The job of NHL Central Scouting is to provide a road map to guide the League's 30 clubs as they analyze the top prospects available for the Entry Draft. The latest milepost was passed Tuesday, as Central Scouting released its preliminary rankings for the top levels of North American junior hockey.
Central Scouting ranked the top 25 skaters and top six goaltenders for the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Western Hockey League and United States Hockey League, which now includes the United States national Team Developmental Program.
Plymouth Whalers center Tyler Seguin
surprisingly took the top spot in the OHL, ahead of the much-hyped Taylor Hall. Seguin's outstanding play started during the summer at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka
Tournament, when he had team-highs of 7 assists and 10 points in four games, and it has carried right into the OHL season.
Seguin is second in the league with 19 goals and fourth with 36 points, all in just 18 games.
has had a great start to the season," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "He has been producing and playing consistently well. He makes things happen every time he is on the ice and he makes his teammates better."
Hall, last season's Memorial Cup MVP for the Windsor Spitfires, has scorched his way up the OHL leaderboard. He has league-highs of 21 goals and 45 points, and in his last 12 games, he has 11 goals and 21 points.
"Hall is a proven player, he won the Memorial Cup MVP last year and for good reason," Edwards said. "Both of these players (Seguin and Hall) will be very good pros."
Hall's Windsor teammate, defenseman Cam Fowler
, is No. 3, followed by Kingston Frontenacs defenseman Erik Gudbranson
and the Alexander Burmistrov
of the Barrie Colts.
Niagara Ice Dogs goalie Mark Visentin
is the top-rated goaltender in the OHL. He has just seven wins and a 3.61 goals-against average, but he's out-played Petteri Simila
, a Montreal Canadiens
2009 draft pick, for the No. 1 job.
"He's got good size, moves very well, got great quickness," Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "He's just very determined, got great butterfly, great net coverage. … His push-offs are very strong and very quick. He's square to the puck, his glove hand is good. Huge improvement form the previous year. His confidence level is real high. He's got great size. He plays big in the net; very, very quick feet and pads. Very technically sound, as well."
The Belleville Bulls' Phillipp Grubauer is No. 2 among goalies, followed by Michael Houser of the London Knights.
Leading the way for the QMJHL are a pair of Moncton Wildcats teammates, defenseman Brandon Gormley
and forward Kirill Kabanov
Gormley has 5 goals and 16 points in 22 games, and has been a key component to a Moncton defense that's allowed a league-low 58 goals.
"He (Gormley) is what a lot of teams are going for," Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau told NHL.com. "He's a good defenseman who can score and handle the puck, smart. … Gormley has got the whole package."
Kabanov earned his high standing despite playing just 11 games due to a legal dispute between Moncton and his Russian league team. Once that got settled, however, Kabanov quickly has shown why the Wildcats fought so hard to get him to North America. He has 5 goals and 14 points, and he's tied for the team lead with 2 game-winning goals.
Rimouski Oceanic teammates right wing Petr Straka
and left wing Jakub Culek
are ranked Nos. 3 and 4, followed by Shawinigan Cataractes left wing Michael Bournival
Another Moncton player, Louis Domingue
, is the top-rated goaltender from the league. Domingue is just 8-7, but has a 2.50 GAA.
"He moves very well, technically he's very quick," Jensen told NHL.com. "He's big, big in the net, handles the puck well, quick feet and pads."
of the Halifax Mooseheads is No. 2, followed by the Gatineau Olympiques' Maxime Clermont
, last season's WHL and Canadian Hockey League rookie of the year, holds down the top spot among WHL skaters this season. The left wing from the Prince George Cougars has been slowed by injuries, but he has 4 goals in the seven games he's played; and when he does return, he'll likely remain among the top prospects for the June draft.
"He puts the puck in the net, he's got good size, great on-ice awareness," NHL Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan
told NHL.com. "He's not a crasher or a banger, but he finishes his checks. He does everything well."
Following Connolly is Edmonton Oil Kings defenseman Mark Pysyk
. In 18 games, the 6-1, 179-pounder has 3 goals and 14 points. The new-found offensive dimension in his second WHL season -- he had 20 points in 61 games last season -- is a product of his adjustment to the league and his maturing game.
"He's an excellent defenseman, strong all-round game," said Sullivan. "He's solid in his own end, he joins the rush. He breaks up plays in the neutral zone, plays a ton of ice time. He's just an all-round solid defenseman. He just jumps out at you."
Rounding out the WHL top five are Red Deer Rebels defenseman Alexander Petrovic
; Medicine Hat Tigers center Emerson Etem
; and Portland Winter Hawks defenseman Troy Rutkowski
Seattle Thunderbirds goaltender Calvin Pickard
is the WHL's top-rated goalie. He's just 4-8-4 this season, but Seattle is last in the Western Division. Despite that, he's 12th in the league with a 2.93 GAA and third with a .920 save percentage. He turned in a 57-save shutout in a 1-0 win against Tri-City.
"He's not really a huge goalie (6-foot, 200 pounds), but he plays big," Jensen told NHL.com. "His positional play is excellent. He reads the play very (well). His net coverage is exceptional. He's smart, he's strong, got those good goalie instincts."
Kent Simpson of the Everett Silvertips is ranked second, followed by Cam Lanigan
of the Edmonton Oil Kings.
, a defenseman with U.S. National Team Development Program's Under-18 team -- which for the first time this season is playing in the USHL -- is the top-rated U.S. junior skater. The tall (6-4-1/2) defenseman has 8 assists and 12 penalty minutes in 18 games against a mix of college and USHL competition.
has good top-end ability at both ends," Central Scouting's Jack Barzee told NHL.com. "He's smart and skates so well, he's almost 6-5 and he's got everything there in front of him. It's just a matter of filling out and getting more experience and playing. He's probably a top-two defenseman in the NHL if he reaches his potential."
USNTDP defensemen take four of the top five USHL spots. After Forbort, Stephen Johns
is ranked No. 3, Justin Faulk
is No. 4, and Jarred Tinordi
is No. 5. Tinordi is the son of former NHL player Mark Tinordi
The top-rated non-USNTDP skater is Tri-City's Jaden Schwartz
, ranked No. 2. The 5-10, 180-pound center is tied for third in the USHL with 20 points in 14 games.
"Schwartz is an incredible player who makes all kinds of things happen around him," said Barzee. "He's playing on a team that isn't as gifted as he is, so some nights people will say he didn't get any points or he didn't do this or that. But he does so many other great little things, like getting the puck toward the goal and getting himself loose. He can strip people of the puck … just at both ends of the ice he's a complete player."
In goal, the USNTDP's Jack Campbell
is the top choice. In 10 games, he is 5-4-1 with a 2.18 goals-against average and .921 save percentage, and he helped the U.S. win gold at the Under-18 Four Nations Cup earlier this month. His outstanding play at last spring's World Under-18 Championship also still resonates. There, he backstopped the U.S. to the gold and was named to the tournament's all-star team.
"He's got good size, doesn't beat himself, his positioning is very good, great butterfly style -- a blocking-style goalie," Jensen said. "Good quickness in recovery, but he's not all over the place. He'll make the saves."
The Lincoln Stars' Jared Coreau is ranked second, with the Sioux City Musketeers' Willie Yanakeff at No. 3.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.