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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Central Scouting European final rankings: The next tier

We're back with more analysis on Central Scouting's final rankings released on Monday, with a focus on the European skaters.

We saw a predominance of Swedish players in the first 10 slots of round one with six of the 10 wearing the Tre Kronor, with three Finns, a Czech rounding out the top tier on the Euro list.

You'll notice a continuing trend of Swedes on this list, and it appears a fair accompli that like the 2009 draft, Sweden will dominate the European slice of the 2011 class.

The first post talked briefly about Gregory Hofmann, who jumps into the list at 11 and is an underrated prospect who hasn't gotten the attention he deserves because his last name isn't Hofmannsson. B2011DW loved Hofmann at the WJC, where he was Switzerland's second-best forward after Nino Niederreiter and probably the top forward of all the 2011 eligibles in our view. He's only got average size and lacks strength, but he's fast, creative and just has a knack for making big plays at crunch time.

After Hofmann comes one of the true 2011 enigmas in Swedish center Victor Rask. Rask came into the season as one of the top draft candidates, not just out of Europe, but in the entire draft. He brought very good size (6-2, 195), hockey sense/vision and soft hands to the mix and seemed poised to make a big impact even if his skating wasn't elite. Unfortunately, Rask has become one of those players who every year fails to meet expecations in their draft season. He's still bound to go high enough in this class, but where he looked like a slam-dunk 1st-rounder, he could slide into a potential value selection in the second round.

Max Friberg and Jeremy Boyce-Rotevall continue the Swedish hit parade at 12 and 13. Friberg is a late '92 and played for Sweden at the WJC. He doesn't have high-end offensive skills, but plays a good two-way game and has the intelligence to be a checking presence at the least, with a modicum of potential to develop into more. Boyce-Rotevall has good wheels and hands, but his creativity and hockey sense may prevent him from being the kind of scorer that his pure talent should dictate.

Nikita Kucherov is the first Russian on the list at 17. The undersized winger (5-10, 165) from the CSKA Jr. team is a typical small Russian player in that he has terrific wheels, hands/puck skills and is a dangerous offensive presence. Unfortunately, he also carries some of the stereotypical drawbacks- undisciplined, tends to take dives and is inconsistent with his compete level. These attributes plus the recent trend of concerns with signability of Russian players will inevitably drop him lower than his talent would see him get picked normally.

Right behind him is Russia's top defenseman Zakhar Arzamastsev, a smooth-skating rearguard with offensive potential. He's not flashy guy, but has solid vision and hockey sense. He was barely noticeable during the 2010 Subway Series, but in a good way. He kept things simple exhibited good gap control and

Another interesting entry on Central's final list at 23rd is overage defenseman Klas Dahlbeck, a 1991-born player who made a positive impression at the WJC in the winter by showing off excellent mobility and lateral movement. At 6-2, 194 he has the size and fluid skating to advance the puck and play an effective game in his own end. We don't know about his vision and offensive sense to be a legitimate offensive defenseman in the NHL one day, but he certainly has the attributes to be at least a solid shutdown guy. Watch him- NHL teams are always on the lookout for players who are more mature and advanced in their development. Depending on his contract situation with Linkoping, Dahlbeck could potentially step right in to the AHL or even NHL next season.

We'll be back with the meat of the middle rounds and then the goalies and some sleepers.

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