Playoffs in major junior and the United States League are getting serious, while the world under-18s are in the books for another year (and another Team USA victory). Meanwhile, the annual Canadian League/NCAA war is in full swing with Medicine Hat claiming North Dakota recruit Miles Koules and Plymouth signing Ryan Hartman away from Miami. Both played for the U.S. national team development program this year. Here’s a look at some other players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Brandon Whitney, G – Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL)
Though he didn’t see any action in the Czech Republic, Whitney was honored to be part of Team Canada’s bronze medal squad at the under-18s, where he served as backup to the ‘Soo’s’ Matt Murray. It’s a role the youngster is used to in the Quebec League, where he played slightly less than starter David Honzik (a Vancouver draft pick), yet boasted superior stats.
“He taught me a lot this year, with media and everything,” Whitney said. “He’s been a good role model.”
While Honzik is big he’s dwarfed by his understudy, who measures in at 6-foot-5 and 196 pounds. Ranked second among North American goaltenders by Central Scouting, Whitney is comfortable with his enviable frame.
“I’ve always been tall – I’ve grown pretty consistently,” he said. “Still, everybody needs the experience to get better.”
Whitney prefers to challenge shooters and prides himself on tracking cross-ice passes. Needless to say, he uses his size as an advantage, but is still working on balance and positional play. Puckhandling is another challenge. Whitney’s stats this year weren’t eye-popping – a 2.74 goals-against average and .896 save percentage – but he won 22 of 30 decisions, perhaps the most important numbers of all. And playing in the high-scoring ‘Q’ hasn’t hurt his confidence.
“In my midget season I played on a really bad team,” he said. “I would face 60, 70 shots a night, so I’m pretty used to getting scored on. It doesn’t faze me anymore. You want to stop every puck, but we’re human, right?”
True, but most humans don’t have Whitney’s physical tools. Draft eligible in 2012.
Olli Maatta, D – London Knights (OHL)
With a D-corps featuring Maatta, Jarred Tinordi and Scott Harrington (all of whom played at the world juniors), it’s no surprise London is in the Ontario League final against Niagara. Maatta was named the OHL player of the week thanks to his clutch offense against Kitchener in the semifinal and the two-way defender is tied for tops among blueliners in playoff scoring with five goals and 19 points through 14 games. Draft eligible in 2012.
Ryan Murray, D – Everett Silvertips (WHL)
When Jonathan Toews joined Canada’s World Championship team before he had even played an NHL game, it was a big deal. Well, Murray’s on that squad as a defenseman and he hasn’t even been drafted yet. The smooth skater even saw time alongside Chicago’s Duncan Keith in exhibition play. Draft eligible in 2012.
Jerry D’Amigo, LW – Toronto Marlies (AHL)
After finding the net on just 10 percent of his shots in the regular season, D’Amigo has adjusted his sights accordingly in the playoffs. The second-year pro leads the American League with five post-season goals and has done so on just 11 shots as the Marlies are set for second-round action against Abbotsford. Drafted 158th overall by Toronto in 2009.
Calle Jarnkrok, C – Brynas (Swe.)
His teammate Jakob Silfverberg went straight to the NHL playoffs, but Jarnkrok will have to be content with winning a Swedish League title and joining his fellow young gun on the national team for the World Championship. Jarnkrok was a point-per-game player during Brynas’ run to the promised land and a solid plus-12. Drafted 51st overall by Detroit in 2010.
Alex Broadhurst, C – Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
The Gamblers pivot pulled off a rare feat during Green Bay’s turfing of Youngstown in the first round of the playoffs; he converted an all-shorthanded hat trick. It was the first time such a thing had been done in United States League history. And just to show he’s not a one-trick pony, Broadhurst finds himself tied for tops in the USHL with seven points in four games. Drafted 199th overall by Chicago in 2011.
Marko Dano, RW – Dukla Trencin (Svk.)
Hard to believe, but the Slovaks were not in the top tier at the under-18s. Dano helped bring them up from the Div. I-A column for next year, however, with his 10 goal, 13-point performance in five games to clinch promotion. A late birthday, Dano was also effective at the world juniors, where his rambunctious style made him seem much older and certainly not out of place. Draft eligible in 2013.
Seth Jones, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
One of the top scorers for Team USA at the under-18s, Jones was a force for the gold medalists with three goals and eight points in six games, using superior size and puck protection skills to defuse the enemy forecheck and create offensive chances. A potential No. 1 pick overall next year, Jones’ WHL rights have been traded to high-flying Portland from Everett, making his decision between the NCAA and major junior even tougher. Draft eligible in 2013.
Mario Lucia, LW – Penticton Vees (BCHL)
The RBC Cup starts this weekend to determine the best team in all of Canadian Jr. A. But more than likely, it’s going to be a bunch of Minnesotans bringing home the trophy. That’s because the powerhouse Vees (54-4-2 in the regular season) are laden with talent from the state and Lucia, a Notre Dame commit, is one of the keys. The big transplant had six goals and 16 points in 15 games en route to the B.C. League championship. Drafted 60th overall by Minnesota in 2011.
Laurent Brossoit, G – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Unstoppable force, meet immovable object. The Portland Winterhawks take on the Oil Kings for the WHL title and Brossoit will be the last line of defense against the potent PDX attack. The big netminder has a scintillating 1.62 GAA and .945 SP in the post-season and just one loss against 12 wins. Drafted 164th overall by Calgary in 2011.
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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