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 with 21-30.
21) Bo Horvat, Centre, London Knights (6’0″ 203 lbs) (November Rank 30): A strong two-way player with great hockey sense, and a strong work ethic. Horvat wins a lot of board battles, and is a power forward who loves to take the puck to the front of the net. His hockey sense seems to always have him in the right position at both ends of the ice. A good character guy, Horvat sets a good example for other young players on the Knights, and is a favorite of the Hunters. With 28 goals and 54 points in 57 games, he’s really broken out of late offensively for London and helped the Knights to be one of the best teams in the OHL. In November I talked about Horvat being a “bubble player” in the first round, but that is no longer the case. He’s really taken off and in my opinion he’s solidified himself as a solid first rounder.
22) Zach Fucale, Goaltender, Halifax Mooseheads (6’0″ 166 lbs) (November Rank 23): The top goaltender in this year’s class also comes from the same team as the top two forwards in this class – the powerhouse Halifax Mooseheads. He’s got 37 wins in 46 games this season, as the Mooseheads have been steamrolling everyone in the QMJHL. The .905 Save percentage might be a little bit below average for a goaltender, but but the reality is that Halifax is an all out offence all the time team, and Fucale is the backbone that let’s them play this style. Fucale is an athletic goalie with very good reflexes and excellent technique. He is especially quick with his glove hand. One thing that stands out, especially for a 17 year old goalie, is Fucale’s rebound control. It is very rare to see a draft eligible goalie who is already as good at that aspect as he is, as most young goalies still need to work on this area. Fucale has shown to be a workhorse over the last two seasons, as he starts a ton of games for the Mooseheads and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Look for Fucale and the Mooseheads to have a long playoff run, and his ability in big games will certainly be tested again this spring.
23) Nicolas Petan, Centre, Portland Winterhawks (5’8 163 lbs) (November Rank: N/A): Many have overlooked Petan due to his small size, and I am also guilty not even having him ranked in my November rankings. However the young centre can no longer be ignored as he just keeps putting up points game in and game out for the Portland Winterhawks. With 42 goals and 102 points in 61 games on the season, Petan ranks second in WHL scoring. Petan has a very good first step, and great acceleration, his ability to change pace quickly and his good agility allows him to confuse defenders and beat them to the outside. Even at his size Petan is not afraid to go into high traffic areas, and he does drive the net. Petan has shown to be a multi-dimensional threat coupling good vision and playmaking skills with a good wrist shot and quick release. He’s also shown to be a reliable defensive player and often contributes on Portland’s penalty kill unit.
24) Ryan Hartman, Right Wing/Centre, Plymouth Whalers (5’11” 187 lbs) (November Rank: N/A): Hartman was a key member of a strong third line for Team USA’s World Junior gold medal squad in UFA Russia. He is a strong skater who plays much bigger than his size would suggest, being extremely physical in all areas of the ice and especially strong on the forecheck. He has excellent balance on his skates, and protects the puck very well allowing him to control the puck on the boards, and in the cycle game. Hartman has shown versatility this season, often being deployed at Centre for Plymouth. He combines good playmaking skill with a heavy wrister and good release. With 55 points in 48 games for the Whalers he’s shown that he can be more than just an energy line player, and that he has the ability to play an offensive role.
25) Morgan Klimchuk, Centre/Wing, Regina Pats (5’11″ 180 lbs) (November Rank: HM): Klimchuk has had a breakout season for Regina, with 30 goals and 62 points in 61 games. He is a natural sniper, gifted with a great wrist shot and an excellent one timer. His outstanding release fools and confuses goaltenders as he seems to have the puck in the back of the net before they know he’s even shot it. Klimchuk has good hockey sense and is able to find openings in the defence where he can set up to unleash that deadly shot. More than just a one trick pony though, Klimchuk works hard in the corners, often winning board battles despite the fact he is merely average size. He also does extremely well in the cycle game protecting the puck with his soft hands and excellent balance on his skates. Klimchuk has the ability to be a game breaker and his natural goal scoring ability will be highly coveted by teams around the NHL.
26) Jason Dickinson, Left Wing/Centre, Guelph Storm (6’1, 180 lbs) (November Rank 18): After an extremely impressive start to the season Dickinson, and the entire Guelph team, have slowed down somewhat over the last month or so, and this has caused him to fall in the draft rankings. He’s just not putting up the points, or looking as dangerous on the ice as he did earlier in the year. Overall Dickinson has 16 goals and 38 points in 55 games this year. At his best, Dickinson is a creative playmaker, with excellent vision and passing ability who can make his linemates better. An excellent stickhandler, he protects the puck well, extending plays and waiting for openings to make a pass; especially when working down low on the cycle game. Dickinson shows a quick release, but could stand to become a little stronger and get more power on his wrist shot if he wants to become a real sniper at the next level. 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.
27) Madison Bowey, Defence, Kelowna Rockets (6’1 194 lbs) (November Rank 25): The Kelowna Rockets have been an absolute factory for defence prospects in the last decade, and in 2013 they have done it again, churning out yet another potential first round defenceman. Bowey has shown offensive upside from the blue line this year with 25 points. He is a strong two way player, who relies on his good speed, acceleration and quickness to define his game in all areas of the ice. He is an excellent puck mover with the ability to rush the puck or to make a strong first pass. However its Bowey’s defensive abilities that have him ranked as a potential first rounder. He has high hockey IQ, reads the play very well, and understands how to cut down passing and shooting lanes. Bowey has been willing to play a gritty game as he wins battles along the boards, and is a willing shot blocker, sacrificing himself for the good of the team. Scouts are once again off to Kelowna to scout the next big defence prospect they have produced.
28) Chris Bigras, Defence, Owen Sound Attack (6’0, 174 lbs) (November Rank: HM): Has been a key spark to the Owen Sound Attack offence this season with 30 points in 58 games. He is an extremely smart player with outstanding instincts and positioning. Bigras is extremely poised with the puck and makes hard, crisp tape to tape passes, both on the breakout and on the powerplay. He is defensively solid, using his strong positioning and good instincts to their full advantage. Skating wise, he has good pivots, edgework, and balance, but could stand to work on his top end speed. He also needs work on his shot from the point going forward. Still a very good, steady 2 way defender. One of those well rounded players who can be used in every situation that every team would love to have. Bigras all around game has gotten him noticed and is the main reason for his climb up the draft boards.
29) Valentin Zykov, Left Wing, Baie-Comeau Drakkar, (6’0 210 lbs) (November Rank: N/A): With 35 goals and 67 points in 57 games, Zykov has shown to be an offensive force for Baie-Comeau. Another in this class of power forward prospects, Zykov plays an extremely gritty game. He mixes things up along the boards, and loves to drive to the front of the net. He has very good balance on his skates, decent agility and good acceleration, but could stand to work on his top end speed. His wrist shot is extremely heavy and a very quick release can often surprise goaltenders and lead to the puck finding its way to the back of the net. Well rounded, Zykov is strong defensively and brings his physical game in all three zones. A great start to 2013 has Zykov rising up draft boards and if he continues to play at his current pace down the stretch and through the playoffs, he could continue to rise. He’s someone you should definitely keep an eye on going forward.
30) J.T. Compher, Centre/Left Wing, US National Team Development Program (6’0 170 lbs) (November Rank 19): An undisclosed injury kept Compher out of the lineup at the beginning of the season, and that lack of ice time and a slow start when he returned is one reason for his fall from the top 10 of my pre-season rankings. Last season Compher was the leading scorer for the US NTDP’s Under 17 team. This season Compher has put up 10 goals and 27 points in 40 games. 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 an agitator and pest, always yapping and always in an opponents face after the whistle, and this gives him that special ability to get opponents off their game and draw penalties. Compher has started to pick up his game in recent weeks, and if he can play for the USNTDP down the stretch and in the Under 18s, the way he did last year, he can rise up the board quickly as he features the rare combination of high end offensive skill and pest like qualities. Boom or Bust territory with Compher, as he could be one of the best players in this draft if he develops properly, but there is also big risk due to consistency issues.
Thanks for reading. Check back in later in the week for the final part of the February Rankings.
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Photo Credit: Whl.ca