Medicine Hat's Bouwmeester Heads CSS Mid-term Rankings
TORONTO - Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester
of the Western Hockey League's Medicine Hat Tigers is the top rated skater in the mid-season rankings of draft eligible players for the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. The 6-foot-3Ã‚Â½, 206-pound Bouwmeester currently stands among the WHL's top scoring defensemen with 32 points (five goals, 27 assists) in 36 games. Bouwmeester, a native of Edmonton, Alberta, was a member of the Canadian national junior team that captured the Silver medal at the 2002 World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic and was named to the tournament's All-Star Team.
The mid-season ranking is compiled by the NHL's Central Scouting Service and features the top 240 skaters in North America, top 30 North American goaltenders, as well as the top 128 European players and top eight European goaltenders.
Several of the top rated Canadian Hockey League players will be showcased in the 2002 NHL/CHL Top Prospects Game on Jan. 31 at Saskatchewan Place in Saskatoon (8 p.m. ET, Sportsnet). The 2002 NHL Entry Draft will take place on June 22-23 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Rick Nash, a left wing for the London Knights (OHL), is the number two-rated player. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound native of Brampton, Ontario was the youngest player on Canada's national junior team at the 2002 World Junior Championship. Nash ranks among the league's top scorers with 51 points (25-26-51) in 33 games.
The top five positions are rounded out by right wing Scottie Upshall (Ft. McMurray, Alberta) of the WHL's Kamloops Blazers; Ryan Whitney (Boston, Mass.), a defenseman with Boston University and defenseman Steve Eminger
(Woodbridge, Ontario) of the Kitchener Rangers (OHL). Upshall captured a Silver Medal with Canada at the 2002 World Junior Championship, while Whitney, the top-rated U.S.-born prospect, performed for the U.S. national junior team.
Jeff Deslauriers (St-Jean-Richelieu, Quebec) of the QMJHL's Chicoutimi Sagueneens is the number one ranked goaltender in North America. He is followed by Maxime Daigneault (St-Jacques-le-Mineur, Quebec) of the Val d'Or Foreurs (QMJHL) and Tyson Kellerman (Kingston, Ontario) of the North Bay Centennials (OHL).
The top rated European prospect is Joni Pitkanen of Finland (Karpat, Finnish Jr.). The 6-foot-3, 198-pound defenseman performed for Finland at the 2002 World Junior Championship, capturing a Bronze medal. Pitkanen finished third among the tournament's top scoring defensemen (1-3-4 in seven games). Russian defenseman Anton Babchuk (rated #2), Czech center Jiri Hudler (rated #3) and Russian natives Denis Grebeshkov (rated 4th), a defenseman with the Gold medal-winning Russian team at the 2002 World Junior Championship, and left wing Vladislav Evseev (rated 5th) complete the top five prospects in Europe.
The WHL is well represented in the 2002 mid-season report with 10 prospects ranked in the first round. The OHL follows with eight and the U.S. collegiate system with seven first round prospects.
In addition to 18 Canadian-born players ranked in the first round, there are eight U.S.-born players: Whitney; #7 center Jim Slater (Petoskey, Mich.) of Michigan State University (CCHA); #8 right wing Rob Globke (Farmington, Mich.) of the University of Notre Dame (CCHA); #11 left wing Eric Nystrom (Syosset, N.Y.), son of former New York Islanders forward Bob Nystrom, of the University of Michigan (CCHA); #17 center Christopher Higgins (Smithtown, N.Y.) of Yale University (ECAC); #19 defenseman Keith Ballard (Baudette, Minn.) of the University of Minnesota (WCHA); #22 defenseman Mark Stuart (Rochester, N.Y.) of the U.S. national under-18 team and #27 right wing Barry Tallackson (Grafton, N.D.) of the University of Minnesota. The complete mid-season rankings are available from the NHL's Central Scouting Service by clicking here.