Scouting hockey prospects can be a fickle business. Especially when it comes to projecting players in their teens as adults in contention for a very limited amount of NHL jobs.
Brampton Battalion forward Barclay Goodrow is a case study in the kind of prospect who reaches a physical maturity faster than his peers in the early teens and tends to dominate competition early. However, if the line of progression does not continue and noticeable improvements made in known shortcomings, then the red flags come out.
Such is the situation with Goodrow.
The 18-year-old left winger stands at about 6-2 and 210 pounds, but he towered among his minor midget competition when he was skating with the York Simcoe Express on what was a veritable "Who's Who" among 2011 draft prospects- a team coached by Maurice Catenacci, father of 2009 OHL 1st overall pick by the Soo Greyhounds Daniel Catenacci. 4th overall pick Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers was also on that team. Goodrow's 67 goals helped to make him the 17th overall pick that year by Brampton despite major skating issues.
Two years later, Goodrow is still a labored skater, with a lack of initial burst, foot speed and agility. We asked one NHL scout about Goodrow at the halfway point this season and his response was swift: "The skating's going to hold him back," was all he said.
On the flip side, Goodrow scored 24 goals- he can fire the puck and when he bulls his way to the net, he's tough to contain because of his big frame and strength. One problem with him is that he doesn't do it often enough, and he also struggles to maintain his consistency from shift to shift.
Every year, draft classes have a Goodrow in them- a kid who was highly regarded going into major junior but who was unable to continue upward on the development curve, while the kids behind him in minor midget or lower levels caught up and then passed them. Given his excellent production on that Express juggernaut along with his excellent pro hockey size, this was a player NHL scouts had high hopes for. And given his quick hands and good hockey sense, there is some hope for Goodrow, even if the hopes and dreams of being a high NHL draft pick are essentially a pipe dream at this point.
"There's some unrefined potential with this kid," said a Western Conference scout who works Ontario for his club. "His dad played university football, so there are some bloodlines, and he's a pretty solid two-way guy. The skating's rough, but he's someone who you take later and that maybe with some good coaching he can become and effective grinder for you."
When it comes to those big-name Express alumni, Goodrow has been the forgotten man between Murphy and Catenacci, but his natural size means that he still has a shot to be an NHL player one day. He's going to have to do it the hard way and without fanfare, but where once his star was rising along with others in the region, the development has stagnated. To a degree, his case underscores how tough it is to pinpoint future NHL skaters at such a young age.