Alex Gudbranson’s name isn’t among the 210 found in Future Considerations’ 2012 NHL Draft Guide, but that doesn’t mean he is destined to go undrafted in Pittsburgh.
Each and every year there are those prospects that do not get their names listed on final rankings by various draft publications for the NHL Entry Draft but still get drafted. These prospects have shown enough promise to impress a regional NHL scout and earn a spot on the team’s draft list and ultimately become property of that NHL organization.
Here’s a look at which wildcards on the blueline that could be called in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Alex Gudbranson – Kingston – OHL – 6’-2” 205 lbs
The Frontenac defender showed some growth in the second half of this season despite what the numbers say. Gudbranson plays a strong defensive minded game that incorporates physical play and good aggressiveness but he will not likely ever be a NHL puck mover. He does do a good job getting into lanes, blocking shots, and using his size well. Gudbranson could carve a niche as a bottom pairing stay-at-home defender at the NHL level if he continues to work on his gaps.
Petr Sidlik – Victoriaville – QMJHL – 5’-10” 175 lbs
Sidlik is a dependable two-way defender that really does a lot well, but nothing great. He gets his first knock because of his lack of ideal size. He is not flashy nor is he a big offensive generator but the can make strong outlet passes and rarely gets caught out of position defensively. He does try to defend too often using stick checks as he gets overpowered often when trying to use his body. If an NHL squad likes him enough based on his impressive U18 performance for the Czechs be could be a late round project.
Dominic Poulin – Chicoutimi – QMJHL – 6’-2” 185 lbs
Poulin is a very raw and aggressive defenseman who can play the body and make a solid breakout pass. He is also a very good skater who looks smooth and extremely mobile on the ice, something that leads us to think he has some more potential than what he showed us this past season. Defensively he has some rounding out to do as he needs to improve his defensive zone awareness, gap control and maintaining defensive positioning, as he can jump up looking for the big hit when he should just be hanging back. He is a little bit of a tweener but some NHL team might take a flyer on him later in the draft.
Alexandre Leclerc – Rouyn-Noranda – QMJHL – 6’-4” 210 lbs
Anyone looking for a solid shut down defender might want to think of Leclerc as a mid-to-late round selection in Pittsburgh this summer. His impressive lateral mobility (for his size), very strong frame, strong defensive reads and positioning make him hard to beat at the Q level. His game is pretty much non-existent offensively as he makes a good short range pass but does not have the vision nor the hands to carry the puck. He could balance out a blue line as a bottom pairing defensive specialist.
Troy Donnay – Erie – OHL – 6’-7” 185 lbs
He would be considered a major project for an NHL team if they wish to take him on as he has absolutely great size and a frame to build loads of mass upon plus he skates extremely well for his immense size. He has shown only “flashes of getting it” to quote our OHL scout Sean Lafortune when it comes to gap control and defensive zone reads. He needs to utilize his size by playing more physical and more of a mean game although he does use his reach well. Offensively there is not a lot there at this time.
Warren Steele – Kingston – OHL – 6’-0” 185 lbs
Steele had a good season with regards to his offensive contributions to a young Kingston squad but struggled with his play in his own zone. His ability to move the puck up ice both with a good pass or by skating it himself captured the attention of observers. Although his positioning and defensive zone play improved as the season wore on his game never really looked confortable, especailly at the U18’s in April.
Alex Basso – Sarnia – OHL – 5’-11” 190 lbs
After being passed over in the 2011 draft Basso came to Sarnia looking for a fresh start. He used his skating and puck moving skills to contribute as a point producer especial on the power play for the Sting and despite some injury issues made a favorable impression on some observers. He could hear his name called if an NHL squad sees the offensive upside.
Evan McEneny – Kitchener – OHL – 6’-2” 200 lbs
A true wildcard as McEneny only saw two games this past season because of a season ending ACL knee injury which required surgery but showed enough in the pre-season and first two games of last season to perk the interest of scouts. Defensively he was already impressive in his 16-year-old season but this season his offensive game looked as though it might have grown and his willingness to play a strong gritty game in his own zone has many excited.
Myles Bell – Kelowna – WHL – 6’-0” 210 lbs
Bell is a talented kid who has had some off-ice issues that kept him from being a draft pick last season. The solidly built Bell was traded to Kelowna and has continued to produce playing a strong offensive minded game. He is extremely smart with the puck, skates well, makes a great pass and will jump into the play with regularity. Will an NHL team take a chance this year?
Kenton Helgesen – Calgary – WHL – 6’-3” 185 lbs
A big kid with very impressive coverage makes for a strong stay-at-home type defender. He tends to think more defensive minded naturally, getting into lanes and playing the body, but does have some offensive abilities as well. He needs to continue to refine his skill with the puck and his shot but could end up being a steal as someone who might develop into a top six defender.
Michal Plutnar – Tri-City – WHL – 6’-2” 170 lbs
A tall and lanky Czech Import blue liner who does a lot well but at the same time does not do one thing exceptionally well either. He is an average skater who can make a good outlet pass, contribute a little on the offensive side as a support player and play nice defense in his own zone. His physical game would improve with added strength as he does try to use his body with mixed results. He could be on an NHL squad’s radar as a potential project with some two-way upside.
Michael McKee – Lincoln – USHL – 6’-4.5” 230 lbs
A big, physical specimen who dominated the United States Hockey League this year using his incredible size and power game. Was the unmatched heavyweight when it came to fisticuffs and as the season wore on he found it tougher to find a willing dance partner. His skating and overall mobility for his size is very impressive but his puck skills are lacking. He could find a spot as a big power winger or a stay-at-home defender who will police his squad at the NHL level.
Matt Grzelcyk – US NTDP U18 – USHL – 5’-9” 170 lbs
The five-foot-nine smallish sized defender has the slick offensive talent and skating skills to carve out a niche at the NHL level as an effective power play weapon. His lack of size would make it hard for him to play a top four two-way role and be effective in the defensive zone where strength is crucial to battle for ice and the puck against NHL sized forwards unless he can add some considerable muscle to his frame.
Mark Yanis – Muskegon – USHL – 6′-2″ 195 lbs
Good sized kid who certainly plays to it; his skating overall is pretty good but there are times where his feet look a little clumsy and uncoordinated. Played a simple stay-at-home game, keeps the puck out of his net and gets it out of his zone using the most effective means. Plays with a healthy amount of sandpaper and physicality in his game. Likely on an NHL teams radar for the later rounds.
Cliff Watson – Sioux City –USHL – 6′-2″ 195 lbs
Watson is a big bodied kid who moves pretty well and made a huge jump from Wisconsin HS to USHL. Looked to have a little trouble processing the game at a higher speed; stutter steppes occasionally going after loose pucks trying to figure out whether to go after it or stay back. Plays with healthy grit and aggression physically, lets opponents know where he is with stick taps and jabs, and unafraid to engage physically. Will drop down to block shots or do what ever else is needed. A bit of a project, but there are some tools that could entice an NHL organization.
Joakim Ryan – Cornell – ECAC – 5’-10” 180 Lbs
Passed over in last year’s draft, Ryan has gone on to have a very strong freshman year at Cornell where one of our scouts absolutely fell in love with him as a mid-to-late round pick. His size is not great and he does get beat during defensive zone battles due to his lack of strength but he can move the puck, both by skating it out and with a strong heady pass and plays with good intelligence.
Shayne Gostisbehere – Union College – ECAC – 5’-11” 160 lbs
Gostisbehere is an undersized defender who had a very good freshman season for Union as an offense point producing blue liner. He has nice vision and passing ability as well as the skating and hands to carry the puck himself. He does lack strength for those puck battles out there on the ice but uses his smarts to defend using good positioning, taking proper angles and utilizing a quick stick. An NHL team will surely take a look at Gostisbehere as puck-moving defenders are always in demand.
Ori Abramson – Bay State – EJHL – 6’-3” 215 lbs
Abramson is raw but hard working and physically imposing defender who still has a ways to go in his development but also some untapped two-way skills to further refine as he joins Providence College next year. He has made NHL teams note his name as a possible late round project because of his very impressive physical frame and how well he moves. Abramson possesses the upside as a defensive minded defender with some offensive potential at the next level.
Eli May – Eagan – MIN HS – 6’-1” 190 lbs
May has some intriguing two-way tools that will garner attention from NHL scouts. When he is on his game he plays with poise and strong decision-making, coupled with his size that NHL teams will look at and you have a solid prospect. After jumping up the list of our Minnesota scout this past fall, May failed to live up to that early showing during his regular high school season play as he showed signs of complacency and carelessness in his game.
Zakhar Arzamastsev – Metallurg Novokuznetsk – KHL – 6’-2” 205 lbs
While Russians, and Latvians for that matter, will likely always have a bit of a shadow cast on them due to the possibility of the KHL’s allure, NHL teams likely will continue to pluck the good ones out of the mid-to-late rounds regardless. Arzamastsev is a big body defender with good two-way instincts and hockey sense. He could use some help with his first step but has displayed a desire to come to North America and play his pro hockey here.
Damir Galin – Bars Kazan – MHL – 6’-4” 225 lbs
A hulking defensive defenseman who plays a strong stay-at-home game utilizing his long reach and physical strength, but struggles with less than adequate mobility. He can be beaten by the fast forwards to the outside easily but has shown he can make them pay if he gets them along the wall. With that said, Galin is not overly aggressive physically and does not go out of his way to destroy his opponents like he could. Likely to not be drafted as he looks content to stick in Russian and join the KHL after his junior days are complete.
Alexei Bereglazov – Magnitogorsk – MHL – 6’-3” 185 lbs
Bereglazov is a big and mobile defender who uses his size well to defend against the smaller skilled forwards in the MHL. While he still has some filling out to do yet, he already has a very hard point shot and decent on-ice vision but is not expected to be a big point producer as he ascends through the higher levels of competition. He was very impressive as a leader for the Russians at the U18’s this past spring and could be on an NHL teams draft list as a later round project pick.
Dean Kukan – Lulea – Swedish Elite League – 6’-2” 200 lbs
Kukan is a strong puck moving defenseman who really took a leap in his development this season after switching to Swedish development leagues from his home country of Switzerland. He moves well on the ice, thinks the game quickly, makes strong outlet passes but despite his size does not play a physical style of defense. Kukan might hear his name called and if he does it will likely be because of the two-way potential he showed scouts at the World Junior Championships.
Jesper Pettersson –Linkoping J20 – Sweden SuperElit – 5’-8” 150 lbs
Pettersson has the potential to become a later round project as he has the skill and skating ability that NHL teams look for in puck moving defenders, problem is his lack of size could scare potential suitors off. Despite his lack of size he has shown a willingness to be involved in the gritty, greasy battles and has the potential to be a big time sleeper for an organization **Cough** Detroit **Cough** who values his strengths.
Otso Rantakari – Jokerit U20 – Finland Jr A SM-Liiga – 5’-11” 165 lbs
Jokerit’s U20 squad this year was dominant, scoring at over four goals per game while also maintaining strong team defense. While it is true that part of Rantakari’s production can be attributed to playing on an offensive-minded team as well as pairing with leading scorer Esa Lindell, he did show that much of his production was actually from his own strong offensive skill-set as well. He has very impressive vision and passing skills as well as heady defensive reads.