Center John Tavares of the Ontario Hockey League and defenseman Victor Hedman of the Swedish Elite League today were named the top NHL 2009 draft-eligible skaters from North America and Europe as the NHL Central Scouting Bureau released its mid-season rankings. The debate over which player will be selected first overall at the NHL Entry Draft in June began more than a year ago when each represented his respective country at the 2008 World Junior Championships.
Speculation has intensified since Jan. 5, when Tavares led Canada to a gold medal victory over Hedman and Sweden, and is sure to increase in the countdown to NHL Draft day on June 26, 2009.
Tavares, now playing for the London Knights after a deadline-day trade from the Oshawa Generals, has 28 goals and 55 points in 33 games and was a driving force behind Canada’s fifth straight gold medal at the 2009 World Junior Championships. The 6’0”, 200-pound native of Oakville, Ontario led Team Canada with eight goals, finished second in the tournament with 15 points and was named tournament MVP.
Hedman, trying to become the first Swedish player since Mats Sundin (Quebec 1989) to be claimed first overall, hails from Ornskoldsvik - the town that has become famous for producing Markus Naslund, Peter Forsberg, Daniel and Henrik Sedin. The 6’6”, 220-pound blueliner, playing his second season with MODO, was a towering presence for Team Sweden at the 2009 World Junior Championship, leading his country to a second consecutive silver medal.
Joining Tavares among the top North American skaters are four more high flying, skilled centers: #2-ranked Matt Duchene (Haliburton, Ontario) of the OHL’s Brampton Battalion, #3-ranked Evander Kane (Vancouver, British Columbia) of the Western Hockey League’s Vancouver Giants and a teammate of Tavares on Canada’s World junior team; #4-ranked Jordan Schroeder (Burnsville, Minnesota), a freshman at the University of Minnesota and #5-ranked Brayden Schenn (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) from the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings and the brother of Toronto Maple Leafs’ rookie sensation Luke Schenn.
Edward Pasquale (Toronto, Ontario), from the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League, is the top-rated North American goaltender, while Team Sweden teammates Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (Norrköping, Sweden) and Jacob Josefson (Stockholm, Sweden) are ranked second and third respectively among European skaters.
The mid-season ranking features the top 210 skaters and 30 goaltenders in North America and top 148 skaters and 12 goaltenders from Europe.
In its 33rd year of operation, the NHL Central Scouting Service provides scouting and evaluation of draft-eligible players to NHL member clubs. Headed by Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire, NHL Central Scouting employs eight full-time and 15 part-time scouts throughout North America. To report on prospects playing in Europe, the NHL employs the services of Goran Stubb and his staff of six scouts at European Scouting Services based in Finland. Combined, the NHL Central Scouting and European Scouting Service will combine to see in excess of 3,000 games this season.