Tavares, Hedman top NHL Central Scouting Bureau's mid-season rankings

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TORONTO - Canadian centre John Tavares and Swedish defenceman Victor Hedman are the top draft-eligible skaters from North America and Europe according to the mid-season rankings by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau released Monday.

The two players, who squared off for gold at the world junior hockey championship last week, are the leading candidates to be selected first overall in the 2009 NHL entry draft.

Tavares, who helped Canada to a 5-1 win in the final over Hedman and the Swedes, led the tournament with eight goals and added seven assists en route to MVP honours.

That performance comes amid another dominant season in the Ontario Hockey League.

The six-foot, 200-pound native of Oakville, Ont., has 28 goals and 27 assists in 33 games so far this season for the Oshawa Generals and London Knights, who acquired him a deadline deal last week.

In his London debut Sunday, Tavares had two goals and an assist.

Hedman, meanwhile, is seeking to become the first Swedish player to be claimed first overall since the Quebec Nordiques selected Mats Sundin in 1989.

The six-foot-six, 220-pound native of Ornskoldsvik - the same town where Markus Naslund, Peter Forsberg plus Daniel and Henrik Sedin are from - is currently in his second season with Swedish team Modo.

He also helped lead Sweden to a second straight silver medal at the world junior hockey championship. Teammates Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson and Jacob Josefson follow Hedman in the European rankings.

Following Tavares among North American skaters are four more centres: Matt Duchene of the Brampton Battalion; Canadian junior team member Evander Kane of the Vancouver Giants; Jordan Schroeder, a freshman at the University of Minnesota; and Brayden Schenn of the Brandon Wheat Kings, the brother of Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Luke Schenn.

Edward Pasquale of the Saginaw Spirit is the top-rated North American goaltender while Swede Robin Lehner of the Frolunda junior team heads up the European netminders.

The scouting bureau's mid-season ranking features the top 210 skaters and 30 goaltenders in North America and top 148 skaters and 12 goaltenders from Europe.

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