It was tough to carry on a conversation with the board-stomping and chanting in the background threatening to completely drown out my caller, who happens to be an NHL scout. But through the din of the college arena, one sentence came through clearly over the phone:
"Yeah, this is going to be a good one."
"This" is the 2010 Entry Draft, a talent grab that could go down as one of the best of all-time.
It's not 2003 -- a pool so overstocked with potential that even latecomers were able to grab the likes of
So, how do they stack up in the early going? It's still tough to say. With so much talent to choose from, there's an added emphasis on not blowing a pick. "No one wants to be the guy who is remembered for taking
No surprise then that scouts, even under the veil on anonymity, aren't revealing all their secrets. "Things will shake out over the course of the season like they always do, but right now there are a lot of moving parts," said another Western scout. "And I don't think anyone wants to tip their hand."
So after sorting through their input (and a bit of naked misdirection), we've arrived at your first look at 2010. Consider this list a rough sketch of a mock draft, an early introduction to some of the players who will be watched most intently as the season progresses.
The reigning Memorial Cup MVP has his critics ("I wonder about his decision-making sometimes," said one scout) but most agree that Hall is the surest bet to star in the NHL. "Game-breaking speed," said another. "Think
The Windsor-born, Detroit-bred Fowler could end up being the first player taken, depending on the needs of the team with the pick as much as his progression this season. His quick transition to the OHL has scouts raving about his effortless skating and two-way play.
A cruiserweight forward with tremendous drive, high-end playmaking skills and a world-class shot -- sound anything like
The reigning CHL rookie of the year has a bit of
Consistency may be all that keeps Kirill the Thrill from going top five.
Based on his size, skating and offensive talents, he has the potential to be a top-pairing offensive defender. But to this point, it's mostly about projection. The hard-hitting Gudbranson's been sidelined since mid-October with a knee injury that should keep him out another two weeks.
The Prince Edward Island kid who was babysat by
He's small and Finnish and dominant in his age group, but don't buy into the lazy comparisons to
Tarasenko is small, but he does his best work down low. He made a strong impression at last year's U-18 championships, finishing second in tournament scoring with 16 points in just seven games.
Scouts raved about him at the
He ranks as one of the fastest risers of the early rankings.
The first overall pick at the 2009 CHL Import Draft, Galiev plays the classic Russian game.
He takes care of defense first, but he's comfortable with the puck and makes a good first pass. He's also versatile. He's played some forward with the NTDP.
With the draft set to be held in L.A., expect lots of attention to be focused on this Southern California native who currently ranks fourth in the WHL with 15 goals in just 21 games.
He impressed last season with his speed, his willingness to drive the net and his ability to create plays on his own, so he's getting a break from scouts even though his slow start has him on double-secret probation.
At least one scout suggests Watson is basking in the reflected glory of teammates Hall and Fowler: "I'm not sure he'd get this much talk if not for them." But most agree that he has the potential to be a solid power forward once he adds some muscle to his lean frame.
He's a right shot, which adds to his appeal.
Has improved his stock with his seamless transition to North American hockey. His passing and playmaking are his bread and butter, but he's responsible enough to play a key role on the Barrie penalty kill. There's a fly in the ointment, though: he's contractually obligated to return to the KHL after this season, which could damage his draft stock.
The first overall pick in the WHL's 2007 bantam draft has put the disappointment of last season behind him with a strong start.
Size and bloodlines (he's the nephew of former NHLer
The youngest player in the SM-Liiga last season, he relies on guile around the net to create offense but he's yet to show a willingness to work hard without the puck. Some scouts have him rated as a top-10 talent, but a wrist injury that will sideline him for three months -- and cost him spotlight time at the World Juniors -- may allow other players to move past him.
One of the top scorers in the OHL, herearns raves as much for his consistently high energy level as his elite one-on-one skills. His size might scare off some teams, but given the success of other smaller players, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him go much earlier.
Scouts are divided on his early season struggles. "He misses [graduates Logan] Couture and [Corey] Cowick," says one birddog. "I expected him to step up, not fade into the woodwork. Maybe he's just a complementary player."
Despite the build, the position and the bloodlines, Brock is a very different player than his father, Jeff. In just his second season playing defense, he is helping his stock with some offensive touch, averaging close to a point per game in the early going.
He's not particularly strong and he needs to pay attention to his play away from the puck. The next
Teams looking for a classic, shutdown defender can't go wrong.
After starring at the Under-18 tournament, his stock has risen to the point that he's likely to be the first goalie taken. Scouts love his size and rebound control, but it's his leadership that sets him apart.
The latest Swedish power forward brings the physical style and playmaking skills of
That he's been able to replace MVP
Further proof the apple doesn't fall far. Tinordi is an aggressive, defensive-minded defender. That said, he's bigger than his dad, Mark, and a better skater as well.