I have released North American Central Scouting’s newest rankings of the top 50 prospects for the 2010 NHL draft in June. There will be interesting battles at the top this year, namely the one between two players from the same Ontario League team who are vying for the distinction of No. 1 overall. There’s a vast mix of nationalities and a great variance in the types of players available, so hang on tight and pay close attention because it’s as wide open a draft as we have seen in the past decade.
The following list is our initial top 10, but the season is a long one and names, orders and potential will all change by June; especially with this unique and competitive class.
No. 1 – Taylor Hall – 6-foot-1, 185 lbs – LW, Windsor Spitfires
Taylor Hall has been a phenomenal player for the Spitfires since he first arrived, but his coming-out party was last year’s Memorial Cup, where a national audience got a chance to see his deadly combination of speed, skill and passion. He starts the year as our No. 1 prospect, but still needs to get stronger, improve his defensive game and continue to develop as a leader. He’s a special player, so we are confident if he does fall during the season, it won’t be very far.
NHL Comparable: Pavel Bure
No. 2 – Cam Fowler – 6-foot-2, 190 lbs – D, Windsor Spitfires
Cam Fowler, who moved over from the U.S. national team development program, is now patrolling the blueline for the defending Memorial Cup champions. It’s going to be an intense battle between the two teammates, while they try to defend their title at the same time. The real winners are the Windsor fans, though, who get to watch these two studs the entire year.
NHL Comparable: Rob Blake
No. 3 – Erik Gudbranson – 6-foot-4, 199 lbs – D, Kingston Frontenacs
After much internal debate, we put the young Frontenacs stud defender in the No. 3 spot because of his unlimited upside and tremendous physical tools. Doug Gilmour, Tony Cimellaro and the rest of the Fronts coaching staff have an opportunity to mold this young superstar and if the team is as successful as we think they will be, Gudbranson will be playing and monitored deep into the playoffs.
NHL Comparable: Dan Boyle
No. 4 – Kirill Kabanov – 6-foot-3, 176 lbs – LW, Salavat Ufa
The most hyped young Russian superstar since Alex Ovechkin, Kirill Kabanov has had scouts drooling since his performance as an underager at the Under-17 Challenge in London, Ont. Along with an electric set of skills and a pro shot, this kid has a nasty edge that keeps his opponents honest and gets him some extra room on the ice. His playing future for this season is blurry because he was selected by the Moncton Wildcats in the Canadian League Import Draft, but his new Russian team, Salavat Ufa, has appealed to keep him in Russia. Rest assured, wherever he plays the scouts will follow and fans will flock.
NHL Comparable: Ilya Kovalchuk
No. 5 – John McFarland – 6-foot-1, 195 lbs – C, Sudbury Wolves
Another OHLer who is a sure-fire top 10 pick, McFarland was an offensive force at the recent Ivan Hlinka under-18s in the Czech Republic and captained the Canadian squad to the gold medal. It could be a long year up in the Nickel Capital, but at least those loyal fans will have an opportunity to watch a future NHL star for at least one more year.
NHL Comparable: Paul Kariya
No. 6 –Teemu Pulkkinen – 5-foot-10, 170 lbs – RW, Jokerit
Pulkkinen is one of the most highly touted offensive Finn’s since Olli Jokinen went third overall in the ’97 draft. Despite some issues with his skating ability, his true genius lies in his hockey sense and ability to finish. He has, at times, been dubbed the Finnish Sidney Crosby and although that is a bit of a reach, we love his competitiveness, skill set and overall game. We feel he may slide in the draft a bit, but as we start the season, we think he has a chance to become a future NHL all-star.
NHL Comparable: Corey Perry
No. 7 – Mikael Granlund – 5-foot-10, 172 lbs. – RW, HIFK Helsinki
The second of the ‘Finnish Duo,’ Granlund is a slight notch below Pulkkinen. Despite a smallish stature, Granlund is difficult to knock off the puck and will be a point producer wherever he plays. He has a nose for the puck and it will be interesting to watch him and Pulkkinen together at this year’s World Junior Championship in Saskatoon.
NHL Comparable: Daniel Briere
No. 8 – Brett Connolly – 6-foot-2, 181 lbs – LW, Prince George
Brett Connolly is a goal scoring phenom who took the Western League by storm last season. Connolly is heading into this campaign as potentially the best natural goal-scorer in the WHL and his draft class, so scouts are left to wonder what type of numbers he would put up if he played with some quality NHL prospects that Prince George severely lack.
NHL Comparable: Tomas Vanek
No. 9 – Stanislav Galiev – 6-foot-1, 177 lbs – RW/C – Saint John Sea Dogs
Stanislav Galiev threw the IIHF into a bind last year by jumping the pond to play with Indiana of the United States League, where he had a phenomenal year. He then went first overall in the CHL import draft to the Sea Dogs, but again upset the natural order of operations by deciding to stay in Indiana. After some intense negotiations, Galiev made the wise choice and will now head to the east coast and try to make an immediate impact in the Quebec League. If Galiev chose to compete in the USHL again, he would have dropped significantly in these rankings and in rankings across the NHL as the move would have been perceived as taking the easy way out.
NHL Comparable: Maxim Afinogenov
No. 10 – Tyler Seguin – 6-foot-1, 186 lbs – C, Plymouth Whalers
Tyler Seguin is a player I think should be higher, but I must respect our process as a staff. I truly feel this kid will move up a few spots in the rankings as the year progresses. The comparisons to Steve Yzerman are plentiful usually we would scoff at such ridiculous comparisons, but this kid has everything, including the “it” factor we can’t quite put our finger on. He played a key part on the OHL’s top line last year with Chris Terry and Matt Caria and if coach Mike Vellucci can succeed in finding some quality linemates for his stud, expect Seguin to be in the upper-half of the top 10 by the end of the season.
NHL Comparable: Zach Parise
Please look forward to my blogs on a more consistent basis this year and check out the rest of the NACS top 50 below for your perusal.
|11||Jon Merrill||6’3||205||D||U.S. Under-18||Feb-92||Ryan Suter|
|12||Tyler Toffoli||6’0||180||RW/C||Ottawa 67’s||Apr-92||Jonathan Cheechoo|
|13||Austin Watson||6’3||177||LW||Windsor Spitfires||Jan-92||Erik Cole|
|14||Joey Hishon||5’10||166||C||Owen Sound Attack||Oct-91||Mike Richards|
|15||Jack Campbell||6’1||171||G||U.S. Under-18||Jan-92||Rick DiPietro|
|16||Brandon Gormley||6’2||190||D||Moncton||Feb-92||Bryan McCabe|
|17||Vladimir Tarasenko||6’0||192||RW||Novosibirsk||Dec-91||Miroslav Satan|
|18||Stephen Johns||6’3||220||D||U.S. Under-18||Apr-92||Jay Bouwmeester|
|19||Evgeny Kuznetsov||5’11||170||C/W||Chelyabinsk||May-92||Alexander Semin|
|20||Mark Pysyk||6’1||175||D||Edmonton Oil Kings||Jan-92||Brooks Orpik|
|21||Quinton Howden||6’3||189||LW||Moose Jaw Warriors||Jan-92|
|22||Jacob Berglund||6’1||199||LW||Portland Winter Hawks||Nov-91|
|23||Luke Moffatt||6’0||190||RW||U.S. Under-18||Jun-92|
|25||Nick Mattson||6’0||188||D||U.S. Under-18||Oct-91|
|29||Brock Beukeboom||6’2||199||D||Sault Ste. Marie||Apr-92|
|35||Stephen Shipley||6’2||200||C||Owen Sound Attack||Apr-92|
|39||Kevin Lind||6’3||198||D||Chicago – USHL||Mar-92|
|43||Yasin Cisse||6’3||208||RW||Des Moines||Mar-92|
|45||Connor Redmond||6’1||172||LW||Red Deer||May-92|
Mark Seidel is the chief scout for North American Central Scouting and co-hosts the radio show “Breakout; The Hockey Show; NHL 2009” on the Prime Sports Network. He is also a regular contributor to Hockey Night in Canada on Sirius Radio as their draft and junior hockey insider. Read his other blog entries HERE.