Time to look at some risers and fallers for the 2011 draft.
Up next will be a post with some sleeper picks for the class, and with that, should bring everyone up to speed on many of the top options for June. We will come back in May with a playoff review when the league championships are all in the books.
Ryan Sproul, D Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)- Hit a huge growth spurt and now stands at about 6-4 after being drafted by the Greyhounds at a little over 6-feet. Played in the OJHL before jumping to the OHL and showed a lot of promise as a mobile, agile two-way defenseman who came out of left field this season laboring for a non-playoff squad. He didn't suffer any ill-effects of the surge in height, and is a powerful skater with a long, fluid stride that scouts really like. When he adds strength and mass to his skinny frame, he'll be even more of a defensive horse than he is already. As one would imagine, he's got a big gun from the point, and just think how much more lethal it will be when he develops more oomph behind it. Very raw, but with one of the most intriguing projectable of any player in the OHL, this guy is going to be the subject of a lot of internet draft chatter between now and June 24-25.
Here's a nice feature on Sproul from Brock Otten's OHL Prospects blog
Seth Griffith, C/RW London (OHL)- Smallish but skilled forward came on strong for the Knights after a large chunk of veterans were traded away. Showed some chemistry with B's prospect Jared Knight and fellow 2011 draft prospect Vladislav Namestnikov. Quick and agile; handles the puck well and has the look of a dangerous scorer in the OHL over the next couple of years. His lacrosse background serves him well in hockey. A player to watch; was a sleeper but finished season with nearly point-per-game for London (22-40-62 in 68 games as a rookie), so he's on a lot of NHL radars now.
Rasmus Bengtsson, D Rögle (SWE-2)- Youngster has gained a lot of confidence playing in Sweden's Allsvenskan division against men: 45 games, 2-7-9. He's a good skater who plays a solid two-way game and has the size (6-2, 196) to be an effective NHL player eventually. Has a cannon of a shot, but could stand to improve quickness of his release and accuracy. Overall, he's an interesting developmental project as a player who needs to be a little more physical and assertive in his own end, but appears to have the tools to be an NHL prospect to watch.
Magnus Hellberg, G Almtuna (SWE-2)- A 1991 birthdate and late-bloomer who was passed over in 2009 and 2010, NHL teams won't make that mistake again in 2011. Huge at 6-5, 185 pounds and cat-quick between the pipes. Performed brilliantly for Almtuna in the Allsvenskan this season, posting a 2.04 GAA and .936 save percentage in 31 games. He was then loaned to IFK Kumla in the Division 1 league and posted a 2.01 GAA and .938 mark. With his superb athleticism, upside and performance, his developmental curve is straight up, not to mention as an older, more mature player, he's ready to come to the AHL next season and start right away.
Andrey Pedan, D Guelph (OHL)- Big Russian defenseman (6-4, 195) came into the OHL this year with a lot of hype after an outstanding Ivan Hlinka tourney for Team Russia and only managed to score two goals and 12 points in 51 games, with both tallies coming at the very end of the season. Interestingly enough, he's already posted five points in just three playoff games and his stock is on the rebound. NHL teams liked his size and mobility/agility as an effective shutdown 'D', but he had shown very little offensive element to his performance to justify a high pick. Now, with Pedan starting to bring the offense at crunch time, he's elevating his profile at just the right time.
Zach Franko, LW Kelowna (WHL)- A smaller guy at 5-11, 160, but shifty, fast and a very good puckhandler. Franko, like teammate Shane McColgan, got off to a slow start offensively, but really came on over the second half for the Rockets and will no doubt be on a lot of teams' boards come June. He finished the year with 22 goals and 53 points in 72 games, but has fine hockey sense and vision to go with his wheels and quick stick. He's got to get much stronger, but he could explode offensively in the WHL over the next 1-2 years.
Mitch Elliot, LW Seattle (WHL)- Behemoth winger at 6-5, 215 pounds has legitimate toughness but a modicum of skill as well. He hasn't been very productive with the non-playoff Thunderbirds over the past couple of season, scoring just 6 goals and 17 points in 128 games to go with 157 penalty minutes. Elliot's upside is limited, but he skates pretty well for such a big guy and NHL teams do love their tough wingers.
Alan Quine, C Peterborough (OHL)- This skilled pivot with a high hockey IQ came into the year as a first-round projection, but got off to a slow start with Kingston and never recovered. He was on the gold medal team at the Ivan Hlinka tourney, and was eventually traded to Peterborough for Ryan Spooner. He finished the season with 26 goals and 53 points in 69 games split between the Frontenacs and Petes. He has tremendous vision and high-end passing skills with a quick release and accurate shot. Unfortunately, defense is not his strong suit, and his average size (6-0, 180) doesn't make for a very physical player. Quine could be one of those one-dimensional guys who is doomed to be a minor leaguer, but if he ever figures out how to round out his game, he certainly has the talent to be a top-six NHL forward.
Garrett Meurs, C Plymouth (OHL)- Another disappointment like Quine in that Meurs was a playmaking pivot from whom bigger things were expected after a 16-goal, 34-point rookie campaign with the Whalers. The 5-11, 172-pounder only managed 10 goals and 40 points in 2011, but played better hockey near the end of the season after looking listless and ineffective for much of the time. Meurs is a talented forward who isn't the prettiest-looking skater, but manages to get where he needs to go. Needs to improve first step in the eyes of several scouts, who feel his skating will hold him back at the next level. Shows the intangibles you want like vision, offensive instincts and has a feisty side despite not being the biggest guy out there. Another member of Team Canada's Ivan Hlinka champion last August, Meurs must get a lot stronger. His stock is on the wane, but if he gets back on his developmental track, he's got potential as a later value pick in this class.
Jesse Forsberg, D Prince George (WHL)- Smallish defender at 6-0, 195 pounds was one of the higher-rated players in the WHL coming into it, but pretty much fell off the map with a subpar offensive season and a weird, hunched-over skating style that is a turnoff for scouts. Works hard and plays a gritty, hard-nosed game despite a lack of height and power, but is pretty limited in terms of his puck-moving ability and upside at the next level. Could force his way into the NHL much like Andrew Ference did, but Ference at least put up some pretty good numbers in Portland back in the day. Forsberg's 2 goals and 16 points at the junior level will give pause to any team thinking of drafting him in the top-100, but he has the kind of edge and work ethic to make himself a player one day. Worth the risk after the third round.
Austen Brassard, RW Belleville (OHL)- A frustrating tease, in the words of one NHL scout. This 6-2, 190-pound winger put up 17 points in just 26 games last season after being traded from Windsor to the Bulls, so the conventional thinking was that Brassard would make the obvious jump in production this year. Didn't happen. With 19 goals and 34 points in 67 games, the talent is not an issue, as he's a pretty good skater and has the quick hands and nose for the net, but brings a maddening inconsistency and penchant for disappearing for large stretches to the mix. Brassard is capable of doing so much more, but is largely undelivered potential at this point. He's worth a gamble with a later-round pick like the sixth the B's spent on Tyler Randell two years ago, but the light may never come on for Brassard.
Scott Harrington, D London (OHL)- First-round talent had high hopes this year and looked like a good bet to deliver after a solid Ivan Hlinka performance in August. Unfortunately, Harrington struggled with the defensive aspect of his game this season, which was a strength last season, and according to scouts, showed off some indecisive play early on and never really found his groove. Although mobile with crisp change-of-direction ability, Harrington was never thought of as an offensive player, but his gap control, positioning, smarts and work ethic all drew raves last year. This season, he regressed and seemed to let the pressure of his draft year and London's struggles get to him. He could be a solid pro if he can get back to his previous level, but that will require a club who saw enough of him last year to be confident he can get his mojo back.
Andrei Makarov, G Lewiston (QMJHL)- Highly athletic Russian goalie carried high expectations all the way to Maine, but played so poorly early in the season that even his late resurgence may not be enough to see him picked. His poor technique and lack of fundamentals were exposed early on, but to his credit, he battled and tried to work through it. Showed improvement as the season wore on, and he could be one of these guys who goes the distance because he has such natural size, flexibility and is a bit of an acrobat in net. He's going to require a great deal of time and patience, but the payoff could be big.