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Showing posts with label Peter Ceresnak. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Peter Ceresnak. Show all posts

Friday, April 15, 2011

World Under-18 Championship Day 2: USA-Slovakia observations

Team USA played their second game in as many days at the World Under-18 Championship.

As was the case against Switzerland, the Americans started slowly, taking two early penalties and having a hard time generating much offense. However, once the Americans killed their first couple of penalties, they blew the game open en route to an 8-1 beating that gives them a 2-0-0-0 record thus far.

They thought they took a lead in the opening frame when Henrik Samuelsson fired a shot past (goalie) but Blake Pietila was ruled in the crease and it was waved off.

Rocco Grimaldi put action to words from the previous day when he was critical of his own performance against Switzerland, scoring USA's first goal on the power play.

Barret Kaib, D- Made one terrible pass while on the PK, but the Slovaks couldn't capitalize. Has some wheels, but is a small defender without the elite skill set NHL teams want from undersized guys at that position. Kaib may have to make his pro bones going the free agency route after playing at Providence College, because we don't see much of a shot of him being drafted.

Rocco Grimaldi, F- Got his 1st goal of the tourney in the first on the power play when he darted into the slot between the hashmarks and buried the rebound of a Reid Boucher shot. He didn't play poorly in Game 1, but didn't accomplish much and called himself out for not playing well. You have to love his passion and accountability, but we think Roc was being a bit tough on himself. He can really fly and handle the puck at top speed, and you get an appreciate for that when you watch him. If we have an issue with his play int he first couple of games it is that he tends to take the puck wide most times instead of driving into traffic and using his quickness to cross up defenders and open up some space. We know he's an energetic, passionate player, but hanging out on the perimeter isn't the best use of his prodigious talents.

Adam Reid, F- Didn't see much ice in the first game, but did get his first goal of the the tournament on the power play to make it 6-0, USA after the Americans did a terrific job of puck possession and movement, holding the zone and working it smartly before getting a shot on net that Reid put past Patrik Rybar. He's got very good physical tools, but hasn't really put it all together and is a pretty raw project player at this point. At the same time, those measurables are bound to intrigue an NHL team enough to grab him in the draft at some point, we just don't know where that will be. He's not been a key player in this tourney for the Americans thus far.

Travis Boyd, F- This September 14, 1993 born forward made the 2011 cutoff by just one day! He's small but quick and intelligent. He scored a beautiful shorthanded goal after taking a pass from Zac Larraza and beating the Slovak defense through the neutral zone. As he streaked in on goaltender Richard Sabol, he made a quick head fake, then tucked the puck to his backhand and as Sabol bit on the initial fake, slid the puck past the helpless keeper and into the cage. Boyd is another one of USA's many intelligent, skilled, interchangeable forwards. He may not project as a strong NHL prospect right now, but has some interesting attributes.

Reid Boucher, F- Along with Grimaldi, gave Slovakia fits all day with their quickness and aggressive driving to the net. They each tallied, and Reid missed at least one tip-in on a nice cross-ice feed from Grimaldi, but he has the look of a natural scorer with his quick hands, release and good body position when the puck's on his stick in the o-zone. He's not the blazer Grimaldi is, but has excellent anticipation and is able to create on his own.

Dan Carlson, F- Minnesota State- Mankato recruit scored a highlight reel goal when he sliced through the Slovakia defense, but on a quick burst of speed to cut past the last defender and fired a bullet past the netminder for his first goal of the tourney. Not a top-end skater, but has deceptive speed and quickness. More of an energy guy, but after that goal, showed that he can create a little nifty offense. A draft longshot, but may be someone to watch next season and beyond if he doesn't get a call in June.

Connor Murphy, D- It's always good news when your best offensive defenseman is also one of your best defensive players, and that's what Murphy did against the Slovaks. He made a beautiful block on a 2-on-1 in the 1st period to deny a scoring chance, and was in position all day. Showed nice gap control, an active stick and took the body when it warranted. He's big but doesn't lay a lot of crushing hits, yet is still pretty effective in the angles he takes and the defensive awareness he shows. Really nasty on the point during the power play. Moved it smartly with partner Jacob Trouba all game long, forcing the Slovaks to open up the umbrella and create some shooting lanes. USA's success with the man advantage today was no accident and it started with their PP point men: Murphy, Trouba, Seth Jones and Robbie Russo.

Robbie Russo, D- Another strong offensive game for the captain. He ripped a point shot for a goal in the second period, his first of the tournament. Named player of the game for this one, he earned it, playing an effective two-way game and staying involved throughout. Highly effective on the power play in terms of moving the puck well with partner Seth Jones, and made smart decisions. This is the kind of performance from Russo that had certain draft sources projecting him as a second-round pick. He needs to keep it up, but credit where due for games 1 and 2.

Mike Paliotta, D- Steady and unspectacular today as he was in Game 1. Watching these two games, we can appreciate why he's fallen down in the rankings a bit after coming into the season looking at a potential first-round grade. He's got nice size and is a fluid skater with good four-way directional mobility, but he's not the kind of passer/puck-mover that jumps out at you along with some of the higher-profile players in the the class. He plays a pretty conservative game and doesn't jump into the play much. With the power play defensive rotation having so much success and the team on special teams as much as they were against Slovakia, Paliotta's ice time suffered. He's a great kid and character player, but there isn't much upside based on what we've seen in the first two games.

John Gibson, G- Another strong game from the frontrunner to be the first goaltender off the board in June. Wasn't tested a great deal, but sometimes a goalie can make things look easier than they appear. Was in position the entire time, controlled the rebounds and did a great job of making some of the tougher shots look routine. He blanked the Slovaks and gave way to backup McNeely for the third period. In two games, Gibson has given up just one goal in five periods of action.

Matt McNeely, G- Came into the game during garbage time in the third period. Greatly resembled Gibson in terms of size and style- if you didn't catch on to their pad color scheme, you could go the entire game thinking Gibson was in the net the whole time. Gave up a goal on a weird bounce that went to Marko Dano for the layup in front. It was good for him to get into some action even at garbage time, but this is Gibson's team and if the USA is going to three-peat it will have to be Gibson who gets them there.

Martin Gernat, D- Slovakia's best defender has excellent size (6-5) and good mobility for such a big kid. He's fluid in his movements and still a little gangly, but had a couple of memorable plays where he jumped in from the point to get a good shot off, but was denied by Gibson. He was burned on a couple of missed coverages, but overall, was one of Slovakia's better players in a thrashing. Lack of physical play and strength is his biggest shortcoming right now, but he has the kind of projectable upside that makes him a solid sleeper for the 2011 draft.

Peter Ceresnak, D- Nothing major to report on this defense-first player. He kept things pretty simple, but had trouble handling the smaller, quicker U.S. forwards especially when they forced him to move away from the boards and into the open ice. Has a pretty good stick for breaking up plays, but doesn't do a great deal to stand out either way.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Central Scouting European final rankings: The rank and file

Continuing the look at Central Scouting rankings of European players, we'll go into the middle of the order, focusing on some names you might be well aware of, but others who might not yet be on your particular radar for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

You'll see some Russians in this post, but the best Russian talent in the 2011 class is mostly over in North America playing in the CHL this year.

31. Henri Auvinen, D JyP Jyvaskyla Jr. (FIN Jr.)- Featured in a previous B2011DW sleeper alert, this Finnish defender attracted much notice in February's Five Nations tourney in the Czech Republic. At 6-2, 176, he's skinny and lacking in strength, and his skating is OK, but needs improvement in his initial burst and footwork. He can advance the puck pretty well, and plays with a natural intelligence and vision that could see him develop into a promising two-way prospect. His second-half performance vaulted him up to the first spot in the second round from 55 where he was at mid-term, and while that may be a tad high for this raw but interesting project, he does look like a solid draft pick. Teammate Samu Perhonen is the most identifiable player on JyP, but given that Boston has a cooperative agreement with the Finnish club, you can bet that they've gotten a good, long look at both.

34. Maxim Shalunov, RW Chelyabinsk-2 (RUS Jr.)- Big and talented Russian is a bit of an enigma in that he has the speed and agility to go end-to-end and can handle the puck well. He has a heavy shot and is capable of putting it in the net from the outside. At 6-3, 185 pounds, he has a lot of filling out to do. He scored 22 goals and 36 points with Traktor Chelyabinsk's junior team, but he dropped from a 20 ranking at mid-season to 34. We figure much of that has to do with his penchant for taking undisciplined penalties and an inconsistent compete level that can be a killer with scouts because of the limited viewings involved. If he's a horse one night and invisible the next, that will skew the rankings and you'll see some variance on where different teams rank him. He also gets the detriment of other Russians who stayed home and come with concerns about signing them and adjusting to the North American game as opposed to those who jumped over the Atlantic. Shalunov could be one of the bigger tease prospects in this class- he has unquestioned talent, but is less than the sum of his impressive parts right now.

35. Peter Ceresnak, D Trencin Jr. (SVK- Jr.)- Big defender is a stay-at-home guy and more of a poor man's Milan Jurcina than anything else. He is fairly mobile in that he doesn't have great speed, but moves well laterally and can lay guys out with a pretty decent hip check. He staples opponents to the walls and has a long wingspan/active stick. He's got to work on his gap control and there isn't much offensive upside with this guy. Ceresnak got virtually no playing time at the WJC, which was disappointing, especially since Slovakia was one of the poorer teams there and he wasn't given much of a shot even after Martin Marincin got the boot for his elbow on U.S. forward Jason Zucker.

46. Daniel Pribyl, LW/C Sparta Praha Jr. (CZE- Jr.)- Red Line Report gets credit for being on Pribyl's bandwagon for some time, but Central is onto something with the big and skilled forward. At 6-3, 190 he's lean and needs to get stronger, but has some interesting potential and upside. The December '92 birthdate scored 25 goals and 54 points in just 39 games with his junior club and even got some time with his senior team in the Exraliga, so his development is on the right track. He's a long-strider but isn't a dynamic skater and could stand to pick up an extra step. However, his creativity is high-end, and he has nice hands to set up plays along with a quick, accurate shot to make him a dual threat as a finisher and set-up man. This is one player who wouldn't surprise us in the least to see go off the board early as a bit of a surprise pick because of his strong blend of tools and intangibles. He's a hard worker, and we'd love to see him come over and play in the CHL next season.

76. Sebastian Dyk, LW Malmo (SWE-2)- Blazing skater dropped down from mid-term because of his lack of goal scoring (no goals in 36 games playing against men in the second division or Allsvenskan), but despite the production issues, he's got the chops and talent to do a lot more. He might be worth a gamble in the mid-to-late rounds because he is speedy, shifty, handles the puck will and can take it to the net. He's only average-sized, so he'll need to get stronger and take the next step in production, but based on what we've heard, there is no reason he won't evolve into a decent prospect given his skill level and wheels.

77. Jakub Jerabek, D Plzen (CZE)- A late-bloomer and May, 1991-birthdate who has emerged as an interesting puck-moving option coming out of the Czech Extraliga this season. He's average-sized but moves well and can advance the puck with quick breakouts and tape-to-tape passes that stretch defenses. He's not a dynamic player who jumps out at you, but does make the right reads and sees the ice well. Like Dahlbeck, he brings added benefit of being more physically mature and experienced; ready to come over to North America and start playing right away for the team that drafts him (contract permitting). He's not much for physical play and his defense is pretty average, but PMDs are all the rage, and this guy has some potential.

123. Pontus Netterberg, RW HV 71 Jr. (SWE- Jr.)- A February 1992 who was passed over, but who made a positive impression during the World Jr. A Challenge in the fall. He lacks first step jump and explosion but is a good straight-line skater who goes into traffic well and drives the net. He doesn't have terrific hands, but just seems to get in close and convert rebounds and other trash in front of the net. He shows some creativity and will play with some bite, though he has a long fuse and often needs to be set off rather than playing with the natural aggression of a power forward. Looks low on Central's list to us- he scored 19 goals on HV 71's junior team and has the size and offensive element to his game that should find some appeal among the NHL's 30 clubs.

132. Sami Salminen, RW HIFK Jr. (FIN- Jr.)- Huge (6-5) winger crashed on Central's mid-term rankings, dropping all the way down to 132 from 47 likely because of his very heavy feet and concerns about being able to improve his skating enough to be an NHL player. He scored 15 goals in 30 games and looked very strong in early season international competition, so there is some promise there, but he doesn't bring much of a physical element and would undoubtedly require a great deal of time and patience to develop. Still, the payoff might be nice for the team willing to invest a pick and the TLC. Character kid who works hard.

We will return with a post dedicated to the European goalies worth discussing and soome sleepers from the Euro ranks.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Red Line Report scout Radim Jelinek interview: 2011 Eastern Europe draft prospects midseason report Pt. 2

We're back with the second part of the interview with Red Line Report Czech/Slovak scout Radim Jelinek.

Be sure to check out Part 1 if you haven't seen it yet.

This is a pretty lean year for Czech and Slovak players in the NHL draft who aren't already over in North America this season, playing major junior hockey and in Czech forward Petr Placek's case, prep hockey in New England for Damon White's Hotchkiss club.

Radim will now detail the Slovak and Russian crops and we'll look ahead to 2012 and beyond, with a taste of things to come in the future out of Eastern Europe.


Bruins 2011 Draft Watch: With Slovak forwards Tomas Jurco and Marek Tvrdon (among others) in North America this season (and Tvrdon injured for the rest of the year), is defenseman Peter Ceresnak someone to keep an eye on as a draft option from Slovakia who is still playing in Europe this season?

Radim Jelinek: I won´t be surprised if Ceresnak is first and the only one Slovak still playing in Europe selected in June in Minnesota. However I´m not a big fan of him and I´m personally much more interested in 6-4 tall D from Kosice Martin Gernat who also belongs into the group of sleepers I mentioned in previous answer. Gernat is a smooth skater with fluid stride and decent footwork for his size. Has very good vision and hands, moves the puck well, handles the puck with confidence making solid decision with puck. Likes to join the rush regularly and shows good instinct in sliding from the point into scoring positions. Just started developing physical play in his game, still very inconsistent using his body, needs to play aggressive, physical game all the time. When he uses it then he is tough to beat 1 on 1, angles forwards to the outside, tights forward up at the boards, hits hard. Lacks strength right now and still growing but has frame to fill it out. D-zone coverage is still very average, needs to read the play better defensively, improve positional play and play much tighter game. Very raw but I like his progress throughout the season and see some similar things in his game as in Martin Marincin´s. He is far from him as Marincin was first rounder in my eyes while Gernat is later-round pick but upside is there.

On the other hand, Ceresnak is already well built physically, strong on skates. Feet are a bit slow and heavy, passes are firm and can make good outlet but not smart or creative with puck. Defensively he is strong in battles and is tough to beat in 1 on 1 situations. However doesn´t read the play in own zone, when opposing forwards start cycling, collide each other, shift spots then he is not able to read those situations properly, picks up wrong player consistently, gets out of position, wanders around own zone without his player.


B2011DW: How does the crop of Russian players look to you this season? Maxim Shalunov and Zakhar Arzamastsev are the highest-ranked players who stayed in Russia-- can you talk about those two and what chances they have to be drafted in June?

RJ: As I already said before, I personally consider Russian crop without all CHL-ers as extremely weak. I don´t see many NHL prospects behind Shalunov and Arzamastsev, at least those who are first year eligible. Both mentioned guys are the best Russians, at least for now.

Shalunov has first round tools but no toolbox, classical Russian enigmatic player. February´s Five nation tournament and then World U-18 champs could have great impact on where he is selected in June. He is a big, powerful winger built like a tank, when he plays with passion he goes through checks, finishes checks and drives the net hard. Soft hands, can beat D with variety of moves off the rush and cuts to the net from wide. Hard wrist shot with quick release. Deceptive skater, first steps are very short and stride is wide and a bit short but has actually good speed and strong on skates. Problem is that he lacks intensity, invisible for longer periods with zero effort off the puck. Lazy on backcheck and plays very selfishly trying low percentage 1 on 1 flashy moves all the time.

Arzamastsev is more of offensive D who runs the PP well, sees the ice well and can make good first pass out of zone. Handles the puck well and good thought process with puck. Okay skater, doesn´t initiate contact much but not afraid of physical play. From mid to later-round prospect. Last guy I should mention is winger Nikita Kucherov. Not big but doesn´t stop trying to make something offensively, good skills. Has good hands and quick and shifty skater, creates separation and moves his feet. Not more then potential late-rounder though.


B2011DW: With high-end Russians like Alexander Khokhlachev and Vladislav Namestnikov in North America this season, have you heard talk of more Russian and Eastern European players like G David Honzik leaving their clubs to play in the CHL to try and improve their chances of being picked high in the NHL?

RJ: I haven´t heard anything particular yet, no specific names but I don´t doubt that tendency from several previous seasons will continue and some of the top Czechs and Russians(and also some other who should better stay home) will come over next summer. One of the reason for so many Russians coming over to play in CHL nowadays could be the fact the if they leave as 17 year old and spend three years there, then they become free agent in KHL.

By the way, annual exodus of majority of top Czech/Slovakian NHL prospect to CHL before their draft year became big problem(along with outdated system of players development and inability to bring up new generation of good players) for future of many Czechoslovakian NHL scouts. I counted 8 local scouts losing their job mostly because of that in last couple of years. Scouts understand reasons why very young players tend to leave so early and mostly approve of that step but in the end they get into very bad situation (partially) because of that.

B2011: Kosice defenseman Tomas Tkac is 144th on the Red Line rankings this month; a 6-5, 180-pounder is interesting. What can you tell people about his game and possible upside?

RJ: Uff, I was probably too ecstatic after first two viewing before Christmas. Tall guy who came absolutely out of nowhere, just converted into defenceman… Early on he impressed me with solid thought process with the puck, decent mobility for huge D, steady puck movement, willingness to get involved physically in battles. However when I have seen him this month, he looked very awkward, lacking coordination, choppy handling the puck, having no idea how to play defence in own zone. I still think that he is worth of keeping an eyes on him next year if there is any progress in his game but right now Ican´t imagine him as legitimate draft prospect.

B2011DW: Looking ahead to 2012 and beyond, Martin Frk is certainly one player attracting attention, but are there players still over in your area of expertise in Europe who are worth noting and keeping an eye on 18 months from now?

RJ: There are certainly prospects worth of keeping an eye for 2012 but I haven´t seen another Dmitri Jaskin yet. Actually 94´birthyear is considered as weaker in Czech. Tomas Hertl(late 93´) is probably the best but needs to stay healthy. He is big and strong creative playmaker with soft hands, excellent stick skills, vision, smartness. Smooth skater with speed, agility, balance. Slick with puck in tight, tough to separate off the puck, shields the puck very well.

I also like natural tools of tall goalie Marek Langhammer, puck skills and offensive upside of tall D Ronald Knot, Michal Plutnar and Karel Plasil. Among forwards I could mention names like Radek Faksa, Dominik Volek(David Volek´s son) or Patrik Machac but I don´t see another Michal Frolik, Jakub Voracek or David Krejci. I should also note that outside of Frk, several other promising 2012 eligible already play in USHL: Zehnal twins or Adam Chlapik.

It looks like very poor year for Slovaks next season conversely to 2013 which could be strong year for Slovakian forwards(but many things could happen in next 30 months) with names like Marko Dano, Matej Paulovic, Tomas Torok, Martin Reway, Patrik Koys.

Special thanks once again to Radim for taking time out of his busy schedule to provide such detailed answers on players that most of us have little to no access to.

If you have any specific questions, email me or post comment and I will try to pass them along to Radim for clarification.

Be sure to visit the Draft Watch blog tomorrow (Tuesday) for the next part in the "Case For" series, where we will break out a candidate for that Toronto pick at the top of the 1st round and why that player would make sense for Boston.

For Red Line Report subscription information, you can visit their website at www.redlinereport.com

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2011 WJC player updates Days 2-4

Well, it's Wednesday here in Buffalo and not a great deal of good hockey today to get excited about.

The Finland-Germany game was on par with the game the Finns played against Switzerland yesterday. They won that one by a 4-0 score and beat Germany 4-1 after chasing starter Philipp Grubauer from the net (the second time in three starts he's gotten the hook in the tourney, btw).

Germany is a bad team, but Finland, as efficient as they are, just seem to suck the life out of their games. They wait for opponents to make mistakes and capitalize. This is much of a contrast to the blistering speed of the aggressive Swedish and Russian teams in Sweden's 2-0 win last night.

The Canada-Norway game later this evening didn't hold much hope for excitement...unless you're a Canadian and like Sega Genesis EA Sports NHL 94-like blowouts or something. And true to form, it was a total laugher, aided in the 1st period by horrendous goaltending from Soberg (who pulled himself after allowing five- most of them softies) and Volden (who promptly allowed two more softies). The final was 10-1 with Brayden Schenn finishing up a four-goal, five-point night, but not getting voted the game's 1st star by the "media" (I quote that because I am part of the "media" and have yet to get a vote sheet handed my way for any of these games. Not sure who's picking these gems, but I ain't part of it nor is anyone else I know here.)

So, after a not-so-great day of hockey, I'll pust some observations on the key 2011-eligible players here on the heels of three pretty good days with some moribund individual games in between.

Switzerland

Sven Bartschi, LW- This has not been a good tournament so far for the talented winger who is playing with countryman and Swiss team captain Nino Niederreiter in the WHL with Portland. Bartschi has nice wheels and hands, but has been a perimeter player here for the most part. Not very involved in the play beyond some flashes here and there, to say that Bartschi's been a disappointment is an understatement. That said, he's a nice kid who just got some help when he gets back to the Winterhawks in the form of B's prospect Craig Cunningham.

Gregory Hofmann, C-- Playing on the wing here in Buffalo more than up the middle, this kid has been a nice revelation. Possessing OK size, he's a good skater with rapid acceleration and pretty good east-west agility and shiftiness. He was particularly good in the first day win over Germany and less so in the shutout loss to Finland on Day 3. He handles the puck well and has several gears that he uses to go in and out of traffic and control the tempo, He made a terrific pass on Switzerland's first goal of the tournament and most folks you talk to in the scouting community here like him. The knocks? The Bruins have yet to draft a Swiss player in their history. He's playing on a line with a teammate on the Ambri Piotta pro team back home, so he does have some chemistry already established that most WJC players on these teams do not.

Germany

Tobias Rieder, LW-- Another disappointment, although Rieder came alive on the tourney's fourth day against Finland. He scored a highlight reel goal on Joni Ortio in the third period to break a 4-0 shutout bid and it was a beauty- he charged in alone at full speed, slowed, then put on a lightning deke backhand-to-forehand-to-backhand, and when Ortio pulled himself out of line with the net, Rieder slid the puck into the yawning cage. The skilled little winger also had several scoring chances against the Finns. That being said, his first two games were pretty poor and until today, he was right with Bartschi for tourney's most disappointing player award if I gave such an award out. His ice time has been sporadic at times, but Rieder simply hasn't done enough consistently to make a big case about it. He's definitely a player in terms of his skating and hands, but the energy I heard about him possessing in Kitchener hasn't been there. I've been left wanting more with him.

Finland

Joel Armia, RW-- At 6-3 and about 190, this guy has the size and goal scoring chops that NHL teams crave. He's shown off those raw tools pretty effectively in Buffalo, even though he has nothing to show for it. He got hosed on a goal called back against Switzerland when it should have counted (net knocked off purposely by Swiss player before puck crossed) and he was standing in front of Philipp Grubauer on a screen against Germany and credited with the goal only to have Joonas Nattinen get the nod later in the game for it. In the end, it doesn't really matter because anyone watching Armia closely has seen some good things. Red Line Report chief scout and publisher Kyle Woodlief will be by the B2011DW blog a little later to go into detail about Armia's game for you.

Sweden

Gabriel Landeskog, RW-- To say that I'm choked about not getting to see Landeskog in this tourney live is an understatement. Aggravating a high ankle sprain he suffered in his final OHL game last week, this top 2011 draft candidate could be on the shelf for a long time. How will it affect his draft position if at all? We'll have to see. More on him later from Woodlief.

Adam Larsson, D-- Finally got to see him live in a very fast-paced and spirited 2-0 win over the Russians on Day 3 and wasn't disappointed. Again, I'll let Woodlief break down his game for you, and he really gave me a ton of stuff on him. But, bottom line- Larsson's looked like a high first-round pick this week and just needs to keep building on it. Now, having said that, some may be surprised to hear what Red Line's chief scout thinks about Larsson's upside/NHL projection. Kyle might be right, and he might be off, but the internet hype machine is a detriment to someone like Larsson because for the past 1.5 yrs, people have been thinking he's a future Niklas Lidstrom-type franchise cornerstone, and that simply may not be the case. He was good for me, but not fabulous. So therein lies the dilemma for scouts.

Rickard Rakell, RW-- When Gabriel Landeskog was lost for the WJC with a high ankle sprain, Team Sweden needed people to step up, and no player did more than Rakell against the Russians. Although only averaged sized, he was fast, intense, gritty, physical and really distinguished himself in all facets of the game except on the scoresheet. But one can't help but wonder whether with his speed and quick stick, whether some nice offensive performances are right around the corner. He's been good in Plymouth from what I hear, but if he maintains this sandpaper, edgy aspect to his game, Rakell will be a first-round pick in June.

Russia

Anton Burdasov, C--
Passed over twice in the draft, one can only wonder why, because even with the transfer/signability concerns, what NHL team doesn't want a guy who stands about 6-3, can really skate, handle the puck and play with a lot of energy. This guy, along with Vladimir Tarasenko, have been Russia's best players in the tourney. Others, like Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitry Orlov, have left me wanting more...a lot more. Burdasov may have some skeletons in the closet or something, but from a pure hockey standpoint, this guy seems like a third- or fourth-rounder to me. But, I'm not a pro scout, either.

Slovakia

Tomas Jurco, RW--
This very skilled kid hasn't gotten much of a chance as one of the younger players on Team Slovakia, which is a shame. Fast, extremely deft with the puck and creative, in limited shifts, he managed to create several quality/noticeable scoring chances against the Germans in a 2-1 overtime victory. He's already well acquainted with the North American aspects of hockey having spent a year-plus with the QMJHL's Saint John Sea Dogs and just seems to have all the tools to be an offensive threat in the NHL one day. He's not huge and has a lot of filling out to do.

Peter Ceresnak, D-- The seventh D hasn't played but with Martin Marincin suspended for his hit to the head of Jason Zucker over the next four games, the big, shutdown defender will get his chance here in Buffalo.

Canada

Sean Couturier, C--
Considered by many to be the one candidate most likely for top billing in 2011 hasn't done much in the tournament. Some of it is a reflection of his role and ice time as Canada's youngest player, but some of it is Couturier. He's just kind of there. He was fine in the first win over Russia, but has been barely noticeable in the victories over Czech Republic and Norway. He doesn't look like a very dominant player right now-- he's got the size and moves OK, but his play has been on the tentative side as if he doesn't want to make a mistake. He was barely noticeable in the 10-1 shellacking of Norway and this after he got more ice time with the absence of Jaden Schwartz and Matt Kassian (and even Cody Eakin who got injured in the 1st and did not return)from the lineup.(Note- to save the the time of outraged readers who will post comments to inevitably point out that he scored his first goal of the WJC in this game-- well, yes, he did. But it's what he didn't do in the first two periods I was talking about. He's capable of so much more than we got tonight.)

I'll be back with more detailed reports on these players and others when the tournament concludes, but it's a good start.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A way early Bruins mock draft Rounds 1-3

Yeah, yeah-- I know. It's far too early for this kind of thing.

But you know what? People love trying to play what if. And, last year I didn't do a single mock until June.

Time to go ahead and buck that trend. I won't make a habit of it, but why not play around a little bit on a lazy Sunday? (I always loved that Chris Parnell/Andy Samberg Chronicles of Narnia rap on SNL- ignore the Spanish subtitles- this is worth watching but parental advisory in effect for adult language WARNING)

OK, enough of the pop culture segue: Here's the mock draft assuming the lottery were to result in Boston ending up with the No. 4 selection.

The (I know its early 4 all the haterz) B2011 DW Boston Bruins Mock Draft v 1.0

1st Round
4. (from Toronto) Ryan Murphy, D Kitchener Rangers (OHL)-- This kid's brilliance on offense would be precisely what Boston needs, and they'd have no problem selling his upside toBoston fans, who are clamoring for skill and offense on the blue line. He's not very big, but if you watch the highlights, he's got some real skill (some have used his name in the same sentence as Bobby Orr-- I won't do that. Or did I just do that?) This blog has done plenty on Murphy already-- you can catch up on your reading and know that there will be more on him as the season goes on. In fact, by June, Murphy may have played his way into the top-two selections of the draft- should be interesting to see how high he goes.

15. (Boston pick) Dillon Simpson, D University of North Dakota (WCHA)-- The 6-1, 200-pound defenseman (those vitals may be a bit inflated, though- he looks a little smaller) is in his first NCAA season after placing Jr. A in Alberta last season with Spruce Grove (in the same junior league Joe Colborne graduated from- the AJHL). The son of former NHL scorer and HNIC analyst Craig Simpson has outstanding bloodlines and is one smart, heady player. He caused some consternation when he picked the Sioux in Grand Forks over his dad's Lansing Spartans alma mater, but the WCHA will be an excellent level for him to develop in. He's already made an immediate impact as you can see from his first career NCAA goal below.


Simpson is a few years away from competing for an NHL job, but he could evolve into a very good one. Right now, he's seen as a borderline No. 1/solid 2, but he could raise that projection if he keeps it up as a freshman this year.

2nd round
40. (from Minnesota) Austen Brassard, RW Belleville Bulls (OHL)-- It's been a disappointing season thus far for Brassard who was a preseason pick to do some big things for the Bulls after coming over from Windsor last year. But, there's no denying the size and skill package of this power winger, and he might be the right kind of upside/roll the dice pick for the Bruins 10 picks into the second round. Skating is an issue for him, but he's got nice hands and a good shot. He's a willing fighter with a mixed track record as a middleweight at the OHL level. At 6-2 and about 180 pounds, he has a lot of growing to do, but again-- it could be about the eventual payoff with this guy. He looked great with Belleville after the trade last season, racking up 17 points in 26 games for the Bulls. He only has four goals and 11 points in 21 games, off the pace. You can read more about him here.

45. (Boston pick) Myles Bell, D Regina Pats (WHL)-- This offensive defenseman has drawn comparisons to Washington All-Star and Norris Trophy finalist Mike Green as a player who has some scoring chops, but is lacking in defensive ability. Although not the skater that Green is, Bell has some real upside and one only need look at some of his highlight videos to see how naturally the attacking aspect of the game comes to him. With six goals and 16 points in just 21 games, he's three points away from passing his entire season totals (in 61 games) from last year. Bell is a real work in progress, but he's as solid an option as they come in the second round. Thee's a big potential payoff with him, even with the questionable defensive sense and play, and the scoring skills are probably why he won't last as late as pick 45. Of course, had you told me last year just before the 2010 NHL draft that Ryan Spooner would be there for the B's, I would not have believed it, either.

3rd round
81. (Phoenix pick) Peter Ceresnak, D Trencin (Slovakia)-- The Bruins go to Eastern Europe for their third-rounder, acquired from the Coyotes for Derek Morris last spring (and compensating for the loss of Boston's pick as part of the Nathan Horton trade). Improved skating stride for this big (6-2, 205), hard-nosed and physical defender has been a key to his rising draft stock. With all the defenders on the list bringing more of a finesse, offensive streak, this kid is more of the meat-and-potatoes type, but has some potential as a solid, if unspectacular puck mover.

There it is. Now, rip it apart, folks!

Monday, September 6, 2010

B2011DW's Official European 2010-11 player watch list

At long last, I've managed to compile my initial list of European players to keep an eye on for the 2010-11 hockey season.

For the most part, the Bruins have stayed away from Europe since 2006 when they drafted defenseman Yuri Alexandrov in the second round.

In the four drafts since, the B's have nabbed a grand total of three Europeans (Denis Reul- Germany, Radim Ostrcil- Czech Republic in '07 and Maxim Chudinov- Russia in '10), and none of them have come in the first half of the lottery.

Like 2009, the 2011 draft class appears to be very strong in terms of the Swedish contingent. I've already profiled Adam Larsson just a few posts below, and he's so good that we'll be talking about him all season, but the Tri Kronor also have some highly skilled prospects in the form of Victor Rask (he's a Swede and therefore no relation to Boston goalie Tuukka), Oscar Klefbom, Jonas Brodin, Joachim Nermark and Mika Zibanejad to name a few (and Gabriel Landeskog, who skates for the OHL's Kitchener Rangers, isn't even included in this high-end group!). Neighboring Finland boasts a skilled forward with size in Joel Armia, while Denmark has a top-10 candidate in Nicklas Jensen, a power winger and an Oshawa General for the upcoming season. Russia boasts a few intriguing players, but as has been the trend, because of the lack of a transfer agreement and signability issues, those who stay home to play hockey this season will fall further in the draft than their talent would dictate. Zakhar Arzamastsev and Maxim Shalunov fall into this category, while goalie Andrei Makarov, who will backstop the Lewiston Maine-iacs this season does not. Not to be forgotten is the Eastern European contingent from Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the best of whom may be Petr Placek, who will skate for the Hotchkiss School of all places this season. More on him later, as I neglected to mention him in my New England prep watch list and preview. Other players to keep an eye on from those countries: Czech netminder Jaroslav Pavelka, Slovak defender Peter Cerešnák, forwards Michal Svihalek and Lukas Sedlak.

Interestingly enough, some of the best European players available in 2011 are playing in North America this season: Czech defenseman David Musil (Vancouver- WHL), Landeskog, Jensen, German forward Tobias Rieder (Kitchener- OHL), Russian centers Vladislav Namestnikov (London- OHL) and Alex Khokhlachev (Windsor- OHL), Slovak winger Tomas Jurco (Saint John- QMJHL), Russian defenseman Andrei Pedan (Guelph- OHL), Czech forward Petr Beranek (Barrie- OHL), Slovak winger Marek Tvrdon (Vancouver- WHL) Czech goalie David Honzik (Victoriaville- QMJHL)Placek, Makarov and Swedish forward (another one?) Rickard Rakell (Plymouth- OHL) are all across the Atlantic and access to them will be much more available. If they get the job done, it will undoubtedly boost their draft stock come June.

So, without further ado-- here is the Euro watch list. Swede-heavy it is, but they're the ones with the dominant presence on the preseason draft lists. Where it will all shake out come June is anyone's guess, but with Larsson leading the way, don't bet against them.

1. Adam Larsson, D Skellefteå AIK (Sweden)-- The total package has a good chance of becoming the first Swede to go 1st overall in the draft since Mats Sundin because two-way defenders with size and skill are so coveted. For more of the nuts and bolts on Larsson's skill level, see my previous post on him, but can't wait to see him live in Buffalo this winter at the WJC. Most eyes will be on him after he put up a very impressive performance on Team Sweden a year ago at age 17. "He's far and away the best player coming out of Europe this season, period and exclamation point," said one NHL scout who covers Europe for a western conference team via email. "He has the size, mobility, offensive game and is pretty polished defensively. The big question is- can he keep progressing after having such a good 09-10 season? If he does, then I think you'll see him make a real claim on the top pick in the draft."

2. Victor Rask, C Leskand (Sweden)-- Superb passer and playmaker has the size, skating and creativity to be a points machine in the NHL someday. Plays with some jam and goes hard to the net; more of a setup man than a finisher, but has a hard, heavy shot and isn't afraid to let it rip. Excellent stickhandler who can take the puck into traffic and come out with it. Thinks the offensive side of the game real well and has that instinctiveness you want in a top-six centerman. Didn't have a great Ivan Hlinka tourney according to some accounts, yet still put up six assists in five games...that gives you an idea of what his potential is. Could put up big points with the Leksand allsvenskan team this year; he played eight scoreless games for them last season at 16, and probably doesn't have much else to prove at the junior level. "I like Rask a lot," the NHL scout said. "He's got very quick hands and the ability to set up plays because he's creative and knows how to find his teammates. Along with (Adam) Larsson, he's been one of Sweden's best players in the international tournaments."

3. Oscar Klefbom, D Skåre (Sweden) -- Superb offensive defenseman has the size, skating and puck moving skills to be a player, but unlike Larsson, has some real deficiencies in his defensive game. At 6-3, 195 possesses the kind of frame that will make him highly appealing to NHL teams. Has soft hands and can ignite the rush either with a crisp breakout pass or take it himself up the ice with a long, loping stride. Creative and slick-- makes plays with his head up and shows advanced skill and poise with the puck. Physical game is substandard; not strong on the biscuit and doesn't show much propensity to initiate contact or fight for pucks along the walls. At his best in open ice and on the point where he can use his mobility and instincts to create scoring chances. Defensive zone coverage needs a lot of work, but as far as offensive puck movers go, Klefbom is one of the best in class and proved it with his goal and eight points in five games at the Ivan Hlinka.

4. Jonas Brodin, D Färjestad Jr. (Sweden)-- Not quite the offensive presence Klefbom is, Brodin is probably a better all-around defender and certainly has the kind of upside scouts covet. He's a smart, instinctive player who may not jump out at you the way Larsson and Klefbom (in the neutral and offensive zones) do, but he keeps things pretty simple and keeps his head up, looking to make the play. He doesn't have the kind of numbers that scream two-way defenseman, but he can pass the puck and is a fluid and mobile skater. He's a safer pick than Klefbom is, but may in time become the more dependable NHL player if he makes it.

5. Joel Armia, RW Ässät Pori (Finland)-- This big kid (6-3, 190) has all of the tools you look for and could shoot up the draft charts because he also seems to have the competitiveness and drive that other skilled Finnish forwards have lacked in other drafts (helloooo Mikko Lehtonen). Armia's first step is only average, but he's pretty fast once he gets going. He's not all that agile and elusive, and will need to work on adding strength to his lower body and better balance overall. He can handle the puck well and has a hard shot. He goes into the greasy areas of the ice and hard to the net. He had a strong Ivan Hlinka tourney for Team Finland and has been a productive junior player in Ässät's system. Watch this guy-- he could end up being a very good one.

6. Joachim Nermark, C Linköping (Sweden)-- Another Swedish player in the top-10? Say it isn't so, but Nermark had a strong Ivan Hlinka tourney, scoring five goals and 12 points for the bronze medal-winning squad. He's an all-around offensive scoring forward who doesn't possess blazing speed, but just seems to be wherever the puck is on every shift. He works hard and gives an honest effort in all zones. Crafty, creative and opportunistic, Red Line Report rated him as the top Swede in Slovakia (and with 12 points in five games is that really a surprise?), but he'll have to prove he can produce over the course of the entire season. Still, aside from the average size (6-0, 180) there isn't a lot not to like about this gamer.

7. Maxim Shalunov, RW Chelyabinsk (Russia)-- If potential were all that counted, this power forward would be near the top of every draft list. He's big, can skate pretty well and has the soft hands and wicked shot to be a force on each shift. Unfortunately, he lacks competitive drive and tends to be invisible when the games matter most. Still, he cracks the top-10 because he's one of those players who, if the light ever comes on for, look out. At 6-3, 190, he's going to get bigger and stronger. When the puck is on his stick, he's someone to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, it's that other nagging aspect of having to play effectively when you don't have the puck that's Shalunov's biggest hurdle to cracking the top-60 in Minnesota.

8. Mika Zibanejad, C/LW Djurgården (Sweden)-- Admittedly, this is a B2011DW favorite because of what he did at last year's Under-17 championship (six goals, 17 points in nine games), but his Ivan Hlinka performance didn't warrant where I wanted to put him, so he's down the list. He's got nice size and skates pretty well (though his first step and turning ability need work), and can set up the play or finish it off. He's very good in distribution of the puck especially with the man advantage, and likes being the go-to guy on offense for his team. He's cocky but in a good way-- supremely confident in his talents and loves the game. It's really saying something that a player of Zibanejad's natural abilities is only the sixth player on this particular list of late '92/'93-born prospects from the same country. Was there some kind of super serum in the Swedish water supply during that timeframe?

9. Peter Cerešnák, D Dukla Trencin (Slovakia)-- Stay-at-home shutdown defenseman has nice size and potential, although isn't a headline-grabber. Skating is OK- straight line mobility is fine and he's actually better laterally and able to turn pretty well. Plays like a freight train, lining up players along the boards for big hits and if he can time it right, nailing guys in the open ice. Gets to running around, though-- has a lot to learn about positioning and keeping things simple. He's raw, but an interesting project much like Martin Marincin was last year. He doesn't have Marincin's size or mobility, but is nastier and plays bigger than his size (6-2, 200).

10. Rasmus Bengtsson, D Rögle (Sweden)-- A little bit of a contrast to his higher-profile countrymen who are more offensively inclined at this stage of their development. Bengtsson is more of a defensive defenseman who isn't as fluid a skater and plays more of a conservative stay-at-home style. The 6-2, 190-pounder has a big shot, but takes a long time to unload it and needs work on improving the accuracy of his drive. Played with Klefbom at the Ivan Hlinka and was the yin to his offensive, riverboat gambler partner's style. Bengtsson looks like a solid third-round option at this point, but is someone to watch nonetheless.

Others of note--

Viktor Arvidsson, RW Skellefteå AIK Jr. (Sweden)-- Small (5-8, 150) but highly skilled shooter needs a lot of mustard to cover this hotdog, but boy can ever he can put the puck in the net! Very good speed and a wicked shot that he can wire anywhere from inside the hashmarks. Scored five goals for the Swedes in Slovakia. One of those pesky little twerps who never stops moving and skating (and that is meant as a compliment, btw), and digging for loose change and scoring chances. The size is going to scare teams off, but the scoring chops are definitely legit and if he can add a little mass to his frame, might get a longer look from someone not afraid to invest a pick in a tiny, but talented winger.

Markus Granlund, LW HIFK Helsinki (Finland)-- Mikael's little bro doesn't have the top Minnesota prospect's pure hockey sense and talent, but will be a player to watch because he's still got skill and is a better skater. Granlund was one of Finland's better forwards at the Ivan Hlinka, but it was not enough. Showed good chemistry with Mikael at the Under-18s last spring, and you could see a reunion of the two brothers on a line for Tesm Finland in Buffalo this winter at the World Jr. Championships.

Richard Ullberg, G HIFK Helsinki (Finland)-- The latest offering from the Finnish goalie factory, Ullberg is a Tuukka Rask clone-- tall (6-3), lanky (175) and a real butterfly/technician who doesn't give up very much of the net to shoot at. When he's hot, he's very good. When he's not...ehh-- not so much. Must work to improve consistency this season and not give up soft goals. Has the physical attributes to be a very good NHL goalie, but must address the mental aspect in order to be a top draft pick and prospect going forward.

Konstantin Komarek, RW Luleå Jr. (Austria)-- Vienna-born Austrian of Eastern European parentage is playing in Sweden this season-- did you follow that? Smallish (5-10, 180) little pepperpot can skate and score and should get some nice development in Sweden as opposed to Austria, where hockey isn't played at a very high level. Like Arvidsson, he can put the puck in the net, but the lack of size will be something that probably holds him back come draft time.

Lukáš Králík, C Olomouc (Czech Republic)-- Has a nice frame (6-1) but needs to fill out and get a lot stronger. A pretty good skater who has an efficient stride and should increase his speed and power with more physical maturity and weight room work. Has a quick release and can find the back of the net with an accurate wrister. Sees the ice well and plays with good offensive instincts.

Michal Švihálek, RW Budejovice (Czech Republic)-- Kid can really score, but according to reports that's all he does. Has good, not great hockey sense and a nose for the net, but doesn't carry the kind of intensity you want in a player from shift to shift. Scores big goals, but his skill level doesn't carry the same kind of weight-- is he one of those intangibles guys who will find a way to score at the next level, or are we seeing the best from him now? That's the kind of question that is sure to spark some interesting debates in NHL war rooms.

Lukas Sedlak, C Budejovice (Czech Republic)-- Good, solid defensive forward plays a North American-style game and doesn't score like Svihalek, but is a far better all-around forward. Thinks the game well and competes hard and finishes his checks. Has a soft touch on the puck and is good on faceoffs. Isn't a draft name, but could make some NHL team very happy in time-- has the attitude to be the kind of player who is more than the sum of his parts.

More Europeans to watch--

Victor Berglind, D Brynäs (Sweden)
Zakhar Arzamastsev, D Metallurg Novokuznetsk (Russia- KHL)
Daniel Mannberg, F Luleå (Sweden)
Johan Sundström, F Frölunda (Sweden)
Andrei Sigarev, F Lada Togliatti (Russia)
Dean Kukan, D GKC Lions (Switzerland)
Jesper Kokkonen, F Ilves Tampere (Finland)