Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday Top 10 - The Media Picks the Top 10 Part Deux

If you remember correctly, at the end of October I put together a top 10 list based on the polling and contribution of junior hockey's brightest minds (HERE). The article was well received so I figured, why not do a midseason poll (great timing with NHL Central Scouting releasing their rankings tomorrow).

This time around, the roster was a little bit different, as the time constraints of the world juniors hindered the availability of some of last time's contributors. But thankfully, we have so many bright minds covering our league (and junior hockey in general), that it serves as an interesting comparison piece.

Contributing this time were Loosepuck's Terry Doyle, Hockey Prospectus' Corey Pronman, The Scouting Report's Scott Campbell, New England Hockey Journal's (and Bruins 2011 Draft Watch Blog's) Kirk Luedeke, Maine Hockey Journal's (and the World of Junior Hockey's) Nathan Fournier, and yours truly.

Needless to say, for those arguing that this is a down crop of OHL talent because of the lack of a first overall competitor, you should only need one look at this list to see otherwise. One contributor put it best. "First of all, this OHL crop is extremely difficult to rank-- the margin between multiple players is razor thin, and I would expect the top-10 to further change/switch up by season's end with the kind of surge Matt Puempel has had, improved play from Nicklas Jensen of late, whether smaller players will wear down during the dog days of winter and so on. (This was a) very tough exercise to pull off."

Just as a refresher as to how the list was derived, all the above sent me lists. These lists were inputted into excel and averaged out. All comments come from the contributors, but will remain anonymous.

Here's the list.

10. Vincent Trocheck - Saginaw Spirit
Received Votes From: 2 out of 6
Highest Placement: 8th (twice)
Preliminary Ranking: Honorable Mention
Comments: Trocheck's ranking provides proof as to how split this polling was. Here's a guy receiving votes from only one third of the contributors, yet he makes the top 10. "I wish he was a bit bigger, but I absolutely love the package he brings to the ice. He does a little bit of everything and has the offensive skill to play more than just an energy role in the NHL," says one contributor. "(He) can bring a mean streak to the ice as well. Not afraid to drop the gloves if needed," adds another contributor. For those that didn't rank him, it was a case of his lack of size and perhaps undefined role at the next level.

9. Vladislav Namestnikov - London Knights
Received Votes From: 3 out of 6
Highest Placement: 6th
Preliminary Ranking: Honorable Mention
Comments: Namestnikov may have gotten the same number of votes he did last time around, but it was enough to crack the list this time. It was his overall offensive skill set that sold contributors. "I think his overall talent, hockey sense and familiarity with North American hockey will make him a highly sought-after commodity on draft day. In terms of pure ability and upside, Khokhlachev is better, but I think Namestnikov is a better bet with the intangibles." Interestingly enough, another contributor feels Namestnikov to be the better of the two Russian prospects. "Despite being on an underachieving team, I don't think NHL teams will be afraid of selecting him." Yet another contributor isn't sold. "I think he's a good prospect, but I prefer some of the other players available. As a late 1992, I'd like to see more consistency. Why can't he be held accountable as part of the reason why the Knights have struggled (especially offensively)?"

8. Daniel Catenacci - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Received Votes From: 4 out of 6
Highest Placement: 7th
Preliminary Ranking: Honorable Mention
Comments: Catenacci is definitely getting more love this time around, after being held off the list with one vote on the preliminary list. It's his highly competitive nature that has some contributors impressed. "I'm really not sure what type of NHL player he is, but he's a very aggressive and competitive player. If the Greyhounds didn't have him, they'd be running down near the level of the Barrie Colts," says one media member. Another adds, "I wasn't too impressed with him in my multiple viewings last year, but this season seems to be night and day in contrast. He outworks almost every other player on the ice." However, one contributor is somewhat concerned with his ability to play in the NHL. "'I'm just a little concerned about whether or not his creativity will allow him to be a Top 6 guy at the next level, because he'll have a hard time being a checker at his size."

7. Alexander Khokhlachev - Windsor Spitfires
Received Votes From: 5 out of 6
Highest Placement: 5th
Preliminary Ranking: 5th
Comments: Left off the Top Prospect's Game roster, you have to wonder if us (the OHL fanatics) are overrating him in comparison with NHL scouts. The obvious reason is his size, as one contributor points out. "He's small at a position where NHL teams seem to be looking for the next Ryan Getzlaf, which is probably why he's not generating nearly as much NHL attention." But what he lacks in size, he makes up for in dazzle, as one contributor points out. "(He's) a dynamic game-breaker that has the stuff NHL teams drool over. If he can maintain the offensive pace over the season's second half, then I think he moves up the list. He's a better offensive player than Namestnikov, but I want to make sure he can sustain it." However one contributor thinks the size concerns are a bunch of hooey. "He may be small, but he doesn't play small. He's fearless on the ice and isn't afraid to take a hit to score a goal or create a scoring chance."

6. Matt Puempel - Peterborough Petes
Received Votes From: 6 out of 6
Highest Placement: 4th (twice)
Preliminary Ranking: 4th
Comments: Interesting enough, Puempel falls on this list, despite the fact that he's significantly improved his play over the course of the last month. Perhaps it's his lack of flash that has him underrated. Or as one contributor put it, "he won't be an overly dynamic pro, but if he's paired with a good center, he'll get his lot of goals." The word goal scorer obviously came up in every contributor's response. One loves the fact he can score in different ways. "This kid just knows how to score. Whether it is breaking down the wing, or going hard to the net." Another likes the fact he's stepped up lately. "This guy was not the CHL's ROY by accident, and he's scoring with the best of them. The big question is whether he can keep it up and maintain the intensity levels of late, but he's on the right track."

5. Dougie Hamilton - Niagara IceDogs
Received Votes From: 6 out of 6
Highest Placement: 2nd
Preliminary Ranking: 6th
Comments: OK, why don't we start off with a comment from the guy who rated him 2nd, who admits that he's not perfect, but the upside is salivating. "He's got some warts, but again, I keep going to the size, skating ability and the fact that he's been putting up points this season. His developmental curve seems to be vertical, and I can't imagine he'll be on the board very long in June." However, one contributor has a nearly opposite view. "He's a big guy that does a lot of things fairly well, but doesn't really have any particularly dominant traits to his game. (That's why) I'm a little leery of what type of role he will have in the NHL." But it's certainly hard to deny his combination of size and skill on the back end. "He'll probably be 6'5 and 220lbs when he's playing in the NHL, and with his strong skating ability and improving two way play, I can't help but wonder if he's a candidate for the top 5 of the draft on some team's lists. A virtual Brent Seabrook clone."

4. Ryan Strome - Niagara IceDogs
Received Votes From: 6 out of 6
Highest Placement: 2nd
Preliminary Ranking: 8th
Comments: Strome is the biggest riser from our preliminary list, which should come as no surprise. He's one of five guys on this list to receive a vote for the top 2 from the OHL. How about a comment from the guy put him 2nd? "I LOVE this kid. He has franchise player potential in the NHL. Just a really dynamic center who makes those around him better. Every time I've seen him play, he's been the best player on the ice. With a really good Top Prospect's Game, I think this guy starts getting top 5 consideration. He'd be up there already if there wasn't a hesitation due to his sudden improvement this season." Another contributor agrees, "I think he'll be this year's Ryan Johansen- a player who will be a higher pick than most project and surprise on draft day."

3. Brandon Saad - Saginaw Spirit
Received Votes From: 6 out of 6
Highest Placement: 2nd (three times)
Preliminary Ranking: 2nd
Comments: Saad falls one spot on our midseason ranking, despite his constantly good production with one of the league's top teams. "I see a lot of potential. A guy with good hands, offensive instincts and intriguing size. But I think he'll take time to develop. A lot of people see that size and scoring ability and hope he becomes a power forward. I don't see it and I think his play along the boards and in traffic needs improvement. He reminds me a lot of James Van Riemsdyk in his draft year, and it's taken JVR some time to adjust to the NHL," says on contributor. Meanwhile, one contributor sees him as a safe pick, but has him lower down because he's not as flashy as some other options. "Saad at 6 is more a testament to the OHL draft pool than me not liking Saad, although I do think he is a little overrated. He's an above-average skater whose good physically on the forecheck and in the high traffic areas and has solid finishing ability, but we're looking at a guy who could be a top six forward at the next level IMO, and nothing more. You always bet on the tools and ceiling IMO and guys like Hamilton, Strome and Koko have those ahead of safer guys like Saad."

2. Ryan Murphy - Kitchener Rangers
Received Votes From: 6 out of 6
Highest Placement: 1st
Preliminary Ranking: 1st
Comments: Murphy falls down to the number two spot, after being ranked first in our preliminary rankings. But don't take that as us believing he's falling in the draft. One contributor sums it up perfectly. "Murphy is a smooth skating, excellent puckhandling defenceman who may have been overlooked by NHL teams 10 years ago because of his size. But times have changed and no reason Murphy won't be a high pick in June." One contributor believes he may have the highest ceiling of any player in the draft. "He's a guy who has the potential to not be good, but potentially an elite defenseman at the next level. IMO there is no other player in the OHL pool who is even close to making that sort of claim to have that kind of potential. In regards to his defense, I think it will come because he's a smart hockey player. The hockey IQ is there and you see it outside the defensive zone, it's just not developed into his game which I think it will with time. There are always small, skilled guys who you say, O well if X, Y and Z go right maybe he'll be something but their skill sets are never to the degree Murphy's is. He's special and that's why he's my #1 over a guy like Landeskog whose ceiling may be an average first line forward whose good defensively." However, one contributor still sees him behind Hamilton. "I think the defensive positioning/play is improved enough to take him with a high pick, but the size deficit puts him just a hair behind Hamilton in terms of NHL projection in my opinion."

1. Gabriel Landeskog - Kitchener Rangers
Received Votes From: 6 out of 6
Highest Placement: 1st (five times)
Preliminary Ranking: 3rd
Comments: A nearly unanimous first ranking for the Swedish captain of the Kitchener Rangers. Last time Landeskog received two votes for first. This time, he gets five. Why the increase? "Honestly, I wasn't solid on his NHL potential before. I didn't believe he could be a dynamic, year in/year out NHL all star. But I'm a believer now. He's ready for the NHL next year and he's going to make an impact. Probably one of the most complete players available for the draft in recent memory," says one contributor. Another agrees, "he has been moving up all season. He's probably the most complete player in all three zones. You got to like that he brings a physical presence and leadership ablitity at such a young age." I think one contributor summed it perfectly. "He's a player you win with, period." And that's why he's numero uno.

Others Receiving Votes Were:
Nicklas Jensen - Oshawa Generals (two votes)
Boone Jenner - Oshawa Generals (two votes)
Shane Prince - Ottawa 67's (two votes)
Stuart Percy - Mississauga Majors (one vote)
Mark Scheifele - Barrie Colts (one vote)
Brett Ritchie - Sarnia Sting (one vote)
Tobias Rieder - Kitchener Rangers (one vote)

Interestingly enough, Lucas Lessio received five votes last time and came in at number 7 on our preliminary list. This time, he didn't receive a single vote. Ditto for London defenseman Scott Harrington who received three votes last time, but was left off all ballots this time.

Thanks to all those who contributed!

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