TORONTO - Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty, who just helped Canada win another world junior championship, are 1-2 in the NHL Central Scouting Service mid-season rankings of North American skaters eligible for the 2008 entry draft.
Stamkos is a six-foot-one, 183-pound centre from Unionville, Ont., who plays for the OHL's Sarnia Sting.
"He's so dynamic," says Sting head coach Dave MacQueen. "His skill level, awareness on the ice and hockey sense are so much more advanced than a lot of the players in our league."
Stamkos had a goal and five assists in seven games during the world tournament that ended last Saturday in the Czech Republic. In 32 OHL games, he has 30 goals and 21 assists.
"Fans watch guys with the puck, and he has it more than most guys," says MacQueen.
Stamkos isn't as flashy as Patrick Kane or Sam Gagner, who graduated to the NHL from the OHL last autumn, but he's just as effective.
"Steven is more of a scorer than a guy that's going to wow you with a tremendous pass through three or four guys like Kane and Gagner," says MacQueen. "He's got a gear that is above everybody else and he can do everything at high speed. He wows people in that sense."
Like most teens aiming for the NHL, work remains to be done on increasing physical strength and bearing down on defensive responsibilities.
"It's not that he's weak in those areas," says MacQueen. "It's just that he needs to keep getting better in those areas."
Stamkos appears to be coping well with his mushrooming notoriety. It has been said about many great young players, including Sidney Crosby, that they are mature beyond their years. The same applies to Stamkos, who is regarded as a team-first player.
"It's a credit to the way he was raised," says MacQueen. "He puts things (like personal recognition) on the backburner and just goes out and plays the game he loves, and has fun doing it."
The Sting will hold a ceremony before their home game Friday against Plymouth to recognize the contribution Stamkos made to Canada's team. He'll be presented with his framed Team Canada jersey and a banner will be raised.
Doughty, a six-foot, 213-pound native of London, Ont., is a standout defenceman with the Guelph Storm. At the world turnament, he had four assists in Canada's gold-medal run. In 30 OHL games, he has seven goals and 24 assists.
"The enthusiasm that he brings every time he steps on the ice, whether it's a practice or a game, is what makes him a special player, along with his high skill level," says Storm coach Dave Barr.
Stamkos and Doughty were each among those players named to compete in the Top Prospects game in Edmonton on Jan. 23. That game is a showcase of draft-eligible players from the Canadian Hockey League.
Doughty rejoins his teammates at practice Thursday to prepare for a home against Owen Sound on Friday.
Zach Bogosian of Massena, N.Y., a defenceman with the OHL's Peterborough Petes, is ranked third by central scouting. Bogosian wasn't on the U.S. team in Pardubice.
Kyle Beach of Kelowna, B.C., a centre with the WHL's Everett Silvertips, is ranked fourth. Beach wasn't picked to play for Canada.
Alex Pietrangelo of King City, Ont., a defenceman with the OHL's Niagara IceDogs, rounds out the top five.
Chet Pickard of Winnipeg, who plays for the WHL's Tri-City Americans, is the top-rated North American goaltender.
Left-winger Nikita Filatov of Russian Super League club CSKA and goaltender Harri Sateri of Tappara of the Finnish junior league are the top-ranked skater and goaltender, respectively, in Europe.
Filatov is only five-foot-11 and 165 pounds but is known to play a physical game. He's not expected to be a top-three pick in Ottawa when the draft is held June 20-21.
"He definitely has an NHL upside because he can score, he is a well-rounded player and he is responsible in the defensive zone," says Russian national team junior coach Sergei Nemchinov.
Central Scouting director E.J. Maguire has nine full-time and 12 part-time scouts on the prowl.
"This is a good year," he replies when asked to judge the quality of the Class of 2008. "The draft (talent) is deep through the first round."
The mid-term rankings were released Wednesday but are already in flux.
"The nature of this list is a snapshot," says Maguire. "We're already re-evaluating the rankings."
While Stamkos has emerged as the consensus No. 1 pick, "It is nowhere near as definite as it was with Crosby or, going back quite a few years, Mario Lemieux."
A final list will be released in April - before many of the teens complete their team's playoffs.
"The 30 teams we work for want (the final list) early so when they do their final meetings they have a basis for comparison - a second barometer from which they can judge their own individual rankings. We're proud that our rankings hold up well against any individual team's assessments over any number of years."