Top 12 Skaters In The 2006 NHL Draft
The NHL 2006 draft is less then a week away and many articles have come out listing the various scouting listings for the top picks. I have taken the top 12 skaters based on the ISS report and summed up what you need to know about them. This year’s draft may not have the highly touted super prospects but it has great depth and a glut of centres. Erik Johnson- U.S National Under-18
Height: 6-4 Weight: 222lbs
Hometown: Bloomington, MN
The projected first overall 2006 draft pick as you can see is a hulking blue liner. He had an exceptional season with the US National under 18 team tallying 49 points in just 47 games. Even though he will likely be playing for the University of Minnesota next season, the Minnesota resident is a blue chip prospect for sure. He is an above average stick handler who can dish out punishing body checks as most of you seen during the WHJC. While his major flaw is a below average shot, he makes hard crisp outlet passes to start the offensive play. Erik is a strong skater under physical pressure who will compliment any NHL blue line in a few years.
Jordan Staal- Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Position- C Shoots- L
Height: 6-4 Weight: 215lbs
Hometown: Thunder Bay, ON
Jordan is a prospect that has some big shoes to fill. While his brother Eric is tearing up the NHL, Jordan quietly led the Petes attack all the way to the Memorial Cup. Despite a disappointing performance in the Memorial Cup, Jordan was still able to lead the Petes to the OHL title. He averaged a point a game during the regular season but it’s not just his scoring prowess that makes him a favorable draft pick. Jordan is known for his skating. He is not the fastest skater but when a towering 6-4 centre can skate as fast as Jordan can, you have to be a very strong positional defensman to keep Jordan to the outside. This kind of talent easily makes him comparable to his brother regarding his potential.
Jonathan Toews-North Dakota (WCHA)
Position; C Shoots-L
Height: 6-1 Weight 195lbs
Hometown: Winnipeg, MB
Are you a team that needs a budding power forward who can play both ends of the ice? How about a confident player that has good speed and able to open up the ice for his teammates. Well Toews (pronounced TAVES) is the pick you may be looking for. Toews had a disappointing draft combine as he vomited during the physical assessment but being the US college player he is, he did not have the benefit of the other junior leagues who played well into May and June to maintain his game shape. Toews really made a name for himself at the WHJC for Team Canada but then again, almost every Team Canada player excelled very well under couch Sutter. The North Dakota centre finished the season with 39 points in 42 games including 22 goals and a plus/minus +20.
Phil Kessel – Minnesota (WCHA)
Position: C Shoots- R
Height: 6-0 Weight: 189lbs
Hometown: Madison, WI
This time last year, the 2006 draft was named the Phil Kessel draft and why not? The excellent skater has tremendous hockey sense and if you add this to his playmaking abilities, he would be the class of his draft year. Unfortunately, at the WHJC, Kessel pretty much disappeared when the pressure was on. I am sure Kessel will correct this and his statistics do not lie about his talent. 51 pts in 39 games in a very competitive college league definitely makes Kessel a blue chip prospect. Any team that’s in need of a play-making center should block out the WHJC and invest into Kessel.
Nicklas Backstom- Brynas IF (Sweden)
Position: C Shoots: L
Height: 6-0 Weight: 183lbs
Hometown: Gavle, Sweden
Some have compared Nicklas to Peter Forsberg but of course, he has a lot to prove before that comparison can be truly made. None the less, he is the top European in this year’s draft. He earned rookie of the year honors by amassing 26 points in 46 games in the elite league. Don’t let the point total fool you, for a guy who was questionable to crack the lineup, he not only did, but he made first line center as well. Where he is a stereotypical European as does not use his size to it’s full advantage, he does use his strength to play well at both ends of the ice using a strong back check and Sundin like abilities regarding his ability to maintain puck control. Of course, Nicklas needs a few years in the NHL before he is considered the next great Swede. Though I doubt he will be in the top 5 Swedes of all time, Backstom will be a strong contributor to any team.
Peter Mueller- Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Position: C Shoots: R
Height: 6-2 Weight: 205lbs
Hometown: Bloomington, MN
Looking down the draft choices, Mueller is the type of guy you would pick up for depth and leadership. While he would not be considered an NHL all-star for potential, but he would be considered a almost guaranteed 2nd or 3rd line center that would provide consistent play and leadership for your team. With Everett, Mueller tallied 58 points in 52 games. He also has a 2005 U-18 WHJC title to his credit. Don Cherry named him captain for the CHL top prospects game which is a big honor considering Cherries love for Canadian players. He thrives on pressure situations and is a key player on special teams. Definitely a top 10 pick.
James Sheppard- Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
Position- C Shoots: L
Height: 6-1 Weight: 204lbs
Hometown: Halifax, NS
This is the highest ranked QMJHL player in this years draft. In a year that centers are plentiful, Sheppard could be drafted in the top 5 or be drafted in the late first round. Opposed to the previous centers ranked ahead of him in the draft, Sheppard is a sniper, not a playmaker. A strong skater that has a great nose for the net is very comparable to Michael Ryder with the quick an accurate release. He also has no issue taking abuse in front of the net. 84 points in 66 games during the regular season will attract some attention from the GM’s.
Jiri Tlusty- Kladno (Czech Rep.)
Position: C/W Shoots: L
Height: 6-1 Weight: 200 lbs
Hometown: Slany, Szech Republic
Tlusty is not your typical European who scores a lot of goals and cowers under physical pressure. What Tlusty does is open up ice for his teammates with solid puck control and he physically challenges defenders. This is the type of player you need to appreciate watching him live. His play without the puck is what makes him a top 10 draft pick. While his statistics are a very modest 10 points in 44 games, he still managed to be the bright spot in a dismal season for Kladno.
Derick Brassard- Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
Position: C Shoots: L
Height: 6-0 Weight 172lbs
Hometown: Hull, PQ
This highest PQ player in this year draft will surely not disappoint if he continues his progress. He was the player of the week 3 times, a first team all-star and was named the best professional prospect in the QMJHL this past season. He led Drummondville with 116 goals playing with Montreal prospect Guillame Latendresse. What more can you say about this pick, he has a great shot, agile, a fantastic playmaker and will take punishment in front. His main flaw is his below average skating ability and that he is not physical enough on the fore-check. His impressive attributes may have him drafted in the top 5 but his flaws may put him out of the top 15. This may be one of those players a few years down the road that people may wonder why some were picked ahead of him.
Michael Frolik- Kladno (Czech Rep)
Position: C Shoots: L
Height: 6-1 Weight: 185lbs
Hometown: Kammenne Zehrovice, Czech Republic
This is another Kladno player who statistics were a victim of a poor season by the team overall. 9 points in 48 games is a stinker statistic but again, this is a player that has a lot more to his game like his speed. He does possess a lethal shot providing that he has a player who can pass him the puck to utilize it but his skating is the reason why Frolik was ranked as high as 3rd in some scouting reports. Some scouts indicate his drop in ranking was not due to his play, but it was the increased development of the players ahead of him.
Bryan Little- Barrie Colts (OHL)
Position: C Shoots: Right
Height: 5-10 Weight: 190lbs
Hometown: Edmonton, AB
If you are looking of a sleeper pick in the draft, this is one of the 2 sleepers in my eyes. I had the pleasure of watching Little play for the Colts and without question, this guy is a gritty leader and a game breaker. He averaged 1.64 points in the 2006 playoffs and 109 points in the regular season. Yes he is small but his impeccable speed, agile footwork, rocketing shot and a strong physical presence reminds me of a Saku Koivu. The only difference is he has more speed and a better shot. Far as I am concerned, if he is not drafted in the top five, he is a steal for any team.
Kyle Okoposo: Des Moines (USHL)
Position: RW Shoots: R
Height: 6-0 Weight: 195lbs
Hometown: St. Paul. MN
A few months ago, when I listed the ISS rankings for this year’s draft, a fellow HTR member commented that Okoposo is a guy to watch out for. I took their advice and reviewed this player more in depth. Okoposo has been billed as the next Jerome Iginla. That is a mighty big expectation but why not, he has all the tools to be that prolific power forward winger making him my other big sleeper pick. Okoposo racked up 58 points in 50 games. While he is committed to play for Minnesota next year, look for him to hit the NHL within 3 years. He plays like a giant in front of the net, wins the battles along the boards and he has creative stick work. A regular special teams player combined with his bone crushing hits automatically makes him a top prospect.