|Tuesday, January 28
Staal, Fleury top-ranked prospects at midseason
TORONTO -- Peterborough Petes center Eric Staal is the top-ranked North American prospect for the NHL draft, according to midseason ratings released Tuesday by the league's Central Scouting Service.
Staal ranks seventh in scoring in the Ontario Hockey League with 25 goals and 44 assists in 46 games. At 6-3 and 185 pounds, he won the nod over Guelph Storm right wing Dustin Brown, who has 18 goals and 27 assists in 39 games.
University of Minnesota left wing Thomas Vanek, Rimouski Oceanic center Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Oshawa Generals center Nathan Horton round out the top five North American skaters.
Marc-Andre Fleury, who won most valuable player honors with silver medalist Canada at the recent World Junior Championships, is the top-ranked North American goaltending prospect. Fleury is 13-15-5 with one shutout and a 3.20 goals-against average in 37 games with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec junior league.
The top-rated European skater is left wing Nikolai Zherdev, who had one assist in six games for gold medalist Russia at the World Junior Championships. The 6-foot, 180-pounder plays for CSKA of the Russian Superleague.
Czech left wing Milan Michalek, Russian wingers Konstantin Glazachev and Igor Mirnov and Russian defenseman Denis Ezhov are the other European skaters ranked among the top five.
Konstantin Barulin of Russia is rated No. 1 among European goaltenders.
Several North American prospects have ties to former NHL players. Ranked 10th, defenseman Ryan Suter is the nephew of former Calder Trophy winner Gary Suter; No. 11 Zach Parise is the son of former NHLer J.P. Parise; 33rd-ranked Patrick Eaves is the son of Mike Eaves; and No. 37 Jeff Tambellini is the son of Vancouver Canucks vice president of player personnel Steve Tambellini.
The NHL draft will be June 21-22 in Nashville, Tenn.