After a few days at the rink, the NHL’s Research and Development camp served as an excellent opportunity at a first hand look at quite a few of the top prospects for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft before the season gets underway.
And what a look!
Although he started off a bit slowly, I was really impressed with how Red Deer Rebels defenseman Matt Dumba turned it up towards the end of the first day. One, he really stepped up his game and delivered some strong two-way play. I thought his instincts with the puck were great and on the other end, didn’t hesitate to catch a few forwards with his head down. He reminds me a lot of P.K. Subban with a higher upside.
Like Dumba, I felt Jacob Trouba also started out a little slow, but once he got his feet under him and got use to the pace of the games, he thrived. He was one of the more physical defenceman at camp, and was active offensively in the third game. He shows a lot of potential to be a strong two-way defenceman at the NHL level.
Continuing the trend of impressive defensemen was Derek Pouliot. In my opinion, he showed good instincts away from the puck, and was strong positionally in all three zones. He oozed confidence with the puck and was effective when rushing the puck through the neutral zone and making smart decisions to either carry it in himself or distribute it to a teammate.
But bucking the trend of impressive defensemen was Alex Gudbranson.
To me, Gudbranson looked to be out of place and always seemed a step behind. His passes at a high speed where off target and his mobility and transitional play seemed to be lacking, as he was beat wide a few times by players with good outside speed.
None of these were issues with Ryan Murray, arguably the top defenseman for the 2012 draft.
Murray showed me he’s a defenceman who doesn’t appear to have to many weaknesses at this point. He played a very smart two way game, and always was in the right place at the right time. One of the more important aspects to a defenceman’s game is his transitional play, his ability to go from offense to defence, and this is something that Murray truly thrived at.
But perhaps who showed me more is Cody Ceci, who with Murray were the only two draft eligibles at Canada’s National Junior Team Development Camp this summer.
After having watched him over the course of the past three seasons, Ceci’s always been a defenceman who displayed smart positional play, but had some work to do with his offensive skills and mobility. This week, Ceci seemed to be much improved with his acceleration, lateral movement and overall mobility. He made good decisions with the puck, but still has some room to grow with his overall puck handling ability.
At a camp aimed at increasing scoring in the NHL, it was hard not to take note of some offensive talent in this draft class.
Like most, Nail Yakupov started off a bit slowly, but really displayed all the tools that makes him such an impressive player, and arguably the top player eligible for the draft. He was elusive with the puck in the offensive zone and showed strong instincts. He is a player who shows you something new every time you see him play, be it a subtle move with the puck or something he does behind the play.
Perhaps a little surprisingly given the talent in camp, Miles Koules was a forward really caught my eye. He displayed strong puck skills and was at his best with the puck on his stick, creating offense. Although he is somewhat smaller then most of his peers, Koules is not physically intimidated and more then willing to travel into the ‘danger areas’ of the ice.
Andreas Athanasiou was always showing strong effort. He was at his best with the puck on his stick, generation offensive off of the rush. Bright a high compete level, and always seemed to make things happen whenever he was on the ice. Athanasiou may be the most improved player that I have personally seen over the last 12 months.
Unfortunately, Martin Frk didn’t bring it in the way Athanasiou did.
In my opinion, Frk did not seem to be at his best. He was not overly physical and did not really seem to be at the skill level of his peers. He looked to have some pretty heavy feet and took 3-4 strides to get going. While he got better as the camp went on, I thought the improvement was more Frk feeding off of the chances generated by his linemates, not generating too much on his own.
In all, the NHL’s Research and Development camp was an excellent introduction for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Now lets let the puck drop on the 2011-12 season. Game on.
Sean Lafortune is an OHL-based scout and columnist of Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!