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Stamkos, defensemen lead final draft list

by Shawn P. Roarke

Steven Stamkos is the No. 1 ranked North American prospect that is eligible for the 2008 Entry Draft.
The 2008 NHL Entry Draft remains on track to be the Steven Stamkos show.

Stamkos, who has been ranked the No. 1 draft-eligible prospect since this past summer, remained No. 1 Thursday when NHL Central Scouting released its final ranking of the North American players eligible for the 2008 Entry Draft, which will be held June 20-21 in Ottawa.

Russia's Nikita Filatov is the top-ranked European skater. Thomas McCollum of the Guelph Storm is the top-rated North American goalie and Sweden's Jakob Markstrom is the top-ranked European goalie.

Stamkos, a star center for Sarnia in the Ontario Hockey League, has been the most acclaimed Canadian prospect since Sidney Crosby. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Stamkos had 58 goals and 47 assists during the regular season and added 11 goals in nine playoff games.

"I want to get drafted as high as possible, but just getting drafted is a tremendous honor," Stamkos said earlier this season. "Getting drafted is more like a bragging right. Once you get to (training) camp, then everyone's on an even playing field and you're playing for a job. You can be a fourth-rounder, but if you outplay the first-rounder, they're going to take you."

Tampa Bay owns the No. 1 pick this season after winning the NHL Entry Draft Lottery. The club is expected to take Stamkos, unless it trades the pick.

After Stamkos, the field is a little more open, although dominated by defensemen, who occupy the next five spots after Stamkos. Overall, 11 of the top 20 prospects are defensemen.

American Zach Bogosian, who is playing for Peterborough in the OHL, jumped one spot from the midseason ranking to take the No. 2 ranking, passing Guelph's Drew Doughty, who now sits at No. 3.

Bookend Kelowna defensemen Tyler Myers and Luke Schenn each jumped two spots to finish at No. 4 and No. 5, respectively. Niagara's Alex Pietrangelo, who was knocked out of the playoffs after contracting mononucleosis, fell one spot to No. 6.

Everett forward Kyle Beach, Lethbridge center Zach Boychuk, Brampton forward Cody Hodgson and Boston College forward Colin Wilson round out the top 10.

Beach, a classic power forward, could be one of the most interesting players on draft day. The left wing fell three spots from his mid-term ranking and had a terrible postseason.

But some scouts believe he could develop into the best NHL player of the bunch. His second junior season, however, was compromised by a litany of injuries, including back-to-back concussions in the middle of the season. Still, the 6-3, 203-pound power forward had 60 points in 60 games to go along with 222 penalty minutes.

The top 10 rated North Americans are followed by a group of players ranked between 11 and 20 who made major moves from their mid-term rankings.

Kitchener's Mikkel Boedker, a left wing, used a strong second half of the season to jump two spots to No. 11. The Dane has a rookie-high 22 points in just 13 OHL playoff games. He put up 73 points during the regular season.

"He's been outstanding," said Peter DeBoer, the Rangers' coach and general manager. "He's proven that he's a top-10 NHL pick. He might be as ready to step right into the NHL as any other forward in the world other than Stamkos."

Defenseman Luca Sbisa, a Swiss import playing for Lethbridge, jumped six spots to No. 12. BCHL star forward Zac Dalpe, who played for Penticton, leapfrogged 10 spots to finish at 16.

John Carlson, yet another defenseman, is the top-ranked player from the USHL at No. 17; the rookie from the Indiana Ice was No. 19 at midterms. Regina defenseman Colten Teubert jumped nine spots to finish at No. 18. 

Among goalies, McCollum made a two-spot jump to snag the top spot, unseating Tri-City's Chet Pickard, who held the distinction at the mid-term ranking period. McCollum, an American goalie playing in the OHL, had a breakthrough year with the Storm, going 25-17-3-3 in the regular season. His 2.50 goals-against average was fourth in the OHL and his .914 save percentage ranked No. 6.

The Guelph Storm's Thomas McCollum is the highest rated North American goaltender.
"McCollum has really improved this year," says Al Jensen, the goalie scout for Central Scouting. "I think he is a potential franchise goalie. I know him really well. He progressed through the year a lot and he is still playing well."

Pickard fell to No. 2 and Peter Delmas, who backed up Jonathan Bernier in Lewiston, fell to No. 3. Barrie's Michael Hutchinson made a late charge and sky-rocketed from No. 18 in January to No. 5 on Thursday's list.

The pool of European talent is not nearly as deep as in past years, according to many scouts, but there still is world-class talent at the top.

Filatov has had ample opportunity to showcase his game-breaking talents on the international stage. In the past year, he has represented Russia at the World Junior Championships, the Super Series and the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. Most recently, he played for his country at the U-18 World Championships.

The Russian scorer played his domestic hockey with CSKA's second-division team this year, dominating the competition. The 6-foot, 172-pound left wing had 32 goals and 34 assists in 34 games.

Big Russian right wing Kirill Petrov, who plays for Kazan, holds down the No. 2 spot among European forwards, followed by three Swedes. Left wing Mattias Tedenby, who plays for HV 71, is No. 3, followed by defenseman Erik Karlsson and center Anton Gustafsson, both from the Frolunda junior program.

Markstrom, who has been discussed as the best Swedish goalie prospect since Pelle Lindbergh, took the top goaltending spot from Finland's Harri Sateri. Markstrom (6-3, 178) has been a better-than-average goalie despite playing regularly for Brynas in the Swedish Elite League. Sateri (6-1, 190) had a solid season for Tappara in the Finnish junior league.

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