McKenzie’s List, Top Prospects

This is Sean Couturier. Tonight, we’ll find out if he’s the mid-season #1 ranked prospect for the 2011 Entry Draft. Bob McKenzie will unveil his list on tsn this evening, which kicks off a big week for those who follow the draft each season.

Bob McKenzie has been commenting on hockey for many years. I remember reading his column in the Hockey News close to 30 years ago, so there isn’t a lot that he hasn’t seen over the years. McKenzie is as connected as anyone in the sport, and his twitter account boasts over 80,000 followers. I think that’s a pretty impressive number, although twitter is not my field of expertise.

McKenzie’s value to the NHL fan comes into view on trade deadline and draft day. Although he is featured on many tsn games as an intermission expert, McKenzie’s contacts make him the king of trade deadline and draft day (and to a certain extent July 1).

For draft nuts, McKenzie’s season ending list is an exceptional guideline. Tonight’s mid-season primer will give us an indication about what NHL scouts are thinking at the top of the draft; unlike last year, there are no clear cut favorites (there were two a season ago) and in fact there are 4 teenagers grading out at about the same number on many lists. McKenzie breaks the tie on tsn tonight, with the help of his scouting contacts in the game.

I find McKenzie’s draft updates to be the best "news" about the draft. It really is what NHL scouts are thinking, and if McKenzie didn’t make it available there’s no chance we’d get access. McKenzie saw a need and addressed it.

The show goes at 5:30 tonight. The top 4 contenders are Gabriel Landeskog, Sean Couturier, Adam Larsson and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. In the fall, McKenzie had Couturier and Larsson in a tie. That update is here.

I’m stil onside with Couturier as my number one pick, but Landeskog is very close. Central Scouting’s EJ McGuire on Couturier:

  • "Couturier is a bit on the unpolished side. He’s not your prototypical Quebec League skater … not to bring up bad memories like Alexandre Daigle. I’m an old-timer. To me, he’s Jean Ratelle. He is a slinky offensive player and nobody plays better in his end.

Kirk Luedeke, Bruins Draft Watch:

  • Couturier is an excellent puckhandler who can do it all- make moves in open ice or in tight traffic, rip off a rocket shot or soft-touch it to teammates for the easy score. His vision and offensive hockey sense are elite right now– he can do pretty much whatever he wants to dictate the tempo/flow at this level. His skating is only average, however. He has a lumbering first few steps and lacks the explosion/suddenness that scouts would love to see.

I remember the day the Oilers traded Mark Messier, and I also remember a long list of also-rans and wannabe’s who tried to fill that big, skilled center role with little success. If the Oilers get a chance to land one, they’ll do it. If he’s not on the table, I’d bet Gabriel Landeskog, Adam Larsson and RNH would be listed in that order.

The best part of this week for draft fans is the CHL Prospects game. The cream of the 2011 crop will be on display, with only Landeskog (injury) not part of the fun. Taylor Hall had an assist in last year’s game. This year’s rosters and all of the details are here. The game goes Wednesday on Sportsnet.

  • Colour me VERY confused. I’ve had Don Cherry screaming at me for the last 2 months about how Ryan Murphy is guaranteed to be the number one pick this summer. And now you’re going to tell me that he’s the number 7th ranked pick?

    My entire life is falling into ruins! I don’t know what to believe anymore!

  • Bi-Curious Gord

    I’m just glad that the entire hockey world will again be pointing and laughing at Brian Burke when the Leafs are forced to relinquish another top 5 pick.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      He can’t be that bad, this is the same guy who traded up and drafted both Sedins when he was the GM for the Canucks. Every GM has made a deal or two that hasn’t worked out in his favor. Give it some time, maybe Burke wins this trade afterall if Seguin and whomever else they select this summer bombs. Kessel could score 30+ goals for Leafs for the next five years, maybe the 2 kids the Bruins get score 10 in total. Who’s going to be laughing at who is still years away.

  • bigrroberto

    It’s too bad many if you don’t get to see RNH on a regular basis. I live in red deer and let me tell you, this kid is something else with the puck. The above Kane/Sakic comparison is spot on. It’s astonishing what he can do with the puck in tight spaces. In his spare time all he does is win face offs. So yeah if agree he deserves his ranking and deserves a little more respect then mist give him because he’s smaller. Just wait till he fills out.

  • bigrroberto

    Larsson… #1…i say trade for the pick to get him…the Oilers need to build their blue line, period…around a stud like Larsson…i know gregor had 7 elite Dmen counted outta the last 138 years or somethin’ but this kid is an elite.One year to acclimatize,we move forward.

    I’ve seen [every bit of] video there is on the net and he is strong on the puck,he’s not small,heavy shot, he plays the position excellently and he could play 20+ minutes right outta the gate…he even has a nasty side making opponents pay for their space. NHL readier than any Dman out there imo. He’ll even get bigger than 205 pounds they have him at now.

    With Edmonton’s back end as awful as it is, really,where’s the downside to picking him?

    hey…if not we won’t have to trade squat to get Couturier or Landerskoooooog!

    • John Chambers

      I’ve decided that I think you’re right. I changed my mind.

      If the only sure thing in the draft is a stud franchise defenseman, then why the hell wouldn’t we take Larsson. I just get the feeling that Couturier could turn into Chris Gratton.

  • John Chambers

    For some reason I get the sense that this class will have about as much impact as the 2007 draft where Pat Kane went first overall, MBS selected Sam Gagner 6th with his genious, and Logan Couture seems like the only other impact player taken 7th.

    Usually you can’t go wrong with a #1 overall pick, with apologies to Atlanta and Ottawa, but this suggests that drafting #2 or #3 doesn’t guarantee you an impact player.

    Stay tuned to a future episode of Oil Change to find out who Stu chose among the fray.

    In other news, New Jersey won last night!

  • @ Jon:

    I think that’s a sensible take, and more or less how I’d guess it.

    The thing that bugs me about Landeskog’s offensive potential is Jason Akeson. Couturier’s leading his team in scoring by a mile, while Landeskog’s 25 points back.

    • bigrroberto

      Sort of. Landeskog was injured for a bit…prorate his numbers and hes about 12 points back from Akeson. Couturier is second in scoring on his team…but prorate his numbers to Palat’s GP and Couturier is about 3 points ahead. But I get your point, it makes you wonder about the offensive potential there.

  • Lowetide

    The #1 thing I take from this list is that the Oilers need to add a pick in the top 50. There’s going to be good value, maybe all the way to the Staios pick.

    • VMR

      Absolutely. I dont watch the juniors often enough to get any idea what these top end guys are like so I’m not going to be an armchair GM and say we need a big center take Couturier. Well if Couturier is a big center like Chris Gratton is a big center I’m fine with a small center like RNH if he’s a small center like Joe Sakic was.

      If we can get another pick in the top 2 rounds I say go for it, and no trading up to get a marginal two way prospect like Riley Nash. I think we’re better off with more draft picks and we’ll have a better shot at getting someone then we will if we target specific players to fill specific holes. Nobody knows what most of these kids will do going forward.

  • John Chambers

    Jason Bonsingnor. I can’t get that thought out of head when I see Sean Courtier. I think once bitten twice shy is apt. Larrson would be nice but I think that we have seen this season what Ryan Whitney can produce given the opportunity. I gotta believe that the addition of either Landeskog or RNH woud be the better way to go.

  • Horcsky

    As per Gare Joyce at ESPN

    “Yes, Landeskog’s stock has surged this year, but he is like Tyler Seguin — a kid who came from off the pace, a candidate for the top 10 who enjoyed a breakthrough and established a new level of play. Couturier, RN-H and Larsson are pieces that you build around, while Landeskog would play in support of a center. The latter doesn’t sound like a No. 1 overall pick.

    What gives with the No. 1 ranking? Well, it seems to be part of a trend. NHL CSS has made a habit recently of provocative picks: Kyle Turris over Patrick Kane, Seguin over Taylor Hall. These didn’t reflect industry opinion — for instance, of more than a dozen scouts and execs I surveyed regarding Hall and Seguin, not one hinted that Seguin would be the pick at No. 1.

    But these and other out-of-the-box rankings started chatter in places such as this blog. It’s not a bad stunt, but I’m not sure it’s really fair to the prospects. Angelo Esposito’s career has been shortcircuited by injury, but fans will think of him as a No. 1 in the midterms who flopped. If you can fall from No. 1 to No. 8 from midterms to finals and then to No. 20 in the draft, you really never resembled a No 1 to start with. (Kane was the No. 1 pick that season and everybody knew it.)

    Landeskog is a better player than Esposito was at the same stage and there’s no chance that he’ll fall to No. 8 in the finals or No. 20 in the draft. Still, No. 1? As much as I like him and even though I’ve written that he was closing on Couturier, RN-H and Larsson, I don’t think he’ll end up as the No. 1 overall selection.”

  • Dan the Man

    Per Sporsnet: SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Sharks added some depth up front Tuesday by claiming Kyle Wellwood off waivers from the St. Louis Blues and acquiring Ben Eager from the Atlanta Thrashers for a fifth-round draft pick.

    The Sharks must really be desperate to sign Wellwood.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Defensively , i’d like to see Oilers get Larson and Musil( with luck trading down slightly) , and perhaps Phillips in a trade with Ottawa . Spezza as well ?

    • Hungoverman

      Spezza is a player that I think would work well here between Hall and Eberle. His age is good as we need a few veterans and although his pricetag is steep we do have cap space. Try to trade for him this summer. Draft the defenceman this year and give him time to develop. If Horcoff is our #3 and Gagner is our #2 center then we are a lot better.

      • D-Man

        How do you get Spezza?? Are you willing to deal Penner or Hemsky, Gagner/high draft pick and possibly one of the kids?? Remember you’re going to have give about $7 million back in contracts should you propose a deal.

        The other factor we need to consider is the fact that you now have $14 million in a $60 million/cap tied in two players with two to three of the kids most likely demanding multi-million dollar contracts in another two years… Spezza is only good for probably 60-70 points/year. Is that worth $7 million?? Spezza has had two 90 point seasons, but the last one was well over three years ago.

        No – you leave Spezza alone, unless you can dump Horcoff’s contract in exchange. He might be an upgrade to what we have; but not as much as you think. We need to focus our attention with our D-core and bottom six forwards… Continue to stay the course and rebuild through the draft.

        • Hungoverman

          I think if we have Khabi coming off the books in a few years and the kids contracts being the first raise AND if the cap continues to rise as projected you could make it happen.
          I personally would keep Penner for his size and durability and see if Murray wants to go out with a bang. Hemsky and Brule for Spezza and a salary dump? Hemmer is a great player but if he is our best player we will be in a lot of trouble moving forward. I think Spezza proved that when he is paired with great talent (Heatley) he can be quite effective. And lord knows the Oilers need a number 1 center and a number one defenceman.
          Whew..long reply i need a beer. Sorry about that.

  • Dan the Man

    If Ben Eager was available for a 5th I wonder why the Oilers wouldn’t have taken him. He is ten times the player JFJ is, only 26. Canfight and actually play. Very good skater for a big guy.


    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      the idea and the game plan this year is to TANK. Hence, we won’t be adding anyone new to the payroll unless it means moving people out at the same time.

  • Bucknuck

    I don’t think the Oil can lose if they pick in the top four this year. I lean toward Couturier since the Oil need some size and grit and sound defensive play. How is the big man on Faceoffs?

    I think ST better get another 1st round pick for Stu this year, but i am unsure how he could acquire it without losing real good assets.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Please no Nugent-Hopkins. Man would teams laugh at us if they looked down the middle and seen Gagner and Nugent-Hopkins as our 1-2 centres that would be hugely intimidating and give us no chance to get out of the west. Small skill guys are very easy for d-men to play against. RNH to me is Nilsson with less skill.

  • O.C.

    This might be a bad year to pick first overall. If you pick second or third, you might get the best overall player. If you get second or third best you don’t lose. But if you pick first, two or three or four might turn out to be better.

    Then you have to answer to everyone.

    Just a positive spin