With the Carolina Hurricanes sitting near the bottom of the NHL standings, it's never too early to look ahead to the draft. With TSN's Bob McKenzie releasing his Midseason Top 30 Draft Rankings, I figured I'd kick off my work on the NHL Draft with a top 10 list of our own — including videos of each player (the best we can find, anyway).
1. Taylor Hall, LW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL) — Hall has been at or near the No. 1 spot for seemingly years now, and halfway through the 2009-10 season he still belongs there. While Hall didn't cement his spot at the top of the draft with his play at the World Juniors, he is a Memorial Cup MVP and perhaps the OHL's most dangerous player.
2. Tyler Seguin, C, Plymouth Whalers (OHL) — If the Hurricanes land the top pick in the draft and take Seguin, it won't be simply because he's a member of the Peter Karmanos-owned Whalers. Right now the gap between Hall and Seguin is thin, and Carolina will have more insight into what kind of player and person Seguin is than any other NHL team. Plymouth GM/coach Mike Vellucci should be able to give Jim Rutherford and his scouting staff an objective analysis, and if Hall and Seguin are close based on play, Vellucci's opinion of Seguin's work ethic and character will likely go a long way in deciding who goes first.
3. Cam Fowler, D, Windsor Spitfires (OHL) — Fowler came away a winner with Team USA at the World Juniors, but didn't gain much ground Hall or Seguin. Still, he has a good grip on the top defenseman spot and could make headway with a good showing in the OHL playoffs. Fowler's combination of size, skating, skill and smarts makes scouts drool, and while he's not a punishing defender like Chris Pronger, he's more physical than Jay Bouwmeester but with comparable attributes. You'll see here what a good skater he is as he nearly matches Hall's speed.
4. Brett Connolly, RW, Prince George Cougars — Despite being slowed by injury, Connolly is still creating a buzz for the upcoming draft. Connolly brings more size than Hall and Seguin, but still beats his opponents with skill. You'll see his explosiveness in this clip at about the 1:40 mark.
5. Brandon Gormley, D, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) — Gormley is Fowler's top competition to be the first blueliner selected in the draft. Gormley, like Fowler, has offensive upside while being reliable in his own end. Some compare him to a poor man's Nicklas Lidstrom.
6. Mikael Granlund, C/W, HIFK (SM-Liiga, Finland) — Granlund earns the top Euro spot (at least for now) on the list despite a sub-par World Juniors showing. The Finnish forward is an offensive dynamo with spectacular vision who is capable of making a perfect pass or finishing a play. The one drawback is he's not overly big or fast, but his hands are difficult to ignore.
7. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, Sibir Novosibirsk (KHL) — Tarasenko has an undeniable skill set — watch the video below — but playing in the KHL isn't exactly the best way to get exposure or be scouted. It's also a red flag for many NHL teams. That being said, Tarasenko skill level will intrigue one team enough to make him a high pick. The question is not can he develop into a productive player, but can you get him to North America.
8. Erik Gudbranson, D, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) — If you want a little more grit than Fowler or Gormley, but still solid all-around play, look no further than Gudbranson. By most accounts, Gudbranson isn't as smooth as our two previous d-men, but he makes up for it with character, leadership and excellent size.
9. Alexander Burmistrov, C, Barrie Colts — Like Granlund, Burmistrov is neither big nor stunningly fast, but it's hard to miss his stick skills and compete level. Since he's a Russian already playing in the CHL, Burmistrov has an upper hand on his fellow countrymen. But that's what people thought of Nikita Filatov, too, and we know how that's hashed out. You'll see him all over the place (No. 8) in this Russian video from last year's U-18s, including a goal around the 4:20 mark.
10. Mark Pysyk, D, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) — Pysyk rounds out our list. It's hard to make an impression on such a poor team, but Pysyk has done that with the dreadful Oil Kings. He has been an anchor on the Edmonton blueline since joining the team, and like the other top defensemen he combines size, skill and skating with some toughness. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any worthwhile video of Pysyk.