The Memorial Cup field is now set and it’s a doozy. The high-powered offenses of London, Portland and Halifax will all converge on Saskatoon, where the host Blades await (and have been waiting since getting bounced in the opening round of the Western League playoffs). Meanwhile, the United States League held its draft over two days, with many interesting names selected. On top of that, there are prospects at the World Championship in Sweden and Jr. A’s RBC Cup which is getting underway, so let’s look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Brendan Harms, RW – Fargo Force (USHL)
Fargo is fighting for its life in the USHL final, taking on a great Dubuque team and heading home after dropping the first two games in Iowa. But the Force has weapons such as Harms in its arsenal and the Manitoba-bred center knows it’s time to step up.
“We need to create some more offense,” he said. “It’s pretty hard to win when you only score two goals in the first two games.”
Up until the final, scoring had been no problem for Harms. He tallied 70 points in 64 games during the regular campaign and has 10 points in his first 11 playoff contests. That came on the heels of an excellent Jr. A career with the Portage Terriers, which saw Harms and his mates compete in back-to-back RBC Cups on the national stage, winning a league title the first year.
“The second year, we pushed the host team Humboldt to Game 7 after being down 3-0,” he said. “That experience really helped me in this long playoff series, especially when we were going back and forth with Sioux Falls. It helped keep me calm.”
Hailing from Steinbach, just outside of Winnipeg, Harms was hoping Fargo would draft him, since his family and friends often come down to see him use his smarts and playmaking ability for the Force now. He’s committed to Bemidji State in Minnesota, where the opportunity to make an impact immediately was also part of the equation.
“Bemidji really caught my eye,” he said. “It’s not too far from home and I liked the campus.”
The Beavers have a great chance to do damage in the new WCHA next season, so Harms will be able to hit the ground running. Draft eligible in 2013.
Jonathan Drouin, LW – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Drouin and friends leveled the field en route to the Quebec League title, going 16-1 in the playoffs. The uber-skilled left winger did his part along the way, with 12 goals and 35 points in 17 games. Now he’ll get a chance to show off his lightning wrister and dazzling vision on an even grander stage. Drouin was the QMJHL’s MVP for both the season and the playoffs. Draft eligible in 2013.
Ty Rattie, RW – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
To get Portland over the hump and win that Western League crown they’ve come so close to in the past few years, Rattie pulled out all the stops, netting two shorthanded goals and another for the hat trick in a 5-1 romp over Edmonton in Game 7. The slick sniper also set a WHL record for career playoff goals with 50 and earned championship MVP honors in the process. Drafted 32nd overall by St. Louis in 2011.
John Gibson, G – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Goalie controversy at the World Championship! Well, maybe not entirely. But Gibson has been incredible for Team USA, registering a .983 save percentage and 0.50 goals-against average in his two starts for the Americans. Given that Ben Bishop has been filleted as the No. 1, will coach Joe Sacco make a bold move in the medal round? Drafted 39th overall by Anaheim in 2011.
Bo Horvat, C – London Knights (OHL)
Eventually they’re just going to change the word ‘clutch’ to ‘Horvat.’ Maybe it can be a verb. The two-way center clinched an Ontario League title for the Knights by scoring the winner over Barrie with one second left in regulation, earning himself playoff MVP honors in the process. A character kid who plays in all situations, it will be interesting to see how high his stock can go. Draft eligible in 2013.
Curtis Lazar, C – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Edmonton couldn’t thwart Portland in the rematch of last year’s Western League final, but Lazar’s season will continue in a sense. The strong, two-way center is one of the most intriguing prospects for the draft and will be a popular kid at the combine later this month. Some scouts see a Dustin Brown type in the making, with Lazar projecting more as a winger at the NHL level. Draft eligible in 2013.
Joe Morrow, D – Texas Stars (AHL)
Dallas is building a pretty good stable of young blueliners, with Morrow joining Jamie Oleksiak and Brenden Dillon among others. The former Penguins prospect got his first goal of the post-season for Texas, which is in a dogfight with Oklahoma City in the second round of the American League playoffs. Along with his shot, Morrow can also skate quite well. Acquired from Pittsburgh by Dallas in 2013. Drafted 23rd overall by Pittsburgh in 2011.
Marko Dano, RW – Slovan Bratislava (KHL)
Dano sealed Slovakia’s victory over Team USA at the worlds and while it was an empty-net goal, it’s still a nice confidence booster for the teen. Physical and skilled, Dano is gaining more ice time with the national team and most importantly is staying out of the penalty box, something that plagued his world junior performance. Draft eligible in 2013.
Zach Sanford, LW – Middlesex Islanders (EJHL)
A burgeoning power forward who really came on in the second half of the season, Sanford is a Boston College commit who will arrive in Chestnut Hill for 2014-15, meaning he’ll need somewhere to play next season. Waterloo just nabbed his rights in the USHL Draft, so Iowa may be his next stop. Draft eligible in 2013.
Brian Pinho, C – St. John’s Prep Eagles (Mass. HS)
A two-way pivot with skill who is just beginning to blossom as a player, Pinho was selected sixth overall by Indiana in the USHL Draft. The gifted playmaker still has one season to go before he heads to the NCAA’s Providence College Friars, so the Ice have a good case to make in landing him. 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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