Mock Draft (cont.)
Derek Forbort, D, USA NTDP
One scout told me that Forbort could be this year's Thomas Hickey, a defender regarded as a mid-first round prospect who eventually was drafted by the Kings fourth overall in 2007. It could happen. Forbort has the size (6-5, 198) that teams covet, is quick on his feet, and he has both the poise and the smarts to bring something to the offensive end of the ice. There's a lot of projection involved with his still-maturing game, however, and that should allow him to drop to the Stars, a team that's desperate for some defensive depth in the system.
Mikael Granlund, LW, HIFK (Finland)
At just 5-10, 180 pounds, Granlund never would have passed muster under the Brian Burke regime, but new GM Bob Murray understands that skill is the ultimate trump card. Granlund's size and skating have raised some concerns, but there's no arguing with his talent. He might have the best hockey sense in the entire class, and he excelled while playing against grown men in the Finnish Elite League, where he scored 40 points in just 43 games. The Saku Koivu comparisons seem a little too easy, but it's accurate. "He's got a lot of fight in him," offered one scout.
Jack Campbell, G, USA NTDP
Goalies have proven to be a high-risk proposition in the first round in recent years, but Campbell's performance in big games over the past season has scouts raving about his potential to emerge as a franchise goalie...and possibly one of the best players in this draft. Looking for an eventual replacement for Ilya Bryzgalov, the Yotes will be happy to snap up a player who led the U.S. to gold medals at both the U-18 and the World Juniors.
"I could see someone using a top-five pick to snag him," said one scout. "He really is that good. He's got the size, the athleticism and his compete level is off the charts. He's as intense at practice as at game time. A great leader and a great teammate. He's the real deal."
Jon Merrill, D, US NTDP
Scouting director Jarmo Kekalainen already has built an enviable stable of defensive talent for the Blues, but don't be surprised if he goes back to that well for his final draft with the team. The question is, will that pick be Merrill? He was the best defenseman at the Under-18 tournament in Minsk, where his high-end offensive potential was undeniable. But he followed that up with a poor showing at the combine, particularly in the interview sessions.
"He was Phil Kessel-bad," said one scout, referencing the memorably poor showing of the former Bruins first-rounder. If the Blues are willing to write that off as simple immaturity, they could land another American kid [they love drafting them] who should be a second-pairing stalwart at worst, thanks to his ability to think the game and react at high speed.
Emerson Etem, RW, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
It wouldn't be a surprise if Etem went earlier (possibly to the Ducks at 12), but it says here he'll fall to mid-round where GM Tallon will be thrilled to pounce. The SoCal native is one of the fastest players in the draft and also has some of the best hands. Etem's 37 goals led all CHL rookies and he could be a Patrick Kane-lite for the Cats.
"He's got a bit of Marian Gaborik in him," suggested one scout. "He gets into high gear in a hurry and he can really let it go on the fly. He has a really heavy shot."
Etem also impressed scouts by adding to his arsenal of moves this season. "He has that desire to improve his game. He's a very coachable kid," said another.
Beau Bennett, RW, Penticton Vees (BCJHL)
A bit of a stretch here? Maybe. Two scouts suggested Bennett could slide to the second round, but others say he's a mid-first lock, with one scout comparing his dynamic finishing touch to that of Dany Heatley, a player the Sens would dearly love to replace. In 56 games with the Vees, Bennett scored 41 goals (25 on the power play) and added 79 assists for 120 points. "There are elements of his game that need work, but they're all things that can be addressed," said a scout. "The one thing you can't teach is touch and Bennett has that in spades."
Vladimir Tarasenko, LW, Novosibirsk (KHL)
If the Avs are looking for a high-value pick, this one just fell into their laps. It wouldn't be a surprise to hear his name called in the top 10, but the Russian factor seems likely to prolong his stay on the draft board. As one scout for a club drafting in the bottom third of the round told me, if his team were picking in the 5-7 range, he'd push hard for Tarasenko. "A top-five talent, no doubt," the scout said. "Has a tremendous shot and has a knack for finding the dead areas down low."
He's no banger, but at 5-11, 202, the son of former Russian Olympian Andrei Tarasenko is already sturdier than his father. Witnesses at the scouting combine gave him high marks for a physique that's allowed him to battle two years already in the KHL, where he's likely to remain for another couple years.
Nick Bjugstad, C, Blaine (Minn HS)
Having just dealt Jason Arnott, the Preds can draft his eventual replacement in Bjugstad. Minnesota's Mr. Hockey is a massive 6-5, 188-pound slab of beef who absolutely dominated the high school ranks. "He's still growing... he's going to be a real horse in a couple of years," said one scout, who also applauded Bjugstad's leadership and work ethic both on and off the ice. Bjugstad scored 29 goals in 25 games this year, but he'll benefit from playing a higher brand of competition at the University of Minnesota.
Ludvig Rensfeldt, LW, Brynas (Swedish Juniors)
The Kings have earned a reputation for going off the board, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see them reach here for the top-rated Swedish prospect in what's considered a down year for that country's talent. Rensfeldt's got good size (6-2, 192), an excellent shot (21 goals in 39 games) and can be a force along the boards. But one scout damned him with faint praise.
"He's a softer version of Niederreiter. I don't question his strength or his skill, but he lacks the consistent intensity to be a top scorer. [He'll be a] a streaky, secondary-type." Another scout agreed with the basis of that assessment, but said it was just a matter of focus. "In the right situation, he could really find his niche. He really showed me something in Minsk. Someone could stretch for him."
Dylan McIlrath, D, Moose Jaw (WHL)
A team that's desperate for a nasty physical presence on the back end simply can't ask for more than McIlrath. "He doesn't have the puck skills to project as a top pairing guy," said a scout. "But he is easily the most intimidating player in the draft. He'll keep the opposition honest."
McIlrath had 19 fighting majors on the season. He'll need another year or two to work on his skating and filling out his 6-4, 215-pound frame.