Stewart: Injuries a storyline in 2012

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FC’s scouting director Dan Stewart tackles Gianluca Curcuruto’s potential, how injuries will impact the draft stock of Alex Galchenyuk, Martin Frk and Ryan Murray, as well as potential picks that are re-entering the draft in ‘Five for Stewart’.

Have a question about the 2012 NHL Entry Draft? Send it to Dan via email at or via Twitter.

1. Will NHL teams be able to get a future NHL defensemen if they miss out on the top talent like Ryan Murray, Mathew Dumba, Nick Ebert, Morgan Rielly, etc. later in the draft?

FC currently has 21 defensemen ranked in our second and third rounds for the 2012 draft so the talent will be there for sure.

I am going to show my hand a little here and let you know that I think Sault Ste. Marie defenseman Gianluca Curcuruto is an absolute stud with very high NHL upside.

Any team that picks up this smooth-skating, hard-playing kid will likely end up with more than originally thought. He impresses me more each time I see him play and has really stepped up and taken the reins of a much-improved Greyhounds defense this season. If you can snag him with a late first round selection he could prove to be a steal.

Another defenseman who might not make the first round but still has very nice potential upside is Finnish offensive defender Ville Pokka with Karpat, who is a couple heavy boots away from top end first round consideration.

Matt Finn of Guelph is a recent draft list riser who has impressed early on and has scouts projecting some top four pro-potential there. Physical and punishing Saskatoon prospect Dalton Thrower could make some noise as well as Rouyn-Noranda two-way defender Dillon Fournier as post first rounders. Swedish defenders Ludvig Bystrom and Calle Andersson also have scouts watching closely.

Then there is the talent in the US National Team Program who might not be seen as possessing first round skills at this point but could still develop into fine NHL prospects, especially one Brady Skjei. Also, in the US watch out for Fargo’s Brian Cooper and Erie’s Adam Pelech in the OHL circuit as guys with good upside.

So, to answer the question in my opinion, yes, teams will be plucking defensive talent late into the third round of this years draft.

2. Why is Peterborough Petes defenseman Slater Koekkoek not being talked about as a potential top ten selection despite his outstanding performance this season?

Quite frankly, he does deserve the attention and is being given that consideration with FC.

Sean Lafortune, one of our Ontario based scouts, had this to say of the Petes #1 defender: “Continues to impress every time I see him. Is a prototypical two-way guy who can take control of puck at both ends of the ice.”

Both he and Ottawa’s Cody Ceci have really opened eyes early this season with very impressive improvements to multi-parts of their games.

Koekkoek is currently ranked 12th overall in our latest rankings and has the ability to rise even higher as the season wears on. He continues to be a force in every area for Peterborough as the team’s unquestionable No. 1 defenseman.

3. How will injuries to prospects such as Alex Galchenyuk in Sarnia, Ryan Murray in Everett and Marty Frk in Halifax affect their draft status?

This is the hottest topic and most asked question I received this month.

The injuries will have minimal affect on draft day rankings as scouts have seen these guys plenty of times before this season and already have a good feel for them; the real hurt is for their CHL teams as all three are big time contributors on their squads.

The Frk concussion is something that teams will need to fully explore, however, if he comes back just as strong as or stronger than before, his draft stock will remain high. Same with Murray who will still be back to play plenty of games later in the year.

Galchenyuk is a little different story.

He has been given worse news than originally thought as surgery was needed to repair the anterior cruciate ligament tear with recovery time being around 4-6 months. If lucky and he heals fast, Alex might get into just five or six regular season games this season before the OHL playoffs start up.

There might be some questions in the minds of scouts that will need to be answered at either the draft combine or, if he can return to the ice, the few games that Alex does play this season.

On another note, Nail Yakupov has proven that he can get the job done and do the heavy lifting on offense for the Sting without Alex, but the same cannot be said the other way without a doubt. Despite displaying some high-end skating, puck skills and playmaking ability, the likable Galchenyuk had a hard time getting it going with the Americans at the Ivan Hlinka tournament this summer.

And there might be a few teams that remember that and become increasingly hesitant to keep Alex in the top ten on their lists over the course of the season as this type of injury can be a difficult injury to judge what (or if) the lasting effects will be. This kind of circumstance also allows other draft eligibles to rise as they continue to impress scouts game in and game out, something Alex will no longer have the ability to do.

Only time will truly paint Galchenyuk’s draft picture but we at FC believe he is a game breaking talent that deserves a top-10 spot baring any permanent knee damage.

4. What passed over 2011 eligible players, have the best chance to be drafted in 2012?

There are a quite a few guys who were passed over last season who will be on NHL team’s radars for the 2012 selection process. Defensemen like Boston University freshman Alexx Privitera, passed on while playing with Muskegon of the USHL last season, and Myles Bell of the Kelowna Rockets, who suffered through some personal issues last season which caused his draft stock to fall, will be hot commodities as likely mid-round selections this time around.

Privitera is not the biggest guy but he has been very impressive in viewings this month as a two-way defender. Bell, considered a first round talent last season is an offensively skilled and physical defenseman but was involved in a tragic traffic accident that left teams unsure last season.

Up front, look for London Knight centre Seth Griffith, who was passed over but given a long look by Tampa Bay at camp as a free agent invitee, Shawinigan right winger Anton Zlobin, who has jumped out to a nice start with almost a goal-per-game production, and Calgary Hitmen centre Brady Brassart who has impressive skills and pro upside as a hard working forward with grit.

In goal, there are a few guys who really stand out as potential solid pickups there second time through. Saskatoon Blades stopper and Quebec league transplant Andrey Makarov, Matt McNeely of the USHL’s Cedar Rapids Roughriders and Peterborough Petes tender Michael Morrison were all surprise non-picks from last year and could get a look this time around.

Makarov is a big, athletic Russian import who came to Saskatoon from the disbanded Lewiston Maineiacs Quebec league team and is off to a good start in his first WHL season.

NcNeely, a former US National Team U18 goalie who was passed over last June, has the size and quickness to make teams take a second look.

Morrison was a top prospect for FC last year when he was Kitchener Rangers back-up but went unselected in 2011. He is off to a bit of a shaky start in his new home Peterborough, but has the skill and quickness to turn it around and get a second look.

All of these prospects were likely on most NHL teams lists at some point last year but just fell off as teams saw others who might have been higher on those lists fall to them in the later rounds or the team decided to take a specific positional need instead. This kind of thing happens very often.

5. What has been is your biggest draft surprise after the first month of the season?

Without singling out any specific players, which I will do in another column at a later date, my biggest surprise has to be the way this draft continues to increase in depth after each weekend of games we scout. Specifically the talent the WHL possesses for this draft.

Being an Ontario based guy my focus is primarily on the 15-, 16- and 17-year-old prospects in this province and even though I have known about the solid amount of top end skilled defenders out West; the depth west of Ontario is shaping up to make 2012 another bountiful year and better than most originally thought.

Dan Stewart is the scouting director 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!

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