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 Junior seasons not just in Canada but throughout the world gearing up for the stretch drive and a number of international tournaments (Ivan Hlinka, 4 Nations, Subway Super Series, World Juniors) in the books, we have gotten a decent overview of what some of the biggest prospects for the draft are doing this year. This is an up to date look and ranking of these prospects. That said, there is still plenty of work to be done and many important games to be played including junior league playoffs, the U18 European five nations, and of course the Under 18 World Championships. While the rankings still have some fluidity, a pecking order is also starting to define itself. For now, this is what we have, we hope you enjoy the early preview and be sure to be ready in late March as we roll out our full player-by-player draft preview.
21) 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 is quite simply a dynamic offensive catalyst for Sarnia. 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 Ivan Barbashev he’ll face questions about the Russian factor despite playing in the CHL. Has put up 34 goals and 77 points in 52 games this season.
22) Dylan Larkin, C, US NTDP (6-1, 195 lbs): While Sonny Milano is the pure offensive producer at centre for the US NTDP, Larkin is their two-way player on the team’s second line. He matches up against the other team’s best line, while still bringing offensive production to the squad. He is a very strong skater, with very good acceleration, and outstanding edgework and agility. He has good balance and is very difficult to knock off the puck making him very effective in the cycle game. More of a shooter than a passer, he has a good wrist shot and strong release. Creates offense through straight ahead simple plays, more than from being overly fancy and creative. Makes the smart play though and goes to the net hard, and can be effective with soft hands in tight. Willing to battle hard in all three zones and will improve as he adds muscle to his frame.
23) Conner Bleackley, RW, Red Deer Rebels (6’1″, 195 lbs): Bleackley is having a very strong season in Red Deer, after putting up just 18 points in 66 games as a WHL rookie. He is learning to use his size and speed this season to get in quickly on the forecheck and play a more 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, in front of the net and in the corners. He is becoming a true power forward prospect with 22 goals and 53 points in 45 games this season. He could stand to add top end speed and better first step quickness going forward.
24) 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 can make dynamic offensive plays when he has time and space, but in fighting traffic he still gets knocked off the puck a little bit too often and could use some work on his defensive game. While he has shown improvement in both of these areas this season, he still has a little bit further to go. He has put up 24 goals and 64 points in 51 games this year.
25) Nick Schmaltz, C, Green Bay Gamblers, 5’11″ 170 lbs: Schmaltz has put up 10 goals and 38 points in 33 games for the Gamblers. Its an impressive follow-up on his solid rookie season last year, when he led all USHL 1996-born players with 52 points. His best assets are his hockey sense and ability to read the play, along with his vision and playmaking skills in the offensive zone. He is very hard to knock off the puck and controls the game in the cycle waiting for teammates to get open and thread those great passes onto their tape. He’s also willing to take the puck to the net himself if he sees an opening, but is much more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. He is the younger brother of former St. Louis Blues first rounder Jordan Schmaltz. Schmaltz was also impressive in the summer Ivan Hlinka tournament when he put up eight points in five games for the American team.
You can view Part 1 (1-5) by clicking here.
You can view Part 2 (6-10) by clicking here.
You can view Part 3 (11-15) by clicking here.
You can view Part 4 (16-20) by clicking here.
You can view Part 5 (21-25) by clicking here.
You can view Part 6 (26-30) by clicking here.
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