Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Top 10 - Biggest Draft Risers

As you may recall, last week's Sunday Top 10 ranked the biggest draft fallers over the course of the 2008-09 OHL season. Today, we will rank the draft risers. These are the players who saw their stock increase the most over the course of the 2008-09 season.

Here is the top 10:

10. Brett Flemming - Mississauga St. Michael's Majors
Flemming is perhaps a bit of a reach for a list like this because he still could go undrafted. However, I think he did enough this season to warrant a look from scouts. Not the biggest defenseman out there at 5'10, 165lbs, Flemming proved that he could handle both ends of the rink. He moves the puck well, skates well, is developing some intensity and showed that at this level, his size isn't a detriment. As the season went along, he really developed and became the Majors 2nd most important defenseman behind OHL all star Cameron Gaunce. Progressing from part time OHL player to top pairing defenseman earns him a spot on this list. Without that progression and improvement, he doesn't get a sniff from NHL scouts.

9. Scott Valentine - Oshawa Generals
Valentine's rise in the draft rankings was pretty much done in the final third of the season. Not many guys rise like that without their team making the OHL playoffs. Valentine started the year stuck on the deep London Knight blueline and was earning little playing time. As part of the John Tavares trade, Valentine exploded in Oshawa with a larger role. With good size, offensive ability, and an aggressive nature, it's all a matter of whether that small sample size in Oshawa (26 games) is enough to impress the scouts. Judging from the fact that he went from unranked (210 spots available) to ranked 110 in the final ranking of the NHL's Central Scouting, he's getting that attention. Don't be surprised if this guy gets his named called in the first three rounds, well ahead of some of the others I personally have ranked ahead of him.

8. Darren Archibald - Barrie Colts
Archibald went undrafted last year while playing in the OPJHL on the stacked Stouffville Spirit team that included Ethan Werek and Corey Trivino. That summer, he was drafted as a mature pick in the 7th round of the 2008 OHL Priority draft by the Barrie Colts. Suiting up for Barrie this season did wonders for him. He emerged as one of the team's best forwards, finishing third in points and third in goals with 25. He performed even better in the playoffs, leading Barrie in scoring with 4 goals and 7 points in 5 games. Archibald has NHL size at 6'3, and is still learning how to use his frame. But he shows glimpses of possible power forward development, driving hard to the net and using his body. I think this guy goes higher than expected next weekend.

7. Kyle Clifford - Barrie Colts
Another Barrie forward, Clifford didn't necessarily wow scouts with his OHL season, where he finished with 16 goals and 28 points. However, his performance at the 2009 Under 18's did. He showcased his strong work ethic and ability to play hard, hanging in there against the cream of the crop of his age group. While he largely profiles as a character forward at the next level, some believe he has some offensive potential. I know of one scouting agency that has him inside their top 50 for the draft, which suggests he could be a selection in the top three rounds as well.

6. Taylor Beck - Guelph Storm
A former second round pick in the OHL Priority draft by Guelph, Beck exploded offensively this season after putting up moderate numbers in his rookie year. He finished 4th in scoring for Guelph and managed to earn himself a lot of NHL draft attention in the process. While his skating needs work, and some question his NHL upside, he remains an attractive selection due to the fact that his hard work creates scoring chances.

5. Matt Duchene - Brampton Battalion
OK, I know, somewhat odd seeing Duchene on this list given that he's always been considered a top 10 pick for 2009. However, Duchene came into the season as just that; a guy being considered as a top 10 selection. He finishes the season and goes into the draft as someone being pegged as a top 3 selection. Duchene's play in Brampton this season leaves some believing he could be the best player out of this draft class. Redline Report has him ranked second ahead of John Tavares. I've seen mock drafts recently that have the Islanders selecting him first overall. Duchene came a long way this season and really cemented his status as a franchise prospect.

4. Scott Stajcer - Owen Sound Attack
Last season, Stajcer played 6 games in the OHL, struggling badly. This season he begun playing very little behind high NHL draft pick Tyler Beskorowany. But as the season went along, Stajcer began to get better and better, and subsequently he earned himself into a platoon role. A big goalie, Stajcer needs to refine his mechanics, but he's showcased the ability to win, and even steal hockey games. While not appearing at the Under 18's had to have been a disappointment to a lot of scouts, I don't expect Stajcer to last outside the top 100.

3. Matt Clark - Brampton Battalion
Clark went from playing in the OPJHL last season to being one of the top defenseman on the best team in the Eastern Conference this year. Clark's big body, in combination with his mobility and physical presence makes him a very attractive selection for NHL clubs. While his offensive upside remains a bit of a mystery, he has the makings of a quality stay at home defenseman in the mold of a guy like Brooks Orpik, who was instrumental in helping the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup.

2. Matt Hackett - Plymouth Whalers
After playing sparingly with Plymouth last season, Hackett failed to be selected in the 2008 NHL entry draft. This season, he came back strong and determined to prove scouts wrong. Hackett's strong play eventually led Plymouth to deal starter Jeremy Smith, and he proceeded to lead them to the 2nd round of the OHL playoffs. Hackett's strong play during both the regular season and playoffs earned him the top spot among North American goalies on the NHL's Central Scouting list. Don't expect him to fall through another draft.

1. Calvin de Haan - Oshawa Generals
Originally an undersized offensive defenseman when he was drafted in the 3rd round of the OHL draft in 2007, de Haan blossomed into a budding star with Oshawa this season. It was quite the year for Calvin who cracked the Generals roster for the first time, quickly became their top defenseman, made the OHL all star game, and was finally named to the 2009 Under 18 team for Canada. Despite putting up 63 points and a plus rating on a terrible Oshawa team, it was not until the Under 18's where Calvin really began to catch the eye of scouts. He was arguably Canada's best defenceman and one of the best defenceman in the tournament. Expect Calvin's great year to continue with a selection in the first round of the 2009 NHL entry draft next weekend.

Next Sunday's Top 10 will most likely focus on the NHL Entry Draft and be written after its conclusion. Expect something along the lines of, "Biggest surprises at the Entry Draft."

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