The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Ontario Hockey League are almost in the books. Once completed, the boys will begin making their first-round projections - this should be good.
Chris Bordeleau, who spends most of his time viewing players in the 'Q', opened discussions with a solid evaluation of centers Jonathan Huberdeau and Sean Couturier. He spoke of Huberdeau's great hands around the net and Couturier's two-way acumen. Saint John defenseman Nathan Beaulieu has also been on the radar of every scout and his play was worthy of a lengthy discussion by those boys within the Conn Smythe Board Room.
Interesting comments made about Victoriaville's Phillip Danault, as well. Will he be able to withstand the physicality of the NHL?
The OHL discussion, headed by scout Chris Edwards, included some familiar names like Kitchener's Gabriel Landeskog (not much debate needed and for good reason). Additionally, Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Murphy, Brandon Saad and Ryan Strome were hot topics.
Another interesting topic debated was which Russian would you take -- Vladislav Namestnikov of the London Knights or Alexander Khokhlachev of the Windsor Spitfires?
It's always interesting to learn where the group will project injured players who were regarded highly on the mid-term report. In 2010, Prince George Cougars forward Brett Connolly was limited to just 16 games in his draft year due to nagging hip flexor injury, but Central Scouting thought so highly of the Western Hockey League prospect that they still boosted him one rung in the final ranking to third overall among North American skaters.
Tampa Bay would ultimately select him with the sixth overall pick in the Draft.
When NHL Central Scouting released its mid-term rankings this past January, OHL forward Matt Puempel of Peterborough was No. 29 among North American skaters. His season would end 11 days before the start of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs after sustaining a hip injury that required surgery. Word is the injury shouldn't hurt Puempel's draft value. The 6-foot, 196-pound left wing had a team-leading 34 goals (15 power-play goals) and 69 points in 55 games for Peterborough this season.
"At this point, a season-ending injury won't affect our opinion (of Puempel)," Edwards told NHL.com in late February. "We have more than enough viewings on him. I have 14 viewings. He will be checked over at the (NHL Scouting) Combine (May 29-June 4) by the doctors and as long as it is not career-ending, it should not make much of a difference."
The fact Puempel was able to produce another 30-plus goal season was quite impressive, according to many of the scouts.