Ryan Martindale is a player that we don't have a lot of consensus on. On the one hand, we've got a 6'3'' center who finished in the top twenty in OHL scoring last season. On the other hand, we've got a player whose effort and commitment is consistently questioned, whose team was swept in the first round of the playoffs (although he did score five points), and who put up those big numbers playing on the same line as the guy who actually led the OHL in scoring. He might have enough talent to be an excellent middle-six center in the NHL, or he might be a guy who never plays even one NHL game.
I tend to be on the optimistic side. Offensively, Martindale is tracking ahead of many of the players chosen before him, and he played on one of the most dominant even strength lines in the OHL (Martindale had the lowest +/- of his three linemates at +38), which isn't the kind of thing that happens if the center is out there picking cherries. That he might be getting pumped by playing alongside Tyler Toffoli is, I suppose, a small concern, but the fact is that Toffoli isn't some kind of generational talent, and it's hard to see how Martindale's line could be one of the best without the big centerman playing an important role.
That things like effort, consistency, passion, and a certain je ne sais quoi that scouts just don't see are the big knocks against him is, to me, even more reason for optimism, mostly because it just doesn't seem possible. After all, if it's true, Martindale is putting up 1.28 points per game and dominating at even strength as a lazy, inconsistent, passionless young man who just needs to grow up. And if it's not true, then he's just a very good center with size. It's a win-win!
The recent scouting reports haven't changed much from what was said in Martindale's draft year. Here's Sean Keogh from January of 2011:
He looks a step quicker and more assertive than last year. Had a number of nice plays making quick cuts into the middle, but seemed to rip the shot high or wide every time. Cycled well with his linemates, uses his reach better now, and finds guys effectively, but there is always something just a tad missing.
There's that je ne sais quoi again! Everything looks good, but...
And here's Scott Campbell from November of 2010:
It's really going to come down to consistency. Martindale lacks the competitiveness you like to see out of NHL players, and unless he starts to find some jam in his game I have a hard time envision him making the jump to the NHL in the future. He's even going to find that there's a lot of players with drive in the AHL, and unless he turns his game up a notch night in, night out, he could find himself quickly sliding down Edmonton's prospect depth chart... [When he's on his game] I guess he's a little bit like Joe Thornton in a way. He's a big guy that can make things happen and make his linemates better players but he always seems to leave more to be desired. I've seen the best and worst of Martindale, but when he's on, he's a difficult player to shut down and he can make things happen every shift... When he's not, he's just a body out there. So if you know any 6'3" centers that don't do a whole lot of anything, that's about what you're getting with Martindale when he's not in the game.
From those reports I gather that he still lacks consistency, competitiveness, jam, and drive; he always leaves you wanting more. Except that he can also make his linemates better, score, skate, and use his body effectively to win pucks if not to break bones. I've rated Martindale higher than most because I think he's got tremendous potential and is tracking like a guy who might realize it. But if those reports are right, it seems like what he needs is to be challenged. Luckily, he's old enough to play in the AHL next season! Unfortunately, the Oilers have given contracts to others instead, and may well send Martindale back to the OHL. I'm really hoping that the Oilers sign the young man, but if they don't, at least I have another reason to rail on them if things don't work out. It's a win-win!