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May 20, 2011
Top 100 NHL Draft Prospects

by Corey Pronman


For a description of the methodology in these rankings, including the Projected Peak and Statistical Comparables (courtesy of Iain Fyffe), please see the Introduction. We'll be revealing more of the Top 100 every few days leading up to the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Full list of Top 100 NHL Draft Prospects

91. Karl Johansson, Defense, Brynas-J20 SuperElit

While he has yet to dominate statistically at any level, Karl Johansson may be one of the most talented defensemen from a pure hockey skills perspective in the entire draft. He's a solid to above-average skater, whose top speed is about average and his skating value comes from his agility, a decent first step and his overall mobility. Johansson has true plus puck skills, and on more than occasion he can make a play that wows the crowd and/or make several defenders look bad. He loves to handle the puck, be it taking it out from behind his net or quarterbacking the power play. His hands are quick and can make sudden deke moves that make the opposition miss. Johansson has the ability to make plus passes, and I've seen him make long dishes across the ice vertically and horizontally frequently. The downside to Johansson is his frame, as he is a measly 5'9" 170 lbs. and that may be generous. His physical game is a 30 grade and barring a growth spurt, he has little chance of ever making the top level. His hockey sense is a question mark too, as despite his offensive talent, a major reason for his lack of production is his poor decision making with the puck where he simply tries to do too much or go for the home run play. Despite that however, he is at decent positionally in his own end. He's a risky pick for whoever takes him and he needs to grow, but if he hits he could be a tremendous value pick.

92. Garret Meurs, Center, Plymouth-OHL

Garret Meurs entered the season as a potential first rounder, but his draft stock has been passed by fellow Whalers after a poor season. He's a decent skater—thought the mechanics aren't perfect, when he gets going in full stride he can get to an average level, even at times looking a tad beyond that. Meurs is very talented with the puck, and has 60 grade puck skills. He can really threaten opposing defenders in the open ice with an array of moves, and when they back off and give him space he also is able to display plus passing ability. He may be one of the more talented forwards in this draft class from the OHL, but his holes kill his game. Meurs is a pure perimeter player who may max out at best as a fringe physical player at the next level and is well below that now. His hockey sense is fringe too, as he leans on his puck skills heavily and can try to do too much. He also tends to get lost for long stretches of times, and is basically a null-value player off the puck. His vision, puck skills and ability to control a power play could make him a legitimate second line NHL forward, but there's a long ways between Point A and Point B, and a good chance it just never happens.

Projected Peak GVT: 2.6

Statistical Comparable: Adam Mair

93. Nikita Nesterov, Defense, Chelyabinsk-MHL

Nikita Nesterov could get lost in the discussion because he didn't put up gaudy numbers in Russia's Junior league, but he has some serious tools that warrant draft consideration. His skating is average and although he can hit a solid to above-average speed level going straight, the rest of the tool has some kinks to iron out. His puck skills are decent, but more than capable for him to rush the puck up or distribute on the power play. He likes to rush the puck up and has the tools to be somewhat effective at it. Nesterov has an above-average shot from the point and a slap shot which explodes off his stick which he uses often. His physical game will top out as average and is a notch below that now, but at the Junior level that certainly wasn't the case. Nesterov is a very physically involved player who makes life hectic for forwards when the puck goes into the corner and I've seen on occasion when he's rushing the puck up when he simply shrugs bigger players off of him. Unfortunately, his hockey sense is his major liability as it's fringe if not below that. He simply tries to do too much offensively, and can't do enough defensively and the tool is bad enough that it puts a major concern on his projectability.

Projected Peak GVT: 4.5

Statistical Comparable: Andrei Zyuzin

94. Nick Cousins, Center, Sault Ste. Marie-OHL

Nick Cousins had good season with the Greyhounds and put on a good display of his talents at the Under-18's. He moves at a pro-level with a fluid stride and is good on his edges, but doesn't show any indication of the tool being beyond that. His puck skills are solid to above-average, but Cousins is more of a distributor than a dangler but can handle the puck at a decent level. He's undersized and despite notable work ethic, his physical game is below fringe level and he can only show offensive effectiveness from the perimeter. Cousins does show hustle along the walls, but doesn't win enough puck battles to be effective in the physical areas. His hockey sense is decent and offensively he sees the ice well and makes the right decisions with the puck, but defensively despite the fact he shows work ethic in that area, he isn't that impressive in terms of his coverage. Cousins likely projects as an energy player, but has the puck skills to be decent in the possession game if one of his major tools takes a step forward.

Projected Peak GVT: 3.9

Statistical Comparable: Bill Bowler

95. John Gibson, Goaltender, USA Under-18-USHL

John Gibson is the sole goaltending prospect on this list, but his appearance here is due more so to the fact I don't like the pro prospects of the skaters left in the talent pool from this point on. Gibson's physical tools are easily the most notable aspect of his game from first glance. His 6'3", 200 lb. frame is already well filled out and when talking about his physical maturity and conditioning he's well ahead of where most pre-draft prospects usually are. He moves at a decent level, and his lateral agility for a big player is quite impressive. His technique is notably refined as his butterfly and more notably when to enter the butterfly will transition to the pro game very well. Gibson's conditioning lets him make several saves at a time without breaking a sweat, and also shows good competiveness and athleticism when he needs to exit his stance. His reflexes are average, it isn't a liability but doesn't show anything beyond that at a consistent basis. Gibson's puck-handling is on and off, at times he will make decent passes with relative ease, and other times he can look a little clumsy handling it. He's a rather safe prospect (for a goalie that is), but his upside is limited and like most young goalies he still has refinements to make in his positioning and angles.

Ranking Explanation: I like John Gibson as a goalie prospect, and in a pure talent ranking he deserves to be placed higher than this, but the market for goalies is horrid and goaltending performance is very volatile and unpredictable. Combine that with the fact goalie development is a major crapshoot at times, and the fact I have Gibson this high is a testament to him and to the fact I'm not crazy about the draft talent level from this point on.

96. Colin Jacobs, Center, Seattle-WHL

Colin Jacobs didn't produce much this year on a poor team, but he has enough tools that he makes for a decent risk/reward prospect. He's an average skater, who doesn't show beyond that level, but will be able to skate with pros. He's decent on the puck, as Jacobs shows notable coordination and his hands are somewhat quick. His physical game projects as pro-average and he's already near that point. His 6'2" frame is somewhat filled and when it comes to his forecheck and defensive game, he goes at players hard physically. Jacobs has enough tools that project to fit at the pro level that he could be a low-tier scorer to high-tier checker, but his hockey sense is fringe if that and it really kills him consistently. Jacobs just looks lost on the ice sometimes in regards to his positioning and his decisions with the puck are horrible. Barring an improvement in his game processing, it's hard to see Jacobs as anything more than a fourth liner.

Projected Peak GVT: 2.3

Statistical Comparable: Clarke Wilm

97. Colin Smith, Center, Kamloops-WHL

Colin Smith had a decent year for the Blazers and was solid in Germany at the Under-18's. He's a decent skater who extends well through his strides, and has quick feet that let him display solid agility and accelerate well. His puck skills are average, but Smith is moderately coordinated and can be decent at distributing the puck. Smith creates chances based on his skating getting him room as opposed to him avoiding checks through lateral or standstill dekes. His physical game is at fringe level if not a tick below as he's a small guy with a frame that is still pretty thin. Smith still gets plenty involved in the physical game though—he forechecks well and is quite an instigator at times. He's also pretty tough, as Smith absorbs hits well, battles bigger players, and on more than occasion I've seen him explode into a player with a huge hit. The obvious issue with Smith's physical game is that when a much stronger player engages him while he has the puck, he is easily knocked off his feet.

Projected Peak GVT: 3.5

Statistical Comparable: Stacy Roest

98. Michael Mersch, Left Wing, Wisconsin-WCHA

Michael Mersch didn't have a great year from a counting statistics viewpoint, but his rapid physical development and how well he fit in the college game was reason for optimism. He skates at a decent level, and looks like he will be able to move with pros just fine. Mersch's puck skills are average, although he does look uncoordinated at times and his hands shine more when he's playing in front of the net on the power play rather than creating in open ice. He can be adequate though in regards to distributing, but I'm not sure he will be pro-average at that. His frame is already remarkably filled out for a first-time draft eligible, and he's one of the bigger players in the NCAA as a freshman at only 6'2". Mersch can be a handful to deal with in the physical areas, although his strength is not all the way there yet. There is little doubt though by the time he is 20 he will be a physically dominant college player and projects as a solid-average player in that regard in the pro game. He works hard, and all his traits point towards at least a fourth line pro, and possibly more than that if his defensive game is refined.

Projected Peak GVT: 3.5

Statistical Comparable: Jeff Taffe

99. Alexander Kuvaev, Right Wing, Lethbridge-WHL

Alexander Kuvaev did not have a productive season in the WHL, and is the biggest reach in these rankings in regards to a prospect who I'm dubbing as a sleeper who can emerge. He skates at an average level, although he's more of a straight line mover whose mechanics make the finer aspects of his mobility less desirable. His puck skills are his best tool, grading as above-average and several times while watching Kuvaev he can generate some "wow" moments with his puck-handling. He has a big frame at 6'3" and near 200 pounds with a fair amount of muscle on it, and when he's done filling out he projects as an above-average physical player. When Kuvaev engages in the physical game he does quite well, but he isn't consistent in his efforts there. Despite some of these desirable qualities, Kuvaev's hockey sense is a consistent 30 grade, as he just gets lost on the ice or shows instances where he doesn't grasp basic concepts. His work ethic is also wavering at an alarming basis. Kuvaev has some of the physical tools to be a player, but could end up one of those "steak but no sizzle" prospects that well…Sizzles out.

Projected Peak GVT: 3.2

Statistical Comparable: Brian Sutherby

100. Myles Bell, Defense, Regina-WHL

*Disclaimer: This capsule was written after the unfortunate car accident that Myles Bell was involved in. With no details at the time of this writing to the severity of the accident or any future implications, I am not giving Bell an official ranking but rather an honorable mention based on this uncertainty.

Myles Bell is a pro-level skater who accelerates well and rushes up the ice frequently. His puck skills are solid as Bell is very coordinated, has the skill to make defenders miss when he's bringing the puck up the ice with a notable amount of creativity and stick-handling ability. He also distributes the puck at a decent level, and is a very dangerous player on the power play. Bell also has a solid shot and on the power play his point blasts are regularly dangerous. His frame is already pretty filled out and projects well to the pro level, however one pro scout I've talked to questions how much of his weight (6'0", 210 pounds) is muscle and points to poor conditioning as a cause for concern. Bell's conditioning is seen in other aspects of his game, as he can be quite lackadaisical on the ice and does take moments off physically and defensively. On defense Bell is just awful, and is a fringe defensive player if not worse. He doesn't play his assignments well—his positioning is off and offensively he takes too many chances that put his team at a liability.

Projected Peak GVT: 5.2

Statistical Comparable: Sheldon Souray

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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