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Rolling a Six: Stu MacGregor, Central Scouting review top-ranked prospects

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers


North American Skater
Final Rank:  1 Midterm Rank:  3
Position:  CENTRE Shoots:  LEFT
Height:  6' 0"
Weight:  172
Born:  APRIL 12, 1993
Hometown:  BURNABY, BC
Born in:  BURNABY, BC

Considering the hubbub around Taylor vs. Tyler last season, this year’s discussion has sparked new debate, divvying hearts and minds of Oilers fans everywhere. In many ways, the decision has become more convoluted with high-end talent pushing their way to the top. It’s never easy.

Nugent-Hopkins has done his best, developing a sparkling two-way game that has earned his No. 1 ranking among NHL Central Scouting’s North American skaters. In 69 games this season, he recorded 31 goals and 106 points. Talent, according to Oilers Head Amateur Scout Stu MacGregor, is certainly no concern from Edmonton’s end.

"Ryan is a highly skilled, highly intelligent and creative hockey player. He’s got so much skill and we’re obviously attracted to that. As an organization, our focus is to determine whether or not this is the player, skill-set and position we need to bring in.

"The way he controls the puck is really something. He can dominant a game by being that set-up threat or scoring on his own. He can do both extremely well."

Size continues to be a hot-topic with the dynamic centre. At the beginning of the season, Nugent-Hopkins weighed in at 164 pounds. Throughout the season, he was able to add muscle and mass, culminating in an eight-pound gain when new numbers were recorded at the NHL Scouting Combine.

As MacGregor explains, there’s nothing unusual about Nugent-Hopkins’ drive to add size.

"Any player needs to put on strength and bulk in order to play in the NHL to handle the rigours of a long schedule and playing against men," he said. "It’s something that most young prospects have to deal with. The thing with Ryan is that he’s pretty tall (6’0"), so that will naturally help him out and potentially help him grow."

NHL Central Scouting’s B.J. MacDonald
"(Nugent-Hopkins) has very good puck-handling capabilities. His on-ice awareness is very good. He's one of those guys that knows where everyone is and where they should be and where the puck should go. He can dish both right or left, either on his backhand or forehand with that kind of vision. But not just the vision, but the fact he can lay that puck between the skate boot and the skate blade -- that's hard to find."

NHL Central Scouting’s Peter Sullivan
"A couple of people high up -- and not naming names -- said Hopkins has the best vision since No. 99 (Wayne Gretzky). That's the highest compliment you can get. But the other thing is the way he competes. He never takes a night off and he works as hard in his own end as he does in the offensive zone and that takes a special player with a special set of skills to do that."



  • NHL team: Pittsburgh and Ottawa
  • NHL player: Sidney Crosby
  • Shootout move: "Fake shot, fake backhand, back to forehand"
  • Goal celebration: "One knee up, double fist pump, look to the sky"
  • Video game: NHL ‘10
  • Movie: Legends of the Fall
  • TV show: Friends
  • Actor/Actress: Leonardo DiCaprio, Anne Hathaway
  • Cartoon: The Simpsons
  • Website:
  • Pump-up song: ‘Savior’ by Rise Against
  • Restaurant: Cactus Club Café
  • Sport (other than hockey): Football
  • Breakfast food: French toast
  • Superhero: Batman

North American Skater
Final Rank:  2 Midterm Rank:  1
Position:  LEFT WING
Shoots:  LEFT
Height:  6' 0" Weight:  207
Born:  November 23, 1992 Hometown:  STOCKHOLM, SWE

The popular opinion around Gabriel Landeskog is that he’s the most NHL-ready prospect in the class of 2011. The way in which he handled the crossover from Sweden’s ranks to the tough-as-nails CHL style was impressive; appropriately smooth, considering his seemingly effortless grasp on the English language.

"He’s a great, powerful player that takes the puck straight to the net," MacGregor explained. "He doesn’t mess around out there. When he wants the puck or wants to take it to a certain area, he’ll do that and go through guys."

Landeskog came over from Sweden for the 2009-10 season. Since then, he’s dominated the game and has improved to become a forward force. In 2010-11, his sophomore campaign with the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, Landeskog recorded 36 goals and 66 points, along with 61 penalty minutes.

"He’s very mature, both physically and mentally. He's extremely strong. He's going to be a player that's probably going to play in the NHL next year. Combining his hands and goal-scoring ability with such toughness and compete makes for an excellent asset."

NHL Central Scouting’s Peter Sullivan
"Gabriel does remind me of former Kitchener Ranger (and Philadelphia Flyers captain) Mike Richards. He sticks up for his teammates and is as strong at both ends of the rink as any player in the draft this year. He competes as hard if not harder than anybody. He's got all the assets that you need to be a team leader and, for a potential No. 1 overall, that's what you would want."

NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards
"He is a good-size guy who is solid on his skates, not afraid to take the puck to the net or battle for it along the boards. His skating is very good in all areas. He plays the game with so much passion, he plays the game hard, he's a great mentor for players that are younger and older, maturity beyond his years. (He) doesn't need one game in the American league next year -- he should step right into the NHL. I think the team that gets him next year is going to get a player that helps them win a Stanley Cup."


  • NHL team: Detroit Red Wings
  • NHL player: Mats Sundin
  • Shootout move: Five-hole
  • Goal celebration: "Arms out and look to the sky"
  • Video game: NHL 10
  • Movie: The Blindside
  • TV show: Friends
  • Music group: The Fray
  • Book: "My way back to life" by Lance Armstrong
  • Pump-up song: "Can’t Be Touched" by Ray Jones
  • Home-cooked meal: Spaghetti and Swedish meatballs
  • Activity away from the rink: Waterskiing

North American Skater
Final Rank:  3 Midterm Rank:  4
Position:  CENTRE Shoots:  LEFT
Height:  6' 1" Weight:  170
Born:  JUNE 4, 1993
Hometown:  LAVAL, QC

Jonathan Huberdeau had a unique opportunity this past season that no other top prospect was able to experience. The 6’1", 170-pound centre got the chance to compete for the Memorial Cup a few weeks ago in Mississauga, prior to the NHL’s Scouting Combine.

Huberdeau concluded the season with 43 goals and 105 points scored in 67 games. He followed that up with an additional 30 points (16 goals) in 19 post-season games. He upped his performance once more, recording three goals and six points to earn the Memorial Cup’s MVP award.

Did Huberdeau’s dominant performance at the Memorial Cup change anyone’s opinion? Perhaps for some, but MacGregor insists it didn’t for the Oilers.

"No, our opinion hasn't changed at all," he deadpanned. "He's been a high-end prospect since November. He moved his game forward dramatically from being Canada’s 13th forward at the Ivan Hlinka tournament. He continually improved, improved and improved throughout the year."

In terms of skill-set, MacGregor explains that there’s more than smooth hands to Huberdeau’s goal-scoring talent.

"Jonathan has got excellent hockey sense. He’s got the hands to back that up, for sure, but his touch around the net is really a combination of natural ability and the mental wherewithal to make things happen. That’s also complemented by great work ethic. He competes a very high level."

NHL Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau
"He's the type of player who can change the outcome of a game suddenly and quickly. He's displayed unbelievably quick hands and an ability to set up and score goals. He definitely has NHL hands and playmaking ability. He's also gritty and does not back down when challenged."

Saint John Sea Dogs head coach Gerard Gallant
"He's still not the fastest, but I'd certainly label him the craftiest on our team. He's a quality, character kid. He competes both ways, battles for those goals around the net and competes hard in every situation. I can put Jonathan on the ice in any situation … the last minute of a game when we're behind by a goal or ahead by a goal. He comes to play every time. His vision is outstanding, he has great puck skills and I think he's the complete package."


  • NHL team: Montreal Canadiens
  • NHL player: Mike Ribeiro and Jordan Staal
  • Shootout move: "Come down left side, fake backhand, go to forehand, and shoot"
  • Goal celebration: "Fist pump"
  • Video Game: NHL ‘11
  • TV Show: Entourage
  • Actor/Actress: Johnny Depp, Megan Fox
  • Website:
  • Sport (other than hockey): Tennis
  • Breakfast food: Eggs
  • Superhero: Batman
North American Skater
Final Rank:  4 Midterm Rank:  7
Position:  DEFENCEMAN Shoots:  RIGHT
Height:  6' 4" Weight:  187
Born:  JUNE 17, 1993
Born in:  TORONTO, ON

Perhaps having the strongest season among North American skaters, Dougie Hamilton steadily ascended Central Scouting’s list throughout the 2010-11 season. The 6’4", 187-pound blueliner is revered for his skating and puck-moving talent.

"He's always been a big guy that moves pretty well and moves the puck well," MacGregor said. "He's a great defender, covers a lot of ice, has played minutes far greater than most other 17-year-olds. Not only can he handle the minutes, but he plays them well; dominating the game that way.

"He's going to be a very good defenceman in the NHL."

A cursory glance at his decorated resume will help to provide evidence of his dynamic and all encompassing skill-set. MacGregor has been particularly impressed with how he’s been able to handle everything. 

"He’s always been a high-end prospect, but his play in the OHL is only part of it. He was on Canada’s team in the Ivan Hlinka tournament as well, which has helped to churn out a number of solid NHL players over the past few years. He can do it all and not be overwhelmed by any incoming challenges."

In 67 games this season with the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs, Hamilton amassed 12 goals and 58 points, along with 77 penalty minutes.

NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Edwards
"He moves the puck well and makes good outlet passes, he does make good decisions with the puck, moves it very well out of his zone. He's a big guy, he'll take the body. He uses his size well. He can muscle people off the puck."

Niagara IceDogs head coach Marty Williamson
"Especially at this level, you find guys that are awkward or don't have a lot of explosion. You're 6-foot-4, you don't have a lot of explosion (but) the jump off his skates is phenomenal. When he sees those opportunities to jump into the rush or lead the rush, I really believe it's untapped what he can do. He's a very special defenseman in our league. He just has to understand the details and he's going to be a very good pro. Dougie gets himself very prepared for hockey games. He goes about it very business-like. He's mature beyond his years."


  • NHL team: San Jose Sharks
  • NHL player: Jay Bouwmeester
  • Shootout move: Spin-o-rama
  • Video game: NHL ‘11
  • Movie: The Guardian
  • TV show: Two and a Half Men
  • Actor: Adam Sandler
  • Website:
  • Restaurant: The Keg
  • Sport (other than hockey): Basketball
  • Breakfast food: Bagel with cheese
  • Superhero: The Flash

European Skater
Final Rank:  1 Midterm Rank:  1
Position:  DEFENCEMAN Shoots:  RIGHT
Height:  6' 3" Weight:  200
Born:  NOVEMBER 12, 1992

On the blueline, Adam Larsson has taken control as the No. 1 ranked European skater. The smooth-skating, puck-distributing rearguard is now established as one of this year’s top prospects. Given his location across the pond, many haven’t been able to watch him as much as they’d like. MacGregor, however, has seen him play plenty.

"This year alone I've seen him play about 12 times," he said. "Adam is a player that’s been on our radar for a long time, too, because he's been playing against men for so long."

Age and pedigree have both paid dividends, with Larsson getting the opportunity to play in some of the world’s most distinguished leagues and tournaments as a teenager.

"He's a late-born ‘92, so he’s been at several World Junior tournaments. In addition to his international reputation, he’s been playing in junior and elite men’s hockey for two full seasons as well."

Larsson has a unique comparable. Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman, also selected high (No. 2 overall in 2009), plays a similar style.

"Every high-end prospect is ready to play in the NHL to a certain degree," MacGregor said. "Experience and physical development are always factors, but he's not quite as good a skater as Victor Hedman, but he's a much better puck-mover; a player that moves the puck intelligently.

"Hedman's a little bigger. They are comparable in a lot of ways because they're Swedish and they both play defence. But beyond that, they're both different players. One's a cerebral thinking player, the other is a bigger, skating, defending player."

NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards
"Adam is one of the best skater’s in this year’s draft -- he has excellent speed and mobility. He also has patient puck handling abilities and can surprise an opponent with a solid hit. His size and skating ability make him comparable with Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman."


  • NHL team: Vancouver Canucks or Detroit Red Wings
  • NHL player: Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom
  • Shootout move: Wrist shot
  • Movie: Troy
  • TV show: One Tree Hill
  • Video game: NHL 2011
  • Book: The Millennium Series by Stieg Larsson
  • Home-cooked meal: "My mother’s meatballs"
  • Place to visit: Thailand

North American Skater
Final Rank:  6 Midterm Rank:  2
Position:  CENTRE Shoots:  LEFT
Height:  6' 4" Weight:  197
Born:  DECEMBER 7, 1992
Hometown:  BATHURST, NB
Born in:  PHOENIX, AZ

In sticking with the theme of skilled pivots, Sean Couturier had a fantastic season of his own. The 6’4", 194-pound centre recorded 36 goals and 96 points in only 58 games this season. Even so, Couturier saw his ranking drop four spots over the course of the season to No. 6 on Central Scouting’s North American list.

MacGregor believes that his ranking fell because of better competition. Couturier had already established his position due to incredible scoring totals, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson, Jonathan Huberdeau, Gabriel Landeskog and Dougie Hamilton had remarkable surges to top Couturier’s grade.

"Sean Couturier hasn't fallen at all," MacGregor remarked. "If anything, his play has been as good or better than anticipated. "What happened is that there became more competition for everyone and it makes it appear as though he's fallen, but he hasn't at all with his level of play."

That aside, Couturier is an extremely talented player that could potentially become an enticing option for the Oilers. As MacGregor explains, he brings a wealth of skill that rounds out an already well-developed two-way arsenal.

"He’s a big, strong centreman with very good hockey sense. Not only can he dominate in the offensive zone, but he’s very responsible defensively as well. He possesses an excellent collection of skill that will make him a good NHL player someday soon.

"More than anything, his work ethic is excellent."

NHL Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau
"At his size, he'll be hard to pass up in the draft. He possesses a very good work ethic and he's out there for every important faceoff. He's very responsible in the defensive aspect of the game -- a rare quality for such a young player in junior hockey."

NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards
"Sean has excellent puckhandling and playmaking ability; he sees the ice and reads the play very well. He's extremely smart and gets himself into good scoring position. He plays a solid two-way game and is very responsible defensively."


  • NHL team: Montreal Canadiens
  • NHL player: Evgeni Malkin
  • Shootout move: "One hand"
  • Goal celebration: "Fist Pump"
  • Video game: Mario Cart and NHL
  • Movie: Slapshot
  • Actor: Adam Sandler
  • Website:
  • Restaurant: East Side Mario’s
  • Sport (other than hockey): Baseball and Football
  • Breakfast food: Pancakes
  • Superhero: Spiderman

Author: Ryan Dittrick |
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