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.