As it sits today the NHL and its counterpart NHLPA have yet to come to an agreement for a new CBA. This means the season is done, and so far, so is the NHL entry draft. At some point the two sides will eventually get a deal done and then an entry draft will have to take place for the prospects with 1987 birthdays. The draft order is a complete mystery but all rumours tend to lean towards a lottery type system [possibly weighted] in order to make it “as fair as possible”. This has its pros and cons but the fun part is you could be picking at number 1 overall with a lucky break; if you trust the system that is.
We all know who the first pick will be, and the odds are likely to be one in thirty at best for the right to select “the next one”, so let’s look at just a few other players/options for a first round selection. Here is a list of potential prospects that the Montreal Canadiens could be adding to their steadily deepening prospect list via the 2005 NHL entry draft.
Below is a list of just a few of the top ranked players available for selection. They are in no particular order and in no way listed to indicate where they would be picked in the upcoming draft.
Sidney Crosby F 5′ 10” 180 lbs
What can be said that wouldn’t be repeated about this 17-year-old enigma? Last season, he shattered a 30-year-old record for points by a 16-year-old in the QMJHL, a feat that includes surpassing Mike Bossy, Vincent Lecavalier, and Mario Lemieux at the same age. “Crosby possesses Gretzky-like vision and passing skills to go with his excellent skating ability, balance, speed, agility and strength. His impressive package of skills allows Crosby to control the play, while his excellent hand/eye coordination and goal-scorer’s touch make him an offensive threat every time he hits the ice. Without question, Crosby is a totally dominant player who can burn you any number of ways. No other prospect in this draft can match his ability to dominate the game.” Quips Hockeysfuture.com.
Jack Johnson D 6′ 1” 210 lbs
The 6-foot-one, 210-pound defenseman is considered one of the top prospects for the upcoming 2005 NHL draft. Jack was recently rated as the No. 5 North American skater by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau and the No. 2 prospect by the International Scouting Service. There seem to be conflicting reports of the style of defenseman that the current Michigan Wolverine will become, but the most common is that of Ed Jovanovski, and Scott Niedermayer. No matter who he will eventually be compared to, he seems to be a gem for his future team.
Gilbert Brule F 5′ 10” 175 lbs
Brule has more in common with Sidney Crosby then just size. Both prospects have great skating abilities, on-ice vision, creativity, and are both considered to be natural goals scorers. Brule however has a feistier side then Sidney does, and his 100 PM last season [2003-2004] shows it. His most common comparisons to Daymond Langkow or Kris Draper are a testament to his toughness and grit, but his creativity and skill at top speeds make him a better prospect then that. Think more towards Pavel Datsyuk to be more accurate.
Tuukka Rask G 6′ 1” 190 lbs
Rask has all the tools to be a number one goalie in the NHL. His reflexes, balance control and foot speed is excellent, his positioning, and glove hand are above average, and he has a great work ethic. However he needs work on his rebound control, but that should be somewhat minor considering all the tools he already possesses. His ranking has slipped a bit from an erratic showing at the World Junior Hockey Championships, but that should not be all that makes or breaks his future. Rask is most often compared to Kari Lehtonen.
Bobby Ryan F 6′ 1” 224 lbs
Ryan is so close to becoming an absolute force within the OHL, but his skating is his flaw. Ryan’s commitment to fitness has allowed him to become lighter, and although he’ll never beat Ilya Kovalchuck in a foot race, he has become an adequate skater. Ryan’s real bread and butter is in his ability to carry guys to the net and he has hands that are too good for a kid of his size as his 29 goals 47 assists [76 points in 53 games] and plus 30 attest to. He has some comparisons to Keith Tkachuk, but Ryan is less feisty.
Benoit Pouliot F 6′ 2” 180 lbs
He has been labeled as the “classic late bloomer” by all scouts but they like what they see. Pouliot packed on 25 lbs for this season [04-05] and has been using every pound since, much to the chagrin of opposing goalies and defensemen throughout the OHL. Former NHL’er and Sudbury Wolves coach Mike Foligno had this to say “He’s not a project. He shows up to play every night, He drives the net, and he comes out of the corner. He’s very hard to pin down. If you play physical, he’ll hit back and he’s got speed. He’s getting better and better each time he goes on the ice and he’s becoming a more consistent, well-rounded player.” Benoit currently leads all OHL rookies in scoring with 62 points [28 goals and 34 assists] in 59 games.
Carey Price G 6′ 2” 175 lbs
Most scouts feel that Rask is the top goaltending prospect available, with Carey as a close second, but no matter whom you ask, he is a gamer. Price is capable of becoming a number one goalie for any team that drafts him. He needs a little work on his positioning but his athleticism is superb, as is his work ethic. Carey Price is most often compared to Mike Richter in style.
Jakub Kindl D 6′ 3” 200 lbs
Kindl is a player every scouts loves, a complete package. Jakub has the size, speed, strength, and maturity of a franchise blue-liner that you can build around. He is offensive enough to quarterback the power-play, and dependable enough to protect the lead late in the game. His potential is near limitless. Compares to Redden or a less aggressive Pronger.
Jack Skille F 6′ 1” 205 lbs
If a team is looking for raw skill and tenacity then Jack Skille is the player they want. Jack is a bull with terrific skill that dominates physically and scores goals in a variety of ways. Unbelievable set of hands, deadly accurate from the slot. His tenacity is overwhelming and frequently wears opposition teams down with his “never say die” style. Comparisons to this player are all over the map ranging from Esa Tikkanen, to Kris Draper, to Keith Tkachuk.
Anze Kopitar F 6′ 2” 205 lbs
Anze is a big guy with soft hands and explosive, game-breaking scoring ability. “He has size, fantastic hockey sense, a good shot; he’s more or less a complete package” Raves ISS. The fact that he already qualifies as the best player ever to come out of his country, should speak volumes about his skill and determination. He most closely compares to Mats Sundin in style.
Nicklas Bergfors F 5′ 10” 190 lbs
Nicklas is a finesse center with tremendous vision and creativity. He has terrific playmaking ability, is extremely creative, plays well without the puck, and likes to drive to the net to create scoring chances. Bergfors is the youngest player to ever receive a senior contract (with Sodertalje) in the SEL which is no small feat in itself. His overall agility needs to be improved, but that is minor when dealing with such a talented player. He could be the next big star out of Sweden. Bergfors can be compared to Henrik Sedin or Scott Gomez type player.
Guillaume Latendresse F 6′ 2” 215 lbs
Latendresse is the prototypical power forward that all NHL teams covet. He has a great combination of size and shooting ability to go along with a decent mean streak, and figures on getting even bigger and stronger down the road. The potential power forward plays a rugged game, dominates below the circles, and has good hands in close. Latendresse is more of a sniper than a playmaker, possessing an excellent shot with a quick release. His two-way game is already polished for such a young player and he has excellent versatility up front. Guillaume closely compares to Keith Primeau.
Marek Zagrapan F 6′ 1” 185 lbs
What draft would be complete without a “wild card” type player? Last years entry draft had Kostitsyn and O’Sullivan as the wild cards, and this year has Marek Zagrapan. Marek possesses tremendous offensive potential, and is a deceptively quick player with above-average hockey sense, tremendous vision and creativity; all are attributes that are aided by his patience with the puck and his elusiveness. Zagrapan is arguably one of the most talented players in the draft, but he lacks overall strength to be able to handle the physically challenging NHL defenders. I find it hard to compare a “wild cards” potential to anyone, so I will decline the gamble.
Ryan O’Marra F 6′ 2” 185 lbs
Can you say blue-chip prospect? O’Marra is a very safe draft pick. “Ryan has natural goal-scoring instincts and may possess the best shot in the draft. He can find a seam and get open for a laser shot and can score goals from anywhere in the offensive zone. O’Marra uses his size and reach effectively. He plays an aggressive and physical game, works effectively in the corners, finishes his checks, has good puck control at full speed, drives the net for rebounds and demonstrates good hands in close. O’Marra is a very good skater with a nice, long stride, good agility, speed, strength and balance. He plays well in both ends of the ice and is a hard worker. O’Marra has the potential to be a team leader, and is overall a very talented player.” Says Hockeysfuture.com
Fortunately this is a breakdown of only 14 prospects that are available for the upcoming 2005 entry draft. I choose these player’s because they interested me. The best part about it is any one of them could be pulling on the fabled bleu, blanc, et rouge as a result of the likely weighted lottery system.
Part 2 to follow in the coming weeks.