In our first installment of Forecast Friday, let’s take a look at a few names that are right on the cusp of being first round picks.

Draft rankings have really started to shuffle since the World Junior Championships, with great and poor performances on the big stage adjusting the rankings of guru’s all across North America.

While this draft may not have the star power of a Toews, Staal and Kessel combination, there are a lot of intriguing names at the bottom of the top 30 that could pay key dividends to the team that selects them.

Daniel Catenacci – C – Sault Ste. Marie – OHL – 5’10 – 180lbs. – Shoots L – March 9, 1993

It’s always good to start a write up about a kid by stating that he’s got a connection with the illustrious Gary Roberts. Catenacci isn’t the biggest or strongest guy in the world, but he has been training with Gary Roberts this year, so you know that’s all about to change.

Catenacci is a responsible two-way guy that has a pretty good set of offensive abilities. He may not be the flashiest player in terms of hands, you won’t find a guy with better top end speed. In fact, Catenacci’s pairing of speed and defensive cognizance makes him a great candidate to have success at the next level.

Catenacci is on the verge of doubling his point totals from last season. He’s registered 21 goals and 35 assists in 51 games for the Greyhounds. Using speed and vision as his primary weapons, Catenacci has the work effort and key essentials to have success at the next level. His draft ranking varies between 29 and 33 in most outlets, but this youngster has a lot to offer, especially in terms of wheels.

Michael St. Croix – Edmonton – WHL – 5’11 – 163lbs. – Shoots R – April 10, 1993

St. Croix is the epitome of a crap shoot. While there are only a few guys in the top 30 that might have the dangle ability of St. Croix, the invisibility factor is extremely high with this one.

The St. Croix phenomenon started in Midget AAA. He was somewhat of a cult legend in the Winnpeg area, and when scouring the internet you can find a dozen or so reports of guys that grew up playing with him spinning tales of 7 goal nights. The hype appeared to be legit when St. Croix joined the Oil Kings of the WHL at age 16 and put up nearly a point per game.

St. Croix, as I mentioned, has unbelievable hands. He’s slick with the puck and he’s got deceiving agility and speed. He can shake a goalie inside out with the flick of a wrist. He’s improved upon his defensive game and is very aware offensively. He’s got a wicked release and a strong shot. His skills with the puck can be evidenced by his one handed goal against the Vancouver Giants this year.

Frame wise, St. Croix needs a little help from mother nature. He’s not very big, and when he gets the itch to battle, he’s at a decided disadvantage. He’s also prone to going missing for short stretches of time. He has 22 goals and 32 assists in 51 games, so he’s finding the sheet with regularity this year. The key is consistency and strength, two key vitals for the next level. However, you simply can’t teach what St. Croix can do with the puck on his stick.

Myles Bell – D – Regina – WHL – 6’0 – 202lbs. – Shoots R – Aug. 13, 1993

One of the youngest defensemen available in this year’s draft, Bell might also be the most noticeable. A rare combination of physicality, speed, and offensive skill, Bell is a young man with a great set of skills at both ends of the ice.

The problem with Bell isn’t immobility or smarts, it’s responsibility. There appear to be many extremes with Bell and little to no middle ground. This affects his ranking in an adverse manner, the ISS has him at 17, and some other outlets have him as low as 42.

Bell is a game breaker, and he’s the type of guy you want to have on the ice during crunch time. He can lay a crushing hit, or rush a puck up ice single-handedly and fire it home. Great shot, great skater, really great size, but the mental aspect of the game needs to be refined or he’ll be considered a liability in more ways than one. Instead of being all physical or all offensive, Bell needs to find the point at either end where he’s right in the middle. So far this year, Bell has 11 goals and 23 assists in 53 games, but what’s more impressive is his moderate +/- rating for having played on one of the poorest teams in the WHL.

Mario Lucia – F – Wayzata – Minnesota HS – 6’2 – 185lbs. – Shoots L

It’d be remiss of us to not mention the name of a super skilled Minnesota High School product in this article. Mario Lucia is the son of Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach Don Lucia and is the front runner to become “Mr. Hockey” for 2011 in Minnesota.

A guy with a lot of hype, it’s tough to really project where Lucia will head with his game in the future. The Wayzata product is undecided on what college route he’ll take after high school, but he should be a scoring threat no matter where he goes. Lucia is one of those high school kids like Ben Hanowski. They just lite the lamp at will in their current level. Lucia has an unbelievable shot, great speed, and a lot of muscle mass. He’s a man amongst boys at his level.

He’s got 21 goals and 19 assists in 21 games so far this year, and has been absolutely dominant at all ends. He’s ranked by Central Scouting as the number 30 overall skater, but some rankings fail to even put him in the top 50 overall. The unknown aspect of the high school level makes it a gamble, but Mario Lucia is certainly one of the most talented players available.

Stay tuned to next week’s edition when we preview the top OHL forwards available in this year’s draft!

All photos courtesy of The Hockey News