The next Finnish flash?
Toni Rajala is ranked 31st on the final rankings from the International Scouting Service. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/NHLI via Getty Images)
The next Finnish flash?
The 2009 draft class is so deep there will be a lot of good players still searching for a team come Saturday morning. And this is no slight on such prospects – only 30 spots are up for grabs Friday in Montreal. With a mock draft already committed to digital paper, here’s a look at some potential second-rounders we’re excited to see in the NHL one day,
1. Toni Rajala, RW – Ilves (Fin.): The most important thing in interviewing Rajala face-to-face is realizing he is, indeed, 5-foot-10 and not smaller. The flashy Finn can handle the puck at high speeds and dazzles with his offensive repertoire, so frame is one of few unknowns.
“I think I’m a smooth skater,” Rajala said at the draft combine. “I’m fast, smart player, good hockey sense.”
One of only a handful of Finns touted for this year’s draft, Rajala was reduced to hanging out with archrival Swedes while in Toronto, including combine roommate and dinner companion Anton Lander.
“Of course we were fighting all evening,” Rajala joked.
But it won’t be a joke when the kid from Finland hits the ice. Rajala has been followed for years in Finland and if he develops as expected, will be an impact player in the NHL. For now, though, the youngster knows he has a ways to go.
“I must get stronger,” he said, adding he likely won’t come to North America for “two or three more years.”
When he does, however, he’ll be feasting on goaltenders and dining with whomever he wants. Draft eligible in 2009.
2. Landon Ferraro, C – Red Deer Rebels (WHL): Definitely has the chance to be a first-rounder, too. Ferraro has wicked offensive skills and put up an admirable 55 points in 68 games on an uncharacteristically bad Rebels team. Skates and smarts are pluses as well. Draft eligible in 2009.
3. Edward Pasquale, G – Saginaw Spirit (OHL): The goaltending projections for the draft have been all over the board this season, but Pasquale seems to have a fair amount of supporters in the scouting community. The Spirit netminder has a big frame (he’s nearly 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds) and can handle a heavy workload. Draft eligible in 2009.
4. Carl Klingberg, LW – Frolunda Jr. (Swe.): Certain GMs with a fondness for grit and physicality will love Klingberg, who isn’t afraid to mix it up. The youngster spent most of the year in junior, but did get some time in the Swedish Elite League, where his aggressive attitude joyously did not change. Draft eligible in 2009.
5. Tomas Tatar, C – HKm Zvolen (Svk.): One of the heroes for Slovakia at the world juniors this year, Tatar likes to turn it on when the games are most important. The Slovakian pivot uses his hands and a great shot to create offense and like many Euros this year, played against men back home. Draft eligible in 2009.
6. Olivier Roy, G – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL): Of all eligible goaltenders, Roy has been the most consistent in terms of his play and ranking. A classic butterfly Quebecker, Roy is technically savvy and positionally sound. He’ll rival Pasquale for the title of first goaltender taken. Draft eligible in 2009.
7. Chris Brown, C – U.S. NTDP: A burgeoning power forward and puck hawk, Brown is adept at forcing the opposition into turnovers. The University of Michigan commit plays fast and physical and will garner a lot of interest in Montreal. Draft eligible in 2009.
8. Charles-Olivier Roussel, D – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL): Lauded for his puck skills, Olivier-Roussel can man the power play and make that solid first pass that is oh-so-important in the NHL. He also gained a wealth of experience during the Cataractes’ run to the Quebec League final. Draft eligible in 2009.
9. Ethan Werek, C – Kingston Frontenacs (OHL): A highly recruited scoring pivot who played Jr. A with 2008 second-rounder Corey Trivino, Werek’s Ontario League career got off to a spotty start, as did the entire Fronts’ organization this season. But once Doug Gilmour came to town as coach, Werek was unleashed and his stock is bouncing back. Draft eligible in 2009.
10. Richard Panik, RW –Trinec Jr. (Cze.): A tantalizing prospect who likely hasn’t hit his apex yet, Panik put up 19 points in 16 games for his junior squad, but also played men’s hockey. Injury and a disappointing world junior set him back, but a year in Windsor with Taylor Hall and the Spitfires would really re-energize his progress. Draft eligible in 2009.
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