Beyond Taylor-Tyler, here’s a look at some players to watch at the NHL draft

With so much focus on whether Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin will be selected first overall during the NHL’s entry draft Friday night, a number of other interesting prospects are flying below the radar. Here’s a look at a few players worth keeping an eye on (with position and team):

1. Kirill Kabanov, LW, Moncton (QMJHL): Arguably the biggest wild card in the draft. Many scouts view Kabanov as a top-10 talent, but feel he could fall into the second round because of the many question marks hovering over him. During the past year, he’s been sidelined with a wrist injury, walked away from the Wildcats during the playoffs, got sent home from Russia’s under-18 team and dropped by high-profile agent J.P Barry. So, who is willing to take the risk?

2. Erik Gudbranson, D, Kingston (OHL): The six-foot-four teenager enters as the highest-ranked defencemen in the draft, just ahead of Windsor’s Cam Fowler and Moncton’s Brandon Gormley. There is some thought Gudbranson might be the first name called at Staples Center after Hall and Seguin. In a draft class considered fairly deep on the blue-line, he might be the biggest catch.

3. Brett Connolly, RW, Prince George (WHL): The bad news? He played just 16 regular-season games for the Cougars this season because of a recurring hip injury. The good news? He scored 10 goals and had 19 points in those games, showing the kind of promise that had him pegged as a top prospect in the fall. It remains to be seen if NHL teams will be scared off by his injury-plagued campaign.

4. Mikael Granlund, C, HIFK (Finland): The top-ranked European skater by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau, Granlund spent the entire season in Finland’s top professional league. It will be interesting to see how high he goes, particularly because he’s considered relatively small at five foot 10. Granlund has performed well for the Finnish national junior team and will likely be the first player born outside of North America to be called to the draft stage.

5. Nino Niedereitter, RW, Portland (WHL): He’s got a good chance to replace Michel Riesen as the highest-drafted Swiss player ever (Edmonton took Riesen 14th overall in 1997). The 17-year-old Niedereitter had an impressive year, turning heads at the world junior championship before representing his country at the IIHF World Hockey Championship. He also scored 36 goals in his first season in the Western Hockey League.

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6. Jeff Skinner, C, Kitchener (OHL): A teammate of Seguin’s in minor hockey, Skinner had a monster performance in the post-season for the Rangers—scoring 20 goals and 33 points in just 20 games. That came after the NHL’s scouting bureau ranked him 34th among North American skaters. Don’t be surprised if he ends up getting drafted much higher than that.

7. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, Novosibirsk (KHL): The son of a former Russian national team player, Tarasenko has spent the past two seasons playing in his country’s domestic pro league. The 18-year-old is seen as a player with plenty of skill but NHL teams might be scared off by the lack of a transfer agreement with the Russian federation. For his part, Tarasenko has said he’s eager to come to North America.

8. Jack Campbell, G, U.S. National Development Team: Any team looking to add a goaltender in the early stages of the draft will almost certainly look to Campbell. His career has glittered like gold so far—Campbell was in net when the U.S. beat Canada in the final of this year’s world junior championship and has won a pair of world under-18 titles as well.

9. John McFarland, LW, Sudbury (OHL): His stock fell along with his production for the Wolves this season. Once viewed as a top NHL prospect, there’s some debate over whether he’ll even be a first-rounder when teams start picking on Friday night. McFarland has acknowledged that he needs to be more consistent and is promising to put a tough year behind him.

10. Good bloodlines. As always, there are plenty of prospects who already have strong connections to the NHL. A few to watch include winger Christian Thomas (father Steve Thomas), defenceman Brock Beukeboom (father Jeff Beukeboom), defenceman Jarred Tinordi (father Mark Tinordi), centre Tyler Pitlick (uncle Lance Pitlick) and winger Dalton Smith (father Derrick Smith, uncles Keith and Wayne Primeau).