The NHL Entry draft is still 3 months away. For Edmonton Oiler scouts, that’s a good thing.
The race for #1 overall is heating up. The second season is bringing out the best of this year’s elite talent. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is sublime in the WHL series and Adam Larsson is back and having a major impact on the SEL playoffs. Gabriel Landeskog, Sean Couturier, Ryan Strome and Dougie Hamilton are all making a difference. Here’s a look at the candidates for #1 overall and how they’re doing this spring.
We discussed Larsson’s first round at length here and the young man continues to play heavy minutes when healthy. In Skelleftea’s second round series he was injured and missed one of the games. Here are the results so far:
- Game 1: 13:32 TOI Even 2 hits (and an injury)
- Game 2: DID NOT PLAY
- Game 3: 26:47 TOI +1 1 assist (on an OT goal) and 1 hit
- Game 4: Today
So far this spring, Larsson is 9gp, 0-3-3 -1 with 6pims and 14 shots on goal during the playoffs. He’s averaging 22:41 per game overall, but is clearly a staple on the Skelleftea backline.
Dominant in his first game with the Rebels in their series against the Edmonton Oil Kings, he scored again last night and had plenty of chances. A wonderful playmaker, his compete level is very high and he’s a tremendous passer. RNH has very good speed and is exceptionally elusive. I’m less worried about his slender build now than before I’d seen him play in this tough playoff series. RNH’s totals are 2gp, 3-2-5 +1.
The theme in regard to Landeskog has been the same all season: scouts and onlookers alike are astonished at his maturity in all areas and his NHL readiness. Landeskog plays a gritty game and is considered by many the best player available in this year’s draft. He’s had an impact on this year’s playoffs, and that’s to be expected since this time of year lends itself to his style. 2gp, 2-1-3 +2 early in the post-season
A couple of weeks ago I spoke to Niagra’s coach/GM Marty Williamson about the Ice Dogs and their surprising season. Williamson: "We thought our team was built for next year but our two young guys Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Strome have had phenomenal seasons. It’s amazing what Dougie does for us: he quarterbacks the PP, he kills penalties and plays against top lines, his icetime is always up there." Hamilton is 1gp, 1-1-2 +2 going into game 2 today.
Williamson: "He’s been a game breaker, dangerous on the powerplay. But to be able to score 5×5 at his age that’s a real compliment to him. He’s also been a very consistent player all year." Strome plays on the 1PP but the Ice Dogs rotate two units so the offensive stats are not overblown ala Robbie Schremp. Again Williamson: "He’s not killing penalties for me, we wanted to keep him rested for even strength and the powerplay." He is 1gp, 0-0-0 -1 so far in the playoffs.
The big man just keeps on rolling. He’s 2gp, 1-2-3 +3 with 2pims so far this playoffs. He is about 60% in the faceoff circle so far this post-season and did score 6 hits according to the scoresheet, but that lack of physical play continues to dog him (along with the concerns about foot speed).
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I think it’s down to three players: Adam Larsson, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog. One thing is certain: the decision has yet to be made, and playoff performances will have a major impact (as they did a year ago).