Saturday, November 7, 2009
Last year I watched Charles play a few games as an underage, and I was impressed with his grit, determination, and potential leadership qualities. Although he did not possess an elite level of skill, I did look forward to evaluating Charles as a prospect this season.
This is my first viewing of Charles this year, and my overall impression was slightly disappointing -- perhaps because of my own expectations and hopes for him. He does play a significant role on a good team, as he is the second line left winger. Charles possesses a solid skating form with good return on his stride -- although perhaps he could have a little more leg extension in order to lengthen his stride. I would describe his stride as compact, which provides him good strength and balance along with agility. His coach has enough confidence in Charles to play him in penalty killing and power-play situations. On the power play, Charles seems content to stand in front of the net and look for deflections on shots from the point. There is no question that he is willing to battle for the puck in front of the net, or anywhere else for that matter -- the kid will compete. However, on the power play it would have been nice to see more from him in terms of handling the puck and getting in position to score. He did not demonstrate much versatility in terms of offensive creativity and imagination. Other than consistently forechecking and battling for the puck, Charles did not contribute much in the offensive zone. He did contribute one assist when he made a pass from behind the net to a teammate a few feet away -- a pass that was partially deflected by the goaltender.
Although it is difficult to tell at times, it seemed to me that Charles became fatigued at the end of a shift -- I'm not sure if this is a conditioning issue or if he was not feeling 100% as of yet. I will continue to monitor Charles this season but for now his play merits mid-round consideration at best.
This is my first viewing of Emerson and I had been looking forward to it after seeing that he was off to a good start, at least in terms of statistics. In terms of overall skating ability I would have to think that Emerson is one of the best skaters available in the draft. Readers of this blog know that I prefer a slightly bowlegged skating style, and this is the style that Emerson possesses. He has good leg extension and changes speeds almost effortlessly. He has a strong stride, good balance, and is able to turn and pivot quickly. However, I did not see him skate at top speed often in order to beat defenders wide. Despite this, Emerson's skating style does bode well for positive future development. It is easy to see why he is putting up good offensive numbers. Emerson has good offensive instincts, and reads the play well -- for example, on the offensive rush he has an uncanny ability to skate to open areas and support the puck carrier, therefore giving himself good scoring opportunities. Without the puck in the offensive zone Emerson demonstrates innovation and deception with his positioning which make him difficult to contain. In terms of his puck handling ability I would say that he is adequate, but in this game he was not creative and did not show great vision of the ice. The best prospects in this category know what to do with the puck before they get it -- I did not get that sense in watching Emerson. He does appear to have soft hands and handles the puck maturely and with poise. That is, I did not see him turn the puck over in any of the three zones. I would like to see Emerson challenge defenders in one-on-one situations when he is carrying the puck. In the defensive zone he appeared to understand proper positioning and was definitely not a liability. In terms of physical play, Emerson is consistent and diligent in finishing his checks. However, he does not play the body with much authority -- he seems to be simply completing a task to be fulfilled. In terms of his overall competitiveness I did note that he is willing to pay a price to go to the net.
Although it is early in the season, Emerson exhibits the skill set necessary to be a first three round consideration for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. To be more specific, I would slot him in the late first round or early second round at this point.
Monday, October 26, 2009
The Swift Current Broncos have several players who are eligible for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. I will make a few comments on these players, however, based on what I saw of them last night they are not priority prospects. One of the players I focused on was Andy Blanke, who was a fourth line left-winger last night. Overall, I did not think that Andy's contribution to the game was enough to merit draft consideration. He did display a good work ethic and was an aggressive forechecker in the limited ice time that he received.
Andrew Sullivan of the Broncos is a fourth line right-winger who is also eligible for the 2010 Entry Draft. Unfortunately, it is difficult to evaluate Andrew because he did not play very much. When he was on the ice, he appeared to have a short skating stride and did not seem very comfortable handling the puck. He will need to prove his overall game in order to be a draft consideration for this year.
Of all the Bronco players with a 1992 birth date, Brody Luhning was the only one to play a regular shift. He is a right-handed defenseman with decent size, but his overall skill level is rather basic. In other words, I'm not sure what type of player he is. I will need to see more of Brody, Andy Blanke, and Andrew Sullivan before I would consider any of them for this draft. Hopefully, they will improve during the season and prove me wrong.
I would also like to add some general observations about players in last night's game that have already been drafted:
-Cody Eakin scored two goals and now leads the WHL in goalscoring with 15. For a center his goal/assist ratio is abnormal and does not appear to be an anomaly. Over his WHL career, Cody has 50 goals but only 35 assists. He recently signed an NHL contract with the Washington Capitals, and based on what I've seen from him he merits the contract for sure. He's a good skater with excellent speed and acceleration. In this game he scored two goals demonstrating a quick release on a hard and accurate shot. Personally, I would like to see Cody improve his vision of the ice and puck distribution skills. In the future, Cody projects to be an asset to an NHL organization. He will be a good player at the American Hockey League level, and I see him as a potential role player in the NHL. With his speed, quickness, and individual skill level I could see him killing penalties. However, he may have to switch to the wing in order to reach his potential.
-for Regina, this is the first time I have seen newly acquired defenseman Cody Carlson. He was a defense partner of Colten Teubert in last night's game and I liked how they played together. Cody is comfortable handling the puck and takes some of the pressure off of Teubert. When Teubert plays with young and inexperienced defense partners he sometimes tries to do too much and over handle the puck -- which gets him in trouble with turning the puck over. In this game, his passes were crisp and accurate.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Prospect Watch: Brendan Ranford/Kamloops Blazers
The fact that this is my first and only viewing of Brendan must be taken into consideration. In terms of his overall skating ability I would say that he is quick, but not necessarily fast. In other words, he has good acceleration and can change gears quickly, yet I can't say that he possesses elite level speed. It appears that he derives the power in his stride completely from his legs -- he looks like he doesn't rotate his hips -- similar to a Peter Mueller in his draft year. On one of his first shifts in this game he was forechecking aggressively and made a big hit on a Regina defenseman for which he received a penalty. From my perspective, Brendan demonstrated strength and balance and a willingness to be involved physically on that particular play. Later in the game he set up a nice goal by making a pass from behind the net to a teammate in the slot -- demonstrating good vision and patience with the puck. Overall, it should be noted that Brendan is a positive contributor on a good/winning hockey team. Based on this one game I would hesitate drafting Brendan in the top three rounds. Depending on the strength of this overall draft class, Brendan would likely be a middle round consideration as of right now.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
For me, it was at last year's World Junior Tournament, where Myers made a big step forward in his development. At the beginning of the tournament he was a number six or seven defenseman on Team Canada and used mainly in penalty killing situations. By the end of the tournament, however, Myers was used in many crucial situations and you could see that his confidence and composure had increased significantly. Although I did not see him play in the second half of last season, from what I saw of him in the Memorial Cup, it certainly looks as though he continued his strong play for the remainder of the season.
At the time of the 2008 Entry Draft, my feeling was that Myers was a prospect of considerable upside but with a high risk/reward ratio. My concern was that he would have trouble with containing opposing forwards who were small and fast. After watching last night's game, it appears that Myers's skating and footwork will allow him to be an effective defender to complement his puck handling skills and allow him to reach his potential.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
This is Matt's third-year in the Western Hockey League, as he has a late 1991 birthdate. He plays a significant role on his team, and is firmly entrenched on the second pairing of defensemen. Matt has a slightly knock-kneed skating style, yet he is able to generate sufficient speed and agility. In terms of turning and pivoting, his footwork is efficient and compensates somewhat for the lack of a smooth skating stride. His offensive skill level seems to be improving, as he is off to a good start to the season. The coach has enough confidence in Matt to use him on the second power-play unit. When he plays the point on the power play he passes the puck crisply and smartly, but he does not demonstrate much creativity or imagination -- in other words he makes the easy play and usually the smart play. In this game he scored a goal by moving into the slot from the point and converting a nice one timer into the net -- he showed good instincts and anticipation on this play. In the defensive zone Matt displays discipline in his positioning -- he doesn't wander around aimlessly. He is able to contain forwards with good footwork and defensive technique, and he uses his stick well to break up plays. In this game, Matt did not demonstrate much in terms of physical play and does not appear to use his size to his advantage when playing the body. It is too early in the season to give an accurate round rating for Matt right now. However, he is a prospect to keep an eye on and appears to be a mid-round consideration.
Monday, September 28, 2009
The game was a defensive struggle for the first 50 minutes with the score tied 1-1. In the final few minutes of the game, however, the Pats collapsed and Saskatoon scored three late goals to win the game 4-1. Regina head coach Curtis Hunt employed an interesting tactic in the game by dressing 9 defensemen, using three of them as forwards. Regina's fourth line had two defensemen playing forward. In my opinion, they were generally outperformed by Saskatoon's fourth line. A message was likely being sent to two forwards who were healthy scratches from the lineup, Graham Hood and Michal Poletin.
This is my second viewing of the Blades this season. Both John Nicholls and Curtis Hamilton contributed offensively in the game. Curtis scored a goal in the second period to tie the game 1-1. Saskatoon scored three goals late in the game and Josh was involved in all three goals. The Blades play in Regina on November 6 and after that game I will be able to provide a thorough evaluation on these two players. Hopefully, Charles Inglis will also be in the lineup by then.
As for the draft eligible players on the Pats, the only prospect as of right now is Jordan Weal. Three second-year WHL players who haven't done enough for me to consider them for the 2010 Entry Draft are Graham Hood, Dominick Favreau, and Justin Slobozian. They will have to improve their play and overall contribution to their team for me to reconsider -- remember, it is very early in the season.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The Blades dominated play in the first 10 minutes of the game but failed to score on Pats' rookie goaltender Dawson Guhle -- who may have been the best player in the game. The home team lead the game until the Blades tied the score 3-3 with less than a minute to play. The Pats went on to win the game in the shootout.
Blades prospect Charles Inglis did not play because of mono, and is listed as being out indefinitely. He is a player who I wanted to see because last year (as an underage) he demonstrated grit, determination, and possibly leadership potential despite not demonstrating an elite level of skill.
Two other Blades' prospects did play, however. Josh Nicholls and Curtis Hamilton are two players who possess the required talent level to be considered for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Since this is my first viewing of these players I will simply provide a brief description of each.
Josh Nicholls is a tall and somewhat lanky right-handed shot who possesses a long skating stride. In this game he demonstrated good vision of the ice and good passing ability. At this point he does not participate in much physical play. My opinion is that his skating will improve as he becomes stronger -- he seems somewhat underdeveloped physically, in other words he could work on his leg strength. He is a player that scouts will monitor this season.
The other prospect I watched in this game was Curtis Hamilton. This is his third season in Saskatoon as he has a late 1991 birth date. His offensive statistics have improved from season to season, and hopefully he will be able to do the same this year. I would describe Curtis as having good offensive instincts, and just overall a very smart player -- he understands all aspects of the game. He is a good skater, but tends to lean over a little too much during his acceleration phase. He played left-wing in this game and was used in all situations. He is definitely a player to watch and I will provide a detailed prospect evaluation after I see him again.
Note: Saskatoon also has two solid underage players to keep an eye on in Duncan Siemens and Brent Benson. Siemens, in particular, was impressive as a young defenseman with good size and skating ability -- someone to watch for the future.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
It is difficult to assess the quality of these two teams because so many of their top players are still in NHL training camps. For Regina: Jordan Eberle, Colten Teubert, and Matt Delahey. For Brandon: Brayden Schenn, Scott Glennie, Matt Calvert, Tony Rajala, and Alexander Urbom. With the absence of these players, some of the younger players were cast in more important roles than they normally would be.
As far as this game is concerned, it definitely was not high in entertainment value. It is definitely too early in the season to make any generalizations about either team, but I do have some brief thoughts. This was the second game of the regular season for Regina and they have scored only one goal. They did have some quality scoring chances especially from Jordan Weal and Garrett Mitchell. Overall I believe that Regina will not be an under average team offensively this season, especially if Jordan Eberle returns. After watching this game, however, the weakness of the team appears to be the defense. They had problems handling the Brandon forecheck and turned the puck over way too easily.
I focused my attention on two prospects who I identified last season based on their strong performances as under age players, Mark Stone of Brandon and Jordan Weal of Regina. Although it is far too early to provide a detailed prospect evaluation of these two players I will say that they both merit attention for the 2010 NHL entry draft. Thus I will give a brief description of these two prospects.
It seemed to me that Mark's play improved during the course of last season. His offensive production improved last year after Scott Glennie was injured -- therefore he probably some more quality power play ice time. In this game he was used in all situations, including the power play and penalty killing situations. He has good offensive instincts and is willing to go to the net. I will need more time to evaluate his skating ability. He does not possess a smooth stride, but with improved leg strength his balance and agility will improve. Scouts will have plenty of time to see Mark, and his combination of size and skill merit their attention.
There is no question that Jordan is a dynamic offensive player with above average hockey sense and offensive instincts. Although he did not score in the game he did have some quality scoring chances. An area of improvement that Jordan could work on is his ability to finish. When he gets scoring chances he needs to "bury the puck in the back of the net", instead of simply shooting and hoping. It looks to me like his skating is a little smoother. For NHL scouts, Jordan is a player to keep an eye on despite his diminutive stature. After more viewings I will provide a detailed prospect evaluation on this blog.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Now that the Western Hockey League has once again started you can expect regular posts on this blog. The content will remain much the same as last year. The focus will be on the prospects for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and on prospects who have already been drafted by NHL teams. In regards to the prospects for the 2010 Draft I will provide a thorough evaluation of their skill level as well as provide an assessment of where they should be drafted. I will also monitor the development of prospects who have already been drafted by NHL clubs and provide an assessment as to whether they merit NHL contract consideration. All of my evaluations will be based entirely on the viewings that I have when I attend WHL games -- the majority of which will be in Regina.
For the readers of this blog, I remind you that the content of this blog is my opinion only. Please do not take my opinion too seriously.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
This game was meaningless in terms of playoff positioning, yet there was still quite a bit of energy expended by both teams. The Pats were outshot badly (32-12) but maintained a 2-1 lead late in the second period. The Broncos tied the game in the last minute of the second period, and then totally dominated the third period.
On this blog last February 12th I provided a detailed report on Swift Current Bronco prospects Cody Eakin and Joel Rogers. From this game, I will just make a few comments on how these players performed.
Despite the fact that this game meant little in the standings I thought that Cody Eakin worked hard for the entire game. Late in the second period he scored a nice goal with a backhand while shooting in stride. Cody looks to be developing nice chemistry with linemate Geordie Wudrick. I like Cody for his competitiveness, hockey sense, and overall offensive contribution. However, it would be nice to see him develop a smoother skating stride and to increase his speed. At the end of January, Cody had 17 goals and 9 assists -- at which time I questioned his playmaking and puck distribution. Since then, he has 7 goals and 15 assists, perhaps a sign that he is using his linemates more effectively. Judging from this game I would still say that Cody could improve his overall vision of the ice and playmaking ability. Without knowing the overall depth of the 2009 Entry Draft, I will estimate that Cody will be drafted in the third round.
As far as Joel Rogers is concerned, I thought he played a similar role as he did when I saw him play in February. His skating style does have upside, but his overall game contribution is minimal right now. For me, I did not see enough improvement in his game to upgrade his draft status. Possible late round consideration only.
Monday, March 9, 2009
This was a game that Regina should have been in a position to win. Brandon was without two of its better players in Scott Glennie and Keith Aulie. It was also Brandon's fourth game in five nights. Much of the game was played on the perimeter as both teams played well defensively. The two Brandon goals were a result of costly turnovers by Regina's defense.
In this game I focused my attention on Brayden Schenn and Brodie Melnychuk of the Brandon Wheat Kings, who are both prospects for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Brayden Schenn (Brandon Wheat Kings, #5 CSB)
Brayden is a prospect who has been watched closely for the past two seasons, and for good reason. He is a definite priority prospect and is the best player I have seen who is eligible for the 2009 draft. Brayden has a smooth skating stride but does not have an elite level of speed. The strongest aspect of his skating ability is his ability to turn, pivot, and change directions quickly -- he also has very good balance and is difficult to knock off the puck. In terms of offensive skill I would say that Brayden has great instincts and is very creative. He handles the puck smoothly -- he seems to know what he wants to do with the puck before he gets it. Brayden "thinks the game ” at a higher level than most. During the course of this season Brayden's offensive statistics have improved -- he started slowly but his numbers have improved as the season has progressed. In the neutral zone he has the instinctive ability to get open and support the puck. However, don't be fooled by the fact that he is a talented finesse player. On one shift in this game he engaged in an intense one-on-one battle for the puck with Colten Teubert (a strong young man), and was not overmatched physically. It was a treat to watch these two talented players compete at a high-level of intensity. Earlier in the season I witnessed another example of Brayden's competitiveness when he fought Garrett Mitchell -- it was a good fight that ended in a draw. Brayden is the type of player that is respected by both teammates and opponents -- he plays the game right. In the defensive zone, he uses good body positioning to contain opponents. Overall, he plays the game with confidence and composure and appears to have leadership abilities -- the “lead by example” type of player. He is used during key situations in the game as his coach obviously has confidence in him. On a couple of occasions in this game he tried a little too hard to draw penalties -- he didn't "dive”, but slight embellishment was involved. To me, this seemed out of character for Brayden as perhaps he was simply tired after playing four games in five nights. As for the 2009 Entry Draft, I would find it difficult to pass over Brayden -- definite top 10 pick.
Brodie Melnychuk (Brandon Wheat Kings, #115 CSB)
Brodie is not a smooth skater with a slightly knock-need skating style. As far as overall speed he is average, with the potential to improve as he gains leg strength. For a kid his size he is actually quite mobile. In terms of offensive skill I would say that this is not part of Brodie's portfolio right now -- and likely won't be in the future. What I appreciated about his game is that he did not over handle the puck, didn't turn the puck over, and made smart and accurate passes. Despite his size (6'3") I would not describe Brodie as a physical presence. In terms of his defensive play Brodie could improve his body positioning when approaching opposing forwards -- he sometimes puts himself at a disadvantage by not staying between his opponent and his own net. However, he is extremely effective in using his stick in defensive situations to intercept passes and to break-up plays. Sometimes he relies too much on using his stick, instead of using his body to contain opponents. Next year Brodie should be an important player on his team that will be in the Memorial Cup. Brodie merits consideration for the 2009 Entry Draft in the later rounds. One thing to consider is that in the past, players in Brandon have had a tendency to develop to their full potential.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
In the first period Sean Ringrose scored two goals to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead, and it appeared they were well on their way to an easy victory. The turning point in the game came late in the second period with Medicine Hat leading 3-1, when Matt Strueby scored a goal to close the gap to one. The Pats played their best hockey in the third period, scoring two goals to secure the well-deserved 4-3 victory.
In the game I focused my attention on Linden Vey and Matthew Konan of the Tigers, who are both prospects for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Linden Vey (Medicine Hat Tigers, #108 CSB)
This is my first viewing of Linden this season, which is inadequate to give a proper evaluation. Linden is averaging one point per game in his draft season, which is substantial considering the Western Hockey League is not a high-scoring league. His overall skating ability is average. It would be nice to see him lengthen his stride. He currently lacks an extra gear to give him the speed necessary to let him improve. Linden is a maximum effort skater, who works hard on the forecheck and while backchecking. He would benefit if he would change gears in stride in order to give his attack more variety -- he seems to be skating the same speed constantly. His overall offensive skill level is advanced by his puck handling and passing skills. Linden sees the ice well and passes the puck to the right person at the right time. His coach obviously has confidence in him as he is used on the power play -- and even played on the point on a couple of occasions. Linden distributes the puck well. In one-on-one situations while battling for the puck he has a tendency to get knocked off balance -- needs to improve his overall strength. There are no obvious shortcomings in his defensive zone awareness, as he maintains proper positioning for the most part. Linden does not have the size or strength currently to give him a physical presence in the game. He does compete and appears to have a strong work ethic. The coach uses Linden in key situations, as he played in the final minute while trailing the game by one goal. If an NHL team is looking for a skilled player with hockey sense in the late rounds they could consider drafting Linden. To me, he would be drafted higher if his skating improved. Right now he would be a late round consideration.
MatthewKonan (Medicine Hat Tigers, #197 CSB)
Matthew is in his second year in the Western Hockey League. The first thing you notice about Matthew is that he has good size. His skating stride is underdeveloped but has potential. He has a slight bowlegged style, but his balance needs to improve. At times he can look slightly awkward during turns, pivots, etc. He does use his considerable reach to his advantage. Matthew's ice time fluctuated somewhat in this game because he does not play the power play. However, he is used in penalty killing situations and uses his stick effectively to break up opposing scoring chances. In terms of offensive skill , Matthew does not contribute much. For the most part he makes a good first pass and does not over handle the puck. Despite his size I would not say that Matthew looks to initiate physical contact. In the defensive zone Matthew is disciplined and does not get out of position. As of right now I would not consider drafting Matthew. However, with his size and with the potential for his skating to improve I would continue to monitor his development closely.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Zack is definitely one of the top prospects in the Western Hockey League. Right now, I would have difficulty in deciding who is the better prospect; Zach or Jordan Eberle. In comparing the two it is easy to notice that Zach has a distinct advantage in his skating style and dynamic speed level. However, Eberle is one of the smartest prospects I have seen and has more variety in his offensive game.
If Zach develops to his potential he will have a solid NHL career. Currently he projects to be a top nine forward in the NHL. Also, his speed will allow him to eventually contribute in penalty killing situations. This type of player is valuable to an NHL team.
These are two teams that have underachieved this season. However, this was the first game this season that Lethbridge has had its full lineup on the ice. In terms of overall play, the game was evenly matched. Lethbridge was able to capitalize on their opportunities, despite the fact that it was their third game in three nights. In the third period when the Pats put some pressure on the Hurricanes, the ability to block shots and collapse in the defensive zone helped the Hurricanes win the game.
From a scouting perspective this game was a good opportunity to compare and contrast the five players that were selected in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. In the near future I will attempt to review the development of three Hurricane prospects; Kyle Beach, Zach Boychuk, and Luca Sbisa. In this game I focused my attention on Lethbridge Hurricane left winger Carter Ashton, who is a prospect for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
Carter Ashton (Lethbridge Hurricanes, #10 CSB)
This is my first viewing of Carter this season. The first thing I noticed about him is that he has improved considerably from last year. Carter has an efficient, slightly bowlegged skating stride with impressive agility for a young man of his size. His overall skating ability is well above average and he uses it to his advantage. In terms of offensive skill, Carter's most appealing attribute is that he is willing to go hard to the net in order to score goals -- he's not afraid of traffic. He handles the puck well and uses his body to shield the puck from opponents. As far as imagination and creativity in the offensive zone, Carter lacks great vision and I would not regard him as a playmaker. Hopefully this aspect of his game will develop over time as he gains confidence and composure. In terms of defensive zone awareness I would say that he is disciplined and maintains solid positioning overall. Despite his size (6'3", 200 lbs.) I would not consider Carter much of a physical presence -- in other words, not a power forward. He does not shy away from physical confrontations, but he is not one to initiate physical play. His on ice mannerisms are positive -- appears to have a strong work ethic and good attitude, he didn't display frustration. Carter certainly appears to have a solid understanding of the game overall. In my opinion Carter has the potential to play in the NHL. However, he will have to improve his on ice vision if he is going to be a top two line player at the NHL level. Will Carter score at the NHL level? That is the question. His combination of size, skating ability, and offensive skill give him the attributes necessary to be selected in the first round of the NHL draft.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
The game started out like so many of the past few games for the Regina team. The young, inexperienced, last-place Moose Jaw squad had a 2-0 lead near the end of the first period. At that point Victor Bartley scored a goal, which seemed to spark the home team. It is a rare occasion when the Regina team can score 5 goals in a game without any points from Jordan Eberle.
One does not often see a Western Hockey League team with no 20-year-olds on its roster, but that is the case in Moose Jaw. They are a young team, but the question is whether or not the young players will develop into top end Western Hockey League talent. I believe that they have at least three 16 -year-olds who will contribute in a substantial way in the club's future; Nathan MacMaster, Dylan McIlrath, and Quinton Howden. For the NHL entry draft of 2010 I would identify Howden as a priority prospect, and therefore I will provide a brief description here. I will also provide a report on Matt Strueby, who is a prospect for the 2009 NHL entry draft.
Quinton Howden (Moose Jaw Warriors, draft eligible 2010)
Quinton certainly has all the tools to be a top three round selection in next year's NHL entry draft. He was the first overall selection in the WHL bantam draft. It is hard to know just how good Quinton will be in the future, but with his size and skating ability he should develop well. Playing for a young team has meant that he is used in all situations, power-play and penalty killing. In terms of his offensive skill level I would like to see more creativity and imagination -- hopefully this will develop over time as he matures. Physically, Quinton does not shy away from giving and taking hits. In this game, he was hit hard a couple of times and left himself vulnerable. In my opinion, he needs to be more prepared to take a hit. I look forward to watching Quinton play next year (his draft year) and hope that he fulfills his vast potential.
Matt Strueby (Regina Pats, #173 CSB)
Matt's offensive production has improved significantly since last season. However, just like his team, he has struggled to score recently. If my math is correct, he has only scored two goals in his last 20 games. This is a concern because Matt's strongest attribute is his offensive skill level. I would describe him as an opportunist, in a positive sense of the term. He scores the majority of his goals from around the net and is not afraid to get in traffic to score. To use a hockey cliché he has a "nose for the net ” -- in other words he uses his instincts to get open near the net in order to take advantage of passes and/or rebounds. In this game he was called for goaltender interference on two occasions. While it is not good to put your team shorthanded, it is necessary for Matt to play close to the net in order for him to be effective. Matt's overall skating ability is adequate, as he is agile and has decent speed -- but no "extra gear ”. He does appear to need to improve his overall strength, as it would help his balance when fighting for the puck. In terms of defensive zone awareness he demonstrates commitment and uses good body positioning to contain opponents. Although I would not recommend drafting Matt at this point, it will be important to monitor his development because he could be a late bloomer. Matt could be the type of player who has a breakout season as a 20-year-old.
Monday, February 16, 2009
In the first period both teams had good scoring chances and the play was fairly even. However, the Regina team did not capitalize on their scoring chances which is essential against a team as talented as Calgary. Late in the second period, with Calgary ahead 3-2, the Pats killed of a lengthy two-man advantage. At the time, I thought it might prove to be the turning point in the game. However, Calgary scored two late goals in the third period to win the game 5-2. Despite the loss it was the best effort I have seen from the Regina team in a couple of weeks.
Brandon Kozun (Calgary Hitmen, #149 CSB)
The first thing you notice about Brandon is that he has dynamic offensive skill. In this game he was a major factor, scoring two goals and adding one assist. On his first goal he demonstrated speed and an ability to finish when he broke to the net and scored on a semi-breakaway situation. For his second goal he knocked in a rebound while standing in traffic in front of the net. Brandon has a pronounced bowlegged skating style which produces both acceleration and speed. Although he has good leg extension, he does not achieve full return on his stride -- that is he does not bring his leg right back under his body. He excels in one-on-one offensive situations, using his speed and puckhandling skills to make it difficult for opposing defensemen to keep him contained. Although he sees the ice well and passes the puck accurately I would not say that his overall creativity is at the elite level. The success he is having is due to the fact that he does everything at top speed. In the defensive zone he is positionally sound, and he uses speed and anticipation effectively in penalty killing situations. In terms of physical play Brandon is not much of a factor -- listed at 5'8". However, he does go to the net and is willing to compete in traffic. For a player of his stature it will be important for him to work on his fitness and strength to compensate for his lack of size. I have no idea what kind of kid Brandon is, but his on ice mannerisms suggest that he is competitive and has a strong work ethic. Over the past couple of years Brandon's play has improved significantly on a year-to-year basis. Brandon has above average talent in two different categories (skating and offensive skill), therefore he does merit draft consideration in the later rounds.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Regina outshot Swift Current 39-28. Despite this, it seemed like Swift Current had at least as many quality scoring opportunities. It is a rare night in the Western Hockey League when nine goals are scored, yet zero power-play goals. Once again, there were times when Regina looked completely lost in their own end. Swift Current's speed and skill were too much for the Regina boys.
In this game I focused on two prospects for the 2009 NHL entry draft, Swift Current's Cody Eakin and Joel Rogers.
Cody Eakin (Swift Current Broncos, #52 CSB)
Last year, as an underage, Cody played very well for his team in the two games I saw him play in the first round of the playoffs against Regina. In fact, he was one of the best players on his team in those games. In this game he had a nice night in terms of offensive production with one goal and one assist. He scored a big goal in the third period by embarrassing Colten Teubert in a one-on-one situation, and then scoring on a breakaway. The best way I can describe Cody's skating style is that his stride is efficient and compact -- but he is not a fluid skater. His style benefits him when it comes to turning and pivoting quickly -- which helps him in the transition game. In regards to his offensive skill, Cody handles the puck very well and uses his body well to shield the puck from defenders. He goes hard to the net and is a good goalscorer. In one-on-one offensive situations he uses quickness and instincts to consistently beat defenders. However, I would have to say that Cody's overall on ice vision is only average as he doesn't always use his teammates to his advantage. For a centerman he is not much of a puck distributor. It will be interesting to see if his playmaking ability improves over time. If not, he might be better off playing the wing when he reaches the pro level. One of Cody's strongest attributes is that he is a real competitor. The coach plays Cody in all situations, power-play, penalty killing, etc. His on ice mannerisms suggest that he has leadership qualities and a take charge attitude. I like his focus and concentration in face-off situations. For a player on the smallish side he does not shy away from traffic. In the defensive zone he is committed and works hard. Overall, I would say that Cody has the skill set to merit draft considerations in the third or fourth round depending on the overall depth of this draft.
Joel Rogers (Swift Current Broncos, #138 CSB)
It is difficult to give Joel a fair evaluation based on this game because he did not play significant minutes -- he was utilized only in five on five situations. One thing I can say is that his skating ability is not what is holding him back. He has a slightly bowlegged style and achieves full leg extension. The problem for Joel is his overall confidence and composure in handling the puck. In this game he made a couple of errant passes that could have caused turnovers and scoring opportunities for the other team. He did not demonstrate offensive creativity or imagination. In the defensive zone his positioning was adequate, but he needs to get stronger in order to contain opposing forwards. I would like to see Joel play more before I make up my mind on him. His skating does have some upside. Based on this game however, I would consider drafting Joel in the late rounds only.
Monday, February 9, 2009
In this game I focused on Prince Albert Raider defenseman Ryan Button.
Ryan Button (Prince Albert Raiders, #36 CSB)
Ryan skating style is a little bit hard to describe. His overall skating ability is above average, and when he accelerates he generates good leg extension and speed. I would describe Ryan as a mobile defenseman who appears "light on his feet” -- in other words he moves quickly and fluidly to his advantage. In terms of his offensive skill level, Ryan is somewhat limited. Although he moves the puck quickly, efficiently, and accurately he does not demonstrate much in terms of overall imagination and creativity. I would not describe Ryan as a power-play type defenseman. With respect to his play in the defensive zone he does, for the most part, maintained good positioning. I would say that he needs to work on his upper body strength, as he appeared to get outmuscled in a couple of one-on-one situations. He uses quickness and hockey sense to win battles for the puck and to break up ways. I was struck by how well he reads the play, and his overall anticipation level is very high. He used this skill in this game to break up several plays and intercept passes in the neutral zone. Ryan is not a physical player, but he does not shy away from traffic. It is difficult to evaluate his leadership and character without knowing him or interviewing his coaches and/or teammates. One thing I can say is that he is an alternate captain -- which you do not see often in a player in his draft year. I really like Ryan's overall skill level and believe that he has the potential to improve over time. To me, Ryan will merit draft consideration in the second or third round of the 2009 entry draft.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
These two teams are battling for the final playoff spot in the East division. The Edmonton club played a very well structured, stifling, defensive game. In this game they were able to control the neutral zone, creating turnovers that resulted in scoring opportunities. The Regina team has some high-profile talent, but their recent performance makes one question their depth. The top four defensemen for Regina are as good as any in the league, but the Oil King forechecking made them look rather ordinary.
Injury problems are making things more difficult in scouting Western Hockey League prospects, as Jared Cowan (Spokane, #7 CSB), and Scott Glennie (Brandon, #12 CSB) are likely finished for the season. In the game, Oil King prospect Tomas Vincour (#79 CSB) did not play because of a shoulder injury -- he should be back in the lineup shortly. From this game I will provide a report on Regina 2009 prospect Garrett Mitchell. I will also give a brief description of underage Oil King defenseman Mark Pysyk:
Garrett Mitchell (Regina Pats, #106 CSB)
Garrett is a prospect that is very easy to like. From a scouting perspective the most appealing aspect of his game is his willingness to initiate physical play, and his overall grit and toughness. In this game he had a fight with Oil King defenseman Drew Nichol, and although Nichol has a distinct size advantage the fight was a draw. In an interview after the game Mitchell said that the reason he engaged in the fight was an attempt to motivate his team. This displays leadership qualities in my view. Garrett also leads by example with a strong work ethic and competitiveness. In terms of his overall skating ability, Garrett has a nice stride with full leg extension that bodes well for positive future development. All aspects of his skating ability are average or above average. Right now, his offensive skill level is underdeveloped. His overall confidence and composure in handling the puck is below average. Hopefully, this aspect of his game will develop over time. He shoots the puck with velocity, but he does not have a quick release. In regards to Garrett's defensive zone play he has both strengths and weaknesses. He is used in penalty killing situations and is effective in using angles to disrupt the rush -- he is also willing to block shots. On the other hand, Garrett is sometimes guilty of turning the puck over in his own end -- something that is not tolerated by coaches at the pro level. In summary, Garrett's skating ability and physical play are two aspects of his game that are above average at this level. At the beginning of the season it would have been conceivable to consider Garrett as a third-round draft choice. However, because his offensive game has not quite developed yet I would consider drafting Garrett in the fifth or sixth round.
Note: Because I have not seen prospects from other regions it is difficult to evaluate the relative strength of Western Hockey League prospects. Therefore, please forgive me if I am not too specific in my round ratings.
Mark Pysyk (Edmonton Oil Kings, Draft eligible 2010)
Generally speaking, I do not like to put too much emphasis on a prospect before his actual draft year. However, it is a healthy exercise to identify a few priority prospects in their underage season -- Mark is one of those prospects. At his age, he demonstrates an excellent overall understanding of his position. As a defenseman, he does not get caught out of position and plays a sound disciplined game. He handles the puck with composure, and usually makes the best choice when moving the puck. As a forward, you like playing with a kid like Mark because he gives you the puck at the best possible time -- and puts the puck consistently on your stick. I cannot think of one situation where he was beat one-on-one in the entire game. He is a good skater, but does not possess a smooth glide stride. It will be interesting to see how his skating develops next season.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Regarding the Prince Albert Raiders, I will concentrate on defenseman Ryan Button -- who is a prospect for the 2009 draft.
It is also my intention to provide prospect reviews of three Pats players who have already been drafted; Matt Delahey, Brett Leffler, and Linden Rowat.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
In my opinion Jordan has the skill set to eventually compete for a top two line position in the NHL. It will be important for him to work hard on his skating and leg strength in order for him to reach his full potential. He has an extremely high hockey IQ (hockey sense), that more than compensates for his lack of an "extra gear in his skating ”. His performances in the World Under 18 Championships in Russia and the World Junior Tournament demonstrate that Jordan can compete at a higher level of competition. He played extremely well with Cody Hodgson, who is another excellent NHL prospect.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I have seen Colten play many times in the past 2 1/2 years. His overall skating ability is very good. His skating style is conducive to positive further development, with a smooth stride and excellent strength and balance. For his size, he has better than average speed, mobility, and agility. When he accelerates, he tends to lean his upper body forward which hurts his puck handling ability. In terms of offensive skill, he does not possess a great deal of creativity with the puck. In the offensive zone, his strongest attribute is his shot -- which is usually hard and accurate. He is usually effective in getting the puck to the net. My biggest concern with Colten is his defensive zone awareness and positioning. Once in awhile he appears to lack focus. The good thing is that he demonstrated in the World Jr. Tournament that he knows how to play his position, and also how to play within his limits -- in other words not overhandling the puck. In terms of physical play Colten uses his size and strength to his benefit. He plays the body with authority and can deliver strong body checks. He is willing to fight, and while his technique is raw his strength allows him to deliver big punches and outmuscle his opponent.
During World Jr. Tournament, one TSN commentator (Pierre McGuire, I believe) compared Colten to Luke Schenn. While both Colten and Luke can play physical, they are different types of players in my opinion. Right now, Luke possesses more confidence and composure with the puck and consistently passes the puck accurately. On the other hand, Colten is a better skater than Luke.
Although he has struggled somewhat since his return from the World Jr. Tournament, I project Colten to be a top six defenseman in the NHL. His overall physical ability and skating will allow him to play in the NHL. I do believe he may need one season in the American Hockey League to help him learn the defensive side of the game more thoroughly. Making the jump from Jr. to the NHL is very difficult for a defenseman.
Note: I intend to provide projections on other drafted players in the near future.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
The home team played reasonably well in the first period, out shooting Kootenay 15 -- 8, yet they trailed 2-0 after one. The second period was dominated by Kootenay as they took a 4-0 lead. Regina stormed back in the third to tie the game, but subsequently lost in the shootout.
This game was a bit of a disappointment from a scouting perspective as there were two Kootenay prospects out of the lineup. Defenseman Brayden McNabb(#73 CSB) was not playing because of a concussion. When a prospect suffers a concussion in his draft year it is incumbent upon scouts to investigate the extent of the injury. Also, goaltender Nathan Lieuwen (#12 CSB) did not play in favor of Todd Mathews. However, I will report on two other Kootenay prospects:
Hayden Rintoul (#181 CSB)
Hayden is a solid all-around defenseman. His coach obviously has confidence in his play as he sees ice time in all situations, penalty killing, power-play, and even strength. In terms of skating ability he is average, with a slight knock-kneed style. He is agile enough to avoid getting beat in one-on-one situations, but he plays a conservative style and does not take risks. In his own end he consistently maintains good positioning and understanding of his role. His puck handling ability is adequate, but he lacks creativity. Hayden does not play a rugged physical style, but he uses his stick well in defensive situations. Overall, Hayden has a positive contribution to his team and is a valuable player. However, as of right now I would consider drafting Hayden only in the late rounds.
Jesse Ismond (Not Ranked)
Despite not being ranked by Central Scouting, this is a kid that caught my eye. In terms of skating ability he generates speed and acceleration with a slightly bow-legged style -- should contribute to positive further development in my view. His offensive skill level is only average right now as his vision of the ice needs to improve. He had a nice game with two assists. The aspect of his game that I admired the most was his fearlessness in going to the net and his willingness to go to the difficult areas in order to contribute offensively. Jesse is not a big kid and will definitely need to develop strength in order to play at the next level. Maybe I caught him on a good night, but I liked what I saw. I would encourage scouts to keep an eye on him and consider him in the later rounds.
Because I see the prospects on the Regina team so often I will not report on them every game. I will do so at a later date. For readers of this blog, I especially encourage feedback if you notice factual errors in my assessments.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
The goal of this blog is to provide information from a scouting perspective on prospects for the NHL entry draft. It will focus mainly on the prospects that I see firsthand as I attend Western Hockey League games in Regina, Saskatchewan. My intention is to be positive in nature when assessing and ranking the prospects, while also giving my honest opinion. It is important to take notice of both strengths and weaknesses of a prospect in an unbiased and objective manner. Keep in mind that my evaluations will be primarily based on on ice performance, as I do not have access to the prospects themselves, their coaches, or families. Interviewing prospects is an important part of scouting.
From time to time I will also comment on prospects I read about or see on television. Just remember not to take my opinions too seriously -- I simply put them out there for discussion and healthy debate. My first report will likely be this weekend after I watch the Kootenay Ice play here in Regina Friday night.