Photo courtesy of Steven Christy Photography. All rights reserved.
This is the third time Johan Motin has appeared in our prospect rankings and the third time I've written about him. Scott doles out writing assignments for this series, so I guess I'm the official Johan Motin biographer.
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Alright, well maybe I'm a bit higher on Motin's future than everyone else here, but not without reason.
Motin has been written off by a number of fans and even some of the Oilers most ardent media supporters. Even our optimistic writers have sent him spiraling downwards. Only my #16 ranking keeps Motin on the Top 25 Under 25 list.
Why do I remain so bullish? Motin is now in his fifth season of professional hockey and his second in the AHL. He's piling up experience against high-level players and he's had a chance to learn the North American game. Even though he's already played 205 professional games, 2011 is his 21-year-old season -- he's but a babe in defensive terms. We know defenders develop slowly, especially defense-first blueliners with limited offense, yet Motin is an afterthought.
In his 20 year old season, he spent time in Springfield playing third-pairing minutes and In my last report on Motin, I looked at the Motin spent time in Springfield playing third-pairing minutes and ended the season -5. Only AHL veterans Charles Linglet and Chris Minard finished better than Motin. This season, Motin was again playing third-pairing minutes,and was -1 in his first 22 games. Had I compiled my rankings at this point in the season, Motin would've likely been higher on my list.
Unfortunately, since Motin has struggled to adjust to more difficult minutes in the wake of multiple Barons leaving for service in Edmonton. In the 10 games since those callups began, Motin has been a -8, which may be a run of terrible luck, or it may be an indication that he's not ready for second-level minutes, even in the AHL.
To get a better understanding of Motin's season, including his early season steadiness and recent struggles, I turned to our own Oklahoma City Barons' expert, Neal Livingston.
Copper & Blue: You've been able to watch him for half of a season thus far. What are the significant weaknesses in his game?
Neal Livingston: There is nothing in Johan Motin's game halfway through the AHL season that will surprise Oilers fans. His draft card boasted careful play and almost no offensive threat. This trend continues as he is often paired deep within the Barons defense, and has been overshadowed by the likes of Shawn Belle, Jeff Petry, Taylor Chorney, Alex Plante, and Richard Petiot. Most frustrating of all is his play in the corners where you'd expect his game to succeed given his physical nature. Instead, he has a tendency to be apprehensive, and often careless with the puck.
C&B: What are his strengths?
Livingston: He has shown promise on the penalty kill when needed, and has improved on handling the puck, especially in open ice. His biggest asset to the Barons has been his strength. However, his intensity, and physicality are so inconsistent it's difficult to predict which Johan Motin will show up each night. When he's strong he looks great, when he's shaky he flops. Amidst better, fast, stronger call ups to the NHL, Motin has embraced the roles he is given whether he's paired with Jordan Bendfeld, Joey Ryan, or Jake Taylor. Adaptability is a nice skill set to own, and he's done so.
C&B: Many fans have already written him off even though he's only in his 21-year-old season. Do you see a player there?
Livingston: Judging from the brief time I've seen him play, I'm not sure the NHL potential is there. While nearing 100 AHL games played, it's hard to imagine him emerging from the pack as a go-to defender outside of the AHL. He has the size, capable strength, and adaptability, but he's not using them at the same time, nor in dynamic fashion. I wouldn't say I've written him off, but I'm reaching for the pen.
C&B: His reputation is that of a physical defender. How does he handle the physical play in the AHL?
Livingston: Again, he can be a physical defender, but being it and doing it are two separate things. Unfortunately for Motin, the West Division of the AHL is a slugfest. Of late, the Barons opponents have been daunting in both size, and muscle. Motin has been given the opportunity to let the physical defender emerge, but he'll go long stretches of ice time without finishing a strong check. Ironically, you won't find anyone that works harder in the gym or in practice, but he hasn't made up his mind whether or not to play tough, in the trenches hockey.
Johan Motin is 6'2" 202 lbs, has the requisite mobility and ability. He's able to play on the penalty kill and understands how to play a physical game. His biggest drawback is inconsistency and effort. It's something nearly every twenty-one year-old not named Crosby struggles with. The game is there, consistency should follow. If not, he's still got at least another year to prove himself.