Tuesday, September 9, 2008

More Hockey's Future: Top 20 Prospects, SM-Liiga

As you know, we've been posting Badgers that make HF's Top 20 lists as the Fall 2008 edition for each NHL team is released. Anyway, HF has released a few more teams, as well as feature on SM-Liiga. A number of Badgers make the Top 20 lists, and Badger Bernd Brückler and Coach Eaves' son Ben are mentioned in the SM-Liiga feature.

Montreal Canadiens:
2. (2) Ryan McDonagh, D, 19
Acquired 1st round, 12th overall, 2007

The Canadiens have placed a premium on blueliners over the past few seasons, and McDonagh represents the cream of the crop. Not only does he possess solid size on the blue line, at 6'1 and well over 200 pounds, but he represents the type of defenseman who's prized throughout the league -- a mobile, puck-moving presence with the ability to both start and finish the rush.

His skating has been described as "dimensional" by the team's player development guru, Trevor Timmins. McDonagh is expected to anchor a strong University of Wisconsin blue line this year. He is also expected to play a key role on Team USA for the upcoming WJC, despite being left off the squad last season.
Other notables: Patrick Johnson, C

Columbus Blue Jackets:
5. (NR) Cody Goloubef, D
Grade 7.0C Projection: Top 4 defenseman
Age: 18 Height/weight: 6'0, 195
Drafted 37th overall, 2008

Goloubef had a very good season in the NCAA, where impressively he played a regular shift as an 18-year-old defenseman. He finished the year with 10 points in 40 games for the Badgers. An extremely smart defender who makes an excellent first pass, Goloubef plays very well in his own end. He plays smart and safe, but there also is a good deal of offensive upside to his game.

Toronto Maple Leafs:
10. (6) Robbie Earl, LW, 23 -- Toronto Marlies (AHL) - 7C
Acquired: Sixth round, 187th overall in 2004.

While Earl improved during his second AHL season, he has yet to show the goal scoring touch that he did at the University of Wisconsin. The swift winger followed up his 12-goal, 30-point rookie season with 14 goals and 47 points last year, which earned him a nine-game stint with the Leafs that resulted in one assist. At times he was the best player on the ice last year, but there were also times he failed to make any impact at all. There is no questioning his speed and game-breaking ability from the wing, but whether or not he will ever produce like he did in college when he scored 41 goals and 90 points during his last 80 games, is another question. Earl will head to camp this fall hoping to lock down a spot on one of the Leafs' scoring lines with an impressive camp. No matter where he plays in 2008-09, he will have to produce more offensively to keep his prospect status.

New York Rangers:
11. (N/A) Derek Stepan, C, 7.5D
Age: 18
Acquired: Second Round, 51st overall, 2008 NHL Entry Draft

A boom or bust prospect, Stepan was a major force at Shattuck St. Mary’s during the 2007-08 season. His 44 goals and 111 points led the team last year. Now a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, Stepan is a very good skater, with excellent hands, and a fast release. A natural playmaker, Stepan has a knack for making the right pass, and the speed to make things happen. Stepan will be looking to take his game to the next level on one of the best teams in collegiate hockey. Unlike some other hockey players, who take an extra year before beginning college, Stepan was extremely anxious to join the Wisconsin Badgers at age 18, and currently is one of the youngest players on the team. It is hard to predict at this point how long it will be before Stepan is ready for a professional hockey career. There is no question that he has a lot of potential, but it will be awhile before the Rangers know whether Stepan will be boom or bust.

LA Kings:
Other Notables -- Davis Drewiske (D), Joe Piskula (D)

Finnish SM-Liiga prospects 2008-09 season preview

Like Karpat, Espoo Blues will have a primarily veteran lineup as they prepare for Champions League and SM-Liiga play. However, unlike their Northern rivals the Blues were able to keep much of their lineup intact – including top two scorers Ryan Keller and Stefan Ohman. Keller, a 24-year-old former Saskatoon Blade, is one of three North American imports for the Blues along with defenseman Dale Clarke and former Penguins’ draft pick Ben Eaves. Coach Petri Matikainen should have another strong club this season.

Austrian goalie Bernd Bruckler was drafted by the Flyers in 2001 and played college hockey at the University of Wisconsin (where Eaves’ father Mike is the head coach). Bruckler was a workhorse for the Blues last year and should again handle the bulk of the goaltending duties. Antti Harma (a 1987-born goalie) gained some professional experience last year playing for KooKoo (Mestis) and was also on the Finnish junior team in 2007. Mika Korhonen (21) and Mikko Koskinen (20) split the duties on Espoo’s A junior club.