The 2010 NHL Entry Draft promises to be one of the best drafts in recent history. With a wealth of talented defenders and a plethora of high octane forwards the NHL will be reaping the benefits of this class for years to come.
The forwards race in particular has been quite intriguing. The No. 1 pick, unlike years past, is completely up in the air. The question of Taylor vs. Tyler has been tossed out thousands of times, and still no one definitively knows who is the best.
The rest of the pack have been rarely mentioned, but that doesn't diminish the fact that there is a lot of talent left over to fill up two or three rounds of potential stars.
A bumper crop of outstanding forwards will be on display, and many teams should be extremely excited going into the draft about what they may end up getting. With a wide range of talents, including playmaking centres, power forwards, and outstanding snipers, many teams will have a lot to work with coming out of this draft.
The following article outlines the 10 best forward prospects available in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
Image Courtesy: Oilers.nhl.com
Mikael Granlund has some big shoes to fill and very high expectations to exceed. The young Oulu native has often been compared to Saku Koivu. A comparison to Saku, one of the greatest Finns to play the game, is certainly high praise, and whether or not Mikael can ever fill those shoes is still up in the air, but from what we have seen so far he certainly has the makings of a great player.
Granlund played two years with Karpat, in which he had two extremely successful seasons, recording 43 goals and 63 assists in 66 games played. Granlund has since moved on to SM-Liiga, one of the top professional hockey leagues in the world. With Helsinki, Granlund produced at a near point a game rate and was awarded the Rookie of the Year and Gentleman of the Year awards.
Granlund has also appeared in four international events, including two under-18 tournaments and two world junior championships. In that span he has won two bronze medals and recorded 35 points in 24 games.
Central Scouting's Goran Stubb said of the young Finn, "He's small, but no one's told him he's small. He has a really good, winning attitude, works very hard. He's tough, and he has very good hockey sense."
Based on the somewhat limited action that I have seen, he really stood out. Granlund is a physical player and has the speed to back up his size. Add on a solid, accurate shot, and you have the makings of a good player.
Despite high praise for Granlund he could still fall to mid-draft just based on size alone. However, whichever team does draft Mikael should have a solid NHL player down the road.
Central Scouting: 1st among European skaters
ISS: 17th overall
Personal: 16th overall
Image Courtesy NYRangers Blog
Jeff Skinner is another example of how size really doesn't matter.
Skinner, after finishing second overall in goals scored in the Ontario Hockey League, really carried his Kitchener Rangers through the regular season and postseason, falling just short to the Windsor Spitfires.
In 84 regular season and playoff games Skinner scored 70 goals (including 20 in 20 playoff games), and added 53 assists.
Skinner may lack speed, but this former figure skating medalist has enough talent to dance around his opponents. Skinner can play the physical game if called upon, and he often goes into the corners to retrieve the puck.
With explosive offensive potential Skinner likely won't fall too far down the ladder and could potentially be a top 10 pick.
Central Scouting: 34th among North American skaters
ISS: 9th overall
Personal: 15th overall
Image Courtesy: ontariohockeyleague.com
Austin Watson is the type of player that every team loves to have: a gritty, hard working, selfless, leader. Watson played last season with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League and won a Memorial Cup in the process.
After still having only a minor role with the team, Watson decided to join a team in which he can play a starring role. After waiving his no-trade clause, Watson was dealt to the Peterborough Petes.
In Peterborough Watson started off slowly, recording only a goal in three games before going down to an ankle injury after blocking a shot in the Top Prospects Game. However after returning from injury Watson put up eight goals and 11 assists in the final seven games of the season.
Watson's only fault was his apparent lack of offensive abilities, but after playing in Peterborough his draft status skyrocketed into a potential top 15 pick. Next season looks especially good, as he will potentially be on one of the best lines in the OHL with potential first rounder Ryan Spooner and future top five pick Matt Puempel.
Watson could be one of the best two-way players in the OHL. He is an excellent penalty killer and a fearless shot blocker. Combined with his new found offensive prowess Watson will be a steal wherever he goes.
Central Scouting: 14th among North American skaters
ISS: 12th overall
Personal: 13th overall
Alexander Burmistrov is saying and doing all the right things at the moment, but the all -present "Russian factor" is still playing on the minds of general managers. In an interview with TSN Burmistrov stated "I don't care about the money now, I want to play in the NHL not the KHL."
While this is all well and good many managers may pass on taking a risk on a Russian-born player.
Based on talent alone, however, Burmistrov could easily be a top 10 pick. Burmistrov is a shifty player with a high compete level. EJ McGuire (director of Central Scouting) said of Burmistrov "He’s like a water spider out there on the ice. Light on his feet, but he’s got a venomous strike like a snake when he goes on the offense. Speed and agility, great fakes and he’ll bring players, fans, alike out of their seats." However, listed at 156 lbs, Burmistrov is quite small and may not be up to the physical challenges of the NHL quite yet.
Burmistrov is considered a risky venture, but his willingness and enthusiasm to play in North America will make him a high pick in the entry draft.
Central Scouting: 11th among North American skaters
ISS: 14th overall
Personal 11th overall
Ryan Johansen played on a fairly good Winterhawks team and had an excellent rookie campaign. Finishing second in team scoring and second overall in rookie scoring, Johansen proved that he has the ability to compete at a high level.
Johansen also led all rookies in playoff scoring with 18 points in 13 games.
Johansen would be considered first and foremost a playmaker. Patterning his game after Sharks' standout Joe Thornton, Johansen has really excelled at dishing the puck off and setting up big plays.
Johansen is also an effective two-way forward. If he's not setting up plays he is shutting them down. Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald, speaking with the Florida Panthers, said of Johansen, "He has good on-ice vision and also angles well on the forecheck. He has the intelligence to play power-play as well as penalty kill...He has displayed nice playmaking capabilities and this should continue at the next level."
Ryan Johansen has decent size but could be more physical; with some more time developing in the great Portland Winterhawks system he should be a solid NHL player.
Central Scouting: 10th among North American skaters
ISS: 8th overall
Personal: 10th overall
The former WHL and CHL rookie of the year had a rough go this season, as a hip injury sidelined him for most of the year. Playing with his hometown Prince George Cougars, Connolly appeared in only 16 contests, but still scored 10 goals and added six assists.
Scouts have based Connolly's high ranking more purely on faith, hoping that he can improve on his stellar rookie season in which he scored 30 goals and 30 assists in 65 games.
Connolly could be one of the most skilled forwards in the draft. Connolly would be best described as a sniper, as he has a very strong and accurate shot. Central Scouting compares him to prolific Swedish forward Peter Forsberg.
High praise, but the concern that he may not be ready to play at 100 percent again certainly may have teams concerned on whether they should pass or take the chance.
It seems, however, that if the injury heals well he will be a star in the NHL fairly soon.
Central Scouting: 3rd among North American skaters
ISS: 13th overall
Personal: 9th overall
Image Courtesy: Home Hardware Top Prospects
The second overall selection in the 2009 CHL import draft, Niederreiter was a relative unknown heading into Portland. While he got off to a solid start his stock really didn't rise until the World Junior Championship.
Playing for Switzerland in the tournament, Niderreiter really stood out, as he proved clutch in key situations and really added a scoring touch the Swiss haven't seen in a while. Nino finished the tournament with six goals and four assists in seven games.
El Nino, as he is affectionately called, had a solid year in Portland, scoring 36 and helping on 24 in only 65 games. He also proved valuable in the playoffs, scoring 16 points in 13 games.
Niederreiter plays a big man's game. With a physical edge and solid size he can play along the boards and grind it out for the puck. With a decent shot and good hockey sense, he has all the tools of a power forward in the making.
Since he joined the ranks of the CHL his game has improved exponentially, and he still only shows signs of improving.
Central Scouting: 12th among North American skaters
ISS: 6th overall
Personal: 5th overall
Vladimir Tarasenko is a bit of an unknown and is likely a high-risk, high-reward prospect. Tarasenko feels it is better to develop in the KHL than in Major Junior. This will likely scare some teams away, but with talent like his he won't fall far.
Tarasenko has already played two seasons in the KHL and has really developed into a very strong forward.
Tarasenko has all the necessary skills to play in the NHL; he is extremely quick, he can handle the puck extremely well, and he works very hard. While his stats aren't particularly impressive, he does not get nearly as much ice time as he would in the CHL.
Tarasenko would have been a top three pick if he had taken the route of fellow Russian Alexander Burmistrov and played in the CHL, but he could still very well get drafted high.
Central Scouting: 2nd among European skaters
ISS: 4th overall
Personal: 6th overall
Image Courtesy: The Hockey News
Taylor Hall has accomplished more in his career than many have in their lifetimes. Hall in three seasons in the Ontario Hockey league has won 14 awards and championships, including three international golds, CHL Rookie of the Year, two Memorial Cups, and two Memorial Cup MVPs (only player to ever win two).
Hall is likely the safest bet in the draft and, as many have predicted, will likely go first overall to the Edmonton Oilers.
Scoring nearly 300 points in three seasons in the OHL, he clearly has a solid scoring touch. Hall has a rocket of a shot, can pick corners with ease, and has the physical game to either go around or go through players.
Hall can hit, dangle, shoot, and pass with the best of them and will make an instant impact in the NHL. The only concern that scouts have is whether his stats were more based on his play or on the fact that he was on a stacked team for the better part of his junior career.
Hall, however, has shown more then enough to be picked very highly in the draft and will likely be a superstar in the NHL sooner rather than later.
Central Scouting: 2nd among North American skaters
ISS: 1st overall
Personal: 2nd overall
Image Courtesy: TSN
Tyler Seguin is considered by most to be the second overall pick behind Taylor Hall. Sure Hall has had a much better career thus far, but purely from a skill standpoint Seguin takes the cake.
Seguin playing on a team much worse than the Spitfires but managed to put up a league-leading 106 points, over 40 more then his closest teammate. What is more impressive is that Seguin did it in just his second year in the OHL.
Seguin tied Hall for the overall points lead and was awarded the OHL MVP award and the CHL's Top Prospect award.
Central Scouting has Seguin pegged as a future Steve Yzerman. Very high praise indeed. You can already see shades of Stevie "Y" in Tyler. He has a very solid offensive game, but his defensive game is also much stronger than Yzerman's at this stage of the game. Seguin has tremendous foot speed and acceleration, and with good hands to compliment this it may be extremely hard to pass on the Brampton native.
What really separates Hall and Seguin is that Seguin plays that coveted centre position. A top-of-the-line centre is hard to come by, and Seguin has loads of potential to eventually be that number one guy.
Popular opinion suggests Hall to be the number one prospect, but Seguin has more potential down the road and is definitely the best forward available in the draft.
Central Scouting: 1st among North American skaters
ISS: 2nd overall
Personal: 1st overall
Image courtesy: futureconsiderations