7 Junior Players Who Could Make the Jump to the NHL If the Lockout Ends (Video)
The excitement at the 2013 World Junior Championships in Russia has given hockey fans a good look at the top prospects who could make the jump to the NHL if the lockout ends.
If there's one positive impact that the lockout has had on the sport, it's that more and more hockey fans have turned their attention to junior hockey in Canada to satisfy their needs for quality competition.
Let's look at seven junior hockey players ready for the NHL when the 2012-13 season is ready to begin.
Dougie Hamilton, Boston Bruins
Dougie Hamilton hasn't dominated at the WJC for Team Canada but he has been very impressive for the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL this season.
Not only does Hamilton lead all OHL defensemen in points scored, he is the only defenseman among the league's top 20 scorers.
Hamilton's ability to make plays on the power play with his passing skills and powerful shot from the point makes him a great fit on the Bruins blue line.
His performances for Team Canada and the IceDogs over the last two seasons have given fans plenty of reasons to believe that he can step into the Bruins and contribute right away.
Ryan Strome, New York Islanders
Ryan Strome, Hamilton's IceDogs teammate, is the junior hockey forward most ready for the NHL.
Strome ranks second in the OHL with 62 points (22 goals and 40 assists) and has been one of the most consistent players in the league
His skating, goal scoring, passing and vision are all spectacular, and from an offensive standpoint, he is the top forward prospect in junior hockey right now. This is a player with superstar potential.
When Strome joins the Islanders, he and John Tavares will form one of the best young center tandems in the league.
Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
After playing seven games for the Winnipeg Jets last season, it was clear that Mark Scheifele wasn't quite ready for the NHL yet.
However, he has proven this season with the Barrie Colts that he's fully ready for a permanent place on the Jets roster moving forward.
Scheifele has scored 21 goals with 27 assists in 29 games for the Colts, which is a points-per-game average increase of about 0.3 from last season. His four goals for Canada at the WJC are tied with Strome for the team lead.
Another year in the OHL has not only helped Scheifele's hockey skills improve, he's also had time to get stronger. He's currently listed as 6'2" and 184 pounds on the Jets website.
When Scheifele joins the Jets this season, he will likely play on the third line, but could move himself into the top six if he plays well.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
Jonathan Huberdeau is one of the top five NHL prospects and is once again having a fine season offensively for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL.
He has scored 16 goals with 29 assists in 30 games for the Sea Dogs this year and has also scored two goals with five assists in five games for Team Canada at the WJC thus far.
Huberdeau has nothing left to prove in the QMJHL and is ready to play an important part of the Florida Panthers offense when he joins the team after the lockout.
Not only does Huberdeau have incredible offensive skills as a goal scorer and a playmaker, he's also a great leader and could wear an "A" or a "C" for the Panthers in the near future.
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs
Since the lockout will likely end after the WJC is finished Saturday, Morgan Rielly won't have to leave Team Canada to join the Toronto Maple Leafs for the new season.
It's not certain that Rielly will leave the Moose Jaw Warriors and make his NHL debut this season, but after a strong year in the WHL thus far, the Leafs should at least give him a shot to make the NHL roster in training camp and then make a final determination.
Based on his offensive talent, Rielly is ready for the NHL and has scored 28 points (seven goals and 21 assists) in 33 games for the Warriors. He has also played well for Team Canada at the WJC.
According to Paul Hendrick of Leafs TV, young defenseman Jake Gardiner hasn't returned to the Toronto Marlies lineup since suffering a head injury in December.
Rielly should take Gardiner's spot on the Leafs roster until he returns, at which point head coach Randy Carlyle should decide if he wants to keep the No. 5 pick in the 2012 draft in the NHL or send him back to Moose Jaw.
Mikhail Grigorenko, Quebec Ramparts
The Buffalo Sabres drafted Mikhail Grigorenko with the No. 12 pick in the 2012 draft, and he has been fantastic for the Quebec Ramparts of the QMJHL this year.
He is on pace to set a career high in points with the Ramparts, but might not get that opportunity if the Sabres bring him to the NHL after the lockout.
Grigorenko has scored almost a goal per game this year (29 goals in 30 games) and would provide the Sabres with some much-needed scoring on the wings.
The 18-year-old has also been one of Russia's best players at the WJC and will try to help his team win the bronze medal on Saturday.
Grigorenko has developed into a phenomenal two-way player and is ready for the NHL. Buffalo would be foolish to let him spend the rest of the season in Quebec.
Boone Jenner, Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets should be very pleased with the progress that top prospect Boone Jenner has made this season with the Oshawa Generals.
Jenner has scored 27 goals in 32 games for the Generals, which is five more than he had last season in 11 fewer games.
He was a second-round pick by Columbus in the 2011 draft, and his fine performances over the last few years have helped make him a potential star for the Blue Jackets.
Not only can Jenner score goals consistently and have success in a playmaking role, he has tremendous size (6'2" and 204 pounds) and a physical element to his game.
The Blue Jackets needs all the scoring help they can get, and since Jenner is ready for the NHL, he should be brought to Columbus as soon as the lockout is over.
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