A couple of months ago, I arranged for a Q & A with David Burstyn (the Director of Scouting for Mckeen's Hockey). It was very informative and interesting, so I decided to go back for another round. The NHL Draft is about a month away now and the McKeen's Draft Guide (order information here) is ready for distribution. What better time to ask David some questions as the draft draws near.
Brock Otten - David, thanks for doing this again. Last time we talked, you felt comfortable saying you preferred Taylor Hall to Tyler Seguin as the number one pick. Do you still feel that way? Have the OHL playoffs widened the gap between them?
David Burstyn - I have always maintained that Hall is the #1 pick however there was some discussion with staff members about this, much like there will be with NHL teams that are fortunate (or unfortante for that matter) to be in a position where both may be available. In terms of the playoffs I think scouts saw what they needed to see throughout the season. It certainly did not hurt Hall's stock that he swept the Whalers and is going to be playing in the finals of the Mem Cup for a second consecutive season (and has since won).
BO - Speaking of the OHL playoffs, just how impressive was the performance of Kitchener's Jeff Skinner? Did he give himself a chance for the first half of the first round?
DB - We always had Skinner as a first round talent. Any 17 year old who scores 50 goals in the CHL, especially in the OHL Western conference, (one of the toughest in the CHL ranks), deserves recognition. Having said that when he netted 20 goals in the playoffs and became the highest scorer in the CHL (regular/playoff season combined) it helped to vault him to #12 on our list.
BO - Outside of Skinner, were there any other draft prospects whom you felt elevated their draft stock with strong playoff performances?
DB - I will keep it strictly to the OHL. I felt that Knight did a great job in the playoffs and was the best forward besides Kadri. Smith-Pelly also helped (his cause), however he still suffered from bouts of inconsistency, nonetheless he did take his team to the Conference finals.
BO - Also in the last time we talked, you felt Cam Fowler was the third best prospect from the OHL. Meanwhile, a lot of scouting services seem to think Erik Gudbranson has passed him? Is Fowler still number three in your mind?
DB - We would be in agreement and have Gundbranson ahead of Fowler in our end of season rankings. We always had them close to one another however we gave the nod to Gunbranson simply because he possesses a few more attributes than Fowler. In particular, size and physical aggression. At worst, Gundbransson can play within your top four because of those traits. Fowler is a great prospect as well but his game needs some work, in particular his shot and playing with more grit.
BO - Alexander Burmistrov seems to be a bit of a wildcard for this draft. Yes he's playing in the OHL...but he's still a Russian player. Does the "Russian factor" cause him to slide in the draft, or does the fact that he was committed to North America this season ease those concerns?
DB - It will help to erase some concerns, however there is speculation that he may return to Russia to play for Kazan, which would have an obvious barring on an NHL team's decision to select him. Since he is drafted out of the CHL, he will not be eligible to play in the AHL next year as has been the case with several European drafted players. We actually lowered him slightly in our final rankings however this was not so much to do with the 'Russian Factor' or his play rather the improvement of players ranked ahead of him.
BO - I want to shift to goaltenders. Philip Grubauer has been sensational for Windsor in the OHL playoffs. Has he done enough to pass Mark Visentin as the top rated goalie from the OHL?
DB - Grubauer's ride to the Memorial Cup with eight straight wins against Kitchener and Barrie was a tremendous feat. He has always been a marquee goalie dating back to when I first watched him at the U17's where he was named player-of-the-game for every game Team Germany played. In having said that, NHL teams tend to lean towards bigger goalies and Visentin is still ranked higher on our lists due to his mechanics and net presence.
BO - What about Jack Campbell? I know he's not in the OHL yet, but he will be next year. What can Windsor fans expect out of him next year and just how high could he go in the draft?
DB - He is our top ranked goalie and is listed at #3 on our lists. While he may not go as high as third overall; we as a scouting organization view him as the best prospect outside of Hall and Seguin. He continually stepped up his game when it mattered most and has three international gold medals to his credit, most notably gold at the WJC. Windsor will lean on him heavily and he should play a bulk of the games next year. He should be an elite goalie in the OHL and a lock to make the U20 team in Buffalo. He has the mechanics and the mental composure to be a legitimate starter in the NHL.
BO - There were some high profile players who had serious injury problems this season. I'm thinking mainly of Andrew Yogan, Joey Hishon, and Gregg Sutch. Did their injuries and subsequent inconsistencies really hurt their draft status as much as it seems? I mean Yogan and Hishon were guys expected to receive first round consideration at this time last year.
DB - Injuries sadly are part of the game and all of these players may have lost the lime light as a result of them being out of the line-up. Hishon has the most promise out of this group as he has great offensive tools and plays both ends of the ice. Yogan has ability but is not consistent enough away from the puck. His injury was sustained in the last month of the season so he did not miss considerable amount of time (with the exception of the playoffs). I don't think anyone was talking about him being a first round selection, especially not at McKeen's. As for Sutch, he did an OK job of salvaging his regular season with a modest playoff. His stock dropped as he was unable to adjust to Coach Cameron's systems.
BO - I recently did an article on some players who could potentially be playing in the OHL next season. What are your thoughts on Stephan Johns and Jarred Tinordi? Any chance these guys leave their NCAA commitments for the OHL?
DB - I think Tinordi stands a good chance to come to London. The Knights like the Mounties always seem to get their man. His addition would certainly help by adding a layer of toughness that they desperately need. Johns seems determined to go the College route but much will be decided by the NHL team that drafts these two players and where they wish for them to play for the betterment of their development.
BO - A question I get or see a lot is, who is the best power forward available from the OHL this year? Fans seem to be fanatical about finding that throwback power forward from the days of Brendan Shanahan, Cam Neely, etc. Anyone who fits the bill?
DB - Out of the OHL, McFarland and Smith-Pelly have the best chances to fit that mold. Both players are a little under sized to be power forwards standing at only 6'0 but are built like mack trucks and are thick. McFarland is not the smartest player but has the brute strength to impose his will. Smith-Pelly loves to play the body but needs to play with more consistency as noted earlier.
BO - If you had to give me one sleeper from the OHL you felt could go WAY earlier in the draft than people are expecting, who would it be? Last the selection of Jamie Devane had people scratching their heads. Any sleepers out there we should know about?
DB - Austin Levi may surprise just because of his sheer size and natural skating ability. He needs to learn a lot about the game but he does have natural raw talents.
BO - One question that I found myself asking when compiling my own draft list for this year was Brock Beukeboom or Brandon Archibald? Which do you prefer?
DB - I prefer Beukeboom however our final lists indicates otherwise, but every scout is entitled to their opinion. Personally I think both players will get a crack in the pro's. Archibald has good size (6'4) and will get thicker/stronger. He did improve his game throughout the year but had a lack luster playoff. Beukeboom has the innate ability to change the complexion of a game with a timely placed hit. We witnessed it in the Top Prospects game when he laid out Seguin in the third and he did not return the same player. Beukeboom is a throwback player that will be a viable option, able to adapt to any situation, he will be low maintenence much like his father Jeff was but a player you can win with.
BO - Christian Thomas; so many accolades in the OHL coaches poll, but so little respect from the scouting community. Why (other than the obvious he's undersized excuse)?
DB - That's exactly the reason. There are plenty of players that are terrific junior players however that does not always translate to NHL success. He has got one of the better releases in the draft and can score goals but you have to get into those positions to take the shots. In saying that, his father Steve was very determined to prove others wrong, going un-drafted before enjoying a successful NHL career. Much of the success of these prospects will be in the work they do away from the ice.
BO - Just want to conclude with a few questions about the McKeen's Draft Guide. Give me three reasons why my readers should buy this guide over say...a cheaper The Hockey News Draft Guide.
DB - McKeens has always provided readers with more in-depth scouting reports than our competitors. I challenge a reader to go to the newsstands this August and read our write-ups in our annual Yearbook and that of our competitors and then ask themselves who painted a more accurate picture of that particular player. The same applies for the Draft Guide as we at McKeens have alot of pride in our work. WE ACTUALLY ATTEND GAMES! I was at over 200 junior games including the OHL, USHL, Tier II, Jr.B and my travles to Bratislava for the Ivan Hlinka and the U17's in Timmins to see the next crop of up and comers. This message is not lost by our loyal base of suscribers and followers who know we are the industry leader in the world of scouting. Aside from our expansive content, our graphic arts team did an excellent job in terms of laying out the information making it in my humble estimation the 'sexiest' guide on the market. Our feature length stories are also something that neither Redline or ISS offer, so we give more to our readers. We also have a rich tradition as we have been producing our Yearbook for 15 years and this will be our fifth year for the Draft Guide.
BO - Finally, where and how can we purchase the draft guide?
DB - The guide can be purchased online at mckeenshockey.com by following the draft guide link. The guides are modestly priced at $30, which is the cheapest of all the guides available. You can also purchase a copy if you are in LA, as I will be promoting the guide during the draft festivities. I hope consumers enjoy reading the guide as much as we as a team enjoyed producing it!
BO - Thanks so much David.