For a description of the methodology in these rankings, please see the Introduction. We'll be revealing more of the Top 100 every few days leading up to the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Full list of Top 100 NHL Draft Prospects
21. Olli Maatta, Defense, London-OHL
Maatta is an extremely advanced defenseman who thinks the game at a very high level. He would have been the #1 defenseman for Finland at the World Juniorsa very rare feat for a top nation at his ageif it wasn't for a concussion early in the event. He regularly logged 25 minutes per game in his first North American season in Londonsometimes touching 30 minutesas he is such a mistake-free shutdown defenseman who makes a very good first pass. Maatta plays a polished defensive style with a good mix of instinctual reads, good stick work, and strong physical play. He's quite strong and effective physically compared to most Europeans who come over, who at times don't have his muscle mass until ages 19-21. He's calm under pressure with accurate outlets. On occasion, he will show a flash of something more offensively in terms of his vision. He isn't a conservative player, though, and when he senses a moment to join the rush or help in the offensive zone, he will. Maatta will be used on the power play, where he displays more offensive creativity than he does at even strength and projects to maybe play a second unit in that role at the highest level. His puck handling is a little rigid, though, and he relies more on his sense and vision to make plays rather than puck technique. Skating has historically been Maatta's biggest issue. He has an awkward stride in terms of his forward hunch and the way he extends through. He has improved in that area, howeverI've gotten mixed reports out of the OHL, with some saying no improvement and other scouts saying it has gotten exponentially better.
22. Nikolai Prokhorkin, Center, CSKA-MHL
The late birthdate has been a scoring force in Russia's Junior league the last two years and has gotten a small amount of KHL action as well. He is listed as a winger, but he plays center and excels as a center. He has not played in major international events, so he doesn't get the limelight but he deserves it. Prokhorkin is a skilled forward with above-average puck-handling abilities who can make things happen in open ice. His best trait is his hockey sense and vision as he's a very creative playmaker who really finds his linemates well and makes a lot of things happen on the ice by being a focal point of the attack. Now while he's a gifted passer, he isn't an over-passer and has the ability to be a decent finisher as well. Prokhorkin is an average skaternot your typical Russian blazerbut he can move just fine. Where Prokhorkin deviates pleasantly from the stereotype for a skilled Russian is he's a big-body forward who likes to play physically. He still needs to put on a fair amount of muscle, but the North American game shouldn't be an issue at all for Prokhorkin.
23. Slater Koekkoek, Defense, Peterborough-OHL
Koekkoek is one of those prospects that I've heard widely differing reports from industry sources on. The top defense prospect whose season was significantly shortened by a shoulder injury will get praise from one scout as a safe, low-upside player and in the other corner I'll hear he's a high-upside boom/bust defenseman
gotta love this industry. From what I've seen, I tend to lean more towards the former. Koekkoek (which is an awesome name to say, may I add) is a pretty good skater with a good first step, smooth four-way movements, a technically sound stride, and quick, powerful feet. His puck skills are a tick above average, but he makes his offensive living with his puck-moving. He's a pretty smart passer who can flash some fine creativity in that area but overall is not that flashy. Koekkoek is very smart though, showing good awareness on the power play when it comes to his decisions, he makes good defensive reads, and plays a pretty mistake-free game. However, I have heard from several scouting sources who have described Koekkoek in the complete opposite manner, stating he will dominate one night, and have several brain cramps per shift the next. What is universally agreed on, though, is that he is a fine physical player who will rub opponents off the puck and do what he has to in that area.
24. Derrick Pouliot, Defense, Portland-WHL
Pouliot is a pretty gifted offensive defenseman who has put up a fair amount of points the last two years on a powerhouse Portland team, but I've also gotten conflicting reports on him from scouts. Pouliot makes his living with the puck as he's an above-average puck-handler who looks smooth and coordinated when he's controlling the puck and is able to make opponents miss. Pouliot shows good creativity and translates that into his distribution game too. He's an accurate passer who can make a great outlet, has confidence and poise under pressure and when distributing into tight lanes and also doesn't hesitate from attempting the difficult feeds and has the ability to be effective doing so. Pouliot is a solid skater who moves around fine. I would like to see a little more speed from a player his size to push his offensive projection over the top but it certainly is a notable strength. Pouliot's defensive game is what I get very split reports on from scouts. Some say he's great defensively, some say he's very physical, and others say he's very soft and is so bad defensively he should be converted to forward. I stand around the middle as I think he can be decent physically, although his size/strength still make it a weakness. I think he can be fine in his own end as well, but he hurts himself with getting too cute in his own end or having a brain cramp as opposed to not having a feel for the position.
25. Brendan Gaunce, Center, Belleville-OHL
Gaunce is a bulking two-way power forward who can also finish and distribute the puck at a high level. He is a really smart hockey player with tremendous instincts and vision on the ice. Even though he's an aggressive checker, he also has the ability to pull up along the side boards, control a power play and be a very effective distributor. Gaunce makes all the little plays consistently with his distribution game and he also is able to show the ability to see and make the difficult passes. Gaunce is a strong player and you see it in his shooting ability as he really leans into his wrist and slap shots, showing plus finishing ability from beyond the blue paint. He is also pretty physically advanced in terms of his frame and muscle mass and is at least in that aspect ready for the next level, although I wouldn't be crazy about him making the jump until he's 19 or 20. Gaunce is dangerous on the forecheck with his strength and work ethic, but also shows as much determination in the other end of the rink, where combined with his hockey sense, it makes him quite an effective two-way centerman. His puck skills are average, though, as he's not one to make a good hands play. He is also is a below-average skater as well who isn't that dangerous in transition.
26. Tim Bozon, Left Wing, Kamloops-WHL
Tim Bozon has not blazed your prototypical path for a prospect. Born in the USA and having donned the France colors in international hockey, he played Junior hockey in Switzerland before transferring to the WHL this year and playing very well on a good offensive team. Bozon is a gifted all-around player who doesn't stand out with high-end possession abilities but does a lot well and certainly has the skill level to project to score at the highest level. He's a good skater who can accelerate quickly and get to a pretty desirable top speed. Bozon shows above-average puck skills displaying creativity, hand-eye coordination, and the ability to make a nice number of skill plays in terms of distributions of making opponents miss. Bozon also has noticeable finishing ability. He potted a large amount of even-strength goals this year, but projects as a good finisher and potentially, even a plus one. He's a gritty player with good intangibles as he will protect the puck well along the boards, pressures well on the forecheck, gets back on defense, and has a bit of an edgy side to his game. Overall, Bozon doesn't have a very noticeable flaw and has enough good traits to make him a safe projection but with scoring upside.
27. Nicolas Kerdiles, Left Wing, USA Under-18 National Team-USHL
Kerdiles is the top forward on the US U-18 team in what has been a weak crop of forwards for them this year. He's not a truly flashy player but certainly has good offensive skills and is a pretty well-rounded player with several offensive elements and gets it done in his own end as well. Kerdiles is a good skater who has a technically sound stride and can really be a pest on the forecheck with his speed. He has solid puck skills with the ability to make the odd move in open ice and shows some creativity off the rush. Kerdiles will flash the ability to be an above-average distributor but is inconsistent in that area as there will be times when he has tunnel vision and doesn't show desirable sense, only to make a great sense play later in the game. He's a hard-working two-way player who will drive the net, pressure physically on the forecheck, and hustle back diligently to help on defense. Kerdiles will also be used on the penalty kill and shows the ability to be effective. He doesn't have a really notable weakness other than his somewhat skinny frame, though as stated above, he doesn't have a standout skill.
28. Daniil Zharkov, Right Wing, Belleville-OHL
Zharkov had a pretty impressive first OHL season despite somewhat underwhelming counting numbers. He's a good skater who hits a desirable top speed, with good first step quickness, showing very good agility and ability to evade defenders. That last part is also due to his puck skills, which are plus, as he can really dangle and has a lot of individual ability. His goal to assist ratio may give the indication of a poor passer or a puck hog, and while he'll occasionally look like the latter, he does show many instances of being a fine puck distributor. Zharkov is much better, though, at making moves and getting into shooting position where he displays high-end finishing ability. He shows a fine physical game, as while he still needs to put on strength, he has a projectable frame and will work hard on the forecheck and when he has to battle along the boards. Zharkov doesn't show that same effort in the other end, and will have to address his defensive game significantly going forward. While he still has some holes in his game, he has great upside and is worth the risk.
29. Ville Pokka, Defense, Karpat-SM-Liiga
Pokka is a pretty advanced young defenseman, as he's played beyond his age group the last two years, including getting a good amount of games in Finland's top men's league at 17 years of age. He also was a key member of Finland's blue line at the World Juniors, an unusual feat at his age for an eventual top-four team. Pokka's hockey sense is certainly impressive as it is at the least above-average but I could certainly argue that it is plus as well. He has a really cool demeanor with and without the puck on the ice. With the puck, his panic threshold is very impressive, which allows him to move the puck well as he won't turn it over, can consistently make long passes, and his decisions are quick. Pokka's defensive work is impressive for his age, as he reads his assignments well, closes his gaps efficiently, and makes all the right reads that allows him to shut down good players. Pokka still needs work in a few areas if he wants to be a truly effective two-way player, though. He will engage physically, but he's not overly threatening in that area, be it with his battle effort or his size/strength combo. He's also a fringe skater who can easily get turned around by faster players.
30. Scott Laughton, Center, Oshawa-OHL
Laughton isn't a really flashy forward who I would traditionally project to become a top-six forward in the pro game, but he's a quick, smart effective player with an average skill level who is a "does all the little things" type of guy in the lineup and seems to always be around the play. Laughton's the kind of player who is a great penalty killer and an above-average face off man and can provide some offense while being leaned on for defensive value. He is a quick skater off the line whose top speed is solid and may flash above average. He moves his feet quickly and does well in transition when it comes to his forechecks and backchecks. Laughton is a competitive player who works hard along the boards in puck battles, and despite a frame that needs weight and strength, he doesn't shy away from the rough stuff and can win a decent amount of his one-on-one match-ups. He isn't a null factor offensively as he has some puck skills and will flash solid vision here and there but tends to be a more instinctual player who makes good off-the-puck readsand while he isn't made in the ideal mold of a puck possession forwardwhen he's on the ice, there are more shots at the opposing end than there are at his.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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