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Central Scouting reviews top prospects

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers
In a little over three weeks from now, Edmonton will step to the podium at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN to select another talented star, adding to the supreme depth of young talent already making waves in the Oilers organization.

Although each team will be seeking talent in almost every position, Edmonton has the opportunity to break the ice with the top pick, likely in search of a skilled pivot or shutdown rearguard.

There's no shortage of talent in either case, as Head Amateur Scout Stu MacGregor and General Manager Steve Tambellini will be guaranteed another coveted block in the team's rebuilding plans.

NHL Central Scouting has Ryan Nugent-Hopkins ranked No. 1, with fellow centres Gabriel Landeskog (No. 2) and Sean Couturier (No. 6) making up a thrilling trio of top middlemen among the North American group.

Central Scouting's David Gregory helped to explain the vast skill-sets and underlying talents brought to the table by these dynamic young men.


"This is a very complete, high-skilled player that has so much upside," he said. "He picks up the puck and you literally see defending players back up to be prepared. Not only can he distribute and pass the puck with unbelievable skill, but he can also shoot the puck and be a real sniper.

"The thing that's most dynamic about him is the way he thinks the game. There isn't an opportunity on the ice that he doesn't see developing. He's always involved and is usually the one making things happen."

The great centre debate wouldn't be complete without mentioning Nugent-Hopkins' size. At 6'1", 164-pounds, weight could potentially be an issue. Even so, Central Scouting believes he will be able to bulk-up and develop a stronger body as he gets older.

"He's still a very young man that's going to grow into that 6'1" frame," Gregory said. "I think he will become bigger and stronger. We know he's going to fill out and be stronger. Even at the size he's at now, he dominates just about every game he's in."

Nugent-Hopkins' skill is undeniable, but Gregory views his complementary side has being most valuable to overall talent and subsequent team success.

"On a team where he's clearly the best player on the ice in almost every game he plays, he brought other players around him up," he explained. "RNH is that complete package and is [Central Scouting's] number one choice for good reason. He's going to be an excellent NHL player."


Coming into the season, Sean Couturier held Nugent-Hopkins' position atop Central Scouting's North American rankings. Why, then, did he fall so drastically over the course of the season, despite producing excellent numbers and skating with Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship?

"The thing about Sean was, he was on our radar for such a long time and so highly rated coming into the season, he had no room to really go up," Gregory explained. "You look at the guys that ended up passing him -- these are unbelievable players that had great years. That doesn't mean that Sean is not the player we thought he was. The players who passed him were better than we expected coming into the season."

At 6'4", 197-pounds, Couturier's skill was evident in 2010-11 when he followed up his impressive sophomore campaign with 36 goals and 96 points in only 58 games. Gregory wasn't surprised, given the exceptional talent this skilled 18-year-old boasts.

"[Couturier is] a big player who has tremendous puck sense, and he really makes things happen out there because of his talent and vision on the ice. He's a great player."


Alongside Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog has had a similar run of success ascending Central Scouting's rankings. The Kitchener Rangers centre produced 36 goals and 66 points this season, complementing that scoring side with an incredible physical knack. All things considered, the Stockholm native appears most NHL-ready according to those that have seen his dynamic style in action.

"He's a very complete player and probably the most NHL-ready player in North America," Gregory said. "He's got great size, mobility and puck skills for a man that plays that physical game. That makes him really attractive to those clubs that think he can contribute to their club as soon as next season."

Perhaps most impressively, Landeskog emerged as a true leader for his OHL club -- a rarity for a European player in a primarily Canadian league based in southern Ontario.

"He came over from Sweden and ended up being the captain of a very storied franchise in Kitchener. He was a leader and that's not something you see very many Europeans do in that league. In listening to his coaches and teammates, the type of leader that this young man is, he's going to be a fantastic addition to any NHL club.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see Edmonton pick him; even with the kind of season Nugent-Hopkins had, he's that good. RNH and Landeskog have really separated themselves from the rest of the pack."


Although the North American crop is impressive, notable Swedish defenceman Adam Larsson has continued to rise and could present an enticing option for Edmonton should a rearguard become top priority.

The 6'3", 200-pound blueliner recently completed his second season in Sweden's Elitserien, where seasoned pros battle in an intense, highly-competitive league against the most skilled players outside of the NHL.

With an inside track to the NHL, Larsson's immense and all encompassing skill-set will surely bring about an interesting debate for any club near the top of the selection board.

"He is the clear-cut number from in Europe," Gregory said. "He's a big puck-moving defenceman, and this is certainly a style and position heavily coveted by almost any NHL team.

"To be compared to Victor Hedman, he's obviously a very good player and you can see how quickly Victor has turned into a solid NHL player and future star. Adam has that kind of potential. It will be interesting to see how he responds to that comparison, because those are big shoes to fill."

Although Larsson stands out as the obvious choice up top, 2011's pool is deep with talent on the backend. As Gregory explains, a few notable choices could easily result in dark horse selections down the line.

"I personally think there's a lot of depth in top-15, especially. I like Joseph Morrow, who has unreal scoring ability and is a great defender. He's a tremendous skater that can control the game. People will be wondering where this guy went a few years from now. He's gonig to surprise some people.

"Duncan Siemens is another guy like that. He's one of the best skaters you'll ever see. He's not as well known as Dougie Hamilton or Nathan Beaulieu, but Duncan has really done an incredible job this season. I think he'll turn into one of those steals down the road, too."

Author: Ryan Dittrick |

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