The busy holiday season saw every highly regarded prospect play at some level. In some cases the rankings have changed as a result, while in others my opinion on them hardened.
Whether it was the World Junior Championship, the World Under-17, or holding down the fort on a depleted club team, the guys eligible for the 2008, 2009, or even 2010 drafts, helped build the book on when and where they should be drafted.
As such, here are my new rankings for the 2008 NHL entry draft in Ottawa.
1 – Steven Stamkos; C, Sarnia Sting
For the first four months of the season, I had Stamkos outside of the No. 1 position because I felt the gap between him and two franchise defensemen wasn’t great enough to warrant bypassing the opportunity to fill a need felt by most teams – defense.
Stamkos’ performance at the world juniors changed everything. He has in fact distanced himself so far from every other prospect that he is the clear No. 1 draft choice. He has all of the tools to become a superstar in the NHL as early as next year and proved it against the best 19-year-olds in the world.
His character, skills, maturity and vision are phenomenal and above all, he will become a marketing dream along the same lines as Sidney Crosby. Although it took me a while to put him in the top spot, I don’t foresee him dropping out of it any time soon.
2 – Alex Pietrangelo; RD, Niagara IceDogs
One of the biggest challenges in being a successful scout is being able to look past the player you see today and forecast how he’ll play when he is 23 years old.
Pietrangelo is a tremendous player today for the Niagara IceDogs, but he isn’t as good as Drew Doughty and that was obvious by his omission from the Canadian world junior team.
The fact is he needs to significantly improve his defensive zone play and become committed to that end of the ice. He also has to get much stronger. However, when it’s all said and done, he will become a franchise defenseman for whichever NHL team selects him in June.
He will play in the NHL at 220 pounds, while quarterbacking the power play and playing 25 minutes a night, but all of that will take a while and the team that understands patience is a virtue and brings him along slowly will have made an epic decision.
3 – Drew Doughty; LD, Guelph Storm
Any evaluator worth his weight can clearly see that Doughty is miles ahead of Pietrangelo at this stage in their careers.
In the short term, Doughty will be the better player in the OHL, but I truly believe that when are in the NHL, there will be a significant gap between them.
Doughty had a tough start to the WJC and had occasional brain cramps, such as during the Swedish last-minute goal in the round robin, but overall, his play has continued to impress. His offensive instincts are exceptional and the ability to quarterback the power play is so good he could step into the NHL next year and run a PP unit.
Despite my leanings toward Pietrangelo, I think Doughty will become a very good NHL defenseman for the next decade. Furthermore, with the new trend of keeping 19-year-olds because of the rookie salary cap and the overall positive cap effect, there is a distinct possibility he could be in the NHL as early as next year.
4 – Zach Bogosian; RD, Peterborough Petes
My last set of rankings had Bogosian at No. 4 and that hasn’t changed. However, he is closing the gap between himself and the two defensemen ahead of him.
He is getting bigger and stronger and his overall game continues to impress. The one aspect Bogosian has that the other two don’t is his big-time physical play. His timing on big hits is improving and he has been running around less to punish the opponents with thundering body checks.
That physical aspect, along with all of the necessary skills, help keep him ahead of the defensemen just behind him.
5 – Kyle Beach; LW, Everett Silvertips
The problem child of this year’s draft has continued to impress and as a result, he cracks the top five in this set of rankings. His play, always perilously close to the edge, has everyone on guard throughout most games, which gives him some extra room and he has the tools to make the most of it.
He’s an intriguing package most teams covet – a power forward over 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds – who uses his size to secure a spot in the top 15 in goals and in the top 10 in penalty minutes in the rough-and-tumble Western League.
His antics remind me of Steve Downie, but his size and ability to finish are much better. Despite the public protestations of Downie’s actions, most GMs in the NHL secretly love his aggressiveness, so the opportunity to get a more skillful version of Downie in this year’s draft will see a few teams trying to trade up to take Beach.
On Thursday, Jan. 7, I’ll look at positions six through 10.
The US National Development Program for Under 17s and 18s is under significant fire because they aren’t developing players or winning tournaments despite the millions that are spent…
Furthermore, the trend of U.S.-born players leaving the NDTP or NCAA institutions will continue because agents don’t want to wait five years to get a contract signed and players don’t like the lack of exposure…
The recent World Under-17 proved just how dominant Canada is. The country was split into five teams, yet three of the four semi-finalists still came from the Great White North.
‘Till next time, thanks for reading.
Mark Seidel is the chief scout for North American Central Scouting, the commissioner of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, and appears as a host on Leafs Lunch on AM 640 radio in Toronto.