Youth is Wasted on All The Wrong People

The color and depth of this year’s entry draft is becoming clear. Any number of us could jot down the top 10 and be reasonably close to correct on draft day, with only the Memorial Cup and the combine (plus interviews) as a major event on the draft calendar. How far can we reasonably project this year’s draft?

I think we’re at a point where most of the top 30 selections (certainly the Bob McKenzie list) is known to us. I think one of the strongest arguments in favor of RNH is that he received 6 of 10 first place votes in the McKenzie survey. That’s a strong indicator that NHL scouts see something special in the skinny kid who plays for the Rebels.

One way I think we can help suss out this draft is to place these players into categories. Player-types at the top of the draft are varied, even as the actual distance between these kids is very small. I’m not suggesting a draft for need list, but rather a draft for value list.

How valuable is a true blue #1 C with size, determination and skill? Pretty freaking valuable. What about a shutdown defender with some offense? Worthy talent, they sure don’t grow on trees. What about an absolute piss-cutter offensive forward? Please. Any fool can see they’re extremely valuable.

Let’s place these kids in a cluster.

THIS IS WAR

  • Complete skill set (including offense and some defensive ability): Defined as players who possess a wide range of skills, along with at least one or two tools that are elite or very close to elite along with an idea about how to play away from the puck. Sean Couturier (size, hands, two-way ability including faceoffs), Gabriel Landeskog (PF with skills and discipline)  and Adam Larsson (smooth skater, excellent head-man pass, impressive defensively even as a teenager).
  • One dimension players with elite skills: Defined as a player without the wide-range of abilities above, but possessing one or more tools in the toolbox that makes them a worthy candidate for the lottery. I count Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (passing, hands, quickness), Ryan Strome (excellent skater, outstanding skills, motor that won’t quit), Ryan Murphy (stunning offensive talent from the back end), Jonathan Huberdeau (ridiculous skills, size could eventually be a strength) and Sven Bartschi (great skater and shot, undersized and raw).  
  • Wide range of skills, no elite skill. There are players in every draft who show well across the board but don’t have anything in their arsenal that makes them head and shoulders better than their draft group. Dougie Hamilton (size, good speed and skill) would fit into that range just outside the top level players in this draft year. Hamilton (along with Landeskog) may be a plug and play type in that he’ll go to training camp and win a job outright. There doesn’t seem to be a lot holding him back.

A quick note: When I say "one dimensional" that doesn’t mean the players in that group should be excluded from consideration for number one overall. WAYNE GRETZKY could have been described as one-dimensional as an OHA kid but that dimension was so incredible it would have been folly to pass over him in his draft year (Wayne Gretkzy was never drafted).

I posted my top 10 picks recently (here) and will update it this afternoon on Nation Radio.

We’re back at noon today on Team 1260 for Nation Radio. The feedback we’re getting has been very positive and I’m hopeful we can make the show a year-round item. Your support is vital, you can offer your comments at nationradio@theteam1260.com and I promise to read as many emails as possible. Scheduled guests:

  • James Mirtle from the Globe and Mail. We’ll talk NHL playoffs, the draft, Craig MacTavish as a television personality and possibly coach and anything you’d like to ask him.
  • Derek Zona from the Copper and Blue is doing strong work on scoring chances and the draft. I’ll talk to him about that and a few other things.
  • Norm Lacombe is a former Edmonton Oiler and a first round draft pick in 1983. We’ll delve into the past a little and then find out what he’s up to these days.
  • Cam Moon has had a chance to see Ryan-Nugent Hopkins plenty during his WHL career, we’ll ask him about the top rated junior and ask him some questions about all of those WHL kids the Oilers have drafted in recent years.
  • Jim Byers from the OKC Barons will drop by and we’ll do a year in review on the first year in Oklahoma for the Oilers’ farm team.

Noon to 2, hope you can tune in.

  • Lowetide

    LT, the only issue with Larsson is whether he’ll be good enough to justify the #1 pick.

    The reports have already suggested that his offence is going to be in the 40-50 point range, and he’ll be a fantastic defensive defenceman to go along with that.

    The question becomes is that enough to justify a #1 pick. If he was a guy who could be Lidstrom (25+minutes per night, 55+ points per season), then yes.

    If he’s less than that, can you pass on a PPG forward for him?

  • Lowetide

    Jaggedstream: Thanks for the links, excellent stuff.

    As for elite or close to elite, I think Larsson could be that player who plays an enormous defensive role for a successful team (shutdown type) and he’s a safe pick imo.

    Landeskog has more offense than some give him credit for, I think he could be an impact PF with 30 goals a year potential.

    Couturier (imo) has plus talent in everything we can measure but foot speed. Goals, assists, faceoffs, shots, size. He’s a nice player.

    Now, I’m off to read the stuff you posted. 🙂

  • Jaggedstream

    Great article LT. I was just curious what skill set you considered to be elite for Larsson, Couturier and Landeskog.

    My impression was that they all had the necessary skill set to play in the NHL, but there was nothing that really wow’ed anybody. I think that is why they may have been passed by RNH in the rankings. After watching RNH play, you are wow’ed … there is more than one elite skill in his toolbox. If the only ‘skill’ he’s missing in the toolbox is size; I don’t think it’s unrealistic for him to put on 20lbs & there are a lot of centers playing at around 6′ & 185lbs.

  • Milli

    Can’t wait to listen to the podcast of Nation Radio….And wish I had have had internet sevrice yesterday (rural internet sucks) because I would love to hear some take on McFee’s saying no difernce as a coach in the reg season and playoffs.

  • fuck off

    I seriously contend against any statement towards RNH having defensive skills or responsibilities. The kid is one dimensional. He’s not horrible in his own end but has been coached to head straight back to the top of the crease. He doesn’t pick up the 3rd man or a trailer on a rush; just heads for the crease. If he’s compared to Datsyuk it’s only because he’ll chase the puck carrier during a back check but not other players away from the puck.

    The Nuge, doesn’t know D!

  • Lowetide

    LT:
    this is from part 2 of Brownlee’s series

    “I’ve watched the kid play at both ends and he seems to do a lot of things on the power play and 5-on-5, so it’s not a real issue at this point,” said MacGregor.

    This is probably what I read earlier.An interview on C of H with RNH’s coach.I guess to be taken with a grain of salt.

    http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2011/04/20/wallin-on-rnh-hes-the-complete-package/#more-76257

  • Lowetide

    I’ve read (from Ken Hitchcock and Ryan Whitney) that his STYLE is similar to Datsyuk’s but honestly haven’t read anything about defensive ability. Does anyone have a link? Not being a jerk, but am very curious.

  • ItsTheBGB

    LT, I have never seen ‘great skater’ and Bartschi in the same sentence before… unless preceded by ‘not’.

    I also think Landeskog should go in the wide range no elite category with Hamilton, especially after MBS’ 3rd liner remark the other day.

  • striker777

    LT,

    A lot has been said comparing strengths and weaknesses of the top picks: size, speed, skill, defense, etc.. I think it’s fair to say that you can make a fairly good case for a few guys to go #1 based on this arguement.

    One of the things that has not been addressed is the intangibles that seperate a Daigle from a Stamkos: things like passion, drive, and determination to be the best. Daigle made in clear (AFTER not living up to his potential) that despite world class skill and potential that hockey was not his #1 priority, and the rest was history…

    Might this have been one of the considerations in the Taylor vs Tyler debate that led to Hall being selected? I would hope so.

    Can you comment on what has been said regarding this X-factor among the #1 candidates?

    • Lowetide

      Great point, and I think that is the difference and the knock on Couturier as opposed to RNH or even Strome (I have heard this guy is a hard worker and has great work ethic). And I think that is why RNH will be picked first by the Oil not only for his skill but he is very driven and has a good work ethic and is a WHL boy that plays in Red Deer and is good in interviews I haven’t seen anywhere that Couturier has any of these traits.

      • EasyOil

        I have certainly seen items mentioning RNH and his defensive responsibility (cant remember where so dont ask!), so i would go beyond describing as one dimensional. He doesnt PK regularly so he’s not a couturier or landeskog type 2-way specialist, but i have definitely read articles glowing about the fact he tries hard (and does well) in his own zone. Thinking about it, i think i read it in bruce mccurdy’s scouting reports at cult of hockey. Other than that, great article and would love nationradio to be year-round!