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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

2011 Draft Interview on Devils In Lou We Trust blog

Bruins 2011 Draft Watch had an exchange over several days with New Jersey Devils blogger Tom Stivali of the highly popular site In Lou We Trust about this year's crop and potential trends.

You can read the entire piece here, and it's only the first of two parts.

For those who wouldn't take the time to click on the link otherwise, here are some excerpts to make it worth your while:

B2011DW on Gabriel Landeskog:

As for Landeskog, he's precisely the kind of player the Colorado Avalanche want and need. I can envision him playing in the NHL next season with his refined power game, character and maturity. He doesn't have the elite skill level of other players in class, but as the total package, there are none better. At the beginning of the year, I saw him play and likened him to a Mats Sundin/Brendan Shanahan hybrid. He's not quite as big as both guys or as skilled, but is every bit as powerful and just a tough competitor and leader. You take a guy like Landeskog and put him with Matt Duchene and he's going to do some damage in the NHL. Maybe not right away, but I don't think you can miss with this player.

B2011DW on Sean Couturier's skating knocks:

Skating deficiencies come in different categories/varieties depending on the player, but in Couturier's case, he lacks a quick initial burst and the ability to accelerate rapidly in short areas. Quick stops/starts/changes of direction are a challenge for him. You will hear scouts use the phrase: "has heavy boots" which usually means that a player doesn't explode from a standstill and generate top speed in the first few strides, but rather labors to get that head of steam going.

This is a pretty common thing with a player of Couturier's size, however, and can be improved with power skating work/improvements to mechanics and also off-ice plyometrics and ladder work to increase footspeed/agility. Milan Lucic told me that his off-season grass drills and plyometrics work (along with the power skating he does) has been instrumental in his success in the NHL after being red-flagged during his draft season for skating/mobility. Because Couturier's speed is fine when he gets going, he doesn't have all that far to go.

When you watch Couturier on video, which is what I assume you are seeing, he's already moving and in stride with or without the puck (when he's about to receive the pass), so you aren't going to see much wrong with him without seeing how he looks coming out of the gate from a stop, or during sequences where he's having to make rapid changes in direction. That's where the criticisms of his mobility tend to originate.

In my view, he's not a terrible skater, but the lack of suddenness is evident and he'll never be considered a "plus-skater" no matter how much work he puts into it. When you're looking at drafting a player with the first or second overall pick, these are the kinds of things that teams/scouts will obsess about because his stride is a little funky, and he makes slower, wide turns at times. That said, if Couturier picks up a step or two, he'll be fine. I heard the same exact things about Patrice Bergeron when he was drafted, and the difference between Couturier and Bergeron (aside from the draft position) is about six inches and some considerable offensive upside. Because of where Couturier stands to be drafted, the stakes are higher for him.

B2011DW on Adam Larsson and Ryan Murphy:

Larsson is still my top guy because of the complete package he brings to the team who picks him. Not to mention the fact that my projection may be on the conservative side. If he develops into more than just a complementary player, then he could end up being very good. Right now, going off of what we know, it's hard to say for sure, but the tools are certainly there. He had a excellent offensive season a year ago, but really fell off with his numbers this time around. I think a lot of that had to do with nagging injuries and also perhaps the pressure that comes with performing in the draft season. Larsson set the bar really, really high as a 16-17-year-old, so unfortunately for him, there was no place for him to go but down.

I like Hamilton's upside. I believe that he and Ryan Murphy have the highest ceilings of any of the defensemen including Larsson, but both have their drawbacks. In Hamilton's case, it's his natural awareness and positional savvy. One thing to keep in mind with him was that he is a converted forward, so he's still learning the defense position. Some scouts have expressed concerns about his hockey sense and whether he can process quickly enough to be the sum of his impressive parts.

Murphy's drawbacks are his size and overall defensive acumen- more in terms of his physical limitations when you talk about defenders being responsible for handling wingers that are bigger, faster, stronger than ever. He's going to have his hands full, even if he ends up being 5-11, 190 pounds or so at his peak of maturity. I see a lot of Phil Housley in him when I watch Murphy play, though- and I think any team who could get a guy with that kind of potential in the top-10 would be pretty happy with that.

My thanks to Tom for giving me such an extensive platform with which to bloviate about the NHL draft, and I hope you'll check out the whole interview. Part two will be posted tomorrow.- Kirk Luedeke

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