A couple weeks ago, I took a look at eight draft-eligible power forwards projected to go in the mid- to late-first round. In this article, I'll add an additional ten forwards to that list who play more of a finesse game.
The ranking system I decided to use is a composite from late March that draws from 6 sources. I also consulted the International Scouting Services (ISS) and Future Considerations (FC) most recent Top 30s, as well as Central Scouting Services North American (CSS-NA) and European (CSS-E) rankings. If my calculations are correct, the Avs have secured the #23 Overall pick, so I looked at roughly the 10 spots above and 10 spots below to account for any risers and fallers on draft day.
Here are some of the finesse forwards who might still be available when it's the Avs turn to pick.
Ivan Barbashev, RUS
Rankings: Composite #14, ISS #19, FC #16, CSS-NA #18
Vitals: C/LW, 6'-0", 181lbs, Moncton (QMJHL)
Scoop: Barbashev is one of those players who will probably be gone before we're called to the stage, but in case he drops, he's a sniper and lanky playmaker with great vision and strong hockey instincts. He also is good along the boards, has a very strong shot, an improving sense of defense, and thrives in a fast-paced offense, but Future Considerations did mention that he has "dynamic talent but inconsistent in his efforts". Que enigmatic Russian cliche, even though the Hockey Writers cited his compete and work ethic as strengths. He's been in the Q for two years now and posted 68pts in 48 games this season, but his nationality alone could cause him to drop to the early 20s despite his talent. He's a player Roy will likely be familiar with, so that could work in his favor.
Josh Ho-Sang, CAN
Rankings: Composite #16, ISS #17, FC #20, CSS-NA #22
Vitals: C/RW, 5'-11", 160lbs, Windsor (OHL)
Scoop: While Ho Sang is a little on the smaller side at 5'-11", he makes a big impression on the ice with his offensive play. He has incredible hands, strong skating, creative passing, elite goal-scoring, excellent hand-eye coordination (his dad was a pro tennis player), and is overall very dynamic. He's very quick, but his defense, consistency, attitude, and discipline are still a work in progress. He also has a tendency to make dangerous and risky passes, but he's at least transformed from a puck hog to more of a playmaker over the past year, putting up 32G / 53A / 85pts in 67 games as the face of the Spitfire team. During the playoffs this year, Ho Sang made a dangerous play that broke a defenseman's leg and resulted in a 15 game suspension that will mostly be served at the beginning of the next OHL season. Even with that black mark, it's unlikely Ho Sang will still be on the board by the time the Avs draft. Too many teams need his electrifying brand of offense.
David Pastrnak, CZE
Rankings: Composite #18, ISS # - , FC #18, CSS-E #5
Vitals: RW, 6'-0", 168lbs, Sodertalje (SWE-2)
Scoop: Pastrnak is a very fast, flashy forward with who is highly offense-oriented. He can easily cut around defensemen and is strong both east-west and north-south when it comes to skating. He also has a hard shot and a nose for the net, plus he's unafraid to battle for the puck along the boards. Pastrnak currently plays in the Allsvenskan (Sweden's AHL), but he suffered an injury midway through the season and finished with 24pts in 36GP. Unfortunately, he still has a lot of filling out to do, and his defense is very inconsistent and so-so.
Sonny Milano, USA
Rankings: Composite #20, ISS #18, FC #17, CSS-NA #16
Vitals: LW, 5'-11", 183lbs, USNDP & Boston College (NCAA) or Plymouth (OHL)
Scoop: Milano's two biggest strengths are his puckhandling and skating. He's moves very, very well with the puck with strong acceleration, quick mobility, and a high top speed. He also has outstanding vision and a great shot to go with a strong work ethic and a drive to get better. His defense is still coming along and he's not the biggest guy out there, but he's still known to chirp and get under the other team's skin. He finished 2nd in the USDP U18 scoring race with 29G / 57A / 86pts in 58GP, one point behind linemate and potential 2015 1st Overall Jack Eichel. Milano also put up 10 pts at the World Juniors. He's another one who is likely to be gone by the time the Avs pick, but concerns about his defense might drop him down to the mid 20s.
Nikolay Goldobin, RUS
Rankings: Composite #22, ISS #26, FC #23, CSS-NA #24
Vitals: LW, 6'-0", 178lbs, Sarnia (OHL)
Scoop: He's an electric scoring winger who loves to skate and loves to score, but he also has a tendency to not play as well away from the puck and certainly isn't a physical guy. His defense is a big concern as well, but his hands, creativity, shooting, and passing are not. He's also made the commitment to the North American game, as he put up 94pts in 67 games during his sophomore season with the Sarnia Sting. He has decent size and is pretty close to NHL ready in a protected role, so it will be very interesting to see what happens with him on draft day. He has elite skill, but the holes in his game are troubling. He's a high-risk high-reward prospect, and he could also be hurt by the Russian bias in the NHL.
Nikita Scherbak, RUS
Rankings: Composite #24, ISS #25, FC # - , CSS-NA #15
Vitals: LW, 6'-2", 174lbs, Saskatoon (WHL)
Scoop: Scherbak is a fast, offensively-gifted player who isn't afraid to go to the dirtier areas of the ice. He's agile enough to evade the opposition's defense with his quick first step and strong skating, especially for someone 6'-2". He's intelligent, coachable, has soft hands and a large amount of creative vision on the ice, plus he's not afraid of physical battles along the boards. His defense has made huge strides this year due to his high hockey IQ, a commitment to backchecking, and general hard work. He is Russian, which will inevitably raise some concern, but he is already playing the North American game and posted 69 points in 58 games with the Saskatoon Blades this year. He also had a very strong showing at the Top Prospect game, so that alone might have been enough to sway Pracey & Co. into giving him a chance.
Robby Fabbri, CAN
Rankings: Composite #26, ISS #16, FC #15, CSS-NA #21
Vitals: C, 5'-10", 166lbs, Guelph (OHL)
Scoop: The biggest knock against Fabbri is his size. The young centerman is 5'-10" on a good day, but he's still an offensive force to be reckoned with. His speed is among the top in the draft, and he has a very high hockey IQ and a knack for sneaking into scoring areas and attacking quickly. He's also not afraid to play physical or down low along the boards, and his motor, competitive nature, and forecheck are incredible. His passing and shooting are there, so if he was about two inches taller, he'd be a Top 10 pick. As it is, he's very similar to many of the players the Avs have taken in recent drafts. Despite his dynamic play, he might be highly redundant in our system and would likely have a harder time finding success in the Western Conference.
Nick Schmaltz, USA
Rankings: Composite #27, ISS #21, FC # - , CSS-NA #19
Vitals: C, 5'-11", 172lbs, Green Bay (USHL) & North Dakota (NCAA)
Scoop: The first thing mentioned about Schmaltz always seems to be his hands. He's a wizard with the puck, and has the vision, passing, creativity, and hockey smarts to go with them. He's also a strong skater with lots of agility and is difficult to knock off the puck, although he needs to add more strength to make it at the NHL level. His wrister and one-timer are strong, but he doesn't use them much and only posted 18G / 45A / 63pts this season with the Gamblers. He does however seem to step up his game for the playoffs and international competitions. His defense is good but inconsistent - the smarts are there, but the feet sometimes are not. With a little coaching, he could be a very strong 2nd line player in the future.
Jakub Vrana, CZE
Rankings: Composite #31, ISS # - , FC #25, CSS-E #4
Vitals: RW, 6'-0", 178lbs, Linkoping (SWE)
Scoop: Vrana is a player with dynamic skating agility and speed, decent size, creative passing, strong vision, a wicked and deceptive wrister, and a knack for capitalizing on lose pucks in scoring areas. He can vary his speed to throw the defense off and is an absolute handful on offense. Unfortunately, his defense hasn't come along as expected, and he suffers from inconsistency. He also needs some time to fill out his frame. Also, while he put up an over a point-per-game pace for Linkoping's U-20 squad, he's struggled to adjust to Sweden's pro game. He has the potential to be an incredible offensive talent, but he's a project who will likely slip into the 2nd round of the draft.
Kevin Fiala, SUI
Rankings: Composite #32, ISS #28, FC #13, CSS-NA #3
Vitals: RW, 5'-10", 194lbs, HV71 J20 (SWE-Jrs.) & HV71 (SWE)
Scoop: Fiala is very much an offensive-minded player. He has excellent speed, a quick first step, good agility, and likes to cut to the net. His playmaking is very noteworthy, as is his sniping ability. He split his time between the HV71 Junior club, posting 10G / 15A / 25pts in 27GP, and the big club, adding 3G / 8A / 11 pts in 17GP during the regular season and an additional 6 pts in 8 playoff games. He's physical, strong on the forecheck, a hard worker and adapt at creating turnovers, but defensively, as one profile put it, "Fiala is a train-wreck". He chases the puck and flies out of the zone early, leaving his man wide open. His game needs to mature a great deal before he's NHL ready, making him one of the biggest high-risk high-reward picks in the draft.