Prospect rankings: No betting against Stamkos
We'll start our prospect rankings with the players available to the 14 teams that had pingpong balls in this season's draft lottery.
Most scouts consider it a good, but not great, draft with a cluster of defensemen to pick from. In the forward-strong 2006 draft, the second defenseman selected, Ty Wishart by San Jose, went at No. 16. This year, there should be five D-men who go in the top 10, and maybe one or two more before No. 16.
Here's where we think these 18-year-olds will go and where they'll be at age 23:
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
• Steven Stamkos, Sarnia (OHL), C: The easy call. He was the best player on the Canadian team at the World Under-18 Championship as an under-ager last year. Said one opponent who had seen a lot of Stamkos: "It's hard when the smartest player on the ice is the best athlete."
Five-season projection: First-line center, first power-play unit (possibly on the point) and first on the penalty kill. Or forming the league's best 1-2 (1-1A) combination with future Hockey Hall of Famer Vincent Lecavalier.
2. Los Angeles Kings
• Drew Doughty, Guelph (OHL), D: Hard to pick between Nos. 2 and 3. Doughty gets the nod on this list because of his superior hockey sense and puck skills. Not tall at 5-foot-11 and stocky at 211 pounds.
Five-season projection: Top 2 defenseman, power-play quarterback.
3. Atlanta Thrashers
• Zach Bogosian, Peterborough (OHL), D: The difference between Doughty and Bogosian is the difference between what is today and what might be down the line. Doughty was an impact defenseman for the Canadian under-20 team, a pretty tough act. Bogosian, a native of Massena, N.Y., is bigger and probably a better athlete who has made improvements in the second half of the season. "Bogosian hasn't played his best hockey yet," one scout said. "There's room for growth."
Five-season projection: Top 2 defenseman with a physical edge.
4. St. Louis Blues
• Nikita Filatov, CKSA (Russian Elite League), F: Might be docked a spot or more because of the possible difficulty of bringing him west. For his part, Filatov, who speaks fluent English, has expressed the desire to come to North America next season, a desire that might be tested if he's looking at having to play junior hockey instead of jumping directly into the NHL. When Stamkos played against the Russians in last year's under-18s, he talked more about Filatov than Alexei Cherepanov, the highly touted forward selected in the first round in 2007 by the New York Rangers.
Five-season projection: First-line offensive catalyst.
5. New York Islanders
• Alex Pietrangelo, Niagara (OHL), D: He would have been an underage selection to last year's under-18 team, but had to pass because of a fracture in his kneecap. (To play through it to finish his season with the Ice Dogs, he went against the advice of some associated with the team.) Grade up for toughness. "He's a rock defensively," said one Ontario junior scout. Another scout wondered about "how much fire was in his furnace." That flies in the face of his willingness to play hurt.
Five-season projection: Top 4 defenseman, possibly top 2.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets
• Luke Schenn, Kelowna (WHL), D: Would compare more than favorably with last year's No. 5 overall, Karl Alzner, who went to Washington. (Schenn looks to have more offensive upside.)
Five-season projection: Top 4 defenseman, possibly top 2.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs
• Tyler Myers, Kelowna (WHL), D: He is a towering defenseman; very Zdeno Chara-like at 6-foot-8 and possibly still growing. The Texas native played for the United States at the summer under-18s, but processed his citizenship this winter (his parents are Albertans) and played for Team Canada at the spring event. Finished fourth among skaters on NHL Central Scouting's rankings of North American skaters. "Farther along than Chara was in his draft year," one scout reckoned. A wild card, Myers could be higher on some teams' lists, depending on their patience.
Five-season projection: A top 4 defenseman.
8. Phoenix Coyotes
• Cody Hodgson, Brampton (OHL), C: Captained a Canadian team that won the World Under-18 Championship this spring. He's an all-purpose center, not a power type, at just under 6 feet and 185 pounds. Some grade him down for skating. See here.
Five-season projection: A 2-3 center you can win with.
9. Nashville Predators (from Florida)
• Kyle Beach, Everett (WHL), LW: A wild card. Beach is talented and already pro-sized at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, but negative buzz is out there. He made few friends when he played on the Canadian team at the summer under-18s and scapegoated for overall poor team performance. "Maybe not a bad kid, but questionable judgment," one scout said. Stock plunged in unproductive second half of the season. Could drop on draft day, like Angelo Esposito last year.
Five-season projection: If you buy the scuttlebutt, at least one worn-out welcome and one frustrated coach. If you don't buy the knocks, a difference-maker.
10. Vancouver Canucks
• Mikkel Boedker, Kitchener (OHL), RW: The Dane is an instant-offense player with great skating ability. Hits top speed in a couple of steps. Racked up 29 goals and more than 70 points during the regular season, his first in major junior, and has picked up the pace in the playoffs. Will have a chance to showcase his skills in the Memorial Cup with the host team in Kitchener in May. Getting best possible introduction to North American game with respected coach Pete Deboer.
Five-season projection: Second line with offense, possibly first line.
11. Chicago Blackhawks
• Zach Boychuk, Lethbridge (WHL), C: Three seasons in the Dub, international experience, and looks to have raised his game with 11 goals in 14 playoff games this spring. Graded down for size (5-foot-9, 176 pounds).
Five-season projection: Second line; downside is third line.
12. Anaheim Ducks (from Edmonton)
• Colin Wilson, Boston University (NCAA), F: Son of longtime NHLer Carey Wilson. Colin is not the greatest skater, but has solid hockey sense. Tied for tournament lead in scoring at last year's world under-18s.
Five-year projection: Second line; downside possibly third.
13. Buffalo Sabres
• Colten Teubert, Regina (WHL), D: Pro height (6-foot-4), helped himself as much as any player at the under-18s this spring. "You could tell [Canadian coach] Pat Quinn fell in love with him," one scout said. Teubert delivers big hits and no holes in his game were exposed on the big ice surface.
Five-year projection: Top 4 defenseman, possibly fifth on a very deep team.
14. Carolina Hurricanes
• Thomas McCollum, Guelph (OHL), G: The consensus -- he's the top-ranked goaltender available. "There should be at least two goaltenders in the first round, maybe as many as four," one scout said. McCollum could move up based on a team's needs.
Five-year projection: A starter, possibly backup behind elite older goaltender and being groomed for top role.
Also in play: Michael Del Zotto, Oshawa (OHL), defenseman. Josh Bailey, Windsor (OHL), forward. Kiril Petrov, Ak Bars (Russia), right winger. Chet Pickard, Tri-City (WHL), goaltender. Mattias Tedenby, HV 71 (Sweden), left winger. Jared Staal, Sudbury (OHL), right winger.
Next installment: In a week, with the top 30 rankings, adjusted for playoffs and Memorial Cup.
Gare Joyce is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com.