Christmas may be nineteen days away, but here's an early present: a look at the 2009 Entry Draft and its risers and fallers through the month of November.
1. Atlanta Thrashers
C John Tavares (Oshawa, OHL)
Statline: 29 GP, 22-25-47, 30 PIM, +6
Summary: Thrashers GM Don Waddell has made it clear who his pick is. During Game 2 of the ADT Canada Russia Challenge, Waddell said in an interview that if it were up to him, Johnny T would be his pick. And with the way Atlanta is playing, it looks like it will be his choice. Currently 2nd in the OHL scoring race, Tavares has continued to play like a top-two pick.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
D Victor Hedman (MoDo, SEL)
Statline: 22 GP, 2-6-8, 24 PIM, +14
Summary: The only way Tampa doesn't pick the son of owner Len Barrie is if they're up here. Hedman is the franchise-calibre D the Lightning have been looking for since they selected Roman Hamrlik with the very first pick in franchise history. Paired with former NHLer Mattias Timander on MoDo's top defensive unit, Hedman sees upwards of 22 minutes a night in the second-best league in the world.
3. Dallas Stars
RW Jordan Schroeder (U. Minnesota, WCHA)
Statline: 14 GP, 7-12-19, 10 PIM
Summary: The newest entry to the top-three is Jordan Schroeder, and for good reason. The only notable college product eligible for the 2009 Entry Draft, the Minnesota-born winger is second on the University of Minnesota roster in scoring with an incredible 19 points as a freshman. The last Gopher to crack the top five was Phil Kessel, who scored at a 1.30 PPG rate- slightly less than Schroeder's 1.35 PPG pace. The Stars could easily go for defender Jared Cowen as a future replacement for Sergei Zubov, but they could use a dynamic forward to replace Mike Modano just as much.
4. New York Islanders
D Jared Cowen (Spokane, WHL)
Statline: 29 GP, 4-6-10, 21 PIM, +6
Summary: As a consequence of Schroeder's rapid rise and the steady production of Magnus Paajarvi, defensive defenseman Jared Cowen may be on the edge of the top five come June. Nothing has changed in his play- the Saskatchewan native brought his faultless, mature defensive game against the Russians during the ADT Challenge, and played a big part in simply stifling them. Cowen would be the picture-perfect addition to the Isles, as we said last month; they lack a franchise piece on the back-end.
5. Ottawa Senators
LW/C Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi (Timra, SEL)
Statline: 28 GP, 3-7-10, 4 PIM, -8
Summary: Forget what NHL Central Scouting says about Sweden. Two-way forward Jacob Josefson has been good, no doubt, but 'MSP' is still the class of the class from Sweden. Ten points may not look like a lot for a top prospect, but Paajarvi is actually 7th in team scoring. Josefson, by comparison, is 13th. The Senators have begun to rally around their Swedish captain, using their 2008 first-rounder on Erik Karlsson and their last pick on potential steal Emil Sandin. Paaarvi not only is the BPA, but he fits the Detroit-esque culture the team is building.
6. St. Louis Blues
C/RW Brayden Schenn (Brandon, WHL)
Statline: 28 GP, 14-17-31, +8, 35 PIM
Summary: As we've stated a number of times, the Blues value character and leadership more than almost any other trait when it comes to the draft. It's their way of building an accountable, competitive core, and it's worked quite well to this point. Brayden Schenn may not have as much pure ability as fellow WHL '09er Evander Kane, but he's exactly what the Blues need. Schenn can either support a line or carry it on his own, and his intangibles could make him the captain of a Cup contender one day.
7. Los Angeles Kings
C Evander Kane (Vancouver, WHL)
Statline: 24 GP, 17-23-40, +21, 45 PIM
Summary: On the other side of the spectrum are the Kings. They love pure game-breaking ability, no matter the package. Evander Kane would give the Kings the perfect #2 man to slide in behind Anze Kopitar. Although not the Slovenian wonder kid's size, Kane plays like it; an explosive skater with great shiftiness and hands, Kane's unstoppable on the rush with a head of steam. Another bonus to picking Kane: we don't mean to stereotype racially or anything, but Kane might be a role-model for other young black players in the LA area.
8. Toronto Maple Leafs
C Matt Duchene (Brampton, OHL)
Statline: 23 GP, 12-21-33, 18 PIM, +12
Summary: Since Cody Hodgson's return to the Ontario League, the Brampton Battalion have been the talk of the league. While it's improved the team in the standings, it's also helped catapult Matt Duchene's stock. With teams forced to focus on two weapons, Duchene has been able to play less and produce more. In just nine games in November, the 5'11 center netted an amazing 16 points. While his stats don't do it justice, Duchene is a high-end goal scorer the Leafs would be able to build around.
9. Colorado Avalanche
D Ryan Ellis (Windsor, WHL)
Statline: 28 GP, 15-31-46, 37 PIM, +29
Summary: It was bound to happen eventually. After starting the year on a torrid 130+ point pace, diminutive defender Ryan Ellis has seen his production become more and more inconsistent. While Ellis has eight points in his last six games, seven of them came in two games. Ellis is nevertheless still the top offensive-defenseman in the class, and will be a top-ten and more likely top-seven pick. Colorado would be a perfect destination for him. His elite powerplay skills would come in handy on a team that lacks an impact defender.
10. Edmonton Oilers
LW Jeremy Morin (USNTDP)
Statline: 18 GP, 15-5-20, 68 PIM
Summary: Prepare for a James van Riemsdyk-esque from US National Team product Jeremy Morin. While nowhere near as polished physically as JvR, Morin's 68 PIM and 15 goals speak volumes about the player he is: a power winger who knows all the tricks to scoring goals at 17. Morin is still probably three years away, but this Jeremy Roenick clone has got some of the most intriguing potential of any forward in the draft. After gambling big- and losing- on RFA winger Dustin Penner, Morin would be the perfect target for setup man Sam Gagner.
11. Buffalo Sabres
C Nazem Kadri (London, OHL)
Statline: 21 GP, 12-16-28, 11 PIM, +4
Summary: With just 18 points in 25 games despite playing with one of the best finishers in the game, Derek Roy has not been the #1 C the Buffalo Sabres thought they had. Tyler Ennis has been developing well in the WHL, but he still looked overmatched in camp action. Enter Nazem Kadri. Combining the skill the Sabres love with a 6'1 frame and a willingness to play physically, Kadri could be the answer to all of Buffalo's problems. He has franchise potential.
12. Florida Panthers
C Jacob Josefson (Djurgardens, SEL)
Statline: 30 GP, 4-3-7, 6 PIM, +0
Summary: In October we had Josefson heading to Florida at 13. Last month, same place, different team. This month? Same team as October, but one position higher. Central Scouting has seen something they love enough to crown Josefson the top forward prospect in Sweden. As we said above, while we think it's ridiculous, it doesn't mean Josefson's a bad player. His defensive game and willingness to do the small things are leaps and bounds ahead of 99% of this class. But those things do not a franchise player make, just as straight offensive skills don't. Josefson could max out as a simply average #1 C, or more likely, an elite second liner. He's a good value pick outside the top ten here.
13. Columbus Blue Jackets
RW Zack Kassian (Peterborough, OHL)
Statline: 26 GP, 9-20-29, 60 PIM
Summary: The Columbus Blue Jackets have been looking for another Rick Nash since Rick Nash disappeared. Gilbert Brule and Alex Picard have failed to become the deadly power forwards they were touted to be once long ago. This dearth couldn't come at a worse time. With a forward core loaded with finesse, the Jackets could use a ruthless, physical, and pugilistic prospect to help earn respect for the likes of Derick Brassard and Nikita Filatov. Zack Kassian is that guy. As we said last month, the 6'3 winger rarely has suitors come to him, so feared are his fists. So Kassian's started to come to them, and it's resulted in a whole other level of intimidation. Bigger than Brule and more driven than Picard, Kassian will be an immediate boost to any team that drafts him.
14. Carolina Hurricanes
D Tyson Barrie (Kelowna, WHL)
Statline: 29 GP, 7-23-30, 17 PIM, +8
Summary: The first month without Tyson Barrie being a projected Lightning pick! Mostly due to the fact the Lightning are doing so bad that they should be out of reach, Tyson falls to new suitors for the first time in one of our mocks. Strong interest could still come from the Southeast Division, however. The Carolina Hurricanes have done an excellent job of filling out their pipeline up front, with everything from studs to home-runs competing to one day be Canes. But they still lack a top-end defender. Barrie would give them that; his skating, puck movement and offensive awareness would provide Carolina with their first stud offensive defenseman since Sandis Ozolinsh.
15. Phoenix Coytotes
D Dmitry Kulikov (Drummondville, QMJHL)
Statline: 25 GP, 4-25-29, 30 PIM
Summary: Dmitry Kulikov is arguably a better player than Barrie, but he won't go first simply because the Canes have a deep-seated fear of Russians. That suits the Phoenix Coyotes this time. A surprisingly hot team looking to compete for a playoff spot for the first time in a long time, the Yotes could still add to their impressive prospect depth even if they reach their goal. Kulikov's skills are top-ten worthy, but he has played in a league that has come to be more and more underrated by scouts and teams. Kulikov plays in all situations, from 1st PP to 1st PK. He is one of the best all-around Russian defensemen to come along in some time, classified only as 'all-around' because he is as stellar offensively as he is in his zone.
16. Nashville Predators
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Leksand, Allsvenskan)
Statline: 22 GP, 3-7-10, 26 PIM, +27
Summary: Welcome to the first round, Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Much like Victor Hedman has made an unprecedented impact on the Elitserien at 17 years old, Leksand star Larsson has done the same in the league right below it. Playing on the second pairing but first powerplay unit, Larsson has looked every bit like another Swedish defenseman who played most of his draft year in an under-scouted league- Nicklas Lidstrom. A fair bit more physical than 'Norris Nick', Larsson owns the same understated but incredible mobility, and the same icy composure. With these traits, Nashville may not be able to hold back from their self-imposed curfew of drafting D any longer. Although the Preds could still use a couple good forward prospects, Larsson has the potential to be a star top-pairing player, and that's worth picking over... well, pretty much anything.
17. Chicago Blackhawks
C Scott Glennie (Brandon, WHL)
Statline: 28 GP, 15-17-32, 13 PIM
Summary: It's often difficult to separate the success of a prospect from that of a superstar's linemate. Not so with Scott Glennie. While many will point to his numbers and assume he is a product of top prospect Brayden Schenn, Glennie is very much his own talent. A superb forward skater with a light, effortless stride, Glennie is also noticeable due to his wicked shot. At times the best player on the ice when he chooses to impose himself, Glennie would be the perfect guy to slot in behind Jonathan Toews on a future Hawks second forward unit.
18. New Jersey Devils
D Stefan Elliott (Saskatoon, WHL)
Statline: 30 GP, 12-15-27, 4 PIM
Summary: A month ago, rushing rearguard Stefan Elliott was profiled in the number 20 slot. Compared to Scott Niedermayer, the 6'1 blueliner had a relatively impressive 16 points in 20 games- eight of them goals. In just ten games since, Elliott has managed an amazing eleven points- including four goals. It's becoming tougher and tougher to hold Elliott out of the top fifteen, and it all depends on how a team feels they can mold him. He has the potential be an NHL superstar.
19. Philadelphia Flyers
G Olivier Roy (Cape Breton, QMJHL)
Statline: 13-6-1, 3.33 GAA, 0.893 Sv%
Summary: Tenth overall in October to sixth in November. Only something catastrophic could cause Olivier Roy to fall to nineteen, right? Wrong. While Roy has continued to play good hockey, the days of back-to-back shutouts and constantly inspired play have faded. What's worse has been the great play of backup Chris Holden. While there's no denying the undrafted '08 eligible has been playing weaker teams, for the moment, Holden has captured the top job from Roy. It's a tough catch-22 in that an inconsistent young goalie won't play, but the only cure is ice-time. Still, the Flyers won't care. Roy's potential is that of a star starter, and Philly could use any sparkle of hope they can get.
20. Anaheim Ducks
D Tommi Kivisto (Red Deer, WHL)
Statline: 31 GP, 0-14-14, 19 PIM
Summary: It's got to be one of the strangest statlines in hockey; despite not yet having a single goal, WHL rookie and Finnish native Tommi Kivisto still leads the Red Deer Rebels in points among d-men. While we had Anaheim taking a forward in both previous mocks, like the Flyers, the Ducks need some immediate help with so many contracts ready to hit UFA. Kivisto is a very similar player to Luca Sbisa; what Kivisto gives up in offensive ability, he makes up for in great defensive awareness. He is one of the few in the class with the ability to make an immediate jump.
21. Washington Capitals
C Louis Leblanc (Omaha, USHL)
Statline: 22 GP, 9-11-20, 26 PIM, +1
Summary: Another formerly bullet-proof prospect, pivot Louis Leblanc earned comparisons to Paul Stastny in last month's mock. And while Leblanc has kept pace in terms of effort and consistency, he's fallen on hard times offensively. Once upon a time the USHL's scoring leader, Leblanc has fallen well back of the league. As of last night, he sat in tenth place- 12 back of the leader in the same number of games played. Challenging for the scoring title was almost necessary to keep Leblanc's stock in the top-fifteen range, as it was for a brief while. Falling out of the first round probably won't happen, but teams will question the competition level and therefore pro ability of Leblanc if he continues to play only averagely. The Capitals are one of the few teams to value the USHL has highly as most, and happen to need a high-end center prospect.
22. Calgary Flames
C/RW Jimmy Bubnick (Kamloops, WHL)
Statline: 32 GP, 15-11-26, 12 PIM, +3
Summary: The Calgary Flames have made a name for themselves at the draft table of using first rounders on players who once performed great, or have great potential, but have shown little in recent times. That's all you can really get in the 20s without taking serious risks, and it's a strategy that's worked as well as could be expected. The 2009 prospect that best fits this description is Kamloops winger Jimmy Bubnick. Simply fantastic to begin the year, the former World U17 star has failed to continue his hot start. Believe me; after having just viewed him not twelve hours ago, Bubnick is coming by this lack of production honestly. Two shifts are never the same for Bubnick. For example: with five minutes remaining in a tight 3-2 game, Bubnick retrieved a loose puck in a scramble to the right of the net and went behind the legs for a pass to an open man. Just a few seconds later, he had a chance to regain control of the puck on a ring-around, but didn't hustle full-speed to a winnable puck that the Oil Kings then easily batted out. Bubnick has shown flashes of being a dominant power forward, but worries about whether he ever puts it together will be what hurts him at the draft table.
23. Minnesota Wild
RW Tomas Vincour (Edmonton, WHL)
Statline: 33 GP, 14-13-27, 15 PIM, -4
Summary: If the Minnesota Wild had their way, Marian Gaborik would sacrifice some of that amazing speed for power and size while keeping the elite skills intact. That's Tomas Vincour. While not a world-beater when it comes to his first couple of steps, the first-ever draft pick in Edmonton Oil Kings history is flirting with the franchise major junior tag that had Edmonton so interested. With soft hands and elite creativity, Vincour can control a puck for as long as he wants when he wants. But like Gaborik, once away from the puck, Vincour's effectiveness- and effort- drop exponentially.
24. Vancouver Canucks
LW Richard Panik (Dukla Trencin, Cze-U20)
Statline: 13 GP, 9-7-16, 20 PIM, +3
Summary: Same team as last month, but six spots lower? What gives? Well, Richard Panik's stock. Once considered a top-ten pick (see October's mock), the Slovak wonder kid has had to deal with injury, reports of prima donna play, and a lack of production. Known for his game-breaking skills, Panik has all the talent in the world, or at least as much as perhaps any forward in the draft. However, it will come down to work ethic. Panik has turned it around as of late, leading to speculation he came back too early from an injury he was told to rest. A good World Juniors would go a long way to rebuilding his stock.
25. Montreal Canadiens
C Joey Benik (St. Francis HS, Minnesota)
Statline: 2 GP, 7-5-12
Summary: Yes, you read that right. The 2008-09 Minnesota high school hockey season is just under way, and an unknown kid from an unknown school is leading the pack with a truly incredible statline. Much like T.J. Oshie went from zero to first rounder in one season, look out for 5'10, 170 lbs center Joey Benik. After scoring 53 points as a 16 year-old freshman, Benik has continued his torrid scoring pace like never before. Critics will point out- and rightfully- that St. Francis is one of the lowest teams in the entire state. But while they say that should make it easier for Benik to score points, the exact opposite has been true; one article from last season reported that most of the team has trouble even hitting the net, let alone scoring six points a game. Benik has been THE team, and is producing like a superstar. To his credit, Benik has begun trying to shed that tag of being a big fish in a small pond; as a warm-up to the high school season, he played some Junior A hockey for a local team, and netted seven points in seventeen games. With some added physical development- of which Benik has had little- he could be one of the biggest stories from the '09 class in twenty years.