In the second part of our 2009 Draft preview, Canadians take centre- and defense- stage.
Brayden Schenn, C
Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Height/Weight: 6'0, 196 lbs
2007-08 Statline: 66 GP, 23-48-71, +22, 48 PIM
What We Said Then: Nothing. Schenn was still in AAA, doing well for himself with a 27-43-70 statline. Look familiar?
What's Going Now: Luke Schenn may be the most famous by that surname, but wait until this June. Brother Brayden is one of the few CHLers to make a name for himself almost exclusively on the international stage. First coming to light at the World U17s in January, Schenn lead the tourney in points with an amazing 13 in just six games. That performance earned him an invite to the U18 squad, where he posted a respectable three points in six games. Schenn would wrap up the year with a six-point performance in four games at the summer Ivan Hlinka Memorial U18 tournament.
Schenn is a throwback to forgotten Detroit Red Wings legend Sid Abel. Called by some historians as the greatest leader in the history of the franchise- yes, even ahead of Yzerman- Abel was a clutch LW/C who dazzled with his playmaking ability. He could also play scrappy when required, which wasn't often on a line with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay. Some have compared Schenn to Messier or even Iginla, but he simply doesn't play as mean and he isn't as natural a scorer as either.
What's On Tap: Look for Brayden to enjoy another impressive all-around season, playing in every situation and netting 85ish points. He'll be a top-five pick and could be in the NHL next fall. Looking further ahead, expect the sort of numbers he compiles already- 25ish goals, 40-45 assists, and a career as a glue 2nd line center (think Bernie Federko).At his peak he could be a 30-goal, 50-60 assist man.
Matt Duchene, C
Brampton Battalion (OHL)
Height/Weight: 5'11, 190 lbs
2007-08 Statline: 64 GP, 30-20-50, -2, 22 PIM
What We Said Then: "One of the youngest committed recruits in Michigan State University history, Matt Duchene was 15 when he made the decision to attend that school when his Midget hockey days were over. It's not really surprising why MSU would take on the forward so early. There's something about a player that age scoring 184 points in 64 games in Midget AAA that draws attention. Capable of dominating a game with just his shot, Duchene also possesses top-flight speed and a knack for finding the open space."
What's Going On Now: Well, Duchene may have been a 14 year-old college recruit, but he never ended up there. Instead, the talented center headed to Brampton and the OHL, where's been nothing short of a star. It says something about the quality of this draft when a 30-goal OHL rookie is in the second tier of players. Still an elite sniper, Duchene is one of the hardest-working forecheckers you'll ever see. His tenacity and third and fourth effort goals are Crosby-esque. A typical Duchene goal is one where he strips the point man of the puck and dekes through him before going on a breakaway half the length of the ice.
What's On Tap: Duchene has almost underperformed statistically for the talent he has, and he could be the breakout star of this draft a year or two down the line. For now, look for a 100-point season and 50 goals.
Nazem Kadri, C
Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Height/Weight: 6'0, 165 lbs
2007-08 Statline: 68 GP, 25-40-65, 57 PIM
What We Said Then: Kadri didn't make it into the article, but he was on the radar after an intriguing performance at the 2007 Canada Winter Games. On the one hand, he flashed vision and creativity beyond his years, eluding much bigger players with second or third efforts. However, the crafty centre seemed to rely too much on one move. When it worked, he embarrassed the opposition. When it didn't, he was often outmuscled and stripped of the puck.
What's Going On Now: Kadri looked good last season, make no mistake. But he really kicked it to another level in the post-season, where he posted 26 points in just 20 games. He's continued that torrid pace into the summer months. What's changed? For one, he's grown several inches. Two, he's starting to use his vast hockey sense effectively, creating dangerous opportunities every shift. Very few prospects can create with aplomb 5 on 5, but Kadri has shown capable of doing it at a young age.
What's On Tap: Kadri has an interesting season ahead. To match his fantastic U20 camp, he'll need to be on the of top three 2009s in the OHL and one of the top players in the class as a whole. Oh yeah, and he'll need to make Team Canada. If he doesn't, Kadri will quickly earn a flash in the pan label.
Ryan Ellis, D
Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Height/Weight: 5'10, 178 lbs
2007-08 Statline: 63 GP, 15-48-63, +30, 51 PIM
What We Said Then: N/A
What's Going On Now: Every draft has a highly skilled but smallish offensive defender whose draft position and stock waver until and even on draft day. Few of them, however, put up numbers like Ryan Ellis did as a 16 year-old. However, a big part of those numbers is the fact that Windsor has a lot of weapons in 2010 eligible Taylor Hall, 9th overall pick Josh Bailey and Flames first rounder Greg Nemisz, among others.
Ellis is as close to a Brian Campbell clone as you'll find. A dazzling skater and sometimes devestatingly physical player, Ellis nevertheless struggles at handing bigger forwards. However, when he has the puck on the powerplay, few players in major junior are as dangerous.
What's On Tap: Like Mike Del Zotto a year before him, any questions about attitude and a failure to improve in his weakest areas will lead to a plunge in stock. However, a 70 or 80-point season would make him almost impossible to pass up in the top seven.
Stefan Elliott, D
Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Height/Weight: 6'1, 186 lbs
2007-08 Statline: 67 GP, 9-31-40, -18, 17 PIM
What We Said Then: Nothing. Elliott played just one game in the Dub during the 2006-07 season after being acquired from Brandon for Devin Setoguchi.
What's Going On Now: Scouts have been looking for the next Paul Coffey forever. Is Elliott the answer? A beautiful skater who loves to go end-to-end, Saskatoon GM Paul Olekszyk compared Elliott to one Jay Bouwmeester, but he doesn't have J-Bo's size or elite defensive awareness. However, when he chooses to, Elliott's ability to break up the rush with smartly-timed stickwork makes him a capable defender. And at 6'1, he's still bigger than rushers like Thomas Hickey and the aforementioned Ellis.
What's On Tap: The OD category is jam-packed in 2009. Elliott will be competing with Ellis and fellow WHLer Tyson Barrie just from the CHL alone. If Elliott can break the 50-point mark while bring a more intense game in his own zone, his frame will allow him to jump ahead of almost everyone.
Tyson Barrie, D
Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Height/Weight: 5'9, 165 lbs
20007-08 Statline: 64 GP, 9-34-43, +8, 32 PIM
What We Said Then: N/A
What's Going On Now: Small defensemen have been stereotyped as being weak, one-dimensional players who can't play good D. Barrie shatters that preconception. A willing combatant physically, Barrie's smooth skating, big point shot and tremendous poise reminds one of Mathieu Schneider.
What's On Tap: Barrie will need to continue playing high-level defense to contend with some of the bigger names, both height and starpower wise. He could easily fall due to the names on F and D ahead of him, setting some team up for a fantastic steal.