In my books, Stu MacGregor had a pretty sharp hockey mind long before he became GM of the Kamloops Blazers in 1995 or joined the scouting staff of the Edmonton Oilers in 2000. A lot of people feel the same way now, especially since he became Edmonton’s chief scout in 2007.
It’s no surprise, then, I’ve taken every chance I get to pick that brain of his. Doing so has pretty much been a rite of spring for me in preparation for the NHL Entry Draft for years, even before MacGregor took over as chief scout from Kevin Prendergast.
Want a no-frills, tell-it-like-it-is assessment of a player? MacGregor, who oversees an amateur scouting staff that numbers nine, is your man. Want to see how MacGregor’s scouting list compares to that of Central Scouting Services or ISS? Not so much, as often as I’ve tried. Still, given the depth of prospects the Oilers have begun stockpiling on his watch, a chat with MacGregor is time well-spent.
With the Oilers holding the first overall pick for the second consecutive year, I tracked down MacGregor, as I suggested I would a couple weeks ago, to get his take heading into scouting meetings two weeks from now and the Entry Draft in Minnesota June 24-25. This is simply a heads-up on what’s to come, based on that conversation.
A tease, if you will.
SURVEY SAYS . . .
So, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Adam Larsson? What’s the top-end for Gabriel Landeskog? What about the late-season surge by Jonathan Huberdeau and the final rankings for Sean Couturier?
How much debate will there be about the No. 1 pick when the scouting staff meets in Phoenix May 15? Will it be an either-or, two-man discussion as it was with Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin last spring or are more kids in the mix to be the first name called?
First off, MacGregor didn’t answer the Nugent-Hopkins or Larsson question because I didn’t ask it — at least not framed that way. I know, "Brownlee, you idiot, how could you NOT ask him?"
Well, because backing a chief scout, any chief scout, into a corner seven weeks before the Oilers call a name at the podium isn’t a way to get your phone calls returned year after year. And, of course, you seldom get a straight answer any way. "Yes, we are taking Taylor Hall no matter what happens between now and draft day . . ." Or was it Seguin?
WHAT’S TO COME?
What MacGregor and I did talk about was Nugent-Hopkins, at length, as well as Larsson, Couturier, Huberdeau and Landeskog. I’ll give you his take on each of them, as well as an extra item on Nugent-Hopkins as it refers to concerns in some corners about his size and questions about his offensive numbers on the power play versus at even strength etc.
We talked about the process of the scouting meetings when each and every scout on staff gets together to compare notes and lists on the way to compiling a final list, where the saw-him-good and the numbers come together in the form of a pecking, or picking, order.
As an aside, we talked a bit about 2009 second-rounder Anton Lander and Teemu Hartikainen, who turned some heads in a late-season stint with the Oilers. I’ll spin something off from that, as well.
All told, it’ll be MacGregor, MacGregor and more MacGregor from me over the next week or 10 days, broken into a series of six or seven items, starting tomorrow. I can’t think of a better source of information with the draft approaching.
As always, stay tuned.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.