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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Central Scouting's mid-season rankings: European skaters pt. 2

Back with part 2 of the European review of Central Scouting's mid-term rankings for skaters.

In this post I will make generic comments about the players I have only seen on video or not at all, while going into more detail on those who were at the WJC in Buffalo. My intent is to reach out to some of my European scout sources in the NHL and independent services to expand on the guys who I haven't seen. Hopefully, can get that post up this week or next.

3rd- Mika Zibanejad, C Djurgarden Jr. (SWE)-- The almost 6-2, 195-pound center is skilled and creative; he's one of these players who intrigues scouts because of his size and talent, even if he has yet to put it all together consistently.

4th- Jonas Brodin, D Farjestad (SWE)-- Solid, all-around defenseman with good height needs to fill out/add strength and is more of a well-rounder player with good puck-moving ability but not a dynamic offensive presence. Smart, heady, disciplined-- the classic you don't notice him because he's doing a good job kind of player. A shame he didn't play in the WJC, but he'll be there next year.

5th- Dmitri Jaskin, F Slavia Prague Jr. (CZE)-- An injury prevented Jaskin from competing in the WJC-like Landeskog bowing out, a true shame because Jaskin is a power forward prospect a lot of scouts were really hoping to get a glimpse of in the high profile tournament. Physical player with a big shot and a good work ethic probably would have been a standout in Buffalo.

6th Max Friberg, LW Skovde (SWE)-- A pleasant surprise as an undersized, but high-energy winger at the WJC. Played aggressively on the forecheck and showed a willingness to go into traffic. Good wheels, but stickhandling needs work. Decent two-way player, but didn't see a great deal of grit from Friberg. That was more the realm of Rakell in the tourney. Friberg probably looked the best in his team's 2-0 win over Russia in the preliminary round.

7th Miikka Salomaki, C Karpat (FIN)-- Overshadowed by Armia, Salomaki had a pretty solid performance on Team Finland in the WJC. Showed off good speed and lateral agility. Took the puck to the net and was more involved in the play/kept his feet moving better than Armia. Doesn't have his counterpart's pure size or talent, but competed harder. At times looked more like the 1st-round pick than Armia did in terms of consistency throughout. Much better things are in store for Salomaki.

8th Oscar Klefbom, D Farjestad Jr. (SWE)-- This guy is a serious offensive defenseman, but he's pretty one-dimensional and risky. Showed scouts a good deal of his point potential at the Ivan Hlinka, but has some major defensive flaws in his game. Klefbom is one of those "high risk/high reward" guys.

9th Victor Rask, C Leksand Jr. (SWE)-- The one-time potential top-five pick's stock has taken a nosedive this season. Scouts are perplexed with what they are seeing and not seeing from the talented, but underachieving pivot. Perhaps Kyle Woodlief and Co. said it best in the December issue of Redline when they wrote: "It's not that he hasn't played well at times, but he always leaves us wanting (expecting?) more. Great size and playmaking ability, but must bring more consistent passion."

10th Joachim Nermark, C Linkoping Jr. (SWE)-- This guy can really put the puck in the net! Nermark is one player who will probably go higher than his Central ranking would indicate. Not dynamic, but works hard and is a total opportunist from what I hear. One of those players scouts will note that the "puck seems to follow around the ice." Very effective on the power play. Seems to have Detroit Red Wings written all over him.

17th Johan Sundstrom, C Frolunda (SWE)-- Another member of Sweden's WJC Under-20 team, he brings nice size to the equation and was an effective checking presence for the Swedes. He's not flashy, though he is a long-strider and can cover a lot of ground. Played in traffic and initiated contact. Doesn't appear to have much in the way of hands or offensive instincts, but will be a draft pick who will be groomed for a checking/intangibles role in the NHL one day.

19th Gregory Hofmann, C Ambri-Pilotta (SUI)-- In this blog space's opinion, the most consistent and effective forward of all the 2011-eligibles in Buffalo. He's definitely closer to 5-11/6-0 than the 6-1 I've seen listed other places, and he's a young-looking 18 (Nov. '92 BD) with a lot of physical maturing/strength building ahead of him. However, he played with some real energy, speed and came off bigger than his size because he always kept his feet moving, hit guys along the boards and won a lot of battles for loose pucks. Very nice hands and vision. He's underrated on Central's list at 19, though he could fall prey to some of the traditional prejudices against Swiss players. Through an interpreter, he said that he would be willing to come over to North America, but that his focus was on Ambri's season and he didn't want to say anything beyond the interest and keep his loyalties intact to his pro team.

20th Maxim Shalunov, RW Chelyabinsk 2 (RUS)-- The "classic" Russian winger as one NHL scout put it to me who can go end-to-end and will score in a variety of ways. Just don't expect a lot of attention to detail on defense or a consistent effort in all three zones. No denying this 6-3, 185-pounder is skilled and talented, but will have questions about signability and passion dogging him in the weeks leading up to the draft.

24th Peter Ceresnak, D Slovakia U20 (SVK)-- Ceresnak didn't get much playing time, even when Edmonton prospect Martin Marincin took a seat after his elbow to Jason Zucker's head. Big, powerful defender but a bit of a plodding skater who struggles with his pivots and turns. More of a meat-and-potatoes, staple-you-to-the-boards kind of guy, but so long as you don't spend too high a pick on a player like that, pretty useful. Ceresnak probably got "slimed" like most of his teammates in the eyes of NHL scouts who ripped Slovakia for their play in the tourney and the way they folded their tents in the preliminary round. Probably not fair given how little Ceresnak was a part of that squad, but don't buy high on any Slovak stock right now until some of those guys can prove otherwise.

That's about it. We'll be back later with a look at the European goalies, but this is a good start at least and we'll try to fill in the blanks on some other players of note when we can track down some scouts and get their opinions.

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