Defencemen key in 2005

Rimouski Oceanic forward Sidney Crosby is the consensus No. 1 overall pick for next year's NHL...

Rimouski Oceanic forward Sidney Crosby is the consensus No. 1 overall pick for next year's NHL Entry Draft, but there's also a great crop of defencemen in the 2005 draft. (Halifax Herald File Photo/Eric Wynne)

CHRIS NICHOLS -- mckeenshockey.com

, Last Updated: 2:37 PM ET

When you head into any fantasy hockey draft, your strategy may vary.

If you're someone who traditionally misses out on scoring defensemen, you may want to grab a few of them in the early going. Maybe you're a goaltending fiend that has to be solid between the pipes no matter what; meaning you're more than willing to spend a first round pick on a goalie.

NHL teams face the same dilemma as you, only the stakes are a lot higher. They spend millions on their investments, so they want to take in as many perspectives as possible on the 2005 draft class before the teams call out the names of the players they take next summer.

And even though the lockout has put a damper on your fantasy pool, it doesn't mean you can't look ahead to what's coming down the pike in terms of talent.

Prospect web site McKeensHockey.com has released its November Draft Ranking, which encompasses the top 100 prospects for the 2005 draft class at the quarter-pole of the season.

So whether you want to know who your favorite team may draft or if you want to get the head-start on your fantasy competition, the list is a great tool for many people in the hockey world.

Sure, Sidney Crosby is number one. But if you think he's the only exciting player available, you're sadly mistaken.

Really, you need look no further than the number two slot to be forced out of your seat when you see Gilbert Brule play.

Ron Jones, head western scout for McKeen's, has watched Gilbert Brule extensively over the past few seasons, and was able to compare him against a more finesse-oriented player in Brock Bradford (ranked 53rd), who bolted the BCHL earlier this season for the USHL.

"One of the main differences between the two players is that Brule creates his own space," says Jones. "He's got guts. He beats people one-on-one and drives through everything if need be, while Bradford is more apt to take the long way around. Bradford needs linemates who can create space for him."

And talk about strength from the blueline! You might be surprised to know that no less than 20 defensemen made it into the top 50 overall.

NDTP star Jack Johnson is making waves with his aggressive style of play and he's sitting 4th on the McKeen's list.

"Johnson is a heck of a talent," says McKeen's correspondent Dave Fortier. "(His) competitiveness is exactly what NHL teams are looking at. Johnson's definitely got the game and (is) still top 5 in my books."

Johnson is one of two Americans in the top ten, but seven of the top ten players are Canadian. Break it down any way you want, but there is no doubt that there are some real movers and shakers on this list.

McKeen's breaks down both the risers and fallers of the draft class, as well as looking at some players flying under the radar so far.

Preview McKeen's Top 15.


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