With playoffs getting down to the finals in major junior and the United States League, there’s some serious hockey going on now, but the news doesn’t stop there. Prospects are also over in Europe for the World Championship and preparing for the NHL draft combine, with the list of invitees coming out last week. Here are some kids we’re keeping an eye on for the future.
Seth Jones, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
It was one of the biggest decisions to affect the 2013 draft class and now it’s been made: Jones will play in the Western League. Of course, the argument had been framed as Everett vs. the University of North Dakota, but when the Tips traded the big blueliner’s rights to Portland, things started to move quickly. Now the Winterhawks get richer and the potential No. 1 pick overall has a home for his bevy of skills.
“I move the puck well,” Jones said. “I make the first pass and my skating is a huge part of my game – I try to focus on my stride.”
The son of former NBAer Popeye Jones is still working on getting his shots through from the point, but if his play with Team USA is any indication, he is on the fast track to stardom. He spent his formative years in Colorado until 12, where he developed his NHL allegiances before heading to Texas.
“I grew up on the Avs,” Jones said. “But my favorite player (and role model) is Nick Lidstrom. That’s lofty, but the way he plays the game – he keeps it simple.”
If not for a shoulder separation, Jones would have made the U.S. national junior team in Alberta as a young 17-year-old and will surely be the glue on that blueline when the tourney shifts to Russia in December. For now, he’s just appreciating the lessons he learned from a pro athlete household.
“Nothing comes easy,” Jones said. “Nothing is going to be handed to you on a platter. It’s what people don’t see – the practice, the workouts – that matters.”
And practice has nearly made perfect already. Draft eligible in 2013.
Austin Watson, C – London Knights (OHL)
He learned two-way play on a loaded 2009 Windsor squad and now Watson is leading the Knights to their own deep playoff run. Blocking shots, killing penalties and putting up numbers have been some of the contributions from the 6-foot-3 pivot, who has nine goals and 15 points in 17 games for London. Drafted 18th overall by Nashville in 2010.
Jonas Brodin, D – Farjestad (Swe.)
With Detroit’s Jonathan Ericsson sitting out a couple games to injury, the swift-skating Brodin got a chance to strut his stuff on a Swedish worlds roster that included Niklas Kronwall, Victor Hedman and Erik Karlsson on the back end. Brodin has one goal in two games and has averaged more than 17 minutes of ice time as a teenager. Drafted 10th overall by Minnesota in 2011.
Marek Hrivik, LW – Connecticut Whale (AHL)
A free agent out of Moncton in the Quebec League, Hrivik is making his new employers in Connecticut very happy, with five goals and eight points in seven post-season games. The Whale has high-flying Norfolk all knotted up in the Calder Cup quarterfinal and Hrivik has a point in each game this series. Now the parent New York Rangers are looking to ink him. Signed amateur tryout contract with Connecticut in 2012.
Francis Beauvillier, C – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
Speedy with a booming shot, Beauvillier is still grinding for the Oceanic against Saint John in the QMJHL final, but he also got an invitation to the draft combine in Toronto. He’s one of only nine ‘Q’ prospects on the list and while his eight points in 19 playoff games isn’t huge, two of those have been shorthanded goals. Draft eligible in 2012.
Mitchell Moroz, LW – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
An adept fighter who can also provide secondary scoring, Moroz will be a key part of Edmonton’s ongoing series with Portland, which has quickly become poisonous. At 6-foot-2, 208 pounds, the Calgary native already has NHL size and he’ll be able to show off his physical gifts at the draft combine. Draft eligible in 2012.
Joe Morrow, D – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Speaking of Portland, Morrow has been big for the Hawks, getting his nose dirty and sticking up for teammates while also continuing to contribute offense from the blueline. The great skating D-man is tied with teammate Derrick Pouliot for the league lead in scoring from the back end with three goals and 14 points in 18 games. Drafted 23rd overall by Pittsburgh in 2012.
Taylor Cammarata, C – Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
The Hawks are heading to the Clark Cup thanks to their ousting of Lincoln and now the defending champ Green Bay Gamblers await. Cammarata will be counted on for offense and don’t let the 5-foot-6, 145-pound frame fool you; the sharp young man has put up numbers all year and has been a point-per-gamer in the playoffs, too. Draft eligible in 2013.
Jujhar Khaira, LW – Prince George Spruce Kings (BCHL)
Passed over in the WHL bantam draft, Khaira will get a chance to show off at the NHL draft combine after a great sophomore season in Jr. A. The mobile, two-way big man is committed to Michigan Tech and had 29 goals and 79 points in 54 games after a hot rookie start cooled off in the previous campaign. Draft eligible in 2012.
Eddie Pasquale, G – St. John’s IceCaps (AHL)
One of the busiest goaltenders in the ‘A’ right now, Pasquale is second in crease time behind Wilkes-Barre’s Brad Thiessen. Thing is, Pasquale’s Caps are up three games to one on Thiessen’s Baby Pens and all the games have been close. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound netminder has a 2.07 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in the post-season, his first as a pro player. Drafted 117th overall by Atlanta/Winnipeg in 2009.
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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