As the 2008-09 season moves into the stretch drive, it is perhaps time for fans of teams most likely not making the playoffs to take a closer peek at the top prospects entering the draft.
Based on the Maple Leafs‘ current spot in the standings with 13 games to go, it is safe to assume that this team will not finish last overall, and perhaps not even in the bottom five.Â Â A finish anywhere from 23rd to 26th overall (picking 5th to 8th) appears most likely at this point.
With that in mind, here is a modified version of the International Scouting Services (ISS) mid-season rankings which were released in February.Â Modified, in that the list is #3 – 12, as those are most likely the players that the Leafs will be looking at come the first round of the Entry Draft.
MAGNUS SVENSSON-PAAJARVI (LW)
Fast, fast, fast.Â His jets were on full display at the WJC, where he turned the heads of scouts and fans alike with both his speed and his shot.Â He has some size (6’1 200), but doesn’t play a physical game.Â His defensive game is also lacking, but his skating abilities should help compensate for that.Â He compares well to Markus Naslund.
MATT DUCHENE (C/W)
Perhaps the most complete player in the draft, Duchene is as adept at scoring goals as he is setting them up, and equally comfortable on the wing as he is at his natural centre position. He is also an excellent forechecker.Â Â Generally reliable without the puck, Duchene is rarely caught out of position or left chasing the opposition.Â Zach Parise comparisons would be fair.
BRAYDEN SCHENN (C)
Luke’s younger brother is a gifted two-way centre who balances good offensive instincts with sound defensive play.Â The big pivot is just as comfortable in a shutdown role as he is on a scoring line.Â His gritty play and willingness to do all the little things it takes to win have made him a team leader wherever he has played.Â Â A good comparison might be Mike Richards.
JARED COWEN (D)
Injuries may affect how high he is drafted, but Cowen remains arguably the top defender in this draft, following Hedman.Â Â Cowen is a defense-first defenseman, and a rock in his own end.Â The big (6-5 218) blueliner skates well for his size and is positionally sound.Â He plays with a chip on his shoulder, forcing opposition forwards to keep their heads on a swivel.Â Â Compares favorably to Karl Alzner.
EVANDER KANE (C/W)
An aggressive, in-your-face player, Kane is equally effective at all three forward positions.Â A smaller player (5-11 160), Kane plays the role of the pest to perfection, combining a physical style of play with deft playmaking ability.Â Â Very good defensively, Kane is a mainstay on the PK unit.Â Â Without a doubt, he is the Esa Tikkanen of this draft.
NAZEM KADRI (C/W)
Less heralded than many of the other top-ranked players in the draft, Kadri will soon be known for more than just being the guy who was designated as the ‘player to be dealt later’ in a trade for Steve Mason (he was named in the trade but not actually moved until the offseason).Â Kadri is a smooth-skating playmaker with uncanny vision in the offensive zone.Â Â Athough his offensive insticts are sound, his defensive game and physical play leave a fair bit to be desired.Â Compares well to Paul Stastny.
DREW SHORE (C)
If you just said “who?” you are not alone.Â Perhaps the sleeper pick of the 2009 draft, Shore has quietly risen up the scouting rankings.Â Â A project player who is a few years away (he will be joining the NCAA ranks next season), Shore has excellent on-ice vision and playmaking ability.Â Â He is not the most aggressive player, however, and needs to work on shooting the puck more often, and battling harder for the puck.Â Â Has drawn comparisons to Scott Gomez.
JACOB JOSEFSON (C)
A solid two-way pivot, Josefson combines high-level offensive skills with dependable defensive play.Â Josefson’s willingness to battle for the tough areas of the ice, relentless effort at both ends of the rink, and soft hands around the net have drawn favorable comparisons to Henrik Zetterberg.
JORDAN SCHROEDER (RW/LW)
A smaller player (5-8 165) with excellent offensive instincts, Schroeder is perhaps the most offensively-gifted player to come from US hockey in years.Â Lightning-quick on the ice, Schroeder possesses an accurate shot, terrific playmaking vision, and simply knows how to get open in the offensive zone.Â Â Concerns over whether or not he can withstand the physical rigors of the NHL have led to his recent slide in the ISS rankings.Â Â Is similar in many respects to Patrick Kane.
RYAN ELLIS (D)
Another smaller player, size concerns are maginfied with Ellis due to his being a defenseman.Â However, what he lacks in physical play he makes up for with sound positioning.Â Â Â That said, Ellis will always be known first and foremost for his offensive skill set.Â Â A great skater, Ellis possesses an accurate point shot and is a precision passer whose tremendous offensive instincts make him a deadly weapon on the powerplay. Â Â Compares well to Brian Rafalski.
So, who would you like to see the Maple Leafs draft in the first round?Â Â Kane, Schenn, or Josefson would be the best fits for Wilson’s aggressive-forecheck style of play, in my opinion.Â Â Â What do you think?