The following 2009 Draft Rankings are posted today in advance of the start of the World Junior Championships in Ottawa on Friday.
These rankings of the top draft prospects are based on off-the-record observations and polling of NHL scouts and will next be updated around the NHL trade deadline.
10. Ryan Ellis (D) – A former teammate of Josh Bailey’s in Windsor (OHL), the 5-10, 180-pound Ellis is the new age NHL defenseman. He’s not a bammer, but quick, agile and productive. Probably won’t be in the Islanders’ range of the draft, and they have enough defensemen of his size and skill-set anyway.
9. Nazim Kadri (C) – Possessing high-end skill and speed, the London, Ontario-born youngster of Lebannese heritage is starring for his hometown London Knights and becoming an intriguing prospect for scouts.
8. Jordan Schroeder (F) – Teammates with Aaron Ness at the University of Minnesota, Schroeder is a 5-9 burner with hands who might have been a third round pick in the old NHL.
7. Jeremy Morin (F) – A product of the USA Development program, this Auburn, New York native leads his team in goals and penalty minutes and is prized for his competitiveness and shot. Likely to play Canadian major junior next season.
Step up in class to 6, 5 and 4…
6. Evander Kane (C) – Playmaking center with Vancouver (WHL) could be a franchise pivot or a solid second-liner, depending on who you ask. Yet another small potential stud (5-10, 170 pounds) in a first round full of them.
5. Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (LW) - The 6-1 Svensson is battling for icetime as a teenage power forward in the Swedish Elite League, but scouts marvel at his potential. One scout says his play is similar to Kyle Okposo’s.
4. Brayden Schenn (C) – Toughness and leadership in the same genetic package as his brother Luke but as a two-way center. Think Sutter. Brent Sutter.
Another step up to 3 and 2…
3. Jared Cowen (D) -The Spokane Chief is the top-ranked player in the Western Hockey League, a 6-5 shutdown defenseman with some offensive upside. Think Luke Schenn. Quite possibly better.
2. Matt Duchene (C) – Blazing speed and gifted hands. The Brampton (OHL) center is the complete package and is more than just a consolation prize for the team mising out on the Big Two.
Big step up to the boys in a class of their own…
1. (tie) John Tavares (C), Victor Hedman (D) – No, we’re not copping out. Here’s where we stand. While we heard about TSN’s poll of 8-of-10 scouts ranking Tavares over Hedman, we maintain that probably 20 of the 30 NHL teams rate Hedman as the better player. Naturally, all of them would kill to have either.
For the Islanders, we’ll take Tavares. As much as the purists understandably crave D, a go-to offensive star is a necessity for the Islanders – and we doubt they’d be able to sign one as a UFA anytime soon. And call us hysterical, but if the Islanders are fortunate enough to be able to choose between Hedman and Tavares, do they ever want to have nightmares when Hedman always has the less-lucrative option of playing at home in Sweden?
So for the Islanders, it’s the center from Canada. Whether the team agrees with us is another matter – one not even worth discussing for months.