TORONTO -- Prior to every season, NHL Central Scouting has evaluated hundreds of top prospects available in the upcoming NHL Draft.
In addition to the meticulous reports from scouts, it's also required that each prospect file some paperwork to Central Scouting.
So long before Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin of the Halifax Mooseheads, Sean Monahan of the Ottawa 67's and Hunter Shinkaruk of the Medicine Hat Tigers begin a new season, they've already completed their "Central Scouting Questionnaire."
One of the more intriguing areas on the questionnaire are the sections that requires each prospect to identify the strongest area of his game, where he'd like to improve, and the NHL player he most resembles. The self-assessments, for the most part, are pretty accurate. They also provide the scouts with a gauge of what type of player each prospect expects to become.
Here's a summary of what each of the top five North American prospects, top North American goalie and top European skater from Central Scouting's midterm rankings provided in their questionnaires, followed by an evaluation of that response from NHL Central Scouting.
1. Seth Jones, D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
2012-13: 61 games, 14 goals, 42 assists, 56 points, 4 power-play goals, 33 penalty minutes, plus-46 rating
Comparison: "I don't think I play like any specific player in the NHL. I tried to model my game after Nicklas Lidstrom growing up."
Best asset: "I pride myself on my skating abilities, a good shot and can move the puck up the ice quickly."
Where do you need improvement: "I can always work on my lateral movement in corners and tight areas and always making quicker decisions with the puck."
NHL Central Scouting: "A player with the package of Seth Jones, with his size, skating ability and smarts, doesn't come along very often," Central Scouting's Peter Sullivan told NHL.com. "After his first year in the league this year, he just showed improvement over what he did with the U.S. National Team Development Program the previous season. He skates as well as anyone in the league and is smart. He has all the potential needed to become one of the top D-men in the NHL someday."
2. Nathan MacKinnon, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
2012-13: 44 games, 32 goals, 43 assists, 75 points, 10 power-play goals, 2 shorthanded goals, 45 penalty minutes, plus-40 rating
Comparison: "Not sure. Tough to say, but I am a skilled forward with grit."
Best asset: "Skating."
Where do you need improvement: "Faceoffs."
NHL Central Scouting: "I think MacKinnon could be another [Steven] Stamkos," Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald said. "I see that style and tenacity in his game, his intensity around the puck. He wants to be the guy making a difference in the game, in the last minute. Whether they win or lose it, he wants to be that guy who makes that decision. It takes a special player to be like that. And from the games I've seen, he has that type of quality."
3. Jonathan Drouin, LW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
2012-13: 49 games, 41 goals, 64 assists, 105 points, 7 power-play goals, 4 shorthanded goals, 32 penalty minutes, plus-48 rating
Comparison: Claude Giroux
Best asset: "My vision, hockey IQ and quickness."
Where do you need improvement: "In my defensive zone."
NHL Central Scouting: "It's been a long time since I've seen a player with this many skills," Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau said. "I'm not saying a [Sidney] Crosby, but his quickness and hands, I don't think anyone has seen that in a long time. His peripheral vision and doing the things he does … he's just a natural talent. There are no systems for guys like that; you just put them on the ice and let them play. He's proved it all winter and almost won the scoring title despite playing in fewer games."
4. Sean Monahan, C, Ottawa 67's (OHL)
2012-13: 58 games, 31 goals, 47 assists, 78 points, 15 power-play goals, 24 penalty minutes, minus-18 rating
Comparison: "Jonathan Toews because he's a leader, he steps up, is serious and plays the whole 200 feet of the ice."
Best asset: "My ability to create turnovers and turn it into offense; to lead by example and step up. My defensive play in all areas of the ice, and I'm also good at making plays and creating room."
Where do you need improvement: "I need to become faster and stronger on my feet, as well as improve my shooting while skating."
NHL Central Scouting: "I think Sean is pretty accurate with his self-assessments," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards said. "Leadership-wise … Ottawa had such a bad season and most of the time when we went down there he was the only guy generating anything. I don't think his skating is an issue, but that's an area every player always wants to improve, so it doesn't surprise me that he would want to improve even more. Anytime you can get a guy with that type of play-making ability, puck-handling, smarts and that type of creativity on the power play, you'd be happy to get a guy like that."
5. Hunter Shinkaruk, C/LW, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
2012-13: 64 games, 37 goals, 49 assists, 86 points, 14 power-play goals, 44 penalty minutes, minus-13 rating
Comparison: "Sidney Crosby … we compete and have a great skill set."
Best asset: "I have great hands, am creative and battle hard. I am a good skater, am explosive, have a good shot and am a leader."
Where do you need improvement: "I need to get stronger."
NHL Central Scouting: "He can lift you out of your seats, and not too many players can do that," Sullivan said. "I think because he wasn't surrounded as he was last year with his good linemates, he struggled at the start, but his center Curtis Valk [No. 123 on midterm list] this year has really played well. That's what Hunter needed to be effective and take the pressure off. Hunter is a lot like his teammate last year, Emerson Etem. After Medicine Hat's series with Saskatoon, the local papers said the Blades' defense was taken to the hospital with whiplash after having to deal with him. I think the kid has the most potential of any projected first-round prospect. If he goes to an even better team [in the draft], that will make it even easier for him to make the transition."
Top North American goalie: Zachary Fucale, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
2012-13: 55 games, 45-5-3, 2.35 GAA, .909 save percentage, 2 shutouts, 1,356 shots, 1,232 saves
Best asset: "Staying calm and not moving when I don't need to. Being efficient in my movements and showing patience."
Where do you need improvement: "I think I need to improve in every part of my game."
NHL Central Scouting: "The first time I saw Zach, I thought 'Cam Ward,'" Central Scouting's Al Jensen told NHL.com. "He plays big in the net, whether standing up or in the butterfly. He keeps his body upright and he always gives himself a chance to stop the puck because he has good body control in the net and is poised. Net coverage in the NHL is so crucial, and he's got that and is way ahead of the other goalies in this draft."
Top European skater: Aleksander Barkov, C, Tappara (FIN)
2012-13: 53 games, 21 goals, 27 assists, 48 points, 8 penalty minutes, plus-18 rating
Comparison: "Mikko Koivu."
Best asset: "My passing and field vision."
Where do you need improvement: "Skating and reaction speed."
NHL Central Scouting: "He was one of the reasons why Tappara finished second in the league," Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb told NHL.com. "Just consistent, cool, smart two-way center. An injured shoulder will keep him out the remainder of the season, but that won't hurt his high draft status. He's not a great skater, but always seems to be in the right spot at the right time. He's a very good stick-handler with great vision."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
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