NHL DRAFT RANKINGS
An early look at 30 top candidates..
SO, NOW THAT THE 2005 NHL ENTRY DRAFT has been officially postponed
indefinitely, if not canceled altogether (the event was supposed to
be held in Ottawa in late June), where does that leave the draft-
eligible talent? For now, not a lot has changed for the scouting
community, since the league insists that an entry draft will be held
upon the signing of a brand new Collective Bargaining Agreement--
probably via conference call. Therefore, for many hockey observers,
it's business as usual as far as the draft is concerned.
But who will own the No. 1 pick overall in 2005 when all the dust
settles? That is one of the burning questions that nobody seems
capable of answering these days.
There's been a lot of talk about a potential weighted lottery system
to determine the draft order, but the details remain sketchy. One
idea that seems to be gaining momentum is a weighted lottery for the
first round based on the last four regular seasons of NHL play. After
all, the league has only operated with 30 teams for the past four
years. It makes sense. However, what remains unsure is the way the
lottery will work, how many rounds will it entail and how many teams
will be given the right to earn the No. 1 overall selection. Partly
because of the presence of potential NHL superstar Sidney Crosby, the
league will have to dot all the I's and cross all the T's before
establishing the lottery rules.
However, Crosby isn't alone as a potential impact player in this
year's draft class. While it's not considered an especially deep year
for talent, several offensive players could be close to making their
mark in the big league. It's not a great year for defensemen or
goaltenders (especially at the top), and it's also a down year with
regards to European talent.
Here's a closer look at 30 players that should get first-round
consideration whenever the next NHL entry draft is held. There's
absolutely no surprise who gets top billing, but the latter stages of
the first round could get quite interesting on draft day:
1. Sidney Crosby, C
Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL), 5-11, 193
An absolute no-brainer as the top pick, Crosby will likely transform
whatever franchise gets the opportunity to draft him. He's a good bet
to be somebody's first-line center in 2005-06.
2. Gilbert Brule, C
Vancouver Giants (WHL), 5-10, 175
Brule could play the role of best supporting actor in the 2005 draft.
He's arguably the second-best offensive player in the draft, in terms
of upside, but also displays a well-rounded game.
3. Jack Johnson, D
USNTDP (U-18), 6-1, 201
Snubbed from the 2005 U.S. WJC squad, Johnson hasn't let it affect
his overall play. The clear-cut top defenseman available, Johnson
will head to the University of Michigan next autumn.
4. Anze Kopitar, C
Sodertalje SK jr. (Sweden), 6-2, 202
Already the best hockey player Slovenia has ever produced, Kopitar
has both the size and offensive skill to develop into a franchise
center. He's also physically mature for his age.
5. Benoit Pouliot, LW
Sudbury Wolves (OHL), 6-3, 179
A natural left wing, Pouliot has burst onto the scene this season and
is now considered the best prospect at his position available in the
draft. In fact, he has franchise winger potential.
6. Bobby Ryan, RW
Owen Sound Attack (OHL), 6-1, 213
Ryan has power forward written all over him. He can probably handle
either wing position, which adds to his overall value. The only thing
missing in Ryan's game is superior skating ability.
7. Tuukka Rask, G
Ilves Tampere jr. (Finland), 6-2, 176
The latest goaltending gem emanating from Finland, Rask may not reach
the same prospect status as the Atlanta Thrashers' Kari Lehtonen.
However, Rask is just a notch below.
8. Guillaume Latendresse, RW
Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL), 6-2, 216
There is absolutely no consensus on Latendresse. While Central
Scouting ranks him out of the first round, his potential as an NHL
power forward shouldn't keep him out of the top 10 picks.
9. Kenndal McArdle, LW
Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL), 5-11, 190
McArdle plays a lot bigger than his 5-11 frame, and he's also an
impressive skater. However, it's his improving ability to finish that
has scouts excited. His stock is definitely on the rise.
10. Alex Bourret, C
Lewiston MAINEiacs (QMJHL), 5-10, 209
There isn't anything Bourret can't do on the ice. He's a Michael Peca-
type agitator and open-ice hitter, a sound two-way pivot and quality
playmaker. So, he won't last very long in Round 1.
11. Nicklas Bergfors, RW
Sodertalje SK jr. (Sweden), 5-10, 192
Bergfors performed very well for the Swedish entry at the 2005 WJC,
and is viewed as one of the top wingers available for selection.
Creativity, shiftiness and smarts are prevalent in his game.
12. Marek Zagrapan, C
Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL), 6-1, 195
In terms of pure playmaking ability, there are few better than
Zagrapan from the 2005 draft class. While he passes up too many
shots, his ability to set up wingers will lead to oodles of points.
13. Carey Price, G
Tri-City Americans (WHL), 6-3, 222
Price has performed extremely well in a league that caters more to
veteran puck-stoppers. His size alone should ensure a high draft
selection, but his talent will vault him to the next level.
14. Jack Skille, RW
USNTDP (U-18), 6-1, 198
A teammate of Johnson's this season, Skille has the size-scoring
combination all scouts seek from the wing positions. Skille is headed
to the University of Wisconsin next September.
15. Ryan O'Marra, C
Erie Otters (OHL), 6-2, 193
O'Marra is a classic big center with some offensive potential and
some grit--which should make him very popular on draft day. Solid all-
around, O'Marra is a better playmaker than scorer.
16. Marc Staal, D
Sudbury Wolves (OHL), 6-4, 196
The brother of Carolina youngster Eric Staal, Marc plays a smooth
game from behind the blueline. Once he fills out his 6-4 frame, he
should become a more intimidating presence.
17. Ryan Parent, D
Guelph Storm (OHL), 6-2, 183
Another impressive D-man from the Ontario Hockey League, Parent's
potential far outweighs his production at this stage of his
development. NHL teams will have to be patient with Parent.
18. Luc Bourdon, D
Val d'Or Foreurs (QMJHL), 6-3, 199
A very smooth player, Bourdon is one of the most NHL-ready of all
2005 draft-eligible defensemen. His overall upside--especially in the
offensive zone--has many teams excited.
19. Ryan Stoa, C
USNTDP (U-18), 6-3, 200
Another member of the 2004-05 U.S. National under-18 development
squad, Stoa will join the Minnesota Golden Gophers in 2005-06. His
size and scoring ability should attract attention.
20. Jakub Kindl, D
Kitchener Rangers (OHL), 6-3, 199
The Czech blueliner has been somewhat of a disappointment in 2004-05,
but his brief flashes of brilliance should be enough to receive
plenty of interest in the latter stages of the first round.
21. Devin Setoguchi, RW
Saskatoon Blades (WHL), 6-0, 186
Speed, hard work and flashes of goal-scoring acumen are what
Setoguchi is all about. If he can display more consistency in the
offensive zone, he may become one of the top 2005 draftees.
22. Brian Lee, D
Moorhead High School (USHSW), 6-3, 202
Headed to the University of North Dakota in 2005-06, Lee was recently
named Minnesota's Mr. Hockey--the highest honor given to U.S. high-
school players. He already owns NHL size.
23. Jean-Philippe Levasseur, G
Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL), 6-1, 184
QMJHL rookie Levasseur has shared time with league vet Sylvain
Michaud this season, but his NHL future is as a No. 1 goalkeeper. He
has already displayed game-altering potential.
24. Alexandre Vincent, G
Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL), 6-4, 193
Vincent has played more than Levasseur this season--his second in the
ÎQ'. He displays incredible flexibility for a 6-4 netminder.
Comparisons to Roberto Luongo have already begun.
25. Matt Lashoff, D
Kitchener Rangers (OHL), 6-2, 201
The second-year OHLer missed time because of injury during the 2004-
05 regular season, and has yet to display a lot of offensive
potential. However, his size will get noticed on draft day.
26. Dan Bertram, RW
Boston College (Hockey East), 5-11, 175
Comparisons to Devils right wing Brian Gionta have been prevalent
throughout Bertram's freshman year at BC, but he's a little taller--
which should help Bertram in the eyes of scouts.
27. Denis Istomin, C/RW
Traktor Chelyabinsk (Russia), 6-1, 194
Istomin possesses most of the requisite qualities of the average
Russian forward prospect: Speed, skill, finesse and loads of
inconsistency. He could be a home run or a major bust.
28. Andrew Cogliano, C
St. Michael's Buzzers (Ontario Jr. A), 5-10, 178
If the NHL is serious about opening up the game, players such as
Cogliano will have to garner more attention on draft day. A big-time
scorer, Cogliano will join Jack Johnson at Michigan.
29. Sergei Shirokov, RW
CSKA Moscow jr. (Russia), 5-10, 169
Not highly rated, Shirokov displays the energy and in-your-face
attitude NHL scouts love. Furthermore, he's a major-league dangler
with untapped offensive potential.
30. Danny Syvret, D
London Knights (OHL), 6-0, 203
Oh sure, there are plenty of defensemen with more upside than Syvret
available, but his junior performance and savvy should not be
ignored. Syvret should get consideration in Round 1.