Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2012 Draft Could Be About Defense

Every year, a player jumps out of nowhere to climb up NHL draft charts, or at least higher than expected. Think Mark Scheifele in 2011. Or Jeff Skinner in 2010.

In 2012, you could be looking at a defenseman to make that jump. Or Quite possibly a goaltender. The OHL hasn't produced a high profile goaltender in the last few years, at least in his draft year. Malcolm Subban (Belleville) and Daniel Altshuller (Oshawa) were the early favorites coming into the season but Matt Murray (Soo Greyhounds) has opened a lot of eyes through the first few weeks of the season.

While Subban has struggled and even given up starts, Altshuller has come as advertised and then some. But Murray has exceeded even his highest expectations.

But the biggest surprise could come from the defense. It is quite possible that we will see half a dozen defensemen taken in the first round, and that is from the OHL alone. Early favorites Nick Ebert (Windsor), Cody Ceci (Ottawa) and Slater Koekkoek (Peterborough) should be there.

It's the next tier where it gets interesting. Olli Maatta is starting to find his groove in London. Jesse Graham is struggling right now in Niagara but should rebound. Alex Gudbranson is in a tough situation in Kingston, where many expect them to finish last.

On the rise is Dylan Blujus who currently leads all defensemen in goals with 4 in 6 games. Matt Finn who is as pleasant a surprise as his Brampton Battalion, is tied for points with Ceci among first time draft eligible defensemen with 8 in 7 games.

One thing is for certain, NHL scouts will have their eyes full with these kids.

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