The Blackhawks selected 11 players in this weekend's 2011 NHL Entry Draft, adding lots of new talent into an already deep system. But what are these players' strengths and weaknesses? chicagoblackhawks.com brings you what draft experts had to say about some of the top picks. Today's scouting report: center Mark McNeill, taken 18th overall.
NHL Central Scouting: “He’s a right-handed center, which is good to have. He’s really composed and has a real pro-style game. He has a nice touch, can dish, and has nice, soft passes. His on-ice awareness is very good and he’s paid attention to detail at both ends of the rink. He has good defensive-zone coverage as well as being offensive at the other end. All around I think he’s got a real solid game. I think his offensive game will improve the older he gets and the more confident he gets. I think he’ll be a better offensive player than he’s showing right now. He’s good at both ends of the rink. He comes down low and helps out defensively.”
Prince Albert GM Bruno Campese: “He’s one of those kids that has the ability to do so many different things, he’s got so much upside to him. He’s a powerful skater and has great hockey sense. He’s got very good basic skills and he’s got the ability to be a real tough person to play against. He’s got the mental capabilities to understand the game as well ... I really believe he has all the attributes. He’s got certain gifts that other players just don’t have. That really bodes well for playing in the NHL.”
Red Line Report: “Shows good positioning at both ends of the ice and always makes himself available as an outlet for teammates. Uses his size to establish and hold position around the slot, but we’d like to see him initiate contact more often and play a more aggressive physical game—somewhat soft. Great offensive zone awareness along with very good creativity and soft hands for a big man. Strong on his stick and tough to separate from the puck. Gets back defensively to help out. Wins a high percentage of his faceoffs. Effective on both special teams.”
Hockeysfuture.com: “If there is a true power forward among the top WHL prospects, it’s most certainly Mark McNeill. When he is at his best, his presence makes opponents tentative. In 70 games this season, McNeill scored 32 times and added 49 assists. He had a taste of playoff activity this season, as the Raiders pushed the highly touted Saskatoon Blades to six games in the first round. McNeill, from Edmonton, Alberta, has been an offensive catalyst in Prince Albert.”
The Hockey News: “With a frame that screams pro, scouts are excited about how strong Mark McNeill can get. Truth is, the young pivot may not even know his own strength right now. But the Prince Albert Raiders star is a smart kid who fast-tracked through high school and was responsible enough as a forward to be trusted with point duties on the first power-play unit. So he’ll figure it out pretty quickly. Hockey sense and composure allowed him to take on that point man role, but McNeill’s best assets are still based on physical aspects. A gym rat who doesn’t take shortcuts when he trains, McNeill played right wing last year, so he’s an adaptable forward and has excellent vision.”