NHL’s Central Scouting turns out its final list before the Scouting Combine, before Canadian junior leagues are finished with their playoffs and before the Memorial Cup takes place. Are there any players whose draft stock seems to be rising since the Final Rankings were released? Adam Kimelman:
The one name that comes to mind is Boone Jenner from Oshawa in the OHL. He was well thought of in the final ranks – came in at No. 18 in Central Scouting’s final North American skater listing – so I’m not sure how far he’s able to rise, but Chris Edwards of Central Scouting said Boone Jenner is his favorite player in the draft because of his work ethic and his skill level. He’s never going to be a standout in any one thing – he’s not going to be a 50-goal scorer or 100-point guy – but he’s going to do every little thing 100% right. He’s a jack of all trades. He’s the kind of guy who coaches are going to want to use in all situations – up a goal, down a goal, on the power-play, on the penalty kill, there’s nothing he can’t do. So he’s a guy who could easily end up being picked above his final ranking. Stuart Percy from Mississauga in the OHL, is a guy who played well in the Memorial Cup Tournament, so the scouts got a chance for an extra couple viewings; that was an extra opportunity for him to impress and scouts came away from the Memorial Cup very impressed with his poise with the puck and the way he ran the power-play for them. He checked in at No. 53 in Central Scouting’s final North American skater rankings, but he’s a guy who some scouts have told me could go much higher than that.NP.com: In this year we saw a lot of college kids standout during the playoffs, from Preds defenseman Ryan Suter (Wisconsin) to Ryan Kesler (Ohio State), Kevin Bieksa (Bowling Green) and this year’s Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas (Vermont). Is college hockey becoming a more normal route to take to the NHL?Kimelman:
I don’t know if “normal” is the right word, but it has definitely become a more accepted route to get there and it’s definitely a route that can produce NHL stars as well. There are pros and cons to the college route and if you asked 10 teams you might get 10 different answers in terms of which route works best as a development tool. The advantages of playing in the NCAA are fewer games and more practice time, more time in the gym. Plus, if a NHL team drafts a kid going to college, it gives the team four years to watch the kid develop versus a kid coming out of the Canadian Hockey League where you have to make a decision in a two-year window. On the other side, in the WHL, OHL, QMJHL, you’re playing a 68-72 game schedule, which is about as close to a pro-style schedule as you’re going to get. There are pros and cons to both, but thanks in part to the U.S. National Team Program and thanks in part to better coaching in the NCAA ranks, you’re seeing better developed prospects coming out of the college ranks than maybe you did 15-20 years ago. I think that’s helped that become an avenue that scouts have to look at.NP.com: Who are the top collegiate kids in this year’s draft class?Kimelman:
You have the kids from the U.S. National Program who will – for the most part – be going to college. Tyler Biggs is committed to Miami, OH, John Gibson is going to University of Michigan, Jonathan Miller – likely to go in the middle-to-late first round – committed to North Dakota. Scott Mayfield, a defenseman, is going to University of Denver. So that group is NCAA-bound. And then you have the kids who are already in school. Jamieson Oleksiak from Northeastern, a defenseman; he’s the biggest player in the draft at 6-7, 245 pounds and you’ll hear his name in the first round. You might not hear about them in the NHL right away, but whichever teams end up drafting them four-five-six years from now, they can all be pretty prominent NHL players. Matt Nieto and Adam Clendening from Boston University and Nicholas Shore from University of Denver are all in the second/third round range. And then a bunch of other college kids projected in the mid-to-late rounds.NP.com: How do scouts compare a star player for a less successful team versus a role player on a great team?Kimelman:
I’ve had this exact conversation with a number of scouts. A player who we are talking about in those terms this year is Mark Scheifele of Barrie. Barrie was one of the bottom teams in the OHL and he was one of their top players. Are his stats a case of somebody had to score the goals and it just happened to be him? Did he get the opportunity because somebody had to be on the first line? Or if he wasn’t seeing the other team’s top match-ups, best defensemen, best checking forwards, would his stats be even better? It’s hard to say. Scouts have to careful not to overvalue or undervalue stats and really evaluate the talent. That’s tough to do when guys are put in such different situations. At the same time, scouts have to make sure not to overlook guys. I remember last year when Windsor was so dominant with their flock of outstanding players, they had a second line player Justin Shugg. Had he been on any other team he probably would have been a top-line guy, but because they had so much depth he was only a second line guy there. He might have been helped if he had been traded, sort of like the Preds first round pick last year, Austin Watson
. Watson was a third line guy in Windsor and then he got traded to Peterborough and became a top-line guy there. He might not have been a first round pick by the Predators if not for what he showed there at the end of the season with Peterborough – maybe he would have been a second or third round guy if he didn’t get the chance to showcase himself on the top-line. It’s really one of the big challenges in scouting.
Among kids in the situation this year, maybe one of the Saint John kids, Jonathan Huberdeau and Zach Phillips (both in Central Scouting’s top-15 North American skaters) played on the same line together, but Tomas Jurco got bumped down a line on that team. Would Jurco – No. 20 in the final rankings by Central Scouting – be higher up if he were on a different team and given a chance to shine on his own? Maybe, but maybe not?