Here is the April edition of International Scouting Services’ preliminary identification list of the top draft prospects eligible for the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The Draft will be held in Raleigh, N.C. on June 26-27.
1. ALEXANDRE OVECHKIN, LW
2. EVGENI MALKIN, C
3. ROBBIE SCHREMP, C
4. CAM BARKER, D
5. ROSTISLAV OLESZ, C
6. WOJTEK WOLSKI, LW
7. ANDREW LADD, LW
8. LAURI TUKONEN, RW
9. DREW STAFFORD, RW
U. of North Dakota
10. ANDREJ MESZAROS, D
Andrej Meszaros / Trencin
Position: Defense Height: 6’2” Weight: 187
Andrej Meszaros is a gifted offensive defenseman whose play this season has been as consistent as his high draft ranking with ISS. After starting the season ranked 10th overall in October, he finds himself back where he started in the April’s rankings. In last month’s Slovakian semifinal series against Kosice, Meszaros was on a mission. In the first game, he had five shots (most on his team). In the second game, he scored the insurance goal with a hard slap shot from the point. In the third game, he scored another goal with a hard, accurate one-timer from the point. He was arguably the best player for Dukla in that semifinal series. With his recent strong play, he has earned himself a nomination to Slovakia’s national team. He could possibly join Russian phenom Alexander Ovechkin as the only two 2004 draft-eligible players to participate at the World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic, starting April 24.
Kyle Wharton / Ottawa (OHL)
Position: Defense Height: 6’2” Weight: 190
Smooth-skating Kyle Wharton’s game has risen to the level expected of an OHL first-round pick. After two injury-plagued seasons, Wharton has been Ottawa’s best defenseman down the stretch and in the first round playoff series against Brampton. His ability to settle the play down, make consistent outlet passes, and find the open options are his strengths. Wharton is a sure-handed defenseman who opts for the safe, sure play, yet is showing signs of emerging offensive skills.
David Shantz / Mississauga (OHL)
Position: Goaltender Height: 6’1” Weight: 192
David Shantz has been consistent game in and game out during the regular season, and has been outstanding during the playoffs. Less than 24 hours after one of the most unforgettable nights of his career ended, Shantz responded with a clutch shutout performance.
Blake Wheeler / Breck HS
Position: Right Winger Height: 6’4” Weight: 194
After witnessing Blake Wheeler’s dazzling hat trick performance in the Minnesota Class A championship game, we are convinced this kid is the real deal. Wheeler’s powerful physique and excellent skating ability are two attributes that jump right out at you. Wheeler led the tournament in scoring with six goals and five assists for 11 points in the three games, and had 44 goals and 56 assists for 100 points in 31 games in 2003-04. Wheeler has committed to the University of Minnesota.
Peter Tsimikalis / Ottawa (OHL)
Position: Center Height: 5’11” Weight: 195
Finally starting to get scouts’ attention, Peter Tsimikalis’s clutch performance down the stretch, as well as in Ottawa’s first round match-up against Brampton, has opened scouts’ eyes. He’s become a dynamo in the faceoff circle and has consistently been Ottawa’s best player.
T.J. Hensick / Michigan (NCAA)
Position: Center Height: 5’9” Weight: 180
T.J. Hensick has seen his draft ranking on the rise with his strong play down the stretch. He was named to both the All-CCHA first team and the Bauer/CCHA All-Rookie team last month. Hensick has been very impressive, displaying an outstanding offensive game in spite of his smaller stature, due in part to his very creative puck handling skills.
Johannes Salmonsson / Djurgarden (SEL)
Position: Center Height: 6’2” Weight: 183
After starting the season on a high note by making his league debut in the SEL, it’s been all down direction for his stock since then for Swedish prospect Johannes Salmonsson. In November, Salmonsson suffered a shoulder injury, but instead of opting for surgery, he instead tried rehabilitation. After re-aggravating the injury in early April, he was told to shut it down for the season.
Michael Funk / Portland (WHL)
Position: Defense Height: 6’4” Weight: 190
Michael Funk’s poor decisions with the puck continue to be a concern. Funk does reasonably well when he has time and space, but he panics when he is pressured. If he is in open ice and his first passing option remains viable, he makes the play. If this option is closed off, however, then he is in trouble. Funk does not have the poise or composure to go quickly to the next option and execute, and he at times seems confused vs. crossing attacks.
Dustin Slade / Regina (WHL)
Position: Goaltender Height: 5’10” Weight: 172
Dustin Slade’s antics in Game 1 of a WHL playoff series against the Moose Jaw Warriors were, to say the least, a mental meltdown. Given his status as a repeat offender, it will be a major concern on the minds of NHL general managers on draft day. Slade isn’t a bad kid, but he has to realize that his aggressiveness must be tempered.