With the 2010 NHL Entry Draft approaching next weekend, NashvillePredators.com takes a look at the 10 prospects projected by most publications to be selected at the top of the first round (prospects listed in alphabetical order). With the Predators holding the No. 18 pick in this year's draft, all 10 of these prospects are projected to be selected prior to Nashville's turn, however check back in the coming days for more draft prep coverage including top European prospects in the draft, looks at the next group of North American prospects, and an introduction to some of the prospects making a late charge up mock draft projections.
Brett Connolly (Prince George, WHL) – 18 games, 10g-9a-19pts, 8 penalty minutesCSS-NA #3, HN #4, ISS #13
A real wild card in this year’s draft, Connolly is one of the most skilled players in this year’s draft, but an injury-riddled campaign has some questioning his long-term durability. Connolly has a power-forward frame (already 6-2, 1xx) and posted impressive totals with 30 goals and 60 points in 65 games during the ’08-09 season. There’s some late talk among draft pundits that he might end up falling out of the top-10, but that would only be due to injury questions.
"He puts the puck in the net, he's got good size, great on-ice awareness. He's not a crasher or a banger, but he finishes his checks. He does everything well." – Peter Sullivan, NHL Central ScoutingDerek Forbert (USNTDP) – 26 games, 4g-10a-14pts, 26 penalty minutesCSS-NA #9, HN #11, ISS #10
A huge, strong defenseman (6-5, 198), with a well-rounded offensive game, Forbert has been a regular with the US National Team including a regular role on Team USA’s Under-18 Gold Medal squad this spring. His game is still maturing, but most scouting services rave about his upside potential, comparing his potential to Buffalo’s Tyler Myers. Forbert is projected as the first of several big defenseman to selected off the US Development Program’s roster in this year’s draft.
“Derek Forbort has good top-end ability at both ends (of the ice). He's smart and skates so well, he's almost 6-5 and he's got everything there in front of him. It's just a matter of filling out and getting more experience. He's probably a top-two defenseman in the NHL if he reaches his potential." – Jack Barzee, NHL Central ScoutingCam Fowler (Windsor, OHL) – 55 games, 8g-47a-55pts, 14 penalty minutesCSS-NA #5, HN #3, ISS #5
Often overshadowed by his Windsor teammate Taylor Hall (the possible No. 1 overall pick), Fowler has a strong chance to be the first defenseman selected in this year’s draft. He completed a “championships hat trick” this season winning a Gold Medal with Team USA at this winter’s World Junior Championships as well as the OHL and Memorial Cup titles with Windsor. Fowler saw a lot of ice time this season with Preds ’09 First Round pick Ryan Ellis
“He’s your prototypical offensive-defenseman. He's your (quarterback) on your (power-play), he's your great skating offensive-defenseman and he controls the puck with his skills. If you're looking for a comparison, think of Kaberle with the Maple Leafs. But in sticking with his country, maybe even a future Leetch or Housley.” – EJ McGuire, NHL Central Scouting DirectorBrandon Gormley (Moncton, QMJHL) – 58 games, 9g-34a-43pts, 54 penalty minutesCSS-NA #6, HN #7, ISS #3
Gormley won the Mike Bossy Trophy as the QMJHL’s Top Pro Prospect this season after leading Moncton to the QMJHL post-season title and a spot in this year’s Memorial Cup. He’s not as flashy as some of the other defenseman projected at the top of this year’s draft, but at 6-2, 185 pounds, he already has NHL size to go along with a steady, poised style of play on the ice. Gormley was teammates with Preds ’09 draftee Gabriel Bourque
“He is what a lot of teams are going for, he's a good defenseman who can score and handle the puck, smart. Gormley has got the whole package. He's got a good shot from the point, an accurate shot, low and can be deflected.” – Chris Bordeleau, NHL Central ScoutingMikael Granlund (HIFK, Finland) – 43 games, 13g-27a-40pts, 2 penalty minutesCSS-E #1, HN #10, ISS #17
A dynamic playmaker, Granlund was the leading scoring rookie in the Finnish Elite League this season. He also had a strong World Junior Championships, leading Finland in scoring as an underager. After a dominant Under-18 Championship this spring, most pundits feel his draft status is higher than his current rankings, with some speculation he could be the third forward selected behind Hall and Seguin.
“Saku Koivu clone. He's small, but no one's told him he's small. He has a really good, winning attitude, works very hard. He's tough, and he has very good hockey sense." – Goran Stubb, NHL Director of European ScoutingErik Gudbranson (Kingston, OHL) – 41 games, 2g-21a-23pts, 68 penalty minutesCSS-NA #4, HN #3, ISS #7
A tough, big, physical defenseman, Gudbranson is a good puck mover and has strong leadership skills (he was named team captain of the Canadian Under-18 team this spring). Gudbranson had his season limited due to a knee injury and a bout with mononucleosis, but is still thought by many scouting services to be among the short list of prospects in the running to see who will be the first defenseman selected in this year’s draft.
“Gudbranson to me is a guaranteed long-term NHLer. In my opinion, Gudbranson is another Chris Pronger-type, what he brings that (Pronger) really didn't do much of, though, is he'll fight. He is some kind of tough. Chris Pronger is mean and will hit you; Gudbranson will hit you and fight you. Pronger is three inches taller than Gudbranson, so maybe Dion Phaneuf would be an even better comparison" – EJ McGuire, NHL Central Scouting DirectorTaylor Hall (Windsor, OHL) – 57 games, 40g-66a-106pts, 56 penalty minutesCSS-NA #2, HN #1, ISS #1
Hall can easily end up the first player selected in this year’s draft. He’s as accomplished a prospect as there is in the draft, winning two Memorial Cups with Windsor (earning MVP honors both times) and a silver medal with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships (earning a spot on the All-Tournament team with 12 points in six games). Many scouting services view him as the most “NHL ready” player in the draft.
“When you talk about Hall, you talk about quickness, acceleration and hands. Easily and arguably, could have actually been our No. 1 pick overall. Taylor has done it all; he's the reigning MVP of the Memorial Cup tournament and has played on two medal-winning world championship teams.” – EJ McGuire, NHL Central Scouting DirectorRyan Johansen (Portland, WHL) – 71 games, 25g-44a-69pts, 53 penalty minutesCSS-NA #10, HN #12, ISS #9
One of the top rookies in the WHL last season, Johansen is one of the fastest rising prospects in the projected first round range, moving from No. 16 on Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings to No. 10 in the final ranking. He grew over three inches in the last season, but hasn’t yet added the weight/strength to match his growth-spurt. Strength and consistency are the two knocks on Johansen, but his upside is considered by many scouting services as all-star caliber. He just might be more of a late-blooming long-range project than others projected at the top of the draft.
"He has good on-ice vision and also angles well on the forecheck. He has the intelligence to play power-play as well as penalty kill. He can be shifty and has the ability to beat a defenseman one-on-one. Once he fills out and gains more strength he could turn raw talent into a valuable center at both ends of rink. He has displayed nice playmaking capabilities and this should continue at the next level." – BJ MacDonald, NHL Central ScoutingNino Niederreiter (Portland, WHL) – 65 games, 36g-24a-60pts, 68 penalty minutesCSS-NA #12, HN #8, ISS #6
Niederreiter uses his power-forward frame (6-2, 201 pounds) to create space, but also showed playmaking abilities, especially during the World Junior Championships as he nearly single-handedly provided the offense during Switzerland’s surprise run to the Bronze Medal Game, earning All-Tournament team honors for his efforts. He kept the momentum through the WHL season, picking up a selection to the WHL Western Conference Second All-Star team. Most scouting services consider Niederreiter as one of the most NHL ready prospects in this year’s draft class.
"Plays in Portland but showed the world how good he could be in the (World Junior Championship) playing for the Swiss National Team. And after that tournament he kept getting better. He's shifty, he's skilled, he has a good stride and he loves battling in the corner." – EJ McGuire, NHL Central Scouting DirectorTyler Seguin (Plymouth, OHL) – 63 games, 48g-58a-106pts, 54 penalty minutes.CSS-NA #1, HN #2, ISS #2
Central Scouting’s No. 1 ranked prospect, Seguin was recognized as the OHL’s Outstanding Player in ’09-10 (beating out Taylor Hall and ’09 top-10 pick Nazem Kadri) and also earned MVP honors in the Top Prospects Game. His 106 points tied Hall for the OHL league scoring title. Seguin doesn’t have the big game experience of Taylor Hall, but that’s more a product of the team around him.
“Tyler Seguin makes things happen every time he is on the ice and he makes his teammates better. He's a skilled forward. He's a guy that's obviously a top-line forward with all kinds of puck skills and playmaking abilities. ... He's an elusive guy in traffic, avoiding checks with the puck.” – Chris Edwards, NHL Central Scouting