Every year, it’s the same thing. This defenceman is the next Chris Pronger or Shea Weber, this forward the next Steve Yzerman or Ryan Getzlaf. Guys who realistically project as third liners get written up as top-line players.
It’s important to step back, and remember that whatever is getting written about these players, the end result is likely to be far more prosaic in most cases.
Looking back through old copies of The Hockey News draft guide, it’s remarkable how everyone – in some cases even NHL scouts – get swept away in pre-draft hyperbole. Some examples from the 2002 and 2004 Draft Guides follow; the reader should not worry if he has never heard of the players.
“There’s a lot to like about this guy,” said a scout. “He is better than the other Kazak (Nik Antropov) player we all know about.”
What sets Barker apart from the other huge defensemen in the draft is his love for and skill in handling the puck. Scouts are reminded of Edmonton’s Eric Brewer or Florida’s Jay Bouwmeester when they watch Barker. Ask Barker, though, and he’ll tell you he patterns his game after New Jersey’s Scott Stevens.
Hockey being steeped in tradition, it’s only right the Quebec League offer up another stellar pick in net for the 2002 draft. This year’s nominee, Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, is a chip off the old block. He plays in the butterfly mode of a Patrick Roy and reminds scouts of the other QMJHL goalies making names for themselves in the NHL.
“There is no real deficiency,” said a scout. “Either you like him or you don’t. He’s one of those guys who either does it for you or he doesn’t.” The scout said people were saying the same things last year about Patrice Bergeron, a second round pick of Boston, who turned out to be a solid NHL rookie at 18.
What makes Lupul attractive might have something to do with the comparisons to Mike Bossy, one of the greatest natural scorers in NHL history.
He finds ways to get the puck and he reminds people of a young Ryan Smyth because of his work ethic.
“He’s even better and quicker (than Hasek) at this age,” said one scout.
Said another scout: “I see a power forward in the making. If you are looking at an Erik Cole type of player, this guy fits the mold.”
Vagner makes the easy outlet pass and doesn’t panic when his options are limited. “What you have is Kaberle-type skill and vision with some meanness to his game,” said a scout.
“He is very competitive,” said a scout. “He is a clone of Chara and I know a lot of guys who are kicking themselves when they passed on Chara. There’s a lot of projection, though.
The Other Side
Of course, not every scout gets swept away. Take, for example, this read on Jay Bouwmeester, the top-ranked prospect by THN in 2002:
“He’s no Paul Coffey, but he might be Bret Hedican at best,” said one scout. “He’ll give you 10, 15 solid NHL seasons, but they will not be spectacular. We want to see him at a higher level.”
The passages above are in part my work cherry-picking, but even a completely balanced consideration reveals far more Schwarz and Vagner-type comments than Bouwmeester-type comments. It’s a dangerous thing to compare a prospect to an existing NHL player, because it’s invariably a best-case scenario. To pick one example, Darnell Nurse has been getting comparisons to Chris Pronger, yet after adjusting for era we find Pronger’s offensive production was 50 percent better than Nurse’s – it’s simply not fair or realistic to compare Nurse to one of the best defencemen in the modern era, particularly given the huge gaps in their draft year (and, for that matter, even bigger gaps the year before) offensive production.
There are plenty of examples of exactly this sort of thing in the draft; it’s always a good idea to tone down expectation.
Recently around the Nation Network
TSN’s Darren Dreger broke the news this morning that Canucks goalie Cory Schneider was being discussed in trade talks – and that the Edmonton Oilers were likely one of the teams interested. Here’s Cam Charron of Canucks Army on the motivation and the asking price:
All of which is to say that trading Cory Schneider, a player who would theoretically net a significantly better return and is only likely to be somewhat better than Roberto Luongo over the short-term, instead of Roberto Luongo is the right move from a hockey perspective. The Cory Schneider asking price is rumoured to be a first rounder and a prospect, and that’s probably a pretty good prospect too. If Bishop can net Conacher, and Bernier can net Frattin; then Schneider should be able to get you an NHLer on an entry-level deal and a first if the market for him heats up. Essentially it’s clear that the combined value of Luongo and a Schneider return, would outpace the combined value of Schneider and a Luongo return.
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