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2009 Draft: Top North American Defensemen

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators

2009 Draft Prospect Profiles
  •  Top North American Forwards

  •  Top European Skaters (Tues)
  •  Top  Goaltenders (Wed)
  •  Top Rising Prospects (Thu)

As a lead-in to the 2008 NHL Entry Draft June 26-27 in Montreal, will be taking a look at the top prospects available in this year's draft class. Today we will continue with the top North American defensemen.

While Sweden's Victor Hedman will be the first defenseman selected in this year's draft, the defensive crop is projected as one of the deepest group of talented defensemen in several draft classes. Many scouts feel top level defensemen will last through the second round.

1) John Moore (Chicago, USHL) – 57 games, 14g-25a-39pts, 50 penalty minutes
CSS-NA-#6, HN-#18, ISS-#16, TSN-#13  ( Moore Video Highlights )
An offensive minded defenseman, Moore is projected to be among the first US-born players selected in this year’s draft. His skating has drawn comparisons to NHL Hall of Famer Paul Coffey and Anaheim’s Scott Niedermayer, but Moore needs to improve his defensive zone recognition before he steps in to the NHL. Moore is committed to play for Colorado College this fall.
“I watched John Moore as an underage player and I knew he was a must see player for this year; he hasn’t disappointed me one bit. His first two strides are like Paul Coffey and he has been labeled as a world-class skater. He is poised with the puck, he gets his shots through to the net and he has gotten a lot stronger this season. He resembles (Calgary Flames) defenseman Jordan Leopold and similar to Leopold at the same age he needs to get a little bit better at playing more aggressive and more physical, but John is going to be a one-two defenseman in the NHL.” – Jack Barzee, NHL Central Scouting

2) Simon Despres (Saint John, QMJHL) – 66 games, 2g-30a-32pts, 74 penalty minutes
CSS-NA-#8, HN-#12, ISS-#30, TSN-#18  ( Despres Video Highlights )
A big physical defenseman (6-3, 205 pounds), Despres is one of the most reliable defensive defensemen in this year’s draft class and is an adept shot blocker. An assistant captain for Team Canada’s Under-18 World Junior team, Despres is likely to be the first player drafted out of the QMJHL this season.
"I think for a potential pro player, he's got the size and mobility. I've seen him many games, and he never seems to make a bad play. He's never going to get 100 points, but definitely, when you want a guy to play defense, he's your guy. He does it all, he'll block shots and he moves the puck at the right time.” – Chris Bordeleau, NHL Central Scouting

3) Jared Cowen (Spokane, WHL) – 48 games, 7g-14a-21pts, 45 penalty minutes
CSS-NA-#9, HN-#4, ISS-#7, TSN-#7  ( Cowen Video Highlights )
At 6-5, 220-pounds, Cowan already has impressive NHL size. A physical, defensive defenseman, his season was cut short due to a knee injury in January. Prior to the injury, Cowan had already set career-highs with seven goals and 21 points through the first 48 games of the season. Because of his size and style of play, Cowan has drawn comparisons to Philadelphia’s Braydon Coburn and Boston’s Zdeno Chara.
“He's going to be a top defenseman in the National Hockey League. It might take him a couple years to get used to the quicker speeds, but I think he's going to be a big, reliable guy back there for a couple years. We saw him turn his game up a couple notches last year in the Memorial Cup run and I think that was a pretty good indicator of what he's going to be like.” – Blair MacDonald, NHL Central Scouting

4) Ryan Ellis (Windsor, OHL) – 57 games, 22g-67a-89pts, 57 penalty minutes
CSS-NA-#16, HN-#17, ISS-#13, TSN-#12  ( Ellis Video Highlights )
A gifted offensive defenseman, Ellis is one of the highest scoring defensemen in Canadian Juniors. Ellis played a leading role in Team Canada’s gold medal showing at this year’s World Junior Championships, despite being the youngest defenseman to play for Team Canada since Jay Bouwmeester back in 2001. The biggest knock on Ellis is his size (5-9), but his play has drawn comparisons to San Jose’s Dan Boyle or Detroit’s Brian Rafalski.
“He's a really smart, heady defenseman. His puck movement is excellent and the way he moves the puck around the zone is excellent. He's a real high-end offensive guy. He's got a great shot and he gets it through to the net. A lot of guys have their shots blocked, but he's got a real knack for getting it through, and that leads to a lot of tip-in and rebound goals. He's a smaller guy, but he's not afraid of taking the body. He shows no fear of getting involved in scrums, he's not intimidated.” – Chris Edwards, NHL Central Scouting

5) Stefan Elliott (Saskatoon, WHL) – 71 games, 16g-39a-55pts, 26 penalty minutes
CSS-NA-#17, HN-#27, ISS-#38, TSN-#35  ( Elliott Video Highlights )
Elliott is a solid two-way defenseman. His offensive game is more advanced right now than his defensive coverage, but as he gets stronger his defensive zone abilities should improve. Elliott has excelled away from the rink as well, earning the WHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year.
"Stefan is your all-around, good NHL prospect defenseman. For the Saskatoon Blades, he is an equal mix of solid defense and good offense. Sometimes he is leading the rush, he has that capability, but more often he's supporting the rush or starting it with his good first pass out of the zone." – EJ McGuire, Director of NHL’s Central Scouting

6) Nick Leddy (Eden Prairie, HS-MN) – 25 games, 8g-29a-37pts, 22 penalty minutes
CSS-NA-#24, HN-#25, ISS-#21, TSN-#29
A good skating two-way defenseman, Nick Leddy is projected as a late first round prospect. Coming from the US High School ranks, Leddy is committed to attend the University of Minnesota in the fall. He is an elite skater, but may need three or four years of development at the NCAA level before he’s ready to be a top pro player.
"He's such an explosive skater. It's pretty obvious he's a target of every opposing team because he's the engine that drives the train. Really, though, he's a world-class skater. I'd say he's in the same class as John Moore (Central Scouting's No. 8 ranked skater) and Josh Birkholz (No. 33) of this year's class." – Jack Barzee, NHL Central Scouting
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