Future Considerations’ Alberta-based scout Donesh Mazloum gives his thoughts on who from the 2015 NHL Draft class left him impressed, who disappointed and who his sleeper is on draft day.
Someone who impressed me early and often this season was Swift Current Broncos forward Jake Debrusk. While he came into this season largely overshadowed by fellow draft eligible teammate Glenn Gawdin, it was Debrusk who demanded my attention every time the Broncos came to town.
What impressed me most were the improvements in areas of his game that I would have classified as his weaknesses before. His past inconsistent defensive effort was replaced with a dogged hunger to regain possession. His tendency to be a passenger on the ice replaced with an engaged and relentless demeanor. His short choppy skating stride, while still a work in progress, is also noticeably improved. Debrusk has always been an asset in the offensive zone however with added confidence he has become a force to be reckoned with. His offensive awareness and positioning in the offensive zone is top notch and if his feet catch up to his mind he has the ability to put up strong point totals at the NHL level. While Debrusk has always been comfortable and accomplished in the offensive zone his drastic improvement in rounding out his game is what cements his spot in the draft’s first round. Whichever team drafts him is getting a player who has shown the willingness to adapt and improve to be successful.
While I’ve never really liked the term “disappointment” as it has more to do with personal expectations over what a prospect delivers on the ice, one has to think that Jessie Gabrielle had a different vision for his first draft eligible season.
Coming into this season I thought Gabrielle had a real shot at challenging for a 1st round spot. With A+ speed, a willingness to get dirty, and a quick release Gabrielle has the potential to be a disrupting and effective thorn in the side of opposing teams. Starting the season in the stacked forward ranks of the Brandon Wheat Kings was a double edged sword. While his point totals were okay, its was clear that he wasn’t going to be a player the Wheat Kings leaned on offensively. He seemed frustrated at times with that fact and was plagued with inconsistent and undisciplined play. After his move to the Pats I again had high expectations that he would be hungry to seize a bigger offensive role however again I saw a player with poor body language and middling effort. While I still believe that Gabrielle has the talent and skill set to be an effective NHLer it is clear that he needs to mature between the ears to reach that level.
The biggest surprise for me and I’m sure many other evaluators this season was Austin Wagner of the Regina Pats. Coming into this season with little fanfare Wagner has rocketed up our rankings this season.
He can absolutely fly and his combination of speed and size gives opposing defenders fits. His simple north-south game isn’t conducive to big point totals however he projects as the kind of quick, heavy, and suffocating third liner that championship teams are lousy with. Additionally Wagner may be one of the better penalty killers in the league. He has incredible instincts and walks the line between aggressive and reckless extremely well. He is a constant threat for shorthanded goals. I consider Wagner one of the safer bets out of the west in this year’s draft, which considering he started the year outside of my draft radar completely is pretty impressive. Look for his name to be called somewhere in the Top-90.