Many call the NHL All-Star break the midway point of the NHL season, meaning that it’s halfway between the beginning of the season, and the beginning of the playoffs.
But it also marks the last few months for any players that are eligible for that season’s draft to impress NHL brass, scouts, and fans. As we’ve seen in the past, some players put this time to good use and rocket up the rankings. Others falter and end up tumbling down the draft board while others still simply level off.
So who are some of the prospects that might be lucky enough to go in the first round of the draft in late June? Well some of these guys may just be that lucky, so why not have a look at the seasons they’re having so far.
PLEASE NOTE: This is NOT a mock-draft, nor is it a ‘best of the best’ list. Four mock-drafts were compared, and the 30 picks were selected from there and sorted out by average height of pick (Except for the top four where the order was randomly drawn). To complete the 30, players were then sorted by who was selected in three of the four and two of the four drafts.
1. Gabriel Landeskog, Left Wing
Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
32 GP, 25 G, 20 A
The Rap: No one player has had more written about him than Landeskog heading towards the draft, and we're still five and a half months away. Everyone knows about his leadership, abilities, and run-away-train approach to the game, but here's something you may not know: simply being on the ice is Landeskog's biggest asset. When he's out there, not only do the Rangers play differently, but he changes the gameplan and the approach of the opposing teams. Brenden Morrow or Mike Richards are the best comparisons for the skill set he brings. If you're bored with hearing that every other day, imagine combining one of those dynamic Oilers' forwards with Marty McSorley—the man entrusted to protect them with his fists. Gabe does it all himself.
2. Adam Larsson, Defense
28 GP, 1 G, 7 A
The Rap: Here's another top pick who's had everything written about him. We've heard him compared to Victor Hedman, and it's been wondered aloud if he'll be at the level of Detroit Red Wings' Captain Nicklas Lidstrom when his career is over. Like Lidstrom, Larsson gets by on being smart and ingenuitive both in his own end and when attacking the opponent's end. He's won countless awards for his performances over in Sweden, and like the other player's in contention for the top spot in this year's draft, Larsson's future will be determined by need. Even the best of teams could use a heads-up blueliner like Larsson though, which makes him one of the more interesting players to watch.
3. Sean Couturier, Centre
Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
39 GP, 21 G, 44 A
The Rap: Couturier has it all if you're looking for a playmaking Centre: The vision, the hands, and the size. Seriously. Despite all of the talk about this potential number one, did you know that he's 6'4"? Despite lacking a bit of consistency in using his size, when Couturier gets it going there are few better in his draft class, as he can work his way in front and into the slot, while also being able to pull up, survey the situation, and decide from there. Much like Landeskog, Couturier has benefitted from a late birthday, as he's currently in his third season of junior. Like he needs it though, Couturier joined a select group of 17-year olds to lead the league in scoring when he did so with 96 points last year.
4. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
48 GP, 14 G, 50 A
The Rap: Many were shocked when the offensively gifted centre was left off of Team Canada's entrant at the World Junior Hockey Championship. In response, Nugent-Hopkins earned the most praise coming out of the CHL Top Prospects Game held in Toronto in mid-January. While All-Star-esque game doesn't make you a first overall pick, RNH displayed his ability to carry the puck and create as well. With a pure set of hands, Nugent-Hopkins leads the WHL with 50 assists and is one of just five CHL players to reach the half-century mark so far this season. He's ideal for a team with a sniper or two because he won't only find them with the puck, but he's dangerous enough to draw coverage and get them a little extra ice.
5. Jonathan Huberdeau
Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
47 GP, 29 G, 42 A
The Rap: Every year there's a player that rockets up the standings with a great season and either gets credit in the rankings, or on the draft board. This year, it's Jonathan Huberdeau who has the rest of the season, playoffs, and maybe a Memorial Cup run to catapult him from the cusp of Landeskog/Larsson/Couturier/RNH status, to making it a very interesting first five picks. While Huberdeau is no hulking pivot, he's a balanced scorer who is pacing the Sea Dogs in goals, assists, and (obviously) points. Saint John is the highest-scoring team in the CHL thanks to his contributions this season, and he's one heck of a consolation prize if a team wanting Couturier or Nugent-Hopkins misses out on the first two.
6. Tyler Biggs, Right Wing
13 GP, 5 G, 2 A
The Rap: People are at two extremes in terms of where Biggs will go, whether it's upper first round or early-to-mid second, but he has the size and talent to warrant a selection pretty much anywhere. He can show up in big moments both by scoring and by doing the little things to succeed, and he's also got a pretty good set of legs beneath him.
7. Brandon Saad, Left Wing
Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
43 GP, 23 G, 21 A
From Brian Huddle (HockeyBuzz.com):
At his best below the goal-line, Saad is a big-body presence that is dominating in all of the trouble areas in the offensive end in the OHL. But for those that expect him to be a one-way power forward, don't Saad knows how to use his size in both the offensive and defensive ends of the ice, and can get back to defend or jump into the rush thanks to a pretty good set of wheels for a big man. Along with that, he's got the hands to be a finisher or a passer.
From Greg Thomson (LeafsNation Online):
"Brandon is a good skater for his size and plays well in tight areas. Drives hard to the net and is capable of stepping right in to the NHL."
8. Dougie Hamilton, Defense
Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
47 GP, 9 G, 35 A
The Rap: Hamilton is a multi-purpose defenseman. He's got offensive flair, a shoulder that's solid as a rock, and the determination to keep any chances out of his end of the ice. Hamilton's development over his two-year OHL career has been quick, and mirrors the success of the IceDogs. He's learned on the fly at the highest level of Junior hockey and can not only fire the puck from the point, but move it swiftly on the outlet pass and jump into the rush as well. Hamilton may not be the flashiest of defensemen all the time, but he'll be what every team needs: A reliable defenseman in every facet of the game.
From Jeff Blay (Niagara Ice Dogs):
To label Dougie Hamilton simply as an offensive defenseman is an understatement. Although the offensive side of things is a major part of Hamilton’s game, if you ask him, defense is the area in which he takes pride. The 6.04’’, 200 pound blue-liner has the strength, size, and competitiveness to dig in to those high-risk areas, and play a solid shutdown game.
9. Ryan Murphy, Defense
Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
44 GP, 18 G, 40 A
The Rap: Murphy is probably the one defenseman in the draft that you don't want to see carrying the puck if you're up against him. If you're on his team though, his creativity will floor you and have you smirking on the bench, his speed will have your head spinning, and his shot can knock in the end boards. The Boy Wonder isn't all flash and dash though: Murphy's been working on his defensive game consistently to shed the "one-dimensional" tag so many players have his ilk have been labelled with, and has been playing top-four minutes with the Rangers since late last season. Think his 5'10 frame prevents him from being physical? Not likely. While it's not a huge part of his game, Murphy will lay the body in a big way from time-to-time and his quiet, love-the-game demeanour could have people loving him like his Kitchener contemporary Jeff Skinner.
From Mike Farwell (Kitchener Rangers Colour Commentator):
The best description I can use in relation to Murphy is "game changer." And that quality is especially rare in a defenceman, which is what makes Murphy so special. He can dictate the game from the blueline. His puckhandling ability is well above average and he's "slippery"...which means you'll rarely catch him square with a hit. He plays well positionally and he's developed a pretty effective hip check. He won't let you down too often and trust is a highly valued commodity in a defenceman.
10. Nathan Beaulieu, Dfense
Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
48 GP, 10 G, 24 A
The Rap: After Larsson, Beaulieu, Murphy and Hamilton make the question of "Which defenseman goes next?" one with an interchangable answer. A third-year QMJHL'er, Beaulieu's shot has led him to 22 goals over the past two seasons and he's thriving for the top-rated team in the 'Q'. He's developed his passing game as he's moved along in Junior, and he's beginning to get better at using the reach that comes with his 6'3" frame. While there are those that would like him to be more physical, Beaulieu plays a good game that relies on instinct and pacing.
11. Ty Rattie, Right Wing
Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
51 GP, 22 G, 43 A
The Rap: Rattie continues to lead the way for the dangerous Portland Winterhawks, and while he doesn't lead the 'Hawks in goals or assists, he's a balanced player that leads his team in points. He's already a 20-goal scorer (one of four on the team), and he's excelled alongside the plethora of offensive talent this season.
12. Duncan Siemens, Defense
Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
50 GP, 4 G, 24 A
The Rap: Well if you weren't happy with three potential top-end defenseman after Larsson, Siemens may yet see his name added to that earlier trifecta. He's big and physical, will drop the gloves, and has some offensive undertones to go along with that game. Probably the meanest defenseman available in the first round (maybe period), if you want to add some grit, Siemens is your man. He may have picked up a few tricks from perennial 100 penalty-minute teammate Teigan Zahn.
13. Sven Bartschi, Left Wing
Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
47 GP, 26 G, 33 A
The Rap: Third on the Winterhawks in scoring, Bartschi leads the team in goals and power play goals, and is top-ten in the WHL in game-winning goals (five). Bartschi is also the league's leading rookie scorer, and has found chemistry with fellow draftee Rattie. Word is that Bartschi's defensive game hasn't yet caught up to his offensive game, and despite being small, the feisty winger will give you plenty of presence in front of the net.
14. Ryan Strome, Centre
Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
48 GP, 25 G, 53 A
The Rap: Ryan Strome is another player that could shoot up the draft board because he does so much, so well. There's no question that he's got the offensive chops to play the game, but he understands the importance of a two-way game and also has a solid understanding of the game that he's constantly working to develop. The key piece in the Alex Pietrangelo trade from last season, Strome has led the resurgence in Niagara and leads his team in scoring by over 20 points.
From Ed Burkholder (Niagara IceDogs Colour Commentator) http://twitter.com/#!/EdBurkholder:
Ryan plays with grit and can be physical. Ryan is a dynamic player with the puck and equally impressive playing without the puck. The growth potential in Ryan is endless. His game is constantly getting better. I see him as a legitimate top five overall pick in this coming NHL Draft.
15. Boone Jenner, Centre
Oshawa Generals (OHL)
43 GP, 14 G, 29 A
The Rap: While Jenner hasn't improved as much as expected in the goal-scoring department this season, he's improved in his all-around game and has become a dynamic player at both ends of the ice for the Oshawa Generals. He has the offensive talent to shoulder the load of playing on the top line, and the know-how to clear out his own end and eliminate opposition scoring chances. While some things will come with age, Jenner already has a strong will to win that's driven him to lead his team in Junior hockey, and lead himself to a hat and jersey on draft day.
From Shawn Cayley (Metroland Media Group):
Jenner has obviously proven to be a capable setup man with 29 assists, one off the 30 he had as a rookie with the Generals and continues
to play a solid, responsible game in his own end. Ranked 18th by NHL Central Scouting, it's fair to say that if a few more goals go Jenner's
way down the stretch and into the playoffs, the 6-foot-2 pivot, who played in last month's CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Toronto, will in all
likelihood see his stock improve as the 2011 NHL Entry Draft nears.
16. Zack Phillips, Right Wing
Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
48 GP, 29 G, 40 A
The Rap: While teammate Jonathan Huberdeau has the advantage over Phillips in assists and points (they're tied in goals), Phillips is still having a season that's putting him on the draft map. While not the biggest prospect size-wise, Phillips brings a nice well-rounded approach to the game that will please plenty of teams. He also has a bit of versatility to him, as Phillips is able to slide back and forth from centre to wing.
17. Joel Armia, Right Wing
Assat Pori, SM Liga, Finland
38 GP, 16 G, 8 A
The Rap: Armia is a feisty winger who had a lot of buzz heading into the World Juniors. He's got graet size and a bit of an edge to him, which sounds a little like another Finnish winger, Tuomo Ruutu. He'll score more goals than he'll set up, but that's because he knows how to get to the scoring areas, and if there's someone in his way? Well, he can probably move them with that 6'3" frame, especially when he adds some muscle to that 187lbs.
18. Scott Mayfield, Defense
Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
28 GP, 2 G, 3 A
The Rap: Mayfield has been all over draft boards like a couple of his United States counterparts, but if a team takes him high, it's probably because they see a lot of potential in his size. At 6'4" but a slight 175lbs, there's plenty of room on Mayfield's frame for more muscle, but that hasn't stopped his ascention in the USHL. If you want more of an offensive defenseman, trade up in the draft to try and nab Murphy or Hamilton. But if you want a guy that should develop into a dependable shut-down guy, then Mayfield is your guy. There aren't many first round "steals" but Mayfield might become one if he gets lost in the shuffle a bit.
19. Vladislav Namestnikov, Centre
London Knights (OHL)
46 GP, 21 G, 25 A
The Rap: The expectations were big for Namestnikov when he came to London this year, and with a point-per-game average he's begun to meet those expectations in his first OHL season after a difficult start in London for everyone. Namestnikov is tied for the team lead in goals, second in points, and first in plus/minus. While he's not the highest-rated pick now, Namestnikov could be in line for a rise in the standings as London sold off a few assets at the deadline, making Namestnikov a go-to guy. If he thrives in that role, teams will take notice.
20. David Musil, Defense
Vancouver Giants (WHL)
41 GP, 4 G, 17 A
The Rap: Musil is a sturdy defenseman with a good frame, but some are disenchanted by the numbers he's put up to this point in the season. Musil's offensive numbers have slid a bit, but the Giants have slid a bit as well this season. Teams can always use size though, and if Musil can redisover his offensive improvements either later this season or next, he'll be a pretty nice pickup for some team partway down the draft board.
21. Mark McNeill, Centre
Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
50 GP, 20 G, 32 A
The Rap: McNeill's point-per-game average is certainly turning heads, but many will point to a minus-one rating as a detractor. But is it? McNeill's Raiders are eighth in the Eastern Conference and are one of just five teams who have allowed more than 200 goals in the WHL this season, as he's paced their offensive attack. He's a determined kid who will work hard and has the potential to thrive in any situation.
22. Matt Puempel, Left Wing
Peterborough Petes (OHL)
47 GP, 28 G, 31 A
The Rap: Sitting 20th in the OHL scoring race, Matt Puempel might be best known for his deadly snapshot, earning him the crown in the Top Prospects Super Skills Competition. Despite Peterborough selling off assets this year including top-line centre Ryan Spooner, Puempel has continued to roll and has recorded at least 10 points in every month so far this season except the first. Even then, with only three September games, Puempel had six points including a hat-trick to start the season off.
23. Nicklas Jensen, Right Wing
Oshawa Generals (OHL)
40 GP, 23 G, 20 A
The Rap: The tall, yet slender winger has plenty of offensive upside and is third on the team on points with 43—oddly enough the two other Oshawa draft eligibles (Jenner and Lucas Lessio) have have the same amount of points. Although he's lacked consistency at some points in his rookie OHL season, he'll score goals in bunches when he's hot , but he's also got the wherewithal to find his teammates. He's an all-around offensive threat that could make someone very happy.
From Shawn Cayley (Metroland Media Group):
Like teammate Boone Jenner, NHL Central Scouting has Jensen pegged for the later half of the first round, but the door is wide open
for the dynamic Dane to vault up the charts. It seems unlikely he will surpass ex-Kitchener Ranger Mikkel Boedker has the highest Dane
ever drafted—Boedker went eighth to Phoenix in 2009—but stranger things have happened.
24. Jonathan Miller, Centre
14 GP, 3 G, 10 A
The Rap: Well, you can probably tell from that stat line that Jonathan, or JT, Miller is a play-maker. Miller blends speed and power into a strong two-way game and has the talent to be very strong offensively. Not afraid of a little hard work, Miller will dig in the corner for as long as it takes to come out on the winning end. He's already surpassed his assist and point totals from last year, and he'd be great alongside a speedy finisher with a quick shot.
25. Tomas Jurco, Right Wing
Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
40 GP, 18 G, 17 A
The Rap: You may know Jurco from this video. Or maybe this shootout goal at the CHL Top Prospects Skills Competition. Either way, you can tell that he's got hands—an asset that will always make scouts and fans drool. Stats-wise he's going through a slow-down right now, but when he gets hot, he's hot: Jurco had 27 points in 26 games to start the season. With big-time ability and game-breaking skill Jurco will find a home and could be the next electrifying Slovakian in the NHL.
26. Jamieson Oleksiak, Defense
Northeastern University (H-East)
24 GP, 2 G, 6 A
The Rap: Oleksiak is a big defenseman and he knows how to use that size. He also knows how to move that size around the ice, making him dangerous in his own end and a threat in the offensive zone. He takes pride in his defensive responsibilities and is nasty in front of his own net, but is also committed to improving his own game, something a team drafting him would love to hear. He likes to pattern his game after Zdeno Chara and Chris Pronger, and if he's half as good as those big men, watch out.
27. Mark Scheifele, Centre
Barrie Colts (OHL)
48 GP, 11 G, 38 A
The Rap: The first-year centre for the Barrie Colts has put up great numbers in a season where the Colts are faced with plenty of growing pains after taking a veteran team to the OHL Championship in 2010. Scheifele is smart on the ice and often wins the race to the video room to study film of himself and his opponents, the kind of preparation that is sure to impress those with their eyes on him. He's now a fixture on the Colts top line, and while Scheifele isn't an overly physical player, he's begun to learn how to defend himself, which will come in handy in Junior and every level following it.
From Stephen Sweet:
"It's not easy to tell from a player in his first year of junior, but he's definitely got a chance to make it. He ought to go late in the first round or early in the second round at this year's NHL draft, and his future role should be as a set-up man who is responsible in his own end."
28. Seth Ambroz, Right Wing
Omaha Lancers (USHL)
30 GP, 15 G, 12 A
The Rap: Ambroz is a big, imposing force coming down the wing, and some had him pegged as a top pick in this year's draft. Unlike a lot of bigger draft picks, Ambroz has a great understanding of his size and the advantages it gives him at this level in his development. He has a goal-scorers mentality, but he's continued to round out his game since entering the USHL at a young age. Although he sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of the game, Ambroz has big-moment potential in his bones and has plenty of time to move up the draft board.
29. Rocco Grimaldi, Centre
16 GP, 9 G, 10 A
The Rap: With a name like Rocco, you imagine some big, burly farm-boy of a prospect. While Grimaldi comes in at 5'6" and just over 163lbs, he's not a player that should be easily dismissed. He has the skill and the smarts to play the game, and enough drive to compete with the bigger, stronger players. Grimaldi was invited to the United States' World Junior selection camp, but lost out to the more experienced players as the U.S. lacked any first-year draft eligibles on their roster. Next year, the Red, White and Blue could benefit from Grimaldi's strong skating, puck-handling, and creativeness.
30. Victor Rask, Centre
37 GP, 5 G, 6 A
The Rap: A Swedish Centre with good size, Rask might be a surprise for some people based on a lot of firepower coming from the North American prospects. He's probably one of the best in terms of taking and winning faceoffs in this draft, while he's got great vision and works hard to find holes in defenses. The biggest need for the Swede is footspeed, something he's committed himself to addressing.