With the month of December- and the World Juniors- over and done, it's time for a new '09 Draft review. Instead of a mock, though, check out an honest-to-goodness, old-school Top 30 inspired by all the always... creative... NHL Central Scouting Mid-Term Rankings.
1. John Tavares, C
London Knights/Oshawa Generals (OHL)
2008-09: 33 GP, 28-29-57, 34 PIM
Comments: A performance for the ages on the biggest stage in the world will get every Canadian on his ****. But Johnny T showed more than just sweet hands during this past World Junior Championship. I was particularly impressed with how he ratcheted up both his defensive game and work in the dot when the game(s) were on the line. I think there's some untapped power forward game in Tavares, which would make him a truly multidimensional threat.
CSB Ranking: #1 NA
2. Victor Hedman, D
2008-09: 27 GP, 4-8-12, 32 PIM
Comments: Hedman is #2 by default. Although he was terrible at the WJC, that shouldn't and doesn't erase a solid body of work all season long. Does he need to work on his physical game? Absolutely. But you just do not let once-in-a-generation (different from generational, note) talent slip away just because he needs to- shocker- develop his game?
CSB Ranking: #1 Europe
3. Jordan Schroeder, RW
U. Minnesota (WCHA)
2008-09: 18 GP, 8-16-24, 12 PIM
Comments: One of Team USA's few bright spots. He was consistently better than Colin Wilson and JvR. He's a poor man's Pat Kane, and it's up to him how poor that is. A bull despite his size.
CSB Ranking: #4 NA
4. Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi, LW
Timra IK (SEL)
2008-09: 35 GP, 4-7-11, 4 PIM
Comments: Intenret commentary on the Swedish wunderkind's play has not been kind, with many fans ripping on him for a lack of 'finish'. But again, they seem to have forgotten prospects are called prospects for a reason. 6'1 forwards with NHL-quality hands, acceleration and top-end speed will always have the leg up on other prospects, and that's the case with 'MSP'. You simply do not let such a talent slide simply because he was snakebitten at a short tournament. Paajarvi is no less a franchise talent than he was at the beginning of the year.
CSB Ranking: #2 Europe
5. Jared Cowen, D
Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
2008-09: 41 GP, 6-11-17, 30 PIM
Comments: NHL Central Scouting has made some pretty wonky rankings, but 2009's mid-year update sets a new level for strangeness. Like, say, Simon Despres ahead of Cowen. The #1 shutdown defender on a Memorial Cup champion isn't even the top Canadian defender in his age group? Really? While Despres may be a sweet skater, we here at Bugg Scouting Services like one thing: a winner. Cowen has been that throughout his career, consistently demonstrating the ability to step up when the game is on the line.
CSB Ranking: #7 NA (WTF?)
6. Matt Duchene, C
Brampton Battalion (OHL)
2008-09: 32 GP, 20-30-50, 26 PIM
Comments: Like fellow Brampton Battalion product Cody Hodgson, Matt Duchene is a player whose draft postion will seem like a steal even if he goes tenth overall. Called by some the 'Canadian Pavel Bure', while the speedy center doesn't possess the Russian Rocket's all-world skill, he has plenty of heart and the right attitude to be the cornerstone of a franchise for a long time.
CSB Ranking: #2 NA
7. Ryan Ellis, D
Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
2008-09: 33 GP, 16-35-51, 41 PIM
Comments: Another brilliant move by CSB. Ryan Ellis 15th among North Americans? That's right up there with them ranking Deveraux Heshmatpour- who lost a skating competition to a goalie- above Paul Stastny in 2005. Ellis may be small, but he owns the entire offensive blueline. While it was 'only' the WJC, the best in his age group couldn't clear the puck past him- see the GTG versus Russia for an example.
CSB Ranking: #15 NA (they did it for the lulz)
8. Evander Kane, C
Vancouver Giants (WHL)
2008-09: 30 GP, 26-28-54, 45 PIM
Comments: Brayden Schenn may have some nice things like size, physicality and 'intangibles', but I prefer the already offensively dominant, no-holds-barred wrecking ball that is Evander Kane. The entire hockey world saw Kane's versatility as a checker at the WJC, and that performance alone should kick him ahead of Schenn permanently. Kane, a dead-ringer for former Carolina Hurricanes Erik Cole, is one of the most under-appreciated talents available.
CSB Ranking: #3 NA
9. Jeremy Morin, LW
2008-09: 26 GP, 16-6-22, 76 PIM
Comments: One needs to be careful when evaluating power forwards playing junior hockey. While NTDP product Jeremy Morin is a fearless competitor in every zone, at his current weight, he would be dead before the end of his first shift in the NHL. Fortunately, adding muscie is an all but expected part of the development process, and there's no second-guessing that Morin is but the second-best finisher in the Draft. His only major flaw is skating, but that should not be enough to drop him out of the top ten.
CSB Ranking: #21 NA (:S)
10. Nazem Kadri, C
London Knights (OHL)
2008-09: 30 GP, 16-31-47, 15 PIM
Comments: Weird. I hated Kadri last year, but everyone loved him. Now that he's dropping on everyone's lists, I'm becoming a bigger and bigger fan. Kadri is a sublime playmaker and stickhandler who is big and physical enough to handle the pro ranks. People are going to wonder why they passed on him if he falls out of the top 12. However, now that he's teamed with John Tavares in London, expect Kadri's numbers- and thus stock- to once again rise rapidly.
CSB Ranking: #11 NA
11. Scott Glennie, C
Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
2008-09: 42 GP, 22-32-54, 17 PIM
Comments: How far has Brayden Schenn fallen? On some corners of the web, you'd be killed if you even suggested Glennie > Schenn. But in all my viewings of the Wheat Kings this year, Glennie has been the better player by a mile. He's an elite skater, an elite finisher, a first-rate two-way player. Oh yeah, and the kid can fight- so well that few challenge him anymore. He can take a vicious beating, and just when his opponent thinks he's tired out, Glennie will torque him. He's the WHL's version of Jeff Carter, coming to an NHL team near you.
CSB Ranking: #12 NA
12. Brayden Schenn, RW
Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
2008-09: 41 GP, 18-30-48, 47 PIM
Comments: Okay, I've ripped on him a lot, but I don't certainly don't hate the kid. I just think a market correction is in order. Top twelve pick? Absolutely. Top eight? No. While I like Brayden Schenn's ability to change a game with a hit or balls-out shift, I've found Schenn to be too much of a complimentary player- and his numbers back that up. I don't know if age and further development will change that substantially, although you can never have enough players like him on your team.
CSB Ranking: #5 NA
13. Zach Kassian, RW
Peterborough Petes (OHL)
2008-09: 37 GP, 16-24-40, 87 PIM
Comments: Nipping right at Schenn's heals is Zach Kassian. They're very similar players, with Schenn being the better skater but Kassian possessing a better shot arsenal. I also find he's a far more consistently mean player than Schenn. Regardless, he's a bit lower because I feel Kassian is a bit more of a project.
CSB Ranking: #24 NA
14. Landon Ferraro, C/LW
Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
2008-09: 43 GP, 25-15-40, 64 PIM
Comments: You aren't going to find Chicken Parm Jr. ranked this high many places, but the truth is, Landon Ferraro is a top three finisher in the class and an absolutely outstanding skater. (see: Top Prospects Game Skills Comp). Landon has a reputation for being a bit cocky, but it was a reason for his success in minor hockey, and a reason why he's succeeding now at the next level.
CSB Ranking: #13 NA
15. Olivier Roy, G
Cape Breton Eagles (QMJHL)
2008-09: 36 GP, 25-8, 2.90 GAA, 0.908 Sv%
Comments: Easily CSB's biggest bungle was putting Roy behind three other goalies. I can see the case for Mike Lee being his equal, but Scott Stajcer? Good Lord. Roy is extremely hot-and-cold at this stage, and he was probably in the midst of his cold streak when the CSB's Q scout(s) saw him. But that doesn't erase his absolutely incredible resume. Consistency can be attained through hard work, but setting the amount of records of he has is no accident. Helping the franchise goalie's stock is yet another Goaltender of the Week Award from the CHL last week.
CSB Ranking: #4 NA Goalies (:facepalm:)
16. Louis Leblanc, C
Omaha Lancers (USHL)
2008-09: 32 GP, 15-18-33, 28 PIM
Comments: Intelligence is the first thing that grabs you about USHL star Louis Leblanc. There's been a recent movement on several forums to name him the third or even best finisher in the Draft, but that's not true at all. Yes, he's extremely selective about his shots and can make some great ones, but what I've noticed more is how he can control the puck for seemingly hours. He reminds me of Paul Stastny from his NCAA days in this way, although he's a better skater. While you can't believe everything you read online, there is one comment about Leblanc that can be taken for what it's worth: he's a candidate to be a major steal when all is said and done.
CSB Ranking: #18 NA
17. Stefan Elliott, D
Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
2008-09: 43 GP, 13-22-35, 12 PIM
Comments: Outside of Hedman, there's only one other defenseman in the '09 class that truly combines size, skating, skill, intelligence and instincts. Saskatoon Blade star Stefan Elliott is truly the first player I've seen since Coffey to play both forward and D during the same shift so seamlessly that you think he's two different players. In any other draft, Elliott would be in my top 10 or 11. He's going to be an outstanding NHLer with some time in the gym.
CSB Ranking: #22 NA
18. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D
Leksands IF (Swe-2)
2008-09: 29 GP, 3-11-14, 28 PIM
Comments: I really like 'OEL'. He's playing in a league you don't typically see NHL prospects come from, but he's the best d-man on his team and can slow the game down to suit him. He and Simon Despres are very, very close, and I wouldn't knock a team for picking one over the other. That's why it just seems unfathomable to me that NHL Central Scouting would rank Despres ahead of Cowen, let alone Ekman-Larsson.
CSB Ranking: #8 Europe
19. Simon Despres, D
Saint John (QMJHL)
2008-09: 43 GP, 1-19-20, 52 PIM
Comments: I've knocked Despres a lot this year for his inconsistent and soft play, but he's really come around in the physical department. A strong Top Prospects Game showing didn't hurt matters. However, Despres still suffers from the same basic problem as he did in September: he has yet to play an entire game with the mindset that he is the best player on the ice. 6'3 rearguards who can skate, hit and rush the puck are so very rare, but Despres seems to be the only guy who doesn't realize it. He's showing all the traits of one Eric Brewer.
CSB Ranking: #6 NA
20. Jacob Josefson, C
2008-09: 35 GP, 4-3-7, 8 PIM
Comments: However, defensemen are not the only ones prone to owning big skill but little heart. The Los Angeles Kings thought they had a gem at the '04 draft table in 11th overall pick Lauri Tukonen. While the 6'1 Finnish winger owned all-world skill, all scouts ever saw was a vanilla two-way game. Flash-forward four years, and Tukonen has changed organizations twice without finding an NHL home. Swede Jacob Josefson is unfortunately following the same path. While we've always raved about his ability, it was always with the disclaimer that he played a 'simple' game. Well, half the year is over, and Josefson has yet to venture outside of it. While he is in no danger of falling out of the first round, GMs- both real and fantasy- must approach Josefson with caution.
CSB Ranking: #2 Europe
21. Dmitry Kulikov, D
2008-09: 33 GP 2-36-38, 36 PIM
Comments: What?! A player called by one Q coach as the best defensive prospect in 30 years is 21st?! Like Dobber's prospect ratings, don't take it to heart; '09 is such a deep draft that every group of five or so players is virtually identical. "But that still makes Kulikov only the 16th best '09 player!" you say. However, if one were to look at 2003- the draft most compared to '09- Braydon Coburn and Ryan Suter probably fall in the 15-17 range. That's about my projected upside for Kulikov. While the Russian import is a slick skater with tremendous poise offensively, he only seems to initiate fierce contact when provoked. The rest of the time, Kulikov takes the easiest path to the puck, and only really looks skilled when he has a lot of time and space- a rarity in the NHL. Like Josefson, we're certainly not saying Kulikov is destined to be a bust; just don't expect him to win any Norris Trophies, as Hedman and Cowen may one day do.
CSB Ranking: #17 NA
22. Peter Holland, C
Guelph Storm (OHL)
2008-09: 44 GP, 20-22-42, 22 PIM
Comments: The Top Prospects Game is often over-rated as a gauge of a player's stock, but it can help an under-exposed prospect out. A prime example is Peter Holland. Without Drew Doughty, the Guelph Storm have quickly faded from the eye of hype, allowing this lanky center to develop in relative obscurity. While still obviously quite raw- both physically and skill-wise- Holland is on the verge of a major breakout. Few big men combine soft hands and heart like him. In recent years, many forwards taken in the late 20s have bloomed into top NHLers, and Holland has the potential to join them. If he has a huge playoffs, circle his name in pen on your keeper draft lists.
CSB Ranking: #9 NA
23. Taylor Doherty, D
Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
2008-09: 44 GP, 1-9-10, 95 PIM
Comments: Imagine a more physical Tyler Myers, and you have Doherty. So, you ask: great mobility, above-average skill, and a mean streak. So how does he possibly rank lower than Myers? While Doherty certainly deserves a spot in the first round, Hedman, Cowen, Despres and Elliott are all 6'1+ defenders with far more polished skill. With so much talent readily available, teams won't be as tempted to roll on the dice on big men like Doherty.
CSB Ranking: #71 NA
24. Jordan Caron, RW
Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
2008-09: 32 GP, 17-13-30, 37 PIM
Comments: Ah, the conundrum of the bandaid brigade: now matter how skilled a player may be, they need to actually be on the ice to use it. QMJHL power winger Jordan Caron is perhaps in the top seventeen in terms of pure ability, but a major injury every season since entering the league is not exactly a glowing statistic. As in the case of Doherty and other project picks, look for players with any kind of blemish to nose dive on draft day.
CSB Ranking: #20 NA
25. Mike Lee, G
Fargo Force (USHL)
2008-09: 26 GP, 13-11, 2.64 GAA, 0.911 Sv%
Comments: Only recently has Lee, a former high school standout, finally seen the workload of playing behind an expansion team get to him. He's a terrific goalie in every department, but we already knew that. With his character in question after blowing the championship game last year in high school league play, it's been more re-assuring to see Lee give 150% every night for the lowly Fargo Force. He has all the ear-markings of the next great American goalie product.
CSB Ranking: #3 NA Goalies
26. Brayden McNabb, D
Kootenay Ice (WHL)
2008-09: 44 GP, 3-12-15, 95 PIM
Comments: Scouting doesn't just take into account current performance versus future upside; there are some players who are slightly behind everyone that will rocket ahead, and that needs to be accounted for. Like Shea Weber in his draft year, while 6'3 rearguard Brayden McNabb is having the type of season that doesn't register huge on the Hype-o-Meter, but nevertheless hints at a stud player. Not selected for the U20 team, McNabb has instead supplanted himself as a prototypical Canadian defenseman, hitting and covering every comer into submission. He's also shown flashes of being a future offensive stud, a combo which would make him a weapon few NHL teams have.
CSB Ranking: #73 NA
27. David Rundblad, D
2008-09: 32 GP, 0-6-6, 8 PIM
Comments: It's tough to rank such a beautiful skater playing in the Elitserien so low, but it has to do with the quality of the players above him. Although I think Rundblad's absolute upside is probably a #2 D, one needs to be realistic. Every prospect has the potential to be the best player in the league, but we don't describe every player that way. WhileRundblad has played excellent defense in both league and international play during2008-09, he has not shown that special quality tha hints at much more than a 3/4 D with the skills to be more. I'd be happy to be proven wrong, though.
CSB Ranking: #4 Europe
28. John Moore, D
Chicago Steel (USHL)
2008-09: 29 GP, 10-17-27, 18 PIM
Comments: Moore has the same qualities as a lot of the d-men in this draft: big, physical, fast. But what stands about him is his tenacity- especially with the puck. Moore will take it by himself into the offensive zone and knock people over enroute to the net. While he really needs to polish his defensive game, there's a lot to work with here.
CSB Ranking: #8 NA
29. Carl Klingberg, LW
2008-09: 7 GP, 2-1-3, 0 PIM
Comments: Another surprise on my list in comparison to others, Carl Klingberg is going to be a quick riser very shortly. 6'3 wingers with soft hands are rare commodities, but Klingberg adds outstanding technical skating ability to the package. After initially doubting his hockey sense and motivation, Klingberg has taken his play to a new level, outright dominating games. he deserves a place in the top 30.
CSB Ranking: #7 Europe
30. Ethan Werek, LW
Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
2008-09: 42 GP, 18-18-36, 55 PIM
Comments: Finally, a comparison to 2003 would not be complete without at least one agitator in the first round. Almost the exact same height and weight as Corey Perry, fellowOHLer Ethan Werek has displayed both the prodigious pest's skill and annoyance factor. See: making the city of Kingston mad at him for threatening not to report following theOHL Bantam Draft. However, Werek comes by his pesky game honestly, ticking off opponents with hard, relentless forechecking rather than being a world-class diver/whiner. Werek is just one of many players who could find himself the bookend to the '09 first round.
CSB Ranking: #43 NA