take a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day. And remember: The Hot List is only for prospects yet to skate in an NHL game.
Chris Bigras, D – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Fresh off a gold medal with Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, Bigras is ready to step into a big role with the Attack, one of the more promising teams in the Ontario League. While repping his country overseas, the 6-foot-1, 189-pounder played with the Soo Greyhounds’ Darnell Nurse to form a shutdown pairing and had a blast wearing the red maple leaf.
“It was awesome to experience the cohesiveness of all 22 guys and how we came together in such a short amount of time,” he said. “It was great playing with the best players from my age group.”
Bigras (pronounced Bee-Graw - his dad is a French-Canadian from Sudbury, Ont.) had 19 points in 49 games for the Attack last year and tries to play a blended game modelled after the patron saint of defenders, Nick Lidstrom.
“I’m a defenseman that likes to jump into the play, but I take care of my own end first,” he said. “Whenever I get the chance I try to make a good first pass and then jump in.”
Despite already sporting NHL size, Bigras knows he’ll have to continue to build muscle in order to make the pros in the future.
“Being stronger in front of the net and in the corners is something I’m working on,” he said.
With the opportunities he’ll receive in Owen Sound, it’s looking like a big year for Bigras. Draft eligible in 2013.
Brandon Gormley, D – Portland Pirates (AHL)
Like a lot of young stars, Gormley may have been headed to the American League instead of the NHL regardless, but the two-way blueliner would have challenged for a spot for sure. Instead, he’ll team up with Oliver Ekman-Larsson and David Rundblad to give the Pirates a potent puckmoving D-corps. Drafted 13th overall by Phoenix in 2010.
Joel Armia, RW – Assat Pori (Fin.)
With two goals and four points in his first two games of the season, Armia has come out strong over in Finland - and it will be interesting to see if the league gets more competitive with fleeing NHLers soon. The powerful winger’s 6-foot-3 frame has filled out admirably, while the hands are still lightning. Drafted 16th overall by Buffalo in 2011.
Evan Cowley, G – Wichita Falls Wildcats (NAHL)
The North American League’s annual showcase tourney brought out a ton of scouts and talent observers, including Justin Goldman of The Goalie Guild, who was raving about Cowley. The 6-foot-4 netminder reportedly brings a lot of stylistic similarities to Carey Price, from the big frame to the calm attitude and positioning in net. Draft eligible in 2013.
Lucas Wallmark, C – Skelleftea (Swe.)
Known for his vision, Wallmark studies at the School of Henrik Sedin and has obviously been doing his homework. Through three games at the under-20 level, he has four assists and five points for undefeated Skelleftea. Draft eligible in 2013.
Trevor Carrick, D – Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Though the defensive side of his game still needs honing, there’s no denying what a weapon Carrick can be when he has the puck. In a pre-season tilt against Owen Sound, the smart blueliner executed a perfect fake-slapshot pass for a goal, giving the Steelheads a great 1-2 punch from the point alongside Toronto pick Stuart Percy. Drafted 115th overall by Carolina in 2012.
Viktor Crus Rydberg, C – Linkoping (Swe.)
A demon in the faceoff circle, Crus Rydberg has gotten off to a nice start in junior action with two points in his first two games. The mid-sized pivot has already played for Sweden internationally and has always put up points when he does. Draft eligible in 2013.
Hampus Lindholm, D – Norfolk Admirals (AHL)
Even though his Swedish team, Rogle BK, is slated for Elite League action, Lindholm has been assigned to the American League, yet another sign the Ducks are jacked to have him under their banner. The two-way defender has been on a steady arc of improvement for a long time now and AHL competition will be a good litmus test. Drafted sixth overall by Anaheim in 2012.
Karson Kuhlman, C – Cloquet-Esko-Carlton Lumberjacks (Minn. HS)
A high-scoring forward who played for Team USA’s Ivan Hlinka team, Kuhlman just committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where he’ll bring his offensive acumen to the Bulldogs in the future. Kuhlman, who also saw time in the USHL with Dubuque last year, has a goal and five points through six games in the Upper Midwest Elite League this season. Draft eligible in 2014.
Stanislav Galiev, RW – Hershey Bears (AHL)
It was a sad Tweet – Galiev showing off a picture of his Washington Caps gear, which he won’t be wearing just yet. But Hershey’s a great destination if you’re in the AHL and the Bears will give the talented Russian a nice place to develop his pro game after an exemplary junior career in Saint John. Drafted 86th overall by Washington in 2010.
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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