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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Catching up with some Combine-bound 2011 draft eligibles

This post is dedicated to some of the draft eligibles who made the NHL's Draft Combine invite list, but who haven't had much mention here at B2011DW.

Jonathan Racine, D Shawinigan (QMJHL)- Tall but lanky defender (6-2, 180) needs work on his skating stride and lacks strength and balance on his skates. Works hard and plays with some intensity, but physically is not yet the sum of his parts. Lacks both upper- and lower-body strength, but should get there in time. Not much of an offensive dimension to his game- handles the puck like a grenade and seems to lack the vision and touch that would allow him to be a PMD- more of a meat-and-potatoes stay-at-homer. Plays a hard-nosed game and is willing to fight if need be. Exhibits good gap control and positioning for the most part, but is raw and a classic long-term type of project player who will require the full time in major junior and likely 2-3 more years in the minor leagues before he's ready to compete for an NHL job.

Olivier Archambault, LW Val-d'Or (QMJHL)- Small winger who isn't blazing fast but is a darting, slashing presence. Has a nice, wide base. Gets off the mark quickly, but isn't a dynamic top-end skater. Agile and elusive; can gain the zone by himself and finds open teammates. Shows strong work ethic and character- nothing really flashy with this guy, but is a versatile, utility forward who can kill penalties and may have some upside at the next level if he can get stronger. Very light and cannot stand up to the big, strong defenders in work along the walls- has to rely on a quick stick and short distance burst to open up space for himself. Scored 20 goals, 53 points in 65 games with the Foreurs this season.

Marcel Noebels, LW Seattle (WHL)- Big German winger (6-2, 205) was passed up last year, but has done enough to get himself drafted after coming to North America this season. One of Team Germany's best players at the 2011 WJC- worked hard, drove the net and made things happen offensively. Followed that up with solid production in the WHL, too- 28 goals and 54 points in 66 games. Willing to hustle and backcheck, but needs to pick up the awareness of defensive assignments. Not a great skater, but is improving in that regard, lengthening his stride and using his strength and power to get up the ice. Still sluggish in his first few steps, but has the frame, hands and potential to be a worthy prospect for this class.

Austen Brassard, RW Belleville (OHL)- Dropped off the radar a bit after failing to meet high expectations this season, but this is one prospect who could end up hitting a nice developmental stride if he can put it together. Looked promising with Bulls at end of '09-10 (17 points in 26 games) but only scored 19 goals, 34 points over full 67-game schedule in his draft year. Strong on his skates and stick and doesn't have terrific speed, but is agile and leans into guys, taking them to the net with him. Protects the puck well and can outmuscle guys along the walls and in front of the net. Decent hands/stick and some scoring skill, but goes long stretches where he disappears, according to NHL scouts. Because of his size/upside, he'll get drafted, but more of a tease right now than anything else.

Karl Johansson, D Brynas Jr. (SWE-Jr)- Little Swede is fast and skilled, but at 5-9, 167 is not going to be a high pick in the draft. Showed some nice wheels and puck distribution playing on an excellent Swedish defensive corps that came within 1.5 minutes of capturing gold at the World Under-18 championship. Slick, mobile and sees the ice well. Has some mustard on his passes and hits the short-to-intermediate and longer stretch passes well. His games reminds us of David Warsofsky. Probably not an option for Boston given the number of small defenders they already have (and could increase if Ryan Murphy ends up being their top pick), but still a player to watch as a mid-round draft wildcard.

Sean Kuraly, C Indiana (USHL)-How do we put this delicately? At B2011DW are not on board with Kuraly, who we do not feel has justified his spot at the combine. He's got very good size and skating ability, but with just eight goals and 29 points in 51 games, we're wondering where the upside is. Have not heard great things about compete level and attitude. Impressive physical traits, yes, but this is a player that we don't have a lot of information on because many of the scouts we've talked to about him don't have a lot to say. Kuraly will probably be a solid NCAA player, but this blog is about NHL prospects, so there is a reason why there hasn't been a great deal on him.

Max Friberg, LW Skovde (SWE-3)- Doesn't have much size or strength, but stays low to the ice and gets up under guys who try to knock him off stride. Quick change of direction and balanced movement on his edges are a plus. Friberg lacks speed and elite puck skills to be much of a high-end NHL prospect or top-six forward option. Hockey sense is questionable and doesn't have much playmaking prowess. Hustles and tenacious on the forecheck and backcheck but isn't much of a player to get excited about.

Mike Reilly, D Shattuck St. Mary's (HIGH- MN)- Undersized defender has good skill and smarts, but has a long road ahead of him. Short and slight, there isn't much room to grow on that 5-11 frame of his, which is the primary concern we get when asking scouts about him. He sees the ice well, is a strong skater and can advance the puck effectively. He's going to need to spend a lot of time working on his strength, but should be a good player at the NCAA level. Whether he has the talent and upside to overcome his lack of size/strength remains to be seen, and he's a risky guy. Could get a look in the later rounds, but it will be interesting to see how Reilly performs during the physical testing portion.

Alexander Ruuttu, C/RW Jokerit Jr. (FIN-Jr)- Bloodlines prospect is the son of former NHLer Christian Ruuttu and was born in Chicago in December 1992 when his dad played for the Blackhawks. Smaller than his father, he plays a similar speed game with good hands. Alex scored 18 goals and 31 points for Jokerit's junior (under-20) squad this season in 41 games. Needs to get a lot stronger, but could be an interesting developmental project type player if he's a chip off the block.

Maximilien Le Sieur, RW Shawinigan (QMJHL)- Raw winger with some jump and speed gets downgraded for questionable hockey sense, which has hindered his production. Late September 1992-birthdate missed the 2010 draft by a mere 12 days, but more was expected from him offensively this season after he scored 16 goals and 44 points in 68 games for the Cataractes. Will fight if provoked, but that's not his style. Can bang and grind, and will need to bring that kind of energy with him if he has a shot to make it at the next level.

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