The host Shawinigan Cataractes are your Memorial Cup champs thanks to a win over London in the final, with Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Michael Chaput taking MVP honors. Not only that, but the United States League held its draft, the American League playoffs have reached the final and the NHL’s combine is this week, so let’s dive into our look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Scott Wedgewood, G – Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Martin Brodeur is having another great playoff run, but he won’t be around forever. In fact, who knows what a Devils Cup victory would mean for his return if he can go out on top? At least New Jersey has a blue-chipper in the hopper with Wedgewood, who turns pro in the fall and has learned from the surefire Hall of Famer at training camps.
“Growing up he was my idol,” Wedgewood said. “Having a chance to skate with him and watch him – he’s been unbelievable to me. A great guy to talk to.”
Whether the Devils want the 19-year-old with the big squad or getting reps in the American League with Albany, Wedgewood will be facing stiff competition – just as he did as a member of Canada’s bronze medal world junior team this year.
“Next to being drafted, representing your country is one of the biggest achievements an athlete can have,” he said. “Having that to look back on is something I’ll cherish the rest of my life.”
A standout with Plymouth (which also helped produce Michal Neuvirth and Matt Hackett recently) during his Ontario League career, Wedgewood actually shares some common characteristics with Brodeur.
“I’m able to stop the puck in a lot of different ways,” Wedgewood said. “That and my calmness. I don’t get discouraged easily and I don’t think I ever will. And like Marty, I’ve learned to move the puck pretty well, almost like a third defender out there.”
Of course there’s work to do in the young man’s career and that first pro season will give him a chance to round out his net work.
“I’d like to improve my explosiveness and patience,” Wedgewood said. “I get in trouble sometimes committing on guys and looking too forward on plays.”
It’s hard not to look forward when the NHL is so near, but Wedgewood is the first Devils net prospect in a long time that could see starter’s minutes in the near future. Drafted 84th overall by New Jersey in 2010.
Anton Zlobin, LW – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
With both goals (one in overtime) in Shawinigan’s 2-1 final win over London, Zlobin is like the Ruslan Fedotenko of junior hockey. Passed over in last year’s draft because scouts wanted to see him adjust more to the North American game, Zlobin stuck it out and returned with a team-best 40 goals and 76 points in 66 games. Draft eligible in 2012 (undrafted in 2011).
Henrik Samuelsson, C – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Samuelsson is coming off a Memorial Cup where he was named to the tournament all-star team and his stock is rising. Ulf’s kid has a high hockey IQ and it will be intriguing to see if he is part of the high-profile Thursday luncheon at the draft. The event usually includes the top 10 or so prospects plus one local pick and Samuelsson was born in Pittsburgh. Draft eligible in 2012.
Justin Schultz, D – University of Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA)
Schultz’s Wisconsin career was heavenly, as the offensive defenseman finished his junior season with 16 goals and 44 points in 37 games. Anaheim would love to get his name on an entry level contract now that Schultz has left school, but there are strong rumblings that he’ll test the open market. He’ll be much sought after if he does. Drafted 43rd overall by Anaheim in 2008.
Valery Nichuschkin, C – Chelyabinsk (Rus.)
At 6-foot-3 and nearly 200 pounds already, Nichushkin will be a coveted asset thanks to the smarts he packages alongside that frame. But before the NHL draft comes calling, the young Russian will go through the CHL Import Draft, where he will no doubt go high thanks to his skill and willingness to come over. Draft eligible in 2013.
Chris Calnan, RW – Noble and Greenough Bulldogs (Mass. HS)
A power forward who is committed to Boston College, Calnan went from Nobles to the Cape Cod Whalers, who participated in the US national championship in Buffalo last month. Calnan had five points in five games before the Whalers fell to eventual champ Shattuck-St. Mary’s in the semifinal. Waterloo just grabbed his USHL rights. Draft eligible in 2012.
Mark Jankowski, C – Stanstead College Spartans (Que. HS)
The big mystery prospect of the draft, Jankowski lit up decent-but-not-great competition for the Spartans, to the tune of 53 goals and 93 points in 57 games. Committed to Providence College, he’ll likely play a year elsewhere first and Dubuque just snagged his USHL rights. Draft eligible in 2012.
Nicolas Deschamps, LW – Toronto Marlies (AHL)
The Marlies head into the Calder Cup final in a banged-up state, with several top forwards on the shelf. Luckily, the skilled Deschamps is still clicking. The winger has posted three goals and 12 points in 13 playoff games, putting him top 10 in the league. Drafted 35th overall by Anaheim in 2008; traded to Toronto in 2012.
Dustin Tokarski, G – Norfolk Admirals (AHL)
The Ads are a juggernaut, but they’ve played some tight games in the post-season and Tokarski has been there when needed. The 22-year-old boasts a .939 save percentage and comes into the final on the heels of back-to-back shutouts. Drafted 122nd overall by Tampa Bay in 2008.
Patrick Sieloff, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Once bound for Miami University, Sieloff is now property of the Windsor Spitfires, who already look formidable for next season. The American national is a fierce hitter and all-around physical presence with a competitive streak that scouts love. Draft eligible in 2012.
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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