The Dean’s List brings its readers a new series offering quick intelligence on the upcoming 2012 NHL Draft class. Several high profile names have already been featured extensively over the past few months and The Dean’s List will continue to cater to the prospect junkies by profiling more draft-eligible players in future articles. Rapid Fire gives us an opportunity to update the readers on several draft prospects’ recent performances and how they have performed in the most recent months. Do you want to know if a prospect is rising? Falling? Injured? Check Rapid Fire to see if your favourite prospect is trending in the hockey world. Consider this exclusive access to the mind of The Dean’s List as recent thoughts on draft-eligible prospects are spewed aloud for everyone to read.
Alex Galchenyuk – C (Sarnia Sting)
The 2012 draft curse’s first victim was super-skilled centre Alex Galchenyuk after he caught a rut in pre-season action causing him to miss 65 games of OHL action. Well, Gally’s back. Galchenyuk has been trending upwards since returning from injury and although Galchenyuk is only seven games into his comeback he has shown no ill effects from his knee surgery. The Sarnia Sting’s backs are against the wall as the team trails the Saginaw Spirit 3-2 in the first round series meaning viewings of Galchenyuk could come to a close quickly unless Sarnia can extend their playoff run.
The Dean’s List has been fortunate to watch Galchenyuk return first hand and his skating appears to be as good as it was pre-injury and with each passing shift he continues to show flashes of his special skill. Through five playoff games, Galchenyuk has played alongside Nail Yakupov occasionally but not as frequent as last season. In fact, through Alex Galchenyuk’s past seven games he has been the better player of the two often stealing Yakupov’s thunder with dynamic puckhandling displays on a nightly basis. Regardless of limited action this season, Galchenyuk remains number two on The Dean’s List draft ranking. Galchenyuk has 2 goals and 4 points through 5 playoff games.
Trending: Up...Up....Upwards (Potential Top 3 pick)
Dalton Thrower – D (Saskatoon Blades)
In a draft class with endless defensive depth it takes some damn good hockey to get notice and move up the rankings but Saskatoon’s Dalton Thrower has made huge strides this season impressing scouts along the way. The name “Thrower” is fitting for a tough defenseman ready to throw the gloves with any willing participant. Modelling his game after Canucks’ gritty defenseman Kevin Bieksa, Dalton Thrower’s offers plenty of tenacity as he cleared the 100 penalty minute barrier this season. Defensively aware of his surroundings, Thrower has become an instrumental piece to the Blades’ defensive game as well as offensive attack. Dalton possesses an underrated offensive game with plenty of upside and given that he finished eighth in WHL defensive scoring with 18 goals and 54 points it will not surprise anyone that Thrower is highly coveted entering the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Trending: Upwards (potential 1st/early 2nd)
Dylan Blujus – D (Brampton Battalion)
Thanks to the help of sophomore defenseman Dylan Blujus and his five points the Brampton Battalion swept the Sudbury Wolves in the opening round of OHL playoff action shutting down the league’s top scorer in Michael Sgarbossa (Colorado Avalanche). Scouts have taken notice of the big 6’3” defenseman from Amherst, New York and his splendid package of offensive weaponry and defensive acumen. Consistency remains an issue with Blujus but after recording a seven goal and 34 point season there will be plenty of teams excited at the prospect of drafting Blujus as he possesses untapped potential. Every year there are several second and third round drafted defensemen that emerge as impactful players leaving many to wonder, “how did that player fall that far?”Dylan Blujus has the potential to become that defenseman.
Trending: Quietly moving up (2nd Round/early 3rd)
Jesse Graham – D (Niagara Ice Dogs)
The name is likely unrecognizable to the casual draft follower but Jesse Graham is a puck-moving defenseman The Dean’s List has taken a liking to. On a roster featuring Bruins’ prospect Dougie Hamilton and Stars’ prospect Jamie Oleksiak, Graham has been honing his skills behind two blue liners able to teach the young undersized (5’11”) Toronto-native. Graham has been trending upwards for quite some time now but is doing so in the large shadows of Hamilton. The sophomore OHL defenseman tallied an impressive 41 points this past season and recorded a plus-25 rating. Graham’s potential is endless and The Dean’s List expects him to take the offensive reigns from Dougie Hamilton next year and lead this team from the backend. Through four playoff games, Jesse Graham has one goal and three points. Get Graham on your radar.
Trending: Sleeper (late 2nd, more likely 3rd round)
Henrik Samuelsson - RW (Edmonton Oil Kings)
Making the jump to the Western Hockey League midseason and becoming an immediate factor for the Edmonton Oil Kings is an impressive feat. Henrik Samuelsson joined the Oil Kings in January after travelling the world in attempts of finding his permanent team. The son of former NHL defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, Henrik decided to head to Sweden to play under his fathers’ Modo team after competing in the US NTDP last season. Once thought to be a top 15 talent in the 2012 draft class, Henrik has slipped a bit in the rankings but his arrival in Edmonton has rejuvenated his draft stock. In 28 games for the Oil Kings, Henrik Samuelsson netted seven goals and 23 points to go along with a sparkling plus-25 rating. Playing with loads of passion, Samuelsson has a bit of a mean streak and is not afraid of dropping the mitts to rescue a teammate. Considered a weak skater by scouts, Henrik’s offensive skill set includes a heavy shot, good vision and solid puck skills. If Samuelsson can improve his first step and show some on-ice discipline he has the potential to become an impactful top nine forward at the NHL level.
Trending: Top 50 Pick...moving on up.
Olli Määttä – D (London Knights)
Stepping up your game at the absolute perfect time can drastically influence your draft stock and London Knights’ import defenseman Olli Määttä has showed up in a big way. Scouts attempted to gauge Määttä’s value all season long as the Finn accustomed himself to the North American game. Knights’ coach Mark Hunter has certainly recognized that value that Määttä brings to the team on a nightly basis. Olli has become a staple on the talented Knights’ blue liner both offensively and defensively as a player that can be trusted in all situations. Määttä has always been a mature player competing internationally as an underage defenseman for Finland for many years but his experience is starting to show as he becomes an elite OHL defenseman. The versatile Määttä has recorded five assists in London’s first round sweep of the Windsor Spitfires placing him sixth amongst OHL defensemen in scoring. He’s quickly developing into a coach’s favourite and that will go a long way to him being selected high in the upcoming draft.
Trending: Rising (Top 20 Pick but could surprise in Top 12)
Oscar Dansk – G (Brynas)
The 2012 goaltending class has been discussed in depth with very little consensus on the top draft-eligible netminder. Sweden`s Oscar Dansk joins World Junior star Andrey Vasilevski and the oft-injured Malcolm Subban as potential top-tier goaltenders in the upcoming draft class. All three puck stoppers have outplayed their draft peers at one point or another this season but in the end The Dean’s List leans toward Oscar Dansk as the top goaltender. Blessed with great size (6’3”) and ridiculous athleticism, Dansk is perhaps the most technically sound goalie of the draft class. As with most young goaltenders, Dansk has struggled with consistency in his draft year but he has been downright filthy on the international stage. At the U-18 Five Nations Cup, pucks were unable to penetrate Oscar Dansk’s crease posting a remarkable 0.967 save percentage en route to an undefeated record and gold medal. As a product of the highly touted Shattuck St.Mary’s hockey program (see Crosby, Toews), Dansk has developed into a consummate professional and his hard work could pay off come draft day.
Trending: Holding Steady (Potential 1st Round Pick but likely early-mid 2nd)
Radek Faksa – C (Kitchener Rangers)
Maple Leafs’ fans across the globe have been anxiously awaiting their upcoming first round selection after going two years without their own top pick. In Leaf Nation, two names keep surfacing as potential “saviours” for the struggling franchise including the abovementioned Galchenyuk as well as centerman Radek Faksa. Faksa has first line upside but the Czech pivot is much more likely to fit in as a second-line complimentary player than carry the offensive load of being the team’s number one. Unfortunately, after posting a goal and three points in four playoff games, Radek Faksa has been sidelined indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms leaving teams to calculate the impact of yet another injury to a 2012 draft prospect.
Trending: Holding Steady but could slide with concussion news (Top 15 pick)
Teuvo Teräväinen – RW (Jokerit)
The creative Finnish winger has been a favourite of The Dean’s List since the beginning of the year but Teräväinen has been simply dominant over the past few months creeping his way up the draft rankings by other scouting agencies. Last August Teräväinen impressed at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament and dominated the U-18 Five Nations Cup leading the tournament with six goals and two assists in three games. In a draft lacking depth of offensive forwards, Teräväinen is an undersized winger with creative offensive instincts, strong sniping abilities and shiftiness that will likely continue to climb up the rankings. There is a good possibility that Teräväinen is selected inside the top 15 and could become the top-drafted Finn.
Trending: Quick Riser (Large range 10-40th but TDL leans towards mid 1st)
Thomas Wilson – RW (Plymouth Whalers)
Projecting draft slots for big smart physical forwards is extremely difficult to do and Tom Wilson is no different. Last year, Brian Burke traded up three spots at the draft to grab a similar player in Tyler Biggs and the potential for Wilson is there to go in the first round. With few easily identified game-breaking offensive forwards this year, Tom Wilson enters the draft as a “safe pick” as he is capable of filling several roles, much like Tyler Biggs. Wilson is a prototypical power forward with skills to play inside the top six but could also thrive as a third liner.
Trending: Creeping Up (15-40th range)
Please check back in as The Dean’s List continues to profile the 2012 draft class and returns with Rapid Fire updating the progression of draft-eligible players as their season winds down. If hockey prospects fancy you, be sure to follow @rossyyoungblood on twitter for more ramblings.