Archive for Draft Watch
The Rangers have the tenth overall pick in the draft, and while some writers think the Rangers will draft a goalie (for some unknown reason), the Rangers most pressing need at the NHL level is a scorer. In the tenth installment of this series, we look at winger Mikael Granlund of the HIFK Helsinki of the Finnish Elite League.
The 5’10, 180 lb Finnish center has put together a very strong season in the Finnish Elite League, putting together a line of 13-27-40 in 43 games, with an astounding 2 PIMs, which means he took just one minor penalty all year while playing as a 17-18 year old in a very difficult league. Where Granlund really cemented his spot as a first round draft pick was during this year’s World Championships, where he played for the Finland U-18 Team and the Finland National Team as a 17 year old. For the U-18 Team, Granlund was clearly above and beyond the competition, putting up a line of 4-9-13 in just six games en route to a bronze medal. Playing on the National Team in the World Championships, the one that Derek Stepan captained Team USA to Gold, Granlund had a goal and six assists in six games.
Granlund has exceptional skating and puck handling skills, which make him one of the premier playmakers available in the draft. His vision on the ice is tremendous, and some of the passes he dishes out makes some older, and larger, players wonder how he does it. While not a pure goal scorer, Granlund does possess a good wrist shot, and is fully capable of putting the puck in the back of the net when he needs to. He also possesses some great agility, which helps him deke around opposing defenders. His moves rival that of fellow Finn Teemu Pulkkinen, who ranks higher than Granlund for the time being.
The one knock on Granlund is his size, but don’t tell the small-ish forward that. Despite his small stature, Granlund plays larger than his size. He is fearless when battling for the puck and competes with great intensity every game. Granlund is a long term pick, much like the Chris Kreider pick in 2009, and will not be an impact NHL player for maybe as many as three seasons. Whichever team drafts Granlund is going to get a fantastic player, but they will have to wait for him to come over from Finland. There are few players in the draft that match Granlund’s combination of skill and speed, but his size is what may keep him out of the top-10. Granlund should still be available at #10, but the way the previous nine picks fall is what will determine where Granlund lands.
The Rangers have the tenth overall pick in the draft, and while some writers think the Rangers will draft a goalie (for some unknown reason), the Rangers most pressing need at the NHL level is a scorer. In the tenth installment of this series, we look at winger Austin Watson of the Peterborough Petes (creative team name) of the OHL.
Watson is generally overlooked when talking about the prospects coming into this draft, but has been consistently ranked in the top-15 of the ISS Top 30 all year. The 6’3, 185 lb winger has put together a fine sophomore season in the OHL, putting together a line of 20-34-54 with 22 PIMs in 52 games split with Peterborough and the Windsor Spitfires. He also added two goals in four playoff games this year. Watson also played on the US U-18 Team in April, playing the role of grinding third liner en route to a gold medal.
Watson’s biggest strength is his skating ability. He is very quick on his feet, and has the agility to change directions quickly, despite his tall stature. He is very tough to knock off the puck, and he will only get increasingly more difficult to knock off the puck as his body weight catches up to his height. His quickness, stride, and overall speed (quickness and speed are different) will also improve as he ages and develops more lower body strength.
Watson isn’t the flashiest of players, but he uses his size to go to the high traffic areas and bang home dirty goals. This type of player serves several purposes: he wreaks havoc in front of the net, he draws attention to himself, and opens up space for more skilled players to work in the open ice. He won’t wow you with his moves, he won’t amaze you by dangling through two defensemen and then roofing a shot. He will wow you with his blue collar effort and his propensity for getting dirty goals. New Yorkers love blue collar players, and Watson fits that bill to a T. As mentioned before, Watson is often overlooked because he doesn’t have the offensive flair that players of the Ryan Johansen, Jeff Skinner, or Nino Niederreiter ilk have.
While there are no glaring weaknesses in his game, Watson will be a bit of a project, as he needs to grow more into his body before he can really be an effective two-way player. With the Rangers drafting in the top-ten, Watson will definitely be available, but some may question whether or not Watson is what the Rangers need. He peaks as a 60 point NHL player who could lead the penalty kill, but that is only if he meets his peak. There are several more offensively tilted players that may suit the Rangers needs a little more than Watson, but what Watson does have going for him is that he could potentially be a more offensively gifted version of Ryan Callahan.
Image Credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images.
The Rangers have the tenth overall pick in the draft, and while some writers think the Rangers will draft a goalie (for some unknown reason), the Rangers most pressing need at the NHL level is a scorer. In the tenth installment of this series, we look at center Emerson Etem of the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL.
The 6’0 190 lb 18 year old center has put together a fine rookie season in the WHL, putting up a line of 37-28-65 with 26 PIMs in 72 regular season game. Etem continued his strong play in the playoffs, netting seven goals (and three assists) in 12 playoff games. This season came one year after Etem had a great year with the U-18 US National Team, with a line of 19-14-33 and 16 PIMs in 40 games. Combined, thats 66 goals in 124 games, which is just over a goal every other game.
As alluded to above, Etem is a natural goal scorer. He possesses an absolutely lethal wrist shot that makes him one of the best goal scorers in the draft. In fact, outside of the top two picks, Etem may be the most gifted goal scorer in this year’s draft.
In addition to his lethal shot, Etem also has superior puck handling abilities, which he learned during his developmental years in Minnesota’s Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Sidney Crosby, Jack Johnson, Zach Parise, Jonathan Toews, Marlon Brando). In a move which really showcases Etem’s determination and dedication to the game, Etem actually moved from Long Beach, CA to Minnesota to play at St. Mary’s.
Where some scouts disagree is with Etem’s skating ability. Some believe it is Etem’s skating ability, mostly his unusual stride, which makes him look smaller than his 6’0 frame, that keeps him out of the top-five or top-ten picks. What isn’t debatable is Emerson’s speed and strength on his skates. His speed, prowess for the net, unreal shot, and strength make him a force to be reckoned with at the offensive level. In regards to his unusual skating style, you can be taught how to skate, you can’t be taught how to find the back of the net as often as Etem.
The Rangers have the tenth overall pick in the draft, and while some writers think the Rangers will draft a goalie (for some unknown reason), the Rangers most pressing need at the NHL level is a scorer. In the sixth installment of this series, we look at center Brett Connolly Of the Prince George Cougars of the WHL.
The 6’2 18- lb center from Prince George has put together two fine seasons in the WHL, netting 30 goals and 30 assists in 65 games in 2008-2009, and 10 goals and 9 assists in 2009-2010. Connolly is a very rare player, as he has fantastic hands to go with his size, which has made him one of the most talented players in the draft. Connolly is a prototypical power forward, but the aforementioned hands make him more than just a Todd Bertuzzi type player. Connolly can truly be a catalyst for other linemates production as well.
Connolly’s hip injury this past season is a major cause for concern though. His hip, which required surgery and caused him to miss the majority of the 2009-2010 season, occurred during the international tournament this past year. At the combine this year, Connolly was said to be 100%, and his injury was a thing of the past.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much on Connolly when it comes to detailed scouting due to his injury. What is known is that he is an elite talent with a legitimate injury concern. Connolly has the potential to be one of the top players in the draft, assuming he can play full seasons. Connolly’s hip may cause his stock to drop rapidly, however it should be expected for him to be selected in the first round. Connolly has top-five talent and potential, that is for certain. If he slips to the Rangers at tenth overall, expect them to jump all over this pick.
The Rangers have the tenth overall pick in the draft, and while some writers think the Rangers will draft a goalie (for some unknown reason), the Rangers most pressing need at the NHL level is a scorer. However, with the Rangers sitting at #10, they might have to employ a “best available” tactic at the draft. If that occurs, the Rangers might wind up taking another defenseman in the first round. In the sixth installment of this series, we look at defenseman Derek Forbort of the US-Under 18 National Team, who is committed to North Dakota for next season.
The 6’4 200 lb defenseman has put together a steady season with the US National Team, putting together a line or 4-10-14 with 26 PIMs in 26 games. Forbort is one of the top defenders available in the draft this year. His offensive awareness provides tremendous upside for any team looking for some scoring from the blue line. He may not like to carry the puck that much, but he makes up for it by making one of the top first passes in the draft. His hockey IQ is top notch, which leads to great decision making with the puck and with his passes. His hockey IQ also directly correlates to his anticipation ability with and without the puck.
Forbort uses his big body to his advantage, utilizing his very long reach to take away opponents passing lanes. He also plays a fairly physical style of play, using his size and strength in the corners and to clear the crease. An exceptional skater, Forbort’s stride appears to be effortless as he carries the puck. In addition to speed, Forbort’s balance, strength and agility make him extremely difficult to knock off the puck. This combination of size and skating strength also makes him difficult to beat in battles in front of the net.
The only knock on Forbort is that he is a very raw talent, but his high ceiling should still put him in the top-10 or top-15 in this year’s draft. Although the Rangers need scoring help, if they cannot trade up, they may go with a best available approach to the draft. Forbort offers a rare combination of size, skill, and speed on the blue line that makes him a hot commodity in the new NHL. Defenseman like Forbort fall in the Drew Doughty category, if his potential is fully met. A top-four of Forbort, Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, and Dan Girardi would be one of the best in the league, and would make the Rangers a force to be reckoned with on the blue line for years.
Image Credit: Dave Arnold
The Rangers have the tenth overall pick in the draft, and while some writers think the Rangers will draft a goalie (for some unknown reason), the Rangers most pressing need at the NHL level is a scorer. However, with the Rangers sitting at #10, they might have to employ a “best available” tactic at the draft. If that occurs, the Rangers might wind up taking another defenseman in the first round. In the sixth installment of this series, we look at defenseman Jonathan Merrill of the US-Under 18 National Team.
The 6’3 200 lb American defenseman has put together a modest season with the USA team, netting a goal and eight assists in 22 games this year. Generally not known for his offense, Merrill is one of the most defensively sound prospects in this draft. His play in his own zone makes him one of the top defensive players at his level. He is positionally sound, and plays a very physical game, already utilizing his size to his advantage.
Although Merrill is not known for his offense, he has started to show some offense this year, which has dramatically risen his stock. His nine points in 22 games is not a big increase in production, but his presence and IQ on the ice illustrate that he is ready to break out offensively. His play style is reminiscent of Marc Staal, in that he is defensively superior to his age group, while his offense has potential, and is starting to show.
The only real knock on Merrill is his skating ability. While not slow, Merrill is not as fast and swift on his skates as some of the other top skaters in the draft. This affects his ability to get to loose pucks, and his ability to cut off oncoming forwards. This isn’t all that unexpected from an 18 year old, and it is something that Merrill is already working on. It’s not that Merrill is a poor skating, it is just an area for improvement for possibly the best defensive player in this draft.
Although many would want the Rangers to draft a forward, and potentially trade up to get one earlier in the draft. However, if the Rangers were unable to do so, Merrill is a solid consolation prize. The Rangers would do well with a defensive core of Merrill, Staal, Michael Del Zotto, and Dan Girardi. That foursome would be one of the top foursomes in the game. For a team that needs a big bruising defenseman, Merrill would be just that, and maybe provide some offense too.
Image Credit: Mike Kylmaniemi, HHOF IIHF Images
The Rangers have the tenth overall pick in the draft, and while some writers think the Rangers will draft a goalie (for some unknown reason), the Rangers most pressing need at the NHL level is a scorer. In the fifth installment of this series (Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Johansen, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jeff Skinner), we look at a young center playing on the Barrie Colts (OHL), Alex Burmistrov.
The 6’0 170 lb Colts center has put together a solid rookie year in the OHL, putting together a line of 22-43-65 in 62 GP in the regular season. In the playoffs, Burmistrov continued at his point-per-game pace, netting 8 goals and 8 assists in 17 playoff games. The ISS Top 30 currently has the young Russian forward ranked as the #14 skater, but his stock is very quickly rising, as it is becoming more and more evident that Burmistrov is committed to playing in North America, having left the KHL after just one game last year.
Burmistrov is a prototypical play-making center, but adds a nice scoring touch to his game. He has a quick shot that can be deceptive, considering his propensity for dishing the puck. As with most play-making centers, Burmistrov has a very high hockey IQ. His intelligence not only helps him on the offensive side of the puck, but on the defensive side as well. Burmistrov is a solid two-way center who will not be a defensive liability in his own zone.
Despite the fact that he is a small forward, Burmistrov plays bigger than his size. He goes to the dirty areas and is difficult to knock off the puck, for his size. As with most smaller forwards, Burmistrov’s skating ability is off the charts. Despite his size, he finds a way to skate through the opposition while on the offensive. His combination of speed and superb hands make him a great “dangler” (to use an NHL ’10 term), skating through the opposition to dish off the puck to an open teammate.
Like Tarasenko, Burmistrov may see himself slip in the draft because of the lack of a transfer agreement with his KHL team, Ak Bars Kazan. After the OHL season concluded, he was rumored to have returned to Russia to play in the KHL, but it turns out he went back to see his family. Burmistrov has stated it is his dream to play in the NHL, and regardless of the transfer agreement status, Burmistrov is one of the top offensive talents in the draft. The Rangers have no qualms drafting Russians without transfer agreements, and this scenario is no different. It is highly possible that he is still on the board at #10, and the Rangers will be giving him a long, hard look if they stand pat at the draft.
Image Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images
The Rangers have the tenth overall pick in the draft, and while some writers think the Rangers will draft a goalie (for some unknown reason), the Rangers most pressing need at the NHL level is a scorer. In the fourth installment of this series (Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Johansen, Vladimir Tarasenko), we look at a young center playing on the Kitchener Rangers (OHL), Jeffrey Skinner.
The 5’10 195 lb center has put together a solid season with Kitchener, putting together a line of 50-40-90, with 72 PIMs in 64 GP during the regular season, and 20-13-33 with 14 PIMs in just 20 playoff games. Skinner, currently ranked #9 in the ISS top 30, established himself as one of the top snipers in the OHL this year, and finished this season with more goals than both Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, the projected #1 and #2 picks in this year’s draft. Skinner’s ability to lurk in the offensive zone and capitalize on opportunities certainly helped him become this dangerous in the OHL. A very intelligent player, Skinner also excels at playing a two-way game in the OHL.
Despite the fact that he finished with more goals than Hall and Seguin, Skinner has a lot of doubters, and an equal number of questions coming his way. He can score, but his skating ability, particularly his speed, is constantly being called into question. However, his strength on his skates and his agility definitely make up for his lacking speed at this level. He finds open ice in the OHL with relative ease, but will struggle at the next level unless he becomes a faster skater. Also, like most small forwards, there is always a question of his ability to adjust to the physicality of the NHL game.
Skinners coach compares him to Mark Recchi (Insider Only):
“Recchi is still in the league because of his skating and his strength, and Jeff is a Recchi-type player for me. He’ll have the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup because of the way he plays.”
Recchi is one of the best forwards to play this game, netting over 500 goals and almost 1,500 points, so if Skinner turns out like that, any team that drafts him will be thrilled. But to meet that potential, he is going to have to work on his skating, while continuing to put the puck in the net. His shot is his meal ticket, which might just get him into the top ten.
Photo Credit: Walt Dmoch, OHL Images
The Rangers have the tenth overall pick in the draft, and while some writers think the Rangers will draft a goalie (for some unknown reason), the Rangers most pressing need at the NHL level is a scorer.
One scorer who ranks high, but might indeed fall to the Rangers at #10 is Russian winger Vladimir Tarasenko. The 5’11 202 lb RW is in his second season with the KHL, and has put up a line of 13-11-24 in 42 games. Considering the KHL’s seniority type playing time, that is a pretty impressive total for the very young winger. Tarasenko, a left-handed shot who plays on the off-wing (a rarity in the NHL), has an absolutely lethal shot. The ability to shoot off the pass while playing the off-wing will help him become a feared sniper in the NHL.
Tarasenko isn’t just a sniper. His superb hands, which are a big part of his deadly shot, also make him a deft passer and stick handler. These attributes make him a premier all-around offensive machine in the draft. The young winger is also very strong on his skates, making him tough to push off the puck. His acceleration to top speed needs work, but if that’s the only flaw in his offensive game, it’s something any GM will gladly take a risk on.
What might make Tarasenko drop to the Rangers at #10 is his “signability”. Like most players in the KHL, a transfer agreement with Tarasenko’s team (Novosibirsk Siber) would have to be set up to ensure that the winger can come state-side to play in the NHL. With this transfer agreement comes the questions of Tarasenko’s desire to play in the NHL, and leave Russia.
Regardless of the transfer-agreement status, Tarasenko is one of the top offensive talents available in the draft this year. The Rangers have showed no hesitance in drafting transfer-agreement problem players (Alexei Cherepanov, RIP). Should he slip to the Rangers at #10, you can expect the Blueshirts to jump on this talent, and spend whatever is necessary to ensure he plays in the NHL next season.
Image Credit: Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images North America
The Rangers have the tenth overall pick in the draft, and while some writers think the Rangers will draft a goalie (for some unknown reason), the Rangers most pressing need at the NHL level is a scorer.
The Portland Winterhawks seem to have struck gold this year, with two players in the ISS Top 10: Nino Niederreiter and Ryan Johansen. Johansen centers Niederreiter, and stands at a tall 6’3 188 lbs. At just 17 years old Johansen has plenty of time to fill out that tall frame. In his rookie year with Portland, playing on the same line as Niederreiter, Johansen has put up a line of 25-44-69 and a +17, good for second amongst WHL rookies.
What most are impressed with about Johansen is his consistency and leadership. At a young age, he has taken charge of the Hawks team through the WHL playoffs. In 13 playoff games, Johansen led the young Hawks in scoring with a line of 6-12-18 before the Hawks were eliminated. He has fantastic vision on the ice, and attempts to model his game after Joe Thornton. His vision on the ice certainly helps his cause, and as he develops, he could certainly turn into a big center with great playmaking abilities, much like Jumbo Joe. Although he is mostly raw talent, as he fills out his frame he could turn that raw talent into a force to be reckoned with as he develops.
Johansen has an excellent hockey IQ which allows him to succeed at a two-way game while playing significant time on both the powerplay and the penalty kill for Portland. For a big kid, he protects the puck very well, which will help him pan out to a potential #1 center down the road. In terms of big centers, he has it all: size, skill, vision, determination, and leadership. In addition to his two-way game, Johansen excels at faceoffs, which makes his value that much higher.
Johansen is a player who’s stock rose considerably during his rookie season with Portland. Articles as recent as December 2009 had him listed as a player that won’t last past the second round. It is now May 2010, and if he lasts past the top ten, people will be surprised. In just one year, Johansen has vaulted himself into one of the top playmakers and all around centers in the WHL. However, the main concern with Johansen is that he is going to be a “project” in the sense that he is not NHL ready, and being so young, he can’t play in the AHL for another three years (must be 21, unless born overseas). So unless he shows he can play at the NHL level early, he may wind up in the WHL for a few more years. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this, but teams looking for immediate help may not want to look at the young center. Johansen may fall to the Rangers at #10, and if the Rangers are following the “best available” mentality, Johansen could wind up being a steal for them at #10 if he continues to develop at such a fast pace.
Image Credit: Brent Wojahn/The Oregonian