With advanced scouting, there are few surprises that reveal themselves early in the season.
However, there is always a handful of prospects who jump out as the season gets underway. Those who were not considered high-end guys before the season can emerge as elite talents or who might have rapidly developed in one or more area over the summer.
By November, the clouded picture becomes clearer to scouts which prospects have accelerated their development.
Typically by this time of the season, most evaluators have been able to get at least one viewing, if not multiple showings, of all draft eligibles in their region and get a better feel for the NHL upside they’ll be tracking up until the 2013 NHL Draft.
That is the same with Future Considerations’ hard-working cast of scouts as we narrow down who we feel have the upside that NHL teams will be looking to add to their programs come June.
With that came some considerable movement as the draft picture became a little clearer. That pictures starts with Halifax Mooseheads forward Jonathan Drouin.
Drouin jumped into the top tier of prospects for this draft crop with his tremendous start to the season, highlighted by a fantastic November. While we see Drouin as a potential NHL offensive playmaking star, we still believe that his teammate Nathan MacKinnon is too well balanced and strong in all facets of the game to be ousted from his top billing.
That said, it would not surprise us – nor would we blink an eye – if Drouin was selected with the second overall pick if the draft were held today.
Drouin isn’t the only prospect trending upward, either.
National Team Development Program defender Keaton Thompson has risen up above the rest of the crop on the U18 team this season. His all-round play and smooth puck moving skills have us thinking a future top paring guy who can drive an NHL offense, if he can improve his consistency from game to game.
Michael McCarron, Thompson’s NTDP teammate has opened our eyes to the fact that he could be the closest thing this year to a Milan Lucic-type of aggressive power forward that this draft holds. His willingness to get his nose dirty while playing against both his peers as well as college aged players in their 20’s is a telling sign for this teenager’s burgeoning power game. His ability to contribute in the physical department as well as in the offensive zone will spike his valuable with NHL teams.
The risers aren’t limited to the NTDP, either.
Owen Sound Attack defenseman Chris Bigras has done nothing but impress our scouts with his consistent play at both ends of the ice this season and has some in the scouting community talking late first round selection. Future Considerations currently likes him as a mid-to-late second round pick that has excellent value as someone who can potentially play top-four NHL minutes and both special teams.
Baie-Comeau Drakkar import Valentin Zykov has impressed with his early willingness to use his size and strength to compliment his scoring instincts and shot to produce at a very impressive rate early on. He showed some dominating glimpses while suiting up for the Russians at the Subway Super Series and is practically unstoppable when he builds up a head of steam and drives the net. Future Considerations currently has him just outside the top round at this point.
Andrei Mironov, Zykov’s countryman, has had a very strong season playing his defense-focused game. He shows a great first pass ability to start the play and has relished his recent time playing with KHL stars such as Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. His gritty play against the Canadian Hockey League at the Subway Super Series did nothing but boost his stock as well.
With risers like Mironov come those that have dropped after impressive starts.
Taking a tumble after a great effort late last season and a good start this year with the Kingston Frontenacs, Ryan Kujawinski has looked desirable on more than a few nights in the OHL this season. He may be pressing playing on a young team and trying to do a little too much or perhaps he’s just not the player he was thought to be developing into back in the summer. His play has us wondering if he has top-six NHL potential or if he ceilings out as a third liner at the next level.
That thought process also holds true for a pair of prospects that have seen their stock dip over the past month.
Leksand forward Jacob de la Rose has been playing some solid games in the Allsvenskan against men 10 years his senior, although in a minor role as a bottom six forward, and has done well to handle himself in that environment. The problem lies in that while he has good size and physical gifts to play a gritty game, his offensive skills may not be up to first round standards, especially with some of the other blue chip first round talents that have come to light this season.
Bo Horvat, who Future Considerations first saw as a gritty, do-it-all, win at all cost type of forward with some leadership qualities, has struggled to continue to play at the level that first had him mentioned as a first rounder. His game lacks the offensive upside that NHL teams will be looking for in a first rounder coming out of a draft of this nature and we like him better in the middle of the second round at this point.
These are just a few of the draft prospects that have taken a jump on many draft boards and also a couple of those who have fallen for one reason or another. With plenty of time remaining in the season, there will undoubtedly be those who elevate and those who deflate before June’s draft.
Join me again early next month as ‘Directors Cut’ takes a look at some of the top draft eligible performers FC expects to see at the WJC in Ufa Russia. Until next month, see you at the rink.
Director of Scouting
As always if you have any questions regarding the draft or its prospects, feel free to email me at email@example.com and I will do my best to address them in my next column.