The 2004 NHL Entry Draft is scheduled for June 25-27, 2004, at the RBC Center in Raleigh, NC. Here is an exclusive look at ISS Final Top 15 ranked prospects for the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
1.Alexander OvechkinLW6’2″21409.17.85 DYNAMO
2.Evgeni MalkinC6’3″18507.31.86 METALLURG
3.Lauri TukonenRW6’2″19809.01.86 ESPOO BLUES JR.
4. Andrej MeszarosLD6’2″19510.13.85 TRENCIN DUKLA
5.Robbie SchrempC5’11.5″20007.01.86 LONDON
6.Cam BarkerLD 6’3″21404.04.86 MEDICINE HAT
7.AlvaroMontoyaG 6’1.5″19302.13.85 U. of MICHIGAN
8.Rostislav OleszC6’1.5″20410.10.85 HC VITKOVICE
9.Andrew LaddLW6’2″20012.12.65 CALGARY
10. Wojtek WolskiLW6’3″20202.24.86 BRAMPTON
11.Drew StaffordRW6’2″20010.30.85 NORTH DAKOTA
12. MarekSchwarzG6’0″18004.01.86 SPARTA PRAHA
13. BorisValabikLD6’6″21002.14.86 KITCHENER
14. LadislavSmidLD6’3″20002.01.86 LIBEREC HV
15. A.J.ThelenLD6’3″20503.11.86 MICHIGAN STATE
Abstracts From International Scouting Services 2004 NHL Draft Guide
FOR MORE INFO www.internationalscouting.com
“Superstar” or “Franchise”. Pick any description you’d like; they all apply to this young Russian star. Ovechkin is big and physical at 6′ 2”, 214 lbs and has the skill to dominate a game both offensively and physically. He is a player that can and will turn a franchise into a winner. He is a superb skater with excellent acceleration and top speed. He has a tremendous wrist shot with a quick release and a hard, heavy slap shot. Already considered by many hockey experts to be the best player outside the NHL. Ovechkin is amazingly mature for his age. He simply loves to play the game.
NHL Potential: NHL Superstar. Will have an immediate impact for the Capitals this season.
He is one of the most offensively gifted players in his age group, and his skill level and maturity are exceptional. Gifted with brilliant on-ice vision and playmaking skills, his biggest asset is his puck distribution. A bit overshadowed at times by Ovechkin, make no mistake; Malkin is an exceptional talent on his own. Malkin capped off his excellent season by being named Rookie of the Year in the RSL and just needs to bulk up and add strength.
NHL Potential: He looked good at the most recent U-18 tournament and he’ll likely wind up wearing a Penguins sweater on draft day.
An absolute wizard with the puck. Schremp is a game-breaking offensive pivot with superior playmaking ability and hockey sense. He is probably the most one-dimensional of all the top prospects. Schremp is effective moving the puck on the power play and conducts the action during man advantage situations. A very smart player offensively, can read plays and reacts accordingly in the offensive zone. His speed is just average, however he has a quick first step, elite vision and playmaking skill that make him very dangerous on the power play. For those who question his maturity, scouts sometimes forget that we are talking about an 18-year-old; maturity comes with age.
NHL Potential: 1st-line offensive center. There is too much offensive potential for NHL GM’s to pass on Schremp. Must work on his leadership skills.
Big, offensive minded defensemen like Barker are a highly sought after commodity in any draft year, this one being no exception. On the power play Barker is the quarterback, he’s dangerous, leads the rush, gains the zone and has an excellent shot from the point that he keeps low, hard and most often is on net.
NHL Potential: #1 Defenseman. Outstanding natural talent level is very attractive. We’re very big on this player, and we probably nit pick at his game because we have such high expectations and expect a lot from him. He does have his shortcomings, however, with one area deserving attention that is a fairly common shortcoming for young defensemen – Cam needs to develop quicker feet. Another concern ISS scouts have is that Barker goes through periods where he lacks intensity and is a near non-existent physical presence for his size. If improvement is realized in these areas the sky is the limit.
There is a lot of interest in this young player, and rightfully so. Tukonen has the proper combination of size and skill to be an excellent pro player. Top power forwards are one of the scarcest commodities in hockey and Tukonen is one of the most exceptional power forward prospects in this year’s draft. He has a world-class scoring skill, timing, soft hands, toughness in front of the goalie and a very quick release with uncanny precision.
NHL Potential: 1st line power/sniper forward
The 2004 NHL Entry Draft is arguably one of the deepest drafts in recent history for quality netminders. That said, here at ISS we have been touting Montoya as the best of the bunch since last October. He has lived up to the hype, leading his American teammates to the gold at the World U-20 Championships, where he was chosen as the tournament’s top goaltender. We feel what separates Montoya from Schwarz is Montoya’s unquestionable ability to handle pressure. He is very calm in tough situations, controls rebounds and sees the puck well. Playing in pressure games is nothing new for Montoya, nor is the fact he seems to strive under such conditions. We feel outside of Ovechkin, he may be the most NHL ready prospect in the 2004 draft.
NHL Potential: Franchise Goaltender. ISS sources tell us Phoenix picking 5th won’t pass up the chance to add this future star.
A lot of people in the hockey industry were questioning ISS’ high ranking of Meszaros, as far back as October, but not anymore! Now firmly entrenched in everyone’s top 15, it’s no secret that the ISS staff was on this kid’s bandwagon early on. To Meszaros’ credit, he hasn’t let us down. While most of the high-end prospects for this draft were showcasing themselves at the 2004 IIHF World U-18 Championship in Minsk, Belarus, Meszaros was busy showcasing his skills at a much bigger platform, the 2004 IIHF World Championship Czech Republic. The fact that only two draft eligible prospects, Ovechkin and Meszaros, participated confirmed his high draft status. Head coach Frantisek Hossa, former scout of the Ottawa Senators, has taken Meszaros under his wing, and has to be given some credit for his maturity as a highly skilled puck moving defenseman with leadership and character rarely seen in a 17-year-olds.
NHL Potential: #1 Defenseman. May not go as high as ranked by ISS, however we feel strongly that 4 years from now he will develop into one of the best defensemen from this draft class.
Depth on the Blue-line
For a tiny country, Slovakia sure has produced some big d-men in the past few years – Chara, Mezei, Kudroc, Stehlik, and Majesky. At 6’6″ and 210 lbs, Boris Valabik is the latest ‘redwood’ to come from the forests of Slovakia. He’s already wearing the unofficial crown as the best enforcer in the draft. Somewhat unheralded before this season, Valabik has shown major improvement in all facets of his game. Not flashy, he takes care of his own end, can chip in offensively, and doesn’t back down from anyone. ISS Scout Mike MacPerson had this to say- “he uses his range well and with his size and skating, the range becomes a huge asset”. Valabik won’t be a flashy scoring defenseman in the NHL, but will be a franchise cornerstone because of his intensity and character.
NHL Potential: The team that drafts him will do so with one thing in mind – he’s scary to play against! His 278 penalty minutes confirm Valabik’s toughness.
Thelen has been a favorite among ISS scouts all season. This freshman defenseman has proven to scouts that he is the real deal and will be a highly sought after commodity come draft day. On power plays he is very dangerous, leads the rush, gains the zone, and has good lateral movement with or without the puck. Thelen is the quarterback, and has a quick hard shot that is dangerous and most often is on net. He has both the imposing size and skating ability scouts love. Thelen finished the season as the highest scoring defenseman in all of NCAA Division I Hockey. Anytime a 17-year-old freshman can have that much of an impact on a U.S. college team, you have to appreciate the accomplishment. He needs to work on becoming more physical on a consistent basis, however.
NHL Potential: Top offensive defenseman. Thelen’s quiet playoff run with the Spartans may keep him out of the top ten.
Ranked 27th overall, we wouldn’t be overly surprised if he went before that. Some scouts may question his physical prowess, but here at ISS we like what we’ve seen and feel that once healthy O’Neill will demonstrate physical play on a more regular basis. Unknown to his critics was the fact that O’Neill played his entire season hampered by a separated shoulder that would see him play out the rest of the schedule in a brace. O’Neill is a physically mature, mobile defensemen who can control the rush and likes to jump into the offensive rush whenever it’s necessary. He is noted for being an exceptionally gifted passer, which, combined with his above average shot from the point, makes him an ideal future NHL quarterback on the power play. O’Neill has a lot of desirable qualities, not the least of which is his character, that will make him a highly sought after commodity come draft day.
NHL Potential: There is still a great amount of potential untapped in this 18-year-old. The only knock we have on him is a lack of consistency.
FROM THE QMJHL
Exploded up the draft charts following an impressive season. Picard has great offensive skills, and isn’t afraid to mix it up in the corners. He was one of the most consistent offensive contributors throughout the QMJHL season. Picard isn’t the strongest player in the defensive zone, but once in the offensive zone he can control the play; he cycles down low, shows good puck control in tight places and is creative. A clutch scorer, he loves to shoot the puck. ISS scouts have concerns with his positional play, and feel strongly that Picard would be a better fit with a more freewheeling NHL Western Conference club. In addition, being the best player on a bad team often leaves scouts wondering whether that player will be able to put up similar numbers when he’s not the focus of an offense.
NHL Potential: Look for a team that is searching for goal scoring, and is willing to overlook some of Alexander’s defensive liabilities to select him mid to late first round
Ranked 23rd overall. Another player whose first round ranking by ISS as far back as January was questioned by a number of people in the hockey industry, but not anymore! This gigantic, highly skilled pivot has been a favorite amongst the ISS scouts all season. In fact, some of us thought so highly of him that there have been many debates about whether or not he should rank higher. Graham has an abundance of potential; good offensive instincts, great size, soft hands and deceptive speed for a player his size. After his return from the CHL Top Prospects game, Graham elevated his game to another level, finishing the regular season with 57 points in 68 games. In the playoffs, he notched 14 points in 18 games, but he missed the last two games of the final with a muscle injury in his shoulder. It wasn’t anything serious, and didn’t require surgery. Graham has tremendous upside, but needs to show more intensity, or at least be intense on a more consistent basis.
NHL Potential: Solid second line player, could develop into a first line forward. 6’6″ playmaking centers don’t come along often. Excellent at winning face-offs.
Karsums, a 5’10. 5″, 180-pound sparkplug, hails from Riga, Latvia, and should be attractive to NHL teams who are looking for versatility. He’ll play whatever type of game you want played. He brings a feistiness and defensive awareness that make him useful as a checker. In addition, Karsums has the talent to be on a scoring line, as he possesses skilled hands, a selfless attitude and great balance on his skates. He sees the open ice, and he can create open ice. He has good patience with the puck, can cut across a seam, and has the ability to delay and take a hit to make a play.
Next week we will profile some top OHL Prospects for the 2004 Draft.