With so much attention focused on the World Junior Championships in Malmo, Sweden, we want to give you a quick update on what is going on among prospects elsewhere. All statistics are through January 2, 2014.
Anthony Duclair (NYR, third round, 2013) was named league-wide second star of the month for December and signed an entry-level contract with the Rangers, all in one week. This is in addition to the Quebec Remparts winger’s league-wide first star for the last week in December.
Emile Poirier (CGY, first round, 2013) is another QMJHL player who was signed to an ELC over the last week. The Gatineau Olympiques winger can score as well as fight. In one game last week, he recorded a hat trick and a fight. In 36 games, Poirier has posted 53 points.
Nikolaj Ehlers (2014 draft eligible) has had a tremendous December. Representing Denmark, Ehlers was a top-10 scorer in the WJC’s D1 Group A (held from 12/15-12/21 in Poland), posting six points (two goals, four assists) in five games. Tied for second in plus/minus, Ehlers was a big reason that Denmark won the tournament and will be in the WJCs in Toronto/Montreal next year. Back in the Q, Ehlers had a very good month, too. He currently has a five-game scoring streak with the Halifax Mooseheads. While other European players’ performances in the WJCs have had their draft stock falling, Ehlers is rising quickly on scouts’ draft lists.
Second to Ehlers in rookie scoring in the QMJHL is 2015 draft-eligible right wing Daniel Sprong (Charlottetown Islanders). Sprong is on everyone’s short list as a top 2015 draft pick and he is living up to expectations in his rookie season in Charlottetown. With 41 points (14 goals, 24 assists) in 40 games thus far, Sprong has been drawing more and more attention as each month goes by.
Defenseman Alexis Vanier (2014 draft eligible) has been very noticeable of late. With two game-winning goals and four total points, in December, the 6’5″, 224-pound Baie-Comeau Drakkar blueliner has scouts really contemplating moving him up as mid-year lists are composed.
One of the best players not invited to join the Canadian WJC team is Michael Dal Colle (2014 draft eligible). Although not scoring on the pace he was in November (14 points in 10 games in December), Dal Colle has continued to dominate on the ice. The Oshawa Generals winger does not have a lot of international experience, but when he has represented Canada, he has played extremely well. Expect him to go top five in the 2014 draft and to be a future member of the U20 Canadian team.
Defenseman Anthony DeAngelo (2014 draft eligible), who was a late cut from the US U20 team, had 10 assists in seven games for the Sarnia Sting until he was suspended for five games for instigating on December 19th. A very talented defenseman, DeAngelo has been thought of a potential first round selection this coming June; however, he has had discipline issues in the past, and with this latest debacle, he could drop to the second round or beyond.
There has been no such problem for Sting teammate Nikolay Goldobin (2014 draft eligible). Goldobin posted 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 10 games during December, and is currently leading Sarnia in scoring. The young Russian has been slowly climbing up the draft rankings of scouts, and if he continues on this pace should be a late first round selection in Philadelphia.
One player on a 20-game point streak has also caught our attention. Kingston Fronts center Sam Bennett (2014 draft eligible) has been getting better and better as the season has moved along. He has posted at least a point in every game for more than two months, recorded 56 points in 36 games, and should be a first round selection this spring.
Signing entry-level contracts this past week were Erie Otters overage forward Dane Fox (free agent), who signed with the Vancouver Canucks, and Guelph Storm’s left wing Kerby Rychel (first round, 2013), who was signed by his drafting team, the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Another Denmark native, a star of the 2014 WJC’s D1 Group A, Oliver Bjorkstrand (CBJ, third round, 2013) has been playing extremely well in this season, and particularly this past month. With three game-winning goals in December for the Portland Winterhawks, the winger is one of the league leaders in scoring (56 points in 32 games) for the 2013-14 season. Last week, the Blue Jackets signed Bjorkstrand to an ELC.
Quietly, Nikita Scherbak (2014 draft eligible) has moved up the draft rankings. Scherbak is the top-scoring WHL rookie, playing on the wing for the Saskatoon Blades. With 52 points (22 goals, 30 assists), Scherbak had his best game of the season on New Year’s Day, recording two goals (including the game winner) and one assist, and he was named first star for his efforts. Don’t be surprised if Scherbak sneaks into the first round in this summer’s draft.
A hot prospect for the coming draft, Red Deer Rebels center Connor Bleakley (2014 draft eligible) has also had a very good month. Scoring in all his December games but one, Bleakley recorded 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) and one game-winning goal in the month. Bleakley looks to be a mid-first round pick this coming June.
Tommy Vannelli (STL, second round, 2013) wasn’t originally planning to be a member of the Medecine Hat Tigers this year. Committed to the University of Minnesota, he began classes in the fall but decided the CHL was the better route for him. Since then, the offensive defenseman has had six power play and three game winning goals. Vanelli had seven points in 10 games last month.
Forward Johnny Gaudreau (CGY, fourth round, 2011), now a junior at Boston College, was scoring at a rate of 1.0 to 1.5 points per game for his first two collegiate seasons. This season Gaudreau is posting almost two points per game (18 games played 33 points), including six points in two games last weekend.
Maine sophomore Devin Shore (DAL, second round, 2012) has had a very successful December. With 10 points (two goals, eight assists) posted during the month, including a five-point game against American International, the Black Bears alternate captain is one of the best forwards in college hockey.
Forward Kyle Connor (2015 draft eligible) is one of the leading scorers in the USHL. Playing for Youngstown Phantoms and committed to the University of Michigan for the fall of 2015, Connor played in seven games in December and recorded 11 points. Expect Connor to be a closely watched prospect for the 2015 draft.
Another forward to watch for in the 2015 draft is Jordan Greenway (2015 draft eligible). With 14 points in 16 games, Greenway currently suits up for the US National Team Development Program. Commited to play for Boston University starting in the fall of 2015, Greenway is expected to be a good candidate for first round selection in next year’s draft.
Other top prospects for the 2014 draft that skate with the NTDP that are not in Malmo are forwards Sonny Milano, Alex Tuch, Dylan Larkin, and Shane Gersich, as well as defensemen Jack Dougherty and Jack Glover, but none have played a USHL game since early December.
Leslie Treff covers professional and amateur scouting for Hockey Prospectus.
Follow Leslie on Twitter at @HFNYRangers.