NHL Central Scouting has advised all NHL personnel to keep an eye on four 2013 draft-eligible players shooting up the ranks for the month of March.
In addition to profiling many of the top prospects on the radar, it's always interesting to learn of those performers improving to the point of getting special attention, as is the case each month when Central Scouting provides team scouts and GMs a cheat sheet of such performers.
This month, Central Scouting has targeted right wing Zach Nastasiuk of the Owen Sound Attack in the Ontario Hockey League, center Laurent Dauphin of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and center Nicolas Petan of the Portland Winterhawks and defenseman Dillon Heatherington of the Swift Current Broncos in the Western Hockey League.
Nastasiuk, Dauphin and Heatherington, who were regarded as 'B skaters' in February, were upgraded to 'A skaters' this month. Petan jumped from a 'C' rating to 'A'.
Here's an overview of each player:
Zach Nastasiuk, Owen Sound Attack, OHL -- In his second season with the Attack, the 6-foot-1.25, 190-pound forward has 19 goals, 19 assists and a plus-21 rating in 59 games. Nastasiuk, who participated in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January, also has seven power-play goals for his team. He may have the best nickname of any prospect on the board at this year's draft -- 'Nasty.'
He's No. 33 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm list of the top draft-eligible North American skaters.
"From the start of the season to now, I've seen a huge improvement in his game," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "Early on, he was a puck-chasing kind of guy and now he's playing with purpose. He's using his size and playing well in his own end. He's the first guy back and breaking up stuff in his own end, creating offense with good passes and getting involved on forecheck. He skates well, has good acceleration and hand speed."
Laurent Dauphin, Chicoutimi Sagueneens, QMJHL -- The 6-foot, 165-pound Dauphin was named player of the game for Team Orr in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game after notching one goal, one assist and a plus-2 rating in a 3-0 victory. In his rookie season for the Sagueneens, Dauphin has erupted for 25 goals and 57 points in 60 games. He's also tied for the team lead with 10 power-play goals.
Dauphin is ranked No. 41 among North Americans on Central Scouting's midterm report.
"I just wanted to prove that I had my place here, and that I was as good as everybody else," Dauphin told reporters after his performance at the Top Prospects Game.
Nicolas Petan, Portland Winterhawks, WHL -- Petan, No. 34 on Central Scouting's midterm list, is second in the league with 111 points, including 45 goals and 66 assists, in 68 games. In his second full season with Portland, he describes himself as a quick, skillful and passionate player. The 5-8.5, 165-pound forward sports a plus-63 rating this season.
He also scored a goal to help lead Team Orr to a 3-0 victory in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January.
"Petan is the little engine that could," Central Scouting's Blair MacDonald told NHL.com. "He plays bigger than his size, competes and leads as good as anyone in this year's draft. He's got excellent on-ice awareness and crafty puck distribution. He also pays attention to both ends of rink and is used in every situation. He's a nifty puck handler and is an underrated passer."
Dillon Heatherington, Swift Current Broncos, WHL -- The 6-3, 196-pound blueliner has established career-high totals across the board for the Broncos this season, producing four goals, 22 assists, 26 points, 80 penalty minutes and a plus-22 rating in 69 contests. He's No. 44 on Central Scouting's midterm list.
"Heatherington is a good-sized defenseman who plays on his toes and is very focused," MacDonald said. "He moves the puck quickly and efficiently and on the tape. I like his energy and posture on the ice. He has solid one-on-one play and finishes checks and boxes out opposing forwards. He uses his size and is physical. He's a player definitely trending upwards."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
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