As part of its coverage for the 2009 NHL Draft, NashvillePredators.com caught up with NHL Central Scouting Director EJ McGuire. Central Scouting is the league's primary amateur scouting service. They have a network of scouts across North America and through out Europe and rank each year's draft prospects. Central Scouting releases three annual draft rankings -- a preliminary grouping, a mid-term ranking and a final ranking.NashvillePredators.com: How does this year’s draft class compare to the past few draft classes? EJ McGuire:
This year’s draft class is a very good one and a very deep one, in that the amount of players who we predict will play in the NHL eventually is very significant. The top end players, there were 10 of them from last year’s draft who made Opening Night rosters around the NHL. Possibly that number could repeat again this year.NP.com: Is there a theme or position of depth in this year’s draft?EJ:
There are a lot of centers at the top of this year’s draft. Last year was kind of the year of the defenseman, with all the top quality defensemen taken early last year. I’m going to qualify that a little bit in that often the best players on their respective junior teams are centers. And often a kid – and remember we are still drafting 18 year olds – when he gets to the pro level might have to slide over to the wing. So centers are big this year. Also, this may be the year of the Swede, in terms of International players, because the Swedish players who comprised the World Junior team mostly were all draft eligible in ’09. Most of the Gold Medal-winning Canadian team, for example, was already drafted. That means the kids for Sweden just happened to be prospects that hadn’t been drafted, which means their good showing this January in Ottawa (Sweden won the Silver Medal) raised their status as top draft prospects.NP.com: After Central Scouting released its final rankings, which prospects seem to be improving his draft status the most?EJ:
Our final rankings come out in April so the teams can use them for their end of season scouting meetings - but that also means the final rankings are released before the Canadian Junior leagues wrap up their playoffs. Based on combine performance – and he hasn’t played in a game since September – Zach Budish
, who is from Edina High School in Minnesota, was also the starting quarterback for his high school football team and had a helmet-to-knee tackle that injured his knee in September. He had the “Tom Brady” injury. He proved at the combine that his total-knee construction was a success. We have him at No. 22, but our US and Minnesota scouts say he might be closer to No. 2 if he had played a full season. Budish went to the combine and proved that the knee had completely healed, so he may shoot up in team rankings a little bit because of that. Ryan Ellis
of the Windsor Spitfires just won a Memorial Cup and he has kept on improving from his World Junior Gold Medal performance with the Canadian National team. Other guys who had good playoff performances and might move earlier include Evander Kane of the Vancouver Giants. We have him at No. 3 on the North American Skater list, so I don’t know how much higher he can go, but he had a good playoff. Brayden Schenn in Brandon – Brandon swept the first three rounds of their playoffs before eventually getting knocked out – was very impressive during the playoffs. NP.com: The Predators hold the No. 11 pick in this year’s draft. What names do you think will be floating around at that pick?EJ:
Dmitry Kulikov from Drummondville - a very skilled defenseman - he’s our No. 11 in North America. If you sprinkle in a few of the International players who are likely to go in the top-10, you can look a little lower on our North American list too. So at No. 11 there will be a host of options – a lot of good players who we think will play as soon as next year. There are a couple of college bound kids like Louis Leblanc (Central Scouting No. 13) or Chris Kreider (Central Scouting No. 14) that David Poile might consider as well; they may need a little seasoning, but in the long-run they will be NHLers – not unlike Colin Wilson
from last year’s draft. There’s a smaller type, around a 6-foot type from the London Knights (of the OHL), Nazim Kadri who is an interesting offensive forward. We think that he’ll be around when the Nashville Predators make their selection.NP.com: Outside of John Tavares and Matt Duchene, who are the top pure offensive forwards in this year’s draft?EJ:
If for any reason our No. 5 ranked North American skater, Jordan Schroeder from the University of Minnesota were to get prejudiced by his 5-foot-8 size and if he’s around when No. 11 rolls around, he’s a Paul Kariya-type of player. We think he proved his worth playing against men in the college ranks – at the NCAA level there are a bunch of 22-year old/23-year old players where in the Canadian Juniors the limit is 20-years old – and he excelled there. He is certainly a skilled scorer. Or a local favorite in Montreal, Louis Leblanc who played for Omaha in the USHL and will be attending Harvard next year. Or a kid who is going to Boston College, Chris Kreider; a wonderful skater. Kreider played for Andover Prep School last year. There are some pure scorers could be there to be had at the No. 11 spot.NP.com: Looking into the second round, the Predators have two picks – Nos. 41 and 42. Are there any potential impact names that might still be available around that range?EJ:
Impact implies making the team right away. In this year’s draft, any one of those high second rounders could go in and make an impression during Training Camp and potentially even start the season with their NHL team. A guy like Alex Chiasson who played for Des Moines in the USHL; there’s a rangy center like Ethan Werek who we have No. 32 in the North American list – he plays for Kingston in the OHL; also in the same league, a big defenseman Matt Clark from Brampton. Those three may come in and surprise their NHL teams even though we have them rated in the second round.NP.com: To older hockey fans, ,there are a bunch of familiar sounding names in this year’s draft. Can you talk about some of the family connections with prospects from this year’s draft?EJ:
There a quite a few connections this year and we have fun with it; like what if the Toronto Maple Leafs select Brayden Schenn? Brayden’s one of the top forwards in this year’s draft and his older brother Luke just excelled as a rookie this past year with the Maple Leafs so the local papers in Toronto are having fun with that possibility. Older hockey fans who remember how good Ray Ferraro was starting with the Hartford Whalers and then a couple of other teams, well his son Landon is a top prospect and should be selected no worse than the end of the first round. Landon is a little different than his father; he’s not as mega-high of a goal scorer as his dad was, but is more of a power-forward style because he’s taller than his dad. The Predators have a unique scenario in that one of their top prospects Cal O’Reilly, has a younger brother Ryan - who plays for Erie in the Ontario Hockey League - who is a really good all-around player available in this year’s draft. We think Ryan really hasn’t hit top stride yet, but he’s still a late first round or second round type of a prospect. It would be fun for the Predators to select that type of a brother combination.
There are other familiar names to NHL fans out there. Ray Bourque’s second son, Ryan (No. 49 on Central Scouting’s North American list), is available in this year’s draft. Ray’s first son, Chris – Ryan’s older brother – just won a Calder Cup with the Hershey Bears. Ryan played for the Team USA National Development Team. And there's Philip Samuelsson (No. 60 on Central Scouting’s North American list), Ulf Samuelsson’s kid. Philip is a big defenseman like his dad, with a little bit of the same mean streak as his dad. Tyson Barrie (No. 52 on Central Scouting’s North American list) is a fast skating offensive forward and his dad, Len, not only used to play in the NHL, but now owns a team in the NHL, a part-owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. On the goaltending end, we have Matt Hackett, the nephew of former NHL goalie Jeff Hackett. Matt plays in the OHL and he is our top rated North American goaltender. And there are a bunch of others a little further down the rankings.NP.com:
Becasue there is a Preds tie-in to Ryan O’Reilly, can you give a little more of a scouting report on Cal’s younger brother?EJ:
Ryan’s very reliable defensively, almost to a fault, almost to a point where his statistics belie his skills. If he was almost more selfish, more of a go-get-it offensive player – and he has that type of raw talent – I think he’d be putting up bigger numbers and we scouts tend to fall in love with goals and assists and use them as a crutch when justifying our rankings. Well with Ryan O’Reilly, he’s an all-around good player, who the more you watch him, the more you appreciate how much he contributes in all facets of the game – faceoff, penalty killing, defensive play, the ability to check the John Tavares’s of the league in a match-up role.