Friday, January 22, 2010

But What About Those Second-Rounders? Some Guys You Should Know

This blog has spent a lot of time focusing on some of the players who the Bruins stand to pick up in the first-30 selections with Toronto's and their own top choices, but what about those three second-round picks?

If the season ended today, the Bruins would be choosing 33rd (Toronto), 35th (Tampa Bay) and 45th (Boston).

I thought I'd throw out some names of some intriguing possibilities (in no particular order) for the upcoming draft, keeping in mind that these players may or may not be there in the second-round when all is said and done, but are currently projected there based on where things stand today.

Tyler Toffoli, C/W Ottawa 67's (OHL): Toffoli (Tuh-FOE-lee) got off to a poor start this season, but caught fire of late and has some real upside. He's not all that big (6-0, 185), but he can really scoot; very nice edge control and is elusive and agile with a rapid change of direction. He can fire the puck as well, which when combined with his speed/quickness and offensive instincts makes him a dangerous player. In the CHL Top Prospects game, he skated on a line with Tyler Seguin and John McFarland, the three of whom have a history together in other international tourneys. I've heard that his compete level isn't where it needs to be, so his work ethic/intensity is something scouts will pay close attention to. Still, on pure talent alone, Toffoli is probably a first-round pick who will fall to the second because of the concerns about size and effort.

Max Clermont, G Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL): A prototypical Quebec butterfly goalie with good size and athleticism. His technique reminds me a little of Felix Potvin; he tends to play deeper in his net and relies on his reflexes a lot, leading to acrobatic and visually-pleasing saves that aren't necessarily a reflection of strong positional play. Even so, he's a gamer with a lot of promise who could develop into an NHL starter given a lot of time and seasoning. He and Calvin Pickard really shut the door on Team Orr the other night. Pickard will require a first-round pick, but Clermont could very well be had in the early-to-mid 2nd. Without a top-shelf goalie prospect in Boston's system (I like Mike "Hutch" Hutchinson, but I think he may project more as a lower-tier starter/solid backup at the highest level), Clermont might be a nice option depending on where he is on Boston's board. I think he's a significantly better goalie than his Central ranking (10th) indicates.

Devante Smith-Pelly, LW Mississauga St. Michael's Majors (OHL): I had heard great things about DSP as a character, gritty guy who had displayed an unanticipated scoring touch this season, and he showed that in the prospects game the other night. He's under six-feet, but weighs in at about 215, so he's a tank on skates who has some nice jump and is extremely difficult to knock off the puck when he gets going. He's a guy who I saw repeatedly go into the dangerous areas of the ice and relished making first contact with members of Team Orr. He's one of those high-motor, go-through-a-wall-for-his-teammates players, and while his offensive upside may not be as high as others projected in the second round, he's more than the sum of his parts. His 67-ranking by Central is much too low. Red Line Report has him 47th overall in their January rankings, and that makes a lot more sense to me. High character guys with decent wheels and a physical edge will always go higher than the flashy, uber-skilled ones lacking in heart.

Charlie Coyle, RW South Shore Kings (EJHL): East Weymouth native and cousin of Tony Amonte who followed the former NHL star to Thayer Academy and will also head off to Commonwealth Ave and Boston University doesn't get as much hype, but looks like a real player to me. I saw him when he was with Thayer and he was dominant at that level, and after moving over to the EJ, which plays a lot more games and is more of a pro-style acclimation given the demanding schedule and higher physical intensity, has stepped it up with superb production. He's got natural size (6-2, 207) and is a very good skater and puckhandler who plays with an edge. The puck seems to follow him around the ice. He's also a high-character kid as well. I've seen him anywhere from early 2nd-round to 55th, but even though he's a longer-term project and not as explosive as Chris Kreider, the Bruins might do well to snag him with Tampa's pick. My colleague at the New England Hockey Journal, Bill Keefe, wrote a detailed story about Coyle in our December issue. You can read it online here:http://www.hockeyjournal.com/news/2009/12/20_southshore.php

Tom Kuhnhackl, RW Landshut EV (Germany 2): The son of Erich Kuhnhackl, Germany's all-time leading scorer in its elite pro league, injuries and up-and-down play have conspired to drop Tom down the various lists. He 's an elite talent who, prior to the season, was seen in some circles as a top-10 prospect, but is slipping (ranked 10th on the European skaters list by Central). If he is there early in the 2nd, Kuhnhackl would be a steal. He's an explosive player with a very quick stick and a high-end hockey IQ. He's a beanpole (6-2, 172 pounds) who has a lot of filling out to do, but scouts love his live athletic build and know he'll pack on enough mass to handle the physical aspects. He also fits with what the Bruins are always looking for: speed, skill, character and bloodlines. There's a very good chance he'll be picked somewhere in the first-round, but if the lack of viewing this season (Germany's relegation to the Pool B at the WJC really hurt him from what I heard) as opposed to last comes into play, then the B's might benefit.

Patrik Nemeth, D AIK (Sweden- Jr.): Great size (6-3, 205) and mobility are Nemeth's best attributes. He doesn't have the kind of pure offensive potential that would see him pushed up into the NHL's first-round. He's shown a lot of promise in the various international competitions like the Ivan Hlinka/Eight Nations and Four Nations tourneys, and plays with some jam and poise. True, he doesn't project as a top-two NHL defenseman, but he does have the kind of physical attributes and presence to be a solid middle-pairing, intelligent defender to be worth an early-to-mid 2nd round pick.

Teemu Pulkkinen, RW Jokerit (Finland Jr.): Injuries have dropped the smallish, but productive Pulkkinen's stock this year, which might make it a perfect time for Boston to make a swing-for-the-fences, high-upside pick on a player with a world of offensive talent and skills, but who is risky because of his fragility (knee, ankle and wrist woes dating back to last season) and a lack of a high motor/sterling work ethic. He gained some notice at last spring's Under-18 Championship in Fargo, but never got going in his draft year before going on the shelf for an extended period with wrist surgery. Pulkkinen isn't as explosive a skater as U-18 teammate Toni Rajala (Edmonton prospect), but he's got a wicked shot and is one of those players who simply knows how to score. When you have three kicks at the can between 31-60, a player of Pulkkinen's potential might not be a bad way to go. He's back playing and doing pretty well in the Finnish jr. league- getting back into the swing of things. If he can continue to progress, you'll hear his name more as the European season closes out and we get closer to the draft.

Alex Petrovic, D Red Deer Rebels (WHL): Solid, steady, dependable. Those are three words to describe the Rebels defenseman who is a good skater, strong positionally and projects as a No. 3/4 defense-minded defender with character and some toughness. He dropped the gloves with Dylan McIlrath in the prospects game, which says a lot for him, even though he looked reluctant to dance initially. At almost 6-4, 194, he has the classic size and strength that NHL teams are looking for, and while he may not be a big points producer, he makes a good first pass and is one of those "safe" picks who will play in the NHL 10-15 years by the looks of it.

Beau Bennett, C Penticton Vees (BCHL): One of my WHL sources turned me on to this skilled California kid who's been tearing up the BCHL this year with the Vees, scoring 29 goals and 82 points in 42 games on the top line with '89 BD Denver Manderson (contrast to Bruins prospect and teammate Ben Sexton who has 6 goals, 26 points as a third-liner in 36 games) Bennett is fast and can really wire the puck to the back of the net. He's another one of those higher-risk/even higher reward kinds of picks who doesn't have a lot of size, but is a pure scoring presence with a lot of potential at the highest level. With multiple picks in the second, Boston can afford to roll the dice a little bit with someone of Bennett's skillset and promise.

Troy Rutkowski, D Portland Winterhawks (WHL): Nino Niederreiter has grabbed most of the headlines in Portland this season, but this offensive defender has all of the makings of a two-way presence at the NHL level including very good size, four-way skating ability, a big point shot, nice vision and strong passing skills, but has not met expectations with the production this season. Because of the lack of points (7 goals, 28 points in 41 games), he's dropped in the rankings to the second round. Mike Remmerde, a Red Line Report scout based in the WHL (and who you'll see a lot more from on this blog, especially when I delve into Portland's "Fab Four" in the coming weeks) thinks that Rutkowski has been so much better defensively this year compared to last, and that his improved diligence in his own end has come at the expense of points. Rutkowski didn't do much to stand out at the prospects game this week, but I could see his decent wheels on display. He's one of these unheralded, relatively unknown quantities who, like Duncan Keith in 2002 at 54th overall after a pedestrian freshman season at Michigan State, could end up being a steal because the two-way ability is clearly there even if the production hasn't been this year.

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