Welcome to today’s edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. If you missed any of my previous articles you can find a complete listing of them here.
This week I am taking an early look at the 2013 NHL draft with my top 30 rankings so far.
If someone obvious is missing off the list (especially a European player) chances are i haven’t seen enough to properly rank him yet. I often use the World Juniors, the Five Nations, and the Under 18s as my reference point for ranking some of these players as Euro tapes are hard to come by. That said guys like Barkov, Nikushkin, and Lindholm who were seen last season (or in 4 nations events, or the Subway Super Series) will be included.
I’ll be doing this ranking in four parts this week. 1-10 is available by clicking here. 11-20 is the focus of today’s piece. Rankings 21-30, and honourable mentions will come out later in the week.
11. Rasmus Ristolainen, Defence, TPS Turku, SM-Liga (6’3″ 200 lbs): A November 1994 birthdate, Ristolainen is a little more mature, and has already been a player on the international stage as he played in last season’s World Junior Championship and the last two Under 18 World Championships. He’s a very good skater and mobility, acceleration, and agility help him to have a strong two way game. Offensively he moves the puck well both through skating and passing. Defensively, he uses his size effectively and has a definite mean streak in his own end of the ice. Expect him to be a key Finnish defenceman at the World Juniors, where his all-around game could make scouts salivate.
12. Max Domi, Centre, London Knights (5’10”, 194 lbs): Max is the son of former NHL tough guy Tie Domi, but you wouldn’t know it watching the young Domi on the ice. He’s fallen a little from my preseason ranking of 9 and is now at 12, but that is not due to Domi’s play, but more due to the play of those who have passed him. Domi has been everything he was expected to be with 32 points in 23 games for London. Domi is an elite skater who uses his shiftiness and changes of pace to confuse and beat defenders. He has excellent hockey sense and is able to find openings in the offensive zone to unleash a quick and accurate wrist shot. He has great anticipation and a great first step which sees him pounce on loose pucks around the net. Extremely dangerous with the puck as Domi can beat defenders one on one. He also has excellent vision and passing ability which he uses to create openings.
13. Darnell Nurse, Defence, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (6’4″ 185 lbs): Nurse is a big, strong defensive defenceman for the Greyhounds. The nephew of former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, Nurse is an excellent skater who covers a ton of ice. He is a good shot blocker and his long reach helps to cut down passing lanes. His defensive skills alone are enough to make him a first round pick, but his 17 points in 23 games this season are a much welcomed suprise and have helped to shoot him up the draft board. He’s really improved his puckhandling and shown better passing skills and vision this season. The addition of this offensive game has really helped.
14. Anthony Mantha, Right Wing, Val D’Or Foreurs, (6’3″, 200 lbs): Mantha is an outstanding skater for his size, has great acceleration, drives hard to the net, and scores goals. This power forward prospect has a tremendously quick release which fools goalies and helps to put the puck in the back of the net. Mantha gets involved physically and digs hard along the boards and in front of the net, but I’d like to see more big hits and a bit of a mean streak out of him going forward. With 21 goals and 37 points in 23 games this season, Mantha is lighting it up and the ideal size and the goal scoring ability make him an intriguing prospect. His defensive game is inconsistent. I have seen him be an effective backchecker in his own end of the ice, but I’ve also seen games where he doesn’t get involved enough defensively. If Mantha can improve that aspect of his game, he can challenge for a top 10 spot.
15. Curtis Lazar, Centre, Edmonton Oil Kings, (6’0″, 195 lbs): Lazar has fallen from 7 in my pre-draft rankings to 15 today. While for many, I’ve attributed the fall to the strong play of those who have risen around them, and of no fault of the player, in Lazar’s case he has contributed to his own fall. His start to the season with 14 points in 20 games is disappointing especially considering the powerful Oil Kings team he plays for, and the breakout performance he had in the playoffs last year. He just doesn’t seem the same dynamic player we saw last year. I’ve left him at 14 because I expect him to turn things around, and become the player I think he can be. At his best Lazar has great quickness and outstanding acceleration. He is able to use his quick and powerful stride to go wide on defence, and if he manages to get a step on them he puts it into another gear and drives the net hard. He also plays a rugged game and is willing to hit on the forecheck or battle along the boards. Lazar also possesses an excellent shot and pro-level release which he used to score 8 goals in the WHL playoffs. Lazar is a player who can easily rise back into the top 10, but if he doesn’t start showing me the player I saw last season, he could fall further down the list in later rankings.
16. Adam Erne, Right Wing, Quebec Remparts (6’1″, 195 lbs): The power forward in training plays a very physical game. He just loves to win battles on the boards and to fight for position in front of the net. He loves to drive the net and has soft hands in close. Erne scored 28 goals last season and already has 14 goals and 32 points in 22 games this season. He is already advanced in his defensive game as Erne is reliable in his own zone, and he brings that physical game at both ends of the ice. While his skating is still a bit of a question mark, it has improved from where he was last season. Erne’s size, his physical presence and his goal scoring ability is an intriguing package and one that NHL teams always seem to crave.
17: Nikita Zadorov, Defence, London Knights, (6’5″ 230 lbs): Zadorov is big and has a nasty streak as he has shown to be an effective hitter early in his OHL career with London. A valuable defensive defenceman who keeps the front of the net clear and punishes opposing forwards, Zadorov brings his biggest value in his own end of the ice. He does have the ability to contribute to offence though, often making a good smart first pass.
18. Jason Dickinson, Centre, Guelph Storm (6’1, 180 lbs): Dickinson has been impressive this season and has been a major contributor to Guelph’s hot start with 20 points in 24 games. He is a creative playmaker, with excellent vision and passing ability that helps him him to make linemates better. Dickinson is also and excellent stickhandler, and he protects the puck very well, extending plays and waiting for openings to make a pass. He shows a quick release, but could stand to become a little stronger and get more power on his shot. He is involved in front of the net and on the boards as well, but again just needs to put some more mass on that frame.
19. J.T. Compher, Centre, US National Team Development Program (6’0 170 lbs): An undisclosed injury has kept Compher out of the lineup most of this season, and his lack of ice time is the reason for his fall from the top 10 of my pre-season ranking. Last season Compher was the leading score for the US NTDP’s Under 17 team. He is a good skater, who uses his speed, acceleration, stickhandling, and vision to be a playmaker at centre or off the wing. He also has a heavy wrist shot and quick release. Compher is also an agitator and pest, always yapping and always in an opponents face after the whistle, Compher has the ability to get opponents off their game and draw penalties.
20. Ryan Kujawinski, Centre, Kingston Frontenacs, (6’2″, 195 lbs): Kujawinski has a really nice start to the season for Kingston this year with 18 points in 21 games. He is is developping into a big, powerful centre with excellent reach, and great puck control. Kujawinski uses these skills to control the puck and extend plays down low, becoming an excellent playmaker as it gives his teammates time to get open and he’s able to make a few quick moves to open up passing lanes. He also is a powerful skater who drives the net and plays a gritty style. Kujawinski has really impressed me and while he’s at a near point per game pace (48 points in 51 games) since being traded to the Frontenacs last season. I see him as being really close to taking off though, I think there is a lot more potential there.
Thanks for reading. Check back in later in the week for parts 3 and 4 of the November Rankings.
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