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 give 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, 11-20, and 21-30, and honourable mentions
Lets move on will 11-20.
11: Nikita Zadorov, Defence, London Knights, (6’5″ 230 lbs) (November Rank 17): Zadorov has made a big move up my draft board over the last several months. As he’s settled in to playing for London, he’s shown a bit more offence, now with 20 points in 56 games. He starts the rush well, making a good first pass, and has a decent shot from the point. However its his work in the defensive end of the ice that makes Zadorov worthy of this ranking. He’s a big and has a definite nasty streak to his game. Zadorov has shown to be an effective hitter and opposing forwards know that they have to have their head up if challenging him off the rush. Zadorov keeps the front of the net clear and punishes opponents who get close to London’s crease.
12. Anthony Mantha, Right Wing, Val D’Or Foreurs, (6’3″, 200 lbs) (November Rank 14): With 45 goals, Mantha is leading the QMJHL in that department. This power forward prospect has great size, and a tremendously quick release on his wrist shot which fools goalies and helps to put the puck in the back of the net. He is an outstanding skater for his size, has great acceleration reaching his top speed very quickly, and is not afraid to drive hard to 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. The ideal package of size, skating, and goal scoring ability make Mantha an extremely 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.
13. Josh Morrissey, Defence, Prince Albert Raiders, 6’0″ 185 lbs (November Rank 10): Morrisey is showing off a very well-developed all around game in Prince Albert this season. He is a talented two way defenceman, equally adept at putting up points and quarterbacking a powerplay, or playing a shut down defensive role. His great skating and mobility is a tremendous asset in all aspects of the game as it helps him to rush the puck offensively, and contain opponents defensively always keeping the play in front of him. He is extremely smart positionally and has very good hockey sense. He does not shy away from playing a physical game, from taking a hit to make the play, or from blocking shots; as he proves to be the ultimate team player. Morrissey has 35 points in 50 games this year and is a +14.
14. Adam Erne, Right Wing, Quebec Remparts (6’1″, 195 lbs) (November Rank: 16): The Remparts have been in a bit of disarray over the last couple of months. Its difficult to know exactly why, and Erne was initially supposed to be suspended by the team for a game in late January, however coach Patrick Roy changed his mind and kept Erne in the lineup. The loss of Mikhail Grigorenko to the Buffalo Sabres has also made Erne more of a focal point for the best defenders on opposing teams. Through it all, Erne has continued to produce with 63 points in 56 games. The power forward in training plays a very physical game. Erne is at his best when he drives the net and uses his soft hands to beat the goalie in close. He just loves to win battles on the boards and to fight for position in front of the net. Erne is already advanced in his defensive game and is reliable in his own zone. He brings the same strong physical play in the defensive zone as well as the offensive zone. Erne’s skating is still a bit of a question mark, but it has improved from where he was last season. With the combination of size, physical presence and goal scoring that Erne has shown these past two seasons, he will get long looks from NHL teams headed into the June draft, and could continue to move up the draft board.
15. Darnell Nurse, Defence, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (6’4″ 185 lbs) (November Rank 13): The nephew of former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, Nurse is an excellent skater, with a strong stride, quick agility, and good acceleration. This helps Nurse to cover a ton of ice and play a shutdown game. He is a big, strong defensive defenceman who is not afraid to block shots. Nurse has great size 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 11 goals and 34 points in 56 games this season are a much welcomed suprise and have helped to shoot Nurse up the draft board. He’s really improved his puckhandling and shown better passing skills and vision this season. Add to that a very good point shot, and a better understanding of how to keep that shot low and on net, and you have a player who has started to blossom offensively this season.
16. Max Domi, Centre, London Knights (5’10″, 194 lbs) (November Rank 12): Max is the son of former NHL tough guy Tie Domi, but you wouldn’t know it watching the young Domi on the ice. The younger Domi is an offensive dynamo who has put up 34 goals and 75 points in 54 games for the London Knights this season, playing as the number one centre on one of the OHL’s best teams. 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.
17. Kerby Rychel, Left Wing, Windsor Spitfires (6’1, 200 lbs) (November Rank: 21): After scoring 41 goals last season, Rychel had a bit of a slow start to the OHL season. However he’s really picked it up since our last ranking and has been moved up accordingly. Rychel now has 33 goals and 69 points in 57 games this season. The son of Warren Rychel uses his excellent wrist shot and very quick release to score goals. Rychel also has a very good one timer and should be called a pure sniper. He is also absolutely lethal in close to the net, using his soft, quick hands to tip in shots and bury rebounds. Rychel drives opposing goalies nuts by setting up right at the top of the opponents crease and creating traffic along with occasional contact and chaos in the goal mouth area. Rychel is not afraid to play a tough game and has been known to drop the gloves from time to time. He does need to show a bit more consistent effort in the defensive zone, and if he can do that in the last portion of the season, he could continue his rise up the rankings.
18. Curtis Lazar, Centre, Edmonton Oil Kings, (6’0″, 195 lbs) (November Rank 15): Lazar has fallen from 7 in my pre-draft rankings to 17 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. While he has scored 32 goals this season, he has only 11 assists, and overall his play has been a bit disappointing especially considering the powerful Oil Kings team he plays for, and the breakout performance he had in the playoffs last year. He’s picked things up in the last couple weeks though and is finally showing some signs of being the dynamic player we saw as a 16 year old. 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 possesses an excellent shot and pro-level release which he uses to beat goalies. He’ll need to continue to play well down the stretch and through the WHL playoffs or he could be in danger of continuing to fall down the rankings.
19. Robert Hagg, Defence, Modo (6’2″ 201lbs) (November Rank: HM) – Hagg has a ton of international experience as he was part of Sweden’s team at the U18 last spring, the Ivan Hlinka in the summer, and the World Juniors this winter. Hagg is an excellent skater who loves to join the rush. He can score off the rush or on the powerplay with a hard accurate shot. Hagg makes good crisp passes out of his own end of the rink and with the man advantage. He has shown to be able to use his size to make him an imposing defender on the blue line. Hagg also plays strong positional game in his own end of the rink and should continue the tradition of Swedish defenders being drafted in the first round.
20. Frederick Gauthier, Centre, Rimouski Oceanic (6’3″ 192 lbs) (November Rank 28): Gauthier has made quite the impression as a rookie centre with the Rimouski Oceanic, with 19 goals and 54 points in 51 games. He is a big centre who has shown to be very strong along the boards and in front of the net. Especially good on the cycle, Gauthier is another powerforward in the making. He wins a ton of battles, and protects the puck extremely well, which extends plays and buys him time to set up teammates. He can also score goals on his own by taking the puck hard to net, or by utilizing his accurate wrister and good release. Gauthier shows a good two-way game, which is especially impressive for a rookie in major Junior. He has great size, and some pretty good skating, with decent top end speed and acceleration. If there is a criticism, its that I’d like to see him throw more big hits given his size and strength advantage at this level.
Thanks for reading. Check back in later in the week for parts 2, 3 and 4 of the February Rankings.
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