Scouting reports are like snapshots of people we don’t know. They hold our interest, we might pursue more information (or photos) but the bottom line is that nothing is as good as personal experience. So, when Central Scouting released their final list today, we must remember it’s a quick snapshot of a moment in time. It is a guide, it is not the bible. The bible arrives on draft day.
I’m always impressed with the intelligence of the NHL’s scouting community. These are hockey men with resume’s that date back to the 1960’s (and earlier in rare cases) and have documented thousands of games filled with prospects. I’m a stats guy–I remain stubbornly convinced that Sean Couturier should be inside the top 5–but these NHL scouts have trained eyes and something about the big man from Arizona has caught there eye and remains a problem.
Central Scouting releases 4 lists on their final release day: North American skaters, European skaters, NA goalies and the goalies from across the pond. CS has a website but no one goes there; instead, that monstrous list is published all over the place every year. TSN, nhl.com, hell it might be in tomorrow’s newspaper.
The important list this season is NA skaters. D Adam Larsson headlines the Euro list, but the lottery selections (Larsson aside) are extremely likely to be North American kids. So, let’s have a look at the top 10 players on CS’s NA list (final edition):
- Ryan Nugent Hopkins: The kid’s WHL team is in trouble now, but only because RNH can’t play goal. A stunning run from the Top Prospects game through last week has this young man in some rarified air. It’s likely even money now that he’ll be the #1 ranked prospect on the Bob McKenzie (it’s not the bible either, but he’s at least spoken to the authors by now) list from tsn. NHL dot com has a splendid quote from scout (former skill F) Peter Sullivan: “A couple of people high up in the Oilers organization– and not naming names — said Hopkins has the best vision since No. 99 (Wayne Gretzky). That’s the highest compliment you can get. But the other thing is the way he competes. He never takes a night off and he works as hard in his own end as he does in the offensive zone and that takes a special player with a special set of skills to do that.” Quote is here.
- Gabriel Landeskog: An ankle injury appears to be hurting his final draft number, but he performed very well during the OHL regular season. I’ve nominated him in my own mind as the guy I’ll regret the Oilers not drafting, because his scouting report would fit wonderfully on the current roster. If Hall or Eberle ever move to center, my guess is this guy would be an ideal linemate. Sullivan again: "Gabriel does remind me of former Kitchener Ranger (and Philadelphia Flyers captain) Mike Richards. He sticks up for his teammates and is as strong at both ends of the rink as any player in the draft this year. He competes as hard if not harder than anybody. He’s got all the assets that you need to be a team leader and, for a potential No. 1 overall, that’s what you would want."
- Jonathan Huberdeau: He was coming on before the Top Prospects game, but a strong showing there and then a terrific scoring spree at the end of the season improved his final draft number. Quick hands, he’s played a lot on the wing although there are some scouting services that list him at center. Despite his impressive season, there’s been no hint that he’s under consideration by the Oilers.
- Dougie Hamilton: If I had a vote (and you should be glad I don’t) Hamilton is a guy who would be in my final four. This guy is an absolute load, plus he has has some skills too. You never know with these kids, but Hamilton’s size and skill combination suggest he’ll be a complete player should he continue to develop and avoid injury. He should be gone by #5.
- Nathan Beaulieu: I know a few draft followers who were hoping he’d slide, but a strong playoff in the Q means he won’t slide too long. I do believe this is a very high slot for him and would lay odds Beaulieu won’t be the first QMJHL player to be drafted. Favorite TV show is Jersey Shore.
- Sean Couturier: I keep wondering what we’re missing. It’s clear the scouts (and these are smart men) have found a hitch in his giddyup (skating, toughness are mentioned) but math adores him. Couturier gets a passing grade from scout (and former skill player) Chris Bordeleau: “At his size, he’ll be hard to pass up in the draft. He possesses a very good work ethic and he’s out there for every important faceoff. He’s very responsible in the defensive aspect of the game — a rare quality for such a young player in junior hockey." I still have him #1 on my list. No one in hockey has emailed requesting my list, however.
- Sven Baertschi: Undersized Swiss winger had all kinds of success in the WHL. I think it’s a bit of a reach to place him here, but there is a case ot be made for him. One of the things he accomplished in the second half of the season was to maintain his scoring pace. First half: 36gp, 21-26-47; after the WJ’s: 30gp, 13-25-38, and he continues to score for Portland in the playoffs.
- Ryan Strome: Outstanding talent here, he’s got all kinds of ability. Kyle Woodlief from Redline Report: "He’s a guy who’s got just great puck skills; he dangles with the puck and has got great speed. Really, he doesn’t need any time or space to get his shot away. He has a knack for getting to open ice."
- Ryan Murphy: Ridiculous numbers for this puck mover tell the story. Murphy is going to slide a little because of size, but the offense is so good that some NHL team will reach up and grab him before the Oilers make their 2nd pick of the first round. Nashville doesn’t need him, so they’ll probably take him and we can watch him rip in the western conference for the next decade.
- Duncan Siemens: Huge defender impressed with a fight at the Top Prospects game and he’s a guy the Oilers are probably eyeing closely should they trade up with the LAK pick. He’s big, strong and can skate, and those qualities in a stay-at-home type (he’s skilled but isn’t going to run your powerplay) are extremely valuable.
NHL.COM is the best place to view the lists, it is here. I’ll follow this up later in the week once we know where the Oilers pick (1 or 2?) and we’ll have plenty of time to discuss it. PLENTY of time.