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2009 NHL Entry Draft: John Tavares and OHL Forwards

This is a new feature here at Copper and Blue; with only two weeks left until the draft I probably should have gotten started on it a little sooner but I'm going to try and get as much done as I can.  Basically, what I'd like to do is take a look at players eligible for the draft and compare them statistically.  Due to time and data constraints, this is mostly going to involve looking at their offensive totals, but we will go a little further indepth with some players.

This project would not have been possible without the public list of prospects made available by NHL Central Scouting. I'm starting with OHL forwards, and for this list I'm also indebted to the OHL Prospects blog, who put together a list of OHL players re-entering the draft and do a fine job of making public scouting reports on different players.  As always, THN's excellent draft preview is a staple as well.

Without further ado, here's the list of OHL prospects who could hear their names called on draft day.  Keep in mind that for ease of comparison I have projected every player's offensive totals over an 82-game season:

  1. John Tavares: 85G – 67A – 152PTS (1st NA)
  2. Nazem Kadri: 37G – 78A – 115PTS (15th NA)
  3. Matt Duchene: 45G – 69A – 114PTS (2nd NA)
  4. Bryan Cameron: 47G – 56A – 103PTS (RD)
  5. Alex Hutchings: 44G – 44A – 88PTS (44th NA)
  6. Justin Taylor: 47G – 38A – 85PTS (RD)
  7. Zack Kassian: 32G – 52A – 84PTS (10th NA)
  8. Peter Holland: 34G – 47A – 81PTS (19th NA)
  9. Ethan Werek: 40G – 40A – 80PTS (32nd NA)
  10. Ryan O’Reilly: 19G – 60A – 79PTS (39th NA)
  11. Zack Torquato: 36G – 42A – 78PTS (RD)
  12. Philip Varone: 27G – 47A – 74PTS (172nd NA)
  13. Michael Latta: 28G – 44A – 72PTS (45th NA)
  14. Taylor Beck: 27G – 44A – 71PTS (48th NA)
  15. Jordan Szwarz: 21G – 42A – 63PTS (68th NA)
  16. Darren Archibald: 30G – 29A – 59PTS (157th NA)
  17. Jordan Mayer: 27G – 27A – 54PTS (176th NA)
  18. Garrett Wilson: 26G – 28A – 54PTS (66th NA)
  19. Casey Cizikas: 23G – 30A – 53PTS (92nd NA)
  20. Michael Fine: 23G – 30A – 53PTS (122nd NA)
  21. Matthew Tipoff: 16G – 33A – 49PTS (94th NA)
  22. Tyler Randell: 27G – 15A – 42PTS (116th NA)
  23. Kyle Clifford: 22G – 16A – 38PTS (182nd NA)
  24. Marcus Foligno: 15G – 23A – 38PTS (107th NA)
  25. Andy Andreoff: 14G – 17A – 31PTS (168th NA)
  26. Luke Judson: 12G – 18A – 30PTS (129th NA)
  27. Adam Payerl: 8G – 12A – 20PTS (191st NA)
  28. Richard Greenop: 5G – 5A – 10PTS (RD)

The number in parantheses beside each player's projected totals indicates their Central Scouting Ranking; in cases where "RD" is labelled it means that the player is re-entering the draft and thus was not ranked by Central Scouting.  I'm going to touch on a few of the things that stand out to me off of this list.

Tavares, Kadri and Duchene

These three players are virtually lapping the league offensively, with Tavares well ahead of both of the latter two.  I've come around on Tavares over the last few months; while his numbers have not shown much improvement year over year he's simply so good offensively that he's obviously a special talent.  That said, I doubt he turns into a truly elite player because he hasn't shown many signs of developing a complete game; that said, he's a pure-offense type who will always put up shiny point totals.  As for Duchene, he's consistently labelled as a two-way player, but I wonder a little bit about what kind of matchups he was seeing.  The scouts that THN talked to were thrilled that he was learning from Cody Hodgson, playing one line below him, but it's probably a fair guess that he was seeing easier matchups as a result.  I'm not saying that the scouting reports are wrong (that would be the height of arrogance), just that we probably shouldn't view his offensive totals as coming against the best of the best.

Everyone who reads this site knows I'm partial to Ryan Ellis, but Nazem Kadri will also be a good pick for whoever gets him, I think.  The scouting reports I've read describe him as a gritty player, and he's been converted to wing this season so he's got some versatility going.  THN compares him to a slightly smaller Duchene (he's actually 1/2" taller, but considerably lighter) and his offensive totals are very similar.  He really shouldn't fall out of the top-ten.

Bryan Cameron

Cameron's older than most of the players here; he was originally a 3rd round pick by the Kings back in 2007.  In his draft year, he projected in at around 79 points and he's taken some strides forward but right now he looks like a small player who hasn't advanced quite enough offensively to compensate for his size.  It really wouldn't bother me to see the Oilers take him with a late-round pick; he's probably better than most of the players hanging around at the bottom of the draft.

The Second Tier: Hutchings through O'Reilly

There are a lot of players in the same range here, but size would seem to be the reason for the way Central Scouting (and most draft lists) have ordered them.  Kassian is a huge player, but I have serious doubts about his offensive upside in the NHL; in an interview with Jason Gregor the other day Stu MacGregor described him as a third-liner and that sounds about right to me.  Holland is frequently described as inconsistent and lacking intensity; his +/- was the worst on his OHL team to boot, although THN quoted one scout who said he was a more analytical , low-energy player rather than actually lazy.  He took a big step up this season; I really, really think that he's overrated on most draft lists. Werek and O'Reilly are both poor skaters with decent size; O'Reilly may actually climb into the first round because he's viewed as a character player (he captained Canada's U18 team).  Alex Hutchings is the player who jumps out at me, though.  He's a smaller player (5'10", 173lbs according to CSB) but he's a very good skater and he's frequently described as a smart player.  He's also viewed as a team leader (he's the assistant captain in Barrie), and one scouting report from THN is worth quoting in full:

"He plays hard and has a great hockey mind.  He plays with passion and he has a quiet edge to his game.  He's a difference maker in a lot of games."

Hutchings is generally projected as a late second-round pick, but I think he's a guy worth keeping an eye on.  It's also noteworthy that he didn't get much offensive support at all.

...And Everybody Else

Philip Varone's ranked quite low given his scoring totals; he didn't improve on last years totals and he's a smallish player to boot, and he actually slid down the rankings as the year went on.  Someone is going to take a chance on him; he scored 10 goals and 19 points in only 14 playoff games; totals which compare very well to teammates John Tavares and Nazem Kadri.  Speaking of those two, it's very fair to question whether Varone's totals aren't being inflated by his teammates, which is another reason he's sitting so low on most lists.

I don't understand why Darren Archibald's ranked so low; he's got great size, had a very good playoffs, and put up decent numbers on a team without much offense to speak of.  I have to believe that someone is going to take a chance on him; CSB ranks him quite low and he doesn't crack THN's top-100, but why not risk a low pick on a big guy with some offensive talent?

On the other end of the spectrum is Marcus Foligno.  He's a little smaller than Archibald (listed at 1/4" under 6'3"), he isn't a terribly good skater, and he has no offensive game to speak of.  Despite this, THN ranks him 73rd overall, and CSB rates him well above most guys in the same range. On the other hand, his father was a player and now a junior coach, so it's probably a good guess that he has a well-rounded game; on the whole though it's probably his last name that has him higher on most of these lists than he really should be.  That's just a guess on my part, but he doesn't have upside in the NHL as an offensive player and I'd rather see the Oilers pick someone with a higher ceiling; even with a late round pick.