On the day he was drafted, Ales Hemsky was 6.00, 170. The WHL site lists Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as 6.0, 164. The two players–both highly skilled and perhaps not physically mature enough to face the rigors of an NHL season–are a likely match in terms of early career path. The biggest difference? Hemsky was a reach at #13; RNH is the de facto top prospect on the planet for his draft year. The early 30 after the jump.
This is my personal early top 30. It isn’t a mock draft, it does rely heavily on statistics and Desjardins’ NHLE but is not married to it. There are more CHL players and fewer high school, college and European players on my list at this time. That usually changes as we get closer to the draft and find out more about these kids (the combine impacts things a lot), but is an attempt to slot the 30 best players.
Sources: I’ve borrowed a lot from Kirk Luedeke this season. His Bruins Draft Watch provided me with many of the scouting reports that you’ll read below. A thumbnail sketch is required to fill in the blanks and most of the descriptions come from Kirk. In past seasons I’ve borrowed from hf board folks like Hiishawk and Blue Bullet, but am hopeful those characters and more will join me and publish their own top 30.
The top 10’s
In Gare Joyce’s wonderful scouting book Future Greats and Heartbreaks, he describes exactly what a "top 10" looks like: "an eighteen year old who should develop into a first line NHL player, maybe an All-Star, definitely someone who can contribute to a winning team." Not every season has 10 top 10’s (2003 had more than 10) and last year I suggested there were only 7 (here). Hindsight suggests there were in fact 8 (Jeff Skinner) top 10’s a year ago. That’s the same number as this year:
- C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. 6.00, 164. Bob McKenzie says 6 out of 10 scouts have him at #1, Ken Hitchcock raves about him and Craig Button told me "you can’t trade for these guys and they don’t show up in free agency." I’ve long held Couturier is the best prospect in the draft and can find no math reason to elevate RNH. However, with the understanding that it’s a close call and with the stated worry about his EV/PP number, I believe this is the best player available at number one
- C Sean Couturier 6.04, 195. Huge center had a wonderful season (again) and delivered eye popping numbers compared to the rest of his team (along with Ondrej Palat).Size, skill, impressive wingspan and a long resume of results. Here’s what Kirk Luedeke wrote about him at Bruins Draft Watch about his skating: it’s not a major flaw and is correctible with some work on mechanics. He has the size and power to be a legitimate power forward and top-six player for years in this league.
- C Ryan Strome 6.0, 183. A dynamic offensive player with a motor that won’t stop took a massive step forward this season. Excellent skater, soft hands, sees the ice well and he has decent size. Doesn’t have a lot of flaws to his game and it’s ridiculous how much he improved season over season.
- D Adam Larsson 6.03, 220. Big defender is already a seasoned pro in the SEL. I have him at #4 because it’s likely Larsson won’t be a major offensive contributor based on how he’s being used in the SEL. Despite having a lot to recommend him defensively, I don’t think he’s as valuable as the men above him.
- L Gabriel Landeskog 6.01, 205. The one guy in the draft I’m having a hard time slotting. Landeskog has a nice range of skills and that’s high value in my opinion. Landeskog is a difficult player to play against, a leader. He’s tough and because of the wide range of skills he’s certainly worth a lottery pick. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him taken in the top 3, especially after what should be an impressive combine.
- L Jonathan Huberdeau 6.01, 168. I have him lower than many of the mock drafts or seedings, but Huberdeau is on an exceptionally talented team and his offensive numbers may have been inflated quite a lot courtesy the quality of team. He’s a talent, no doubt. I just like the other 5 kids better.
- D Ryan Murphy 5.10, 168. He’s one dimensional but man what a dimension. Murphy is an exceptionally talented puck mover, his lack of size for the position he plays and some questions about his strength are the only real negatives. He could be the best defenseman in this draft.
- D Dougie Hamilton 6.04, 190. Big man can skate very well and has a major impact on his team’s powerplay. I’m nicking him a little because his offense is inflated via the powerplay and it’s very unlikely he’ll bring that to the NHL for some time (if at all). Still, a terrific player.
- LW Sven Bartschi 5.10, 185. Undersized winger with terrific skill is being undervalued by some. He is a pure WHL rookie and delivered an exceptional season. His impressive showing during the WHL playoffs appears to have cemented his status as a top 10 pick in this year’s draft.
- C Mark McNeill 6.01, 204. He’s big, plays center and has 2-way skills. That’s a lot to like. A very disciplined player, on the right side of the puck a lot and pays attention to detail. Under the radar for most of the year, he impressed enough at the U18’s to be considered a legit top 10 selection.
- RW Joel Armia 6.03, 191. Has size, speed and skill, a deadly combination. Armia is a load, highly skilled with great anticipation. Needs to add strength, and is never going to be a physical winger despite his being 6.03.
- R Zack Phillips 6.01, 181. Impressive offensive prospect, he gets nicked a little bit because of the team and line he plays on. He’s clearly talented, but isn’t an explosive skater. His scoring ability will get him taken earlier than a lot of people believe.
- D Joe Morrow 6.01, 200. Morrow is an interesting prospect in that he brings a nice range of skills. Size, puck moving ability and he can play the position. The one thing that held him back a little was footspeed but that’s apparently improved this season.
- C Mika Zibanejad 6.02, 191. Big C improved late. At the 2010 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Timmins, Ont., the 6-foot-2, 191-pound centre led Team Sweden with five goals and nine points in six games en route to a bronze medal. Talented and a hard worker.
- D Nathan Beaulieu 6.02, 195. Big defender with a large wingspan and the ability to make an effective headman pass. A good skater, he’s physical and has a mean streak. I don’t think he’ll be an offensive defender, but he does have a nice range of skills.
- D Duncan Siemens 6.03, 200. Huge kid is one of the youngest players available in this draft. Has a nasty streak and some offense, although he is unlikely to produce big offensive numbers in the NHL.
- D Jamie Oleksiak 6.07, 244. A good skater for a guy his size, and his wingspan is enormous. He won’t bring a lot of offense but is probably at the top of the group of defenders who could be considered shutdown prospects.
- L Matt Puempel 6.0, 190. A dangerous offensive winger. He played for a very poor Peterborough team and scored over 30 goals, so there’s definitely a player there. Quick release, offensive players always go early.
- C Alexander Khokhlachev 5.10, 188. Undersized skill Russian played for Windsor in the OHL. Fast and slick, he is also a puck wizard and is one of those players who is always getting a lot of scoring chances. Among the more one dimensional players at the top of the draft.
- L Niklas Jensen 6.02, 188. Has a nice range of skills. Size, good speed and offensive ability, his big question mark is consistency. His “compete level” has been questioned by scouts and his overall offensive impact isn’t enough to get him into the top 20.
- C Mark Scheifele 6.02, 177. Impressed a lot of people with his U18 performance and has a nice range of skills. Slick puck skills and good motor make him a player that teams looking for compete level will probably take off the board quickly. His skating might be a little shy, but he’s an excellent prospect.
- G John Gibson 6.03, 205. Huge goalie with quick feet and glove. He’s one of those “block out the sun” goaltenders and is already pretty famous. He could go earlier than where I’ve slotted him, but should be chosen a little shy of Jack Campbell (Gibson is often compared to Campbell).
- R Ty Rattie 6.00, 167. Undersized skill winger showcased his talents during the WHL post-season. Just average foot speed, but he’s one of those players who always seem to be around the puck and possesses a lot of skill.
- C Shane Prince 5.11, 185. Coming off a very good season with Ottawa where he played on one of the best lines in the CHL. One of the older prospects at the top of the draft (Nov. 1992), it’ll be interesting to see if he gets a push coming out of the combine.
- D David Musil 6.03, 200. He’s fallen down the draft because Musil didn’t deliver offensively, but I don’t know that there was ever a lot of evidence that he’d be that player type. Musil may end up being a similar player to his father, and that’s certainly a player of value.
- L Brandon Saad 6.02, 210. Fell a long way during the season after being projected as a top 10 pick early on. He has size, a quick release an impressive offensive instincts. That combination should get him drafted on day one.
- C Viktor Rask 6.01, 194. Big offensive center with some skating issues. Something of a draft wild card in that his skill set is much better than his overall performance. Could go anywhere from late 1st to late 2nd round.
- C Boone Jenner 6.01 193. Kirk Luedeke from Bruins Draft Watch quotes an NHL scout saying Jenner “just skates his bag off” and that will get scouts’ attention. Not a great skater (one of several projected to go in round One), not flashy, but he’s tough and can handle himself. Might be one of those wingers who ends up playing on a skill line while also helping in an enforcer role.
- R Rikard Rakell 6.01, 190. Skilled agitator. Scouts like his skating and offensive potential, and he should be able to play a role on an NHL team even if his offense doesn’t come with him to the pro game.
- D Jonas Brodin 6.02, 172. Lanky defender whose calling card is foot speed. Swedish scout Par Larsson:"Looks tiny around net and corners, but never shies from contact and his fine positioning and timing allow him to handle the added physicality. Smart and makes heady plays with the puck, finding breaking wingers on the tape."