Driving Wheel

This is Jonathan Huberdeau. A late surge during the QMJHL’s regular season moved him into lottery territory. A stunning playoff performance could move him higher and he’s not alone.

Last spring, Taylor Hall ripped up the playoffs and laid waste to the Taylor versus Tyler conversation. Hall went 19gp, 17-18-35 for Windsor and scored one of the most famous goals in Memorial Cup history after taking one of the most famous hits in Memorial Cup history just a few moments earlier.

I believe a strong post-season performance can improve the final number for prospects in two ways: first, prolonged exposure to scouts and second increased opportunity to showcase talent. Even a player who doesn’t do anything special will be more memorable when those scouts sit down in a few weeks to argue lists.


  1. Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John (QMJHL): 13gp, 13-12-25 (1.92 ppg) is a terrific early playoff run. Now he’s on a stacked team and the difference between the haves and have-nots in the Q is huge, but those boxcars are impossible to ignore. Extremely likely to improve his final number with this run.
  2. Zack Phillips, Saint John (QMJHL): 13gp, 8-14-22 (1,69 ppg) is probably moving up based on these numbers. Phillips plays for a team that boasts SIX players who are over a point per game in the playoffs, so there’s every chance some of this output is due to the team he’s playing on. Having said that, I’m sure his draft number is going to improve as the Sea Dogs roll along.
  3. Ryan Murphy, Kitchener (OHL): 7gp, 2-9-11 (1.57ppg) A terrific puck moving defender and he showed up in the short post-season for the Rangers. He was already projected as a top 10 pick so I’m not certain it would improve his number, but a team that liked him would have had that opinion confirmed during the OHL playoffs.
  4. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Red Deer (WHL) 9gp, 4-7-11 (1.22 ppg) was dominant against the Oil Kings and that added to a terrific stretch at the end of the regular schedule has him right at the top of the overall rankings. If RNH does go number one overall, I think we’ll look back to the month of March: 8gp, 11-8-19 to end the regular year and 4gp, 4-5-9 against Edmonton in the WHL.
  5. Sven Bartschi Portland (WHL) 15gp, 4-14-18 (1.20ppg) This kid is a true rookie in the WHL and because of it I trust this number a little more as an actual reflection of ability. Of all of the forwards on this list not named RNH, he’s the one I’m most interested in as a pro prospect. I think he goes top 10.
  6. Alexander Khokhlachev Windsor (OHL) 18gp, 9-11-20 (1.11ppg) is a pure rookie who had an enormous playoff in the OHL. He lacks size but improved his number by having an impact on a Spitfire team that went deep into the playoffs again this year.
  7. Nathan Beaulieu Sant John (QMJHL) 13gp, 3-11-14 (1.08ppg) has enjoyed offensive success in the post season. I’m a little suspicious of his numbers (Beaulieu is on a loaded team) but he does have a nice range of skills.

I’ll have another list in the next week or so that will focus on European skaters.

  • John Chambers

    Not very often you can judge players on 3 different levels at same time . BPA (best player available ) , BIC( Best in Class) , and BIS ( Best in Show ) . Oh , dem SEA DOGS .

  • John Chambers

    LT – how much stock do you put in the fact that both Strome and Huberdeau are still 17 years old, Nugent just turned 18, while Couturier turned 18 in December and Larsson a couple of months before him?

    How do you weigh that against the fact the SC has been extremely productive over the past two seasons, while Strome and Huberdeau have been late surgers? Meanwhile, RHH, while also younger, has been consistently producing on a bad team over two seasons as well.

    Last, how would you rate the talent pool of this draft as compared to some of the recent drafts? From the outside I judge it to be as strong as the Hedman-Duchesne-Kane-Paajarvi draft, but without the unanimous John Tavares at the top. Does that seem about accurate to you?

    • Lowetide

      I think the difference between Strome and Couturier in age (7 months) is significant and we should factor it in. HOW we do that and how much we nick SC for it is the question.

      I think Hall is/was head and shoulders above any in this group. The top of the draft is about Seguin level imo, and although that’s not a wide gap there’s still some room there.

      I’d rate SC, Strome and RNH as being in the range of Seguin. That’s a strong group of forwards imo.

      By the way, Desjardins NHLE correctly projected Jeff Skinner as one of the best goal scorers available in last season’s draft.


      I do agree with your comparable to the Tavares draft (without Tavares). That seems fair.

  • Zack

    Strome has very impressive stats for a 17 year old,playing on what appears to be an older team.Even had 82 PIM.He is listed as a RH center but I thought I read somewhere he played mostly wing this year?

  • Lowetide

    gongshow: I think any time you’re looking at small sample sizes there’s a real danger and honestly don’t trust late season surges or playoff performances that run counter to established levels. John Druce anyone?

    Thornton performed as expected in OHL playoffs based on his regular seasons btw.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    When you look at the value of a brilliant playoff performance in predicting future success, the first few guys that come to mind are the opposite types – Joe Thornton and the Sedins.

    I’d like to look back and see what their regular vs. playoff performance was in junior. (I’m expecting brilliant regular seasons and poor playoff performances). Can you predict those types of players at a young age? Any others come to mind.