Future Considerations’ Ontario-based Ontario Hockey League scout Sean Lafortune gives his thoughts on who from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft class left him impressed, who disappointed and who his sleeper is on draft day.
The player who seems to have progressed the most from the end of 2011 to today in the Ontario Hockey League is without a doubt Cody Ceci. When he first entered the league, Ceci was viewed as a good defense-first prospect with some offensive upside. In his first two years he showed that and developed well.
When I saw him this summer at the NHL Research, Development & Orientation Camp, something was different from the Ceci that I had seen from the previous year. He looked more confident, had more poise with the puck, and more importantly, much improved mobility. He was skating the puck up the ice with authority, and was one of the better players at the camp. From then on he looked to be a much more refined prospect. Instead of dumping the puck in he would be assertive and gain the line, looking for ways to generate offense. He continued to show strong, four-way mobility, and instead of being a liability, his skating turned into an asset. Now he still has items that he needs to work on. He can struggle with his attention to detail in his own zone and cheat offensively, but that’s something that can be refined as he moves towards the next level. Its pretty interesting to see how much one summer can change a prospect, given that I had projected Ceci as a late first or high second at the end of last year, and he is now almost a guarantee to be a top-10 selection come June.
It will probably be surprising for some to see the name Andreas Athanasiou on this list. His rookie season was one of the better that we saw from the 94 age group and he showed some really strong progression as a 16-year-old. He represented Ontario at the World Under-17 Championship, and was one of Canada’s top performers at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament in August. He impressed everyone with his individual skill set at the NHL Research, Development & Orientation Camp, and was starting to be discussed as a possible top-10 selection for the NHL Entry Draft.
Since that time, he really has hit the wall with his development. He still has all the skills that we have seen. He may be the best skater of all the draft eligibles in Ontario and he has shown flashes of top end puck skills. However, he is surrounded by red flags due to his play this year. He really struggles with his decision-making abilities in the offensive zone. He struggles in traffic and doesn’t seem to take well to physical contact. He still has all the tools to be a top 6 forward, however based on what we saw leading into the year, his projection as a late second round selection has to be disappointing.
I’m not sure if its fair to call someone who I project as a third or fourth round draft selection as a ‘sleeper’, however I really like the upside that Ben Johnson possesses and feel that he could one day become a top 6 forward at the next level.
At the start of the season, he displayed good individual tools, however he struggled with his decision-making ability as well as the level/pace of play. You could see that he had the talent, but needed to work on adjusting to the level of play. As the year played forward, he really started to show strong progression. He made quicker decisions with the puck and was able to find way to create space for himself. He used his speed effectively, and was one of the better draft eligible forwards in Ontario in the second half. He still has things to work on – his aggressiveness and physical strength need work – but I really liked his sharp development curve, and if he continues on that pace he could be a real ‘get’ in the third round.