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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Central Scouting's mid-season rankings: European skaters pt. 1

This post is just a teaser to get things going for today until I can return later with a more comprehensive look at some of the European skaters and goalies on Central Scouting's mid-season rankings, which came out Monday.

It goes without saying that this year is v 2.0 of the "Year of the Swede" which debuted in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. This crop may not have a Victor Hedman at the top in some views (most notably Kyle Woodlief of Redline Report- you can check out my interview with him where he addresses that here), but Adam Larsson is no slouch as a two-way defenseman and appears tailor-made for the New Jersey Devils, assuming they finish 30th and win the lottery. He makes a lot of sense for them, and after seeing Larsson at the WJC and a lot of Devils hockey since joining the New York Hockey Journal, I'm convinced that he'd be their No. 2 defender if he were playing for them right now.

Larsson is the top European skater and will cruise to top billing come June because there isn't anyone who will seriously threaten his standing between now and then. You'll read a more detailed post-WJC scouting report on him in the next few days, but I will say that he raised his stock in Buffalo/Niagara with his strong two-way play.

Second on the list is Finland winger Joel Armia, who has impressed a lot of people this year skating in the SM-Liiga for Assat. He got off to a pretty hot start, but has cooled since settling in. His WJC performance reminded of the same: he's was very good in his first two games against Team USA and Switzerland, showing off a fluid skating stride, long stick and moving the puck smartly. He didn't score (although he did have a goal negated vs. the Swiss that should have counted). But, starting with Germany, Armia's game went a little south. He started playing with less urgency and got lazy with his stick instead of putting his body on people and separating them from the puck. He's got some real potential and the skill level is there, but anyone talking about him being in the top-10 picks come June is probably going to be a little disappointed. I could see him going closer to 15, but inside the first 10 may be a stretch even with his outstanding 6-3, 190-pound size and upside.

That's some information on the top two from Europe, We'll be back later to discuss some (not all obviously) of the bigger names across the Atlantic. We'll try and look into Victor Rask's surprising fall down the rankings both on Central's list and that of an independent review such as Redline Report. We'll try to ID some sleepers as well and will look at some of the goalies, starting with Samu Perhonen, whose last name means "butterfly" in Finnish. He's this year's Jesper Fasth in terms of being appropriately named.

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