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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Here come the little guys- 2011 edition (Part 2)

We're back with the second part of our series dedicated to smaller, but skilled players who could attract notice at the 2011 NHL Draft. Not all of these guys will be drafted, but a good portion of them will because of the wide-open, post-lockout NHL game. That said, recent big hits on smaller players that have knocked them out of action (Ryan Murphy and Shane Prince- both featured in part 1) raise the concerns teams have with balancing the idea of drafting smaller, skill player with the durability concerns that come with.

Because we came up with so many more little guys to cover, we're actually going to break it up into three posts for you. So stay tuned for more- a third part featuring more of the sleepers and wildcards among the undersized, but game talents for the draft in June.

Tobias Rieder, LW Kitchener (OHL)- Skilled German's stock is down despite the impressive speed, hands and overall production with the Rangers. His 23 goals and 49 points are off his early season pace, and he didn't have a great WJC (nor did Team Germany for that matter), but he's a hard worker who is passionate about hockey and is a serious competitor. He's probably going to drop come draft day, but the team that gets him could have themselves a very nice player with upside given his desire and willingness to do what it takes to succeed.

Matt Nieto, LW Boston University (HE)- Nieto's stock is up this spring after a tough adjustment period to start the season. You can read an in-depth scouting report on him here at this blog space, so we won't go into greater detail other than to say that he's a darkhorse late-1st-round candidate given how much more involved he's been in the BU offense at crunch time.

Vince Trocheck, C Saginaw (OHL)- The right-shooting Pennsylvanian has performed well for the Spirit this year, opening eyes with his speed, skill and tenacity. He's put up some respectable numbers- 24 goals and 58 points in 65 games. He was one of the more talented members of the USA Under-18 team that competed in the Ivan Hlinka tournament this past summer and plays an uptempo game with some grit and fire. Trocheck is a solid distributor and has a quick stick

Alan Quine, C Peterborough (OHL)- The Ottawa-born pivot began the season with the Kingston Frontenacs, but was dealt to the Petes in November as part of the trade that sent Ryan Spooner to Doug Gilmour and Co. Quine got off to a slow start this year after showing much promise as a rookie. He's a good skater, but his real value lies in what's between his ears and on his stick. The member of the winning Team Canada squad at the Ivan Hlinka is highly skilled and has high-end offensive hockey sense. That said, his effort and intensity levels are said to waver, and he needs to become a more responsible defensive player. Quine has become a bit of an afterthought this season, but is one of those guys who could be a steal if he falls into the third round or later. In 66 games between Kingston and Peterborough, Quine has 25 goals and 50 points.

Robbie Russo, D U.S. NTDP (USHL)- This smallish defenseman from Illinois is pretty well regarded in some circles, but doesn't bring a dynamic offensive game to the table. He's a bit like Adam Clendening in that he's not a speedy guy, but is a strong puck mover because he's intelligent and sees the ice well. A patient player, he doesn't force things if they aren't there and makes good decisions with and without the puck. He doesn't have a big, booming shot but is solid at maintaining puck possession and getting good movement when holding the man advantage. He plays a similar style to Tomas Kaberle, though is not as adept a skater as the Bruins rearguard is. The Notre Dame recruit is a bit of a wildcard depending on who you talk to, but does bring some nice attributes to the table and could very well have teams sold on his pro potential enough to take him in the top-50.

Shane McColgan, RW Kelowna (WHL)- The Manhattan Beach, California native's stock is rebounding after a poor start to the season exacerbated by slow recovery from tonsilitis. Although small, McColgan is extremely speedy and has excellent hands. He didn't have a great CHL Top Prospects Game, but that may have been a microcosm of the season, which has been a disappointment for him. McColgan plays with some bite and energy to his game, but one of the major concerns with him is that he doesn't have much room to add bulk on his frame. He needed to have a highly productive campaign to allay some of those concerns and he didn't really do it. He's no longer the first-round candidate he was thought of being coming into the year and will be lucky to get selected in the second round. That said, it will be interesting to see where he ends up going because he still carries some legitimate upside with him; he could end up becoming a nice value pick for a team, but it's hard to see very many clubs reaching for McColgan.

Viktor Arvidsson, RW Skelleftea (SWE- Jr.)- At 5-9, 165 pounds, this talented Swede is definitely on the low-end of the size scale, but with his wheels, puck skills and head, he has a real game-breaking element to him. He competes hard and is a typical small, whirling dervish kind of player who keeps his feet moving and outworks a lot of the bigger, stronger guys around him. He's a pure finesse player, but there is a place for guys like him in the modern NHL. It will take some time for him to come over and make an impact if at all, but there's a nice potential payoff for a team willing to gamble a bit.

Seth Griffith, RW London (OHL)- Really came on with the increased ice time when London traded away a bevy of veteran players in December and January. This speedy, creative player plays a little bigger than he is because of his lacrosse background, and he's quietly managed to force his way into draft discussions with his second-half performance in the OHL, posting 21 goals 59 points in 65 games. We were told about him before the season began by a good friend of the blog as a sleeper for the 2011 draft, and to Griffith's credit, he's justified that kind of faith. We're looking forward to seeing just how far he climbs in June.

Dan Molenaar, D Eden Prairie H.S. (Minnesota HS)- Although he's under 6-feet, this offensive defenseman has nice skating ability and instincts. Possessing a quick burst and the vision to exploit openings, Molenaar is one of those longer-term project players who will require a lot of seasoning and patience. He's stocky and strong on his skates, with the ability to change direction quickly. He may not have a cannon of a shot, but has a quick release on it and keeps it low and on net for deflections. Interesting player who hasn't grown much over the last 18 months, but who brings a good enough set of tools to get some legitimate draft consideration in June.

Kyle Rau, C Eden Prairie H.S. (Minnesota HS)- What list of draft hopefuls would be complete without the 2011 Mr. Hockey winner from Minnesota? Rau capped an exciting state championship win with triple-OT goal by grabbing his state's prestigious award for the best senior hockey player, won last year by first-rounder Nick Bjugstad. At 5-9, 165, the University of Minnesota recruit (and Molenaar's teammate) is speedy, shifty and handles the puck as well as anyone. He's a dangerous offensive player, but NHL scouts we've talked to aren't sold on his pro potential. You can't argue with his production at the high school level and he'll have a chance to shine in Minneapolis with the Golden Gophers.

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