We are just about one week away from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and the draft talk is starting heat up.
Who will go number one?
Who will trade up?
What big names will be traded?
All of these questions will be answered on June 25, but until then we here at Bleacher Report get to do one of the most enjoyable parts of the sports writer job: prognostication.
Mock drafts, draft previews and what we have here, rankings.
What we have in front of us right now is a look at the top U.S. born players in this season’s draft, and this season’s draft is certainly a testament to the spreading of hockey through the United States.
Of the top 50 North American skaters, 17 are from the United States and of the top ten North American goaltenders, two hail as American.
So, let’s take a look at our rankings.
Author's Note: This slide was added after a second run through of the rankings, hence the two number one rankings.
Final CSS Rank: 5
Despite dropping out of the top three in the rankings, Fowler has many thinking that he could still be the third pick in the draft.
Fowler is the prototype of an offensive-defenseman and a power play quarterback, but he isn’t lacking on the defensive side of the puck either. He sees the ice very well and his skating can create a lot of plays as well.
He has some growing yet to do, but he has very projectable size and has even been given comparisons to Paul Coffey. His puck control could be the best in the draft among the defensemen and his decision making ability and the speed at which he processes the game on the ice is spectacular.
“Cam’s vision, skating and passing are his greatest assets. He gets himself out of trouble with his feet and his mobility makes it very difficult for opposing players to get by him. Cam has good size and once he fills out, he will anchor an NHL club’s back end for many years.”
- Bob Boughner, Windsor Spitfires Head Coach
Final CSS Rank: 9
Hailing from the State of Hockey, Forbert could be the most well rounded defenseman in the draft. He has projectable size and plays a very physical game. He uses his reach to block passing lanes very well and thinks very well on the ice. In addition, he transitions to offense very effectively and has a very low, strong shot that can lead to rebounds for his forwards around the net.
Forbert is committed to play at the University of North Dakota next season.
“Derek Forbort has good top-end ability at both ends (of the ice). He's smart and skates so well, he's almost 6-5 and he's got everything there in front of him. It's just a matter of filling out and getting more experience. He's probably a top-two defenseman in the NHL if he reaches his potential."
- Jack Barzee, NHL Central Scouting
Photo Courtesy of USA Hockey
Final CSS Rank: 8
Etem has an upside that is causing NHL scouts to froth at the mouth. In his first WHL season, the young sniper led all rookies in goals (37) and added another seven in 12 playoff games. Despite his slight size, Etem is very strong on his skates and is willing to go to the hard areas of the ice to get the job done. His hands and speed, combined with his nose for the net, make him a highly coveted prospect, even despite his lack of defensive acumen.
“Emerson is a great skater who opens up the ice real well. He is a real professional already. Everyday he prepares like a pro. His biggest strength is he wants to improve as a player. When you tell him something he is prepared to do it.”
- Willie Desjardins, Medicine Hat Tigers head coach
Final CSS Rank: 2 (among goaltenders)
Campbell really charged into the picture with his win for the United States at the World Junior Championships this past season. He stopped 32 of 34 shots after entering the game in the second period with a 3-0 deficit.
Campbell has all the tools that NHL teams look for in a goaltender. Size, athleticism and is extremely fundamentally sound. In addition, he has won on the big stage both at the World U-18 and World Junior tournaments and his game should transfer very well to the NHL.
"He's got good size, doesn't beat himself and his positioning is very good. He has good quickness in recovery, but he's not all over the place. He'll make the saves."
- Al Jensen, NHL Central Scouting
Final CSS Rank: 25
This ranking might surprise some, but having watched Nelson play for three seasons in Minnesota I have to say—this kid has “it.”
In his 25 regular season games in the 2009-10 season, Nelson tallied a point in every game and scored a goal in all but two. He finished the season with 73 points and was a finalist for Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Award, given to the best high school hockey player each season.
Nelson has size, talent and has absolutely no weaknesses in all three zones. His huge shot is something that will give goalies fits and he has a quick release and a shoot first mentality. In addition to his strong talents, he has improved greatly in every season and seems to thrive when the games get tough.
“I have coached Brock for three years, when he started out as a tenth grader he skated one period of JV and three with the Varsity. By the end of the season his line was creating more scoring chances than the top two lines. He continued his upward push as a junior centering our top line. His work ethic, size and tremendous skills put him at the top of High School Players as a senior. I believe he will continue to rise on the ladder of hockey players, he can easily add several pounds of muscle, he is very coachable, he does stuff with the puck in practice and games others can only dream about, his work ethic along with self discipline will continue to move him upward. This young man not only has great skills, but is a great person as well.”
- Albert Hasbargen, Warroad High School head coach
Photo Courtesy of VintageMinnesotaHockey.com
Final CSS Rank: 13
Following Nelson, the winner of this season’s Mr. Hockey Award is behind him only because he isn’t quite as NHL-ready as the Warroad standout.
Bjugstad’s skill isn’t in question, however, as he has the skills to be a standout in the NHL. He is a playmaker in a power forward’s body and he is able to use both his big frame to make space as well as to make plays in traffic. His shot, while not as quick as his counterpart, is just as heavy and gives him the ability to create both with passing and with his shot.
His vision and his leadership will also be very attractive to potential suitors.
“He's further along and more polished than (Boston's Blake) Wheeler. He's also a better skater than David Backes was at the same age (17). The only difference is Backes was thicker, but the ingredients are there. He wants the puck and wants to make plays. He's a blue-collar type kid who works his tail off."
- Jack Barzee, NHL Central Scouting
Photo Courtesy of GameFaceMN.com
Final CSS Rank: 14
Watson, a solid two-way power forward whose season was shortened due to injury, showed off his talents with a late season push with the Peterborough Petes, notching 20 points in ten games.
While Watson is a gifted offensive power forward, he excels on the penalty kill where he is a tremendous shot blocker and has a terrific stick. His stick also allows him to create goals both in front of the net with deflections and rebounds, as well as distributing the puck.
“Austin is a very good penalty killer. He plays a high-energy two-way game. He's aggressive on the forecheck and he will finish his checks. He has good hands and can shoot the puck hard. He is an excellent competitor and is a good shot blocker. I like his energy and willingness to play a role and be good at that role.”
- Chris Edwards, NHL Central Scouting
Final CSS Rank: 21
Another defenseman from the U.S. Developmental Program, Merrill shows the dedication and decision making to be a great player on the blue line.
He processes events on the ice with great ease and his vision and decision making make him a true gem at a mid-to-late first round draft pick. His passing is terrific and he is very skilled at keeping himself in a good position on the defensive end. His dedication, however, is what really impressed the U-18 head coach Kurt Kleinendorst and his dedication in the weight room will be key to him filling out as an NHL defenseman.
"He plays the game a lot like Jordan Leopold. He plays weaving and diving, sneaking and thinking, gaining the zone and moving the puck ahead right on the tape to a guy. He's skilled and he's really come a long way in his development."
- Jack Barzee, NHL Central Scouting
Photo Courtesy of NHL.com
Final CSS Rank: 18
Pitlick led all freshman scorers for Minnesota State this season with 11 goals and 19 points in 38 games. He plays a tremendously gritty game and is willing to go into the corners and win the difficult one-on-one battles. He doesn’t have all-world skills, but will be a reliable checker in the NHL and has a decent shot to his credit. His speed won’t blow you away, but he has tremendous balance and is very strong on his skates.
“Tyler has great offensive instincts. And along with that, one of the quickest releases I have coached in 20 years. He’s an extremely competitive kid who wants to be on the ice in critical situations. Tyler has worked hard to develop his game in the defensive end and this is an area he has improved greatly upon throughout the course of the season. He will continue to improve as his body matures. Coming from a hockey family, Tyler understands what it takes both on and off the ice in order to be a successful player.”
- Troy Jutting, Minnesota State University head coach
Photo Courtesy of The Hockey News
Final CSS Rank: 24
Winning the EJHL Rookie of the Year, Coyle finished fifth in overall scoring with 63 points and received the 2010 John Carlton Award given to the best male student-athlete in an Eastern Massachusetts High School or Junior League.
He is a very versatile forward that has solid skills and good size and athleticism. His pass first attitude makes him a very dangerous playmaker and his size allows him to play a physical game and get his nose dirty when need be. While he is not the fleetest of foot, his long skating stride gives him an advantage that he uses to its fullest.
“Charlie is a skilled forward, who can play a power game as well as a finesse game. He has very good size and athleticism. He has very soft hands and is a confident puck handler. His passes are accurate and proper for the situation. He has a long and strong stride and beats defenders with his acceleration and puck skills. He has a very good wrist shot to support his passing skills in his role as a major contributor to his team's offense. He should, however, shoot the puck more than he does to take advantage of his excellent shot.”
- Gary Eggleston, NHL Central Scouting
Photo Courtesy of ESPN.com
Final CSS Rank: 35
If there was ever an NHL-ready defenseman size wise, in this draft, Johns is it. At 6’3”, 215lbs, he is a bruising defenseman that both skates well and uses his size to his advantage. He has shot up the rankings, finishing at 35th after not being ranked in the mid-term rankings and has the determination and work ethic that could really shoot him up the rankings and make him a hidden gem for teams looking for a shutdown defenseman.
That, and coming from a town called Wampum shouldn’t hurt.
“Stephen is probably the best athlete in the group. He has size, good skills and is making better decisions on the ice.”
- Kurt Klienendorst, USA U-18 Head Coach
Photo Courtesy of USA Hockey
Kevin Hayes, RW, Nobles H.S. (HS-MA) – Dorchester, MA
Zane Gothberg, G, Thief River Falls H.S. (HS-MN) – Grand Forks, ND
Beau Bennett, RW, Penticton Vees (BCHL) – Gardena, CA
Steven Johns, D, USA U-18 (NTDP) – Wampum, PA
Bill Arnold, C, USA U-18 (NTDP) – Needham, MA
Mark Alt, D, Cretin-Durham H.S. (HS-MN) – North Oaks, MN
Jarred Tinordi, D, USA U-18 (NTDP) – Millersville, MD
Patrick McNally, D, Milton Academy (HS-MA) – Glen Head, NY
Justin Holl, D, Minnetonka H.S. (HS-MN) – Minnetonka, MN
Max Gardiner, C, Minnetonka H.S. (HS-MN) – Minnetonka, MN
Photo of Max Gardiner Courtesy of VintageMinnesotaHockey.com