Stewart: WJC has draft implications

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FC’s Dan Stewart returns to tackle the World Junior Championship from the eyes of a scout looking at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, as well as a quick glimpse at what 2013 has to offer.

1. How big of a role does ones World Junior performance play in draft rankings?

This question seems to come up every year about this time, however it is a legit one as there are always a few high-end draft eligibles that participate in the World Juniors, donning their countries colors in this best on best tournament.

Scouts and NHL executives love this tournament as well, since it gives them a chance to watch their previously drafted elite prospects as well as the cream of the next draft crop play at a very high level in an intense, pressure packed environment.

No matter what is said to the contrary, the performance of a prospect in these games does add weight on individual teams draft rankings. The amount of weight given varies by the team or scouting service.

Generally it works like this: If a prospect comes in and dominates play as a draft eligible, that tends to speak volumes as to their pedigree and skill. The ability to elevate their game in that type of environment is special. That type of performance can really boost a rankling. If a prospect comes in and does well in a defined role, that can be impressive as well and may push their value up a few spots on individual draft boards.

If a prospect comes in and just stinks it up, the prospect could drop slightly due to the disappointment, but not necessarily. Scouts understand that this tournament is dominated typically by 19-year-olds, soon-to-be NHL players who are finishing up their Junior careers before moving up to the next level, so expectations are usually kept in check. A disappointing performance will usually not affect ones ranking as much as a positive performance will.

2. Does a twice passed over prospect such as Tanner Pearson have a stigma in the eyes of scouts that might keep him out of the higher rounds of the draft no matter how well he performs on the ice?

In many cases, scouts will hesitate to give a passed over prospect a high ranking as there is usually a reason the prospect was passed over in the first place. Skating deficiencies, character concerns, unwillingness to play in traffic or lack of compete level, etc.

On the flip side though there are many cases where a prospect gets overlooked and than comes back and you see a real improvement in his game and/or attitude.

In Pearson’s case, his progression over the last few months from where he was last season is remarkable due to his off season work he put in to prepare for this season and his nightly ability to dominate games offensively for Barrie, he will likely hear his name called early next June.

3. Who is FC’s top prospect for the 2013 NHL Draft and why?

The early candidates are highly regarded forward Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads, defenseman Seth Jones of the US National Team’s Development program under-18 squad, forward Alexandre Barkov of Tappara playing in the SM-Liiga and the impressive Sean Monahan of the Ottawa 67’s.

If I had to put them in order, the 2013 drafts top four it would look like this:

1). Nathan MacKinnon, RW, Halifax, QMJHL
Putting up over 1.5 points-per-game as a 16-year-old rookie, his game is what stirs the Mooseheads high octane offensive attack early this season. His blend of skill, hard work, competitiveness and smarts make him a NHL star in the making.

2). Seth Jones, D, U-18 USDP, USHL
Is arguably the top defender on the Under-18 squad even over 2012 top draft prospect Jacob Trouba. His special blend of size, smooth mobility, quick decision making and passing ability make him a can’t-miss for the NHL.

3). Alexander Barkov, C, Tappara, SM-liiga
Barkov is not getting as much hype as the other three on this list but his game could overtake the others if his progression stays on the same impressive trajectory. He is a strong six-foot-two two-way threat who can make jaw dropping plays offensively and shutdown the other team’s top offensive weapon, all on the same shift.

4). Sean Monahan, C, Ottawa, OHL
Off to a torrid start this year Monahan has the size, smarts and drive to be a strong two-way top line NHL player. He has the size, offensive skill to both be a playmaker and finisher as well as play the entire 200 feet of the rink. His hockey sense is his best asset.

Watch for a comprehensive article on the 2013 talent available in our February Draft Mid-Term Issue. Pick it up by itself or as part of our draft year special.

4. There has been recent some talk that the 2012 NHL Draft, because of injuries and what, is not as strong as once first thought. What is your opinion on this?

While optimism always reins supreme in the summer before a draft season begins, I do not share the opinion this draft class is disappointing as there are some good prospects to choose from all areas of the globe.

There are many quality NHL prospects in this pool with a few high end guys sprinkled throughout that possess potential NHL star level skills as well. I see this draft falling into the “a very good year” category after a few seasons of development go by.

I’m not sure how numerous non-career threatening injuries to top prospects can affect the depth of a draft? More like bad luck.

5. Who do you prediction will be the top draft prospect at the WJC this year?

I look for defenseman Ryan Murray to play a lead role on an inexperienced blue line and also Tanner Pearson to add to the offense for Canada. Both high-end forwards Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko should be strong point producers for the Russians. Skilled wingers Pontus Aberg and Filip Forsberg will play big roles if Sweden is to make any noise as well. Latvian Zemgus Girgensons and the Czech Republic’s Radek Faksa should be top line players for their squads as well.

My top performer prediction goes to FC’s #2 ranked prospect Ryan Murray as he likely will not put up gaudy numbers but scouts will come away with another example of how he can elevate his game in a pressure packed international tournament. He will play a big role in his team’s outcome in Alberta.

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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