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June 5, 2011
Top 100 NHL Draft Prospects
11-15

by Corey Pronman

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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

11. Alexander Khokhlachev, Center, Windsor-OHL

Alexander Khokhlachev came over from Russia this season and helped his stock tremendously as he's one of the highest OHL draft-eligible players despite being a few days away from being a 2012 draftee. He has true plus puck skills with very notable hand-eye coordination that allows him to stick-handle very well with displays of unique creativity. His passing skills also range in the above-average to plus variety, as his vision with the puck is great and his passes are generally crisp and on target. Alex can at times be a victim of over-passing instead of taking the shooting lane, which is unfortunate as his shot is actually quite solid. Khokhlachev does exert notable work ethic defensively and in the crease area, but he's just nowhere near an average physical game with a very immature body and he gets pushed around too easily. His skating tool has pluses and minuses—on one hand he has above-average agility and a good first step that allow him to be pretty elusive, but the top speed barely touches pro level. Khokhlachev has one of the top skill sets in the draft class, but the physical game will impede him going forward. That isn't a huge concern though as it would be for most, as his 18th birthday isn't until September so he is expected to be somewhat behind on the growth curve.

Projected Peak GVT: 6.6

Statistical Comparable: Jon Sim

Ranking Explanation: Khokhlachev found his way this high in my rankings because he does the things I like in a forward very well. He's very good with the puck, has high-grade vision, good work ethic and high hockey IQ. The fact he has average speed and well below-average size is why he didn't go higher, but he's so good at the critical things that it created this kind of value for him. In comparing him to Hamilton I had Khokhlachev as a significantly better puck possessor. Hamilton moves at a grade better and his physical game is significantly better than Khokhlachev's, but the discrepancy wasn't enough to force a close decision from the wide difference in possession ability with the prior positional market value factor discussed about taken into account as well.

12. Dougie Hamilton, Defense, Niagara-OHL

Dougie Hamilton has turned many heads this year based on his physical tools and the offensive potential he's brought from the backend. He's a solid skater who can flash above-average speed when he gets going and can extend fully with his long legs and is a well above-average skater for a defender his size. He has a tall 6'4" frame that is going to fill out to be 200+ pounds at some point in the near future. He battles well and at the Major Junior level he regularly outmatched opponents and projects as a plus physical pro player. I'd cautiously grade his puck skills as average, even though it's possible as he gets more coordinated with his body that the tool may even become solid-average and he does flash that on occasion. As of now he can execute the passes you'd want from a defender who you'd project into a top four and he does fine when he rushes the puck up, but isn't a dynamic offensive puck-handler by any means as he relies on his skating to help his rushes as opposed to out-angling players. His hockey sense can be on and off as there are times when he will look collected and poised on the ice, and other times when he will make decisions that will leave you scratching your head. The good news is that the intelligence is there which is the most important part, and you can understand the mistakes he makes when you consider the fact that he switched to the position fairly recently. The bad part is the risk of whether or not he develops the full way and really rounds out his game.

Projected Peak GVT: 8.2

Statistical Comparable: Kyle McLaren

Ranking Explanation: Hamilton probably could've found his way higher on my list if I bought into the hockey sense as above-average instead of around average. Some scouts I've talked to like it, whereas I see some holes in it, and as the primary factor that influences my defenseman evaluations, that had a major influence in his ranking. In comparing him to Landeskog, I had their possession games at a push, although they are driven different ways with Landeskog relying on his smarts and Hamilton his puck abilities. With that at a draw, I went to the physical tools and that too was just about a draw as both of them are physically gifted in regards to skating and their physical game. Landeskog's on-ice work ethic arguably gave him a small edge in value, but when taking into account positional market values at this high on the draft board, it gave the edge that decided Hamilton should be over Landeskog.

13. Gabriel Landeskog, Right Wing, Kitchener-OHL

The most NHL-ready prospect in the draft comes in the form of the powerful winger who has made quite a name for himself since coming overseas from Sweden to the OHL. Gabriel Landeskog has several NHL level or above tools and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him being a notable contributor at both ends of the rink as soon as next season. Gabriel is an above-average skater with good leg strength that lets him get notable power when he extends through his stride and he's a player who's very hard to knock off his feet. He flies all over the ice with his high level work ethic and is consistently a threat to defensemen on dump-ins and when Landeskog forechecks the puck carrier. He's a plus physical player along the boards, in the crease and in open ice with a frame that is filled out way beyond the average teenager and the physical maturity will be able to transition to the pro game next year and be a threat in that aspect. Landeskog has a solid wrist shot with notable mechanics and accuracy that will allow him score at a moderate rate from a distance at the next level. He's very advanced defensively for an 18 year old and contributes in the defensive game with good physicality, positioning, stick work and hustle. While Landeskog is very strong on the puck, the most notable weakness of his game is that his puck skills as a whole are fringe to below-average and he won't be doing things with the puck in the NHL beyond the basics, but his smarts and vision allow him to at least be economical with the puck and not a liability.

Projected Peak GVT: 6.7

Statistical Comparable: Andrew Brunette

Ranking Explanation: While I have quite a few non-conventional rankings, I'm pretty sure this is one that may need a fair amount of explaining. I will start off by stating that I do not think Landeskog is a bad player, in fact my scouting report of him is overwhelmingly positive. Landeskog does a ton of things well and/or at an above-average level. He can skate, shoot, thinks the game well, is a physical beast, and has off-the-chart intangibles on top of other things. There is just one thing he can't do, which is his puck skills that I've graded as fringe, and the fact is for qualities in forwards I have that as the most important as it's the most critical quality needed to control possession. It keeps him from being a top puck-possessor and hurts his offensive ceiling. To summarize, I think Gabriel Landeskog will be a fantastic player at what he does, but what he does is not something I think will be of higher value compared to other prospects above him. With that being said, I have him over a top puck-mover in Joe Morrow. In the evaluation, I had Morrow's possession skills as significantly better than Landeskog's, but still had Landeskog with the edge talent-wise due to the previously mentioned he does a ton well part. I had him as a better skater, scorer, worker, defensive player and significantly better physical player and that helped him out-rank Morrow.

14. Joe Morrow, Defense, Portland-WHL

Joe Morrow entered his third WHL season expected to produce for the powerhouse Winterhawks and he delivered. He's a decent skater with good mechanics, but doesn't show beyond that. Despite that, Morrow regularly rushes the puck up the ice and shows nice agility in how he's able to weave through defenders. His puck skills are above-average to plus, but he is definitely a plus passer. Morrow makes above-average passes with ridiculous ease and he's multi-dimensional in his puck-moving ability. He can stretch the ice on the breakout, bring the puck up very well (and often mind you), and controls the power play effectively. Morrow's physical game right now is fringe, but can likely hit a 45 grade when he's done filling out, which is a ways away as he has a twig-like frame currently. For a smaller defender though, he does protect the puck moderately well, but when he engages he's not that effective. His offensive hockey sense is above-average as he is calm with the puck, senses pressure well and reacts well to the play while it's unfolding. While he does like to get involved in the offense a lot, it's rare that he would do so and make a bad play that would give up an odd-man rush. His defensive awareness though is below-average. It's not horrid, but for a player with his physical game, it still needs to come a ways for coaches at the highest level to trust him with significant minutes.

Projected Peak GVT: 7.4

Statistical Comparable: Richard Matvichuk

Ranking Explanation: Morrow is yet another one of those prospects who excels at the qualities I really value, but is just average if not worse in the rest of his game. In comparing him to one of the more talented players in the draft in Joel Armia, I had Morrow as a better puck-possessor more so due to the fact I don't like Armia's hockey sense than Morrow not having any 60+ tools. I had Morrow as a better skater as well, and despite the fact that Armia is much better physically and a talented shooter, I didn't see reason for him to edge Morrow due to the major holes in Armia's game.

15. Joel Armia, Right Wing, Assat-SM-Liiga

The top prospect out of Finland this season comes in the form of a tall right winger. Joel Armia has plus puck skills and is well above-average for a 6'3", 190 lb. forward. Armia is very confident with the puck on his stick and he has good reason to be. He is able to execute above-average dekes with regularity and is very good in open ice. On more than occasion I've seen him execute a stick-handling move or a mid-distance pass through a tight space that left me saying "wow". He has an above-average shot with the ability to score from notable distances with the tool's accuracy and power. While the frame and his natural offensive tools are a great package, there are quite a few areas of concern with Armia. While he is a tall player, Armia still has a ways to fill out and loses a fair amount of battles that a man his size shouldn't. His hockey sense is decent in regards to his positional play in all zones, however his decision-making with the puck is poor and he too often tries to force the big play with cross-seam passes, deking in dangerous locations, or will chuck the puck at the net with no traffic. His stride is good, but Armia's feet are heavy and the skating tool grades as fringe, but likely could get up a notch with attention to that area. Armia's intangibles and more specifically his consistency are also a question mark. He has one of the best upsides of any forward in the class, but there's a fair amount that he needs to work on.

Projected Peak GVT: 13.2

Statistical Comparable: Olli Jokinen

Ranking Explanation: Armia has the highest Projected Peak GVT in the draft class according to Iain Fyffe's projections, but yet I have him all the way down at 15. One reason for that is due to how Armia got his offense, more specifically his goals. He relied on his shot tool, and by exceeding the percentages from mid-range shooting distances. While he is a good shooter, in a short season sample if a fair amount of your offense is coming from finishing ability, the unreliability in shooting percentage being persistent over a long sample is a cause for concern. His skill set is very good and he has that kind of potential to be a several wins above replacement forward, but there are many concerns/questions about his game about if he can get there. In matching up against Mayfield, I had him against a toolsy player as well. Their possession game was a slight edge for Armia, as even though Armia has significant better puck skills, he's not a good thinker and when you mix in Mayfield's refined defensive game and decent puck-moving ability they both control the game flow at about an equal level. Armia is a significantly worse skater and physically, but a better shooter and it came to a push here. While I was about to give Mayfield the edge based on market values, I went with Armia because of 1) The clear separation in counting numbers performance , 2) Armia has such great upside, and while Mayfield does too Armia has the potential to be an All-star. I can't say that about Mayfield with the same certainty barring a major development boost and 3) The position market values have a lesser effect for above-average players when the defenseman is a defense-reliant player for the majority of his value as that transitions to the NHL slower during the pre-UFA years.

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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