2007 NHL Entry Draft: Players to Watch

2007 NHL Entry Draft: Players to Watch

2007 NHL Entry Draft: Players to Watch
June 18th, 2007

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This year's draft is expected to be a wide-open affair and fans should be prepared for surprises beginning with the very first pick.

None of the players are considered to be a can't-miss prospect in the mold of Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin, but there is still plenty of talent available.

The No. 1 pick will likely be right wing Patrick Kane or centerman Kyle Turris, but even that's not a certainty.

The lack of a standout name may also lead to a rush of trades as teams near the top of the draft consider helping their team by swapping a high pick for more established players.

Here is a look at some of the names you will see called on Saturday.

PATRICK KANE - RW - London (OHL)

Kane is the top-rated skater by International Scouting Services after turning in an unbelievable rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League. The Buffalo, NY native led the OHL in 2006-07 with 145 points (62 goals, 83 assists) while playing in 58 games for the London Knights. Kane also tallied five goals and four assists as member of Team USA's bronze-medal winning squad at the 2007 World Junior Championships. Kane has good speed, but his scoring prowess is primarily a result of his excellent stickhandling. At 5-9, 160 pounds, Kane has always had something to prove and so far he's exceeded expectations every step of the way.

KYLE TURRIS - C - Burnaby (BCHL)

Turris could be the best prospect to ever come out of the tier II British Columbia Hockey League. It was his size that originally kept Turris out of the major junior leagues, but his six-foot frame shows that he has since grown into his skill. He is the top-rated North American skater by NHL Central Scouting after notching 66 goals and 55 assists in 53 games for the Burnaby Express last season. Turris has blazing speed, a hard shot, excellent vision in the passing game, and may be the first BCHL player to go first overall in the NHL Entry Draft.

ALEXEI CHERAPANOV - RW - Avangard Omsk (Russia)

Cherapanov, the top-rated European skater by Central Scouting, turned heads this year with an amazing season in the Russian Super League. The "Siberian Express" played in 2006-07 for Avangard Omsk and his 18 tallies set the RSL record for goals by a rookie, breaking the mark of 17 set by Pavel Bure in 1988-89. Cherapanov's 29 points were more than Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk scored as rookies in Russia's top league. The speedy winger also led Team Russia to a silver medal at the 2007 World Junior Championships and was named the tournament's Top Forward after leading all scorers with eight points (5 goals, 3 assists).

JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK - LW - U.S. NTDP

The native of Middletown, NJ is already 6-3, 205 pounds and could fill out that frame and become a big-time power forward in the NHL. Van Riemsdyk is the third-rated North American skater by NHL Central Scouting and the second- ranked skater on the ISS board. He tallied 33 goals and 30 assists in 43 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program last season and also helped Team USA win the bronze medal at the 2007 World Junior Championships. He will attend the University of New Hampshire in the fall of 2007 and should hone his game with the Wildcats.

KARL ALZNER - D - Calgary (WHL)

Alzner may be the best defenseman in this year's draft and is the sixth-ranked overall skater by the ISS. He registered 47 points (8 goals, 39 assists) and was a plus-16 in 63 games with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL in 2006-07. Alzner was also the youngest defenseman on the gold medal-winning Team Canada at the 2007 World Junior Championships. This Burnaby, BC native is an excellent passer and strong skater who also knows how to use his 6-2, 206- pound frame. Alzner projects as at least a solid two-way defenseman in the NHL.

JAKUB VORACEK - C - Halifax (QMJHL)

This native Czech had an excellent start to his Canadian junior career as he notched 86 points (23 goals, 63 assists) for the Halifax Mooseheads in 2006-07 and was named the QMJHL's Top Offensive Rookie. His 63 assists, a Moosehead record, clearly show the type of playmaking skill Voracek has at his disposal. He also played for the Czech Republic at the 2007 World Junior Championships and helped his team finish fifth. The fifth-ranked skater by ISS also has superior speed and strength and is a menace in the offensive end.

KEATON ELLERBY - D - Kamloops (WHL)

This Albertan is the fourth-rated North American skater by NHL Central Scouting and the top-ranked defenseman on that list. Some scouts have him ranked higher than Alzner probably because Ellerby has two inches on the 6-2 Alzner at this point. Ellerby posted 25 points and 120 penalty minutes in 69 games with the Kamloops Blazers in 2006-07. He has good speed, size and passing ability, and won the hardest shot competition at the 2007 CHL Top Prospects Game. Ellerby also has the NHL in his bloodline as he is the cousin of Shane Doan, who is currently the captain of the Phoenix Coyotes.

SAM GAGNER - C/W - London (OHL)

Gagner is the teammate of Patrick Kane and, like his fellow London Knight, has the ability to light up a scoreboard. The sixth-rated North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, Gagner posted 118 points (35 goals, 83 assists) in 53 games with the Knights in 2006-07 and finished second amongst OHL rookies in points to Kane. The Oakville, ON native is a superb puck handler and playmaker and was the youngest member of Team Canada's gold medal-winning team at the 2007 World Junior Championships. Gagner's father, Dave, was selected by the New York Rangers with the 12th overall pick in the 1984 draft and ended his NHL career with 719 points.

MIKAEL BACKLUND - C - Vasteras (Sweden)


A knee injury hampered this Swede's 2006-07 campaign with Vasteras, but still has a great shot to go in the top-10. Is the second-rated European skater by NHL Central Scouting despite notching just one goal and two assists in 18 games during the 2006-07 Swedish Allsvenskan. However, Backlund was the leading goal scorer in the 2007 WJC-U18 as he posted six goals and one assist to help Sweden finish fourth in the tournament.

DAVID PERRON - LW - Lewiston (QMJHL)

Perron is an excellent skater and stickhandler who has the ability to blow by defending players and those attributes should make him feel at home in the modern NHL. He played in 70 games for Lewiston of the QMJHL in 2006-07 and led all rookies with 39 goals and a plus-37 rating. Perron was also second amongst QMJHL rookies with 83 points. The Sherbrooke. Quebec native has jumped up the ranks in recent months and may be taken early as eight or possibly fall to the middle of the first round.

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