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 who were seen last season (or in 4 nations events, the World Juniors, 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”.
I finish off with giving some honourable mentions (in alphabetical order, not ranking order). This group of players is currently just outside my first round ranking, and knocking at the door. With good performances down the stretch, in the playoffs, and in the World Under 18 tournament, these players could hear their name called in the first round come June’s NHL Draft.
Justin Bailey, Centre/Right Wing, Kitchener Rangers, (6’3″ 183 lbs) (November Rank N/A): A big bodied, versatile forward capable of playing both centre and right wing. Bailey has ideal NHL size, though he could stand to bulk up in the coming years. He skates well, with good agility, acceleration and decent top end speed. Bailey is strong on the puck, and his good puck protection, balance, and ability to win board battles makes him good on the cycle game. His offensive game has been evident on a strong Kitchener team with 35 points in 49 games despite seeing limited powerplay time, especially early in the season. He plays a strong two-way game showing smarts and high effort level in his own end of the ice as well.
Oliver Bjorkstrand, Right Wing, Portland Winterhawks (5’10″ 164 lbs) (November Rank HM): Portland’s first round selection in the 2012 CHL import draft, this young and talented Dane has come in and made an immediate impression for the first place Winterhawks with 28 goals and 57 points in 56 games. He has a very heavy wrist shot and an excellent release which he uses to snipe goals coming down the wing on a rush, or setting up at the top of the circles or in the slot in the offensive zone. A tad undersized, Bjorkstrand is a quick skater, and is very shifty avoiding hits from defenders. He has outstanding stickhandling and is tough to knock off the puck and his agility and quickness allow him to elude defenders and buy time to make plays for teammates. A player who could easily find his way into the first round with a productive WHL playoff run (and in Portland he is playing on a team that is a favorite to go deep in those playoffs). He definitely needs to bulk up though, and that might take some time before he’s ready for pro hockey. Playing with Seth Jones and Nicolas Petan means that Bjorkstrand certainly won’t be flying under the scouts’ radar.
William Carrier, Left Wing/Centre, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (6’1″ 200 lbs) (November Rank 22): Carrier came storming out of the gate with 40 points in his first 24 games for Cape Breton. But with just 2 points in his last ten games he’s fallen out of my first round rankings. At his best Carrier has a strong, powerful skating stride. He has great balance and is very difficult to knock off the puck. He cycles the puck extremely well down low, and finds openings to cut to the net, where he has the soft hands to score goals. He also has good vision and can be an excellent playmaker. Carrier has the added bonus of playing a strong two-way game. The question at this point has to be how much of Carrier’s start was as a result of his chemistry with Alexandre Lavoie (now with Rimouski) and how much was his own talent shining through. If Carrier can get back on track and prove his recent struggles were just a small slump, he can certainly force his way back into the first round.
Eric Comrie, Goalie, Tri-City Americans (6’1″ 170 lbs) (November Rank HM): The son of “The Brick” founder Bill Comrie, and the brother of NHLer Mike Comrie (aka Mr. Hillary Duff), Eric Comrie looks to keep the famous Canadian last name in the news. After seeing Comrie play 31 games last season Tri-City traded incumbent starter Ty Rimmer handing the number 1 job to Comrie this season. He’s taken the bull by the horns, and has a 20-14-3 record with 2 shutouts, a .915 save percentage, and a 2.62 goals against average this season. Comrie has decent size and good technique as a hybrid goalie. He has very good lateral movement and his quick legs do a great job of taking away the bottom of the net, while a good glove works to take away the top portions. Comrie plays an agressive style and comes out far to cut down angles and take away net from shooters. Like many young goalies, he does need work on his rebound control. He was part of Team Canada’s Gold Medal winning squad at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament splitting time with Zachary Fucale in the net.
Marko Dano, Right Wing, HC Slovan Bratislava (KHL) (5’11” 183 lbs) (November Rank N/A): The young Slovak is already playing against men, being in the KHL all season long. He has been extremely impressive in the World Juniors, where he has been Slovakia’s best player in each of the last two tournaments. With 9 points in 6 games, he had an outstanding tournament on one of the tournament’s weaker squads. Dano loves to hit and plays an agitator’s game despite being listed at only 5’11″ tall. He’s a good skater who gets in very quickly on the forecheck. He has showed offensive ability at the international level including good instincts and hockey sense, a nose for the net, a good shot, and decent playmaking ability. This year’s World Juniors was a real coming out party for Dano certainly should have him on scout’s radar going forward. Based on what I’ve seen so far, he looks like a good bet to be a 2nd rounder right now.
Anthony Duclair, Left Wing, Quebec Remparts (5’11″ 182 lbs) (November Rank 26): Its been a rough season for Duclair, as he lost time earlier this year with an ankle injury. Then when he returned, he’s faced questions and controversy in Quebec as the Remparts team has seemed to be coming apart at the seems over the last month or so. Through it all Duclair has continued to put up points with 19 goals and 44 points in 46 games. Still its a little bit lower production than what many were expecting out of Duclair this season. Duclair is a fantastic skater, who has a ton of top end speed, great acceleration and tremendous agility. He is able to stickhandle at top speed which forces defenders to back up on him on the rush as he is able to go wide and cut to the net if they don’t respect his speed and skating ability. He is also able to take advantage of the extra space with a very accurate wrist shot and good release. Duclair and the Remparts will be looking for a strong finish to the year, and to go on a long playoff run. Strong play from Duclair could help that to happen, and would put him back in the conversation for a first round pick.
Hudson Fasching, Centre/Right Wing, United States NTDP U18 (6’3″ 190 lbs) (November Rank 24): Fasching is a rising star with the USNTDP and has shown to be capable in all aspects of the game. Fasching playing with USNTDP U18 squad this season has 22 points in 48 games. One of those players who screams intangibles, Fasching is a gritty, two way power forward who plays important minutes in iall situations including the penalty kill. He is a powerful skater with a long stride. He is great working down low on the cycle with his excellent balance and can be very tough to knock of the puck. His top end speed is good, but he could work on his first step and his acceleration. Fasching loves to take the puck to the net, and has the ability to score goals in tight, or via a good wrist shot with a quick release. Fasching is also known as a strong leader, and is seen as future captain material, based on the way teammates follow his strong on ice example and work ethic.
Ryan Graves, Defence, PEI Rocket (6’4″ 225lbs) (November Rank N/A): Blessed with tremendous size, Graves is a strong defensive defenceman. He is very mobile, and uses decent speed, good edgework and strong pivots to get himself into good positions to block shots, and cut down passing lanes in the defensive zone. He’s also been willing to fight when necessary and has done well in this department the past two years. In order to break into the first round, I would like to see a bit more of a mean streak along the boards and a few more big hits. It would also be nice to see him show some more offence. He is a good passer in his own end, and starts the rush well. While the offence is better this season with 13 points in 59 games (as compared to 9 points in 62 games last year), he still isn’t showing much of a two way game going forward. However given his size and defensive prowess he’s a good bet in the 2nd round right now.
Ryan Kujawinski, Centre, Kingston Frontenacs, (6’2″ 195 lbs) (November Rank 20): Kujawinski has long been one of my favorite darkhorses in this draft. He had a really nice start to the season for Kingston, winning the OHL player of the week in the first week of the year. He continued that play with a good first couple months but has tailed off recently causing a fall out of my first round rankings. On the season, he has 15 goals and 40 points in 56 games. At his best, Kujawinski is a big, powerful centre with excellent reach, and great puck control. He uses his size and puck protection skills to control the puck and extend plays down low on the cycle. This allows him to be 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 and get them the puck when they get open. Kujawinski is also is a powerful skater who drives the net and plays a gritty style. Kujawinski has really impressed since being traded to the Frontenacs last season, and at times its the lack of quality teammates in Kingston that may be holding him back. Kujawinski is one of my favorite prospects in this draft, and I think he is a real diamond in the rough with untapped potential. He merely needs to be more consistent game in and game out.
Spencer Martin, Goalie, Mississauga Steelheads (6’02″ 192 lbs) (November Rank 27): Martin has been an absolute revelation for the Steelheads this season, taking over the starting job for the team. WIth a 0.908 save percentage and 16 wins he has helped the Steelheads who are currently sitting in 7th place and a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Part of the new breed of taller goaltenders, Martin plays a solid butterfly style and has very quick legs taking away the bottom of the net very effectively. He has good size, and challenges shooters, by coming out of his net and playing his angles very well. Like many young goalies, Martin can sometimes have an issue with rebound control, and he will need to focus on improving that aspect of his game. However there is a ton of raw talent here, that will have scouts excited for the NHL draft.
Mirco Mueller, Defence, Everett Silvertips, (6’04” 185 lbs) (November Rank N/A): The big defenceman who is a rookie for Everett in the WHL has been improving all season long. He also showed his skills at the World Juniors playing for one of the tourney’s surprise teams in Switzerland. However with other recent Swiss international results we really shouldn’t be surprised, as the country is making a real push to be the 7th best hockey nation in the world. Mueller has ideal NHL size, though he could add some muscle, and good mobility which really help him in the defensive zone. He fit seemlessly into the Swiss squad and played their checking system to perfection. Muller has shown offensive ability in Everett with good passing skills and vision, along with a good slapshot, putting up 6 goals and 25 points in 53 games. He’s really come into his own, playing a lot more minutes following the shoulder injury to Ryan Murray.
Anton Slepyshev, Right Wing, Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL) (6’2″ 194 lbs) (November Rank N/A): Slepyshev was part of Russia’s best line at the World Juniors with Mikhail Grigorenko. He’s a big bodied winger with a great shot and an excellent release. He is a strong skater with great agility, and good acceleration, balance and top end speed. He probably should have been drafted last year, but there were big questions about his commitment to play in North America when he skipped the NHL Draft Combine. If he shows any willingness to consider playing in the NHL he will surely be drafted, as this kid can play, with the skills to be a top 6 contributor in the NHL.
Nick Sorensen, RW, Quebec Remparts (6’1″ 175 lbs) (November Rank HM): The highly touted Dane was plagued with injuries as a rookie last season only playing in 8 games for the Remparts, but he made a statement by scoring 5 goals and 9 points in those 8 games. This season he’s played 38 games and has 16 goals and 38 points in that time. He’s proving that he is well recovered from the MCL/ACL reconstruction he had last season. Sorensen is regaining his quick and shifty skating, and excellent agility which allows him to avoid defenders. He’s also showing a great wrist shot and a lightning quick release. He is extremely skilled and the more he plays the more he’ll rise up draft charts. He’s the one high end draft prospect who has avoided the recent controversy with the Remparts, and that should certainly help him going forward.
Jordan Subban, Defence, Belleville Bulls (5’10″ 177 lbs): The third member of the Subban family, Jordan is a great skater, and is becoming a dangerous offensive weapon, with many of the same tools his brother P.K. showed while in Belleville. Jordan has put up 15 goals and 48 points in 58 games fro the Bulls this season. He has an excellent slapshot, and is great at one-timers. He also has great vision, and has done a fantastic job as the the Bulls powerplay quarterback. Questions about his size will always plague him as he is listed at 5’10″ but can sometimes look even smaller than that out on the ice. However if he can add strength, and answer questions about his defensive ability he can move up draft boards very quickly. Jordan certainly has the type of prodigious talent we’ve seen in his two older brothers. A big playoff run with Belleville would push Jordan into the early part of the second round, and possibly even the first.
Shea Theodore, Defence, Seattle Thunderbirds (6’2″ 180 lbs) (November Rank: 29): Theodore scored 35 points last season as a 16 year old for Seattle. In August, he was part of Team Canada’s Ivan Hlinka roster and brought home a gold medal. Hes followed that up with 16 goals and 44 points in 61 games this season playing on a weak Seattle club. Theodore is an excellent skater who loves to rush the puck and has great stickhandling, puck protection and poise. He also has great vision and passing abilities and is a natural power play quarterback. He has the ability to really fire the puck from the back end, with an excellent slapshot and one timer. Theodore has plenty of size, but he needs to learn how to use it more effectively in his own end of the rink. He needs to be more assertive in winning board battles and clearing the front of the Seattle net. He has improved this aspect of his game over last year, but there is still some more room for improvement and bulking up and adding some more muscle to his frame would certainly help. The offense, size and skating ability are certainly all there, and we know that NHL teams just love defencemen who can move the puck the way Theodore can. You can’t teach the offensive skills Theodore possesses, but he can improve his defensive game through hard work and coaching, and so Theodore is an intriguing prospect.
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