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TSN's mid-season Top 30 prospects for NHL Draft

Bob McKenzie

2/18/2009 12:26:08 PM

So much for suspense and intrigue.

TSN's mid-season Top 30 rankings for the 2009 NHL entry draft do not have much of either at the high end.

To absolutely no one's surprise, London Knight centre John Tavares is No. 1 on TSN's list, followed by Swedish defenceman Victor Hedman at No. 2.

Every scout surveyed by TSN had it exactly that way, although one or two did allow for the possibility of Hedman possibly being challenged for the No. 2 spot if he doesn't play well down the stretch.

As for who could step up into that role, it really depends upon which scout you are talking to. Truthfully, there's not a huge level of consensus as to how the rest of the top 10 may shake out, or at least how it looks right now in mid-season.

Some like the all-around game of Brampton Battalion centre Matt Duchene, who is No. 3 on the TSN list. Others favor the goal-scoring, offensive ability and power potential of Vancouver Giant forward Evander Kane, who is No. 4. Still others see the bruising qualities but offensive talents of Brandon forward Brayden Schenn, who is No. 5.  Many are rapidly becoming enthused by Swedish defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ranked at No. 10 overall, a raw but mobile puck-moving defenceman who is said to have some Nick Lidstrom-like qualities. Ekman-Larson inspires a wide divergence of opinion. At least three of the scouts we surveyed, have him in their top five at this point. But others see him as a late first-round or second-round prospect.

"He's raw and he's a projection," one scout said. "He could be the best defenceman in this draft."

The truth is, based on our survey of scouts, anyone in the top 10 could move up to be a top-five pick and anyone in our top five, other than Tavares or Hedman, could slide to be a Top 10 selection before all is said and done.

Two players to keep an eye on – though that will be difficult – are Spokane Chiefs' defenceman Jared Cowen, who is No. 6, and Brandon forward Scott Glennie at No. 9. Cowen is finished for the year, having blown out his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Glennie suffered a broken bone in his elbow and is listed as "out indefinitely." That could mean the entire year, it could mean the rest of the regular season, no one seems to know for sure. Cowen is considered by some teams to be a top five prospect but he won't be able to do anything to improve his stock this year and Glennie may be in the same situation.

Injuries, technically, aren't held against a player who is out, but logic suggests the other players have opportunities to move up the rankings and that would effectively push the inactive players down.

Swedish speedster Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi, at No. 7, and London Knight forward Nazem Kadri, at No. 8, round out TSN's top 10.

Two notables who just missed getting top-10 status were a pair of undersized stars from the 2009 World Junior Championship. American forward Jordan Schroeder, who is a freshman at the University of Minnesota, and Team Canada defenceman Ryan Ellis of the Windsor Spitfires check in at Nos. 12 and 13, respectively.

Russian defenceman Dmitry Kulikov, who plays for Drummondville in the Quebec League, is No. 11.

With three Swedes in our mid-season Top 10, it reflects a terrific year for Tre Kronor. In addition to Hedman, Svensson-Paajarvi and Ekman-Larsson, there are three more Swedes in our Top 30 and two others just knocking on the door. The potential for eight Swedes going in the first round is real this year.

Forward Jacob Josefson is No. 18, forward Marcus Johansson is No. 26 and defenceman David Rundblad is No. 28.

Netminder Robin Lehner gets an honorable mention as a first-rounder on the mid-season list, but is perceived as the consensus top goalie available and defenceman Tim Erixon, the son of former NHLer Jan Erixon, is also an honorable mention.

But if ever there were a year with a lot of fluidity within the Top 10, never mind the Top 30, this would be it.

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I must have had a senior moment even before I've become a senior citizen.

How else do I explain the omission of Saskatoon Blade defenceman Stefan Elliott in TSN's mid-season Top 30 prospects for the 2009 NHL entry draft.

He belongs there. In fact, he should have been No. 23, but as I was putting together the final list Elliott somehow ended up on the cutting room floor.

Oops.

So our Top 30 just became a Top 31. For the sake of expediency, we're slotting Elliott at No. 22B, right behind Louis Leblanc and just ahead of Landon Ferarro. That's where Elliott currently merits being based on our survey of NHL team scouts.

Sorry for the confusion. I will now go to the penalty box and feel shame.