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Prospect Insider Shane Malloy's NHL Mock Draft

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Shane Malloy, Prospect Insider
6/15/2009 1:54:38 AM
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With the NHL Entry Draft straight ahead, TSN.ca kicks off a full two weeks of coverage going into the big night (Friday, June 26 at 7pm et/4pm pt on TSN and TSN HD). It begins here with Prospect Insider Shane Malloy's online Mock Draft, followed by conference previews, Bob McKenzie's annual prospect rankings on Monday, June 22 and Pierre McGuire's TSN Mock Draft on Tuesday, June 23.

The fun thing about a mock draft is trying to balance the best player available against an organization's draft tendencies and needs - regardless of your personal thoughts. The other aspect is that you can construct different scenarios in terms of potential trades.

This year's crop is stronger than in the past, as there is a group of potential elite prospects in the Top 15. The remaining 15 draft picks in the first round have array of good skills and teams may find first round-worthy talent in the early second round. Almost every year we hear the cries of a weak draft or a crapshoot - a misnomer since certain organizations simply do their homework. Now it may be asking a lot for this year's draft to mirror the 2003 NHL Draft (where 90 percent  of players chosen in Round 1 have played at 100 games or more). But in the end, they may be a little closer to the 2002 crop and get 80 percent of the players to be full-timers.

This draft could also see some significant movement, even though the New York Islanders are the only team with two picks in the first round. As with most NHL drafts, trade speculation runs rampant and Tampa Bay, Los Angeles and Toronto seem to be garnering the majority of the press so far.

This is what makes the NHL draft so intriguing - as anything can happen and the potential fortunes of an organization can change in an instant. Unfortunately, all these potential trades can also wreak havoc on your mock draft and make it a moot point, but the excitement makes it all worth while - so buckle up!

1. New York Islanders - John Tavares - 6-0/198 - Centre - (London/OHL)

Over the past four years no player has been under such scrutiny as John Tavares, and for the most part unfairly. He has been nitpicked by scouts and pundits to the point of silliness, but unfortunately that is the nature of the business. Sometimes people forget this is the kid that broke Wayne Gretzky's scoring record with 72 goals as a 16-year old back in 2006-2007. Over his time in the OHL, he has posted 215 goals and 218 assists in 247 games in the regular season. His postseason numbers are just as impressive with 56 points in 38 games facing the top defensive pairing and match-ups every time he touches the ice.

His hockey sense is at the NHL elite level and Tavares processes information two or three steps ahead of most of his peer group. You will be hard-pressed to find another forward more dangerous inside the offensive zone and he can score goals almost at will. His skill to thread the needle even through traffic is uncanny. He can dictate the tempo of the play because of his puck poise and capacity to make the right decision in a microsecond. Regardless of which shot he chooses, Tavares releases the puck instantly and has pinpoint accuracy. The one main concern about his game was his skating, which has improved due to effort in the offseason. Now he will never be known for his speed, but Tavares now has better two-step quickness to create some separation that he will need at the NHL level. He is strong on the puck and does not lose too many puck battles, but since he excels around the net he must continue to get stronger. To his credit, Tavares will take punishment to make play and shows enough moxie. Away from the puck he is improving in most aspects but it is an area Tavares will have concentrate on seriously to handle the next step. His ability to take the game into his own hands and raise his game in the clutch is a rare commodity. He has the offensive skill to play in the NHL, but how quickly he adjusts to the physical demands and defensive responsibilities that will determine his early success.   

2. Tampa Bay Lightning - Victor Hedman - 6-6/212 - Defence - (Modo/SWE)

The towering defenceman has the hockey sense and skating ability to dominate every time he steps on the ice. If you can ignore the obvious when it comes to his size and skating, you'll appreciate how quickly he deciphers the developing play and makes smart decisions. It is the fact he can look up ice and either makes a pinpoint laser outlet pass or lead the rush like a forward that truly sets him apart. He is a good overall skater and will only get better once he adds some extra power to his core and lower body. His puck skills are top-notch and he creates time and space with his stickhandling ability before making a quick pass or unleashing a heavy shot. He will contribute immediately on offence, especially on the power play where Hedman is at his most dangerous. Away from the puck, Hedman is good at controlling the gaps and taking away time with the angles he takes. His wingspan is a tremendous asset and he uses his stick well to sweep pucks out of the passing lanes. Hedman is not afraid to block shots or mix it up physically, shown by his performance in the WJC gold medal game. His preference is to play a smart, intelligent game, but if you get him relied up he will smash you in the mouth. Now he may not be as skilled as Nick Lidstrom or as nasty as Chris Pronger, but in the end he might be somewhere in between.        

3. Colorado Avalanche - Matt Duchene - 5-11/200 - Centre - (Brampton/OHL)

If you have a need for speed, then look no further because Matt Duchene is your guy - he can make quick players look slow. Now he is not all about turning on the afterburners, as Duchene owns an elite level of hockey sense and the puck skills to finish what his speed starts. His knack for scoring clutch goals has not gone unnoticed, as Duchene had four shorthanded markers, two game winners, five first goals and seven insurance goals in junior. It his ability to get his team rolling with a first goal and stomp on the neck of opponents with an insurance goal that is intriguing to NHL teams. He is not the tallest kid, but he is stocky and does not get knocked around easily. His puck skills are impressive and he can make plays at high speed even under heavy duress. He can make some nice tape to tape passes through and around legs and sticks and is comfortable playing in traffic. When Duchene shoots the puck it can surprise goalies, as he has no hesitation and it is accurate even in tight quarters. In the physical department he is competitive player, but not overtly aggressive in nature. He will battle for loose pucks, take a hit if needed and obviously is not bothered by in your face players. Away from the puck he shows a dogged determination to retrieve the puck and uses his speed well to cut off angles and passing lanes. He uses his anticipation and an active to stick to disrupt opportunities. Overall, he could develop into highly skilled first line centre that can play in all situations.       

4. Atlanta Thrashers - Evander Kane - 6-0/185 - Left Wing - (Vancouver/WHL)

Do not let the outside package or his statistics fool you, as Kane is just as competitive and nasty as he is talented. Once on the ice, Kane wants the puck in all situations and is capable of breaking open a game with his ability to score goals and create offence.  The feisty winger plays a fearless game and drives to the net with a reckless abandon. He loves the challenge of facing the top defensive pair every night forces them to be at their best.  He owns all world puck skills when it comes to stickhandling and is perhaps the most dangerous sniper coming off the wing. Although he can make some pretty passes, he has a tendency to hold and shoot the puck and could use his linemates a little more. It is hard to knock him since he pays the price to score and is not afraid to take a high level of punishment. His overall skating is excellent, as he shows the two-step quickness to create separation and the high-end gear to break away. What gives him an edge is that his crossovers are flawless and he can produce a tremendous amount of speed in turns. His physical edge is a bonus, considering he is only 6 foot 0 and 185 pounds, so once he matures and gets stronger he will be a handful. He will hit you with everything he has and will stick on you if you try to take any liberties with him. From a defensive standpoint, Kane has been well coached in the value of being responsible in all three zones without the puck. He supports his teammates well and hustles to break up passing lanes and opportunities while keeping good body position. His addition to the U20 WJC team at the age of 17 says something about his accountability. Overall, he is the arguably the best clutch goal scorer in this year's draft.

5. Los Angeles Kings - Brayden Schenn - 6-0/195 - Centre - (Brandon/WHL)

It is hard not to like the way Schenn approaches the game, with a combination of feistiness and willingness to stick his nose in where it does not belong. One would guess having to battle his older brother Luke in the backyard rink gave him a hard lesson in what it takes to win every night. His capacity to process information under duress is at an elite level and he thrives playing in traffic around the crease. He has the puck skills you want in a top end centre, as Schenn has shown his dedication to improve. Schenn can thread the needle in tight spaces and create time and space when he stickhandles into the offensive zone. Although he has not scored as many goals as some of his peers, Schenn is a sneaky scorer with good accuracy. Now his skating is considered average, but it will improve and he always hustles and gets to the right spot on the ice. His physical tenacity and ability to compete makes him tough to play against. He is solid on faceoffs and does a good job tying up his man in the defensive zone if he happens to lose. On the defensive side, Schenn is about a complete player as you find in this draft and his dedication to learning the nuances is impressive. He is very consistent when it comes to keeping his feet moving and having an active stick to disrupt passing lanes. You like the smart angles he takes on the back check and how he maintains good body position. He is a clutch performer that is the kind of character player you want in all situations - especially in the playoffs when it matters most. 

6. Phoenix Coyotes - Oliver Ekman-Larsson - 6-3/180 - Defence - (Leksand/SWE)

This Swede has shot up the ranks faster in the last year than anyone in his peer group and it was based on his performance and skill set. For a blueliner, he sees the ice so well and can dissect the developing play in front of him almost instantaneously. He has the puck skills to match and can fire a long tape to tape pass from almost anywhere accurately. His poise with the puck is excellent for his age and his does not seem to get rattled under a heavy forecheck or when things go badly. At 6 foot 3 and a lanky 180 pounds, he will need to grow into his frame - he will able to ward of forwards so much easier. He's a fluid, smooth skater that has impressive two-step quickness and lateral agility to keep ahead of the opposition. Once in the offensive zone, he controls the blueline, distributes the puck and can orchestrate the play. His shot has some zip and accuracy and he shows the skill to walk the line and find seams in the defence. He could use some fine-tuning when it comes to his defensive game and that is not to say he is not decent - but it is a hard position to perfect. Since he will be expected to play in all situations, Ekman-Larsson must continue to improve his body positioning and making sure he wins all the one-on-one battles down low. He competes hard and is intelligent, so there is no reason to believe he won't develop into a well-rounded puck possession defenceman with offensive upside.
 
7. Toronto Maple Leafs - Jared Cowen - 6-5/220 - Defence - (Spokane/WHL)

An unfortunate knee injury cut short a promising season, but that should not take away from his potential upside. The 6 foot 5 blueliner looks to have all the tools to be a dominant defensive defenceman one day in the NHL. Now he does not have the offensive instincts to produce offence at the pro level, but he does have the hockey sense to play at a high tempo game. He has enough puck skills to make short safe passes and the poise not to give away the puck under heavy duress.  His skating ability is pretty good for a kid his size and the knee injury should have no long term affect to his mobility. Like all defencemen, having good lateral movement and two-step quickness is important and that is something Cowen will continue to improve upon. What makes him appealing to NHL teams is his ability to envelop skilled forwards and take them out of the game. He uses his size and wingspan to take away time and space for forwards and if you happen to linger close to him he can knock you out with a hit. He is physically imposing and can seriously hurt the opposition along the wall or in open ice. The fact he has not racked up a lot penalty minutes despite his physical presence shows his discipline. His experience at the Memorial Cup and during last year's playoff run showed he can log big minutes and remain consistent against the CHL's most skilled forwards. He is the type of defenceman that can be paired with a top offensive defenceman and be a goaltender's best friend.    

8. Dallas Stars - Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson - 6-1/201 - (Left Wing) - (Timra/SWE)

A natural athlete that has an impressive power to speed to ratio that makes people stand up and take notice. When Paajarvi-Svensson is coming down the wing with the puck at full speed he will cause Defenceman absolute fits trying to contain him. What you like about him more than his obvious skills set is his fearlessness and determination when driving to the net. It is that competitive drive and desire to score goals while paying price that make him successful. He has the high-end hockey sense to find the open space and go where the puck will be that makes him a dangerous goal scorer. He stickhandles very well and uses his body to protect the puck offensive zone like it is the most important thing on earth. His soft hands accuracy allow him to fit the puck into the smallest of places. When he shoots it is lightning quick off his and with a tremendous amount of power.

To make things harder on defenders, he skates exceptionally well and can pull away from you if you do not take the right angle. It would not hurt for him to mix it up physically and be a  little more assertive, but it is not like he shy's away from the rough stuff. To his credit, he works hard without the puck and you can see him hustle hard on the back check and battle for loose pucks. He will have to make some adjustments to the smaller ice surface defensively, but he seems to have the smarts and work ethic to make that happen. It is hard to find faults in his game     

9. Ottawa Senators - Nazem Kadri - 6-0/180 - Centre - (London/OHL)

If the highly skilled speedster was a bigger, he would be considered a top six pick. But that said, Kadri has enough intangibles to make up for it. Kadri's best offensive assets are his vision and hockey sense - which make him dangerous if given time and space. However, his calling card is his speed as he can create mismatches and opportunities. When he gets a step on defencemen or a checking forward, say good-bye and hope the goalie can stop him. The scary thing is he could have a more powerful stride once he gains extra strength. Although he has very good passing skills, he does not distribute the puck to his options as well as he could and might be better on the wing. Now he needs to add some power to his core and upper body if he is going to continue to play hard and competitive. At the junior level, Kadri can get away with being smaller but he will lose too many one-on-one puck battles when he moves to the pro ranks. Away from the puck he is more dangerous on the penalty kill when he can focus on a certain assignment. He has a knack for scoring shorthanded goals as can anticipate the play and pick off passes. He has the intelligence and hustle to be a solid defensive player he just needs to work on being consistent. Overall, Kadri has the potential to be a good offensive talent in the NHL with the ability to play on a top line.     

10. Edmonton Oilers - Ryan Ellis - 5-10/180 - Defence - (Windsor/OHL)

He's arguably the most talented offensive player in the entire draft and if he was 6 foot 1, Ellis could have been the first overall pick. His hockey sense is elite by NHL standards and he processes information like a chess player - thinking three moves ahead. When it comes to having poise with the puck, very few - if any - are Ellis' equal. His puck skills rival any forward on this list and he can make pinpoint passes. Ellis makes smart, quick decisions with the puck and uses all his choices. His stickhandling skills can create time and space for himself and his teammates. He shoots the puck very well and has a talent and timing for getting the puck on net by finding seams in the defence. The kid has the two-step quickness and agility needed to keep larger opponents at bay and the footspeed to lead the rush. Unfortunately, Ellis is only around 5 foot 10 and 180 pounds so he will be susceptible to being overpowered and forced out of the play physically. To his credit, he is not afraid of rough play and takes his lumps, but Ellis will need to add some strength and weight before he turns pro. His experience winning the WJC U18s, WJC U20s and Memorial Cup will allow him make the jump to the NHL quicker. Ellis has the potential to be a number one defenceman in the NHL in his prime. 

11. Nashville Predators - Scott Glennie - 6-1/185 - Right Wing - (Brandon/WHL)

It's quite possible that playing with Brayden Schenn - coupled with missing games with an elbow injury - made pundits dismiss his talent. If Glennie had played all 72 games in the WHL he would have been on pace to produce 91 points - which is very impressive in a tough league. Although he only posted 28 goals this year, Glennie was a clutch goal scorer with nine game winning goals. When the game is on the line and you need a goal, Glennie is the type of player that always comes through for you. His hockey sense and skill to play with elite forwards is at a high level and he should have no trouble adapting to the NHL. He has the ability to be a solid top line forward and a consistent two-way player in the postseason. 

12. Minnesota Wild - Jordan Schroeder - 5-9/180 - Right Wing - (Minnesota/NCAA)

Do not let his size fool you, as this kid can be a dangerous force offensively and has the skills to make even the most astute defenceman look silly. It is obvious the first time you see him play that Schroeder can process the information around him and make the right decision without hesitation. He has the puck skills to match as Schroeder has exceptional stickhandling and creates offensive chances with the time he creates. His patience and poise with the puck under pressure shows he will be able to handle the speed and tempo on the NHL game. His playmaking and passing skills are top notch and Schroeder can feather passes whether at a stand still or at full speed. Although Schroeder only scored 12 goals as a freshman at Minnesota, he has the quick release and accuracy to double or triple that number. What makes him such a problem to cover for forwards and defencemen is his excellent two-step quickness and agility to make defenders miss and lose their check. The frightening thing for the opposition is he can get faster once he gets a stronger core. Because of his lack of size and strength, Schroeder is less effective when the game slows down and becomes nasty. This is an area he must improve upon and show he is willing to pay the price on a consistent basis against the top defensive pairings. He could develop into a solid defensive forward due to his intelligence and quickness - especially on the penalty kill. He's a potential offensive dynamo that just needs some time get better defensively and stronger physically so he can play with an edge to his game.    

13. Buffalo Sabres - Zack Kassian - 6-3/211 - Right Wing - (Peterborough/OHL)

Kassian is one of the only true power forwards on this list that can intimidate opponents and produce offence with equal efficiency. When he steps on the ice, he is always looking to make a check when the opportunity provides itself - and he hits to hurt. Do not let the rambunctious play distract you, since Kassian has some fine offensive skills at his disposal. His hockey sense and puck skills are good but not great which is fine since he bring other strong elements to the table. To his credit, Kassian does make good decisions with the puck and can surprise you at times and shows the passing skills to play with highly skilled players. He has a heavy shot and displays pretty soft hands in close around the net and could become a valuable crease presence. The kid is tough as nails and will hammer you with hits along the boards or in open ice and has no problem dropping the gloves and solving your problem. Kassian should develop into a reliable defensive player as he progresses. At times he can be a little inconsistent, but that is nothing new with prospects and as long as his work ethic is strong.
    
14. Florida Panthers - John Moore - 6-3/190 - (Defence) - (Chicago/USHL)

The skilled blueliner is expected to be the first player drafted out of the United States Hockey League, and for good reason. At 6 foot 3 and 190 pounds he already has the size needed to compete in the NHL - he just needs to add some extra strength. He's a defenceman with a high skill set that shows the hockey sense to play a high tempo, quick thinking game. He makes smart, ast plays with the puck and has the vision to make a long outlet pass if needed. What really intrigues everyone is his excellent skating ability which could be one of the best in the draft. The fact that he can lead the rush and bypass forwards makes him a dangerous choice for any organization. He can shoot a ton, likes to fire shots from the point and could be a nice addition to a power play unit. He can battle hard for loose pucks but could be more physical when the time is needed and tries to remain disciplined. He shows promise as a defensive stalwart but needs to tweak some of his habits when it come to keeping body position and taking better angles to the puck carrier. His intangibles as a leader and intelligence off the ice make him an intriguing prospect with the potential to be a top two defenceman. 

15. Anaheim Ducks - Dmitry Kulikov - 6-0/195 - Defence - (Drummondville/QMJHL)

The best Russian in this year's draft has all-world skill and when all that talent together is honed he could be a top NHL defenceman. He makes plays look easy, as Kulikov's puck skills and poise are excellent. His ability to read and anticipate the developing play allows him to jump into the rush or make the correct decision. Kulikov skates really well and shows the agility and quickness to avoid forechecking forwards. His shot from the point is a weapon since he gets it away quickly with power and accuracy. What makes it truly effective is Kulikov keeps it low to be tipped and finds a way to get it to the net. He could be more physical and tends to get far more punishment when he dishes out. To his credit, he is tough and he keeps coming back not matter how much the opposition throws at him. He shows character and a willingness to adapt to North America and gives effort every shift. He plays a puck possession defence and prefers to move the puck then bang and crash. It would be in his best interest to play a little more assertive and physically, but it is hard to complain about his moxie. He will make an NHL team happy they drafted him and should develop into a fine defenceman.   

16. Columbus Blue Jackets - David Rundblad - 6-3/190 - Defence - (Skelleftea/SWE)

Do not let his statistics in the Swedish Elite League fool you - Rundblad has the talent to produce offense off the rush or on the power play. The lanky defenceman displays the hockey sense to read, anticipate and react to all situations on the ice. He has a tendency to take risks with the puck that can cause turnovers, but he will learn to pick his spots better. His passing ability has a quick crisp release and he can hit forwards with speed coming out of defensive zone. His skating is pretty good overall, but it would not hurt if Rundblad had an extra pop in his quickness and more power in his stride. He does not play with much physicality and tends to use puck movement, body position and an active stick to defend. When he comes over to North America, he will have to be more assertive and engage on the smaller ice surface. Overall, he has the skill set to play and excel in the NHL, but he will need to tighten his decision making and defensive game. He will need time to get stronger and mature, but Rundblad should develop into a good top three offensive defenceman.  

17.  St. Louis Blues - Jacob Josefson - 6-0/190 - (Centre) - (Djurgardens/SWE)

One could wonder why this Swedish forward is taken so high in the draft, since Josefson does not have the elite puck skills of his peers. The main reason is that the kid is smart and has the hockey sense to project into a solid and versatile two-way forward. His hustle, leadership and willingness to play through injuries and illness went a long way with his teammates, as Josefson earned their respect. Now his puck skills are good, but not great. However, he always seems to be in the right place with or without the puck and supports his teammates. He does a lot of the little things coaches appreciate - like good puck support, chipping pucks out safely, winning one-one puck battles and taking hits to make plays. His skating is good overall and he has the two-step quickness and agility to be effective in a fast tempo game. He is the kind of player teams look for to compliment pure offensive players and might be an underappreciated player in the NHL.

18. Montreal Canadiens - Louis Leblanc - 6-1/180 - (Right Wing) - (Omaha/USHL)

If Leblanc had faced tougher competition over the past couple of seasons, he might have ranked higher. That is not to say the USHL is not a good league, but he played midget prior to this season when he could have played junior. However, it is hard to fault a kid with the opportunity to attend Harvard on a scholarship and play for a good coach in Ted Donato. His hockey sense is good and Leblanc has little difficulty playing with other elite players. Leblanc makes smart quick passes and uses his linemates exceptionally well off the rush or on the power play. Although his quickness and agility are pretty good, his skating will improve even more once he gains strength. His shot is fast off his stick and has the accuracy to fool goalies one-one-one. Although Leblanc has not filled out his frame yetm he does play with a competitive edge and will throw checks to make plays. You have to appreciate his work ethic and hustle in the defensive zone - although he could make some better reads at times. Although there are concerns when a player drafted high goes to the ECAC, but he should be in good hands. He has the intangibles and intelligence you like in a player and should develop into a good pro.
 
19. New York Rangers - Drew Shore - 6-3/195 - (Centre/Right Wing) - (US NTDP)

He seems to have everything you want in a forward with size, speed and scoring touch around the net. There is no question Shore has enough hockey sense and puck skills to advance to the NHL someday and be a quality player. He plays with some passion and likes to get involved around the net and the dirty areas. His skating is not great, but once he gets moving he can keep pace with his faster linemates. He makes an honest effort in all three zones and tries to make sure his defensive responsibilities are covered. Shore will need some work on his skating and defensive play over the next couple seasons, but it is nothing glaring. At times, he can be inconsistent from shift to shift and sometimes does not get up for lesser competition. He's a solid overall pick for team that is willing to be patient and it is clear he loves playing for his country. He will be attending the University of Denver next season and should make a good case for the US U20 team in December. 

20. Calgary Flames - Tim Erixon - 6-3/190 - Defence - (Skelleftea/SWE)

Despite all his talents, Erixon may have been labeled with unfair expectations. But he is a smart player who seems to be well schooled in the fundamentals of playing defence. His hockey sense, puck skills and poise are all good, which allows Erixon to make consistent, safe plays in all areas of the ice. He skates well and displays the two-step quickness and ability to handle forwards coming on the rush. In the future his skating will allow him to maintain solid gap control and to angle defenders away from the slot. At this time, Erixon needs to fill out his frame, but once he matures it will allow him to handle the physical game effectively. He is not considered a physical player by any means, but Erixon will battle for loose pucks. This Swede blueliner may not have high-end offensive skills, or the wow factor with an exciting play, but Erixon can develop into a solid top four defenceman.

21. Philadelphia Flyers - Dylan Olsen - 6-2.5/207 - (Defence) - (Camrose/AJHL)

He's a solid, physical defenceman with untapped potential to be more than he currently showcases - he just needs time to mature and develop. At the U-18 WJC playing for Team Canada, Olsen proved he has enough hockey sense to handle a high tempo game against his peers. Now he does not have the elite puck skills or ability to process information like other defencemen on this list, but he is well rounded. He can make a safe first pass and uses his options and the boards well. The physical aspect of his game sets him apart, as Olsen can be an intimidating presence. He works hard, battles for loose pucks and makes life unpleasant for forwards that linger around the net. Like most young defencemen, he is has inconsistencies defensively and must learn to maintain good habits. He has committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth next season, which exposes him to a higher talent level and allows him to develop slowly. With time, Olsen could be a reliable, top four defenceman able to play in all situations.

22. Vancouver Canucks - Stefan Elliott - 6-1/185 - (Defence) - (Saskatoon/WHL)

The best word to describe Elliott is smart - and that can go a long way to being a consistent professional. He has good puck skills when it comes to making a first pass out of the zone to his forwards and has poise when being pressured. He handles the puck well and can create time and can corral bad passes thrown his way. Elliott's excellent skating helps him jump into a rush or retreat quickly to get back into position. His agility and lateral movement is very good and Elliott does not get beat because of his skating. He can shoot the puck with authority and is improving on finding seams to make sure the puck gets on net. He's not the most physical defenceman when it comes to laying out hits, but he tries hard to tie up his man and move the puck out of harms way. His defensive skills are sometimes inconsistent, as he is asked to be more of an offensive presence on his WHL club. He certainly has the ability to learn the tricks of the trade and become more effective in his own zone. Like most young defenceman, he needs work in certain areas but you cannot deny his keen hockey sense and ability to jump start an offence. If given three to four years to learn his craft, Elliott could turn into a valued top four defenceman.     

23. New Jersey Devils - Chris Kreider - 6-2/200 - Left Wing/Centre - (Andover - HS-MA)

There are aspects of Kreider's game you cannot challenge, but since he plays in high school and not in the USHL/CHL his true potential has to be questioned. His size skating are already big points in his favour. Where the concern lies is processing information fast enough to remain productive offensively. Will he be willing to take the physical punishment to score goals amid the pressure of more competitive defencemen? Now he displays good puck skills when it comes to passing and shooting, but once again that was against players that are not as skilled and consistent defensively. He shows all the potential to be a worthy first round pick and a team will have to be confident that all his skills will transfer over to a higher league. A team will have to be patient with him for the next three seasons, as he will have to adjust to a different environment and digest a lot of new information. It will be interesting to see where Kreider plays next season. Any NHL organization will want him to move on to a more competitive league to accelerate his development.   

24. Washington Capitals - Jeremy Morin - 6-1/193 - (Right Wing) - (US NDTP)

There are a few skills that really stand out when you watch Morin play - which makes one think he could be a valuable NHL player. The kid can score goals from anywhere and show he can get the puck to the net without hesitation. When Morin sets up in the offensive zone, especially on the power play, he can be a menace with his hard, accurate right handed shot. Most importantly, he has the hockey sense to play when quick decisions must be made at every moment. His puck skills are very good and he can surprise you at times at how nifty he can move the puck. One of the factors that make him an attractive package to NHL teams is his effectiveness and willingness to play in traffic. Some of the things he must work on is his skating, as he does not get off the mark as fast as you would like. He also does not have that extra gear in his foot speed, which will be needed at the next level. Although Morin is talented, he was sometimes inconsistent on defence and in his work ethic - which can be changed as he matures. The challenge may happen next year, as he will play for Kitchener in the OHL and be subjected to a tougher schedule and competition. He has the talent to play and as long as a team is patient his intangibles should begin to flourish.  

25. Boston Bruins - Calvin de Haan - 6-0/170 - (Defence) - (Oshawa/OHL)

A potential power play quarterback that might be able to make a difference once he matures, de Haan has a high level of hockey sense and shows the vision to make fast accurate decisions with the puck even with forwards bearing down on him. His passing skills are excellent and he has no trouble making long tape to tape outlet passes. He is a very good skater that can get to full speed quickly and lead the rush. Once he gains some more power to his frame, he should become a little faster and more stable on his blades. Now de Haan is not the sturdiest of defenceman, so it will be important for him to get stronger to play down low more effectively and win one-on-one puck battles. He has a fine shot from the point that seems to has eyes since it net the often and is easy for forwards to tip. He's a worthwhile pick in the late first round if a team is willing to be patient as he improves defensively and matures physically. 

26. New York Islanders (from Ott/SJ) - Landon Ferraro - 5-11/175 - Centre - (Red Deer/WHL)

When you look at Ferraro, you see a kid that competes on every shift and is accountable with poise in all areas of the ice. For a skilled player that does not possess the biggest frame, he is fearless when going into the dirty areas and knows that what you have to do to win. His hockey sense is keen and Ferraro finds the open areas to be effective when his teammates have the puck. For a centre, he has a goal scorer's mentality and will take advantage of a situation and put the puck on net. He has a knack for scoring clutch goals, which is impressive considering the lack of offence on his team. The one thing that stands out is Ferraro works really hard in all areas, even when he is not successful in an aspect of his game, he keeps coming back. His skating is good overall and he can dodge and weave through traffic well. Once he gains some added strength to his frame, he will get even faster - which will elevate his entire game. He is the kind of player you know will make a good pro and will give you everything he has - including the knack to raise his game when it matters.  

27. Carolina Hurricanes - Carter Ashton -6-4/212 - (Right Wing) - (Lethbridge/WHL)

A big bodied Ashton barreling down the wing towards the net can be a dangerous offensive player. He certainly has enough hockey sense and puck skills to be a top two-line winger in the NHL one day. His ability to play with other skilled players, read the developing play and put himself in a position to be useful is an asset. He has the puck handling to keep control of the puck in traffic and does not get too rattled with players all over him. Ashton's calling card is his shot, which gets away quickly and it has power and surprising accuracy in close quarters. What makes Ashton intriguing besides his size and skating is his goal scoring. Of his 30 goals this season, Ashton posted five game winning goals, four first goals and one insurance marker -  impressive for a player that only scored five goals all last season. The part of Ashton's game that is inconsistent is his assertiveness when it comes to his physical game and his overall play without the puck. He has the potential to play a reliable defensive game, but has not put it all together just yet. He should with time. If a team is patient with him over the next three years they could be well rewarded once he fully matures.   

28. Chicago Blackhawks - Jordan Caron - 6-3/200 - (Centre/Right Wing) - (Rimouski/QMJHL)

It is fair to say the big centre does not have the top end hockey sense or puck skills to be a number one pivot. But that's not to say Caron could not develop into a dependable solid number two guy. With his combination of size, skill and willingness to drive to the net, he has the attributes teams need in their lineup. His ability to process information in traffic is good and he shows enough hands to score around the crease. He showed toughness and moxie fighting through injuries all season and it was plus in the character department. Caron also had over a point a game in the regular season and almost a point a game in the postseason. Now Caron could use some work on his first two steps, but he uses his size well to protect the puck and can frustrate opponents into penalties. He seems to thrive when the game gets chippy and he can get under a player's skin. His defensive game is improving, but will need some fine-tuning before he turns pro in another year. He may not be an exciting pick from an entertainment standpoint, but Caron will show up every night, give an honest effort and will be accountable.

29. Detroit Red Wings - Ethan Werek - 6-2/190 - (Left Wing/Centre) - (Kingston/OHL)

Werek is arguably the smartest player off the ice on this list and is almost as smart on it. A strong hockey sense helps Werek play at a high tempo. He displays very good puck skills and can make nice passes - especially from the wing.  Werek does not have the elite vision to play in the middle, so the move to the wing may better for him long term. For his efforts, Werek posted four game winning goals and four first goals this season, showing he can produce in the clutch. Now he is not the best skater, but that will improve with time and effort on his part and it should not a detriment moving forward. He hustles hard and shows a very good work ethic in all situations, which will give the best chance for success in the future. Werek is not afraid to mix it up and he looks like he thrives when the games get ugly. His defensive game is good and he uses good body position with an active stick while keeping his feet moving with head on a swivel. With time, he should make a fine pro - perhaps as a second line winger - one day.

30. Pittsburgh Penguins  - Peter Holland - 6-2/190 - (Centre) - (Guelph/OHL)

This player has the skills, skating ability and size teams are looking for in a centre, but those skills alone are not enough to make it to the NHL. His puck skills rival the majority of skilled forwards on this list and he can stickhandle to create nice passes. His shot is quick and accurate and Holland has shown he can score important goals with five game winning goals this season. Overall, his skating is very good and has enough quickness to pull away from defenders at times and the agility to deke around them. Although he stills needs to gain some strength to his frame, Holland does a pretty good job of using his body to shield the puck. The concerns in his game are the fact he does not do enough dirty work or show a consistent effort on every shift. He does not play in heavy traffic on a regular basis and that will affect his contribution at the pro level. Also, Holland often doesn't commit to all his defensive responsibilities - which is something that will have to change quickly. He has all the tools, but the team that drafts him will have some work to do to get him on the right path.  

The Next Best 10

The following prospects are not on this top 30, but all have a chance of being selected in the latter part of the first round. They are listed in random order: 

Kyle Palmieri - 5-10/191 - Right Wing/Centre - (NDTP U18)

Simon Despres - 6-3/207 - Defence - (Saint John/QMJHL)

Nick Leddy - 5-11/180 - Defence - (Eden Prairie/US HS)

Anton Lander - 6-0/185 - Left Wing - (Timra/Sweden)

Robin Lehner - 6-3/220 - Goalie - (Frolunda/Sweden)

Ryan O'Reilly - 6-0/205 - Centre - (Erie/OHL)

Carl Klingberg - 6-3/205 - Left Wing - (Frolunda/Sweden)

Joonas Nattinen - 6-2/185 - Centre - (Blues/Finland)

Marcus Johansson - 5-11/190 - Centre - (Farjestad/Sweden)

Richard Panik - 6-2/203 - Right Wing - (Trinec/Czech Republic)
 
This document is the intellectual property of Shane Malloy and cannot be used or duplicated in anyway without expressed written consent. Any use of this document without the expressed written consent of Shane Malloy will result in public exposure and legal prosecution.

John Tavares (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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