Monday, June 18, 2012

The Media Picks the Final Top 10 - 2012 Edition

The 2012 NHL Entry Draft is coming up this weekend. It's about time we completed the trilogy we started way back in November.

Firstly, here are the previous two lists compiled by various members of the OHL media.

Preliminary List (done in November)

Midseason List (done in February)

As always, this list involves contributions from a rather colourful cast of characters. Contributing their rankings and thoughts to this final list for 2012 were:

Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus
David Burstyn of McKeens
Dan Stewart of Future Considerations
Dominic Tiano of OHL Writers
Sean LaFortune of Future Considerations & The
Scott Campbell of The Scouting Report
Nathan Fournier of The World of Junior Hockey
Grant Sonier of ESPN
Patrick King of Sportsnet
Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News

and of course...yours truly.

Here's the list:

10. Malcolm Subban - Belleville Bulls
Received Votes From: 7/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 5th (2x)/Outside the Top 10 (4x)
Comments: Subban emerged this season to be the top rated netminder from the Canadian Hockey League. "Subban has been a difficult prospect to gauge all season as he has so many attributes that make you say he could be a real star at the NHL level and then some aspects to his developing game that make you doubt his potential as an NHL starter all together," says one contributor. Part of the reason why Subban has been difficult to gauge is that he's battled injuries, including a groin strain that limited his action throughout the middle part of the season. "I'm definitely concerned about his durability," says a contributor. "Bad groins and goalies go together like vegans and butchers." Another reason he's so hard to gauge is the fact that he's only played the position for 5 years +. But this is something people seem to like about him. "I love the fact that he's THIS good already, without a lot of training. It showcases his natural athletic ability. Once he learns to tune the finer points of the position, the sky is the limit," says a contributor. There's definitely no doubting how talented Subban is (even if he "needs to work on his glove hand," as one contributor put it). "The only stat that really matters is Belleville's record when he was injured compared to when he was healthy. He's a difference-maker every game," says another contributor. It looks pretty likely that a goaltender (or two, or three) could go in round one this year, and Subban is precisely one of those guys.

9. Matt Finn - Guelph Storm
Received Votes From: 8/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 5th (1x)/Outside the Top 10 (3x)
Comments: The Guelph rearguard had a breakout offensive season after establishing himself as a standout defensive player in his rookie OHL season last year. The explosion offensively definitely helped him climb into the first round on most draft lists. Finn came into the season already known for his strong defensive game and the question became "can he show improvement offensively?" said one contributor.  And did he ever. He finished second to Ceci among defensemen in goals, assists and points while also improving on an already solid defensive game." It's his hockey sense and projection as a guy who can contribute at both ends of the ice that gives him his allure. He's also someone who projects as a powerplay quarterback at the next level. "Finn boasts an absolute laser beam of a point shot, one of the better ones in the draft, a permanent fixture on the PP as a result, solid on special teams," says a contributor. Another contributor agrees, "he's so smart and calm with the puck. I just love how he avoids the forecheck and starts play in the opposite direction." That said, he doesn't come without his warts. For as hard as he's worked to get to the level of play he's achieved, he still has some things he needs to work on. The most important of which is his skating, which one contributor says, "lacks fluidity and he needs to improve upon his quick twitch muscles for faster time out of the gate." This, in combination with his average size, scares another contributor. "Finn is a bit of a wildcard because we’re not sure what we’re getting when projecting to the next level. He’s undersized and is a pretty average skater, but he does a lot of things well to make up for it. If Finn develops like many feel, he could be a solid offensive contributor who competes hard and doesn’t give up an inch without a fight. Conversely, he could struggle to ever establish himself as an NHL depth guy. I have some faith in Finn, but I definitely think a team is rolling the dice a bit with him without knowing what they’re going to end up with."

8. Tom Wilson - Plymouth Whalers
Received Votes From: 8/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 5th (1x)/Outside the Top 10 (3x)
Comments: For his tenacity and throwback power forward style, few players available from the OHL have generated as much buzz as Wilson for this year's draft. He's completely polarized scouts thanks in part to a wavering offensive game, one that did find itself during the OHL postseason where he averaged a point per game. Look no further for proof, as I provide to you these opposing opinions. One contributor says, "One of my favorite prospects this year, Wilson is what many NHL teams are looking for these days. A big power winger who can do a bit of everything. He can skate, score goals, win battles along the wall, play strong defensively, make the devistating body checks, intimidate with his size and drop the gloves. While he does not look to have top line NHL offensive talent he could be a big contributor in a second line role in the near future." Another contributor agrees. "I love his projectable upside. You don’t see to many players with his combination of size and projetable upside. He has the ability to change a game in so many ways. He can play aggressive on the forecheck, make a smart pass, drive the net and bat in a rebound, or drop the gloves and change the momentum of a game. Now, some will look at his point totals this season and suggest that he has limited offensive upside, but that’s the danger of judging players solely based on points. In multiple viewings this year over the course of many months, he showed some very impressive improvements with the puck." On the other hand, another contributor says, "I wouldn't use a first on him. I like his physicality, but I don't see his goal scoring ability translating to the NHL." Whether you like him or not, the reality is that he's going to go high in the draft. Perhaps even higher than you'd think. "I'd be VERY surprised if he makes it through the NHL lottery (top 14)," says one contributor. Another suggests the same thing. "based on sources, he's not sliding past 15." Bottom line, they sure don't make them like they used to and players like Wilson don't grow on trees.

7. Slater Koekkoek - Peterborough Petes
Received Votes From: 9/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 5th (1x)/Outside of the Top 10 (2x)
Comments: Despite suffering a season ending shoulder injury, Koekkoek actually climbed up the final list from 8th at midseason to 7th. Perhaps part of the reason for this was his work at the combine where "he showed up in great shape and was determined to make an impression," says one contributor. More than likely, the main reason is the realization that Koekkoek might have the most potential of any defenseman available from the OHL this season (including the likes of Cody Ceci). "I love Koekkoek’s upside and feel he’s the true homerun pick in this draft. He’s got size, skating ability, offensive awareness, and some grit that embodies a potential franchise defenseman. Without lauding him too much, Koekkoek is plagued by some inconsistency and defensive gaffes, but I really believe he has the potential to be as good as any player in this draft when it’s all said and done," says a contributor. Before the injury, Koekkoek was working his way to finding consistency in his game, but showed flashes of brilliance. "Scouts will gravitate towards his performance last season as an under-ager at the World U18 Championships as he dominated both physically and offensively. He also showed tremendous offensive poise with the puck this season for the Petes as he played upwards of 35 minutes and his injury was a primary reason that the Petes fell out of the playoff picture," says a contributor. But when we're talking potential, we're often talking about a player who has all the parts but hasn't yet become the sum of them (if that makes sense). Koekkoek has all the talent, but had a lot of trouble putting everything together in his sophomore season. "He needs to work on his defensive zone coverage and he's got a lot to learn in picking his spots to rush the puck, and to go for the big hit," says a contributor. Koekkoek is 100% one of the wild cards of this draft and the team drafting him will be banking on him coming back strong in his 3rd OHL season.

6. Brendan Gaunce - Belleville Bulls
Received Votes From: 11/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 4th (1x)/8th (4x)
Comments: Everyone seems to like Gaunce for this year's draft. It's just a matter of how high you'd draft him and how much offensive potential you think he has. "He has slipped down my rankings as the season wound down. Gaunce will no doubt become an effective NHL player but what type of player is the question at hand. His play this year and the 15-plus viewings of his developing game leads me to believe he will slide into a second or third line centre role at the next level," says a contributor. "I have severe questions about his NHL upside," says another. Yet, I kept reading the same word over and over throughout the responses of contributors. "Future NHL Captain." He exudes leadership capabilities, and even if he doesn't have the NHL upside of the others around him, he does so many things well that make him a valuable pick up inside the top 20 of the draft. "I see a lot of Ryan O’Reilly in Gaunce and even if he tops out as a 2nd line center, he likely ends up being a Top 10 player in this draft," says one contributor. "Gaunce has all the tools that you look for in a potential second line centre at the next level. His biggest asset is his hockey sense and anticipation skills. He has the ability to read the play two to three plays ahead, and anticipate it. This makes him valuable at both ends of the ice," says another contributor. "Gaunce needs to improve in some areas, but he's a hard worker and a really well spoken kid. I look at the improvements his brother Cameron made in his time in the OHL, and I find myself getting excited about what the future holds for Brendan. He has the chance to develop into a terrific NHL player. The type of guy NHL teams win cups with," says a contributor. Definitely some kind words there.

5. Olli Maatta - London Knights
Received Votes From: 11/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 3rd (3x)/8th (1x)
Comments: Maatta really moved up many draft boards after a terrific playoff performance with London on their road to the Memorial Cup. However, he wasn't just dialed in during the postseason. "He wasn't just good in the playoffs. He was good in the final two months of the regular season too. Hard to believe it took as long as it did for people to take notice of his game," says one contributor. The smooth operating two way defenseman does have his detractors who believe he lacks the upside of a potential lottery selection. "I’m not sure about his long term offensive potential. He had a good playoffs, but I don't see that as who he is, more of an exception to the rule," says one contributor. Another contributor agrees. "He's steady and a good bet to be an NHL defenseman, but there are other guys I prefer because I think they'll bring more to the table." Yet, it's that notion of being a surefire NHL defenseman that is alluring to certain contributors. "I’m convinced that Maatta will be a steady defenseman for a long time in the NHL. While he showed some late season offensive prowess, I think his game projects at the NHL level as an unspectacular two-way defenseman who can log minutes in all situations. He might not be the sexy pick, but in terms of value, I think Maatta brings a ton to the table that NHL teams would love to add," says a contributor. "As the season wore along you could see his confidence grow as he started to jump into the offensive play a little more and create more chances. His playoffs with London was very impressive and has left the door on his potential wide open in my opinion. While I am not confident enough to say he will be a point producer at the NHL level, I also am no longer confident; unlike I was earlier this year, to tag him as a defensive defender," says another. Like Tom Wilson, Maatta's postseason play has opened the eyes of many and showed a side of him that many were unsure he possessed.

4. Radek Faksa - Kitchener Rangers
Received Votes From: 11/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 3rd (3x)/7th (1x)
Comments: While Faksa seems to have separated himself from Gaunce as the 3rd best forward available from the OHL, he hasn't escaped similar concerns about his NHL upside. "I’m not sold on Faksa, but there’s no doubt that he looks like he’s capable of playing in the NHL. Faksa is a big centre who has good skating ability, positioning, and two-way awareness. I question his overall offensive upside and creativity," says one contributor. Another agrees, "Faksa does have some areas to work on and I have some questions about his long term offensive upside." But, like Gaunce, there are a lot of things Faksa does well that gives him his fans among NHL scouts. "He already has NHL size, plays the two way NHL game and put up over a point per game in his rookie season. That's impressive. I also like the fact that he can play both wing and center," says a contributor. "Shades of Bobby Holik," says another contributor, who continues. "He may be the best defensive forward in this year's draft, as he routinely comes back to help out in the defensive zone, sometimes as far back as behind his own goal. He's also unmovable on the boards and in front of the net as he maintains good positioning." In the end, you're probably winning with either Faksa or Gaunce as your first round pick, but one contributor cements his opinion on why Faksa is the better selection. "I think be brings many of the same things Gaunce does, but he's also a quicker skater and better at carrying the puck at full speed, which makes him more of a threat in the new, fast paced NHL."

3. Cody Ceci - Ottawa 67's
Received Votes From: 11/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 2nd (1x)/7th (1x)
Comments: Ceci remains in 3rd place from our midseason list, fighting off a late season charge from Olli Maatta. His game really exploded in his 3rd season in the league. "I could see him playing in the NHL next season. I think he's physically mature enough," says one contributor. But what about the knock against his inability to use his size defensively? One contributor doesn't see that as an issue. "He has been knocked for not using his physical size enough but with some of the best understanding of body positioning in the entire draft he is more than effective without needing to be a bruiser. Ceci is the type of future top four NHL defender that does all the little things a team needs to win and can also add that series clinching goal." And while his defensive game does tend to get mixed reviews, his offensive game is what sparkled this year. "His shot is an absolute cannon, and he likes to jump into the rush to use it and act as a fourth forward at times. He has free reign to look for offense," says one contributor. "One of the best offensive defenseman in the league, " says another contributor. That being said, not everyone is convinced his offensive game will translate well to the NHL. "While his offensive game made great strides this year, I think he has moments of poor judgment with the puck (especially at the blueline), and his ability to rush the puck is generally overrated," says one contributor. Anyway you slice it, the development curve Ceci has shown over the course of his 3 years in the OHL is mighty impressive.

2. Alex Galchenyuk - Sarnia Sting
Received Votes From: 11/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 1st (1x)/3rd (1x)
Comments: Surgery smugery. At least that's the vibe I got from many people when asking if they were concerned about his knee injury this season. "I wouldn't be scared off by the injury. He's got a competitive fire that burns so brightly within him, he won't allow himself to become just average," says one contributor. Anyone who reads Alex's stuff on or follows him on twitter knows that he's quite the character. But even if the injury doesn't concern people moving forward, the lost year of development might. "I have no doubt that his offensive skills will translate to the next level, but a lost year of development is a lost year, and for a 17 year old hockey player, the question needs to be asked if it will affect him?" says a contributor. As for what he can bring to the table, who better to hear from than the contributor who ranked him first. "I’ve been in Galchenyuk’s corner since last season and feel he projects to be the top offensive player from this draft. While he’s a little more raw than a guy like Yakupov, and obviously the injury didn’t help, I think his smooth style of play will allow him to become a PPG type forward in the NHL. I love his ability to find soft spots in the defense and he has a great release. I will say that he likely needs another year of junior to make up for this past season." When he's healthy, we're looking at a potential impact center who is tenacious, skilled, and able to play in all three zones. Definitely worth the risk and it explains why he's ranked as high as he is. Although, maybe it also has to do with a "subpar group of forward prospects this year," as one contributor puts it.

1. Nail Yakupov - Sarnia Sting
Received Votes From: 11/11
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 1st (10x)/2nd (1x)
Comments: Why don't we start off with a comment from the guy who ranked him second. "There’s not much you can’t like about Yakupov’s game but I’m very concerned about his ability to hold up at the next level without injury. Yakupov’s explosive style of play and fearless attitude have already opened up discussion about injuries and frankly, I could see them becoming a problem for him in the NHL as well. He could try and adjust his style of play but that would likely be counterproductive." This is definitely a valid point. Another contributor agrees. "The apparent concussion and his play post injury scared me a bit. He plays the game so hard, can keep it up?" But even if talks of durability are out there, the positives obviously outweigh the negatives. "Clutch, dynamic, game changer are just some of the adjectives that will make Yakupov the first Russian taken number one since Alex Ovechkin and only the third Russian ever to go number 1," says one contributor. "His best asset is his mobility and acceleration. He has an extremely strong lower body, specifically his legs. He uses his legs to generate top end speed and mobility. He has the ability to turn on a dime, as he takes very hard and aggressive edges," says another contributor. At this point, the only question remaining is (as one contributor put it), "Definitely a number one pick but the question remains will Edmonton select a forward for a third straight year?" I guess we'll see on Friday night!

Honorable Mentions:

Scott Laughton - Oshawa Generals (7 votes)

"Reminds me a ton of Mike Richards. Great in all three zones. Aggressive and tenacious. He also had underrated skill and playmaking ability. Should definitely be a first round pick after his Under 18 performance."

"Love this kid’s work ethic and grit. At one point I was thinking of sliding him towards the end of round two in the rankings as he had trouble producing offensively. Towards the tail end of the year and during his U18 play he made me reconsider him."

"One of the best two way forwards available in the draft who can also put up points. His defensive game is about as NHL ready as they come."

"Laughton may be the smartest, most competitive draft eligible player for the NHL Draft. He always brings a high complete level, and is the kind of player who is willing to do whatever it takes to win. He will block a shot, make a strong offensive play, back check or drop the gloves if it could equal team success."

Daniil Zharkov - Belleville Bulls (3 votes)

"Extremely high upside with his size, speed, and skill combination. Some concerns about his hockey sense, but certainly not about his skill level with the puck."

"He seems to be a player who has a ton of skills, but at times he doesn’t know what to do with it. He will skate into defenders instead of passing off the puck when he had the opportunity. He often seems unaware of his surroundings, and needs to know where everyone on the ice is at all times. He often gets cause with his head down in all three zones, which is something that needs to change before he moves forward. Although he has a long way to go before reaching his potential, you have to like the player that he one day could become."

Adam Pelech - Erie Otters (1 vote)

"I’ll be clear, I don’t expect Pelech to develop into anything more than a 3-5 defenseman, but in a draft that lacks depth, that sounds pretty good to me if I’m an NHL team. Pelech has a lot of projectable NHL skills and I love his ability as a shutdown defenseman. He’s got a long reach and does a great job maintaining gap control and knowing when to take the body. I think he could develop into a real strong second pairing defenseman who can match up against any line on the other team without being a defensive liability."

Jake Paterson - Saginaw Spirit (1 vote)

"Any questions over his big game potential were erased in the playoffs. We're only scratching the surface of his true potential."

Thanks again to all my contributors to these lists this season. Couldn't have done it without you and your candid comments. I look forward to another season next year!

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