Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Top 10 - Preliminary Media Top 10 for 2013

It's time for the first edition of our media/scouting agency top 10 for 2013.

Helping out for the early season list are Dominic Tiano (OHL Writers), Future Considerations Chief Scout Dan Stewart, Mckeen's Director of Scouting David Burstyn and Mckeen's scout Sean Lafortune (also of, Corey Pronman (Hockey Prospectus), Scott Campbell (The Scouting Report), Ryan Kennedy (The Hockey News) and Nathan Fournier (The World of Junior Hockey). I also incorporated my list into the discussion.

At this point in the season, there really doesn't seem to be a whole lot of debate as to who the top prospects from the OHL are for this draft. Only 12 players received consideration for 10 spots. And one player received every number one vote. If last year's preliminary list is any indication, other players will work themselves into this argument.

10. Justin Bailey - Kitchener Rangers
Received Votes From: 5/8
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 6th (1x))/Outside the Top 10 (3x)
Comments: The OHL rookie had a bit of a tough time getting going, but has been better of late (putting up 8 points in 13 November games). He's currently out indefinitely with a sternum injury (likely until after the holidays). This is the second time an injury has kept him out of the lineup this year. "The injuries concern me. He plays with his head down a lot. I want a big guy who can handle the rough stuff, and bounce off of it," says one contributor. "However," says the same contributor, "I do really like his goal scoring potential. He might have the best 'pro' shot of any OHL draft eligible." Another contributor agrees, "Bailey has a high skill level for a player of his size. I like his willingness to shoot the puck and he’s really developing into a quality finisher. He’ll be a longer term prospect, but with proper development he could certainly be a legit Top 6 NHL forward." When he does return from injury, he'll have to try to find a groove again to keep himself in the top 10.

9. Ryan Kujawinski - Kingston Frontenacs
Received Votes From: 6/8
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 6th (1x)/Outside the Top 10 (2x)
Comments: Currently going through a 13 game goalless drought (with only 5 assists during that time), the timing wasn't great for Kujawinski in regards to this list. "He's got to get back to playing hard consistently and working in the corners. Right now he's being outshined by the 96's on his team," says one contributor. Another contributor agrees. "Ryan is going through a lull right now, maybe because he is putting too much pressure on himself, maybe because he is playing a game that is not true to his natural abilities; but if he simplifies his game and gets back to working harder than everyone else, battling in those dirty areas he will be just fine." Consistency is definitely the key word from this point on. "Kujawinski has shown flashes of dominance which have been marred by sustained periods of ineffectiveness. When he’s on, he has a Top 15 skillset in this draft, but NHL teams will have to really do their work in determining whether or not they’re getting the Top 15 Kujawinski, or the inconsistent enigma." The guys at McKeen's give one suggestion as to why he may be struggling. "Forced to play out of position, Kujawinski is better suited for the wing however is playing up the middle due to a lack of natural centres on the team. He has limited creativity to distribute the puck and is more of a shooter." However, they also love his potential to rebound, stating "nonetheless with his size, skill set and skating ability he shows considerable promise."

8. Spencer Martin - Mississauga Steelheads
Received Votes From: 6/8
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 2nd (1x)/Outside of the Top 10 (2x)
Comments: Like any young goaltender, Martin is currently going through a tough stretch right now. He started the year off carrying the Steelheads on his back, something that couldn't be expected to continue. The guys at McKeen's suggest an injury may be a hindrance moving forward. "In recent weeks he has struggled a bit playing against stronger Western teams however there has been speculation that Martin is playing with a knee injury that may require surgery at the end of the season." That said, one contributor absolutely loves his attitude. "Even when this kid gets shelled and gives up a few he still has the attitude to be sitting on his teams bench vocally encouraging his mates. Love this kids skill, natural talents and attitude and NHL teams will likely too." Even if he's struggled a tad lately, he possesses the qualities that NHL teams covet in goaltenders these days, something nearly every contributor echoed. McKeen's summed it up best, "Martin is extremely economical as he limits his movements and plays an unflappable butterfly style making good use of his size to cover the top portion of the goal. At 6’2, 195 he certainly boasts the size NHL teams covet in a goalie." There were multiple mentions of him needing to improve his rebound control though, again not out of the ordinary for a young netminder. 

7. Bo Horvat - London Knights
Received Votes From: 8/8
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 5th (1x)/10th (1x)
Comments: Horvat seems to be one of the most heavily debated prospects available from the O. It's the classic case of a hard working player facing questions about his upside. Just among our contributors, we have the following two differing opinions. "I’ve been a little disappointed with Horvat’s offensive game this season, but I certainly haven’t soured on him altogether. I’m not sure he’ll become more than a 3rd line forward, but he would be a very strong 3rd line player to have on your roster," says one contributor. While another states, "You have to love the potential with Horvat. Playing under Domi's shadow in London and is probably not getting the attention he deserves. Doesn't get the top minutes Domi does but there's no arguing his potential." Where does the truth lie? You certainly can't argue about the leadership qualities and the tenacity he brings to the ice though. This is something every contributor spoke highly of. From McKeens, "On most other team’s Horvat would be a top line centre however due to the depth of the Knights he has toiled primarily on the third line while getting occasional spot duty on the second line. A multi-purpose forward with subtle skills he also plays a solid two-way game and is aware of his defensive responsibilities. Horvat is a jack of all trades as he can do everything well and plays a gutsy game, often sacrificing his body for the sake of the play." From another contributor, "Horvat exemplifies a high compete level and plays with a level of grit that would embody the top 4th liners. Does a great job in the cycle and protecting the puck as well as absorbing contact and fighting through checks." And from another, "Best thing you can say about this kid is he is like a general out there, talking to his teammates and leading by a hard working example. Still like him around the late first or mid-second round but he has been passed by other talents in this crop." Don't look now, but maybe he's just starting to heat up, (7 goals and 4 assists in his last 8 games). Another contributor speaks to this. "I think I'm the opposite of everyone else. I was slow to the party and questioned his upside. But I'm really starting to come around on Horvat. Every game I've seen of him lately, he makes a couple of really smart plays that not many guys in this league can or do. Hockey sense is very high. I still don't know about the upside, but he's turning me into a fan."

6. Jason Dickinson - Guelph Storm
Received Votes From: 8/8
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 4th (3x)/10th (1x)
Comments: "Why don't we hear more about this kid?" says one contributor. "Criminally underrated. Every time I've seen Guelph this year, he's been the best player on the ice. His potential is sky high." And from one extreme, we go to the other. "Consistency and lack of drive on some nights has killed Jason in my views so far this season. Sure the kid has nice size, skating ability and a good shot release. But he needs to bring it more regularly to be put into the top end of this drafts first round in my opinion. Out of my five views this season, in four of them he was invisible for most of the game, just showing flashes of his skill and shot here and there," says another contributor. Looks like it depends on what night you catch Dickinson. Let's be honest, consistency isn't a rare problem for draft eligible players. The key moving forward, seems to be a consistent involvement in the physical game, as the guys from McKeen's point out. "He is an extremely smooth and effortless skater with deceptive quickness and can handle the puck at top speeds. Extremely effective on the PP where he utilizes his time and space more judiciously. A lack of physical consistency is missing from his overall game as he tends to pick and choose his spots and does not always fully engage even though he likes to create the illusion that he does. Dickenson needs to also bare down in defensive 5-5 situations as he leaves the zone far too early, remarkably he is a good penalty killer when placed on the PK and forced to play in a structured system. His offensive ceiling at the pro level is high however he must show that he can deliver the goods when the temperate of the game rises." I wonder if the opinion of the first two contributors will change at some point this year?

5. Kerby Rychel - Windsor Spitfires
Received Votes From: 8/8
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 2nd (1x)/7th (1x)
Comments: There's absolutely no denying that Kerby has come a long way since being that kid 'the Colts drafted way too high in the priority draft just to piss off Windsor.' Maybe they were on to something since he's gone from priority draft reach, to nearly first round lock in 2013. One contributor sums it up it best. "A pure sniper and it looks like he has all the tools which will translate at the next level." Another contributor elaborates. "Rychel’s game screams “pro” and I think he’s going to bring a unique versatility that will be valuable to an NHL club. Rychel may not score a lot of pretty goals, but he’s not afraid to drive the net and pay the price. When he’s on, he competes hard and is a tenacious player to contain in the corners. Skating and consistency need to improve, but I think Rychel will develop into a very serviceable 2nd-3rd line forward." That said, there seems to be a consensus that more was expected from him this season. From McKeen's, "Rychel is not playing with the same type of determination and fire that he exhibited last season. The loss of Khokhlachev up the middle has crippled his game as he lacks a true center to get him the puck. Rychel thrives down low where he can use his thick frame to impose his will and does a very good job of retrieving pucks in scrums. He is also equipped with a sensational shot which explodes off his blade at the top of the dots usually resulting in a faceoff at centre ice. Rychel’s biggest obstacle is his skating as it is not only awkward in appearance but limited in its overall effectiveness. With a very short stride he is unable to get much power or explosiveness from it and usually gets caught too deep in offensive situations resulting in him being the last man back to defend. Rychel needs to return to the basics and keep his shifts shorter and compete harder while not trying to pad his offensive stats." Another contributor adds to that, "I don't like the notion of him as a power forward. I've seen that thrown around a lot and I don't agree with it. He's a skilled goal scorer and I love his presence in front of the net. But he's not consistently aggressive enough without the puck to be called a power forward. He needs to be way more physically intimidating.
4. Max Domi - London Knights
Received Votes From: 8/8
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 2nd (2x)/7th (1x)
Comments: Domi has been nothing short of great this year; top 10 in OHL scoring and the leader in draft eligible scoring in the OHL (ahead of Sean Monahan). Not to mention the Knights current impressive winning streak. One contributor characterizes him well. "He has great hands, impressive vision and playmaking ability plus he can fill the net himself making him a complete offensive threat. He is not all finesse though as he does share the same agitating, determined, pain in the ass persona his old man made a living with on the ice. The younger however is not just a glove dropping goon by any stretch but shows a strong will to battle and grind it out on top of his predominant offensive skills. Some have concerns over his lack of “ideal” size but with an already stalky and balanced stature this is not a true issue." McKeen's is also quick to point out that size is not an issue for him moving forward. "Thanks to a rigorous off-season workout program, he has gained over 12 pounds in his lower body (now weighing 190 pounds)  making it virtually impossible for players to knock him off stride or down." Another contributor applauds his playmaking ability. "He's such a dynamic player off the rush. The game seems to slow down for him and I love how patient he is with the puck. Such a terrific distributor." He doesn't come without his warts though, as McKeen's is quick to point out. "Sadly his play without the puck is unsettling as he simply does not know where to go. Domi continues to pile up the points but playing with more consistency in the neutral and defensive zone is an absolute must." 

3. Nikita Zadorov - London Knights
Received Votes From: 8/8
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 2nd (1x)/8th (1x)
Comments: One of the faster rising players of this young OHL season, Zadorov has met and exceeded the hype he entered the league with. He's created quite the battle between him and Darnell Nurse for the title of top OHL defenseman available. Ironically, they play similar, which makes separating them hard. "At this point, I'm not sure which one I prefer. Can I have them both?" says one contributor. The common word used by all contributors, "potential." "Sure he has been impressive keeping attackers pinned to the boards, swatting away pucks with his long reach and laying some destructive hits, even dropping the glove a couple times early in the year, but his pro upside is what has many excited. He has a great frame to build upon, and he skates well for a man his size and possesses a strong physical presence to him. He has the ability to skate with the puck and make some solid passes as well leading me to believe he could add some offensive elements to his game going forward as well." Another contributor goes a step further. "His offensive game took off in November. I saw him flat out dominate a couple of games at both ends of the ice. He's the complete package." Some contributors aren't quite jumping the gun yet though, "Haven't moved him as high as some have - yet. No question he's the premier shut down defenseman available. He's starting to feel more comfortable after an adjustment to North America and it's showing in his offensive game. No place to go but up for Zadorov from here on out." 

2. Darnell Nurse - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Received Votes From: 8/8
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 2nd (3x)/7th (1x)
Comments: This seems about right. "Size, physicality, skating, defense, offense, can QB a powerplay, good shot, can transition the puck in any way. The best all around defenseman available," says one contributor. "Potential is what is exciting about Nurse. Started the year well and did not crumble with the added pressure he faced by his team’s early injury struggles on the backend. He has great developing size, smooth mobility and the strong two-way play that has many, yours truly included, thinking that he could end up becoming one of the better NHL defenseman from this draft crop once he reaches the top of his development curve," says another. "Few players in this year’s draft exhibit the athleticism and character that Nurse possesses. He has excelled in International play with his strong outings at last year’s U18 World Championships and followed it up with a gold medal performance at the Ivan Hlinka. Nurse was forced to do too much this season due to a rash of injuries on the Greyhounds backend. With Sproul and Miller returning, Nurse has been able to do less with the puck and focus on playing a staunch defensive game which better compliments his skill set. Highly competitive down low, he is constantly on the puck carrier but needs to be aware of his positioning in correlation to the play. Nurse has all the ingredients to play at the pro level however he will need to add weight to his rather slender frame to be effective," says McKeen's. I think you get the idea. However, there was one contributor who did issue a caution. "A raw offensive game is what ultimately will dictate just how good Nurse can be, but there are concerns in his game. Nurse can be prone to mental lapses and can get sloppy in defensive zone coverage and gap control. He needs to be more consistent in his defensive effort to truly emerge as a shutdown force, something that NHL teams will want to see before he turns his attention to the offensive side of the game." 

1. Sean Monahan - Ottawa 67's
Received Votes From: 8/8
Highest Placement/Lowest Placement: 1st (8x)
Comments: NHL ready, or so says our contributors. "He already has all the pro size. I can still see him in the NHL next year, if there's a NHL season." Another echoes these sentiments. "The most complete player available. Has shown that he can take the next step offensively while still being top notch defensively. Skating is not his strongest asset, but he makes up for it with his smarts. The most NHL ready player today." Let's see what the rest are saying. "The top OHL prospect by a long shot in my books. Despite his teams struggles this season, Monahan has remained his constant positive play. He has a presence about him, not in a flashy deke through the entire oppositions team way, but more along the lines of that imposing NHL power centre, similar to what Eric Lindros looked like in his early OHL days. The goals or heady passes aren’t what make Monahan a top-5 pick for the 2013 NHL draft though; it’s rather that he is a smart dedicated player in all zones and has the ability to contribute in any way required to get the W. His hockey sense and awareness are top end NHL level already. His sturdy size, smarts and strong all-round game makes him a prime candidate to remain inside the top five selection of this draft despite all the other flashy talent making waves," says one contributor. When asked, another contributor responded by saying "Eric Lindros? Wow, I'm not sure about that one. I'll tell you what though, his physical game has really stepped up this year. He's dropping the hammer on people." Another contributor suggests another comparison. "He's so smart out there. That mind plus a big frame and great offensive skills equals a youngster who can jump straight from the draft to the NHL and not look out of place. Even if he's given a role like Sean Couturier got on the Flyers last year, he'll contribute." Meanwhile, McKeen's says, "What sets Monahan apart from other prospects is his uncompromising work ethic as he battles and competes regardless of the score. He can make plays with the puck and is always two moves ahead due to his uncanny anticipation skills in the offensive zone. His skating continues to be a work in progress but his mechanics suggest that it can improve. Monahan excels in the face-off circle as well and plays a complete 200 foot game to compliment his offensive game." He's the real deal folks.

Honorable Mentions:

Ryan Hartman - Plymouth Whalers
Received 3 votes
"The Whalers have been getting some agitators to their program the last few years. You could say his game is like Brad Marchand's. A smaller guy who isn't afraid to go into the dirty areas, annoy you, and score."

"He was ok to start the year but has come on more recently, reminiscent of his time with the NTDP. He's very skilled and has a physical edge too."

"Hartman plays with gusto and bite as he is not afraid to engage physically and is the type of player that gets under the opposition’s skin. To start the season he was guilty of taking far too many minor infractions as referees quickly caught on to his after the whistle antics. Hartman played with more discipline and focussed on producing offensively. He is an effective offensive player as he has good speed coming down the wing and can make a pass in full flight. Not afraid to take the puck to danger zones, Hartman thrashes and battles his way into scoring areas. Plays a spirited game and is not unlike Matt Cooke." (McKeen's)  

Chris Bigras - Owen Sound Attack
Received 2 votes
"May come as a surprise to some but Bigras is this years Matt Finn. Already an accomplished defensive defenseman, he's shown his offensive abilities and then some. He's right there with Jordan Subban and Nurse in terms of offense while not affecting his defensive game."

"Mr. Safe has slowly been rising on my personal list since the Hlinka in August. He does not jump out at you with flash and dash or with big bone crushing hits but instead goes about his business and helps his team succeed. His smarts, effectiveness at both ends and the many other assets he brings just scream future top four D-man who can play both special teams at the NHL level." 

Sergei Tolchinsky - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Received 1 vote
"Love his talent level a lot. High-end or better speed and hands and can create a lot of offense."

Thanks to all the contributors (listed above). Couldn't do these without you.

No comments: