Hockey’s Future is pleased to have International Scouting Services (ISS) back in the fold for another season. ISS has quickly gained a solid reputation throughout the hockey community for the fine scouting work that they do, so we are proud to be able to present to our readers some of the fine scouting work that this organization does.
With a new season now upon us (with one glaring exception), ISS has put together their preliminary list of the top 10 prospects for the 2005 NHL Draft, which is presented below.
1. Sidney Crosby
What can we say that already hasn’t been said about this 17-year-old phenom? Last season, he shattered the 30-year-old record for points by a 16-year-old and scored more points than Mike Bossy, Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier or Mario Lemieux did at the same age in the QMJHL. Crosby possesses Gretzky-like vision and passing skills to go with his excellent skating ability, balance, speed, agility and strength. He is a scoring threat whenever he is on the ice, and knows where his teammates are at all times. His impressive package of skills allows Crosby to control the play, while his excellent hand/eye coordination and goal-scorer’s touch make him an offensive threat every time he hits the ice. Without question, Crosby is a totally dominant player who can burn you any number of ways. No other prospect in this draft can match his ability to dominate the game, which is why we see him as the sure-fire first overall pick in the NHL in 2005.
2. Gilbert Brule
Explosive! This kid is an incredible offensive talent. From North Vancouver, Brule was the Vancouver Giants No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 WHL bantam draft. According to western scouts for ISS, Brule can best be described in one word- “winner“. Brule displays an uncanny will to win at all times and possesses great leadership qualities. His instincts, anticipation and vision are tremendous, and he has the ability to lift people out of their seats. Some of his on-ice success can be attributed to his off-ice preparation and desire to be the best. Despite still being something of a bantamweight — Brule can’t be more than 180 pounds soaking wet — he doesn’t shy away from contact. He finishes checks like a 220-pounder and regularly defends himself. Brule can change the pace of a game with an eye-popping rush or a crunching hit.
3. Jakub Kindl
Highly touted Jakub Kindl has the makings of an all-around star along the blue line. Kindl moves very well for a big man and owns excellent offensive potential. The young Czech has both the imposing size and excellent skating ability that scouts love. He has the capability to run the power play and displays plenty of offensive strengths. Last season, as a member of Pardubice (Czech Jr.), Kindl picked up 4 goals and added 14 assists in 48 games played. He also a turned in a +5 plus/minus rating and notched 108 penalty minutes. Kindl skates and moves the puck very well. In spite of his youth, Kindl is very mature, and has benefited greatly from the experience of playing against opponents two and three years older. Kindl will play for the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL this season, which should help him adapt quickly to the North American game.
4. Jack Johnson
Johnson is a Blue Chip defensive prospect, as well as the highest rated U.S.-born prospect available for the 2005 NHL Draft. The smooth skating, sure-handed offensive defenseman keeps his cool under pressure, with his major strengths being his ability to settle the play down, make consistent outlet passes and find his open options. Johnson plays on both the power play and penalty-killing units, with his hard, accurate shot from the point coming in handy with the man advantage. When needed, Johnson can use his offensive instincts to jump into the play, where he consistently makes wise decisions in either gaining the blue line or shooting the puck into the offensive zone. Johnson is very dangerous on the power play, as he combines his skill with great lateral movement with or without the puck. Overall, Johnson is very confident in his offensive ability, and has the physical defensive game and discipline to become a top defenseman in the NHL. He will play for the USNTDP this season, then move on to the University of Michigan in 2005.
5. Ryan O’Marra
We love this kid and expect him to have a breakout year. O’Marra, a 17-year-old native of Mississauga, Ontario, has natural goal-scoring instincts and may possess the best shot in the draft. Last season, O’Marra had 16 goals and 16 assists for 32 points in 63 regular season games for the OHL’s Erie Otters. O’Marra elevated his game in the playoffs, which demonstrates that he has the ability to rise to the occasion. He has the ability to find a seam and get open for a laser shot and can score goals from anywhere in the offensive zone. O’Marra uses his size and reach effectively. He plays an aggressive and physical game, works effectively in the corners, finishes his checks, has good puck control at full speed, drives the net for rebounds and demonstrates good hands in close. O’Marra is a very good skater with a nice, long stride, good agility, speed, strength and balance. He plays well in both ends of the ice and is a hard worker. O’Marra has the potential to be a team leader, and is overall a very talented player.
6. Guillaume Latendresse
Left winger Guillaume Latendresse is another QMJHL product in the ISS top 10. Latendresse has a great combination of size and shooting ability to go along with a decent mean streak. He already has tremendous size for the wing position, and figures on getting even bigger and stronger down the road. Latendresse is already polished as a two-way forward and displays excellent versatility up front. He isn’t shy about using the body and he loves to crash the net. The potential prototypical power winger plays a rugged game, dominates below the circles, and has good hands in close. Latendresse is more of a sniper than a playmaker, possessing an excellent shot with a quick release. The Drummondville Voltigeurs star will miss the start of the season while recovering from shoulder surgery, but should be ready for action by the end of September.
7. Marek Zagrapan
Slovakia native Marek Zagrapan could be the wild card of the 2005 NHL Draft. While there’s no denying this slick playmaking center’s offensive capabilities, scouts are eager to see how he adapts to the North American style of game. Zagrapan has worked hard to improve his all-around game over the last couple of years, but scouts would like to see him play with a little more grit. He possesses tremendous offensive potential, and is a deceptively quick player with above-average hockey sense. Zagrapan has tremendous vision and creativity, attributes that are aided by his patience with the puck and his elusiveness. He has the potential to rack up impressive point totals. A measure of Zagrapan’s talent is the fact that he earned a promotion to the Zlin (CZE) senior team as a 16-year-old. The talented Slovak loves to dangle, and is arguably one of the most skilled players available in the 2005 draft. To improve his chances of making the NHL, Zagrapan needs to get stronger to better handle the more physical defenders at that level.
8. Chris Durand
Chris Durand is extremely industrious, tough and mostly disciplined. He can score big goals, plays a strong two-way game, and possesses excellent leadership skills. Durand was easily the best player at the World U-17 Challenge in December for team Western. Currently playing for Seattle in the Western Hockey League, Durand is a great looking pro prospect and a future leader for the Thunderbirds. After his strong performance at the World U-17, Durand returned to Seattle with renewed confidence and started to contribute offensively on a regular basis. Durand is a skilled center with good size, speed and strength, as well as a hard, quick wrist shot. He is considered to be more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, with the smarts and puck skills to protect the puck while trying to create offensive chances.
9. Michael Blunden
Mike Blunden has imposing size and a physical dimension scouts look for. He has excellent strength and reach and is very hard to knock off of the puck. Blunden possesses good speed and hands for a player with his size, and he likes to create offense off the rush. Blunden uses his size very effectively, especially on the power play. Look for Blunden to elevate his offensive game to another level in 2004-05. He plays with plenty of grit along the boards, drives to the net with authority, and projects to be a NHL power forward. Blunden’s size allows him the opportunity to gain space while continuing to lean on opposing players. Blunden’s leadership skills have already been recognized, as he was named Alternate Captain of the 2003-04 edition of the Erie Otters. The hulking youngster is currently recovering from a back injury, but is on schedule to be in the Otters opening day line-up.
10. Nicklas Bergfors
Nicklas Bergfors could be the next big star from Sweden. He is a finesse center with tremendous vision and creativity. Bergfors is the youngest player to ever receive a senior contract (with Sodertalje) in the SEL. He has terrific playmaking ability, is extremely creative, and has the capability to see the play in slow motion. Bergfors makes excellent passing and shooting decisions. He is very mature, and has benefited greatly from the experience of playing against opponents two or three years older. He plays well without the puck, and likes to drive to the net to create scoring chances. He has good speed, strength and balance and protects the puck well. One aspect of his skating that ISS scouts would like to see improved is his agility.
ISS has launched a new product called NHL Future Stars. You can find out more by visiting their site at www.internationalscouting.com .