The Youtube Scout: Shark Circle Ranks The Top 50 Prospects For The 2012 NHL Entry Draft

Editor’s Note: I wanted to get this list out there at the beginning of the draft just for the technicality of it, but the blog and my analysis of the list I’m still writing as we speak, so I will edit that portion of the blog as soon as I have it written.

I cannot count how many times I’ve told people that I could do a better job than the vast majority of NHL scouts and GMs when it comes evaluating talent and drafting, even if I had to do it just watching youtube videos, without even getting to watch the players play games and take shifts in real time. And usually what has led me blurting those sentiments out to whoever is around to listen is the realization that I have done better in my scouting and my predictions than the pros have, even if I never have any proof of it. It happens every draft with prospects, every season with trades, where I disagree with a pick, trade, or signing a team makes, and think I know better, and in the past I’ve almost always been proven right.

Well, I’ve finally decided to try to prove my outlandish statement true, that I can draft and evaluate talent better than many of the pros can just from watching blurry footage of these players online. Over the last few weeks I have been “youtube scouting” the top 50 ranked prospects on Central Scouting’s 2012 NHL Entry Draft prospect list. As I live in the U.S., I have no access to watching Canadian Hockey League games or any of the European leagues, so with very few exceptions, I have never even seen these players play, either live, on a television, or otherwise–only the footage I’ve found online, which usually means highlight packages.

What does this mean? Well, first off, it means there are certain things I won’t be able to judge that the normal scout can. First and foremost, you normally cannot see hockey sense when watching highlight packages, because you can’t see what a player does away from the puck, or how many times he makes the wrong decisions versus the right ones. You only see him scoring goals. Now, most scouts will tell you hockey sense is maybe the most important thing for a player, and I’m not inclined to disagree with them, especially when it comes to defenseman. So already I’m behind the eight ball in trying to scout these players in the manner I’ve chosen (and am stuck with). Secondly, I can’t see defensive play at all, because no highlight package shows players playing defense. So, you ask, I’m trying to scout defenseman without being able to see how well they, you know, play defense?

Basically.

Then there’s finishing, shooting. One of the most important skills in hockey, a game decided by goals, is how well a player can, you know, shoot the puck into the goal. The way you would normally judge that, besides noting the quality of a player’s release, and the speed the puck comes off his stick, is to see how often his shots go on, and how often they don’t, over a long sample size. As I’m mostly just seeing the goals that go in, I can’t do this.

So as you can see, there is a lot you miss when you attempt to scout through highlight packages, and there will be illusions on youtube with some players, it’s just the way it goes, and I will be off base on a couple players as a result. But please don’t write me off yet! There’s also a lot the trained eye can see, and if you read on I think you’ll be surprised with what I can tell you about these players.

Back to Central Scouting’s prospect list, and how I’m ranking. The way Central Scouting does their rankings is they list the top prospects in North America and the top prospects from Europe on separate lists, so I’ve taken the top 40 North American prospects on their list and the top 10 Europeans on their list and re-ranked them as a “top 50 list” according to my scouting conclusions onto one major list. So to be clear, this is not simply my “top 50 prospects” lists out of all the prospects, because I have not been able to scout all the hundreds of draft eligible prospects. This is a re-ranking of Central Scouting’s list, to see how my scouting compares to the consensus of professionals, and to see how I measure up.

In addition to re-ranking their top 50 (meaning their top 40 North Americans and top 10 Europeans) I also added Henrik Samuelsson, ranked 75th on Central Scouting’s final North American list, because since the list was released, there seems to be a consensus that it’s common knowledge Samuelsson is in the top 30 or 40,. To go along with the prospect rankings, I’ve also written a scouting report for each player.

Before going on to the rankings, it’s important to note a few things. First, the individual numerical increments in the rankings should be considered secondary to the groupings. Everyone within in a given grouping is basically interchangeable. That doesn’t mean I did not put thought into the exact order, but many of the choices of who to put before who could have been decided by coin flips.

Also, very important to mention, there are four players within Central Scouting’s top 50 that I could not find any video footage of whatsoever, so I have omitted them from the list altogether. Those players are Stefan Matteau, Mike Winther, Nicolas Kerdiles, Patrick Sieloff, Samuel Kurker, and Ludwig Bystrom.

Lastly, some prospects I did include in my rankings list, I probably did so against my better judgement, as for a handful of them, I was only able to find extremely limited footage. I’m talking scouting players based on one single goal that I saw them score, or 10 – 15 seconds of someone skating around. Now, I’ve prided myself on having a special “eye” for talent that has been fantastic for me identifying talent in the past, so if I still have the goods, maybe I can pull this off anyway. But for the players I felt I had particularly insufficient footage to judge them on, I tried to make note of it in their scouting reports. Without further adieu, here are my rankings!

Editor’s note: Just to clarify, the rankings contain skaters only. I did not scout any goaltenders, the list is for skaters only. 

GROUP 1: SUREFIRE FUTURE SUPERSTARS & HART/ROCKET RICHARD/NORRIS/VEZINA TROPHY CANDIDATES

#1. NAIL YAKUPOV
POSITION: RW
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #1 NORTH AMERICA

Yakupov combination of acceleration, top end speed, balance, agility, and equally impressive skill with the puck, is unmatched in his draft class, and it may not be long before we start considering whether that’s true for the NHL, too, not just among his peer prospects. I believe Yakupov has a shot at being the best #1 overall draft pick since Steven Stamkos in 2008, and like Stamkos, Bure, and Ovechkin, if he develops correctly, I believe he might score 60 goals in the NHL.

There are some great defenseman available, and many more impact players available at both skater positions, but if I’m Edmonton Oilers GM Steve Tambellini, this is the easiest choice I’ve had of all my 1st overall picks: I’m picking Yakupov.

GROUP 2: FUTURE POTENTIAL STAR TOP-LINE FORWARDS & TOP-PAIRING DEFENSEMEN

#2. RYAN MURRAY
POSITION: D
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #2 NORTH AMERICA

The comparisons being made of Ryan Murray to Scott Neidermayer, or even Duncan Keith, are slightly off just because of Murray’s wing-span; Neidermayer and Keith both have much better reaches and just play “bigger,” and I don’t mean in terms of being physical, just that they take up more ice. Oh and not to mention, there’s only one Scott Neidermayer. But beyond that, you can see why Ryan Murray is getting so much hype. His skating, poise, and hockey sense are all second to none. The way he holds his stick does not really translate well to rushing the puck and dangling around people the way Matt Dumba does, but like Duncan Keith (who also holds his stick more out to the side in a passive way), he’s very effective in moving the puck either with his skating or passing. He definitely has #1 defenseman potential, I see him as an even quicker Ryan Suter type of defenseman. I don’t know if he’s ever really going to be an “attacking” defenseman like Dumba or P.K. Subban and lead the NHL in defenseman points, but he has all the talent in the world besides maybe the elite dangling ability or shot, and he’s going to be great two-way elite defenseman for years.

#3. MIKHAIL GRIGORENKO
POSITION: C
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #3 NORTH AMERICA

When it comes to talent, Mikhail Grigorenko has pretty much everything. The only reason he’s not #1 on the list is because Nail Yakupov just has more of everything, and otherworldly speed and acceleration. Grigorenko is fast, too, just not Yakupov or Bure fast. But in every other area, Grigorenko’s talent is about as good as it gets. He is an elite skater with fantastic edges, strong, sturdy, powerful legs, and elite agility. He can cut and turn on a dime with or without the puck. When he dangles the puck is glued to his stick no matter how fast he needs to maneuver it around. He also looks to have excellent vision. Usually, the downside to players this skilled is them being undersized, but at 6’3″, 200 lbs, Grigorenko’s size is actually a strength, too. He’s the entire package of skill, size, and vision, and I see him as having top-line, all-star center potential. Maybe not Evgeni Malkin type all-star potential, as very few have or have ever had that type of ability, but not so far behind. If there is one thing to keep an eye on with Grigorenko, he’s more of a playmaker and does not necessarily drive the net as much as you would like from an NHL player. He’ll dangle to the net when he sees an opening to go for the pretty goal, but he’s not a gritty player, which could definitely be an issue and hamper his potential. Still, his talent is world class, and I have to go on what I’m seeing in the youtube videos.

#4. ALEX GALCHENYUK
POSITION: RW
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #4 NORTH AMERICA

It’s very hard to separate Alex Galchenyuk’s net ability from Grigorenko’s, but I will do my best to point out the differences. At 6’0.5″, 198 lbs, Galchenyuk sacrifices a bit of size to Grigorenko in exchange for having slightly better speed. He also goes to the net a bit more and seems like more of a goal scorer compared to Grigorenko’s playmaking style, although that’s not to say Grigorenko won’t score goals, and lots of them, at the NHL level. Galchenyuk’s talent reminds me somewhat of a poor man’s Evgeni Malkin, or a rich man’s Mikhail Grabovski. Overall, he and Grigorenko are slightly different players style wise, although not that different, but their net abilities at this point are pretty much even to one another. Which one you pick is down to your preference. I put Grigorenko ahead simply because I’m only going off youtube videos, so I have no way of telling which one is better defensively or hits more or anything like that, and because Grigorenko does have significantly better size than Galchenyuk, and I think the size difference in favor of Grigorenko at this point is greater than the speed difference in favor of Galchenyuk. But it’s really a coin flip overall. Both are fantastic talents.

#5. JACOB TROUBA
POSITION: D
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #9 NORTH AMERICA

(I was only about to find about 20 seconds of footage on Trouba, but I’ve done my best to rank him and give my scouting report regardless).

What little I’ve seen of Trouba play, he reminds me of both Brent Burns and Shea Weber. Yeah, not bad. I can’t think of many better meshes than that. Well, half Chris Pronger half Nicklas Lidstrom would probably be the ultimate, short of involving Bobby Orr. Regardless, Trouba has excellent size with a good frame and reach, and the listed dimensions of 6’2″, 193 lbs actually look modest. For a big man, Trouba is very sure with the puck on his stick, and he handles it well. Unlike Griffin Reinhart, who I’ll get to later, Trouba uses a stick length that suits him, and allows him to get the most of his hands offensively. At this point, Trouba would have to really work hard on his game to have his skating get quite to the level of Brent Burns’, but I do think he can eclipse Shea Weber in that area. Overall, one never likes coming to bold conclusions based off clearly insufficient evidence, but I believe Jacob Trouba has the best combination of size, frame, skating, and two-way skill of any defenseman in the draft. Some clearly surpass him in each of the areas, like Reinhart in terms of size, Murray and Rielly (at least) in skating, Dumba (at least) in skill, but Trouba combines all three areas the best, and I think he has complete #1 defenseman potential.

#6. TEUVO TERAVAINEN
POSITION: LW
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #2 EUROPE

To my surprise considering all the hype Tervanainen has been getting, he hasn’t looked as impressive to me on youtube as I was expecting, or as some of the players ranked below him have looked. However, that makes sense when you consider I’m only watching him on youtube, and one of his major strengths according to those that love him is his hockey sense, something that doesn’t show up in highlight videos the same way pure physical talent does.

I’m taking that into account in giving him this high ranking. I haven’t done that with any other prospects, in fact I haven’t really heard anyone else’s opinion on any of the other prospects that could sway me, besides Tarvainen, for some reason. I think it must be because I was reading a rumor blog and they mentioned Tarvainen in the rumor blog, and how scouts were going nuts over him as the draft neared.

Anyway, I may not be able to see the much-touted hockey sense, but there’s plenty to like about him that I can see, even on youtube. His skating and his edge control are fantastic. He’s like the Ryan Murray of forwards in that way, he almost floats over the ice surface, never off balance. Having such pinpoint and effortless control over your skating is such an advantage, and you can really see how it contributes to everything Teravainen does out there. He also has solid hands and knows what to do with the puck when he gets it in a scoring area. He unloads it quick and accurately–a nice release.
One thing I haven’t seen, and for some reason I was under the impression he was being compared to Datsyuk or someone else like that, is very many unbelievable dangles through hoards of defenders. He clearly has the skating ability to take on defenders one-on-one, but I’m not sure his hands, while very solid, are quite at that elite level where he can dangle through defenders without losing the puck.

Or maybe in Finland, he just doesn’t have to, which is one thing that worries me about his game. I’ve noticed in watching him that he is, I wouldn’t say a perimeter player, but a player who finds the space and hangs out there. And on that big international ice surface, that’s all you have to do to get space, you simply find it because you know it’s already there, somewhere. Teravainen hangs out around the point, or the outskirts of the offensive zone in a soft spot, picking out passes to make, or getting open for a shot. Or he does the same in a slot, finds the space the defenders leave when they have to go all the way out to the far-away point on the big ice to cover the puck carrier, and then when he gets the pass he puts it into the open side of the net. I’ve noticed a lot of his goals are pretty easy, into gaping cages.

What worries me about how he’s clearly succeeded in Finland, is that in the NHL, it’s very rare that you find clear space in the offensive zone to set up and play your game. No, you have to make space. That’s where being able to shrug off defenders along the boards and cycle the puck, and create room, comes into play. There’s where going at defenders and beating them comes into play (although that’s an ever-increasing rarity in the NHL for anyone in this dead puck era 2.0). But what I’m saying is, Teravainen is undersized, so he can’t rely on strength or a superior board game to make space for himself, and yet for his great edges and hockey sense, he doesn’t appear to have truly elite puck-skills and speed, like a Patrick Kane, to create the space that way, either. So how does a player like that transition from a “find space” league to a “make space” league when his skill set is made for when he’s already found the space, and not necessarily made for making it? The much-hyped Michael Granlund seemed to have the exact same problem in the last World Juniors on North American sized ice, and Teravainen is a similar type player. And that was against prospects, no less.

As negative as I’m being, and as much as I do worry that he won’t have quite as easy a time in the NHL as he has in Finland, I’m actually extremely high on Tervainen. I think that Teravainen’s type of talent usually finds a way to be successful. His skating and balance are so good, and his complete game is so good, and his stickhandling, even if he’s not Datsyuk, is actually still very good, as is his finishing; he has so much going for him that even in a league like the NHL which is not currently suited to his style of play, he should be a very good player. It’s possible he could develop into that special type of european who basically supersedes the need for size, if not so much a flashy Datsyuk type, then a Zetterberg. I think Teravainen definitely has something special, and I’m interested to see how he is able to transition his skill set to the NHL.

#7. FILIP FORSBERG
POSITION: C
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #1 EUROPE

At 6’2″, 181 lbs, Forsberg has a good frame to be an NHL center to go along with his plus skating and skills. He has soft hands, not quite of the speed of Peter Forsberg, but more than solid, and he uses them to create some creative moves. Again, not quite as good as Peter, but very solid. He also has an excellent shot, from release to pace and accuracy. Another area where he sets himself apart from many of the skilled forwards in this draft is his puck protection, which I touched on briefly at the beginning of this report when I mentioned his frame. He’s as good along the boards as he is in open ice, which is very important for a forward transitioning from a European league with the big, open ice surface to the NHL, where the game is primarily played along the boards. Overall, Forsberg is has a complete offensive skill set that could help him develop into a top-line center in the NHL once he fills out his frame more and continues to develop. Think a smaller, faster version of Ryan Getzlaf with less strength and grit, but who shoots more, or maybe some variation of Jason Spezza. Not the best comparisons, but maybe that can give you some idea.

#8. MATHEW DUMBA
POSITION: D
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #11 NORTH AMERICA

Mathew Dumba is a rover defenseman with a very high upside if everything goes to plan. As much as any player in the draft, Dumba plays bigger than his 5’11.75″, 173 lbs size. He enjoys dolling out rollicking hits on defense almost as much as he loves rushing the puck up the ice and beating defenders. He reminds a lot of P.K. Subban or even Drew Doughty, although he doesn’t skate quite as well as Doughty. But I think he can improve there and get closer to the Doughty’s of the league in an area that’s already a strength of his. It’s really only his acceleration and top speed that are short of elite. Otherwise his balance is excellent, and he’s agile for a defenseman with some muscle on him, not quite in the league of Murray or Rielly there, but clearly he moves pretty well otherwise he wouldn’t be the best defenseman at making end-to-end rushes with the puck in his draft class. His biggest strength, perhaps, besides his willingness to rush the puck and his ability to play the game, are his hands. The opposite of Griffin Reinhart, Dumba uses a short, precise stick which he uses to maximum effect. He is able to stickhandle through the opposition and rush the puck. Defensively, as is the case with most who love to deliver the big hit, Dumba needs to make sure he picks his spots correctly. In the long run, Dumba will need to figure out the best way to translate his many talents to an NHL that is not nearly as wide open as junior, nor as suited to the rover type defenseman. However, I believe a talent like Dumba will find ways to be effective, and he also has star potential on the back-end.

#9. MORGAN REILLY
POSITION: D
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #5 NORTH AMERICA

(Only about 10-15 seconds of footage)

Barely any footage online of Morgan Reilly, but shows fantastic skating, balance, agility and edges, with good hands for a defenseman. If Jeff Skinner were a defenseman, it might look something like Reilly. He has the potential to be something very special if he can reach that super-skill level of a Duncan Keith or Erik Karlsson that is very rare for finesse defensemen to get to. If he reaches that ceiling though, he could be the best defenseman in his draft class. If he doesn’t quite get there, he will still be a very good weapon on the back end, but in an NHL ruled by heavy forechecks and board play, I had to rank the stronger, better rounded Jacob Trouba ahead of him.

#10. RADEK FAKSA
POSITION: C
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #7 NORTH AMERICA

At 6’2.5″, 203 LBS, Radek Faksa has excellent size, which he matches with very good speed, balance, and skill. Faksa’s game reminds of former Kitchener Rangers’ player, now Colorado Avalanche Calder Trophy winner, Gabriel Landeskog, except Faksa is bigger. I’m very high on Faksa, I think his combination of size, speed, balance, and finesse skill is some of the best in the draft class. Many project him as a second-line forward, but I believe if his development goes to plan, he could find his way onto an NHL team’s top line.

#11. GRIFFIN REINHART
POSITION: D
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #10 NORTH AMERICA

(Only saw a few seconds of footage on this guy)

Reinhart has every tool in the book from his size to his superior skating (for his size), to what look like decent hands. However, the comparisons to Alexander Edler, at least offensively, are going too far in my opinion for one simple reason, Reinhart’s stick appears too long for him, at least if he wants to have an impact offensively at the NHL level. With a stick so long, it’s very difficult to dangle at all or carry the puck through traffic in the neutral zone like Edler or any other effective puck-moving defenseman can. It’s quite possible Reinhart would be higher on this list if not for that fact. The Edler, Weber, and Pronger comparisons would be much more realistic if not for his long stick, which is great for defense and if you want to be Willie Mitchell, but not if you want to be a #1 defenseman in the NHL that can do it all like Pronger or Weber. One thing the long stick will help offensively is the shot, just ask Zdeno Chara, and I still see Reinhart posting some goals in the NHL, and being a top-four blue-liner if he develops well. But to truly reach his potential offensively, he needs to shorten his stick a bit.

#12. TOM WILSON
POSITION: RW
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #15 NORTH AMERICA

(Only a couple goals worth of footage)

It’s very hard to judge a player like this on so little footage, but I’ll do by best. With his 6’4″ frame and the speed, skating ability, and skill that he does appear to have already, there is potential for a Corey Perry type player here. There is no way of knowing from the footage I saw whether he shoots the puck anywhere near as Perry or has the hockey sense or two-way acumen of Perry, but just in terms of being able to cycle the puck like Perry and play a power game, from the physical talent perspective, there is potential there for that type of player, and that’s why he’s so high on the list. Now, his speed and skating are pretty good for someone his size, but he needs to improve them further if he wants to be a top-line power forward. It was also a bit difficult to get a read on his hands in the footage I saw–Perry has great hands and wouldn’t be the same player without them, but they also appeared good for someone his size, and it’s that combination of speed, skating, and skill with the puck, when put together with his size and his ability to shield the puck, that give Tom Wilson tremendous potential in a current NHL climate ruled by power forwards.

#13. ANDREAS ATHANASIOU
POSITION: C/LW
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #40 NORTH AMERICA

Athanasiou is a very skilled forward in the finesse aspects of our game. He is not big physically at 6’0.0″, 180 lbs, but at least in terms of his frame, vertically, and the reach he gets with his very well fitted stick, he is able to play bigger, in a style I think will translate much better to the NHL than some other finesse players his size (or smaller). He would still do well to add more muscle post-draft, as most prospects would, just to make sure he doesn’t get knocked off the puck in the NHL too easily, before he has a chance to get his legs going and work his magic, but I really don’t foresee it being a problem. He just has too much magic up his sleeve to be kept down, and he’s surprisingly good at protecting the puck along boards for his size, too, due to his good balance on his skates and good fundamentals, such as creating a low center of gravity at the moment of impact.

That’s not to say he’s a thoroughbred like Nail Yakupov or Mikhail Grigorenko, however. He doesn’t have the acceleration or top speed Yakupov does, or the perfect edges, balance, agility, and tree-trunk like power legs of Grigorenko. Even Anthanasiou’s stickhandling, a big strength of his, does not appear quite as crisp or picture-perfect as the Russians”. Yet despite what appear as some very slight flaws to the eyes, Anthanasiou is able to produce and complete incredibly complex plays all over the ice without losing the puck. His style is not as conventional or perfectly sculpted as the Russians’, but from what I’ve seen it works like a charm all the same. Anthanasiou combines good speed and pretty good (but not perfect) skating with fantastic puck work and creativity, and I believe he has one of the highest ceilings in the draft if he develops well in the coming years. How he slipped to 40 on Central Scouting’s list is a mystery to me, because from what I’ve seen, Anthanasiou has the potential to be a special player in the NHL. I’m not so sure he doesn’t belong in the top 5, up there next to the Russians, but I thought moving him up from 40 to here was enough.

#14. MARTIN FRK
POSITION: RW
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #20 NORTH AMERICA

Martin Frk is a pure sniper with top 10 level skill in the draft. I’ve ranked him much higher than central scouting or anyone else that I know of, and I’m seriously wondering if I’ve still ranked him too low. It’s possible he should be up there above Forsberg or Faksa.

He’s not overly big, but his combination of speed, skating, hands, and what appears even in a youtube video as an electric shot, means he has top-line goal-scorer potential. His style of play reminds me of Phil Kessel, except with a more physical edge, and at times, with some of the moves he pulls of, he looks even quicker in the way he puts together such beautiful individual plays all in the span of an instant.

At almost six feet tall and 200 LBS, he shouldn’t be undersized at the NHL, either. He seems like the type of player whose defensive game and passing/hockey sense some scouts might worry about, but the youtube video obviously doesn’t show any of that so I have to comment only on what I see, and that is someone with elite goal scorer potential.

#15. CODY CECI
POSITION: D
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #6 NORTH AMERICA

Cody Ceci is a defenseman with both flashy skill (for a defenseman) and good size at 6’2.5″, 207 lbs. Ceci could be a steal even as high as I’ve ranked him at #14, and depending on how well Reinhart develops he certainly could develop into the better defenseman. Overall, I like the combination of assets on a couple of the other defenseman just a little bit better than Ceci’s at this point, which is why I’ve ranked them ahead, but Ceci has all the skating, skill, and size to develop into a top-pairing defenseman himself.

#16. ZEMGUS GIRGENSONS
POSITION: C
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #18 NORTH AMERICA

Half Ryane Clowe, half Ville Leino, Girgensons is a player who I think has a ton of potential. He has a pretty good power-forward frame that he uses adeptly to protect the puck, great for the cycle, while also having very smooth hands to control the puck in open ice, and he does it all with his head up, which helps him have very good vision on the ice. Forwards with the size to be power forwards who also have very good finesse skill, and moreover great vision and creativity, don’t come around very often. The one knock on Girgensons is his skating and acceleration, but I noticed that once he gets going, his speed isn’t half bad. It’s the first few steps he needs to work on most, but that has been shown in past drafts to be a very fixable issue with players, something they can overcome with the right coaching. Overall, Girgensons is an extremely promising prospect with a versatile range of offensive talents. He has the potential to be a top-four forward who can beat you in multiple ways.

#17. MICHAEL MATHESON
POSITION: D
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #30 NORTH AMERICA

Mike Matheson is a very talented young defenseman, and I’m surprised Central Scouting has ranked him so low at 30 among North American prospects. Matheson looks like a big 6’1″, 178 to me, with a nice frame, and even though he hasn’t filled out his muscle yet at the young age of 18, he’s already very sturdy. But those strengths are actually the closest he has to weaknesses physically, because Matheson is a very good skater, forwards and back, with equal parts power, agility, and balance, and more impressive, he’s almost as fast with the puck as he is without it. Of the defensemen ranked ahead of him, only Dumba has hands that clearly exceed his, while Ceci matches and perhaps exceeds him, and Trouba matches him or comes close. But Matheson has very solid hands for a defenseman and a good stick length. Unless his hockey sense or defensive reads are suspect, which Central Scouting’s low ranking make me worry they are, Matheson is a defenseman with all the tools to be a top-pairing blue-liner in the NHL for years to come.

#18. HENRIK SAMUELSSON
POSITION: C/RW
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #75 NORTH AMERICA

(Only about 1 minute of footage. Also Samuelsson was not in Central Scouting’s top 40 for North American skaters, but I know a lot of people have him in their 30, even, so I thought I’d include him)

If 6’4″, 203 lbs Tom Wilson is the project just coming into his own and starting to put all his natural talent together, Henrik Samuelsson, at 6’2.75″ 198 lbs, has traded just a smidgeon of that size in exchange for being about 1.25 inches ahead in his development as a player. Both are very similar styles whose top potential is to develop into that Corey Perry type of power forward that can also skate and handle the puck, but Samuelsson does seem just a bit more complete at this point, with slightly superior skating and goal scoring instincts. It’s very hard to separate the two, which is why they are so close on my list, but I do think Wilson, in terms of just raw, project potential down the line, has a slight edge over Wilson.

Also, if you’re surprised to see either of these players ranked so highly, it’s important to note that the way the NHL game is being played right now factored into my decision. So much of the NHL’s offense today comes from aggressive forechecking and cycling along the boards, and the most effective players at doing this are typically the power forward types. That’s why Corey Perry went from a very good forward a couple years ago to the Hart Trophy winner and NHL-leading-goal-scorer in 2010-2011. So the current state of the NHL definitely factored into my assessment of Tom Wilson and Henrik Samuelsson.

GROUP 3: POTENTIAL FUTURE TOP-SIX FORWARDS AND TOP-FOUR DEFENSEMEN WITH A SHOT AT BECOMING TOP-LINE FORWARDS & TOP-PAIRING DEFENSEMEN

#19. SEBASTIAN COLLBERG
POSITION: RW
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #3 EUROPE

(I’ve only seen two shootout attempts by this guy and one goal. That’s it. I was unable to find anywhere close to enough footage to properly evaluate Colberg, but I’ll do my best)

Collberg, similarly to Teuvo Teravainen, has only one major weakness to worry about when it comes to transitioning from playing in europe to the NHL: his size. Otherwise, Collberg is a good skater with excellent speed and quickness. He’s creative with the puck on his stick and has the smooth hands needed to execute the fancy moves his mind comes up with. He’s also demonstrated a very sneaky and precise release on his wrist shot. If everything goes to plan during Collberg’s development, he has the potential to both score goals and make plays for his teammates.

However, while Collberg is listed at 5’11”, 176 lbs, which would already be undersized, he actually looks smaller to me. If Collberg wants to excel in the NHL, he needs to take a cue from a similar type of player like Ray Whitney who lit up the NHL’s Western Conference last year despite his small stature. Small forward prospects almost always need to improve their physical strength if they want to play in the NHL, and I believe it’s no different for Collberg. Leg strength is extremely important, too. So much of today’s NHL game is played along the boards, so for Collberg to live up to his potential of one day thriving in an NHL team’s top-six forward ranks, he needs to be able to hold onto the puck and protect it in the dirty areas of the ice, which will allow him to get into positions where his true strengths can flourish. Easier said than done for small forwards like Collberg, but based on what little I’ve seen of Collberg, I believe he can make it work in the NHL.

#20. BRENDAN GAUNCE
POSITION: C
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #13 NORTH AMERICA

Projects as a very well rounded, very dependable second-line center with good size, reach, puck protection, very adequate speed, balance, and hands, and he’s a good finisher. Does not have the elite high-end skill of the forwards at the top of this list, but the sufficient skill set he does have, combined with the size and the well-rounded game, and the lack of many weaknesses, gives him a great shot to develop into a quality second-line center.

#21. PONTUS ABERG
POSITION: LW
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #6 EUROPE

Aberg actually plays a bit like Kosmachuk, except he appears to possibly have an even harder shot. Like Kosmachuk, none of his skills (besides his shot) really stick out in the way, say, Mikhail Grigorenko’s skill set does, but offensively, everything is solid. He’s sturdy and well-balanced on his skates, solid enough speed, edges, and agility, solid hands, good release, he looks adept at getting off slap shots with pace and accuracy, even while moving. I put him ahead of Kosmachuk because everything that’s solid about both players offensively, I think Aberg is just a little bit better, maybe a slightly higher skill level, although Kosmachuk may have more power-forward blood in him as a counter point. Both have the potential to be top-six forwards and score some goals, but I see just a little bit more natural goal scoring talent with Aberg from what little I’ve seen.

#22. DERRICK POULIOT
POSITION: D
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #12 NORTH AMERICA

Similar type of defenseman to Morgan Rielly, just with not quite as elite an offensive skillet, but he still skates very well and has good hands for a defenseman, and should be a very solid prospect on the back end. He’s definitely more of a puck-mover, in the Rielly mold, than a checker, but he is a bit heavier than Rielly, the one area I’d give him the edge. Overall, Rielly and the other defenesmen ranked above him are either slightly more talented offensively and/or have better size and two-way potential, in my mind, but Pouliot could very well develop into a top-4 defenseman himself, even a #2-#3 if his development goes perfectly.

#23. MATTHEW FINN
POSITION: D
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #16 NORTH AMERICA

Has a good two-way skill set, strong, good balance on his skates, has good hands. Doesn’t accelerate as fast as some of the other top defensemen, but looks more physical than some of those puck-moving defenseman peers as well, so there’s a trade-off there. Overall has the potential to be a solid top-three defenseman if he reaches his maximum potential, who can contribute offense with his balance and puck-control while being physical on the back-end.

#24. JORDAN SCHMALTZ
POSITION: D
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #34 NORTH AMERICA

At 6’2, 185 lbs, Schmaltz has good size to defend with, and a good frame to shield the puck while carrying it. He’s very coordinated and controlled, has soft hands with the puck, and appears to have a good wrist shot. In terms of the physical skillset, he has the whole package you want in a top-three defenseman short of even better size. He may not have quite the elite skating of Ryan Murray or Morgan Rielly, or quite the elite size of Griffin Reinhart, or quite the top-end puck-rushing ability of Mathew Dumba, but he’s good in all those areas, at least on part with the higher ranked Matthew Finn, and better than Olli Maatta and Dalter Thrower, even. So unless his defensive instincts, positional game, and decision-making suck (as is always the caveat with defenseman on this list), I think he can develop into a top-three NHL defenseman, if not top-pairing.

#25. DALTER THROWER
POSITION: D
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #26 NORTH AMERICA

Thrower is a very well-rounded right-shot defenseman with above average speed, good skating–he uses good footwork, and he has very solid hands for a defenseman and a perfect sized stick for his offensive game. He appears to have a good shot and also plays a physical game. Short of bad hockey sense or poor defensive fundamentals, neither of which are something one can usually see in a youtube video, the only reason I can imagine that Thrower is rated below some of the other defensemen on Central Scouting’s list (and mine, although Finn, Pouliot, Maatta and Thrower are basically inseparable for me), besides the fact that there are so many good players in this draft, is that his various “good” skills are just slightly less “good” than the others’. For instance Thrower reminds me a bit of Cody Ceci, but Ceci is bigger, has a better frame, and most the things Thrower is good at offensively, Ceci is at least a little bit better at. Still, Thrower excels in all the areas you would want from a defenseman (of the ones that are visible in a youtube video), and from there it’s all about the development; he should turn into a quality defenseman regardless, and if things go really well, he could even surpass some of the defensemen in front of him.

#26. SCOTT KOSMACHUK
POSITION: RW
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #24 NORTH AMERICA

(Saw very little footage, only about 5 goals he scored and nothing else, and half those were tap-in’s)

Kosmachuk is another one of these forwards with a very good well-rounded offensive skillset to offer. He doesn’t have elite speed or “sportscenter” hands (then again no one in the NHL has “sportscenter” hands because sportscenter never shows hockey players anyway), but he’s got good speed, good balance with sturdy legs, good skating, good hands–he can dangle around quickly and effectively even if it’s not in the Patrick Kane territory, and even on youtube I can tell he has a fantastic wrist shot. His size is only average but he does look sturdier and harder to knock off the puck than his size might indicate on someone with a smaller frame. Overall he’s a well-rounded talent who should make for a good top-six forward if his development goes to plan.

#27. TOMAS HERTL
POSITION: C
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #5 EUROPE

(Only saw two goals, almost no footage).

Hertl is a 6’2″, 198 lbs forward with a good frame, long, sturdy legs that provide him very good balance on his skates, and good hands. His frame, long legs, and pretty good reach help him protect and shield the puck very well. He’s essentially a more finesse oriented power forward, think a slicker version of Ryane Clowe with much less grit and less dominance along the boards, although he’s still good there. Like Clowe Hertl does not have great top speed, but also like Clowe, his long, powerful legs mean his speed is underrated once he gets going. Hertl’s balance and especially his edges are better than Clowe’s, too, and they help him make up for any lack of top-end speed he has.

#28. HAMPUS LINDHOLM
POSITION: D
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #4 EUROPE

Probably the least amount of footage I’ve had to scout any player, just a few seconds of him skating and standing around, so again this guy probably should not be on the list, but I’m doing my best to include everyone. Lindholm has good size and excellent skating, footwork, and agility for that size, and above average hands for a big defenseman. He looks very heady and quick, with some similarities to the Swedish blue-liner picked in the 1st round last season by the Minnesota Wild, Jonas Brodin. Like Brodin, he doesn’t look so much like a dangler with the puck or a puck rusher, but he is very quick maneuvering the puck into safe spots where he can pick out a passing lane. If his development goes well, from what very little I saw, he could be a very effective two-way defenseman somewhere between Ryan Suter, Toni Lydman, and maybe someone quicker like Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

#29. SCOTT LAUGHTON
POSITION: C
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #28 NORTH AMERICA

The only video I could find of Laughton on youtube was a 10-minute Iso-cam of him simply playing in a game, no highlights, no goals even. Going from watching about thirty highlight videos in a row and a barrage of amazing goals, and comparing everyone on that even playing field, to watching someone skate around the ice, often without the puck, in an iso-cam, is very difficult, and not the optimal way to judge players against each other. However, as always I will give it by best shot!

The way Laughton looks when he skates holding his stick reminds a lot of James Van Riemsdyk, but he’s a different type of player, starting with the fact he is much smaller than James Van Riemsdyk at just over six feet tall and 180 Lbs. However, Laughton has a good reach for his size and protects the puck better than most his size. Laughton does not play the power forward game like Riemsdyk, either. Instead, he’s a very heady player, always playing with his eyes up, surveying the ice. His speed and agility are only decent, but he has good balance and edges. Nothing about his skillset will wow you, but he can be very clever with the puck. His hands aren’t sexy either in the way of an Alex Semin, for instance, but he controls the puck very reliably on both his forward and backhand thanks to his stick having a straighter blade than, again, an Alex Semin, and he maneuvers it with surprising precision at times. I see a bit of St Louis Blues’ prospect Jaden Schwartz in him, who knows why given that I’ve only seen Schwartz play a couple games, and Laughton’s cleverness and vision remind of Mike Richards as well.

Laughton is an intriguing prospect. His top-end “physical” skill (meaning hands, feet, most everything besides hockey sense) is inferior to many of his peers’, which makes him a riskier pick than them in a way, yet his game also has certain virtues many of theirs don’t, such as the way he sees the game and the clever little plays he makes. The risk is, what if he never develops enough elite physical skill to be effective as a top-six forward at the NHL level despite his headiness? The upside is, if he does, having that cerebral game on top of it could make him something unique, a two-way playmaker you could potentially build around, if he improves enough before getting to the NHL. Overall, he would not be my pick in the top 15, at least not unless I got to see more of him first, but he does intrigue me.

#30. DANIIL ZHARKOV
POSITION: LW
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #32 NORTH AMERICAN

At 6’3″, 202 LBS, russian winger Daniil Zharkov has the frame to be a power forward in the NHL–not quite in the Milan Lucic mold, but he has a power forward build nonetheless, and he should fill out further in the next few years. But he doesn’t really play like a true power forward, and he doesn’t have to because he also has good speed and skill. With this combination of speed and skill in one package, I would rank him higher, even, but I didn’t get to see much of him, and what I did see of him, he scored a lot in similar ways, going up the wings in straight lines and scoring with his excellent shot, or mixing in some moves here and there. But at least in the video I saw, there wasn’t a lot of passing or the like, and I didn’t see Zharkov demonstrate that he could slow the play down or play well in half court. Of course, that could just be the video I saw, and if Zharkov can make full use of his physical talents, and develop into a player that does more than just come barreling down the wing, then he definitely has a higher ceiling in that scenario than Laughton and some of the other players ahead of him.

I think Hertl as potential as a top-six forward in the NHL, and I think he has enough skill going for him in all the other areas that he will be able to overcome any doubts about his speed.

#31. CHANDLER STEPHENSON
POSITION: C/LW
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #33 NORTH AMERICA

Stephenson is a speedster with very good (but not mind-blowing) puck control, even at high speeds, and he appears to have good hockey sense and a well-rounded game. Even though he’s very talented, you won’t see him making insane plays with the regularity of the russians at the top of the list, for example, but Stephenson is very skilled and effective nonetheless. I only put him behind Zharkov because Zharkov has the better raw tools, and thus at least the potential to become the better player, but right now Stephenson is better rounded, and he also has a shot at developing into the better player. The knock on Stephensen is his size at only 5’10.5″ and 192 LBS, but he plays slightly bigger than those dimensions would suggest, and if he keeps improving his game, I think he can overcome his size the same way someone like Cody Hodgson has. In fact, I think Stephenson’s frame is better than Hodgson’s, and he protects the puck better, so I believe Stephenson has a good shot at translating his skill to the NHL level.

#32. COLTON SISSONS
POSITION: C
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #14 NORTH AMERICA

Scrappy, hard-working center with a decent frame, hard to knock off the puck, adequate hands and skating. Not the slickest skater in the draft but he has some power in his legs that give him the ability to keep up. Projects as a gritty, complete second-line center in the mold of Ryan Kesler or maybe Travis Zajac. Won’t wow you necessarily with skill but will play an effective 100 foot game.

#33. CRISTOVAL NIEVES
POSITION: C
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #27 NORTH AMERICA

(I saw one goal, ONE! This is near impossible).

Don’t hold me to anything I say about Cristoval Nieves because I saw literally about 5 seconds of footage of him, one single goal, and it was a nice goal which can be very misleading in such a small sample size. I’m just trying to avoid excluding players from the list wherever possible.

At nearly 6’3″, 184 lbs, Nieves has a very good frame, and looks the part of a prototypical power forward short of the muscle, which he should have no problem adding to that frame during his development time. Nieves also has pretty skill to go along with his favorable dimensions. He displayed smooth hands on the goal I saw, along with sturdy legs and good balance. His acceleration and speed are maybe slightly above average, but when he gets going, he has long, powerful legs and good mass that can get going pretty good, and he’s hard to knock off the puck.

Earlier I called Girgensons “half Ryane Clowe, half Ville Leino,” and I think if you took away another quarter of that Ville Leino and replaced it with another quarter Ryane Clowe, to get three-quarter’s Clowe and one-quarter Leino, that might be a decent way to describe Nieves. Girgensons has the better vision and even smoother hands than Nieves, always with his head up, but Nieves is even bigger and more the power forward than Girgensons is. Overall, a good power forward prospect with natural talent, and how good he really is compared to Girgensons and the rest of this list will depend on things I wasn’t able to see in the five seconds of video, like his hockey sense, finishing, playmaking, consistency, and complete game.

#34. JARROD MAIDENS
POSITION: C/LW
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #35 NORTH AMERICA

I literally almost found no footage of this guy, I watched maybe one goal, and eventually I gave up looking because there was nothing. So listing him at all is pretty pointless, it will be inaccurate and mess up the list, but basically he looked like a smaller version of Daniil Zharkov in a way. I can’t emphasize how little I have to go on, but he looks like he has top-six potential; he has natural talent, and could even be higher on the list if I was more of him.

#34. OLLI MAATTA
POSITION: D
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #8 NORTH AMERICA

I’ve barely found any footage on Maatta which makes this very difficult, but from what little I’ve seen, he’s a very good skater and a very solid defenseman in his zone, mobile and heady with a good frame, but I haven’t seen quite the offensive skill or the natural offensive talent with the puck that some of the higher ranked rearguards on this list have displayed. However, Maatta’s impressive offensive stats, especially as the year went on and in the playoffs, suggest he does have upside on offense, so it’s possible he creates offense more with his excellent hockey sense and mobility than he does with raw skill, and hockey sense does not show up in youtube videos. Overall, I think he projects as a top-four defenseman, and he could even deserve to be higher up the list in the end. But for now, what little I’ve seen with my own eyes has him here, although I debated putting him up with Lindholm or Laughton.

#35. BRADY SKJEI
POSITION: D
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #19 NORTH AMERICA

Saw next to no footage of this player, but looks like a good skater with a good frame and size, pretty long stick that’s good for defense if not necessarily ideal for his offense, but the tradeoff isn’t too compromising. Compared to the defensemen higher up on this list, Skjei’s skating is certainly good enough to match up to the Mathew Finn’s and Dalter Thrower’s, and good enough for Skjei to have offensive potential, and his size exceeds many of his peer defensemen ranked in Central Scouting’s top 30, so those are major plusses. However, I’m not sure his skillset with the puck quite measures up to the best of peers, though it’s certainly above average for a defenseman. Again, I saw literally about 8 seconds of footage of him skating around, making maybe two plays with the puck, but that’s what I’m seeing. I think his frame, his size, and his skating combined give him the potential to be a very effective NHL defenseman, but I don’t see the elite offensive skills to project him as being a potential star or top-pairing offensive defenseman like some of his peers that I ranked ahead of him.

#36. VILLE POKKA
POSITION: D
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #7 EUROPE

The 6’0″, 196 Pokka looks like a very well-rounded defenseman. If David Rundblad didn’t have quite as high-end skill and played a more positional, less risk-reward game (so if he was a completely different player, basically), it might look something like Pokka. Pokka uses a very well-fitted stick; he handles the puck very comfortably without being flashy, skates well without being flashy and has good balance. Just a well-rounded two-way defenseman with top-four potential or better if he really develops well.

#37. ANTON SLEPYSHEV
POSITION: LW
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #10 EUROPE

Slepyshev is another skilled Russian forward with good size. He plays a bit like a lesser Filip Forsberg. He has a good frame, with good power in his legs and balance on his skates. He has solid hands and an above average reach. He doesn’t have electric skill like Mikhail Grigorenko, but his skill level is very solid and well-rounded, although he looks more a straight-up goal scorer than someone who also makes a lot of plays for his teammates. But if a team is looking for a quality top-six forward with size and skill to slot in on the second line and score goals, Slepyshev definitely has that potential.

#38. NIKOLAY PROKHORKIN
POSITION: C
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #9 EUROPE

Nikolay Prokhorkin is a very skilled forward, and at 6’2.5″, 191 lbs, has good size to go along with his smooth hands and fairly good skating and speed. You could compare him to the Russian forward ranked a few spots ahead of him on this list with a similar size-and-skill combination, Daniil Zharkov, or the slightly smaller Jarrod Maidens. I ranked both those players ahead of Prokhorkin because I think Zharkov is slightly stronger at a similarly listed size, a bit more of a bull, and I just think he has more power and sniping ability, and as for Maidens, I think he makes up for his smaller size with even better skill than Prokhorkin possesses. Prokhorkin has good balance, he’s pretty agile, and has smooth hands, but Maidens is just a little bit more elite, and is able to make the same kind of twists, turns, and maneuvers as Prokhorkin, but faster and with more explosiveness. Prokhorkin does appear to play a slightly more complex game than, say, Zharkov, though, maybe makes more plays for his teammates, so I think he’s definitely someone to keep an eye on with a lot of finesse talent and very good size to go with it.

#39. PHILIP DI GIUSEPPE
POSITION: LW
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #22 NORTH AMERICA

Giuseppe looks like a well-rounded forward with good balance, a good skater, good-not-elite speed, good hands, not lacking grit, very sturdy for his size. It’s not that he’s not dynamic because he is smooth and skilled, he’s just doesn’t do it at quite as an elite, breathtaking level as some of the forwards ahead of him on this list. Where the ones I’m referring to have an excellent shot at developing into stars and top-lineforwards, Giuseppe is probably more likely to develop into a second-line winger than a first-liner. Still, really solid prospect.

GROUP 4: FUTURE POTENTIAL TOP-SIX FORWARDS AND TOP-FOUR DEFENSEMEN

#40. SLATER KOEKKOEK
POSITION: D
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #23 NORTH AMERICA

Koekkoek is a mobile 6’2″ defenseman with a nice frame, which he accompanies with a long stick, but not too long like Griffin Reinhart’s; it’s one that balances his game’s needs at both ends of the ice. He controls the puck well for the length of stick he uses, although it would be very difficult to match the precision puck-handling that someone like Dumba gets from his short twig. When he skates he takes rather long strides that aren’t the quickest in succession, but due to their length they give him slightly above average speed.

Ultimately Koekkoek projects in my eyes as a well-rounded #4 type of defenseman that ranges “good” on a scale of bad to great in every category the youtube video shows except possibly speed, from size and frame to skating, balance, and hands. He’s a solid prospect with the potential to perhaps even exceed my projection if his development goes extremely well (something true of most prospects here), just not necessarily as sexy or elite in his skillsets as some of his peers. However, he’s not necessarily unsexy, either. I don’t want to paint a picture of a plain defensive defenseman with no skill, because he does have skill, just not as much as say Matthew Dumba, Ryan Murray, and others.

#41. GEMEL SMITH
POSITION: C
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #37 NORTH AMERICA

Smith has good speed and hands, but his overall skill set, combined with his short height at 5’10” and 161 lbs weight, just is not quite as good as the players above him in my opinion. He’s still not a bad prospect, but he just doesn’t have the overall package that the players higher up do, despite some very good speed and skill.

#42. BRADY VAIL
POSITION: C
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #38 NORTH AMERICA

At 6’0.5″, 195 LBS, Vail has decent size to play center in the NHL, with good speed and agility to go along with it. His skill with the puck is above average without being spectacular. It’s very hard to separate Vail and Gemel Smith. Smith looks to have slightly more elite speed and sniper characteristics, and if he can add enough muscle (and if he’s lucky, height) to make the size difference between him and Vail a non-issue, I think Smith could have the higher ceiling in the long run. Or it could turn out the opposite. Very hard to separate these two at the moment, and it’s possible Jarrod Maidens could be part of this pack, too, but I saw so little of him it’s hard to tell, and my best guess was ahead of them. As for Giuseppe, it’s very hard to separate him just by watching short youtube clips at this point, too, but I do think he’s ahead of Smith and Vail at the moment.

GROUP 5: FUTURE POTENTIAL TOP-SEVEN FORWARDS & TOP-FIVE DEFENSEMEN, A NOTICEABLE DROP IN TOP UPSIDE FROM THE GROUP(S) BEFORE, BUT STILL A CHANCE OF BECOMING TOP-SIX FORWARDS AND TOP-FOUR DEFENSEMEN

#43. LUKAS SUTTER
POSITION: C
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #39 NORTH AMERICA

Lukas Sutter does not have the high-end offensive skill or the size of some of his most highly ranked peers, however at 5’11.75″, 215 lbs himself, he’s not helpless goose himself. His height may not be any better than average, but 215 lbs for someone his age at that height is a lot, and suggests Sutter works very hard in the weight room. As for his skill set, he may not have elite skill, but he’s still an above average skater with above average skill. It’s very hard to project Sutter compared to Pearson in my mind, having seen so little of both, but i think Sutter’s superior muscle, which is very important for the two-way shutdown center role they both aspire to play, combined with a skill level that at least matches Pearson’s, gives him the edge. However, Pearson does have those longer legs, a better frame, and a longer reach, and I think if he can improve his skating and his puck-control, he might actually have the leg up in developing into a true second-line NHL center, not Sutter. But for now, I’ve flipped the coin and put Sutter ahead.

#44. TANNER PEARSON
POSITION: LW
CENTRAL SCOUTING RANKING: #25 NORTH AMERICA

Pearson appears bigger than his listed 6’0″, 200 lbs height and weight due to his decent frame. However, his speed is only slightly above average, as is his skating, although that’s fixable. His hands are also only decent at best, and in general he does not display the same type of skill, either elite in key areas or at least “good” in many areas, that the forwards in the groups ahead of him do. That doesn’t mean that with significant work on his game, Pearson still can’t turn himself into a second-line winger in the NHL, but it’s pretty clear to me (as clear as it an be watching blurry youtube videos, anyway) that right now he is not on par with the other forward prospects above him on this list in terms of talent, and he’s probably rated too high even at 25 on Central Scouting’s North American list.

NOT AVAILABLE

STEFAN MATTEAU, MIKE WINTHER, NICOLAS KERDILES, PATRICK SIELOFF, SAMUEL KURKER, LUDWIG BYSTROM

END OF RANKINGS

So what conclusions should you draw from this? It’s pretty simple. I believe Martin Frk and Andreas Athanasiou are going to be steals in the latter first round or early second, and if I’m right, if they turn out to be better players than Olli Maatta and some of the other players I dropped the most on my rankings compared to Central Scouting’s list, then I did a better job scouting, even with one-eye blinded basically having to rely on youtube clips, than the pro scouts did (and not just Central Scouting). But if the players I dropped below Central Scouting’s rankings do better than the ones I moved up, then they did better, either because they’re better scouts, or because the youtube clips were misleading.

Another more general conclusion about the draft class a whole is that, from what I’ve seen, this is an extremely deep draft class, at least through the top 40 or 50 skaters. This conclusion runs contrary to almost everything everyone in the hockey world has been saying about this draft. It’s hard not for me to have doubts, like I must be doing something wrong to have come to the absolute opposite conclusion, but I’m sticking to my guns, relying on my eye for talent, and that’s what I’m seeing. I’m seeing tons of potential top-six forwards and top-four defenseman available even late in the top 40, not to mention all prospects with top-line and top-defense pairing potential available outside the top-five, which you usually don’t see, at least not in the numbers I’m seeing.

If I’m right and pretty much everyone else in the hockey world is wrong, this is one of the best first and early second rounds of an NHL draft in years. If I’m wrong, it sucks like everyone else has been saying, and we won’t see many impact players come out of it besides from the top five or ten. But I’m very high on this draft class. We’ll have to wait and see!

<i>Written by Shark Circle</i>

Advertisements