The CHL Super Series shifts to the Western League after the Russians fell twice to the Ontario League stars, while an all-Canadian final at the World Jr. A Challenge saw West beat East for gold. Team USA took bronze, extending its medal run at the event to five years. Here’s a look at the kids who stood out on the big stages and more from around the prospect world.
Raphael Bussieres, LW – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Baie-Comeau may not be the best-known locale in the Quebec League, but Bussieres got a sneak preview of his new home thanks to the 2008 documentary Junior, put out by the National Film Board of Canada. The movie focused on the off-ice lives of the Drakkar and the pressures surrounding the teens.
“I saw it when I was in bantam,” Bussieres said. “I thought it was great. It’s nice for the young kids to see what life in the Quebec League is like. And our trainer was in it.”
The 6-foot-1, 192-pound left winger is playing great hockey for the Drakkar, a team battling in the QMJHL middle after bottoming out last season. Baie-Comeau traded the rights to No. 1 overall pick Nathan MacKinnon when it became clear he preferred a team closer to home (Halifax was the eventual trade partner), but Bussieres loves where he is.
“For sure,” he said. “We have a great organization and we’re well-treated. It’s a small place and a hockey city and we like it. We’re with the boys here and focus on hockey.”
As part of the NHL’s R & D camp this summer, Bussieres showed off his skill set, which includes a willingness to fight for pucks and play grimy.
“My play along the boards,” he said, “puck protection, skating…it creates space for me to make plays.”
He’d like to work on his consistency and defensive play, but Bussieres is destined to make noise outside of Baie-Comeau in the near future. Draft eligible in 2012.
Ryan Spooner, C – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
No one has been hotter than Spooner lately and the gifted scorer has the OHL player of the week honors to back it up. The Kingston pivot tallied six points in his two Super Series contests to lead all players – impressive, since most of the Russians have played twice as many games. Drafted 45th overall by Boston in 2010.
Sean Kuraly, C – Indiana Ice (USHL)
Known as much for his size and his attention to detail on the ice, particularly with penalty killing, Kuraly tied for the title of top scorer at the Jr. A Challenge with three goals and six points in five games. The Miami RedHawks commit is also off to a good start locally in the United States League. Drafted 133rd overall by San Jose in 2011.
Kevin Roy, LW – Lincoln Stars (USHL)
You just don’t see the kind of offensive numbers Roy has put up in the USHL lately. In the past six games, the skilled teen has racked up 15 points to take a commanding lead atop the league scoreboard (23 points overall in 13 games), including two outings of five points – both Lincoln victories. Roy first gained acclaim as a 13-year-old in a viral video called “wicked good Canadian.” Draft eligible in 2012 (undrafted in 2011).
Slater Koekkoek, D – Peterborough Petes (OHL)
With enviable size (6-foot-2, 183 pounds already) and a drive to play defense, Koekkoek’s point totals so far add a new scary dimension to his game. The young blueliner is already tough to play against, but with his offensive pace, he will soon surpass the seven goals and 23 points he put up all of last year. Draft eligible in 2012.
Nikita Kucherov, LW – CSKA Moscow (KHL)
One thing probably lost in the Super Series is the fact the Russian kids coming over from the Kontinental League and its junior ranks have a pretty tough schedule. Most play all six games and face fresher troops as time goes on. That being said, Kucherov has had a good showing with a point per game so far, including two goals on just eight shots. Drafted 58th overall by Tampa Bay in 2011.
Nick Bjugstad, C – University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (WCHA)
Florida GM Dale Tallon saw Bjugstad as the big, emerging center the Panthers didn’t have and the youngster is certainly proving his worth this year after mono slowed down his freshman campaign. With nine goals and 16 points in 12 games, the Minnesota native has been a powerhouse for the Gophers and will be integral to Team USA’s world junior squad. Drafted 19th overall by Florida in 2010.
Tyson Sexsmith, G – Worcester Sharks (AHL)
With Antero Niittymaki’s injury meaning Thomas Greiss has been needed with the big club in San Jose, there’s been a lot more crease time in Worcester. Sexsmith has seized the reins with a 1.80 goals-against average and .924 save percentage, giving him some of the best numbers in the ‘A,’ though battery partner Harri Sateri has more wins with poorer stats. Drafted 91st overall by San Jose in 2007.
Alexander Kerfoot, C – Coquitlam Express (BCHL)
Small in stature but big when it matters, Kerfoot notched a goal and an assist to help Canada West win the gold medal at the Jr. A championship and tied for the team lead overall with three points in five games. Back in the B.C. League, the 5-foot-9 goal scorer is more than a point-per-game player. Draft eligible in 2012.
Alex Petrovic, D – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
The Dub’s player of the week, Petrovic rang up two goals and 10 points in five road games for the Rebels, who did not lose in regulation during the stretch. Overall, the blueliner sits fifth in league D-man scoring with 20 points in 20 games and will suit up for the WHL at the Super Series. Drafted 36th overall by Florida 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 in their first NHL game.
For more great prospect profiles and news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.