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Plenty of good talent still available

Saturday, 06.27.2009 / 12:27 AM / 2009 NHL Entry Draft

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

MONTREAL -- There will still be a number of very skilled players available when the NHL Entry Draft resumes Saturday at 10 a.m. ET (NHL Network). Among those players who didn't get picked during the first round Friday night are a number of jumbo-size forwards, some quality defensemen and every goaltender available for the draft.

Barring a trade, the New York Islanders will be first to pick Saturday morning -- and as was the case Friday night, they'll have a wealth of talented players to choose from.

If they want to add size up front, among those available are Edina (Minn.) High School's Zach Budish and a pair of U.S. National Team Development Program players, Drew Shore and Chris Brown.

Budish was one of the great unknowns coming into the draft -- a knee injury suffered playing football in October derailed his season before it could really get started. He needed surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and missed all but 15 games with a club team. Even without playing, he's ranked No. 22 by Central Scouting among North American players.

At 6-foot-3 and 229 pounds, Budish already has NHL power-forward size, but teams obviously weren't sure about the rest of his game.

"I think with Zach's injury, everyone's looking to see if he's fully recovered," one Eastern Conference GM told NHL.com. "He did play last year. He did some good work at the start of the year in the Minnesota Elite League (14 goals, 27 points). He's a bit of an enigma for everybody because he didn't play a full season."

Central Scouting's Jack Barzee doesn't need any convincing.

"I've seen Zach since he was 15 years old," Barzee said. "I've seen how he has carried the team and made people around him better. He reminds me of Keith Tkachuk or David Backes at the same age.

"Zach is physically mature in stature, has a good shot in traffic and has a strong ability to dissect the game around him. He's a force, he's hard to move off the puck and he can snap a wrist shot from the blue line."

Shore, a 6-3, 190-pound center, had 14 goals and 37 points in 53 games for the U.S. Under-18 team, and led the team in scoring in international play with 17 points in 17 games.

"Drew is a hard-working player who plays with a lot of drive and energy," Central Scouting's Gary Eggleston said. "He is big and strong and plays a tough and physical game in the corners and along the wall. He finishes his checks with determination. He has good hands, handles the puck well and makes a firm and accurate pass. He creates offense from his hard work and his never giving up on the puck. He battles hard and is tough to play against."

Shore is ranked No. 28 by Central Scouting, two spots ahead of USNTDP teammate Chris Brown. The 6-2, 191-pound center had 20 goals and 38 points in 62 games -- and also led the team with 120 penalty minutes.

"Chris plays a tough and physical-style game," Eggleston said. "He sets the tone of the game by taking the body hard and making a statement right from the opening faceoff. He'll drive his way through checks to get to the puck. He's a very good skater with a long, smooth stride with balance and agility. He has very good anticipation of the play, and plays a solid two-way game."

Other high-skilled forwards who likely won't have to wait long Saturday morning to hear their name called include the Red Deer Rebels' Landon Ferraro, son of NHL All-Star Ray Ferraro; the Swift Current Broncos' Cody Eakin, Erie Otters center Ryan O'Reilly; Kingston Frontenacs center Ethan Werek; and USNTDP left wing Jeremy Morin.

The list of available European forwards is highlighted by Finnish right wing Toni Rajala. The 5-10, 163-pounder is ranked No. 11 among European skaters, and made his biggest impact at the World Under-18 Championship, when he scored 19 points in 10 games to lead the tournament in scoring and was named the top forward.

Other players who could go quickly on Day 2 include 6-3, 205-pound Swedish forward Carl Klingberg; Finnish center Joonas Nattinen; and a pair of talented Slovaks, Richard Panik and Tomas Tatar.

Saskatoon Blades defenseman Stefan Elliott could be the best blueliner available. The Western Hockey League's Scholastic Player of the Year, Elliott had 16 goals and 55 points in 71 games.

"Stefan is your all-around good NHL prospect defenseman," Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire said. "He is an equal mix of solid defense and good offense. Sometimes he is leading the rush -- he has that capability -- but more often he's supporting the rush or starting it with his good first pass out of the zone."

Other top-level blueliners include the Prince Albert Raiders' Ryan Button, who had 37 points in 70 WHL games; the Brampton Battalion's 6-3, 205-pound Matthew Clark; the Shawinigan Cataractes' Charles-Olivier Roussel; the Lewiston Maineiacs' Eric Gelinas; and the Windsor Spitfires' Jesse Blacker.

Among the best available European defenders are Dmitri Orlov, the top-rated Russian player; and Finland's Sami Vatanen, who had an impressive performance in the physical testing the NHL Scouting Combine.

No goalies were selected in the first round for the first time since 2007, and only the second time since 1992.

"All I can say is I guess mamas weren't delivering good goalies in 1991," Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo told NHL.com. "Certainly not like 1979 (the year Luongo was born)."

The Plymouth Whalers' Matthew Hackett is Central Scouting's top-rated North American goalie, and Robin Lehner, who played in Sweden with Frolunda's junior team, is the top-rated European goaltender. Other goalies who could go high are the Saginaw Spirit's Edward Pasquale; the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles' Olivier Roy; and the Owen Sound Attack's Scott Stajcer.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com