Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson maintains his top spot in our rankings that he held at mid-season. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Central Scouting’s final rankings are out and there are surprises as always. Of course, International Scouting Services will also have its take on matters and there is no shortage of permutations when it comes to slotting deserving prospects this season. With an eye on who has been hot in the second half and what NHL teams look for in a prospect, here’s the current THN.com top 10.
1. Adam Larsson, D – Skelleftea (Swe.)
Not only has the 6-foot-3, 200-pound blueliner impressed all season with Skelleftea, but he has been able to grow on one of the best teams in Sweden. Currently playing in the league final, Larsson has been touted as a defenseman who can do it all and definitely has the package necessary to step right into the NHL next year.
Scout Says: “It’s almost unfair the expectations that have been placed on him, but he has played with poise and always makes the right decision on the ice.”
2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C – Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
The offensive dynamo finished the regular season with 106 points and continued his dominance over Edmonton in the first round of the playoffs. Medicine Hat has been trickier in Round 2, but ‘The Nuge’ has unparalleled vision and a slick pair of hands, which make him the ultimate “upside” prospect once he adds a little more weight to his frame.
Scout Says: “I don’t think he’s the type of player you draft and put right into the NHL, it’s his pro potential you want. That upside is so big.”
3. Gabriel Landeskog, LW – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Some believe Landeskog could have played in the NHL this year and he most certainly looks like a straight-from-the-podium player for next season. A leader who isn’t afraid to block shots or defend teammates, Landeskog was an offensive force in a tough opening round loss to Plymouth, but still boasts that Mike Richards projection.
Scout Says: “I certainly see the character similarities. He’s got the heart, the desire and the passionate play. He has a good level of potential to be a power forward in the NHL.”
4. Jonathan Huberdeau, C – Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
The Sea Dogs have been a Quebec League juggernaut all year and Huberdeau has always been front and center. The offensively gifted pivot has followed up a 105-point regular season with 16 points in six playoff games, good for second in the QMJHL. When given a choice between Huberdeau and Sean Couturier, most scouts and execs have called it a toss-up or given the edge to Huberdeau now.
Scout Says: “Great hands. I would compare them to Patrick Kane’s in Chicago. He has vision and playmaking, but those hands…unbelievable.”
5. Sean Couturier, C – Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
No prospect has been put through the ringer more than Couturier this season, but at the end of the day, he’s still a 6-foot-4, 195-pound pivot who can protect the puck and give defenders nightmares because he has skills as well. He had 96 points in the regular season and would have hit triple digits had he not missed games due to the world juniors.
Scout Says: “He can create a scoring chance from anywhere in the offensive zone and he makes his linemates look better. He goes to the front of the net and you see it that he wants the puck.”
6. Ryan Strome, C – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
He started out the year as a second-rounder in the eyes of many scouting services, but is firmly ensconced in the top 10 now, thanks to his eye-popping offensive toolbox and a willingness to fight for the puck. Like several other stick wizards of late, Strome also played lacrosse as a youth and finished third in OHL scoring this season with 106 points.
Scout Says: “He competes hard on pucks. He’s crafty. When he loses the puck, he works hard to get it back.”
7. Dougie Hamilton, D – Niagara IceDogs (OHL)
A hulking defenseman who can also put up offensive numbers and man the power play, Hamilton brings a lot of intriguing skills to the table. He’s tough to play against in the corners and his size (6-foot-4, 193 pounds) can’t be taught.
Scout Says: “He has the potential to be a real high-end two-way defenseman at the next level…loaded with character.”
8. Joel Armia, RW – Assat Pori (Fin.)
Scouts don’t blame him for having an underwhelming world junior tournament - they’re more excited by the frame, the willingness to shoot and the deft accuracy he displays on the power play. Size and skill always make for an intriguing prospect.
Scout Says: “A big, right-hand shot who can score? It’s a pretty attractive package.”
9. Mika Zibanejad, C – Djurgarden (Swe.)
A huge riser in the second half, Zibanejad has showed off tremendous offensive skills and a feistiness that leads to opposition turnovers. He’s got a good frame (6-foot-2, 192 pounds) and can throw some big hits out there.
Scout Says: “After Christmas he really took his game to the next level and stood out. Skates well, good hands, good size and good shot.”
10. Duncan Siemens, D – Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
A potent combination of size, snarl and skill, Siemens made a name for himself at the CHL Top Prospects Game when he threw down with Vancouver’s David Musil and Siemens is just as hard on opponents night after night. He doubled his offensive output year over year, finishing this season with 43 points in 72 games.
Scout Says: “Great skater, big, big kid…he can be nasty. Really responsible defensively, he’s a real team player.”
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Fridays and his prospect feature The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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