Friday, February 06, 2009

Dropping Like Flies

To scouts based in the west, the season-ending injuries to Spokane's Jared Cowen and Brandon's Scott Glennie are awfully disappointing.

Of course, every one is asking, "how far will they fall?" And NHL scouts are asking each other that exact question as well. The inevitable answer isn't very helpful: "it's hard to say."

For a talent like Cowen, who has been a consensus top five or ten pick in this draft class since he was 15 years old, the possibility is awfully intriguing to teams who expect drafting in the 10-20 range in the first round. The idea of a potential franchise defenceman falling into their laps in the middle of the first round is running around in the heads of a lot of head scouts right now.

So that fact alone might tell us Cowen won't do any sort of mega-slide - like out of the first round completely - on draft day. But unfortunately, he will slide some. Maybe it's only a few picks. Say he goes 8th/9th/10th...the commentators will say he was a top five pick who dropped because of the injury. But is that true? Maybe not. Even before the injury, a slight concern about his offensive upside had been slowly building among many scouts. Central's ranking of him at 7th (among North American Skaters - which arguably puts him outside the top ten overall) in the mid-term was not necessarily an outlier - I am certain some teams agreed with Central, mostly on questions about his offensive potential.

But if Cowen lasts beyond the top ten, we can say with certainty that the knee reconstruction was the factor in him dropping that far. What's Cowen's worst case on draft day? I'd guess about 20-25 overall is the lowest he'd drop. Somewhere around the 20th pick, you start getting to very good clubs that have strong NHL rosters and good depth in their farm systems - and for them, it's too enticing to add a potential top two blueliner to the depth chart. Even if you have to be patient and carfeful with him.

As for Glennie, it might actually hurt him more. He has been a steady riser through much of the season, and might have recently been creeping up into the first half of the first round. That rise has been at least interrupted for now. It's possible we haven't seen the last of Glennie - if the Wheat Kings make a long playoff run, Glennie could be back on the ice.

The long term concerns with an injury like Glennie's (broken bone in elbow) are much less serious than with Cowen's (major reconstructive knee surgery). But that still doesn't mean Glennie won't drop. Again, he may only drop a few spots - but like Cowen, you may never really know if the injury was a factor.

Imagine Glennie goes 22nd - is that a drop because of the injury? You can't know - he was probably somewhere around 15-20 on most lists before the injury - but even if he stayed healthy, he could have ended up going 22nd overall anyway.

One factor that should also help Glennie is that even if he doesn't return to the ice, he'll almost certainly be able to participate in the physical testing at Draft Combine at the end of May. Cowen will probably attend, but may not (and probably should not) participate in any physical testing.

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