With the 2013 NHL Draft now just weeks away and all the on-ice competition complete for the 2012-13 season where draft eligibility is concerned, it is time to put down the notebook and reflect on some of the performances of the high-end draft eligible prospects.
Specifically, those who shone brightest at the Memorial Cup in Saskatoon, and what an event it turned out to be for scouts and media looking to get one last look at some of the draft’s big guns.
The draft eligible prospects that lined the rosters at this year’s tournament were spectacular. No fewer than eight potential first round draft picks for the 2013 NHL Draft were participating as well as a handful of potential mid-to-late round selections on the four squads.
Of those three, it was MacKinnon who undoubtedly stole the show and the eyes of scouts in attendance as he proved that he can elevate his game to dominant levels in big stakes contests. He ended the tournament with an eye popping seven goals and 13 points in four games.
Drouin put up a respectable eight assists and nine points in his four contests. Both were instrumental in helping the Mooseheads capture the Memorial Cup.
MacKinnon’s performance was a classic ‘put the team on his back and take them to the promise land’. While many have his performance clamoring for a first overall slotting, for us, MacKinnon just solidified himself into the second spot even more than he already was before.
While MacKinnon’s game was elevated, we still think Jones is the more valuable commodity as a big, mobile minute munching defender and that is why he remains our top guy heading into the draft. Jones produced two goals and four points as well as strong defensive play in five games for the second-place Winterhawks.
Arguably the drafts top goaltender, Zach Fucale, also had a strong showing making the stops he should have and some he shouldn’t have to give the eventual champions great goaltending from start to finish.
Winterhawks center Nic Petan also showed well.
Petan was one of the better offensive generating players in the tournament and finished with 10 points in five contests. Petan might have boosted his stock enough to catch the tail end of round number one. He showed a willingness to get his nose dirty and play in the high traffic areas, making skilled plays and setting up his linemates. His game was on par with Drouin at this event.
Domi had the singular most impressive play at the Memorial Cup with a stick between the legs saucer pass to Horvat for a skilled playmaking set-up of a goal. Sports shows and channels around the US and Canada put that one in their highlight packs for the week.
Domi, who was the offensive heart and soul of the Knights for most of this season, is considered a top-15 or top-20 selection, but had a rough go of it in Saskatoon where he finished a minus-9 with included many dead end rushes producing just one goal and three points in five games.
Horvat was impressive as he was all over the ice making plays on the defensive side, playing big when it was needed, and getting into position to contribute offensively as well. He used his size and strength to battle hard for pucks and space. His five points in five games, including two goals, helped to lead London offensively.
Zadorov had a hard time as well in some defensive instances and really showed the gap between himself and a draft eligible like Seth Jones is wider than first thought. He was able to show some of the offensive promise too, potted two goals in five games.
Other draft prospects that made noise included Halifax defenseman Matt Murphy who simplified his game and used his size to just keep things safe in his own zone.
Halifax defenseman MacKenzie Weegar contributed his strong passes and racked up four assists in four games for the high-octane Mooseheads attack. His defensive game still needs work but he could be selected with a mid-to late pick.
Winterhawks winger Oliver Bjorkstrand providing some secondary offense with three points in five games but failed to impress but taking control and creating things and is still seen as more of a support type player who needs added strength.
London’s fourth liners Remi Elie and Kyle Platzer both showed flashes of upside. Elie was a bull as he fore checked hard and uses his size to his advantage while Platzer showed more offensive skill and solid instincts.
So to sum it all up, this year’s draft crop has been impressive start to finish and we look forward to keeping an eye on these prospects as they take the next step in their careers even as our focus switches to the 2014 draft crop.
Until next fall, see you on the links.
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.