This will start our series of speaking to different Scouting outlets on this coming NHL entry draft, which will occur June 24-26 in Los Angeles. This draft might be more wide-open than the last few years, and lots of different Scouting Reports have varied on a few things.
We begin with the Director of Scouting at McKeen’s Hockey, David Burstyn. McKeens is a draft staple for many a fan, blogger and press for the draft. This year they lowered their price for their Draft Guide to $30. It is a good read, as always, and even has this website with a full page ad in it. You can order the McKeen’s guide here.
We know the top of the offensive players this draft…at least the top of the crop. Yet there seems to be a lot of differing opinions as for the top of the defensive prospect crop. Can you go into that and why you consider one better than the others out of the top of the defense?
We have 9 defenseman rated in the 1st round, but the big three, Gudbranson, Gormley and Fowler are situated at 4-6 in that respective order. All of them are immensely talented prospects for them to be ranked that high by our service but in the end we gave the nod to Gudbransson and not strictly on size either. He laboured through an injury-ravaged season and still performed modestly. He was named the captain of the U18 Team Canada and despite their poor finish he played well. Gudbranson competes and has a physical dimension to his game something the others below him do not have. We think in the right environment his offensive skills can be developed and matured and that he will put up healthy point totals in the NHL.
Gormely is an incredibly smart player and approaches the game in a similar fashion as Nick Lidstrom as he plays a very low maintenance yet effective game. He will need to improve his speed but he has such a prevailing hockey sense that he has been able to disguise it at the junior level.
Fowler played well in the Memorial. Cup and had a terrific first season of Major Junior but his lack of a shot and physical play lowered him in our rankings. Fowler is still an excellent prospect.
Ok, now to offense…why Hall over Seguin? Why Connolly and Ryan Johansen over someone like Granlund/Neiderreiter/Skinner?
Hall has given us no reason not to put him at #1. His junior hockey resume may be one of the most impressive of NHL draft eligible prospects of all time. He won two Memorial Cups, two Memorial Cup MVP awards, a silver medal at the WJC, U17 gold medal, OHL ROY and a co-won a scoring title this year despite playing 6 fewer games than Seguin. Hall will be an immediate impact player and people will pay to watch him. He is electrifying with the puck and will score highlight reel goals. His speed flat-out intimidates and he is a natural finisher. The Oilers need goals so they will select Hall.
Outside of Hall and Seguin, Brett Connolly may have the best hands in the draft. He scored 30 goals last season as a rookie for a very poor Prince George team. Once he played with players of his own age group he absolutely dominated the U17′s in his silver medal performance. Connolly got derailed to a hip injury that he was never able to heal properly and therefore he hurt his other hip as a result. Connolly is lethal in PP situations and given the right line mates that can bring out his skill set he should be a very dangerous player.
Speaking of the offense…any gems that you might consider the kind of players who potentially could even be better than Taylor Hall of Tyler Seguin? How about on D? Is there anyone that might prove out stronger than Fowler, Gudbranson, Gormley?
This is always a difficult question to answer because there are so many variables. Depth charts, injuries, how well they mesh with the coaching staff, off-ice conditioning are all factors that could play into a prospects favour or out of it. Certainly the top end guys will have positions to loose come training camp as there has been a youth movement in the NHL with the likes of Stamkos, Tavares, Kane, Staal and Toews all making the NHL before their 20th birthdays. In saying that I like Grunland to be a solid pro as he has already done in the SM-Linga and posted healthy numbers. He is the type of player that could play in most situations and is aware of his surroundings so he will survive at the NHL level. On the defence side a player like Justin Faulk could surprise many as he is overlooked behind the likes of Merrill, Tinordi and Forbort on the USNDTP. He put up good offensive numbers, plays with sandpaper and finds ways to win.
The Russia factor seems to irradiate some of the prospects this draft, much like last year. If there wasn’t an issue of some players going to the KHL, any of them be a sure-shot for NHL success? Any of them a better chance, if drafted by a NHL team, that they actually come over the pond to play?
We have three Russians in our first round however we are basing it solely on talent level and projection. Unlike NHL teams we do not have millions of dollars invested in these players so many teams will tread lightly when looking at a Russian born player. Burmistrov showed that he is willing to come over and had a great year with Barrie, he certainly has the speed and natural offensive skill to play in the league but he is still vastly under developed for the NHL. Kabanov came into the season with much praise after his decision to leave Russia and play in Moncton. He dominated at the U17 and the U18 Ivan Hlinka tournament; but sadly his season was cut short by injuries and off-ice issues. Nonetheless he is on par with a Taylor Hall as the two play similar puck possession games and have speed to burn. Had Kabanov kept a low profile this season he would undoubtedly been our top ranked Russian born player.
As in any draft and lots of different opinions there are always some hyped and some underrated prospects. Could you list some overly hyped prospects and some underrated ones?
We always maintain an unbiased opinion when it comes to over hyped prospects as we do not place a player higher on our lists because of reputation rather on what he does on the ice. As a scout you can only report on what you see at the games and the worst thing you can do is create a player! In saying that I think players such as Brock Nelson and John McFarland got a lot of exposure. On the flip side players such as Brickley, Curtis Hamilton, Jared Knight, Joey Hishon, Justin Holl, Brandon Archibald, Riley Brace, Gregg Sutch and Jonathan Lilahti are underrated prospects.
You have goalie prospect Jack Campbell as #3 on your list, probably the highest of many other scouting reports. What is it about Campbell that warrants him #3? Where do you think he’ll actually go in the actual entry draft?
When we looked at the other prospects behind him they all came with defenncies. Campbell is a proven winner and has done it at every level with three International gold medals to his credit. He has the size, mechanics and most importantly the mental make-up to be a starter in the league. Such a premium is put on goalies and you can never have enough in the system. Defenseman are usually signed, forwards are traded for but you rarely see a goalie involved in a trade and if a team wishes to acquire a true number 1 it usually costs them a lot more via free agency than it would had they drafted him and developed him in their own system. It is uncertain where Campbell goes however the team that selects him will get a top notch prospect capable of playing in the NHL sooner rather than later since he accelerated his development curve by opting to play in the CHL as a member of the Spitfires next season.
Would you be able to do a little ad hoc mock draft for us? Just for fun…nobody will hold you to it….(much).
1 Edmonton Oilers – HALL
2 Boston Bruins (from Toronto) – SEGUIN
3 Florida Panthers – GUDBRANSON
4 Columbus Blue Jackets – GORMLEY
5 New York Islanders – CONNOLLY
6 Tampa Bay Lightning – FOWLER
7 Carolina Hurricanes – GRANLUND
8 Atlanta Thrashers – JOHANSEN
9 Minnesota Wild – SKINNER
10 New York Rangers – NIEDERETTER
stay tuned for more Draft Q&As later this week.
About the Author: B.D. Gallof is a published writer and hockey blogger. He writes about Hockey, NY Islanders & the NY Islanders venue situation for CBS New York. BD has been written up in Sports Illustrated, TSN.ca, the NY Times Slapshots blog, Yahoo's Sports and SportsBusiness Journal. He has been a featured blogger for The Huffington Post, as well as owner, lead writer, and managing editor at HockeyIndependent.com.