The Hockey News: Draft dreams

MISSISSAUGA, ONT. Another draft combine is in the books, so let’s shine the spotlight on some of the players who made their presence felt at the annual fitness exposition. Some scouts believe a prospect should be in the best physical shape possible by the combine and the following youngsters helped their own cause in that regard.

Let’s count down some of the kids we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.

1. Evander Kane, C – Vancouver Giants (WHL): Tavares and Hedman are locks at the top, but then what? Matt Duchene is the likely No. 3, but Kane looked mighty impressive at the combine, showing off an NHL-ready physique to go with his 96-point regular season in the Dub. Draft eligible in 2009.

2. Carter Ashton, RW
– Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL): Long and lean, Ashton turned heads in the Dub this year thanks to his skating and scoring ability, notching 30 goals in 70 games after only playing half the season in 2007-08 due to injury. "I’ve always been a lanky, bigger player," said Ashton. "I wanted to get off to a good start." The 6-foot-3, 205-pound right winger also got off to a good start at the draft combine, putting up 11 bench presses and registering a solid reading on the vertical leap. Of course, the latter half of the workout is where prospects prove themselves. "When you get to the bikes, you know you have some work ahead of you," Ashton said. "Then you just get in a zone." Far from going into his draft year blind, Ashton has always been able to lean on his father, Brent, who played 14 NHL seasons with a staggering nine teams. "He’s been a big influence; he coached me up until bantam," Ashton noted. "But he knows it’s in my hands. What I learned from him was commitment and sacrifice." With that mindset and the physical tools to be an impact player, it’s not hard to picture the younger Ashton patrolling the wing in the big league in the near future.
Draft eligible in 2009.

3. Jordan Schroeder, C
– University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (WCHA): Fact No. 1: Thanks to the combine, we know Schroeder is officially a hair under 5-foot-8. Fact No. 2: Based on his thick, 200-pound frame, Fact No. 1 probably doesn’t matter. Schroeder was big on the bench press and he’ll lead the Gophers in scoring next year if he returns. Draft eligible in 2009.

4. Michael Latta, C
– Guelph Storm (OHL): Latta provided one of the high comedic moments of the combine when he let out a boisterous "Wooooo!" after completing the Wingate bike test. The Guelph product has a solid frame and a big upper body for winning those corner battles. Draft eligible in 2009.

5. Dmitri Orlov, D
– Metallurg Novokuznetsk (KHL): Having played with and against men in the Kontinental League this season, it’s no surprise Orlov looked calm and collected during his fitness run – even the VO2 Max bike didn’t seem to faze him. As for adapting to North America, Orlov allegedly keeps his English remarks to one deferring word: "Agent." Draft eligible in 2009.

6. Carl Klingberg, LW
– Frolunda Indians (Swe.): Scouts love Klingberg’s crash-and-bang game and the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Swede seems like a perfect import for North America. Klingberg looked effortless during the combine’s trunk flexion (curl-ups) station and core strength is very important in the pro ranks. Draft eligible in 2009.

7. Mac Bennett, D
– Hotchkiss Bearcats (Conn. Prep):American high schoolers performed very well at the combine and Bennett was no exception. The University of Michigan commit was extraordinary on the vertical leap, especially considering he’s just a shade under 6-feet. Great all-round athleticism. Draft eligible in 2009.

8. Alexander Fallstrom, RW
– Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres (Minn. Prep): A Swedish national playing in Minnesota, Fallstrom also proved how nice the weight rooms at prep schools are with his combine performance. His 80 points at Shattuck was one better than fellow combine attendee Erik Haula this year. Draft eligible in 2009.

9. Ryan O’Reilly, C
– Erie Otters (OHL): Always a little underexposed due to his playing in Erie, O’Reilly is nonetheless a great talent who has consistently put up points on Otters teams that don’t boast big-number scorers. His combine work was exemplary. Draft eligible in 2009.

10. Chris Kreider, C
– Phillips Andover Big Blue (Mass. Prep):One of the first to go through the combine fitness tests, Kreider was also one of the first to tear it up, adding to his already impressive resume. A high schooler with wheels, Kreider is a sure first-rounder at this point. Draft eligible in 2009.

The Hockey News: The Hot List: The Hot List: Draft dreams.