Center Profiles In depth look at the prospects 6/19/04 -
By James Weise - Sabrefans.com
Evgeni Malkin C Shoots :L 63
186 lbs Magnitogorsk 2) Rostislav Olesz C Shoots :L
61 202 lbs Vitkovice 3) Robbie Schremp C
Shoots: L 511 197 London 4) Kyle Chipchura
C Shoots: L 62 197 lbs Prince
Albert 5) Dave Bolland C Shoots: R 511 171
lbs London 6) Petteri Nokelainen C Shoots: R
61 190 lbs SaiPa 7) Jakub Sindel C Shoots:
R 6 172 lbs Sparta Praha 8) Bruce Graham C
Shoots: L 66 220 Moncton 9) Travis Zajac C
Shoots: R 62 205 lbs Salmon Arm (North
Dakota) 10) Johannes Salmonsson C Shoots: L
62 183 lbs Djurgarden
There isnt a large amount
of debate about who the best center in this years draft is. Evgeni
Malkin has stepped up to claim the title of the 2nd best player in this
years draft and the best center available. The big Russian has gotten
compared to players like Vincent Lecavalier and Joe Thornton by some in the
scouting community and is expected to be taken 2nd overall by the Pittsburgh
Rostislav Olesz is a player that has separated himself
as the 2nd best center in the draft. Olesz has a nice mix of size, leadership,
and playmaking ability that should make him a top 10 overall pick on draft day.
The biggest concern with Olesz is the fact that he has been slow to heal from
the concussion he suffered at the U-20 World Championships when he was leveled
by Dion Phaneuf.
Robbie Schremp is the enigma of this class. His
stock has fallen from the start of the year. Schremps fall started when
he, on the advice of his agent, requested a trade out of Mississauga. Then,
Schremp was benched in the OHL playoffs due to a lack of solid defensive play.
Nobody is denying Schremps immense offensive talent. The issue is all
about his attitude and character. And showing up looking soft to the NHL
pre-draft didnt help. With the Rangers owning two first round picks this
year, I wouldnt be too surprised if they rolled the dice on the talented
center. Especially, if Olesz is off the board at the time that the Rangers are
on the clock.
Kyle Chipchura was the highest rated North American
skater by the NHLs Central Scouting when their mid-term rankings came
out. But a poor year offensively (64 gp 15g 33a 49pts) has led Kyles
offensive upside to be questioned and his draft stock to fall. Chipchura is a
safe pick in that he has the size and character to be a likely NHL player down
the road. The question is whether he has the offensive talent to be a top 2
line center or whether his upside is to be a 3rd line center that gives a team
gritty, physical play and a character guy in the room.
Bolland could be seen as Robbie Schremps alter ego. Bolland has been
described by some as a guy that doesnt look pretty, but he gets the job
done. Hes not big and his skating isnt pretty, but he has been
productive. The big question here is whether hell be able to play the
same sort of game at the next level given his lack of size and a lack of speed.
But a team that looks at the size of Bollands heart more than how big he
is right now, could roll the dice on him in the mid to late 1st round. Bolland
is also the type of player that might make a better RW in the pros than a
Petteri Nokelainen is another guy that is getting the
safe pick label. Hes a hard worker, plays an honest physical game, but
likely wont have top end scoring ability in the pros. Hes also a
player that could be a RW in the pros as well as a center.
Sindel is a guy that falls into the offensively skilled, but small and soft
category. Hes got legitimate top 2 line scoring talent. But his lack of
size and defensive awareness could see him fall to the late 1st to early 2nd
round on draft day. But, his offensive skill could see him go earlier as this
draft looks to have more grinding type players available than pure skill guys
There is one word to sum up Bruce Graham: huge. He
could be compared somewhat to late 2003 1st round pick Brian Boyle. At
66 and 220 lbs, Graham certainly has NHL size. The one thing that
makes him a risky pick is that a decision on whether to sign Graham will have
to be made in 2 years as hes a CHL product. Hes another guy that
could be taken by a team with multiple 1st round picks as hes another
boom or bust type prospect.
Travis Zajac is a player that really
interests me. Hes got nice size at 62 205 lbs. He had a huge
offensive season in Jr A this past year (59gp 43g 69a 112pts). And hes
headed off to North Dakota next season. With the Fighting Sioux losing their #1
center (Zach Parise) to the NJ Devils, Zajac may get a lot more ice time this
year than he originally expected. Zajac is a guy that could turn out to be a
steal as a late 1st or early 2nd round pick.
had an injury marred season. But, he has the raw offensive talent to be a 2nd
round pick this season. Hes another guy that could be a value pick if the
injuries heal and he develops the way people expected heading into this season.
The rest of the class: There are few center prospects outside
of the top 10 that really have a nice mix of skill and size. Although, Carl
Soderberg could be the one exception at 63 198 lbs.
the smaller, offensive minded pivots are Evan McGrath of the Kitchener
Rangers, Peter Tsimikalis of the Ottawa 67s, and Brian Ihnacak of
Some of the bigger, more rugged centers are Vaclav
Meidl of the Plymouth Whalers, Aki Seitsonen of the Prince Albert
Raiders, and Jan Steber of the Halifax Mooseheads.
And then there
are some character players that arent huge or exceptionally talented, but
are hard working honet players. Mikhail Yunkov from Russia, Tyler
Haskins of the St Mikes Majors, and Alexander Plyuschev from
Russia would fall into this category.
Bourques son Chris is expected to be a 2nd day pick. Chris isnt big
at 58 162 lbs and is known to play a chippy style of game.
Hes headed to Boston University to play for Jack Parker and is a player
that will probably take the full 4 years of college before the team that drafts
him decides whether to sign him or not.
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