2011 NHL Entry Draft: Players to Watch

BUFFALO NY - DECEMBER 31: Forward Andrej Kudrna #23 of Slovakia battles for the puck with forward Joel Armia #20 of Finalnd during the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championship game between Slovakia and Finland on December 31 2010 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

I've run up against some time constraints this week, and I actually won't be around this weekend for the draft itself, so forgive the fact that I didn't get all up that I had promised.  Its been a bit of a hectic time.  I'll touch on the Finnish players and the Czech players in the post-draft analysis. 

Here are some players to watch this weekend.  Some of them are high up on the draft lists, while others seem to be secrets.  

Joel Armia, RW, Ässät (SM-Liiga) Fi_medium

The big goal scoring winger will make it two straight years that a Finnish forward has been taken in the first round.  This is huge for the generally offense-starved country, and as such Armia has come with a fair amount of hype for a likely mid-first round pick.  His first SM-Liiga goal remains one of the most visited items on this website, and he managed to add 17 more of them in the season, plus two more in the playoffs.  Its a huge output for a Finnish rookie, and combined with a strong U18 tournament Armia has shown that hes as much about results as he is about potential.  Big, goal-scoring wingers with puck skill don't come around too often.

Dmitrij Jaskin, RW, Slavia Prague (Cze EL) Cz_medium

Russian born, but Czech raised, Jaskin is an endangered species in the hockey world:  a potential first round pick still playing in the Czech Republic.  Injuries derailed his season, forcing him out of the U20s and limiting him to only 34 club games this year.  He's more of a goal scorer than playmaker, and he's lacking in speed, but he makes up for it with a strong physical game and a willingness to battle in front of the net for prime real estate.  Corey Pronman even notes that his defensive game is a strong suit, something I wasn't able to pick up on in limited viewings.

Peter Ceresnek, D, HK Orange (Svk EL) Sk_medium

Ceresnek fell down the rankings heavily this past year, but he reamins a solid defensive prospect.  He's about the only player of note coming out of Slovakia this year, possessing good size and some decent passing ability.  He made the U20 team this past year at age 17, and spent most of the year with the fellow U20 players on HK Orange, the permanent U20 program in Slovakia that plays in the Extraliga.  He also got some time with his parent club, HK Dukla Trencin, and finished the year with their junior club in the playoffs.  Read up on him at The Copper and Blue

Konstantin Komarek, RW, Luleå (Elitserien) At_medium

Almost every 18 year old playing in the Elitserien ends up being drafted, but for some reason Komarek's name is rarely mentioned.  The Austrian winger possesses good skating ability and good hands, and has been a standout at every single international tournament for Austria.  In the 2010 U20s, on a team that was put in a pool with Russia, Sweden, Czech Republic and Finland, Komarek still managed to score five goals as a 17 year old on a team that didn't win a game.  He dominated this past year's D1 tournament with 5 goals and 5 assists in 5 games.  He played every game of Luleå's playoff run this year, seemingly improving with every game.  Derek Zona of The Copper and Blue was able to fetch a quote on Komarek from Jimmy Hamrin, who covers the Timrå of the Elitserien:

"Konstantin Komarek is a spectacular player with great skill and speed. He's great one-on-one and plays an intense style and doesn't mind the physical aspect of the game. Reminds me a little of Mattias Tedenby. He had a great playoff with Luleå's senior team and [like] Tyler Seguin [had] a couple of amazing performances. Needs to be more consistent though." - Jimmy Hamrin

Nicolai Meyer, RW, Malmo J20 (SuperElit) Dk_medium

Admittedly, I have not seen much of Meyer at all.  However, he had two standout international performances, both at the Division 1 level to help Denmark reach next year's U18 and U20 tournaments.  He's a July birthdate, so the fact that he hasn't yet cracked the main Malmo squad (in the Allsvenskan) isn't a huge concern.  He outscored other Swedish prospects in the J20 that are likely to be drafted, including Joachim Nermark.  Combine his talent at the junior level with his international performances, he seems worthy of a late round pick.  He's Denmark's top draft eligible playing in Europe.

Steffen Kent Søberg, G, Manglerud Star (Norway) No_medium

His club numbers in Norway aren't terribly impressive, but he's playing at a pretty high level for a 17 year old goalie.  His athleticism is readily apparent, and his performance at both the U20s in a tough situation and the U18s really had scouts noticing.  Färjestad of the Elitserien is noticing, too. He's the goalie who famously pulled himself against Canada at the U20s this past year, but I think most people forgive him for that reaction.  He's on the small side at 5'11", but his quick feet and reflexes allow him to overcome some of those issues.

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