Saturday, May 30, 2009

Yadlowski, Brennan - D - Lethbridge WHL

Brennan Yadlowski / Lethbridge Hurricanes WHL

D-R / 6-0.5, 174 / 17-Jun-91

Skating: 55 / Skill: 45 / Sense: 50 / Compete: 55 / Tough: 60

Strengths: Some two-way ability and showed tremendous improvement during the season. Competes and is surprisingly rugged for his size.

Weaknesses: Smallish for the style he plays.

Just kept getting better as the season went. Earned the confidence of his coach and played a ton of minutes. Good but not great skater. Good agility and quickness, but does struggle to keep up with speedy forwards.

Can carry the puck if he's got room, but otherwise just keeps it simple. Can get a little panicky with the puck in pressure, but usually can make a clean first pass. Surprising physical tenacity despite a small frame. Competes and drops the gloves (9 FMs).

Summary: Size and style combination is hard to project, but I feel like there could be some hidden offensive upside here. Would want to grab this guy with a 4th rounder. A lot of late blooming potential as one of the younger players in the draft.

Draft Day: Could possibly sneak into the 3rd. A 4th feels more likely.

Howse, Ryan - LW - Chilliwack WHL

Ryan Howse / Chilliwack Bruins WHL

LW-L / 5-10.75, 195 / 06-Jul-91

Skating: 65 / Skill: 60 / Sense: 45 / Compete: 40 / Tough: 35

Strengths: Can shoot the puck from just about anywhere. Good speed and shifty moves off the rush.

Weaknesses: Floats a lot and is one-dimensional. No physical game.

Effort level just wasn't there most nights this season. Still plays the game like it's Bantam - always going for the solo 1-on-1 rushes, not showing any creativity. Is going to have to learn how to do other things with the puck. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I saw him pass the puck.

Pretty much wrote this guy off after about the 5th time I saw him stick to the perimetre the whole game and never pass the puck. But the pure raw scoring ability is still interesting.

Summary: There's probably no point at which I'd argue hard for this player. But once it gets to the 4th round, if he's somehow still available, you'd have to grab anyone who can score 30+ goals in the WHL at 17.

Draft Day: Probably hard for NHL teams to pass up on a 31-goal scorer on a bad team once you approach the 100th overall pick.

McKenzie, Curtis - RW/LW - Penticton BCHL

Curtis McKenzie / Penticton Vees BCHL

RW/LW-L / 6-1.5, 192 / 21-Feb-91

Skating: 55 / Skill: 60 / Sense: 55 / Compete: 65 / Tough: 65

Strengths: Gritty two-way game. Underrated skill. Plays with a lot of fire and likes to throw the body around.

Weaknesses: Skating is so-so at best.

There's so much to like about this player - he can score, he can hit, he drops the gloves, and he shows just enough finesse skill to be really projectable. Scores goals in lots of ways. Has a knack for tips and deflections out front. Doesn't get enough credit for his finesse ability. He can pick the corners on the move or thread some nice passes through traffic.

First step quickness and speed could be better. But has good balance and agility. For the style he plays, I don't think his skating is going to be a problem.

Will go into the dirty areas and compete physically. Plays in all situations and is very responsible defensively. Throws some pretty big open ice hits. Sticks up for his teammates and is pretty good when he drops the gloves.

Summary: I love this guy and don't know why he doesn't get more attention. I may have him way higher than most, but I'd probably start arguing for him with a 2nd round pick. And if I lost that argument and it came back around to the 3rd round and he was still there, I'd flip over the table to get this guy.

Draft Day: I have to believe there's a team or two who see the same things in this guy I do and will take him in the top 75 picks or so.

Barrie, Tyson - D - Kelowna WHL

Tyson Barrie / Kelowna Rockets WHL

D-R / 5-10.25, 190 / 26-Jul-91

Skating: 65 / Skill: 65 / Sense: 50 / Compete: 55 / Tough: 35

Strengths: Excellent power play skills. Very good offensive hockey sense. Quick, agile skater.

Weaknesses: Often a downright liability in the d-zone. Lacks the strength to be physical at all. Doesn't quite have the speed to consistently carry the puck end-to-end.

Great offensive instincts and can really run the power play. Terrific at moving the puck inside in the zone. Great ability to sneak in down low. Excellent wrist shot and uses it almost exclusively. But that makes me wonder a bit about his slap shot - it seems like never really uses a good hard full wind up shot.

Very quick feet, very light on his skates. Terrific lateral agility allows him to skate the puck and create shooting lanes for himself. Good spins and turns make him elusive with the puck. Despite the very quick feet, his stride is a bit short, which hurts his top speed. Seems to need a little bit of time and space to carry the puck out of his own end.

Defensive zone play is regrettable and will have to improve. Lack of physical game hurts, but the bigger concern is that he just seems to not care much about what happens in his own zone. Takes so many risks jumping into the offense that he frequently leaves his partner having to deal with an odd man rush. Sometimes just looks mentally lazy and won't battle for pucks in the d-zone.

Can be put off his offensive game if you hit him - that's a serious concern, because you can be sure you're going to get hit at the pro level.

Summary: Looks like a power play specialist to me. I guess I should have him higher, given that I think he'll play. But I'd rather have players with some upside to play in all situations. And the disappearing act after he gets hit is a red flag for me. Almost certain to go much higher than I have him.

Draft Day: Everyone's snarkily predicting he'll go 32nd overall. Or 52nd. But I guarantee you there are more teams than just Tampa Bay who would like this guy somewhere in the 2nd round.

Froese, Byron - C - Everett WHL

Byron Froese / Everett Silvertips WHL

C-R / 5-11.0, 191 / 12-Mar-91

Skating: 45 / Skill: 40 / Sense: 60 / Compete: 70 / Tough: 40

Strengths: Great on-ice work ethic. Very good hockey sense in all zones. Gets the most out his ability. Has been a late bloomer.

Weaknesses: Doesn't have real high end natural talent. Average skater at best. Doesn't have the size to play his style at the next level.

Just works hard all over the ice. Tenacious puck pursuit. Goes into traffic and does battle with the big boys down low. The kind of guy coaches put out in any situation - kills penalties and even plays the point on the PP at times.

Great chemistry on that line with Kellan Tochkin and Tyler Maxwell. Just goes in and digs for the puck and tries to get it to his skilled linemates.

Has some decent first step quickness, but is otherwise an average skater on the whole. Surprising ability to be effective along the boards against much bigger opponents. But is otherwise not very physical at all.

Summary: Coaches love these kind of players - so do NHL scouts, even with the smallish size. I'm not sure I'd spend anything more than a late 3rd rounder on him, but I wouldn't take issue with a team that grabbed him as early as the 2nd. If he dropped the gloves at all or was more physically aggressive, I'd have him higher.

Draft Day: I get the feeling a lot of NHL scouts were hoping to steal this guy with a 4th. But after his performance in Fargo, the cat is out of the bag. Could be a wildcard - mid-2nd is probably the best case for him. I'd be surprised if he lasts much beyond the 85th pick or so.

Bubnick, Jimmy - RW - Kamloops WHL

Jimmy Bubnick / Kamloops Blazers WHL

RW-R / 6-2.0, 194 / 19-Jan-91

Skating: 35 / Skill: 60 / Sense: 45 / Compete: 45 / Tough: 55

Strengths: Shoots the puck very well. Decent size and has the ability to be a force down low and along the boards. Good straight line speed

Weaknesses: A bit heavy footed and has no lateral quickness. Very streaky. Grinding style of last season almost completely disappeared this season.

Even with the increase in offensive output this season (25 goals in 07-08 vs. 9 in 06-07), I think I prefer the Bubnick of last season more. Seemed to do a lot more hanging out in the high slot waiting to be fed the puck this year. Did not go into the corners or battle in the crease nearly as much as he did in his rookie season. And that's going to be his ticket to the next level, if anything.

Skating is what really knocks him down my list, however. Improved his stride a lot this year and has some okay speed now, but still no shiftyness or acceleration. Struggles in transition and up-tempo games, so he needs to keep up the work ethic in the dirty areas.

On the plus side, shoots the puck very well from the high slot on in. And when he's winning puck battles behind the net, he can make some nifty passes out front in tight quarters. Other than that, I'm not sure there's real good hockey sense here. Incredibly streaky - most of the offensive output came in two hot stretches (beginning of season and January) - and was close to invisible for the rest of the time.

Summary: I have a hard time figuring out what he might be at the next level. Even if he returns to doing the heavy board work, I'm not sure he's going to be strong enough to be a corner-mucker. And I don't see how he can be a finesse/dynamic guy either with the skating issues. I probably wouldn't consider until the 3rd round.

Draft Day: I expect him to go higher than I have him, but if NHL staffs agree with me, he could slide a bit on draft day. I can only guess at a very wide range of anywhere from the early 2nd to mid-4th.

McNabb, Brayden - D - Kootenay WHL

Brayden McNabb / Kootenay Ice WHL

D-L / 6-3.75, 200 / 21-Jan-91

Skating: 30 / Skill: 40 / Sense: 65 / Compete: 60 / Tough: 70

Strengths: Excellent size and uses it well. Rugged style and a good fighter. Underrated puck moving ability.

Weaknesses: Skating is seriously flawed. No real offensive upside.

Stock has taken a beating after disastrous showing at U-18 in Fargo. Difficulties in pivoting and backward stride have been exposed against top level competition.

Skating aside, there is a lot to like, however. Has more puck moving ability than he gets credit for. Decent PP ability at the junior level, but projects to be a pure stay-at-home guy at the next level.

Likes to play a physical style. Throws big open-ice hits and effectively uses his big size down low. Especially good at the hip check along the boards. Has a long reach and knows how to use it. Good d-zone positioning and keeps opponents to the outside. Good fighter and very willing to drop the gloves.

Summary: Like Chris Durand's horrible showing in the 2005 Top Prospects Game because of skating issues, you have take account of the fact that he's in serious trouble against good-skating opponents. It's unfortunate, because I really like this guy's toughness and physical style. But you can't spend too high a pick on a player that is going to have to show an awful lot of improvement in skating to even be able to compete at the next level. Might be worth converting to forward once he gets to professional hockey.

Draft Day: Two conflicting things make him a wildcard: 1) the tough Western League players always go higher than you think, vs. 2) a bad performance on the final scouting stage (U-18s) can sink you pretty fast. Could go anywhere between the 2nd and 4th rounds.

Vincour, Tomas - RW/C - Edmonton WHL

Tomas Vincour / Edmonton Oil Kings WHL

RW/C-R / 6-2.0, 203 / 19-Nov-90

Skating: 30 / Skill: 60 / Sense: 50 / Compete: 65 / Tough: 45

Strengths: Nice hands in tight areas. Big frame. Gives a good effort and competes physically.

Weaknesses: Very rough skater. Needs to get a lot stronger. Did not improve much this season.

Has some nice hands and can really stickhandle in tight areas. Good shooting accuracy. Likes to go to the net and isn't afraid to battle for position near the crease.

Short skating stride is a real problem. First step quickness is just not there at all. Takes a long time to stop and re-start. Doesn't turn very well and poor balance. Only plus about his skating is some okay speed once he finally gets going.

I like that he's not afraid to throw the body around, but he just isn't physically effective at all. Lack of strength and poor balance usually means he ends up on the ice even when he's initiating the contact.

Summary: Might have been a victim of high expectations and playing on a bad team. But the skating issues are the real problem. However, if he's still available in the 3rd or 4th, you won't often find this kind of skill level still available in the middle of the draft. And I really like his competitiveness and desire to be physical.

Draft Day: I'll be surprised if he goes before the 3rd. A slide as far down as the 5th will be surprising, but not impossible.

Lieuwen, Nathan - G - Kootenay WHL

Nathan Lieuwen / Kootenay Ice WHL

G-L / 6-5.0, 180 / 08-Aug-91

Quickness: 65 / Glove: 65 / Reads: 55 / Technique: 45 / Poise: 55

Strengths: Great combination of huge size and natural quickness. Good feet and really moves around the crease smoothly.

Weaknesses: Concussion history is a major red flag. Needs some technical coaching on squaring to the shooter and not opening up the long side.

Huge and plays big. Especially tough to beat down low, with quick legs and smooth footwork that allows him to go post-to-post quickly. Very good glove and uses it quite a bit. Makes tough saves. Very active with the stick. Size gives him an advantage in seeing over and around traffic.

Has a (hopefully correctable) flaw in his squaring to the shooter that gives away the far side post, especially on the blocker side. Lots of WHL shooters seemed to recognize this and he gave up a fair number of goals that way. I don't think it's a case of him being slow with the blocker/glove on high shots, he just cheats too much to the short side.

Serious concussion he received as a passenger in a roll-over car accident last season cost him almost half of his 16 year old season. More concussion symptoms this season are a big concern.

Summary: The continued concussion issues this season drop him out of top 50 consideration. I'd roll the dice on him somewhere near the early 3rd, though - if he's healthy going forward he's a pretty elite goaltending prospect.

Draft Day: Another wildcard - best guess is somewhere in the 3rd round.

Vey, Linden - RW - Medicine Hat WHL

Linden Vey / Medicine Hat Tigers WHL

RW-R / 5-11.25, 176 / 17-Jul-91

Skating: 60 / Skill: 55 / Sense: 65 / Compete: 55 / Tough: 40

Strengths: Excellent hockey sense. Always around the puck. Decent skater.

Weaknesses: Soft and doesn't initiate any contact.

Very smart and creative with the puck. Most of his production comes from anticipation and doing the right thing with the puck rather than elite natural hand skill. Passing instincts are top notch. Makes those difficult short passes look easy. Good skater with some ability to carry the puck with speed. Good stop-start and lateral quickness. Just an overall good skater, but not elite.

Very good penalty killer. Uses his stick and smarts to take the puck away from opponents. Good work ethic, but not necessarily high energy - good anticipation allows him to be in the right place without having to skate hard to be there. Does take a hit to make a play, but generally avoids contact and the heavy traffic.

Summary: If this guy had any physical game at all, he'd be one of the best sleepers of the draft. Even so, he's very underrated. Where he's at on my list translates to mid- or late-2nd round, but I have to acknowledge I'd probably have a hard time selling an NHL GM on a somewhat soft, smallish player in that range.

Draft Day: Should be a top 100 pick, but I could see him being perceived as only a "good junior player" and sliding deep into the middle rounds.

Koper, Levko - LW - Spokane WHL

Levko Koper / Spokane Chiefs WHL

LW-L / 6-0.0, 180 / 05-Oct-90

Skating: 75 / Skill: 55 / Sense: 65 / Compete: 45 / Tough: 50

Strengths: Great speed and acceleration. Gets to the scoring areas and can finish. Dangerous on the forecheck and a good penalty killer. At his best when the games count the most.

Weaknesses: Wildly inconsistent effort level. Somewhat limited skill level.

Inconsistency drove me nuts. I could give him either a 75 or 25 on competitiveness, depending upon when we're talking about. Was at his best in May 2008, during Spoke's Memorial Cup run. Was very underwhelming through much of the middle of this past season, before stepping up again in playoffs.

When he's at his best, he's a pesky energy player who is strong defensively and a an elite pass-stealing threat on the forecheck. But for most of his draft year, he looked lazy, floated a lot, and rarely used his blazing speed.

Fantastic skater with a long, powerful stride. Some of the best pure speed and acceleration in the draft. Has a good shooting touch around the net, but isn't a real great passer. Has a knack for sneaking into the backdoor scoring areas near the net when he doesn't have the puck.

Tremendously effective on the PK with that good lateral quickness and ability to anticipate opponent's passes. Isn't a real physical player, but that's fine for the style he plays. I do like the fact that he will drop the gloves on rare occasion - but isn't really much of a fighter.

Summary: The fact that he steps up in the post season makes me want to give this guy a lot of leeway on the questionable effort. And he's got probably the two biggest ingredients for an NHL career - skating and hockey sense. Could be a steal in the 2nd - if I'm around the 40th-50th pick and Button and Eakin are gone, I'd argue for this player.

Draft Day: I think he goes somewhere in the 2nd. Could sneak into the 30s. I'll be totally shocked if he slides as far as Central's ranking indicates (4th-5th round!).

Elliott, Stefan - D - Saskatoon WHL

Stefan Elliott / Saskatoon Blades WHL

D-R / 6-0.5, 180 / 30-Jan-91

Skating: 50 / Skill: 70 / Sense: 65 / Compete: 45 / Tough: 35

Strengths: Can do a lot of things with the puck. Great transition game and can take the puck end-to-end. Runs the power play smoothly and smartly.

Weaknesses: Soft and lacks the strength to clear the crease. Needs a lot of work on defensive zone play.

Pure offensive ability from the back end will be his ticket to the next level. Terrific offensive instincts and does everything you want a d-man to do with the puck. Makes a great first pass, can take it end to end with speed, and has all the PP ingredients.

Seems fine skating forward and has good speed when rushing the puck, but every other aspect of his skating leaves me scratching my head. Pivots sometimes look awkward and lateral quickness looks lacking in the d-zone. Just not sure what to make of the skating - he seems to have quick, light feet but so many bad things happen to him in his own end that I wonder about it.

Needs a lot of work on d-zone play. Has trouble containing speedy forwards and I see him make a lot of gap mistakes. Gets sloppy with the puck when pressured. Seems to need a little space to get the puck out safely. Almost no physical presence and lacks strength. Will need to be paired with a big stay-at-home at the next level.

Summary: Just don't have a good gut feeling on this player. He's not Mike Green - despite having similar offensive abilities. Green was a physical, aggressive player in his own end and Elliott is pretty meek back there. I think he'll play - but maybe only a PP specialist. I'd consider him around the mid-2nd range just on his PP specialist upside. Pretty sure he's going to go much higher than I have him.

Draft Day: He seems like a consensus first rounder, but who knows. Should be in that 20-35 overall range, but NHL teams might have the same concerns I do, so a slide to the mid-2nd round is possible.

Button, Ryan - D - Prince Albert WHL

Ryan Button / Prince Albert Raiders WHL

D-L / 6-0.25, 185 / 26-Mar-91

Skating: 65 / Skill: 60 / Sense: 65 / Compete: 65 / Tough: 60

Strengths: Plays a well-rounded game. Excellent mobility. Good PP skill and some offensive ability. Underrated toughness.

Weaknesses: 'Tweener size. Not very physical most of the time. Doesn't have top pairing upside.

Good two-way ability. Plays a confident and consistent game. Doesn't get enough credit for his offensive upside - I think he's got some 2nd PP unit upside at the next level. Moves the puck well inside the o-zone and has a good one-timer on the PP.

Deceptively good skater. Balanced, wide stride - good forward and backward. Carries the puck with speed out of the d-zone and make a sharp first pass. Solid in his own zone. Just thinks the game well at both ends. I do wish he were a little more physical, but that's not going to be his ticket to the NHL anyway.

Like his leadership qualities and consistent effort level. Only dropped the gloves 3 times this season, but each time he was jumping in to defend a teammate - and he can throw 'em pretty fierce.

Summary: Really grew on me the more I saw him and is a favorite of mine. I would really argue hard for this one with a mid-2nd or maybe even an early 2nd round pick.

Draft Day: Central's final ranking gives me some idea that I'm not alone in liking this player and he could go early in the 2nd. Otherwise I'll be shocked if he lasts much beyond the first few picks of the 3rd.

Eakin, Cody - C - Swift Current WHL

Cody Eakin / Swift Current Broncos WHL

C-L / 5-11.25, 176 / 25-May-91

Skating: 70 / Skill: 60 / Sense: 55 / Compete: 65 / Tough: 50

Strengths: Excellent speed. Very good shooting touch. Effective forechecker and plays with lots of energy.

Weaknesses: Has had trouble staying healthy. Concussions in each of the last two seasons is a concern.

Is essentially a middle-class man's version of Scott Glennie - similar styles. Frequently in on the forecheck and uses speed to open up space for himself. Very good in transition and can kick into an extra gear to beat d-men. Good at finishing his chances. Gave us a glimpse of what he's capable of at the Top Prospects Game with 2 goals and a lot of buzzing around.

Skating improved this season - less bowlegged and a longer stride. Good first step quickness. Effective penalty killer, but could be better at backchceking at even strength. Plays with some grit and will initiate contact. Will need to get stronger at the next level.

Summary: If not for the health issues over the last two seasons, he might have sneaked into first round consideration on skating and raw skill. But he's a bit too risky for a team spending it's first/only 1st rounder.I like him a bit better than the consensus - I'd consider him in the first half of the 2nd.

Draft Day: He's a bit of wildcard. Anywhere in the 2nd round is my guess. Some chance of him sliding into 3rd.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Olsen, Dylan - D - Camrose AJHL

Dylan Olsen / Camrose Kodiaks AJHL

D-L / 6-2.25, 206 / 03-Jan-91

Skating: 65 / Skill: 60 / Sense: 60 / Compete: 60 / Tough: 65

Strengths: Excellent strength and great improvement in physical presence this season. Good hands and a big shot from the point.

Weaknesses: Still a bit raw and will need development time. First step quickness and speed could be better.

One of the most improved players this season. Has a fair amount of two-way upside. Solid in own end, uses the body effectively. Good upper body strength. Decisive with the puck and has a good passing touch from his own end. More of a puck mover than rusher. Forward stride looks a little odd to me, but overall mobility is a plus. Has some PP upside - has a heavy, hard shot but needs to use it more.

Summary: Good improvement trajectory this season and has a lot of projectables.

Draft Day: Looks like a lock for at least the tail end of the first round. Strong performance at U-18 in Fargo could bump him up to near mid-1st round consideration. Will start looking like a steal anywhere beyond about 25-28 overall.

Glennie, Scott - RW - Brandon WHL

Scott Glennie / Brandon Wheat Kings WHL

RW-R / 6-1.25, 177 / 22-Feb-91

Skating: 75 / Skill: 65 / Sense: 60 / Compete: 60 / Tough: 45

Strengths: Fantastic skater with excellent pure speed. Plays an energetic game. Versatile puck skill and good offensive sense. Stepped up with great post-season performance after returning from broken elbow.

Weaknesses: Awfully easy to knock down/off the puck (if you can catch him). Turned into more of a perimetre player this season - that worries me a bit. Slight build and needs to get stronger.

Terrific skating ability - dangerous top speed, very shifty. Frequently beats d-men with that extra gear. Can handle the puck at speed. Had a lot of full- or partial-breakaways. When he didn't beat the d-man, he'd often have to take it around behind the net to wait for his linemates to catch up. Skating and high energy level allows him to be a really effective forechecker and penalty killer. Underrated skill level and hockey sense. Will take a hit to make a play, but will need to get stronger to survive the pro game.

My notes on him from last season vs. this season look like two totally different players. Great improvement in skating ability transformed him into a puck-rushing finesse speed demon. Kept hoping the gritty grinder from his rookie year would resurface this year, but didn't see much of that. Almost never drops the gloves (only 1 fight the whole year, in an after the whistle crease scrum).

Summary: Erased all the doubts about his status as a pro prospect coming into this season - legitimate mid-first rounder now. Slight nagging question in my head about where the gritty physical game went, but don't really care too much given the great improvement in skating and offensive creativity.

Draft Day: I think he goes somewhere in that 10-20 range. I think he could come off the board in the 10-13 area, which would surprise some people. Hard to imagine him falling lower than about 20-22nd overall.

Ferraro, Landon - C - Red Deer WHL

Landon Ferraro / Red Deer Rebels WHL

C-R / 5-11.25, 165 / 08-Aug-91

Skating: 60 / Skill: 70 / Sense: 60 / Compete: 65 / Tough: 55

Strengths:Excellent shooting touch and can score from anywhere. Plays with a lot of grit.

Weaknesses:Could be a better skater for his size. Struggled on the big stages (Top Prospects Game, U-18 at Fargo).

Good pure scoring skills. Has a hard, accurate shot and can unload it on the move. Can create for himself, but sometimes it seems he doesn't quite click with linemates. Good but not great skater. Good stop-start quickness, okay speed and agility. Likes to play physical, but doesn't have the size to be effective. Smart away from the puck, and a decent PKer. Not much of a fighter, but in the handful of fights (4) he had this season, he went at it aggressively. Played a ton of minutes this season and was out on the ice in all key situations for the Rebels.

Summary: Despite being very disappointing in Oshawa and Fargo, you have to give him a lot of credit for scoring 37 goals on a bad team. Is going to need to score at the next level to contribute, however. I like his value once the first round gets to about the 20th pick.

Draft Day: Probably a back end of the first round guy.

Ashton, Carter - LW - Lethbridge WHL

Carter Ashton / Lethbridge Hurricanes WHL

LW-L / 6-2.5, 205 / 01-Apr-91

Skating: 60 / Skill: 60 / Sense: 65 / Compete: 65 / Tough: 65

Strengths:Near impossible to knock off the puck. Wins battles for the puck. Very good hands near the net. Underrated overall athleticism. Handles the physical game well.

Weaknesses: Somewhat limited passing ability. Needs help from linemates to produce.

At his best down low and near the crease - has a knack for the garbage goals. Great ability to protect the puck. Boxes out like a basketball player when battling along the boards. Some question his skating, but I think it's a plus. Stride looks a bit odd, but has good speed, balance, and not bad quickness.

Slumped after being moved off that first line with Sceviour. Bad move in my book - pair Ashton with a playmaker like that and it's a great combination. Ashton on a line with Kyle Beach and Dwight King? Not so much - too many finishers and no playmaking. I think that explains the 2nd half slump. Easy to forget that even with the slump, he led his team in goals.

Better puckhandling ability than he gets credit for, but he's never going to be a dynamic off-the-rush kind of player. So-so fighter, but is very willing to drop the gloves (6 FMs). Looks bigger than listed - what is up with Central's measurements? He was 6-4 in September, but 6-2.5 at the Top Prospects Game? Is so long-limbed, I'd have believed it if they told us he measured out at 6-6.

Summary: I just don't get why there isn't more buzz on this guy - textbook definition of "power forward prospect" that everyone is always looking for. At worst, I think he's going to be a great puck possession guy on the low cycle in the NHL. I think it's easy to project his style to the pro game (with a little more filling out of his big frame). If I was drafting 10-15 overall, I'd probably argue hard for him.

Draft Day: If I'm drafting in the middle of the first round, I love the fact that he had a bit of a slump late and might drop to picks 15-20. Still could be a 1st round wildcard - not impossible for him to sneak into the top 10. I'll be shocked if he's still around by about pick 25.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cowen, Jared - D - Spokane WHL

Jared Cowen / Spokane Chiefs WHL

D-L / 6-5.25, 220 / 25-Jan-91

Skating: 70 / Skill: 60 / Sense: 70 / Compete: 65 / Tough: 60

Strengths: Outstanding combination of size and skating. Thinks the game very well in the d-zone. Tons of untapped offensive potential.

Weaknesses: The reconstructed knee. (Or is it? That's the problem - we won't know until well after draft day.) Could be more aggressive offensively.

Absolutely no problems in his skating stride - his mobility almost makes you forget he's 6-5. A shut-down stalwart in his own end. Good physical strength and uses it well. Isn't a punishing hitter, but that's fine - when he does use the body it usually accomplishes something defensively. Flashes occasional offensive brilliance and makes you wonder why he isn't more aggressive with the puck. Might be the most likely guy to stick in the NHL next year, especially if the team that drafts him wants to keep close control of him because of the knee.

Summary: Would have been easily #1 on my list but for the knee injury/surgery. Thirty years ago his career might have been over and no one would have touched him until well beyond the 1st round. Drafting an 18 year old with a rebuilt knee is obviously far less of a risk now because of medical advances - but it's not zero risk.

Draft Day: Might depend on what feel teams get from him at the Combine. He probably won't be able to participate in any of the physical testing at all. As such, he'll get asked extensively about how rehab is going. If there's nothing alarming, I'd have to guess he'll still go top ten. But if he slides, we'll know it's because there's worry about the knee.

Kane, Evander - LW/C - Vancouver WHL

Evander Kane / Vancouver Giants WHL

LW/C-L / 6-1.25, 176 / 02-Aug-91

Skating: 70 / Skill: 75 / Sense: 70 / Compete: 55 / Tough: 60

Strengths: Great shooting touch and offensive instincts. Great improvement in stride this year and is now a very strong skater. Excellent two-way ability and grit when he's on his game.

Weaknesses: Takes the occasional night off and will probably need motivating.

Late growth spurt over last two seasons and may have some growing to do yet. Not very strong, but somehow wins a lot of physical battles. Quick and speedy - handles the puck well at speed. Tremendous offensive hockey sense - great ability to go to the right place away from the puck. Underrated defensive game and penalty killing. When he's on his game, he's gritty and gets involved physically. When he's not, he looks like a lazy perimetre player. Seemed bored at times this season, but stepped up in the big games.

Summary: First line offensive ability, but I have a tiny little nagging doubt in my mind about the occasional bad games and low effort level. There is some slight bust potential here.

Draft Day: If the 4th pick gets dealt, he's probably the target. I think some teams consider him in that top group with Duchene/Hedman/Tavares. I doubt he slides past 5th, and he probably goes ahead of Schenn. He's the only player I can possibly conceive of sneaking into that top three...but I put the odds of that happening at less than 10%.

Schenn, Brayden - C - Brandon WHL

Brayden Schenn / Brandon Wheat Kings WHL
C-L / 6-0.0, 198 / 22-Aug-91

Skating: 60 / Skill: 65 / Sense: 70 / Compete: 70 / Tough: 65

Strengths: Well-rounded game and consistently high effort level. Underrated dynamic offensive ability. Gritty, consistent, and excellent leadership qualities.

Weaknesses: Very few negatives. First step quickness and top speed could be better. Physical strength may not be as effective against NHL-sized players.

A coaches' player. Does a lot of little things that help a team win. Already very strong - probably doesn't have a lot more filling out to do. Excellent "half court" game. Hard to knock off the puck and has a knack for taking it off the boards and getting to the net. Physical and wins a lot battles in the corners and out front. Despite so-so quickness and top speed, is shifty and can fool defencemen off the rush.

Summary: Safe pick to be a solid 2nd line centre for a long time.

Draft Day: I'd be awfully surprised if he's not gone by the 6th or 7th pick. Best case seems to be no higher than 4th overall - it will be a huge shock if he knocks someone in that top group of Duchene/Hedman/Tavares down to 4th.

A Note of Caution

Note to players, parents, billets, (some) fans, and others with an emotional interest in these players: You should not be reading this blog. You are not the intended audience.

But since I know there's no chance of you heeding that advice, please try to understand the following: Yes, much in these reports sounds harsh, but this is exactly the kind of things being said in NHL meeting rooms by NHL scouts. It's not personal. If you want platitudinous puff piece scouting reports there are plenty of other places you can go to find those. This type of blunt opinion (and yes, it's just that, opinion) is what GMs and head scouts demand from their staff.

Perhaps you can take some comfort in the fact that down the road, I will certainly be proven wrong on a number of these players. I do truly wish everyone success in Montreal this June and beyond.