FC Scout Series: Dan Stewart (Scouting Director)

Dan Stewart2013 Draft Center, Scouts Series

Future Considerations’ scouting director Dan Stewart gives his thoughts on who from the 2013 NHL Entry Draft class left him impressed, who disappointed and who his top sleeper is on draft day.

To go even deeper into the draft class, pick up Future Considerations’ 2013 NHL Draft Guide.

My responsibility with Future Considerations over the past few seasons has been to maintain a scouting staff, help to develop their schedules and guide them to the games, tournaments and individual prospects that we want to get current live views on. I am also tasked with logging all of their game reports as we build a book on each individual prospect for the current draft and future drafts throughout the season as well as writing many of the profiles in our draft guides and other articles for the site.

I also head the rankings system we have that utilizes both regular regional reports with rankings as well as live meetings where scouts battle it out for who they feel deserves to be ranked and where on the FC board.

My main area of coverage consists of the Ontario Hockey League but I also make it a point to get a view on all the top end guys going into the draft. It is also my job to go through heavy amounts of video coming from both sides of the Atlantic where we might not be able to physically get one of our scouts into a live viewing opportunity. Our motto is that there is never too much information we can gather to paint that accurate picture of each prospect to our customers.

Over the course of this past season there have been some prospects that have disappointed; those that exceeded my expectations and those that I think might just develop into a real steal when we look back five to 10 years from now.

For this article I am focusing in on just Ontario and surrounding region and those from this large area who fit the below categories.

Who Impressed?

Coming into the 2012-13 season I had my eyes fixed on some of the bigger 2013 drafts names and one of them in particular in Sault Ste. Marie defender Darnell Nurse.

Nurse showed that he could keep pace in his OHL rookie season and excelled at the U18’s two springs ago for Canada in a shutdown defensive role but I really wanted to see if he would or could up his physical play, see if he had added some much needed strength over the summer months as well see if he could become a more consistent offensive presence for the Greyhounds in his sophomore season.

The results were good as Nurse improved in all areas of his game and really came into his own as one of the OHL’s top defenseman in his draft year. I really feel Nurse has the opportunity to become a top level NHL defenseman over the next two or three years and that is why most have him rated so high.

Another guy who really started to shine midway through the season was Saginaw Spirit centre Jimmy Lodge.

Lodge brings offensive skill and speed to the table and is working on adding the other ‘s’ to the equation as right now he is a little on the wiry side.

His impressive blend of incredible drive, strong work ethic, offensive skills and two-way acumen make him a prime candidate to earn an NHL gig in a variety of different roles. Saginaw has been one of my personal favorite teams to go see over the season as Lodge exudes positive energy with his on ice body language and desire to win shining through.

 Who Disappointed?

Two guys who ultimately disappointed after coming into the year projected to be almost locks for first round selections include Kingston’s Ryan Kujawinski and Guelph’s Jason Dickinson.

Kujawinski ended his rookie OHL season, after a mid-season trade from Sarnia to Kingston, by showing some good consistent offensive production while maintaining his tidy two-way game and displaying improved physical play for the young Fronts squad.

He seemed to lose confidence in his game at some point over the summer and on some night’s interest was decreasing last season as his production as well as his impact in the games regressed.

Some NHL team will grab Kujawinski up in the middle rounds this June and hope he can regain some of the form he had during that three month stretch that had many forecasting him inside the top thirty picks two seasons ago.

Dickinson is a case where he showed flashes of high end skills and the ability to be special but lacked the consistency to keep in the top round due to all the other impressive draft eligible talent pushing him back.

He has the skating ability, hard accurate shot and projectable size but lacks the effort on many nights to make that difference.

He is also extremely inconsistent as some nights he was pushing himself back into the top 20 with a stellar performance where he battles through checks and would dig for pucks in the corner but then my next view he would be largely invisible, looking afraid to get involved physically and only coasting up and down the wing looking for a gift giveaway from his opponent to come his way.

There is a small chance that Dickinson could still be a late first rounder for a team that really thinks they can polish up his game’s inconsistencies but the odds and rumors around suggest he is likely a second or even third round gamble pick instead.

The Sleepers

I have three guys who I like as potential sleepers coming out of the Ontario region this season. Those prospects that have the ability to make draftniks look back and say “how did those guys slip down that far”. Two are from the OHL and one form the OJHL.

P.K.’s kid brother Jordan Subban really started to show his potential with his strong offensive play after Christmas and specifically in February of this past season.

Subban really controlled the offensive breakout for the Bulls and pushed the puck up ice with authority, something that he will be asked to do at the next level as a smooth skating but small sized defender, and. his game made me think of former New Jersey rearguard Brian Rafalski on a few nights.
He showed on many instances that he will not get pushed around and will fight for every inch of space, two traits that you want in your pint sized guys if they are going to make an impact at the NHL level.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is two power forwards in the making. These type of guys tend to take longer to show their upside and even longer to reach their full potential.

Centre Matt Buckles of the St. Michaels Buzzers in the Ontario Junior Hockey League was a guy that I loved when I saw him play and am not sure if people were sleeping on this kid all season or if there are 30 teams out there who hope to get a steal midway through the draft.

His name was not batted around in the media nor was he talked about much at rinks unless you were sitting in a seat at the St. Michaels College Arena watching him dominate with his size and skill combo.

Another big body -one that that moves well, has untapped offensive skills and fore-checks his bag off- caught my eye every time I watched Peterborough was winger Greg Betzold.

His hard working hard hitting style of play, while not always displayed on a consistent basis, was dominant and hard for many OHL defense to deal with this season. His shot is strong as is his willingness to drive his frame through defenders on route to the crease. I love the nasty edge he brings.