Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column looking at Hockey’s Stars. Over the next few days we will be previewing the 2014 NHL Draft by ranking our top 30 prospects and honourable mentions. As always, you can check out the previous Top Shelf Prospects articles here.
With the CHL season now 2 months old, a month or so of NCAA hockey, plenty of games for the USNTDP and a few international tournaments (Ivan Hlinka, 4 Nations, first three games of the Subway Super Series) in the books, we have gotten a decent overview of what some of the biggest prospects for the draft are doing this year. That said, myself and the rest of the LWOS staff haven’t seen everyone yet… its quite simply not possible at this point in the season, so if there is someone you feel is an obvious name that has been left out, we’ll do our best to get a look before our final ranks come out in April, May, and June. At this point the group we haven’t seen a lot of are those European prospects who for whatever reason haven’t had much exposure on the international stage. With the World Juniors, the five Nations, and the Under 18 all to come later in the year, we should get a better look at most. For now, this is what we have, we hope you enjoy the early preview.
11) Ivan Barbashev, LW, Moncton Wildcats, (6’1″, 185 lbs): Barbashe, the 1st overall pick in the 2012 CHL Import Draft, is a pure sniper, he has a great arsenal of shots with a terrific wrister, slapshot, snapshot, backhand and one-timer. These shots also feature an excellent release which can fool goalkeepers and the puck will be in the back of the net before he knows it. Barbashev also has good stickhandling skills, and the creativity and vision to make passes which surprise opponents and set up teammates for easy goals. He’ll have scouts headed to Moncton all season long. He needs to find more consistency in his defensive effort level, and defensive game to crack the top 10. With 11 goals and 31 points in 21 games to start the season, he’s leading the Wildcats offence this year. A Moskva, Russia native, he may face questions about the “KHL factor” even though he is currently playing in the CHL.
12) Sam Bennett, C, Kingston Frontenacs, (6’0″, 170 lbs): Put up a point per game pace with 7 points in 7 games in helping Canada to Under 18 gold last spring. Added 4 points in 5 games in helping Canada to another gold at the Ivan Hlinka tournament. Slightly undersized, Bennett is extremely thin and needs to put on weight. Still that size hasn’t slowed Bennett down as he has excellent hockey sense, and always seems to be in the right place, and make the right play. Good skating, and excellent agility and acceleration make Bennett a menace off the rush, or in cycling the puck as he seems to slip by defenders who can’t keep up with him when he quickly changes speeds. He has very good vision and can pass the puck through small openings and tape to tape for a teammate. A hard-worker, Bennett is fearless, and always involved in the corners, in front of the net and at the middle of the after the whistle scrums. A player to watch, he’s a potential top 10 pick come June. He’s put up 13 goals and 30 points in 22 games for the Frontenacs this season.
13) Brycen Martin, D, Swift Current Broncos, (6’1″ 180 lbs): At 6’2″ already this 17-year-old has ideal NHL size. He is a solid two-way player, who does good work in both ends of the ice. He is a very good skater with speed in both directions and has the pivots and edgework necessary to be extremely mobile at the back-end. He makes strong passes on the breakout and on the power play, and has a decent point shot. Defensively, he’s a smart player who is good positionally and works hard in battles along the boards and in front of the net. Has 14 points in 23 games to start the year in Swift Current. His 9 points in 5 games at last winter’s Under 17 World Hockey Challenge really opened eyes for his offensive potential.
14) Jared McCann, C, Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds, (6’0″ 180 lbs): Another member of Team Canada’s Hlinka winning squad, McCann is a very good skater, with great acceleration and very good top end speed. He combines this with good agility and edgework, along with top notch stick-handling which makes him incredibly dangerous off the rush. He has excellent vision and passing skills, making his linemates better. He also has a quick shot, and cna get it off very quickly. McCann has already developed a strong-two way game and has beoame a penalty killer for the Greyhounds. He brings his non-stop work ethic in all three zones. He is a very well-rounded and complete player already. He has 12 goals and 28 points in 22 games.
15) Nikolay Goldobin, RW, Sarnia Sting, (6’0″, 175 lbs): With Charles Sarault, and Reid Boucher gone; Goldobin has been given big responsibilities for the rebuilding Sarnia Sting club. He’s a strong skater, with the ability to stickhandle in a phone booth. He also has a killer wrist shot, and an outstanding release. Add to that incredible passing skills and Goldobin can do it all in the offensive end of the ice. He’ll need to improve his two way game and his intensity going forward. If he does that and can bring more consistency night in and night out, the sky is the limit on how high he could be taken come draft day. Like Barbashev he’ll face questions about the Russian factor. Has put up 15 goals and 32 points in 24 games this season.
16) Anton Karlsson, RW, Modo, (6’1″, 190 lbs): The younger brother of Erik Karlsson, (not the Senators Superstar, the Canes 4th rounder in 2012), he’s been a star for Sweden at the International stage putting up 5 points in 4 games at the Ivan Hlinka, and 4 points in 5 games at last seasons Under 18 (and he’s eligible for that tournament again this year, so he was playing against the age group ahead of him). He has excellent skating ability, but what is most impressive is his ability to stickhandle and control the puck and make slick moves at top speed. Couple this with a decent shot, and excellent vision and passing skills and you have a winger who is deadly off the rush.
17) Conner Bleackley, RW, Red Deer Rebels (6’1″, 195 lbs): With 10 goals and 22 points to start the year, Bleackley has started the season strongly in Red Deer. He is learning to use his size and speed this season to get in quickly on the forecheck and play a physical game. Bleackley has a very good wrist shot and a quick release. He shows the ability to drive hard to the net, and has good balance on his skates to fight through checks and battle in the dirty areas of the ice. Is becoming a true power forward prospect with 10 goals and 22 points in 21 games this season.
18) Joshua Ho-Sang, C, Windsor Spitfires (5’10”, 160 lbs): Ho-Sang is incredibly skilled. He is a lightning fast skater with incredible agility and edgework. He also has quick, soft hands, and incredible puck control. When he’s on his game, he is a joy to watch as he can do things with the puck that other players only dream of. He can play the role of playmaker with good vision and passing skills, and has a decent release on his wrist shot but could use more power. That may come as he bulks up, which is something that Ho-Sang will need to do. He still gets knocked off the puck a little bit too often. He has put up 12 goals and 27 points in 22 games this year.
19) Brendan Perlini, LW, Niagara Ice Dogs (6’3″, 195 lbs): Has exploded onto the scene this year with 14 goals and 36 points in 24 games. Has excellent height but could stand to put on muscle and play a more physical game. However he is a very good skater, with excellent speed and acceleration, which he couples with very good agility, and strong balance to be deadly off the rush. Possesses very good hockey sense, good creativity and excellent vision to be a dynamic playmaker with the puck on his stick. Has good stickhandling, and a decent shot and release. Perlini has really shown great improvement from last season to this. If it continues, his spot on lists will continue to rise. He’s been sensational this season, but after a very mediocre year last year, I need to see him continue this level of play before moving him up. If he continues at this pace though, the sky is the limit.
20) Nikita Lyamkin, D, Chicoutimi Sagueneens, (6’3″ 175 lbs): A tall and lanky defensive defenceman, playing for Chicoutimi in the QMJHL after he was a first round pick in the CHL Import draft this past summer. Another player who will face the Russian Question, he has shown great ability at the defensive end of the ice. Willing to use his size and long stick to cut down on passing and shooting lanes, he intercepts passes and blocks a lot of shots. Is quickly adjusting to the North American game and showing better defensive positioning as time goes on. He doesn’t put up big offensive numbers, but thats not the part of the game that will get him drafted. Needs to add weight.
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