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Monday, March 28, 2011

The next tier of draft options: CHL

This post is a follow-on to the regular season recap we did last week on the QMJHL, WHL and OHL in which we posted some of the players who are, in our view (bolstered by the opinions of NHL and independent scouting sources we used) the best options from those leagues in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

However, what about the players who were close, but just missed the cut? We'll profile some of those guys, many of whom will be second- and third-round picks in June here.

In the coming days, we'll profile more interesting players and sleepers from some of the other ranks like Europe, the USHL and CJHL for you.

We'll also get to some players who, for whatever reason, have fallen off during the 2010-11 season and for that reason, aren't likely to be first-round or perhaps even second-round draft picks.

You'll note that the predominance of OHL players on this particular list demonstrates the superior depth in that league's draft class.

Rickard Rakell, RW/C Plymouth (OHL)- Skilled and agitating Swedish winger took a page from the Gabriel Landeskog book and came over to North America this season. He's got above average size (6-1, 190), and in scouts' eyes is a good skater with quickness, speed and agility in his favor. He's a solid puckhandler and put up decent numbers for the Whalers in his first OHL campaign, scoring 19 goals and 43 points in 49 games. He went out of the lineup with a lower body injury in mid-February and has not yet played in the first round of his team's playoff series against Kitchener. His shot/release is not a strong suit, and Rakell's ultimate offensive upside at the NHL level could be what prevents him from being a first-round draft pick. However, he's a gritty, gutsy competitor who played well at the WJC as a Landeskog-lite when the Kitchener captain went down early.

Stefan Noesen, LW Plymouth (OHL)- The native of Plano, a suburb of Dallas, Texas had a breakthrough season in his second year at this level, shattering his previous season's scoring total of eight total points with a 34-43-77 stats line in 68 games. A decent skater who doesn't possess great acceleration or agility but is good in a straight line and is a powerful player who will drive to the net. Despite being a winger, took faceoffs this season during certain situations and proved himself to be a versatile and reliable player for coach Mike Vellucci. What's more, his improved intensity and willingness to do the little things made him one of Plymouth's most consistent players all season. Scouts don't see Noesen as a naturally instinctive player who sees the ice well and can create offense for himself. His scoring upside at the highest level is a bit of a question, but he has the look of a guy who can get it done as a grinder in the NHL level at least.

Shane Prince, LW Ottawa (OHL)- Undersized playmaking winger is a B2011DW favorite for his speed, skills and competitiveness. Shows a nice initial burst and not only has a top gear, but is also shifty and quick- able to shake defenders when he has time and space to work with. Soft hands and terrific vision complimented his linemates Tyler Toffoli and Ryan Martindale nicely. Finished the season with 25 goals and 88 points in 59 games with the 67's but battled a shoulder injury and then got blasted by Niagara defenseman Tim Billingsley, which kept him out for a few more contests late in the season (while Billingsley received a 10-game ban from the OHL). On the downside, Prince is not much of a physical player and because of the durability issues, his stock could take a hit.

Daniel Catenacci, C/LW Saulte Ste. Marie (OHL)- Another small, but super-skilled player who was previously the top pick in the 2009 OHL draft. This kid has tremendous wheels and hands- he can do pretty much anything he wants with the puck on his stick and has been a highly impressive scoring presence this season on a poor Greyhounds teamm scoring 26 goals and 71 points in 67 games. He also plays a feisty, edgy game, having racked up 117 minutes in penalties. Scouts are a little concerned with Catenacci's sense and ability to use his teammates effectively, as he tends to be a one-man show at times and fails to utilize the other members of his team properly. With his wheels and high-end puck skills and shot, he's going to be an intriguing option for any NHL team in the second round, possibly even late first if they believe in his upside enough, but he carries some risk as a boom-or-bust prospect.

Shane McColgan, RW Kelowna (WHL)- Yet another small, but highly skilled player for the draft. McColgan came into the season as one of the 2011 class's bigger, more recognizable names coming out of the WHL. After a disastrous start, McColgan turned it on down the stretch, finishing as a point-per-game player with 21 goals and 66 points in 67 games. He's an excellent skater with the ability to back defenses up with his speed and hands. The biggest thing with him has been the fact that his offense has not taken the anticipated jump from last season, and when you're dealing with undersized players, they must demonstrate enough offensive upside to justify the risks that come with taking them high. Unfortunately, his size is a major issue with scouts, who don't see that he has any more room to grow into a 5-10, 170-pound frame.

"My concern is that he's as big as he's going to be," said one NHL scout when asked about McColgan. "That means he's already way behind the power curve and if he isn't going to get much stronger, then it's an issue."

Stuart Percy, D Mississauga (OHL)- If ever there was a textbook example of a player who goes out and brings a consistency without fanfare and excitement, it is this defenseman. Efficiency is the name of the game with Percy; he sees the ice well and makes rapid yet calculated decisions. He had a strong performance in the CHL Top Prospects Game as a player who just went out and got the job done effectively in terms of his positioning and decision-making. One NHL scout told B2011DW back in the summer after seeing Percy skate at Team Canada evaluation camp for the Ivan Hlinka tourney that he was fairly mobile, poised and effective with making crisp breakout passes. Every team needs players like Percy, who can perform with minimal mistakes. He isn't going to be a No. 1 or 2 in the NHL, but he could develop into a No. 3 and anchor for a middle pairing some day. If not, he's a quality depth guy that good clubs win with, and as a member of Memorial Cup tournament host Mississauga, scouts will get an extended look at him this spring.

Brett Ritchie, RW Sarnia (OHL)- Big power forward prospect didn't take the steps NHL scouts were hoping for, but is an intriguing project player because he does have a good deal of potential given his impressive size and good stick. He battled a slow start and a bout of mononucleosis in January, which forced him through a middle stretch of being less than 100 percent. Like many big men, his first step is sluggish and he doesn't have quick turning ability or lateral agility in abundance. Once he gets going, his speed is fine enough, and with his size, he can be a load to contain. Ritchie is pretty strong on his skates, and like most power forwards, is a horse along the wall and down low. He protects the puck well and bulls his way to the net when he's on his game. When not firing on all cylinders, Ritchie is out on the perimeter and not using his natural size and strength to grind it out and wear down defenses. The 6-3, 200-pounder scored 21 goals and 41 points in 49 games with the Sting this season. He's not a huge thumper, but does use his body effectively enough to create some space for himself and his linemates. There's a lot of raw untapped potential with Ritchie and our guess is that NHL clubs are hoping he slides in the draft to where he can be a steal.

Nick Cousins, C Sault Ste Marie (OHL)- Undersized pivot makes his long overdue B2011DW debut on this post after posting 29 goals and 68 points in 68 games with the woeful Greyhounds this season. He's listed at 5-11 and 170, but is smaller than that and doesn't have a lot of room to get much bigger if he doesn't hit a late growth spurt. He has nice wheels, quick hands and very good offensive hockey sense. Even better, his defensive awareness and overall game improved from his first season in the OHL. Cousins is one of these guys you aren't hearing a great deal about, but could end up being a draft day bargain the way Greg McKegg worked out last June, falling into the third round where Toronto snatched the Erie star. If Cousins were a couple of inches taller and about 15 pounds heavier, he'd be one of the more talked about OHL guys in the 2011 class.

Vince Trocheck, C Saginaw (OHL)- Gritty, tenacious Pennsylvania center doesn't have ideal size or speed, but his quick stick, accurate shot and hockey sense all combine to make him an interesting if polarizing prospect among scouts who seem to constantly revise their opinions on him. He finished the season with 26 goals and 62 points in 66 games with the Spirit, which was a bit disappointing given his start and what expectations were for him. Even without the big numbers, he's a hustling, high-energy player who gives his all. It's hard to count guys like that out. An extended and productive postseason for Trocheck could put him solidly in the draft's 2nd round.

Tobias Rieder, RW Kitchener (OHL)- After a blazing start, the skilled German's production tailed off after the WJC and with his lack of size, he's a bit of a wildcard right now in terms of where he'll go in the draft. He finished the year with 23 goals and 49 points in 65 games for the Rangers. We saw him at the WJC and he struggled to handle the speed, pace and power of the older players on one of the tourney's weak sisters. He did score a highlight reel breakaway goal, so the puck skills and finishing ability are there in flashes. At 5-10, 165 however, he reportedly had trouble keeping weight on during the season and simply doesn't have the functional strength to run with the big dogs; he's going to require a lot of time and patience.

Anton Zlobin, LW Shawinigan (QMJHL)- Highly skilled Russian didn't get a ton of press playing for the Cataractes, but showed off some interesting long-term potential as a goal scorer. Superb hands, shot and offensive instincts. A human highlight reel, and when he gets it revved up with some open ice to work with, watch out. Finished the season with 23 goals and 45 points in 59 games. He took some adjustment time and also had some injury issues- he's very average sized at about 6-0, 170 pounds. But as far as talent and upside go, he's flying under the radar in the Quebec League class.

Todd Fiddler, LW Prince Albert (WHL)- Pretty averaged sized at just over 6-feet, but plays a very physical aggressive style and has stepped up his game in the WHL playoffs for the Raiders, scoring a pair of goals in one game to even the series against top-seeded Saskatoon (he has 3 in four games). His skating, mainly heavy boots, lack of quick acceleration and separation is what has prevented him from being mentioned in a lot of draft talk which has especially been dominated in PA by Mark McNeill, but Fiddler has some real upside if he can pick up a step. He has a rocket shot and a nice release, accounting for 23 goals this season. He's one of these guys whose production will probably take off because he has the hands and awareness to be a nice offensive player. Given his lack of size and skating, he's flying under the radar, but if scouts are convinced that he can get quicker/faster, then don't be surprised to see him go off the board as early as the first half of the 3rd round. Yes, we know that's pretty high, but if he can keep putting the puck in the net during the playoffs against top competition, that will go a long way with scouts, who have been all over the Blades-Raiders because of McNeill and Duncan Siemens, but may come away saying, "You know, that Fiddler kid is pretty freaking nice as well."


  1. Nice to see Zlobin in that list. I was shocked CSS didnt have him at all rank in the preliminary and mid-term list. I think he could end up being a mid-round steal. tons of work (skating, conditioning, ect) but he shoot the puck like a pro and can make some highlight reel play with the puck. in January i had him as my no10 rank Q prospect.

  2. Thanks, Jerome! Hearing nice things about his skills and off. upside.

  3. Come on, don't you watch any other league besides the OHL? ;)

    In all seriousness, the most interesting guy on that list for me is Brett Ritchie. He was playing absolutely tremendous hockey before that bout with mono. Was an absolute force on the ice. And then by the time he came back, Sarnia was just playing out the stretch. You have to think he's a lock for the Under 18 team and if he has a great tournament on a scoring line, I really think he could vault himself back in contention for a first round selection.

  4. Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!