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
31. Michael Matheson, Defense, Dubuque-USHL
Matheson came into the USHL with a fair amount of hype after turning heads last year playing Midget hockey in Quebec. He did not light up the score sheet as some would have expected, but his skill set still gives a lot of reason for optimism. Smooth, effortless, and pretty are just a sample of the adjectives used in the industry to describe Matheson, with an emphasis on smooth. He's a high-end, effortless skater who gets across large portions of ice in an instant. Matheson's gap control doesn't really require good instincts to be effective due to his four-way movement; he gets to the puck-carrier well without being a great defensive mind. Matheson is a great puck-mover who shows high-end distribution skills. His vision and poise are very admirable, as he sees options through tight lanes very well and his passes fly off the tape of his blade. He outlets very well, he can carry the puck up and distribute it off the rush, and he does good work on the power play. Matheson is really a great prospect outside of two little issues. One is his size, in that he's below-average in that area and is very poor strength-wise. He could also use some work defensivelyI actually heard from a scout that he was used at forward this year at some point. He's not that bad as such a fact would indicate, but he's certainly not a shutdown force either.
32. Nikita Gusev, Left Wing, CSKA-MHL
I do not place Gusev at this point on my list without knowing he will not get drafted here. Russian prospects in Russia already are seen with caution, never mind those who have been passed over twice in the Entry Draft. Gusev, though, is a very desirable talent with tremendous raw possession skills. He's very good with the puck, showing plus puck skills with the ability to be a dangerous one-on-one player who can make a lot happen in open ice. Gusev's best asset though by far is his hockey sense and vision. He's an elite playmaker who can make ridiculous feeds that very few forwards can do. His passes are very crisp and accurate at the same time. He makes quick decisions and can really process the gaps in tight passing lanes as to whether he can make the feed or to pull back and wait for a new option. It is common for Gusev to create a "wow" moment on the ice and it's no surprise Russian scouts I've talked to call him the nation's best kept secret. He doesn't come without his problems, though, as he's listed at 5'9" and that may be just a tad generous. He's also a below-average skater speed-wise, which is not something you want in a small forward, but he is pretty agile and elusive. Gusev is able to be okay defensively, but with his size and skating I'm not sure if that will be a strong point, though with his hockey sense I could see it being fine in the future. There are also industry concerns about how much playing with Nikita Kucherov for seemingly forever has made him look because of their chemistry.
33. Martin Frk, Right Wing, Halifax-QMJHL
Martin Frk has been one of those names in the scouting industry who I've been hearing about for three if not four years already so it should go without saying that he has been highly touted for this draft class for quite some time. Frk is a very skilled player who has the ability thatif he pans outto make a lot of highlight reels. He has excellent puck skills with a lot of flash to his game and looks very coordinated while handling the puck. Frk is also good at handling the puck while getting checked, driving the net, or getting his stick on loose pucks. He has one of the best shots in the draft with a one-timer that rockets off his tape that is equivalent to the shots of elite finishers. Frk certainly has the ability to scare many defensemen and goalies during his career and he will be the kind of forward who will be a fixture on the left point on a power play because of his trigger abilities. Despite being about 6'0", Frk is pretty strong and shows good muscle during his one-on-one battles, has a gritty side to his game, and even with slightly below-average size he'll be fine in the physical game due to a big lower body. His skating is below-average, and while I have heard a scout or two describe it as horrible, I don't think it's that bad and will suffice given his other qualities but his big frame relative to his size contributes a bit to his lack of speed on top of mechanical issues. Another divided topic from scouts is Frk's hockey sense/vision, as some say it's solid and some say it's poor.
34. Charles Hudon, Left Wing, Chicoutimi-QMJHL
Hudon is a great playmaking little man who has racked up a ton up points the last two years in the Q. He's a very creative and skilled player with the puck, showing high-end ability in that area, with the capabilities to create space for himself well and control the puck for lengthy periods of time. Hudon's best asset is his hockey sense as he's a tremendous passer who sees the ice so well and thinks the game in the other aspects at a high level too. He has a good panic threshold with the ability to control the play in tight quarters and still make all the right plays while being checked. Hudon is great on the power play and is very dangerous when he sets up on the side boards. His upside is very desirable, however he has some notable to significant holes. First of all, Hudon is a very small player. He's listed at 5'10" but that's likely overstated. He does attack the physical areas but he can be easily overwhelmed by bigger players. He's also an average skater if not leaning towards below-average and well below-average for a player of his size. If his skating can take a step forward, he has a chance to really be something with his upside, but if not, he may not even hit the NHL.
35. Calle Andersson , Defense, Farjestad- J20 SuperElit
Andersson has been impressive this year, as a player with pro-average size and good puck-moving skills will always turn heads. Andersson is the kind of player who just looks comfortable with the puck and being the starting point of offense for his team. He has good puck skills to combine with a nice calmness and fluidity when he's holding it along the offensive blue line or bringing it up the ice. Calle is an impressive passer, as the puck comes off his stick crisply when he's moving it, in the mold of an offensive puck possession defender. While his assets are his puck-moving skills, he also has some aggressiveness to his game as he will join the rush and activate from the blue line. Andersson has solid size, with a good muscle mass for his age, but while he does engage, I wouldn't say he's overly physical. He's about average in his own end which still gives him notable value considering his talent level and I'm not leaning in any particular direction on his d-zone work. The only real area of concern I have for Andersson is his skating, which is below average. He doesn't labor through his motions, but just doesn't stand out in any particular aspect. Overall, he's a pretty well-rounded player and could be a real find.
36. Mark Jankowski, Center, Stanstead-Quebec Prep
Playing in a pretty obscure league, Jankowski has impressed scouts I've talked to due to his significant growth physically and from a hockey development standpoint over the last year or two. Jankowski is an above-average skater who has a nice fluid look to his movements on top of good agility and top speed, although I should note that not every scout I talked to liked his skating. Jankowski's best asset is his hockey sense, as he's an aware, creative playmaker. He was checked tightly in games this year due to his skill level and the relative low talent level of his peers but he regularly executed above-average distributions and showed the ability to make plays in tight spaces. Jankowski tries to play physical, but despite good size he is not that effective in the physical game due to a significant lack of strength and a beanpole frame. Jankowski has the puck skills and hockey sense to be a noticeable possession player but will need quite a few years of development time. He arguably has first round talent and could be a major sleeper, but due to the fact that I haven't really seen him, I don't feel comfortable putting him that high and this ranking is due to projection uncertainty as much as it is talent assessment.
37. Brady Skjei, Defense, USA Under-18 National Team-USHL
Skjei is quite an intriguing prospect to scout, as while average across the board aside from his size and skating, it's the latter that is clearly visible every time he plays and generates his value. Skjei is a well above-average to elite skater who moves as well as you'll find in a 6'3" player. I've seen instances where forwards would get two or three steps behind him and with a few side steps he would catch up to them. His first step is pretty explosive and makes him very dangerous on the rush as he regularly will take the puck out of his own end and bring it up through the opponent's blue line with ease. Skjei's puck skills are solid for a big man, but compared to a wide talent pool they're pretty average. The same can be said for his puck-moving skills as well which is why despite that one high-end ability, I don't think he has a significant offensive ceiling. In his own end, he uses his mobility well to stay with his checks, but doesn't use his large frame as much as he could and seems a bit timid at times. Whoever drafts him will be betting on the tremendous physical tools and hoping something else in his game takes a jump forward along the way to really propel his value.
38. Damon Severson, Defense, Kelowna-WHL
Severson had a pretty impressive draft season, showing a desirable all-around game. He's a pretty good do-it-all type of prospect, but with an emphasis on his puck-moving skills. He gets regular praise within the industry for his calm demeanor with the puck. He reads the play quickly and effectively, makes a good first pass and has a nice amount of creativity to his game. Severson can control the play on the break outand has the instincts to be a power play quarterback as well. While he gets transition game value from his passing, he's also a solid-average skater who can skate the puck out of his own end and has a pretty good acceleration/agility combo. He has a decent frame for his age and should project to be an average physical player when it is all said and done. Severson has a nice set of intangibles too, which is visible in his physical play. He's a fine defender who can still work on a few things like most players his age as he will have odd brain cramp moments, but he tends to play fine in his own end.
39. Henrik Samuelsson, Right Wing, Edmonton-WHL
The son of Ulf Samuelsson has had an interesting pre-draft career. He turned heads as a 16-year-old with the USNTDP, then went over to Sweden to play for his father but struggled and ended up transferring to the WHL mid-season. Samuelsson is a tremendously advanced physical player, whose body at the least could be NHL-ready in two years if not by next season. He projects as a high-end physical player at the top level due to his strength, grittiness, and the way he protects the puck in battles. That said, I didn't see that high-end physical game as much in the WHL as I have at other times. He has above-average puck skills, and although he isn't going to light the world on fire offensively, he can make creative plays and should be accounted for when his team has the puck in the offensive zone. He plants himself in front of the net well, and when watching him at younger age levels, it was somewhat amusing seeing some defensemen try to dislodge him. His solid hockey sense and vision, when combined with his puck skills and body, are the makings of an above-average offensive player. Skating has always been Henrik's main problem. While his movement is not as horrid as it was one or two years ago, it is still notably below average and he does have mechanical issues with his stride as opposed to the kind of problem a summer of power skating will fix.
40. Tanner Pearson, Right Wing, Barrie-OHL
Pearson has been one of this draft season's surprise stories as the winger entering his third draft eligible season skyrocketed towards the top of the OHL scoring race and grabbed the attention of scouts everywhere. Pearson is a gritty forward who works hard on the forecheck, doesn't shy from throwing his body around, does good work in front of the net, and shows effort in his own end. While Pearson is 19 and turns 20 in August, his frame is somewhat filled and shows good strengths in his battles. He has a desirable offensive element to him, led by his high-end hockey sense. Pearson is a tremendous passer with eyes in the back of his head and can make tremendous feeds and consistently execute above-average ones. Pearson has average hands, maybe a tick above that, but does fine protecting the puck and getting his stick on pucks in front of the net. His main weakness is his skating, which is below-average and doesn't look great off the line, but his top speed is okay although it could certainly be better. Due to his inability to be very effective in the transition game, Pearson projects as a better PP scorer than an even-strength one but will be effective defensively 5-on-5.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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