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Boys For Sale – Draft Preview: The Forwards

Just as we did last night, we’ll give you a few names that should, or could, be around when the Hawks pick at #27. Though today Stan Bowman said he’s not averse to losing that pick for something else, so this all might be moot anyway.

Not that the Hawks tend to draft for need, they generally take the best player available, but the system is short on centers. Right now it’s only Teuvo and Danault, so I’m assuming all things being equal they’ll take a center. That said, they’ll probably just take the best player that’s on the board when it gets to them.

Let’s get to it, then:

Nick Schmaltz (Center ) – Green Bay (USHL)

Chris Battaglia on TheScore.ca – Nick Schmaltz spent the last two seasons tearing up the USHL, recording 52 points as a rookie and a team-leading 63 points in his draft year. He is a pass-first playmaker who uses his strong skating, great vision and pinpoint passing to create opportunities.

Schmaltz’s defensive game shows promise, but will need some work. He is strong on the puck and controls the game well in the cycle, which will be key to his success at the pro level if he can translate those abilities.

Schmaltz is the younger brother of Jordan Schmaltz, a 2012 first-round selection by the St. Louis Blues. The brothers will be teammates next season as Nick is committed to the University of North Dakota, where Jordan will be entering his junior year.

Adrian Kempe (LW) – Modo (Sweden)

Mike Reportorio from ProPuckProspects.com – Kempe is yet another player with good hockey bloodlines. His brother Mario currently plays for MODO while his father, Mikael is a coach and General Manager for Malaro in Sweden. This season, after starting out as an assistant captain with MODO’s J18 team, Kempe’s strong performance has earned him a call up to the adult team in the Swedish Hockey League. So far, in 22 games in the top league in Sweden, he has tallied two goals and added another four assists while maintaining a positive plus minus.

He likes to control the puck and has the ability to keep it on his stick. And known for having a heavy shot, Kempe’s wrister has been described as “lethal”. However, with great passing skills, he has displayed more of a playmaker’s mindset, especially early on this season.

Offensively, Kempe also makes waves thanks to his size and strength. A bullish forward, the young Swede drives hard to the net to creates scoring opportunities.

But what Kempe lacks in offensive flair and flashiness, he more than makes up for with pure grit and a strong work ethic. Never passing up on an opportunity to throw a check, Kempe is an intense player who rarely takes a shift off. He is a tenacious forechecker and an aggressive player. So while he will need to improve on his maturity and discipline, he already has the size and strength to play in North America.

A mobile player with speed, Kempe will still need to improve his skating to increase his potential. Rounding out his two way game by improving his play in his own zone should also be a point of focus going forward. Overall though, Kempe displays a high level of skill, competitiveness and smarts. He’s got some work to do but represents a well rounded talent. – See more at: http://www.propuckprospects.com/2013/12/adrian-kempe.html#sthash.tRsoemHp.dpuf

Conner Bleackley (Center) – Red Deer (WHL)

Glen Erickson at HockeysFuture.com – An important leader in Red Deer this past season and for the future, Bleackley is perhaps the most complete player among the current crop of forwards eligible for the NHL Draft. Already the team captain, the 18-year-old High River, AB native is a thick, strong power forward.

At the World U-17 Challenge last year, Bleackley was an assistant captain for Team Pacific, which finished in fifth place at the tournament. He checks in at 6’1” and 195 pounds, a frame that makes him difficult to move off of the puck. He can be a relentless battler in the attacking zone, but maintains his responsibilities defensively. As he matures in the WHL, look for his already solid offensive numbers to increase significantly.

In 71 games this past season, the versatile Bleackley scored 29 times and added 39 assists for 68 points on a Rebels team that struggled to score consistently and missed the playoffs.

Josh Ho-Sang (Center) – Windsor (OHL)

TheScoutingReport.org – Ho-Sang has been a known commodity in scouting circles since a memorable season as an underaged player with the Toronto Marlboros Minor Midget team in 2010-11. The undersized forward is an absolute wizard with the puck and his powerful strides are often enough to beat any defender when he really wants to. Consistency is the major red flag that jumps out with Ho-Sang’s game, however, and is something that really mitigates his upside as a first round pick. The 5-foot-11 forward can be the best player on the ice when he wants to be, but he often takes shifts (or games) off and really leaves a lot to be desired. If he can find some consistency this season there is no doubt that his skill-set alone is up there with anyone in this draft.

John Quenneville (Center) – Brandon (WHL)

Andrew Eide from TheHockeyWriters.com – Quenneville has flown under the radar somewhat this season but has turned into a consistent scorer for the Wheat Kings. He has 21 goals and 45 points through 46 games making him a hair under a point-per-game player.

Note: He’s Joel’s second cousin, apparently. So taking him won’t make Q feel better after they trade Bollig, who is his son. 

Brendan Lemieux (LW) – Barrie (OHL)

Todd Cordell at TheHockeyGuys.com – Lemieux is a very good skater who’s continually improving in that aspect. He reaches his top speed relatively quick, and has improved quite a bit with his stops and starts. He uses his solid skating stride and lower body strength to lose defenders and change directions effectively. Lemieux likes to carry the puck wide with speed, then drive the net after gaining a step over opposing defenders. He’s physical, in your face and always finishes his checks. He plays on the edge, and never shy’s away from physicality. Often times he’ll give players a little whack when the refs aren’t looking, which regularly leads to him drawing calls later on in games. Lemieux is excellent around the net, as he uses a good net front presence to screen goaltenders, and is more than capable of deflecting pucks in tight. He’s very effective in that role on the power play, too. Lemieux isn’t a guy who pots all his goals from five feet out, though. He has a very nice shot and a quick release to boot, so he’s dangerous from a distance as well. Lemieux is excellent in the cycle game, and is very tough to knock off the puck. He’s strong on his skates, and is good coming from behind the net or off the wall with possession. Playing on the top line of a Dale Hawerchuk coached team with two skilled speedsters in Andreas Athanasiou and Zach Hall really seemed to help his game as he’s able to read/react quickly and plays the game at a higher pace than most power forwards. His defensive game is a work in progress, but it is improving and he does see ice on the penalty kill. For the old time hockey fans, he’s not afraid to drop the gloves from time to time, either.

He has good size and is hard to play against and most scouts are projecting him to be a second round pick in the NHL Draft.

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