Yale has its first national championship, Quinnipiac proved it was for real and St. Cloud State's Drew LeBlanc took the Hobey Baker Award before signing with the Chicago Blackhawks. So the NCAA season is all wrapped up, but the world under-18s are just about to start, while CHL playoffs are in beast mode. Here's a look at some of the prospects making headlines themselves right now.
Gus Young, D – Yale Bulldogs (ECAC)
The Bulldogs got a full team effort in beating Quinnipiac, but there were definitely some turning points. Young, a junior with the squad, was part of two of them. On the first, he broke up a pass on a 5-on-3 penalty-kill, clearing the zone in the process. Then, it was Young's point shot that center Clinton Bourbonais tipped in for the first goal of the game, which also happened to be the game-winner. After the game, Young was still letting the title sink in.
“It's probably going to take a couple days, maybe a couple of weeks to set in,” he said. “It's just pure joy.”
Playing on the top pairing with Boston pick Rob O'Gara, Young formed an effective duo with the rookie Bruins pick.
“Playing with Robbie, he did not have a season like a freshman would,” Young said. “He made an immediate impact. He's really easy to play with and as the year went on we started talking a lot more, giving each other outs. It's been awesome to play with him.”
Coming out of the Noble and Greenough prep school in his hometown of Dedham, Mass., Young had nine points in 37 games this season, though he's not there to score goals.
“I'm definitely a defensive defenseman, a stay-at-home guy,” he said. “I usually play against the other team's top one or two lines, try to shut them down. I like to start offense by moving the puck out of my own zone and as the year went on I got more comfortable jumping up in the play more.”
With one more year of eligibility, Young can help Yale aim for glory again next season. Drafted 184th overall by Colorado in 2009.
Nikita Kucherov, RW – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
When the lockout sent Mikhail Grigorenko back to the Quebec Remparts, the team was over the import limit since Nick Sorensen and Kucherov were already scheduled to play. Kucherov was the one traded and boy, did he make his old mates pay. The Huskies upset the Remparts in the second round and the highly skilled Russian pumped in a hat trick and six points in the final game. Drafted 58th overall by Tampa Bay in 2011.
Anthony Stolarz, G – London Knights (OHL)
Stolarz took a pretty big risk in leaving the University of Nebraska-Omaha just as his college career was beginning, but the Knights are glad they convinced him to make the trek to Southern Ontario. The New Jersey native is rocking a 1.76 goals-against average in the playoffs and has won eight of nine games, proving he may not have been as raw as scouts originally thought. Drafted 45th overall by Philadelphia in 2012.
Samuel Morin, D – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
His team made an early exit from the Quebec League playoffs, but now Morin gets a second shot at glory at the world under-18s. The 6-foot-6 defender plays a largely stay-at-home game and can be real nasty when called upon, which will be key in deflecting the opponent's top offensive weapons. Draft eligible in 2013.
Nic Petan, C – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Petan has kept the good times rolling in Portland, where his scoring touch has remained in the playoffs. Undersized, but feisty and brave, Petan has five goals and 15 points in his first 10 post-season contests, building off his miraculous 120-point sophomore regular season campaign. Draft eligible in 2013.
Jordan Samuels-Thomas, RW – Quinnipiac Bobcats (ECAC)
A transfer from Bowling Green, Samuels-Thomas is a Connecticut native who really helped the Bobcats get to the title game. In the romp over St. Cloud State in the semifinal, Samuels-Thomas used Gretzky's office to cause havoc, scoring once and setting another goal up. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound prospect boasts a great combination of skill and physicality. Drafted 203rd overall by Atlanta (Winnipeg) in 2009.
Mitchell Heard, C – Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
The type of player who can do a bit of everything for his team, Heard is best-known for his physical play and prowess in the faceoff circle. But he can also light the lamp, as he demonstrated in Plymouth's final win over Owen Sound in the second round of the playoffs with three points in the victory. Heard now has seven goals and 12 points in 10 post-season contests. Drafted 41st overall by Colorado in 2012.
Victor Rask, C – Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Rask's experience at both the pro level during the lockout (where he played for AHL Charlotte) and back home in Sweden's second division have been perfect for Calgary in the post-season, where his 13 points in 10 games is tops on the Hitmen. A great two-way player, Rask can also win important faceoffs. Drafted 42nd overall by Carolina in 2011.
Tommy Vannelli, D – Minnetonka Skippers (Minn. HS)
Since his high school season ended, Vannelli has joined on with Team USA and now he's headed to the world under-18s. A gifted athlete and fantastic skater, the University of Minnesota commit will get a chance to strut his stuff as an offensive defenseman on what is always a strong USA squad. Draft eligible in 2013.
Michael McCarron, RW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
A key offensive contributor in Team USA's exhibition win over Canada in preparation for the under-18s, McCarron brings a very enticing 6-foot-5, 227-pound frame, but consistency has been a gripe for scouts. When he's on, the Western Michigan commit brings that big body and some nice hands to the offensive end and WMU coach Andy Murray is a good nurturer of talent. 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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