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Posted: Friday November 6, 2009 5:34PM; Updated: Wednesday November 11, 2009 8:15AM
Allan Muir
Allan Muir>INSIDE THE NHL

Excellent draft on tap

Story Highlights

Next year's draft could very well go down as the deepest talent pool since 2003

This is an early mock draft; the order of the top 30 prospects will change by June

Brock Beukeboom (24) and Jarred Tinordi (30) are the sons of ex-NHL players

cam-fowler.jpg
Cam Fowler of the OHL's Windsor Spitfires is a solid two-way defenseman who rates as the top blueliner in next year's draft crop.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
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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 Mike Richards, Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry and Loui Eriksson -- but early indications suggest the Class of 2010 could come close to producing a similar number of impact performers.

Windsor's Taylor Hall has long been considered the premier prospect. The leading scorer in the OHL (19 goals and 41 points in just 20 games) has done nothing to lose his footing. But there are challengers for the honor, including pace-setting defender Cam Fowler, two-way threat Tyler Seguin and Russian wizard Kirill Kabanov. Depending on a team's needs and drafting style, any one of those players could be the first to walk up to the stage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

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 Hugh Jessiman," said one Western Conference scout, referencing the Rangers draft pick infamous for being the only flop from that 2003 first round.

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.

1. Taylor Hall, 6-1, 185, left wing, Windsor Spitfires

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 Pavel Bure --he's that explosive -- and he's extremely competitive. He doesn't lose many battles." There's a desire to see more consistency from Hall, but a third scout says that's part of the process when a player has been viewed so often. "Look, I can nitpick this kid to death, but if I had the (No. 1) pick, this is the guy I'd want. He's a winner."

2. Cam Fowler, 6-2, 190, defense, Windsor Spitfires

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. Scout's Take: "He's got that projectable, Rob Blake-type body. He's physical and he has a tremendous shot. He just needs to work on getting it to the net. He covers as well as anyone. I like his positioning, but I'd also like to see him make better decisions with the puck. Sometimes he tries to do too much and ends up giving it away."

3. Tyler Seguin, 6-1, 180, center, Plymouth Whalers

A cruiserweight forward with tremendous drive, high-end playmaking skills and a world-class shot -- sound anything like Joe Sakic? Seguin could challenge for the top spot in the draft. Scout's Take: "His development from the beginning of last season to now is off the charts. He has the ability to stickhandle and create at top speed. He's relentless at both ends of the ice. It's easy to project him as a first-line center in the NHL."

4. Brett Connolly, 6-2, 181, left wing, Prince George Cougars

The reigning CHL rookie of the year has a bit of James Neal in him. Scout's Take: "He's not a prototypical power forward, but he plays a very strong game. He's strong on the puck, goes hard to the net. He has a chance to be a solid goal scorer." Second Take: "I like his leadership abilities. He's the sort of player you can go to war with."

5. Kirill Kabanov, 6-3, 176, left wing, Moncton Wildcats

Consistency may be all that keeps Kirill the Thrill from going top five. Scout's Take: "He has everything else you'd want. Great size, quick feet, really smart with the puck. He's one of those players who can really electrify a crowd. And you don't want to compare him to Ovechkin, but he's got the same nastiness to his game. But there are nights when he disappears and at times he's not the most team-oriented guy. You hope it's a maturity thing."

6. Erik Gudbranson, 6-3, 199, defense, Kingston Frontenacs

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. Scout's Take: "He was okay last season [as a rookie with Kingston]. He gave you glimpses of what he could be. He's so poised and he thinks the game so well, but you want to see more from him."

7. Brandon Gormley, 6-1, 175, defense, Moncton Wildcats

The Prince Edward Island kid who was babysat by Brad Richards' family has lived up to the hype that made him the first overall pick in the QMJHL last summer. He's reliable in his own end, but he'll make his living in the NHL as an offensive-minded defender. Think Sheldon Souray, but without the 100-MPH shot. Scout's Take: "He'll QB a power play, but he can be the shutdown guy on the PK as well."

8. Mikael Granlund, 5-10, 172, right wing, HIFK (Finland)

He's small and Finnish and dominant in his age group, but don't buy into the lazy comparisons to Saku Koivu. Euro Scout's Take: "He doesn't have the same kind of intensity. He's very clever with the puck and has a good shot, though. I like his confidence. He's a 17-year-old kid playing in the top league in Finland and he's leading his team in scoring. He's not fancy but he makes things happen."

9. Vladimir Tarasenko, 5-10, 167, right wing, Novosibirsk (Russia)

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. Scout's Take: "He's not the flashiest guy on the ice, but he gets it done. He just weasels his way into open ice and takes it from there. He's strong on the puck and willing to take a hit to get his shot off, but he needs to put on some muscle if he wants to keep playing that way."

10. John McFarland, 6-1. 195, left wing, Sudbury Wolves

Scouts raved about him at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, but he's off to a slow start that has one scout comparing him to another former Wolves star: Benoit Pouliot. Scout's Take: "He has all the tools. Good frame, quick feet, hard shot and he anticipates the play well. But he hasn't committed to his play away from the puck...and maybe there are some other issues that will be addressed as he matures. You wonder if he'll ever put it all together."

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