We've had seven players so far without hitting a forward, so why change that trend now? Brandon Davidson, the top defenseman for the Regina Pats, is on the rise yet again. After being drafted as an overager in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, Davidson debuted on the Top 25 at #25. In January, he moved up to #21, and moved up or stood pat on each of the five individual lists. This time around, he's moved up another three spots, but there are some signs that, in the short term, he may have hit a ceiling.
The first really odd thing is that Davidson ranks higher in the aggregate ranking than he does on any of the individual lists. And unlike our January list, Davidson isn't really on the rise (the only person to give him a higher ranking this time around is Bruce who moved him from #23 to #19). Davidson, it seems, is in a holding pattern. If you want to look at things positively, you could say that we all see some potential in the player and that none of us are prepared to write him off. If you're more of a pessimist, you might say that none of us have him breaking into the group of really strong prospects. So why is that?
I think it's because Davidson is showing very well in the WHL, but he's doing it at an age that you kind of expect him to do well, and he's doing it despite some significant wrinkles in his game. His 52 points in 72 WHL games is a wonderful number, and shows that he has some very good puck skills. His -5 rating doesn't look very good but it was the best +/- rating on the team among regular defensemen: Tyler Borstmayer was -9, Myles Bell -14, Art Bidlevskii -16, Ricard Blidstrand -30, and Mark Schneider -48. In that light, Davidson's -5 looks pretty darn good.
But there are issues. One thing we all saw in the rookie camp last year was Davidson making late decisions, which were getting him into trouble. When Derek interviewed Scott MacDougall of The Scouting Report earlier this year, he confirmed that this is an area where Davidson struggles, even at the WHL level. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that his skating still needs work. He came late to high-level coaching, so it's quite possible that we'll see massive improvement, but when Davidson moves to the pro level, these shortcomings will almost certainly get exposed if they're still there. Which brings me to the last thing working against him, at least in terms of his ability to move up the list. The Oilers haven't yet given Davidson a pro contract, and it looks like, even though he'll turn 20 in August, he's slated for another year in the WHL. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but almost no matter how well he performs at that level, it will be difficult to get more excited about Davidson as a player since the expectation for a 20 year-old prospect who has a real shot at the NHL should be "one of the very best defensemen in the league", and those expectations are hard to beat.
He obviously shouldn't turn pro until he's ready, but for me, seeing whether or not he can be effective at the AHL level is the next major step in the evaluation process. It looks like we might have to wait another year before we get any hints.