DRAFT CENTRAL: 3 CENTERS OF ATTENTION
By Jason Lockhart
There is some serious debate as to which forward will go first in this year's NHL Entry Draft. There is a logjam of highly skilled North American centers that are likely to be selected in the top ten.
Today we'll sneak a peek at the potential top three centers in this year's NHL Entry Draft. The Islanders will likely need some assistance via a trade in order to select one of these prized prospects.
Thunder Bay, Ontario
2005-2006 Team: Peterborough (OHL)
2005-2006 Stats: GP: 68, Goals: 28, Assists: 40, Points: 68, PIM: 69
If skill runs in the family, then Jordan Staal would be a safe choice for any team in need of scoring.
Brother Eric became a bonafide star this season with the Carolina Hurricanes, and Marc a 2005 First Round pick should soon join the Rangers' blueline.
Some scouts say that Jordan is further along in his development than Eric was at 17, but Jordan shows more signs of playmaking than finishing.
"You can't expect him to be another Eric two seasons into the NHL," opined one GM to The Hockey News. "But he is a great prospect."
Jordan has the build of a power forward and uses his long reach to effectively keep the puck from defenders.
The only negative appears to be his ability to compete hard, but Eric had a similar problem at the same age.
If habits also run in the family, then this concern should not be a serious worry.
2005-2006 Team: Minnesota (WCHA)/US World Junior National Team
2005-2006 Stats: Minnesota GP: 39, Goals: 18, Assists: 33, Points: 51, PIM: 14/WJC GP: 7, Goals: 1, Assists: 10, Points: 11, PIM: 2
The highly touted Phil Kessel was at one point considered the "Sidney Crosby" of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft head and shoulders above the rest.
Kessel has since lost that label, but is still considered to go early in the first round of the Draft.
The dip in hype was caused by his lack of scoring production at the World Juniors, where he only notched one goal in seven games. Kessel's goal scoring production also dropped at Minnesota compared to his totals on the US National Team Development Program.
Despite his decrease in production, Kessel put up enough points  to earn WCHA rookie honors.
"Dynamic" is often used to describe Kessel, who is being compared to Jeremy Roenick, among others.
With his flash and style, Kessel could very well become a major star in the NHL.
2005-2006 Team: North Dakota (WCHA)/Canadian World Junior National Team
2005-2006 Stats: North Dakota GP: 41, Goals: 21, Assists: 17, Points: 38, PIM: 11/WJC GP: 6, Goals: 0, Assists: 2, Points: 2, PIM: 2
A certain breed of players comes out of the University of North Dakota hard workers.
Jonathan Toews certainly fits the profile of one who comes to compete every game and in every situation.
Toews won't just put up points, but can also be used on the penalty kill or in late-game scenarios.
"Toews is one of the more complete players in the draft," one scout told McKeen's Hockey Prospects. "He has elite dangle, outstanding imagination and impressive dedication at both ends of the ice."
A fine effort leading North Dakota to this year's NCAA Frozen Four bumped Toews up to 2nd on the International Scouting Service's listing.
The 2006 NHL Entry Draft is scheduled for June 24th in Vancouver, BC.