DRAFT CENTRAL: 5 Fantastic Forwards
The NHL Entry Draft is just a week away, and the excitement is building at the Coliseum as we get set to host our 2006 NHL Draft Party at 5:00 pm on Saturday, June 24.
Today, we discuss five promising forward prospects from North America.
2005-2006 Team: Drummondville (QMJHL)
2005-2006 Stats: GP: 58, Goals: 44, Assists: 72. Points: 116, PIM: 92
Central Scouting Bureau Rank: 4th (NA)
Derick Brassard was one week too young to be eligible for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. The extra year in Juniors paid off.
Brassard nearly doubled his goal output scoring 44 in the '05-'06 campaign compared to 25 in '04-'05 for his QMJHL Drummondville squad.
His skating is exceptional. He has the ability to go end-to-end, but is also tough to stop in close quarters because of his quick turns. He's been used as the point on the powerplay, but can also play down low.
Brassard is a steady two-way player who kills penalties well. His quick stick makes him a constant threat while a man down. He may not look big, but he plays big, going hard to the net and taking the body in the right situations.
2005-2006 Team: Everett (WHL)/ Under-18 US National Team
2005-2006 Stats: Everett - GP: 52, Goals: 26, Assists: 32, Points: 58, PIM:
44/ WJC - GP: 7, Goals: 2, Assists: 4, Points: 6, PIM: 26
Central Scouting Bureau Rank: 6th (NA)
Peter Mueller is a deceptive skater who picks up the pace while in control of the puck.
Mueller has the uncanny ability to lift his teammates' level of play and create space for his linemates. He also creates space for himself, constantly being in the right place at the right time. Mueller is a gifted passer with superb vision.
Offensively potent, Mueller is also reliable defensively and in important situations. US Junior National Team coach Walt Kyle went with Mueller in the final period of a close game against the Czech Republic. "I shortened my bench and he was one of the guys I shortened it to," Kyle told The Hockey News. "And if I had to shorten it to six forwards, I'd have put him in that six."
2005-2006 Team: Barrie (OHL)
2005-2006 Stats: GP: 64, Goals: 42, Assists: 67, Points: 109, PIM: 99
Central Scouting Bureau Rank: 7th (NA)
There's not much Bryan Little can't do. He's an effective faceoff specialist, a point man on the power play, a playmaker and a goal scorer. He earned the hardest worker, best playmaker, most dangerous in the goal area and best on faceoffs honors in the OHL - voted on by coaches - following the 2005-2006 season.
Don't be fooled by his size. Little does not back down from physical play and has a knack for carrying the puck through crowds. His competitiveness makes him a scrappy penalty killer, and like Brassard, is highly capable of scoring while shorthanded.
Little is known for dominating games and making the perfect pass through traffic.
St. Paul, Minnesota
2005-2006 Team: Des Moines (USHL)
2005-2006 Stats: GP: 50, Goals: 27, Assists: 31, Points: 58, PIM: 56
Central Scouting Bureau Rank: 11th (NA)
The University of Minnesota prospect is a steady two-way forward. Kyle Okposo can produce on the power play and contribute shorthanded as well.
Okposo is a powerful skater who is dangerous coming out of the corners. He takes hits well and dishes them out just as effectively. He plays hard and stickhandles well in traffic. His hard-nosed, no-quit style is complemented by his soft hands.
Okposo is defensively responsible and not afraid to sacrifice his body to block a shot. His intelligence makes his game effective at both ends of the ice.
A couple of years playing at Minnesota will help develop Okposo into a premier NHLer.
Sackville, Nova Scotia
2005-2006 Team: Cape Breton (QMJHL)
2005-2006 Stats: GP: 66, Goals: 30, Assists: 54, Points: 84, PIM: 78
Central Scouting Bureau Rank: 9th (NA)
James Sheppard is a workhorse at the pivot position, logging loads of ice time while playing on both the power play and penalty killing units.
Described as a power forward, his size makes him valuable along the boards and in front of the net. Sheppard protects the puck well and is difficult to knock off his feet. He also battles hard for loose pucks.
Along with his strong puck control skills, Sheppard sees the ice well and is a capable playmaker. His shot is hard and released quickly.
Foot speed is the lone issue, but his size, strength, shot and playmaking ability leave little downside to this Nova Scotia native.