Duncan Siemens won’t be the most exciting pick in the draft, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Scouts sometimes struggle to point out areas of excellence when describing the 6-foot-3, 197-pound defenseman from Saskatoon of the Western Hockey League, but what will make him a first-round choice is the fact that finding weaknesses is just as difficult.
Though not flashy, Siemens does most everything well.
“He’s a solid, well-rounded guy,” said Tony MacDonald, the Hurricanes’ director of amateur scouting. “There’s not much risk there."
With Saskatoon, Siemens, who finished the season with a plus-40 plus/minus rating, was relied upon to shut down the opposition but also contributed 43 points (5g, 38a) in 72 games while logging regular power-play time. He’s thought of as a good skater with good skills, but not the type that would wow observers on their own.
If anything separates Siemens from the rest of the pack, it’s his physical play. He patterns his game after NHL Hall of Fame defenseman Scott Stevens, a player famed for his devastating open-ice hits.
“He’s not afraid to mix it up physically,” said Jason Karmanos, the Hurricanes’ assistant general manager. “He has good size and good toughness.”
Outside of his regular contributions with Saskatoon, during which he logged 121 penalty minutes during the season, Siemens opened some eyes by fighting an opposing player during the Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects Game – a contest that features more intensity than an All-Star Game as players know they’re being closely watched by scouts, but not quite to the level of fisticuffs.
Still, scouts would have liked to see a more consistent level of aggression throughout the season.
“It’s there at times,” said MacDonald. “He has on more than one occasion asserted himself that way and he’s never adverse to standing up for his teammates and mixing it up in front of the net, but there were some nights when he was a bit more passive.”
There are also some questions as to whether Siemens’ two-way game will translate to the NHL level, or whether he’ll be more of a defensive type like role model Stevens. The Hurricanes tend to gravitate more towards the latter.
“Despite the fact that he had a decent level of offensive production, Siemens is a guy that projects as a defensive defenseman in the NHL,” said Karmanos.
“Offensively he could probably do more,” said MacDonald. “He played on the power play in junior, but whether he’s going to be a power-play guy at the next level remains to be seen.”
It also remains to be seen if teams will be enticed by a complete player like Siemens or if his lack of obvious upside and dazzling skills will cause him to slip down the pecking order, as was the case with Brandon Gormley, another well-rounded blueliner, in 2010.
If teams do pass, they could risk forgoing a player with a long, steady career ahead of him to take a boom-or-bust type that may very well not make it. Philosophical differences will likely determine his fate.
“If teams are looking for a safe guy with some upside that’s still to be determined, he would be a good pick,” said MacDonald.