We had an interesting exchange the other day with an NHL scout who gave us an unvarnished look at some of the top players available in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
This particular scout is a veteran and has been around a long time and knows what he's talking about when it comes to evaluating prospects. His experience has always made him a valuable resource, and he was kind enough to share some detailed views.
What immediately springs to mind with some of these observations is how they fly in the face of the some of the established reports on players that have become a given over the course of the 2010-11 hockey season. While some may look at these notes and disagree, remember that it's an opinion backed up by multiple viewings and years of doing this.
We can't always be right about every player all the time. However, it does provide very good food for thought and a reminder that this draft year, more than others in recent memory, could get pretty interesting on June 24, with certain players not thought of as high picks jumping up to come off the board early, while other taken-for-granted favorites slipping a bit. Or, it could play out exactly as many of us believe. (Yeah, right)
Whether you agree with the assessments or not, this is typical of the kind of debate and discussion you might hear in an NHL war room if you were a fly on the wall as they deliberate their final rankings.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C Red Deer (WHL) -" I like him plenty, but I have nagging doubts. Why do I feel like I'm watching the next Jamie Lundmark? That lackluster track record of Western League dynamic offensive whiz kids is always in the back of my mind. He seems to me like a guy with a high floor, but I would have said that about Gilbert Brule also."
Dougie Hamilton, D Niagara (OHL) - "Why is this guy not getting any mention as a possibility in the top 3 or 4 picks overall? I think he's a Tyler Myers or Alex Pietrangelo. I can't find anything about his game that will keep him from being a good top pairing d-man."
Sven Bartschi, LW Portland (WHL) - "A greater than the sum of his parts player - the opposite of the sort of guy scouts usually love (those 6-5, raw, toolsy guys who we let the imagination run wild on). There's nothing to imagine with on this guy - he's smallish, only an average skater, far from dynamic, but all he does is get on the scoresheet and help his team win games. His improvement on the defensive and penalty killing side really opened my eyes, he could end up being a pretty complete guy even if he only ends up being a 10-15 goal guy in the NHL."
Nathan Beaulieu, D Saint John (QMJHL)- "Was so underrated so long by so many people that he's now become overrated. I love everything about him but the hockey sense, and that's a big concern."
(EDIT- Going to reincorporate some of the quotes on other players in the top-30 list coming soon)