Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chat With McKeen's Draft Guide Guru David Burstyn

Recently, I had a chance to chat with the scouting director of McKeen's hockey, David Burstyn. David is a current OHL scout and a former NHL scout (for the Atlanta Thrashers) who is always great to talk to about the draft and provides some insightful information. If you frequent the blog, we've talked to David in the past and it's terrific to bring him back into the fold.

Of course, David's McKeen's produces one of the best Draft Guide's on the market and you'll find some information below on how to order it. One thing is for certain, now is a great time to be a fan of amateur hockey and the NHL Draft, with the bevy of terrific publications out there for purchase. Everyone always talks about how The Hockey News' Draft Issue has gone down hill in recent years. But what people a lot of people don't realize is how many terrific products there are out there now. Between blog friends McKeen's and Future Considerations (Dan Stewart, Aaron Vickers, and Sean LaFortune), along with places like Redline and Hockey Prospect, there are a vast amount of draft guides available for your purchase and worth every penny (if you're draft junkie like myself).

Here's a transcript of what Dave and I had to talk about:

Brock Otten: "It’s probably best to start off by asking you a question about the top candidate for first overall this year, Nail Yakupov. Why is he such a special talent?"

David Burstyn: "Yakupov can break open a game as his offensive hockey sense is the strongest in the draft. He has been playing ahead of his age group internationally for quite some time but really helped to solidify his stock following a terrific OHL rookie season in which he beat Steven Stamkos record for most goals by a Sting rookie. Yakupov has all the tools NHL teams covet in terms of skating and his ability to manufacture offence. He showed last year and this year that he would not be intimidated by the OHL as there is also push-back in his game. He used the WJC tournament as a forum to showcase layers to his game with a tournament high 9 assists in the WJC (surprisingly no-goals) and was arguably the best player against Canada as he set-up each one of Kuznetsov’s goals. His durability has been a slight concern for NHL teams but he has a good foundation to add weight and should be able to bulk up next year. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Patrick Kane both weighed less than him in their draft years. Yakupov has the complexion of young Ilya Kovalchuk, a player who loves to score and can at will."

BO: "Hypothetically speaking, if Alex Galchenyuk doesn’t tear up his knee, does he compete with Nail (and Grigerenko for that matter) for first overall?"

DB: "I have an advantage as I was part of the scouting staff in Sarnia that drafted Alex first overall and saw him play quite often as a member of the Chicago Young Americans and last year in his OHL rookie season. Galchenyuk has elite skills and marries it with a competitive streak that is unrivalled by his peers. In addition to his scoring exploits, as he was the highest scoring 94 in the OHL last season with 83 points in all 68 games, he is an incredibly smart-two player. He simply hates to loose and his training regime is second to none as he is very committed off ice. There is speculation that he may return at the end of February as he is rehabbing his knee twice a day and making special trips to London for treatment. Should he return it would be great for the Sting and the league as he is worth the price of admission."

BO: "So with that in mind, just where do you stand on Galchenyuk? If you’re an NHL team with a top 10 pick, do you draft him?"

DB: "Brett Connolly only played 15 games in his NHL draft year and was selected 6th overall by Tampa. Should Galchenyuk fall outside the top 10, I think one team gets an absolute steal. Galchenyuk had only an average Ivan Hlinka tournament but his accomplishments from last year and his high character level should be enough for him to fall inside the top 10. I know that we will not take him outside of our top 10 ranking and NHL teams that are picking in that range will be keeping close tabs on his recovery."

BO: "The injury bug, as a whole, has been just nasty to the 2012 Draft. I honestly can’t remember a draft year so riddled with serious injury. Whose injury issue concerns you the most. Galchenyuk? Marcantuoni? Koekkoek? Maidens? I mean…lots to choose from!"

DB: "Sadly this problem also exists in the other CHL leagues as Morgan Reilly and Ryan Murray have missed considerable time and Martin Frk of the Halifax Mooseheads is only returning now from concussions. All of these injuries hurt their draft stock and it is hard to pin point one however I think Koekkoek’s injury hurts his team the most and that may be the best pure indicator as to who is most valuable. I was fortunate to see Peterborough often in the first few months to get reads on Koekkoek. He came into the season with considerable fanfare after a strong showing (as an under-ager) at the U18 in April. He has a lot of ingredients that can make up a player. Maidens injury is not season-ending although he has been battling a concussion since the end of November. Sadly he will have to miss the Top Prospects game as a result but Owen Sound look like they are in good position to make the playoffs so there is time for him to still make an impression."

BO: "Just how much will these injuries affect the rankings of certain guys? I mean, Marcantuoni was having a disappointing season and is now gone for the year."

DB: "Kitchener is such a central location that it is often scouted often and heavily. Marcantuoni came into the season as a top prospect largely in part to his accomplishments as an under-ager when scouts were flocking to see Ryan Murphy and Gabriel Landeskog last season. He did not do himself any favours with his sub-par play this season as a majority of his points were collected on the PP. He is a dimensional skater and shows little to no fear however too many question marks about his offensive hockey sense and durability have come into question. This is the second consecutive time that his season has been cut short to injury. He was also forced to miss the gold medal game at the Hlinka due to concussions. This history of injuries will certainly scare off many teams as he has been unable (at this point) to survive the OHL."

BO: "Just like every other league this year…it seems that the OHL has a plethora of talented defenseman available. At this point, I think Matt Finn and Cody Ceci are starting to separate themselves from the pack…what are your thoughts?"

DB: "I would agree and both are talented players in their own respect but Ceci in my opinion is a better pro prospect. Ceci is currently ranked 17th on our overall list and has continued to get better as the season has worn on. He logs close to 30 minutes a game on the 67’s that are currently in first place in the Eastern Conference. He has all the tools to be an NHL player, size, skill and a booming point shot. The late birth has helped in his development but even last year he was on Hockey Canada’s radar as he played on the U18 squad. Ceci needs to work on his defensive zone coverage and hockey sense however he shows confidence with the puck and generally makes good decisions. Matt Finn has certainly benefitted with the coaching change of Scott Walker and you could see that late last season. He was one of the better defenseman in their opening round playoff loss to Saginaw. This year he has put together a fine offensive season. He plays a good two-way game and is a skilled defenseman as he can do many things well in all three zones, including landing several open ice hits. His size and lack of skating hold him (at this point) just outside of our top 30."

BO: "What’s your position on Tanner Pearson? He certainly seems to have cemented himself as a top 60 selection on most lists."

DB: "I would agree with you Brock! Pearson put up good point totals last season on the second line with Smoskowitz and Beranek. Smoskowitz actually scored 20 goals last season but is no where near those totals this year since Pearson has been shifted to the top unit. Pearson has uncanny offensive hockey sense. He has soft hands and can find the open man with ease. He was piling up the points even when Scheifele was auditioning for the Jets and since Scheifele’s return to Barrie, I would say that the line of Pearson, Scheifele and Telegin is the most dangerous line in the OHL, possibly the entire CHL. Pearson also had the distinction of being the first un-drafted player to play for Team Canada at the WJC since Danny Syvret and fared well in the bronze medal game against the Finns."

BO: "Let’s talk about goaltending. Just how good is Malcolm Subban, and is he candidate to go in the first round?"

DB: "I am a big fan of Subban. It’s hard to believe that he did not start to play the position till he was 12. He is an exceptional athlete whose reflexes, skating, quickness and positioning are one of the best in the draft. With many good goalies emerging it should be interesting to see where Subban ends up however at this point we only have Andrei Vasilevski higher than him on our January lists. Subban covers the net well and is adept at tracking pucks in traffic. Since he is always square to the shooter and remains in the centre of his net at all times. It is uncommon for him to be out of position and as a result he expends little to no energy to make a save which frustrates shooters to no end. Despite the fact that he has missed some time with injuries I do not think that will take away from his natural ability as he has flat out stole games for Belleville and it is not surprising that since he has been injured that Belleville has been playing sub-par hockey."

BO: "Outside of Yakupov (and Galchenyuk), who do you see as the top forward available?"

DB: "Brendan Gaunce would be the next best forward available, but Radek Faska is not that far off. Gaunce offers many intangibles but he is also inconsistent and needs to work harder away from the puck. He has all the attributes that NHL teams covet and will undoubtedly be a better pro than he is a junior as he grows into his body and adds strength. Gaunce is a projection pick that teams will need to be patient with however he does have the size and hockey sense to be a difference maker. Faska approaches the game a little bit differently than Gaunce in that he uses his size down low to make plays. I draw the comparison of a young Tomas Holmstrom when I watch him play as he does so many little things well in traffic and his board play is exceptional."

BO: "But a lot of people seem to be questioning the upside of Brendan Gaunce. I know that I’m high on him and am a believer that he can be more than a “checking line” center. Do you see high end offensive upside?"

DB: "Gaunce would have to play in your top six for you to get the maximum return on investment. In all likelihood he is a top 15 pick at this point and teams drafting a player in that range will look for him to centre one of their top two lines and be a PP player. Gaunce is incredibly gifted with the puck and understands his positioning in the offensive zone. He reads and reacts to plays and anticipates better than his peers. His only issue is his skating at this point however if NHL teams can not make a player bigger, stronger and faster with various off-ice programs designed to improve foot speed and conditioning than they are not doing their job."

BO: "I have to ask you about Nick Ebert. Have you soured on him as much as some of the other scouting agencies have…such as NHL Central Scouting?"

DB: "To be truthful I have not been a fan of Nick Ebert dating back to when I saw him as an under-ager playing for Waterloo of the USHL. I think his high rating with other scouting services was the fact that they simply did not go out to see him play and believed the hype of a player which is the worst thing you can do as a scout. Ebert is dubbed as an offensive defenseman but only has three goals through 44 games and gets ample time on the PP. He can skate into dead-ends with the puck as his puck decisions constantly come into question. Additionally he struggles against bigger, faster players down low due to his lack of size and defensive hockey sense."

BO: "Has there anyone else you’ve been disappointed with this season? Perhaps a few guys who just haven’t taken as large a step forward as you thought they would?"

DB: "Two players come to mind and those would be Chris Marchese of the Windsor Spitfires and Gianluca Curcuruto of the Sault Greyhounds. I liked both of these players in their OHL draft year and they had decent rookie seasons, even though Marchese’s was cut short due to injury after the U17’s. Marchese has the size and skill but lacks the work ethic. He picks his spots and does not always want to make the requisite sacrifices away from the puck. He started the season ok with Erie until the wheels fell off and he was subsequently traded to Windsor. He has fared a little bit better with the Spitfires. He has a great shot but has only managed to score 15 goals thus far in his brief OHL career. His goal total would surely double if he was willing to pay the price to get his shot off but he elects to play the perimeter. Curcuruto has struggled this season and is a woeful -14. He has great feet but his lack of courage at times in defensive situations is unsettling."

BO: "Conversely, who have been the two or three guys who have just blown you away this year…in terms of their growth as players? For me, it’s probably Gemel Smith as I thought it’d take him a little longer to start putting up the kind of offensive numbers he has."

DB: "Gemel was one of the higher point producers in his OHL draft playing on a very poor North York Rangers team. Last year he did not get a chance to be anything more than a shut-down player as the Attack were loaded up front and won the OHL Championship. With several graduations Smith has been given a chance to contribute and has not disappointed this year. I would agree with you that even I was surprised that he is producing at a point a game clip but he gained a considerable amount of confidence playing at the Ivan Hlinka. He is a dimensional skater and can make plays at high rates of speed. He has a tricky release and can converge on loose pucks quickly and has the hand skills and vision to see and make a play. I am a big fan of Joel Wigle of the Ice Dogs. He is a consummate role player who oozes character and will do whatever is asked of him. He is a little raw at this point but he gets buried on a deep Niagara team. Nonetheless Wigle will go hard to the net, fight and more importantly keeps the game simple and gives you honest shifts. Another player who I am impressed with would be Adam Pelech. The youngest of the Pelech group, he may have the most character out of all of them and it shows in his play. He plays upwards to 30 minutes a game on an Erie team that has only won 5 games all year. He competes hard on every shift, finds his outlets and plays in all situations. Pelech is a virtual shoe-in for the U18’s in Brno this year and should be able to show scouts what he can do on a better team."

BO: "Give us a couple of guys to watch in the second half of the year. Guys who people aren’t really talking about right now, but would could really surprise come draft day."

DB: "I have already mentioned Wigle and I think scouts may warm up to him as Niagara should make a deep run into the playoffs especially with the additions they made at the OHL trade deadline. Another player that sticks out for me is Cody Payne. Similar to Wigle in that he gets buried on a deep Plymouth team, who arguably could be the best team in the OHL. Payne competes, fights and has good hand skills. He was unhappy in Oshawa but has found a role in Plymouth and has played admirably in recent weeks. When Rakell and Miller were out for the WJC he stepped in as the number one centre and did not look out of place."

BO: "Last but not least, how can people purchase your draft guide this year?"

DB: "We are really excited to offer our Draft Package this season which includes a January and March Draft Newsletter and our final Draft Guide in May. Our January newsletter is over 20 pages and includes in depth-scouting reports on over 80 players from the WJC and U17. This guide is available now for people who have bought the package and it is immediately sent to them in pdf form. Our March newsletter will feature top performers from all CHL leagues, USHL, Minnesota HS, NCAA and Europe. Finally our May Draft Guide will have a list of 100 prospects with comprehensive scouting reports on them including 25 Honourable Mentions and Sleepers. We will also rank and rate the top 30 for the 2013 draft and the top 10 for the 2014 draft as everyone is always looking forward to the next crop of prospects. The package can be purchased at :


Our scouting reports are incredibly in-depth and scratch the surface of the player to paint an accurate portrayal of them. We offer tremendous insight as we have a team of dedicated scouts who actually go to games and understand what to look for in a prospect. McKeen’s Hockey has been producing an annual yearbook since 1994 and have been the Industry leaders in the world of on-line scouting. Our Draft Package is affordably priced at $30, which when broken down is $10 per guide; a fantastic value for the plethora of information that we include.

Thanks to Dave for taking the time to answer some of my questions. I wish I could ask him a million more to be honest. There seems to be so much parity in the draft this year. Something blog friend Dom Tiano talked about recently here.

No comments: