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Stamkos, Stefanovich, Beach top '08 preliminary rankings

by Brad Holland
Steve Stamkos has become an Internet sensation by scoring one of the prettiest shootout goals you’ll see anywhere. Watch it
NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary rankings for the 2008 Entry Draft are out and, as expected, Sarnia Sting forward Steven Stamkos heads the list of Ontario Hockey League prospects. Belarussian forward Mikhail Stefanovich of the Quebec Remparts heads the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League list, while power forward Kyle Beach is ranked as the Western Hockey League’s top skater.

Each of the three, Stamkos especially, is expected to be a huge part of whichever team is lucky enough to nab him at this summer’s Entry Draft in Ottawa. But while the top player from each league is a forward, the 2008 Entry Draft will likely be remembered as the year of the blue-chip defenseman.

Three of the top five skaters from the WHL and the OHL are defensemen, while two of the top five from the QMJHL man the point. In addition, the top-ranked skater from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland all patrol the blue line for their respective teams.

Central Scouting Preliminary Rankings

The European lists, sorted by country, were released as well and look to be wide open as far as the top skaters are concerned, though some scouts have mentioned Vyacheslav Voinov as the best prospect from across the pond. Voinov emerged as perhaps the lone bright spot on the Russian Super Series blue line this past summer, and proved he could handle the North American game as he was often matched head-to-head with the top Canadian line of Kyle Turris, John Tavares and David Perron. Voinov also quarterbacked the Russian power play, skated in a penalty killing role and generally ate up huge minutes for the Russian side. He boasts a heavy shot, grace under pressure and a bit of a mean streak – a trait that will aid him as he attempts to bring his game to the NHL.

Other names that have been popping up in the European discussions include fellow Russian Nikita Filatov (CSKA 2) and dynamic Swedish forward Mattias Tedenby. Tedenby was

NHL Central Scouting's preliminary rankings list Kyle Beach as the top-ranked skater in the Western League.

mentioned by one scout prior to the start of the 2007-08 season as being the runaway top forward in Europe, if not for his size; Tedenby is listed at 5-foot-11, 176 pounds while skating for his HV 71 Junior team in Sweden. But with the success of last season's first overall pick, Patrick Kane, early in 2007-08, some NHL scouts and GMs may begin re-thinking the use of size as an indicator in determining future NHL prospects. As a result, Tedenby’s stock just might see a generous boost with every two, three, and four-point performance put up by Kane is his first season in the NHL.

The big name on everyone’s list is still Stamkos, who looks to be the complete package of size, speed and smarts. In addition, a trio of OHL defensemen are garnering a lot of interest from NHL scouts -- Drew Doughty of the Guelph Storm, Zach Bogosian of the Peterborough Petes and Alex Pieterangelo of the Niagara IceDogs -- and any one of them could turn up as the first overall pick in 2008.

For the fourth time since 2002-03, a Staal will be gracing the lists of NHL scouts. Young Jared of the Sudbury Wolves checks in at 13th on the OHL list, but has been playing better and more confidently with each game. After scoring only twice in his first nine games, Staal has scored six goals in his last 10, and has added five assists for 11 points over that stretch. His play, coupled with an impressive pedigree, could propel him up the lists as the season progresses.

Regardless, the CSS list is out, and the discussions – and the arguments – are sure to follow.

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