Taylor Hall was graded first in the NHL central scouting midseason rankings earlier this month, but there is no consensus among a handful of chief scouts employed by NHL teams.
We enlisted the services of five NHL scouts who attended the Home Hardware top prospects game in Windsor on Wednesday to supply CBCSports.ca with the way they see the 2010 NHL entry draft unfolding in Los Angeles in late June.
Three of our scouts chose Hall of the Windsor Spitfires first overall, while one scout liked Plymouth Whalers centre Tyler Seguin and another birddog selected Spitfires defenceman Cam Fowler as his top pick.
Why the divergent set of opinions? One of our veteran scouts probably summed it up best, stating that each of the Big Three are so close in their level of play that a team’s needs will depend on which teenager will be drafted first, second and third.
"If the team needs a winger, it’s Hall," said the scout. "If a team needs a defenceman, it’s a no-brainer to go with Fowler. If you need a centre, you’re not going to be disappointed with Seguin. You can’t lose with any of them."
One of our scouts, however, was adamant that the speedy Hall was a cut above the rest because of his wonderful skating ability.
"I haven’t seen many players at this level skate as well as Hall does," said the scout, a former pro who has been in the scouting business for 25 years. "The only comparison I can make is [Scott] Niedermayer. But, of course, he plays a different position."
With time running out on the juniors and United States college seasons, here is how our scouts rate their top-10:
1. Taylor Hall, 6-1, 185, LW (Windsor, OHL)
With the exception of settling for silver with Canada at the recent world junior tournament, championships follow the Kingston, Ont., native around … He has tremendous speed, which makes him an offensive force and a dangerous penalty killer … Possesses a good attitude and is willing to work on his defensive game.
2. Tyler Seguin, 6-1, 180, C (Plymouth, OHL)
Father Paul played at the University of Vermont … Tyler is the Plymouth’s captain, even though he doesn’t turn 18 until Jan. 31 … Idolized Steve Yzerman … The Brampton, Ont., native prides himself in his two-way play … He is the OHL scoring leader with 71 points in 42 games … A good face-off man and playmaker.
3. Cam Fowler, 6-2, 195, D (Windsor, OHL)
In OHL rookie, he chose the Spitfires over the college route and going to Notre Dame … Won gold with the United States team at the world junior … The Farmington Hills, Mich., native an effortless skater and strong puck handler … Can run a power play because of his ability to move the puck.
4. Alexander Burmistrov, 6-0, 162, C (Barrie, OHL)
Alex Ovechkin-light may be hefty praise, but this kid is a dynamic offensive player … The Kazan, Russia native played for his country at the world junior … He scored nine points in his first three OHL games with the Colts … He is explosive and has good hands in the offensive zone.
5. Riley Sheahan, 6-1, 202, C (Notre Dame, NCAA) The youngest player in U.S. College this season (he turned 18 on Dec. 7) … The St. Catharines, Ont., native thinks the game well in all three zones and will only get better with experience and increased size … He scored on his first shot on goal for the Fighting Irish.
6. Nino Niederreiter, 6-1, 205, RW (Portland, WHL)
The Chur, Switzerland native only turned 17 last Sept. 8 and instantly became a fan favourite at the world junior in Saskatoon because of his on-ice charisma … Portland coach Mike Johnston has raved about Niederreiter’s attitude and willingness to learn as well as how well he has fit in with his North American teammates in his first season.
7. Erik Gudbranson, 6-4, 195, C (Kingston, OHL)
He hasn't played since Dec. 13 due to a case of mononucleosis after collecting 17 points in 25 games in his second season with the Frontenacs … The Orleans, Ont., native also has been hampered by a knee sprain … The physical blue liner is mobile for his size and can rush the puck.
8. Brett Connolly, 6-2, 181, RW (Prince George, WHL)
His stock has tumbled because a hip flexor injury has limited him to only 12 games. But he has seven goals and 13 points in his dozen outings … When healthy the Prince George, B.C., native can be a dominant player … Last season with the Cougars, he won WHL rookie-of-the-year honours with 30 goals in 65 games.
9. Emerson Etem, 6-0, 190, RW (Medicine Hat, WHL)
In his second WHL season, the 17-year-old has 31 goals in 50 games … The Long Beach, Calif., native comes from an athletic family. His mother, Patricia, was on the 1980 and '84 U.S. Olympic rowing team. His father, Rick, rowed for the Naval Academy. His older brother, Martin, is on the U.S. Under-23 national rowing team … Got into hockey by playing the roller version on a rink down the street.
10. Kirill Kabanov, 6-2, 173, LW (Moncton, QMJHL)
The skilled Russian-born developed forward is a bit of a wild card because of his limited play … He arrived in Moncton late because of a legal battle over his playing rights, and then suffered a wrist injury in November … The ailment required surgery and the Moscow native isn’t expected to return until mid-February … He managed 14 points in 11 games before the injury.
Others receiving votes: Brandon Gormley D (Moncton, QMJHL), Mark Pysyk, D (Edmonton, WHL), Vladimir Tarasenko, F (Novosibirsk Siber, KHL), Jack Campbell, G (U.S. under-18), Derek Forbort, D (U.S. under-18), Calvin Pickard, G (Seattle, WHL), John McFarland, C (Sudbury, OHL).