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Friday, May 20, 2011

50 in 30: B2011DW's top-50 players for the NHL Draft

With this post, Bruins 2011 Draft Watch brings you the first of our 50 in 30- a countdown of the top-50 2011 NHL draft prospects as we see it.

The rankings are compiled based on live viewings, streams, and as always, a generous amount of opinions from our NHL sources. Unlike THN or Bob McKenzie's TSN rankings- we do not poll scouts for our rankings, but rather, take the NHL team and Red Line Report approach of doing our live and video scouting to rank order the players in terms of projected impact, and then using the comments and feedback we get as the tie-breakers and deciding votes as to where the players are cast. This is not a mock draft- it's a list of who we see being the best right now...AND those players we feel have the best chance of making an NHL splash in the long run.

No player in our top-50 is a blind association. In other words, if we didn't at least see an online stream of the player, he's not in the rankings. We fully recognize that there could be a clear top-50 candidate who isn't going to make the cut, but the integrity of our list is important enough to live with that. The flip side is that there may be a few guys in our top-50 who aren't going to make that cut come draft day. Again- it's about bringing you what we see and hear and not just lifting someone else's work.

The 21-50 will be in three separate posts between now and May 31. Then, beginning June 1, we will do a comprehensive draft profile per day from 20 on down to 1. If you read the Bruins 2010 Draft Watch blog, then you know what's in store. If you didn't, then here's Tyler Seguin's from last May.

So without further ado, here's 50 in 30- Bruins Draft Watch style!

50. Nick Cousins, C Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) 5-11, 170 7/20/1993
Unappreciated! That's the one word we keep coming back to every time we see the diminutive but highly creative center play. He's versatile with nice wheels, a quick stick and the head to play well at the highest level. Cousins needs to get stronger, but that's the way it is with most players who are undersized. Cousins was knocking on the door to the B2011DW top-50, but after watching him be one of the real straws that stirred the drink for Canada at the World Under-18s, he jumps in there, and probably could be even higher than he is. This is a player who can score for you and plays a responsible defensive game, too. There is always room in the NHL for smart, skilled little men and Cousins is just that.

49. Nick Shore, C Denver University (WCHA) 6-0, 190 09/26/1992
One of the draft's forgotten guys because he was injured and missed a lot of time early on when draft lists forming and buzz building. Not as big as his older brother Drew (might a growth spurt be on the way), a 2nd-round pick of the Florida Panthers in 2009. Good skater and hands, but his hockey sense is what makes the younger Shore a worthwhile pick in the second round at the very least. He's underrated mostly because of the missed time and production. We have to remember that he was a freshman this year, and like his brother, could have a significant jump in numbers from one year to the next. Shore plays a solid all-around game and has some upside, too.

48. Ryan Sproul, D Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) 6-4, 190 1/13/1993

Burst onto the scene this season after playing for the Jr. A Vaughan Vipers in the OJHL last year and even at the beginning of 2010-11 and was a tough view playing in the Soo. Mark Edwards of HockeyProspect.com knows him well and saw the emergence of this big, swift-skating, hard-shooting defender with some big upside coming. Sproul is raw, yes- but whatever issues he may have with his defense and overall game, the fact remains that this kid scored most of his 14 goals after November. The right-shooting Mississauga native was originally going to go the NCAA route, but switched gears for the OHL, which we hear was the better move for him. Ultimately, he's going to get drafted higher than most think because guys who are as big, can skate and shoot like Sproul don't grow on trees. Boom or bust- probably. But homerun potential will be too tempting for him to remain on the board for long. This kid is going to be an off-the-board selection and we liked enough of what we saw of him in the U-18s to say it will happen in the second round.

Here is more on him from Edwards. He talks Zach Bell and Gabriel Landeskog first, but Sproul stuff at the 5:05 mark

And a HockeyProspect.com interview with him as well.

47. Robbie Russo, D U.S. NTDP (USHL) 5-11, 190 2/15/1993
If you're a regular B2011DW reader, then you know that we weren't bullish on Russo, although we heard from scouts he had solid second-round potential. We just didn't see it in some of the action we saw Russo in earlier this season, but thought it was an entirely different player in Germany for the World Under-18s. The Team USA captain was very good in helping his squad win a third consecutive gold medal- he played with a ton of confidence and brought a two-way presence that had been lacking in our view. He's mobile, smart and can move the puck. Russo succeeded in Germany because he was patient, yet aggressive. He made the right decisions and provided timely offense. He has the skill to be a second-round pick, but the question is- can he play like he did internationally, or will some of the passive, indifferent play creep back in when he goes to Notre Dame next season.

46. Phillip Danault, C Victoriaville (QMJHL) 5-11, 162 2/24/1993
Le Petit Tigre- that was former NHL coach Michel Bergeron's nickname but it works for Danault, whose father is the team's PA announcer. Danault grew up around the team and has been a key player and captain. He's a small guy whose feet never stop moving and he never quits on the play. He's a good defensive center with an active stick who is tenacious on the forecheck and brings a lot of energy, hustle and character to the mix. He's not a high-end skill guy, but makes up for it with his effort. His size is what is keeping him from going higher, but we imagine that NHL teams will love his immeasurables more than what he brings to the table offensively. A classic more than the sum of his parts player, and with Danault we keep going back to the old scouting adage that says if a kid wants to be in the NHL badly enough, he'll probably get there.

45. Daniel Catenacci, LW Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) 5-10, 180 3/09/1993
Former 1st overall selection in the OHL draft is a blazing, dynamic, game-breaker- He's the hot dog with extra mustard and all the relish. Coming into the year, he was looking lost in the shuffle after a tough season in '09-10, but he used the Eight Nations/Ivan Hlinka as a springboard for a 26-goal, 71-point season. Excellent skater and puckhandler who is a real dangler. His father, Maurice, coached Daniel, Ryan Murphy and Barclay Goodrow among others on the high-flying York-Simcoe Express minor midget team, so the younger Catenacci comes from a real hockey background. Catenacci gets into trouble when he goes into solo mode and tries to beat the other team by himself. Takes bad penalties and needs to work on keeping his emotions in check. His defense is also lacking and as an undersized guy needs to get a lot stronger. The Bruins have another player who is pretty similar in style at least- Ryan Spooner. But make no mistake- when on his game in the offensive zone, this kid can bring it. Disappointing showing at U18s for Canada- was outshined by Soo teammate Cousins, but has a higher upside.

44. Matt Nieto, LW Boston University (HEA) 5-11, 193 11/05/1992
We admit that Nieto is lower on this list than he will likely go in June. Another undersized, yet prolific offensive forward with speed to burn, quick hands and a killer instinct around the net. Nieto had high expectations coming into the season, but struggled out of the gate. The player we saw in November was tentative and ineffective in dealing with the higher-end players in the Hockey East, but by March, he was looking like the NTDP standout. He's an outstanding skater with the vision, hands and instincts to score a lot. But our hesitation comes from the difficulty in transitioning to the NCAA taken with his size, which is going to be an obstacle at the highest level. If Nieto can continue to get stronger and play his high octane, aggressively attacking style, he has a chance to do something, but he is a bit risky in that he's more of a top-six scoring guy than an effective checker if he can't get it done in the pros.

43. David Honzik, G Victoriaville (QMJHL) 6-3, 195 08/09/1993
B2011DW likes this Czech goaltender quite a bit. He's huge, agile and mentally tough. Honzik really came on after struggling with the transition to the 'Q' early on, saving his best for the playoffs. He played a valiant series against super power Saint John and demonstrated adroit puck stopping skills along with mental toughness and a competitive spirit. We heard great things about Honzik from Red Line Czech scout Radim Jelinek, and much of what he said about him checked out. B2011DW has Honzik ahead of Christopher Gibson as a better pro prospect. Gibson had a very good season in Chicoutimi and is a better player on paper, but there are things we've seen and heard about him that lead to believe that in time, Honzik has the higher upside.

42. Brett Ritchie, RW Sarnia (OHL)6-3, 205 07/01/1993
It was a tough year for Ritchie who was starting to round into form after a sluggish start, only to be felled by a bout with mono that effectively took him out of it for the balance of the season in January. Ritchie is a big kid with a nice stride who does all the things you want from your power winger along the walls. He takes the puck to the net, shields it effectively when in possession and cycling. He's not a real baggage smasher who goes out of his way to wreck guys, but will give a hit and take one. His mitts are OK, and yet he still managed 21 goals in 49 games this season so the potential is there for him so long as he continues to play in the greasy areas of the ice. NHL teams love those power forwards

41. Reid Boucher, LW 5-9, 186 09/08/1993
Boy, do we love this kid. The Michigan State recruit is probably too low on the B2011DW list, but the size and lack of high-end speed will bring him down in the draft, lower than he should go in our view. Boucher could legally change his last name to "Money" and he'd be well within his rights to do so. He's one of these guys who will cruise along and not really be noticed until the puck goes near the net and then he comes alive, pounces and will fire it home. This guy is a an apex predator when it comes to scoring goals- he has elite vision, anticipation, hands and a wicked release with pinpoint accuracy. No moment is ever to daunting to this guy, who scored eight goals in the Under-18 tourney, just about all of them key and important. He may not have the breakaway speed and separation of Rocco Grimaldi, but he's a legitimate sniper with a flair for the dramatic. Those guys are gold. Made the eligibility cutoff for 2011 by one week- one of the youngest players in the class.

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