Monday, January 11, 2010

NHL Central Scouting Service Releases Midterm Rankings: North America No Surprise- Hall Numero Uno

The Central Scouting Service's midseason rankings are up over at

I can't say that I'm all that surprised by who is near the top of the list (Riley Sheahan at No. 5 overall ahead of Moncton D Brandon Gormley is a mild one), but there are some guys ranked much lower than I expected, namely Kitchener Rangers uber-scorer Jeff Skinner, who is 47th but has 34 goals in 42 OHL games to lead that league (mainly thanks to Taylor Hall's WJC hiatus). Call me crazy, but even with concerns about Skinner's size and defensive game, you mean to tell me that 46 guys are better than he is with that kind of production?

Hall is No. 1 and that's exactly as expected. In fact, the top-three is pretty much what every scout has been projecting this year, with Plymouth Whalers C Tyler Seguin second, and Hall's Windsor teammate Cam Fowler following close behind at three.

Prince George winger Brett Connolly is fourth, and on talent and upside alone, that's a solid place to have him. The problem is- he's battled a nagging hip flexor injury all year that could end up being worse than is being reported. NHL teams will certainly keep a close eye on that and judge his play (assuming he can stay on the ice enough between now and the draft) within that context.

Sheahan at five validates the Red Line Report's belief in him; they started talking about him two years ago when they saw him playing in Ontario Jr. B. Now that he's in South Bend getting prime minutes as a true freshman, everyone else is onto him, too.

Kingston defenseman Erik Gudbranson is sixth, ahead of Gormley, and this despite having injury woes early on and missing time, then being recently diagnosed with mononucleosis, which will not only keep him off the ice for a good few weeks, but will likely hamper him a bit going forward. Curious selection given the situation with him this year, but there is no denying his size or skill level.

Russian flash Alex Burmistrov of the Barrie Colts has been outstanding, and he grades out at seven. Well deserved there, but there will always be a hesitation by NHL teams taking Russians because of recent situations surrounding Nikita Filatov, Alexander Radulov and even the deceased Alexei Cherepanov, who died under dubious circumstances during a game in his native Russia.

Gormley, whom I've heard great things about all year, is ranked a little lower than I would expect, but I still think he's a top-seven or earlier pick. We'll see how the two-way defender, whose upside is not as high as Fowler's, does in the final half.

Rounding out the top-10 are a couple of suspect players based on what I've been hearing.

Edmonton Oil Kings defender Mark Pysyk has all the physical tools to be a player, but has been "passive" and "inconsistent" in the words of a WHL scout I know. He's not a bad prospect, but thus far, has been a disappointment given expectations coming in this year.

Sudbury's John McFarland is a terrific talent, but he's had issues scoring this year, and does not grade real high in the intangibles department, namely, attitude, effort, compete level and leadership.

Not all that surprised either that Russian scorer Kirill Kabanov, who missed time early while waiting for an arbitration ruling on whether he could play for the QMJHL's Moncton Wildcats, was lost for considerable time in December with a significant wrist injury. Skill-wise, Kabanov is much better than 15th overall, but you can't blame the CSS scouts for having him lower than others because he simply hasn't played enough this year, and furthermore, that injury will be a cause for concern going forward.

New England has a pair of regional prospects at 18 and 19 in Nobles forward Kevin Hayes(Dorchester, Mass.) and South Shore (EJHL) forward Charlie Coyle (East Weymouth, Mass.) who is Tony Amonte's cousin and will play for BU next season. Both are being projected in the second round for June at present.

No. 42 and 43 guys, a pair of blueliners in the US NTDP's Jarred Tinordi and Troy Rutkowski of Portland are a little lower than I expected, but Tinordi is more of a meat-and-potatoes, in-your-face defender while Rutkowski is an offensive d-man who Red Line Report scout Mike Remmerde told me recently was having a "Thomas Hickey-type" season, in that Rutkowski demonstrated a terrific offensive dimension as a 16-year-old, but this year, seems to be intent on playing more defense. While not bad news in itself, it has hurt his production and correlates to his lower-than-expected position.

The goalie rankings are about what was expected with Seattle's Calvin Pickard (Nashville 1st-rounder in '08 Chet's brother) No. 1 followed by USA star Jack Campbell second. I've spent a lot of time in this space on Cambpell, but Pickard is like his brother: a big, athletically-gifted and technically-sound goalie with a bright future.

However, I am intrigued by Gatineau's Maxime Clermont sitting way down at the 10th spot. I was led to believe he's a much better prospect than that, so the ranking is a surprise.

As far as New Englanders go, Kennebunk, Me. native Brian Billett is putting up very good numbers for the NH Jr. Monarchs of the EJHL, but is only 25th on the list. That's not even tops on the list. That honor goes to Martin Ouellette, who plays for Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, NH, who greaded out at 17.

What does this all mean? We're looking at a very good year for goalies, which is welcome news given how '09 went in that regard.

I'll be back with another post about the CSS's Midterm rankings for European skaters and goalies next.

And, don't forget- the NHL Network will have the Midterm Rankings special on tonight at 7 ET. Probably worth watching if you have even a passing interest in the 2010 NHL Draft.

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