Tuesday, May 08, 2007

2007 Wrap, Part 5 - BCHL

Kyle Turris, Burnaby - Thought I was really sticking my neck out way back in September when I had him in the middle of the first round. So much for that. Franchise centre. Don't worry, he'll fill out enough. I will be stunned if he's not one of the first two picks in the draft.

Riley Nash, Salmon Arm - Big time riser in the second half. Very complete player. Is knocking on the door of the first round.

Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Merritt - Seems like he's always on cruise, and that bothers me. Deadly around the net, however. Wish he used his size more. Very risky pick, but worth a 2nd round gamble.

Russell Goodman, Nanaimo - Good playoff run bumped his stock up a bit. Could be a middle rounder now.

Jamie Benn, Victoria - Has a good shot, but he sits around the slot waiting for his teammates to dig the puck out of the corner. Probably a middle rounder, but not very high on my list.

Chris Rawlings, Powell River - Looked better last season than this. Still worth a late pick.

Justin Courtnall, Burnaby - Okay, the fact Central measured him at 6-3 (he was listed at 6-1 all year) doesn't change much. Yeah, he skates well for his size. But that's about it.

Ben Winnett, Salmon Arm - Don't really like this player. Smallish and soft. But might have enough skill to draw late round interest.

2007 Wrap, Part 4 - WHL US

Everett Silvertips

Zach Hamill - I think he goes somewhere between 8-15. Has the raw talent to be top five, but concussion history is enough of a risk to drop him slightly. Head scouts have to account for the injury history - if he gets 1 or 2 more serious concussions, that could be a career killer.

Taylor Ellington - Pure projection. Has a lot of untapped upside. Scouts who have seen him a lot like him. I think several teams think they are the only ones who like his game and are going to steal in the 3rd round. Could go in the second. A wild card.

David Reekie - Okay, yes, he's an '87 goaltender playing behind a good team. But this is not Kelly Guard. He played so good at times this season, he's worth a late pick.

Lukas Vartovnik - High effort, all heart, no fear. Not sure that means you even go in the late rounds, however. Some teams like to take flyers on guys like this, though.

Others: Shane Harper will be a good junior player, but not a draft. Same probably goes Jesse Burt and Mike Alexander.

Portland Winter Hawks

Kurtis Mucha - Got about as close as you can get these days to a Steve Passmore kind of season. And scouts usually like to see goaltenders play a ton. I have a feeling there are a bunch of NHL guys who like him more than they will admit to me. I saw too much of him, so I only see the flaws - somewhat slow glove, so-so footwork. But he should go near the middle of the draft or higher. Outside shot at going as early as the 2nd.

Colton Sceviour - Was terrific the last few weeks of the season, after he returned from the broken foot. Before that, eh, not so much. Played with lots more grit at the end. Skating is still only so-so. Is late riser, but I still think 3rd round is best case for him.

Others: Matt Betker is going to be a good defensive forward in this league, but he's not a draft. Some team may like Lucas Alexiux enough to spend a late pick on him, but I don't see much of a pro prospect.

Seattle Thunderbirds

Thomas Hickey - I hoped for more from Hickey this season. Looked awful in the first half, recovered a bit after Christmas. Outstanding hockey sense, but he didn't rush the puck as much this year. To me, he's not as good as Kris Russell in his draft year, but he has all the same size questions. But Hickey is going to go in the first round, while Russell was a third rounder.

Radek Meidl - Two thoughts come into my head whenever I saw Meidl this season: 1) he looks an awful lot like Marian Hossa or Pavel Brendl, and 2) he sure doesn't play anything like Hossa or Brendl. Looks like one of those enigmatic and intrguiging perennial underachievers to me. He's got some upside, so he's not a bad 3rd or 4th round gamble.

Jan Eberle - Good skater and he competes, but I have hard time getting excited about this one. Plays a no-nonsense style, just goes to the net when he doesn't have the puck and just gets it on net when he does. I think he'll go in the draft somewhere.

Greg Scott - Is one of those gut-feel players to me that I would have spent a 7th round pick on last year. And I would do it again this year. Reminds me a lot of Greg Black. And like Black, he's got late bloomer written all over him. I think he'll take until his overage season to bust out, and then someone will sign him as a free agent.

David Richard - Really looked like he was going to be something special a year ago. But he struggled to contribute at all. Has a lot of talent, but didn't get much out of it this season.

Brad Bakken - Good junior defenceman. Moves the puck okay for guy with decent size. Somebody might take a 7th round flyer on him.

Jeremy Schappert - Competes and has some puck skill. Not enough there to be an NHL prospect at this point, however.

Joshua Schappert - Good energy guy for a junior team. Not much beyond that.

Spokane Chiefs

Drayson Bowman - Never really stood out for me, but watched him enough to know there's a lot there under the surface. Would like to have seen him use his speed more. Cerebral player. Fair amount of upside. I think he's a solid pick somewhere around the late 2nd to 3rd round.

Ondrej Roman - Lazy and was scared of his own shadow for most of the first half. Still doesn't like traffic, but at least started to give more effort in the second half. Has a good shot, but won't score because he refuses to get himself into scoring position. I think he'll slide on draft day a bit, and won't go until the 3rd or 4th.

Justin Falk - Don't ask me why Central had him so high. I have no idea. He's got two things: six-five height, and an okay first pass. But if the pass isn't there, he can't carry it out. Not bad in the d-zone, but cannot skate. Not on my list, but I suppose he'll go late just on size.

Cody Esposito - Wouldn't be surprised if someone grabs this guy late. Pretty good skater for his size.

Chris Langkow - I really don't see too much to get excited about. Decent junior player.

Tri-City Americans

Juraj Valach - Lots to like here. Size, excellent hockey sense, and decent with the puck. Despite being very heavy footed, he's got a long, balanced stride. I like Valach a lot more than some of the other huge Slovak blueliners who have gone high in recent drafts. I think he's a good 2nd round pick, and could sneak into the first.

Jarrett Toll - I don't see anything more than a decent junior defenceman, but apparently someone on Central's staff sees something I don't. I'd bet a toonie with that scout that Toll doesn't get drafted at all.

2007 Wrap, Part 3 - WHL BC

Chilliwack Bruins

Oscar Moller - Probably got more ice time than any other draft eligible forward. And he made the best of it. Should be a middle of the first round pick. If he slides out of the first round, some team is getting a steal.

Mark Santorelli - Can't skate. His older brother actually had more skill. But he couldn't skate either. I don't see him getting selected, but he'll get a number of camp invites.

Others: Not much else to get excited about here. Closest to drafts would be Colby Kulhanek or the agitating Cody Smuk. But it's not an 11 round draft anymore.

Kamloops Blazers

Keaton Ellerby - When your own coach is talking you down to NHL scouts, that's a bad sign. NHL teams have grown very wary. I have no idea where he goes. Could be around 15th overall...or could be absolute poison and slide all the way out of the top 50. If he drops as far as I think he could, it will be the shock of the draft to the message board crowd and those "scouting services" who don't actually go to games. Then again, all it takes is one team drafting in the first round who likes him enough, and all the dark clouds will be forgotten.

Brock Nixon - You gotta grab late bloomers like this. Sometimes they just keep getting better. Hard to peg - could be a middle round pick. Not impossible that he goes as early as the 3rd round. Also not impossible that every team looks at this '87 and says, "no thanks" again this season. You just never know.

Victor Bartley - Early last season I liked Bartley. Then later didn't like him. Then liked him again. Then I finally settled on "didn't like him" before the draft. So did the rest of the NHL. Some team may come back around to "like him" for this draft.

C.J. Stretch - Late rounds is not a...wait for it...stretch.

Travis Dunstall - Another projection, but with some Bantam credentials. If he finished stronger this season, he'd be likely to get a look. But I think he'll get passed over.

Dustin Butler - Honestly, before the playoffs, you Kamloops people have no idea just how astoundingly bad he was in Portland. And likewise, the Portland people have no idea how good he was this regular season. But then a funny thing happened on the way (back) to NHL prospect status - a hideous 2007 playoff season. Now you Kamloops people know what he looked like in Portland. Still could go in this year's draft, but probably only to a team that a staff with zero playoff viewings of him.

Others: Alex Rodgers looks like a pretty good junior defenceman, and he could get a look. Kevin Kraus looked good at times, and I could see a team liking him enough to take a later flyer.

Kelowna Rockets

Cody Almond - Big time late riser. Was a big beneficiary (in terms of ice time) of Ofukany, Saulietis, and Hill being traded. Size, a bit of skill, not a bad skater. Big wild card. Feels like a 4th/5th round guy to me, but could go way higher than I think.

Torrie Jung - Another wild card. Did not play well for me in the two games I saw him, but I know some NHL guys who like. I don't believe he's a top 3 round guy, but otherwise I have no idea where he could go.

Colin Long - I like his speed and elusiveness, but beyond that I don't think much of him. Could be a late pick, just on his speed.

Lucas Bloodoff - Did not get a real good read on him, but I thought there was some skill there. This Kelowna roster is full of some late round wild cards, and he's another one.

Brett Breitkreuz - He can skate and he works hard. I don't think he goes, however.

Prince George Cougars

Dana Tyrell - It took me a while to see it, but I love this player. And I think there's a number of NHL scouts that do too, but aren't telling anyone. I honestly think he could go as high as 15th overall. I'll be shocked if he doesn't go in the first round.

Chris VanDuynhoven - Isn't awful enough to overlook. Freakishly big, but I never once saw him throw a hit this season. Size still matters enough that he'll go in the middle or late rounds.

Others: Jordie Deagle works his butt off enough most games to possibly draw some late round interest. Lance Redden should be a much better player than he was this season and isn't a draft.

Vancouver Giants

Jonathan Blum - Has been mostly horrible for me this season. But still quite a bit of upside. Has one of the best hipchecks for a six-foot defenceman I've ever seen. I can't imagine spending a first round pick on him, but I think somebody might do it.

Spencer Machacek - Hard-hat and lunch pail kind of player. If he skated better, he'd go very high. Raised his stock with his playoff performance, but still only looks like a 3rd or 4th rounder to me.

Michal Repik - One of those guys you want somebody else to draft before you get to your 2nd round pick. Ultra streaky. Top ten skill, but lack of desire probably drops him to 2nd round, maybe even 3rd.

Brent Regner - Looked merely okay for the regular season, but has grown on me during the playoffs. Plays well rounded game. But I'm still not sure it translates to the next level. Middle rounder in my book, but could surprise and go as early as the 3rd.

Tyson Sexsmith - Has been very good every time I've seen him. Had him very high on list (knocking on the door of the first round) about mid-season, but everyone else I talked to about him thought I was smoking something. Like all goaltenders, has the occasional bad game - but unfortunately, when he has a bad one, it's usually a doozy. He's in the 2nd round on my list, but I have no idea if there's a single NHL scout that agrees with that.

Mitch Czibere - Some speed, decent hands, and I like the way he works along the boards. But probably not enough here to spend more than a late pick on.

2007 Wrap, Part 2 - WHL Central

Calgary Hitmen

Karl Alzner - The top defenceman in the entire draft. Top five pick. Yes, he's Wade Redden. Plug him into your top pairing for the next 15 years.

Alex Plante - If he skated better, he could be top 15-20. And he still might anyway, just because there's not much left in this draft after about 17 overall. Underrated puck skills. My gut says he'll go somewhere around 30 or so.

Brett Sonne - Everyone asks me, what happened to this guy? Looked like a much better prospect at this time a year ago than he does now. Still a mid- to late-round draft, however.

Others: Keegan Dansereau could go as a 2nd year eligible. And a very slight chance the same could go for Ian Duval. And Eric Frere might have an outside shot at going in the late rounds.

Kootenay Ice

John Negrin - Huge upside, but big injury risk. I think he goes in the last few picks of the first round or in the 2nd. Good pick for a gambling scouting director.

Kris Lazaruk - Had this guy high on my list last year, and I do again this year. I've heard there's off ice questions. But he's too good not to at least spend a middle round pick on, I think.

Dustin Sylvester - He's going to be fun to watch for the next few years. Sometimes it's nice for a junior team to have a very good junior player that NHL teams won't be interested in - because you know you can keep him all the way through the end of his overage season. This is one of those guys.

Lethbridge Hurricanes

Justin Leclerc - Something about him bothers me, and it's hard to put my finger on it. Just technique, I think. Doesn't seem to square well and every save looks like a struggle. Over-commits a lot. But he's got good natural quickness. Every scout has a different "prototype" for goaltenders, so I'm sure some team will like him more than I do. He's no better than a 4th/5th rounder to me.

Dwight King - I expected more. Played a rough style last season. This season he seemed determined to prove he's a finesse skill guy. That's okay, but you better keep up the gritty play. He didn't. I don't like his slow release and his passes seem to come a second too late. Maybe 2nd or 3rd round? I don't know if I'd take him there, though.

Ryan Kerr - Well, he should be a pretty good junior defenceman. That's about it. I still have to remind myself this guy was the #1 overall Bantam pick in 2004. I don't see him going.

Carter Bancks - Fun to watch him on the forecheck and penalty kill. You'd like energy guys to be a bit bigger, though. Could be a late pick.

Mitch Fadden - He's gotta go this year, doesn't he? He was awful in his first draft year, but still worth a pick. At least he started trying again this season. Too many off-ice distractions in Seattle. The move the Lethbridge seems to have been good for him.

Medicine Hat Tigers

Ryan Holfield - Hmm, he's just okay. Quick, challenges well, but his feet move too much. But I think some team will like him enough to make a late round pick out of him. I could see him going middle rounds, too.

David Schlemko - He should have been a late round pick last year. Could be a middle round one this year. Or could slide out altogether again. To me, you have to grab this guy instead of trading off your 7th round pick so you can get back to the hotel early.

Shayne Brown - I think he fought in every game I saw him in this year. But then I see he only had 69 PIM. Unless some team only saw exactly the same games I did, he won't go.

Red Deer Rebels

Brandon Sutter - Played very poorly for me every time I saw him. But a couple of very good NHL scouts who I know well love him. Should be a first rounder, and could go anywhere between 10th to 30th overall. But beware that very poor second half of the season (2 goals after January 1).

Patrick Kozyra - Should have been more. Have a very slight feeling he may be a late bloomer and show a lot more next season. But you can't draft a guy only on that.

2007 Wrap, Part 1 - WHL East

Since I've neglected this space for such a long time, I'll make up for it by posting a big end of the season run down on all the prospects from my region (WHL and BCHL).

Brandon Wheat Kings

Andrew Clark - Is he one of those "good junior players" or is he a real prospect? Some scouts think very highly of him, others not so. Since he competes hard and has some pretty good skill, he seems like a probable mid-round pick.

Keith Aulie - I see big problems with his skating stride. Some teams don't care. Five years ago, he could have been as high as a 3rd round pick. But the game has changed, and so has the draft. I'd be surprised if he goes before the last couple of rounds.

Others: Daniel Bartek should have scored more than he did, given his talent. I wouldn't be too surprised to see Jay Fehr go, but he's missing more than just his brother's size (his hands, for one). Joe Caliguri was hard to see this season, and being 5-9 is still a big negative for goaltenders. And wasn't Matt Hallick a big scorer in Bantam?

Moose Jaw Warriors

Jordan Knackstedt - Looked like a really good 2nd round pick about a year ago this time. Now he looks like a so-so 5th round pick. Looks like his skating got a lot worse over the last summer. Did he bulk up too much? Went from being a guy I was pretty excited about last season to a don't-care player this season.

Travis Ehrhardt - I know he'll go somewhere, but I just didn't care much for this one. Probably a middle round guy.

Prince Albert Raiders

Ryan DePape - Well, if you're going to have a crappy draft year, then it helps if have a huge one the next season. Could go surprisingly early, but I think he's in the middle or late rounds.

Matt Robertson - Hey, sometimes big numbers in Midget does translate to success in major junior. Doesn't have much size, but I figure he's got go in the second half of the draft.

Others: Toughness is always hard to find in the draft, so that makes Cody Vann a possible late pick. Andy Smith is smallish, but there's an outside chance he gets a late look. I don't see anyone taking Justin Palazzo just on his size, but it's possible.

Regina Pats

Nick Ross - Just never saw it. I know someone is going to grab him in the second round, but he just never did anything in the games I saw. I can see there's some skill there, but I never see him do anything with it.

Linden Rowat - Tough for me to see this year, because for some reason, I ended up seeing a lot of Tommy Tartaglione's starts. Did not get a good read in the one game I saw, but my guess is he's a middle round guy.

Brett Leffler - Sometimes it's tough being a #1 overall Bantam pick - he can ask Ryan Kerr about that. Strong start to the season, but didn't do much after October. Skating is a problem. Still quite a bit of projectable skill, so he'll at least go late.

Saskatoon Blades

Colton Gillies - I can't remember a player who has generated this much argument on the Red Line staff and between other NHL scouts. I once described his attributes (size and skating) as the equivalent of crack cocaine for NHL scouts. Very addictive, but very dangerous. The problem is that he's just got no idea with the puck. Skated the puck right into the defenceman countless times this season. He's still going to be a pretty decent defensive forward, but do you want to spend a high first round pick for that? The most intriguing thing about him was the handful of games he played defence this year - that might be a good permanent move. I think he goes somewhere between 10-20 overall, but a lot of scouts are saying, "I hope he's gone by the time we pick."

Justin McCrae - Is one of those guys that I think I see something in that nobody else does. Skating is a question, but I think it's going to be good enough. Terrific defensively this year. Bad linemates hurt his totals - I don't know why they didn't have McCrae centre a line with Gillies on the wing. I think he's got a lot more offense in him than we've seen. I think he's an 80-90 point guy next year and will make whoever takes him in the late 2nd or 3rd round look smart.

Others: Despite a ton of 89s, there's not much else for NHL scouts to get excited about. Both Ryan Funk and Brett Ward are going to be a solid junior defencemen, and might be worth a last round pick. Garrett Klotz improved his skating, but it's still bad - but a guy this big who competes this well might get a look.

Swift Current Broncos

Eric Doyle - Hard to figure for me. I like his aggressive style and the way he rushes the puck. But I think there's a lack of hockey sense there that is a problem. I know some think of him as a first rounder, but I'd be surprised at that. I think he's a late 2nd round guy.

Paul Postma - Lots of puck skill and good size, but I don't like his skating. Not real good in the defensive zone and chases a lot. I'm guessing he'll go in the middle or late rounds.

Derek Claffey - Good skater and might have enough skill to draw late round interest.

Kyle Bortis - Should have been a 7th round gamble pick last year. Maybe still only worth a 7th this year. Way too much skill to not roll the dice with a late pick on a player like this.

Daniel Rakos - Yes, he's an 87. But this guy has size, quickness, and he put up a few points this year. Worth a late pick.

Friday, February 02, 2007

NHL Draft Goes Prime Time

Heard from multiple NHL sources yesterday that the 2007 NHL Entry Draft will be a two day event. The first round will go Friday night, June 22, at 7:00 PM.

The draft resumes the next morning at 10:00 AM, finishing rounds 2-7.

So the rumors were true; and it looks like the NHL is aiming for a little prime time television exposure for the Entry Draft. I wonder: will we all have to wear tuxedos? Will they bring in Billy Crystal as emcee? At least they wouldn't boo Crystal in the Canadian cities...

I say, forget Billy Crystal, let's get Ric Flair to host it. "The first selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft belongs to the Philadelphia Flyers. Wooooo!!!"

Thursday, January 18, 2007

One Game: It CAN Hurt Your Draft Status

There's a conventional wisdom that the CHL Top Prospects Game -- since it's just a single game -- can help your status among the eyes of NHL scouts, but won't hurt it if you have a bad game.

And in a way, that's true. NHL scouts understand the nature of the game - everyone has off nights. No player will get written off or dropped on a list just because he doesn't hit the scoresheet or just looks off in the Top Prospects Game (TPG).

I used to believe this conventional wisdom was absolute. Almost no matter how awful your TPG performance was, it could never outweigh the positives a scout may observe at multiple regular season or playoff viewings.

But I changed my thinking of this a bit after the 2005 TPG in Vancouver. I ended up dropping Chris Durand from the first round to the second round on my list, solely based on this one game.


Well, I'd seen plenty of Durand before that game, and I felt I already had a good read on him. In my book he was terrifically skilled, but a marginal skater, at best. And in all those Seattle games I saw in Durand's draft year, his skating didn't keep him from being effective.

But the Top Prospects Game was a real eye opener. Durand was simply overmatched by the speed of that game. That collection of high-end prospects on one ice sheet resulted in a much faster, NHL-paced game than any WHL regular season or playoff game would ever be. And it exposed Durand's marginal skating as a serious flaw - one that might hurt his ability to succeed at the next level.

It's still mostly true that a poor TPG performance in and of itself won't hurt your draft status. But there are other ways that the TPG can expose flaws that can negatively affect NHL scouts' view of a prospect.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

WHL Deadline Day + 1

Keener's got a good wrap-up of yesterday's WHL trade deadline goings-on.

Some post deadline random thoughts from me...

I can hear the great knashing of teeth in Vancouver all the way down here in Portland. Despite approximately eleven thousand stories over the last few months in the Sun and the Province about how the Giants were working the phones for either Carey Price or Kyle Moir - it just was never going to happen. Nachbaur/Tory and Chynoweth/Moberg know that having a goaltender who can steal a playoff round or two is going to be worth a lot more to them than anything Vancouver could offter, short of all of the Giants' first round picks for the next 10 years.

The YVR media coverage of The Holy Quest for Price or Moir was laughable. It was like some homer fan posting trade proposals on his favorite team's internet message board: "Why don't we trade our 7th defenceman and the 18 year old we healthy scratch all the time for Carey Price. I think if we threw in a 7th round pick, the Ams/Broncos would go for it."

As for the moves the Giants did make - A.J. Thelen adds some depth, but I'm not sure he's that much of an upgrade over John Flatters. But at least it might be fun to watch a power play pairing of Thelen and Cody Franson - talk about shots from the point. Michael Wuchterl is a good energy guy, but even with Kyle Lamb's disappointing season, I'd rather have him than an energy guy who has much less skill.

I think Everett getting Dane Crowley is clearly the best move of the day. Everett fans are bemoaning the high price paid (Eric Doyle), but Crowley is very underrated and I'm beginning to wonder if Doyle's lack of hockey sense will ever allow him to hit his upside. If the 'Tips had a weakness, it was their blueline - and I think Crowley is exactly the kind of guy they needed.

Can't blame Kamloops for giving another of Portland's busts a try (Sasha Golin), given how well the Dustin Butler deal has turned out. I doubt Golin will immediately break out and start fulfilling the promise he had when was a 5th overall pick in the 2003 Bantam Draft, but you never know. In return, one of the best skaters in the Dub (Max Schmermund) joins the worst skating teams in the league (Portland).

Oh, and I'll miss being able to see Myles Stoesz frequently, as he moves off to the prairies (Regina). The league needs more crazies like him. He's a different sort of "throwback" player...remember when guys like Richard Peacock played in the WHL? I miss those days...

And the milk-coming-out-of-your-nose-when-you-heard-it move of the day: Prince George bringing back Scott Bowles from the OHL ash heap. Yep, the same Scotty Bowles who was cast onto the WHL ash heap and bounced to Owen Sound and Windsor in the O. I have no way of looking it up, but I doubt there's ever been another player to clear waivers through an entire league twice in the same season. The best punch line to all this would have been if Dallas Thompson banished Jordan White down to Powell River at the same time (where ex-Cougars coach Mike Vandekamp landed after they fired him). It's like palindromic hockey transactions. So welcome back to the Dub Scotty. But don't get too settled...

Friday, January 05, 2007

Friday Massacre

Posting from my PDA at the Memorial Coliseum: Word has hit the rinks that Los Angeles today fired head scout Al Murray, assistant director of scouting Grant Sonier, and an unconfirmed number of the rest of their amateur scouting staff.

There's lots of long faces in scouts rooms in rinks across North America tonight, as this news is hitting the scouting community pretty hard. Murray is widely respected and liked among his peers and a mid-season firing like this is absolutely unheard of.

Among NHL scouts, this is nuclear bomb of a news story.