Mark McNeill, C Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Born: February 22, 1993 in Langley, B.C.
Strengths: Remarkable physical specimen for his age; thick-bodied with powerful core/trunk and lower leg drive. Not all that tall, but built like a Mack truck. Mature, stong, NHL-ready physique honed from 2-3 hours in the gym a day. Good skater with fine acceleration- tough to knock off stride when he gets up to speed. Agile, with solid top-end speed- not a burner, but fast enough to give defenders trouble. Good agility and ability to change direction. Capable passer- gets the puck out in front of the net for teammates to convert into goals. Hard shot with quick release. Physical center who muscles through attempted checks and is a horse down low and along the walls. Finishes his checks and hits to hurt when on his game. Fights angry- has a long fuse, but when provoked, will defend teammates with gusto and punches like a man possessed. Nasty fighter who earned a wide berth in the rough-and-tumble WHL because most players simply did not want to tangle with him. Superb character and leadership- works hard on and off the ice. Wants to be a player- grew up around hockey with his father's pro player and scouting background- understands what it takes and willing to put in the effort to get there.
Weaknesses: Too passive at times- has the size and snarl to be a highly effective power center but doesn't always bring the natural aggressiveness that scouts want in a player. Defense is a work in progress- needs to show the same amount of effort in all facets of his game that he does with the puck on his stick.
NHL Draft Video Mark McNeill compilation
McNeill Combine interview (Exclusive B2011DW video)
Angry Mark McNeill tunes Dominick Favreau
McNeill pounds Cody Sylvester
Draft Prediction: A likely top-15 pick on June 24 after his impressive season and combine performance. A winner. A kid who makes your team better just by being in the room. Offensive upside is the question right now, but with McNeill's size, character and ability, teams will take a chance on him early enough. Simply too well-rounded even with the concerns over his uneven aggression/intensity levels to be on the board long in Minnesota.
Projection: Second-line power center is his ceiling, which is why he's lower in the rankings. Could top out as a third-liner. One NHL amateur scouting director feels that McNeill may be best suited on the wing in the pro ranks. However, even with all the positives, he may not ever be much more than a solid grinder type who occasionally shows flashes of being a top power forward but who doesn't do it consistently enough to maximize his natural gifts.
Style compares to: Bobby Ryan
If McNeill had his own soundtrack it would be:
"Freak"- Bruce Dickinson
Background: Born in British Columbia but raised in Edmonton, Alberta. Fourth generation WHLer- father, Bernie, played for Edmonton Oil Kings, while grandfather and great grandfathers played for the Brandon Wheat Kings. Dad played pro hockey in Australia and was a scout for the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers. Scored 32 goals and 81 points in 70 games with the Raiders this season. Played for Team Canada at the World Under-18 Championship. Impressed with a tremendous performance in the first round of the 2011 WHL playoffs, nearly leading Prince Albert to an upset over the Saskatoon Blades (2-3-5). Central Scouting's 14th-ranked player in their final rankings, up from 22 at midterm. Favorite NHL teams: Edmonton Oilers, Chicago Blackhawks Favorite NHL Players: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan
“One thing I like about him is that he's a right-handed center, which is good to have. He's really composed and has a real pro-style game. He has a nice touch, can dish, and has nice, soft passes. His on-ice awareness is very good and he's paid attention to detail at both ends of the rink. He has good defensive-zone coverage as well as being offensive at the other end. All around I think he's got a real solid game I think his offensive game will improve the older he gets and the more confident he gets. I think he'll be a better offensive player than he's showing right now. He's good at both ends of the rink. He comes down low and helps out defensively.”- Central Scouting's Blair McDonald to NHL.com; Apr-May, 2011; Full profile here.
"I don't get all the negative talk on (McNeill), about him not being able to make the pretty play. There's about 5 players in the NHL who can make those pretty plays, everyone else who is effective in the NHL makes the same plays McNeill does - go get the puck down low and just throw it out front and see what happens. Better skater, better defensively than he gets credit for."- NHL scout to B2011DW; May, 2011
Mark McNeill interview: HockeyProspect.com
McNeill article from NHL.com