A couple of familiar faces headline this month's look at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, and as they did even in the early part of the year, one league in particular dominates the top of the class.
1. Taylor Hall LW (Windsor Spitfires, OHL)
6'1 185 lbs
2008-09: 63 GP, 38-52-90, 60 PIM
2009-10: 15 GP, 15-17-32, 10 PIM
Incredibly, Hall hasn't even been the highest-scoring player his age in the Ontario Hockey League for the majority of the week. That honor went to a player a little further down. Hall remains number one, however, because of how consistently he's dominated the competition.
The crafty left wing has upped his scoring pace from 1.42 PPG in 2008-09 to 2.13 this season and continues to chug along as a graceful, efficient player in all three zones. Despite scoring at a goal per game pace, Hall is not a pure sniper; rather, he's a player who manufactures opportunities- even deep in the offensive zone- and gets them into the net however necessary. He's a proficient garbage goal man andplaymaker, a modern-day Jean Ratelle.
2. Tyler Seguin C (Plymouth Whalers, OHL)
6'1 186 lbs
2008-09: 61 GP, 21-46-67, 28 PIM
2009-10: 13 GP, 15-11-26, 18 PIM
He's scoring 2 PPG in the OHL, and until this weekend, had a solid lead in the league scoring race. So what does Tyler Seguin do to have earn some respect? Keep it up. Jumping on hype trains is not something we do around here. While Seguin certainly does have a track record- he had the quietest PPG+ season by a 16 year-old last year and was dominant in the playoffs- it remains to be seen if he can maintain his fantastic play.
Seguin is an interesting player. A solid 6'1, his skating and puck protection skills are extremely advanced. At times, he resembles Jaromir Jagr in how he drives down the wing and both out-muscles and out-hustles a defender. Seguin is a natural scorer in how he simply recognizes the best shot in every situation; at times, it's as if he has some sort of cheat on in NHL 10- a goalie does something, he goes precisely to the place where the keeper's not.
Seguin has shown a little bit of everything in the scoring department- corner shots, deflections, rebounds, etc. etc. We're more than willing to jump him into the top spot, but if theOHL kept track of shooting percentage, he'd probably be around 25%. That pace is probably not realistic, but what's important is whether or not he can keep finding a way to make an impact every night.
3. Cam Fowler D (Windsor Spitfires, OHL)
6'2, 190 lbs
2008-09: 28 GP, 4-18-22, 32 PIM (USNTDP U18s)
2009-10: 15 GP, 2-19-21, 4 PIM
Like the London Knights earlier this decade, it will be very important to keep context in mind when evaluating the statistical output of the Windsor Spitfires. In that regard, look at the curious case of Ryan Ellis and Cam Fowler. Last season, Ellis had the best season offensively by an OHL rearguard since 1997-98. This year, the diminutive dynamo is having a rough start, with just seven games to his name thanks to an injury.
However, the Spits have hardly noticed. Rookie Cam Fowler has seamlessly taken Ellis' place on Windsor's top PP unit, racking up the seventh-most points in the league. That translates to 1.4 PPG. When you compare that to Ellis' draft year- 89 points in 57 games for 1.56 PPG- one must ask if it's the team and not the player.
While bigger than Ellis- MUCH bigger- and a better skater to boot, Fowler is not a seamless prospect. The American product sometimes plays with too much confidence. A prime example was a play on which he lolly-gagged it out of his zone, only to have a forward scream in on him and almost steal the puck. Fowler has also shown a penchant for not closing the gap quickly enough, despite having the effortless stride and speed to do so.
However, that will come with time. Fowler might also want to play with a bit more grit; that space he's expecting would probably be there if he gained a reputation for putting guys on their back sides. Still, It's a sight to watch the technically flawless skater rip up the wing with a head full of confidence, and either sending NHL-quality passes to hislinemates through a dozen legs or coolly stepping around opposing players in full flight.
4. Kirill Kabanov LW (Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL)
6'2, 175 lbs
2008-09: 6 GP, 0-0-0, 2 PIM (KHL)
2009-10: 7 GP, 2-8-10, 8 PIM
At the height of last season's Kabanov hype, it was mentioned in this space that while the comparisons to #8 were valid in terms of size and skating ability, Kabanov is more of a playmaker than a pure finisher. Well, take a look at that stat line.
Kabanov has seen little difficulty in transitioning to the QMJHL. That shouldn't have been unexpected; a speedy bull on skates will never have an issue in any league. However, what's been most impressive is his new-found dedication to physical play. Criticized by us last year for shying away from the rough stuff,Kabanov is imposing himself on games with both his size and speed. The ice is his when he's out, and few can contain him when he pursues a loose puck.
Kabanov has fluid hands and the ability to retain control in flight, and can make Hemsky-esque passes through traffic. There are two areas of improvement: leg muscle and strength, and shot. If Kabanov wishes to be a multi-dimensional threat, he needs to add some power to his release.
5. Mikael Granlund RW/C (HIFK Helsinki, SM-Liiga)
5'10, 172 lbs
2008-09: 35 GP, 21-36-57, 45 PIM (Fin-Jr.)
2009-10: 14 GP, 3-11-14, 0 PIM
Yes, you read that right. Mikael Granlund is scoring at a PPG pace in the Finnish MEN'S league. HIFK has been one of the league's best teams, with three of their scorers in the top twenty, but playing on the top line in a European pro league is a feat worthy of a top-ten pick on its own.
Granlund still hasn't grown any, but unlike fellow small Finn Toni Rajala, he's found a way to round out his games. There's now little not to like about the premier playmaker, outside of his size. A compact, fast skater, Granlund's balance, agility and acceleration are all top-notch. His hands are just as quick, receiving and dishing pucks in the blink of an eye. He can even shoot the puck at a pro level, which we'll see at the World Junior Championships.
Granlund's size will no doubt scare teams off- look at Jordan Schroeder- but there's no question that he deserves a top-five spot at this point.
6. Jon Merrill D (USNTDP U18)
6'3, 200 lbs
2008-09: 20 GP, 1-1-2, 14 PIM (USNTDP U17)
2009-10: 9 GP, 2-4-6, 4 PIM
How does one properly gauge mammoth Jon Merrill's output to this point with the National Development Team? Well, in their draft years, 2006 first overall pick Erik Johnson had 34 points in 36 games, and 2003 seventh overall pick Ryan Suter had 31 in 51. In addition, both cracked the 100-PIM mark.
So where does that leave Merrill? Well, bigger than Suter at the same age and slightly a better scorer, one would logically think that Merill would go a little higher.
That logic looks about correct right now. Merrill has had a great start to the season; although we'd like to see a little more out of him physically, an injury suffered last season has set back the clock mentally in that department. Regardless, the nice things about him are still there: a majestic skater for a player any size, Merrill has taken to playing a lot more simply this season, becoming a black hole for pucks thanks to his vast wingspan and agility. Once in his body, the big man rushes the puck just out of his zone, hanging onto it just long enough for his forwards to properly integrate themselves into the rush. That's a trait rarely seen in any 17 year-olddefenseman, and one that just screams future stud.
As the season wears on, it may be that #2 and #6 switch places. Despite playing and producing less in a lesser league, Merrill is simply playing a better all-around game right now than his futureWJC teammate.
7. Alexander Burmistrov C (Barrie Colts, OHL)
6'0, 170 lbs
2008-09: 34 GP, 25-25-50, 54 PIM (Rus-Jr.)
2009-10: 13 GP, 8-13-21, 12 PIM
How certain scouting services don't even have Alexander Burmistrov in their top ten is mystifying.
At 6'0, 170 lbs, he's not exactly the bulkiest guy yet, but run down a checklist and you'll find every trait you'd ever desire in acenterman:
-Terrific shot arsenal: Burmistrov's snap and slap shot are potent enough to cause havoc in front. He's created a lot of rebounds with his hard, quick blast.
-High-end vision: Seconds before the play is fully developed, Burmistrov is moving the puck to the right man. He doesn't dilly-dally with the biscuit, getting in and out of areas quickly.
-Defensive play: While he'll never be confused with Bobby Clarke, the Russian bucks the trend of... well, Russians... who couldn't find their own end without a map.Burmistrov leads by example in this department, whether it's through using his speed and hockey sense to break up a play, or by simply containing players along the boards in the neutral zone.
While the Colts have been an offensive machine this year, a lot of the credit is due to Burmistrov. Even if he doesn't collect a point- a rarity thus far in league play- he simply makes things easy for his linemates. I'd draft that player over a one- or two-trick pony any day.
8. John McFarland C (Sudbury Wolves, OHL)
6'1, 195 lbs
2008-09: 58 GP, 21-31-52, 26 PIM
2009-10: 14 GP, 6-10-16, 18 PIM
Looking for that steal outside the top seven? More and more, John McFarland is looking like he'll be this year's Sam Gagner or Nazem Kadri- and not just because he's another gifted center from the OHL. McFarland, who some might remember as having been declined 'exception' status for early entry in the league, had a hot start. The well-sized pivot racked up eight points over the first five games, but has since cooled off with just two goals in October.
All will be forgotten if McFarland can crack the World Junior team and/or top 100 points at year's end. However, with so many players turning the corner early in '09-10, the former minor hockeyphenom's quest for a top five spot will be that much harder.
However, there's no questioning McFarland has the gifts to turn it around at a moment's notice. A dazzling player in the offensive zone, like AlesHemsky, McFarland thrives along the half-boards during the powerplay . There, he either victimizes defenders with his pro-level snap passes, or uses his soft, quick hands to create a shooting lane. Getting him to play an overall game will be the challenge and may force him to shift to wing at the next level.
9. Brett Connolly LW (Prince George Cougars, WHL)
6'2, 181 lbs
2008-09: 65 GP, 30-30-60, 38 PIM
2009-10: 7 GP, 4-2-6, 4 PIM
Brett Connolly would be a great deal higher if it weren't for not playing since October 3rd when an injury suffered during the summer Ivan Hlinka tournament reared its head. To that point, the natural finisher was well on his way to a career campaign- a tough thing to do when you score 30 goals as a rook.
Connolly is a dynamic, explosive scorer whose hands are probably tops in the WHL. An above-average skater when taking off, the sophomore has shown himself to be as dangerous shorthanded (3 goals over one 1/10th seasons) as he has on the powerplay because of his formidable breakaway skills.
10. Ryan Martindale C (Ottawa 67s, OHL)
6'3, 190 lbs
2008-09: 53 GP, 23-24-47, 14 PIM
2009-10: 14 GP, 6-13-19, 8 PIM
Speaking of players who deserve better in the rankings, how about Ryan Martindale? Perhaps the safest player available in the top ten, you know what you're going to get every night from the big center: a smart all-around game, some grit, and terrific leadership. Imagine, if you will, a taller but slightly less talented, less physical Mike Richards.
He's also playing on a whole other level of comfort right now. Not the most naturally talented puck handler, Martindale is nevertheless controlling the flow of the play in the offensive zone, looking like a pro in how evades and protects it while waiting for a seam to open up. He's recognized his size is a veritable challenge for mostOHL D, and to his credit, he's using it to impose himself both during play and in the circle.
If McFarland struggles even into next month, it might be time for a little switcharoo.
11. Troy Rutkowski D (Portland Winterhawks, WHL)
6'1, 219 lbs
2008-09: 64 GP, 6-9-15, 34 PIM
2009-10: 16 GP, 5-14-19, 29 PIM
Some times, everything goes right for you. For Portland Winterhawk Troy Rutkowski, right now would be that time.
Not the safest player- the tall defender thrives on risky passes and rushes- Rutkowski is nevertheless having almost every puck bounce the right way every night. One play in particular says it all: During one game earlier this season,Rutkowski stepped up to make a hit just outside the blueline. While he made contact, his similarly-sized opponent managed to poke the puck ahead. However, instead of turning into a two-on-one situation, the play was blown dead on the off-side as the puck trickled over the line and theforward's linemate had neglected to stop skating during the check.
Sooner or later, those bounces won't be there for Rutkowski, and it will be then we learn the most about what he's made of. At present, we know that he's a tremendous athlete- he'll probably prove to be among the tops of his class at the Combine- and he's probably the best defender in the Draft at controlling and dishing the puck from the point. A number of times this season,Rutkowski has had two or three bodies jump on him in the high slot, only to have him come away unscathed and make a beautiful pass. However, with a better shot, he'd be that much more of a threat.
In terms of the physical game, Rutkowski has shown shades of Phaneuf in how he hits to take full advantage of players who aren't watching their surroundings.
12. Brandon Gormley D (Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL)
6'2, 190 lbs
2008-09: 62 GP, 7-20-27, 34 PIM
2009-10: 17 GP, 4-7-11, 18 PIM
On the opposite end of the spectrum, meet Brandon Gormley. A revelation as a QMJHL rook in 2008-09, the smooth-skating rearguard earned feverish comparisons to former league stand-out Al MacInnis- among others. Despite netting just 27 points, Gormley's ability to control the center of the ice with fine rushes hearkened at things to come.
Well, the first month and a half of the season are up, and we're still waiting for those things. To be fair, Gormley has been a victim of the numbers game; NHL draft picks David Savard (Columbus '09) and Marc Barberio (Tampa '08) are the team's gunners from the back end, and have eaten up meaningful powerplay time as a result.
Still, there's more Gormley could be doing- on both sides of the puck. Last season, if he wasn't rushing it, one could depend on the former Bantam draft first overall pick to play sound defense. This year, that's not happening. Instead of assessing his options and using his size and speed to ensure plays go right,Gormley has taken to rushing the puck up the side of the boards- whether there's a man there or not, and whether his teammates have started going that way or not.
It's a one-man act that's gotten tiresome, and it's simply a case of a player trying to do much. With perhaps one spot available on Team Canada's defense for a '10 player,Gormley will need to smarten up immensely if he wants it. The good news is, unlike Rutkowski, we've seen him do it before.
13. Mark Pysyk D (Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL)
6'1, 175 lbs
2008-09: 61 GP, 5-15-20, 27 PIM
2009-10: 8 GP, 0-3-3, 15 PIM
Sensing a trend here? While we've yet to get a good read on whether or not a recent concussion will dog him long-term, Mark Pysyk still managed to show something even while on the IR.
Edmonton With Pysyk:
8 GP, 4-2-2, 20 GA
Edmonton Without Pysyk:
7 GP, 2-5, 28 GA
Those are Rod Langway numbers, folks. In 2007, in a weaker first round, Karl Alzner went fifth overall. It's not unrealistic to rank a defensive defenseman this high when he deserves it, and Pysyk sure does. If the concussion doesn't dog him, the Scott Niedermayer-esque skater- it's been a joy, personally, to watch him blast around Rexall for almost three years- is probably a lock for a seventh spot on Team Canada. In addition to his unrelentingly steady play, Pysyk has even seen fit to add a nice physical edge to his game.
14. Stanislav Galiev LW (Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL)
6'1, 177 lbs
2008-09: 60 GP, 29-35-64, 46 PIM (USHL)
2009-10: 16 GP, 4-11-15, 18 PIM
Allow us to make what will look, at first blush, like an insulting comparison: Alexander Radulov.
While Radulov has proven playing in North America doesn't guarantee a player stays here for their most productive years, his skillset- and impact junior- will not be easily forgotten.
During his last games here- the 2007 playoffs- we were starting to see the whole package come together. Never a dazzling skater,Radulov's creativity and soft hands were on full display at the same time as his body became just as effective a weapon.
It took a lot of progress through junior to get there, and it's the fear of blowing all that development time that will scare NHL teams off ofStanislav Galiev.
Like Radulov, Galiev is a formidable foe defensively despite less than great speed because you can't ever guess what he's going to try. That creativity, along with terrific vision- and yes,puckhandling skills- make him just as intriguing a package as the last Russian to light up the Q. Goal-scoring has yet to translate fully, and a big reason is that shots keep going to the wrong place despite leavingGaliev's stick in a hurry. We'll see if that changes.
15. Vladimir Tarasenko C (Sibir Novosibirsk, KHL)
6'0, 185 lbs
2008-09: 38 GP, 7-3-10, 2 PIM
2009-10: 15 GP, 4-3-7, 2 PIM
We can almost guarantee that no matter how good Vladimir Tarasenko does in the KHL, in a climate where QMJHL-playing Russians get shunned, it ultimately won't matter.
And that's really a shame. Tarasenko is a player who genuinely cares about the play going on around him, and will do whatever he can to ensure the puck starts going the right way- this despite having the hands and the top-end speed to be a flashy player every shift.
That's not to say Tarasenko is fantastic defensively; he's just an honest player to have on your line. With that attitude and the skills to play at the highest level, he really deserves better.
16. Erik Gudbranson D (Kingston Frontenacs, OHL)
6'4, 199 lbs
2008-09: 63 GP, 3-19-22, 69 PIM
2009-10: 10 GP, 0-6-6, 15 PIM
One of the few real fallers early in the season, Kingston rearguard Erik Gudbranson has had the season from hell.
After netting just three secondary assists in the first month of the season, the mammoth defender looked to be taking the next step with a big game against the Windsor Spitfires. However, a knee injury suffered on the 11th hasGudbranson out for at least four weeks.
It's not fair to judge Gudbranson based on such results. However, his tentative play offensively combined with some rough games defensively are the hallmarks of a still-rough defender.
17. Andrew Yogan C (Erie Otters, OHL)
6'3, 200 lbs
2008-09: 35 GP, 17-17-34, 32 PIM
2009-10: 13 GP, 5-8-13, 21 PIM
This year's Peter Holland, Andrew Yogan has the body and the raw abilities to be a first round selection, but it will be on him to bring a complete game every night.
Early on, the power center has shown some interesting versatility. Ryan O'Reilly's favorite target last season when paired together, Yogan has instead found himself in the role of playmaker, dishing the puck to 12-goal man Anthony Luciano.
However, some things never change. Yogan is a solid if unspectacular skater, but truly thrives when given any sliver of a puck below the dots. Really, all O'Reilly had to do was push it in the big man's direction and the puck would find its way into the back of the net.
Yogan also owns a deceptive pair of hands, shining in shootouts last season. He's also shown a great willingness to use those hands for other things, beating in a variety of faces last year.
18. Nino Niederreiter LW (Portland Winterhawks, WHL)
6'2, 203 lbs
2008-09: 30 GP, 20-14-34, 44 PIM (Swiss U20)
2009-10: 16 GP, 8-9-17, 18 PIM
It's been a long time since a Swiss forward went in the first round, but if power winger Nino Niederreiter keeps up his fine early-season form, it'll be an easier pill to swallow- even for the Edmonton Oilers.
A willing physical combatant, the bullish forward has quickly made a name for himself as a clutch performer, with two game-winners in his last three contests and points in ten straight contests.
The player Tomas Vincour should have been and is emerging as this season, Niederreiter still needs to work on his explosiveness, speed and leg strength, but a hard, accurate snapshot and plenty of attitude are the traits of an emerging power forward.
Another plus: born on September 8th, Niederreiter is just one wek shy of being eligible for the 2011 Draft.
19. Quinton Howden LW (Moose Jaw Warriors, WHL)
6'3, 183 lbs
2008-09: 62 GP, 13-17-30, 22 PIM
2009-10: 13 GP, 7-9-16, 10 PIM
With the NHL's obsession with size, it's hard not to imagine 6'3 Quinton Howden cracking the top ten. Howden first generated attention here at Dobber Hockey in 2007 when he amassed 197 points in Bantam AA.
At that time, these were my comments:
"Howden has all the tools to be a very good player. He's one of the most competitive kids you'll ever meet, and then he's also one of the fastest and best shooting. The universal comparison for him is Getzlaf, which is pretty accurate.
I'm not sure about his hockey sense, though. To be fair, he hasn't had to rely on his mental game when his physical gifts are so ahead of the other AAs. I think he\'s also going to be a very good WHL player for the same reason. But in terms of pro success, I want to see him actually think the game more before I can really gauge where he's at. Right now I'd project him more to be a Gary Roberts type than a Cam Neely. He's absolutely going to be a useful player, but one of the best in the NHL? I don't know yet."
The task of evaluating him wasn't made any easier by his first year of WHL hockey. Playing on the league's worst team, the then-16 year old struggled, amassing just 30 points.
However, so goes Howden, as do the Warriors. In on 27% of Moose Jaw's offensive output so far this year, the power winger has helped the once-struggling franchise to the top of the East Division.
There are a couple of good reasons why the 'Howden Hype' hasn't hit the roof yet. On any given night, you'll see one of two players: motivated QH, as in the one who dominated the Regina Pats along the boards enroute to a 1-3-4 night. And then there's bad QH, the one who made a really nice pass to set up a goal on the powerplay, only to be totally invisible- and meek- at even strength. Howden is still only playing to 60% of his potential body-wise, but his hands and pure finesse have been enough to net him over a point-per-game.
The Getzlaf comparison is looking mighty good right now; a sub-lime playmaker when on his game, Howden may also find himself waiting on draft day as smaller but more consistent players get taken ahead of him.
20. Stephen Silas D (Belleville Bulls, OHL)
6'0, 190 lbs
2008-09: 63 GP, 3-14-17, 18 PIM
2009-10: 13 GP, 3-9-12, 19 PIM
It was getting weird, there, not having a defender for three spots. Stephen Silas is about the best pure offensive dynamo available afterRutkowski.
An intelligent two-way player with smooth, effortless skating both forwards and backwards, Silas commands the powerplay with a hard point shot and an even better wrister. And unlike many offensive defenders, Silas' big frame allows him to play a gritty, effective style of defense- although there isn't much you can do when most of your teammates on the back-end should probably be in Junior A.
If the Bulls trade Shawn Lalonde as expected, watch out for a Calvin de Haan-esque explosion in the second half. Silas has the pure talent to be a 65-point player if he gets the crazy ice-time such a shallow blueline situation would provide.
Derek Forbort D/Jarred Tinordi D (UNSTDP U18)
Which will separate himself from the pack first? Identical numbers in every category, but Forbort's the slicker customer while Tinordi is an honest own-zone player.
Guillaume Asselin RW (Montreal Juniors, QMJHL)
5'10, 171 lbs
2009-10: 16 GP, 8-7-15
Jordan Weal C (Regina Pats, WHL)
5'9, 165 lbs
2009-10: 14 GP, 7-9-16
Joey Hishon C (Owen Sound Attack, OHL)
5'10, 190 lbs
2009-10: 14 GP, 3-9-12
A trifecta of tiny forwards, all three have the skill level to be first rounders, but face a crunch both at their positions and in their leagues.
Calvin Pickard G (Setalle Thunderbirds, WHL)
6'0, 202 lbs
2009-10: 9 GP, 3-5-0, 3.14 GAA, 0.916 SV%
The brother of former eighth overall pick Chet Pickard is making his own name with some stellar play. For a time, Pickard was facing 41 shots a night, and even looked better than his brother- remember, Chet had the luxury of playing on well-defended teams, facing that many shots in a game just one time over the course of his rookie season.
Nick Bjugstad C (Blaine High School)
6'5, 190 lbs
2008-09: 25 GP, 26-25-51, 20 PIM
While we haven't seen him play yet on account of the late start to the high school season, a player with those vitals and numbers- not to mention a scholarship to Minnesota- is worth keeping tabs on.
Teemu Pulkkinen LW/C/RW (Jokerit, SM-Liiga)
5'11, 183 lbs
2009-10: 12 GP, 1-2-3
He's bigger than Mikael Granlund, and possesses perhaps even better raw natural ability. So what's the problem? Three things. Pulkkinen has yet to really figure out that his individual style of play is not suited for the men's ranks- especially when his skating lags behind. He's also been injured quite a bit already this year.