Rick Pracey, Director of Amateur Scouting, Colorado Avalanche: The top player in the west is Hopkins. Donny, with all your years of experience, talk to us about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Don Paarup, Avs Scout: Right now there's as much interest in him among all of the scouts as there was in, say, Dany Heatley when he was playing Tier II out there. This kid offensively sees the ice as well as anybody I've seen in twenty years. His puck reaction, his creativity and his mechanics are just outstanding. As far as I'm concerned I haven't seen a kid like this for many years, as far as offence is concerned.
Pracey: Is there anybody in this room that thinks Nugent-Hopkins' offence won't translate?
Room: [Dead silence. Even the crickets shut the hell up.]
Pracey: I take it that's "no". [laughter in the the room]-- Transcript from pre-draft meeting of Avalanche scouting staff, as shown in the video Colorado Avalanche Entry Draft Special
First things first, that's a promotional video on the Avs website that faintly reeks of the same sort of slick production values as ooze through Oil Change. I'm sure that by far the most interesting things said in those meetings get left on the virtual cutting-room floor, and never see the light of that hopeless little screen.
Rarely, however, do you hear something unsaid quite as emphatically as that. I found the scouts' reaction to Pracey's informal poll to be mighty telling. After listening to all sorts of interpretations around the Oilogosphere - some of them brayed from the highest hillside - as to what's wrong with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, that brief interval of silent agreement among the nine seasoned hockey men around that table spoke volumes.
The cited bit runs from roughly 11:30 to 12:30 of the linked video, with a nice embedded clip demonstrating RNH's skating "mechanics" as Paarup put it. I assume but don't know for sure that he's the Avs western regional scout, thus the comparison to Heatley rather than, say, Crosby. That would bring some context to that "twenty years" comment, as Paarup would not be the first person to suggest RNH is the best prospect from the Dub since Mike Modano and Joe Sakic, or at least on the very short list. Moreover, that comment was specific to how the kid "sees the ice", which certainly conforms to my own take on Nugent-Hopkins: his vision is extraordinary, and his feel for where the soft spots and wrinkles and time lags can be found is off the charts.
If you've got a few minutes, the whole meeting scene from about 08:45 to 16:30 is fun to listen in on. The Avs of course have the #2 pick, so they are talking about the same group of guys who interest Oiler fans. The 'lanche know one of those guys will be gone when it's their turn, and the feeling I got watching that segment is they expect it'll be RNH who is off the board. They're still very confident they'll get a fine player, as they should be. A couple of the scouts spoke extremely highly of Gabriel Landeskog, who would be a very good fit on a Colorado team that's stacked at centre and just acquired an emerging stud defenceman at the cost of their best power forward.
Interesting to hear the criticisms of Sean Couturier, who was basically the only youngster singled out for negative commentary that actually made the final cut of the video. Legitimate or not, the scouting services and the bird dogs themselves seem to agree that the kid's arrows are pointing the wrong way. So either they're all correct about that, or this is one of those mass delusions that entire groups of people fall into occasionally when they start getting hung up on warts. Hey, it's OK to show our scouts criticizing SC because the conventional wisdom is he's dropping like a stone, and we want it to be seen our crack staff is all over that like a sweat. I did find the comment about Couturier potentially scoring on the level of Corey Perry or Bobby Ryan an interesting comp, especially given both Anaheim stars were knocked for their own skating at one point.
Fact is, there are impact players of that calibre available at pretty much every single draft. Whichever one Oilers choose as pick of the litter will be an exciting prospect who will almost certainly raise the fortunes of the team in the years ahead, and this Oiler fan is prepared to get behind whoever that turns out to be. My decidedly non-professional opinion, for what little that's worth, is that I'm liking Nugent-Hopkins, I'm expecting Nugent-Hopkins, but in Stu I trust.