No player did as much to improve his draft stock over the latter part of the season than Kitchener Rangers winger Jeff Skinner
. Scoring an astounding 20 goals in 20 playoff games will have that effect.
Since the NHL’s Central Scouting Service releases their final rankings prior to Canadian junior hockey’s postseason, Skinner ended up as the organization’s 47th-ranked North American skater. Given his electric playoff performance, which came on the heels of a 50-goal regular season, there’s no doubt that he will be drafted much, much higher than that.
”There’s nobody in the draft that scores goals like Jeff Skinner
,” said Tony MacDonald, the Hurricanes’ director of amateur scouting. “He’s a natural goal scorer who scores in a lot of different ways. It’s not just his shot. He’s quick and smart and makes himself available to the puck. He’s a tremendous competitor that is very difficult to defend against.”
His playoff opponents discovered that firsthand. Thanks in large part to Skinner’s eight goals, Kitchener was the only team to make a dent in the eventual Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires, extending that second-round series to seven games. The three games dropped by Windsor in that match-up proved to be its only losses in a 19-game romp through the OHL postseason.
”It was an incredible performance,” said MacDonald. “A lot of Kitchener’s success was based on Skinner’s ability to finish and make plays.”
Skinner ended up tying Windsor’s Adam Henrique for the OHL playoff lead in goals, and trailed only potential No. 1 overall pick Taylor Hall with 33 total points. He was one of only two 50-goal scorers during the regular season, netting two more than Tyler Seguin, another candidate for the first overall choice and a teammate of Skinner’s in bantam hockey.
If there are drawbacks to Skinner’s game, they could be in his relative lack of size (5-foot-10, 187 pounds) and skating ability – the latter of which comes as something of a surprise given his success as a nationally-known figure skater in his youth. However, he is considered to be strong and well-developed for his underwhelming height, and has drawn comparisons to NHL success stories Daniel Briere, Mark Recchi and Mike Richards. Additionally, his drive and vision often make up for an absence of breakaway speed.
"Not only can he score, but he plays with a determination to score,” said Hurricanes’ Vice President and Assistant General Manager Jason Karmanos. “He’s an ultra-competitive guy, comes from a great family and is a real character kid.”
”He’s got great balance and agility and is very quick in small spaces,” said MacDonald. “He’s deadly from the blue line in.”
All that has made Skinner a virtual lock for the first round despite his low final rankings, but just how high will he climb? That remains to be seen, but a top-10 selection is no longer out of the question.
“He’s a guy that somebody is for sure going to step up on,” said Karmanos. “It’s just a matter of where that’s going to be.”