chicagoblackhawks.com continues its string of top prospect profiles (in alphabetical order) with Jordan Staal. Check back for a profile of Jonathan Toews and more 2006 Draft coverage.
The comparison is inevitable, especially when big brother occupied the spotlight that was the Stanley Cup finals. But if Jordan Staal is to make a future impact in the NHL, it will not be because of his brother's accomplishments. Though he shares the same healthy hockey genes, most of the credit will be given to his dedication to hard work and abundance of all-around talent.
Staal is in position to join older brothers Eric (2nd overall, 2003) and Marc (12th overall, 2005) as high, first round draft picks when the NHL holds its 2006 Entry Draft Saturday in Vancouver, B.C. NHL's Central Scouting lists Staal as the top-ranked center available in the draft, while International Scouting Service ranks him third overall on its chart. Both services list him ahead of the highly regarded Phil Kessel.
Because of such high praise from two respected scouting services, devil's advocates could raise the question: How much has Jordan Staal benefited from brother Eric's breakout NHL campaign this season?
"Well I think [the bloodline factor] is something you have to be careful about so you don't over-emphasize [his ability]," explains Blackhawks amateur scout Ron Anderson.
"And I think we've been pretty cognizant of that in looking at Jordan for Jordan and forgetting about last names. But then obviously you can't forget that there's a pedigree there."
The pedigree that Staal can boast includes a 45-goal, 100-point season for Eric in leading the Carolina Hurricanes to victory in the Stanley Cup finals. In his first season with the Hurricanes in 2003-04, Eric notched only 31 points in 81 games as his 11 goals were deemed a disappointment for a second overall selection. But after playing a full season with Carolina's AHL affiliate, Lowell, during the 2004-05 NHL lockout and amassing 77 points in 77 games, Staal continued his strong play on the next level and has emerged as an NHL star.
In many experts' opinions, Jordan has the potential to forge a similar career path.
Like Eric, the mobile 6-4, 215 lb. Staal played junior hockey at Peterborough in the Ontario Hockey League where he recorded 68 points (28-40) in 68 regular season games this past season after tallying just 28 points in 68 regular season games in 2004-05. His outstanding season culminated in an OHL championship series sweep over Blackhawk prospect Dave Bolland's London squad as Staal scored 10 playoff goals and added six assists to lead the Petes to the league title.
Staal's stellar play in the defensive zone has many scouts projecting him to be a solid neutralizer of the opposing team's best players when he reaches the NHL level.
Despite his solid all-around game, one question broached by many hockey observers surrounding Staal's prospects concerns his offensive production. Anderson dismisses the notion, however, that he cannot become a potential scoring star like Eric.
"When you're 17 years old and you're playing in [the OHL], it's a tough league," Anderson notes.
"And he still put up decent numbers and he had stretches where he was very productive and then he'd have some stretches where he cooled off a little bit. But I think part of that is the maturing process emotionally and physically and I'm sure he got tired. They play 100 games a year with preseason, postseasonÃ¢â‚¬â€?probably more with the Memorial Cup run. He's just a 17 year old kid. I think there is still tremendous potential there for significant offensive production."
One aspect of Staal's game that cannot be questioned is his toughness and grittiness, especially for a young player who was only five days away from not even being eligible for this year's draft.
"As a 17 year old, he killed penalties and played the power play on one of the top teams in Canada," details Blackhawks amateur scout Bruce Franklin.
"And he's got room to fill out. He's already a big kid but he's going to get bigger. His upside is really big with his size and his checking ability."
The Blackhawks hold the #3 overall selection in Saturday's draft, so there is no question that Chicago will receive a very skilled hockey player to develop for the future. With the Hawks seemingly certain to select a center, Staal is a very viable and intriguing option.
"Staal could be a tremendous power forward if he develops a scoring touch as his brother [Eric] has," says Anderson.
"In three years time he's going to be a 6-4, 235-240 pounder who can really skate and carry a team on its back. And he's a tremendous character-type player and obviously has a great bloodline. So if he continues to develop, you can just imagine where he's going to be five years down the road."
Email Dave Miller at: firstname.lastname@example.org