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Saturday, May 7, 2011

What a difference 9 months makes

We went back and looked at Red Line Report's 2011 NHL draft rankings from August, 2010 and compared them to April 2011 (we talked to Kyle Woodlief and the May issue will be out this week, btw).

For those of you not as familiar with RLR, August is the first month that the independent scouting service, now in its 18th year of publication, publishes its monthly rankings. They start with 110 players for that season, and by spring time they're up to about 300 (286 in April 2011).

For fun, we thought it would be nice to go and look at what has changed in the top-10 from August up until now.

Red Line Report: August, 2010:

1. Sean Couturier, C Drummondville (QMJHL)
2. Adam Larsson, D Skelleftea (SEL)
3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C Red Deer (WHL)
4. Brandon Saad, LW Saginaw (OHL)
5. Gabriel Landeskog, LW Kitchener (OHL)
6. David Musil, D Vancouver (WHL)
7. Seth Ambroz, RW Omaha (USHL)
8. Victor Rask, C Leksand (SWE-2)
9. J.T. Miller, C U.S. NTDP (USHL)
10. Shane McColgan, RW Kelowna (WHL)

Here is what RLR had for April (and we'll update this post when the new issue is out)

1. Gabriel Landeskog, LW Kitchener (OHL) +4
2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C Red Deer (WHL) +2
3. Adam Larsson, D Skelleftea (SEL) -1
4. Dougie Hamilton, D Niagara (OHL) +8 (12th in Aug)
5. Jonathan Huberdeau, C/W Saint John (QMJHL) +32 (37th in Aug)
6. Ryan Murphy, D Kitchener (OHL) +11 (17th in Aug)
7. Ryan Strome, C Niagara (OHL) +94 (101 in Aug)
8. Sean Couturier, C Drummondville (QMJHL) -7
9. Alex Khokhlachev, C Windsor (OHL) +20 (29th in Aug)
10. Rocco Grimaldi, LW U.S. NTDP (USHL) +56 (66th in Aug)

Strome was the biggest gainer- moving up almost 95 spots from where he was to start. He didn't even get a sniff at the Hlinka, so for him to have accomplished so much is remarkable. His 105 points was second to Tyler Toffoli and Jason Akeson in the OHL this season.

Mighty mite Grimaldi was the other big riser, moving 56 spots with his production, spirit and dynamic ability. Although he's only 5-6 and about 165 pounds, we wouldn't bet against this guy overcoming that serious size deficit to be an impact NHL player one day.

Huberdeau's rise was pretty significant, too- he was a skinny playmaker in the summertime, but this year, he really turned it on, scoring 40+ goals and breaking the 100-point mark for the juggernaut Saint John Sea Dogs. We don't see any way that he's not picked in the top-5 come June. There's simply too much skill and upside for this kid.

Murphy was pretty highly regarded, but his snub from the Hlinka team in August seemed to light a fire under him. He was as dynamic as they come all season long for Kitchener and he stepped up his game in the U18s as well, setting a Canada scoring record in that tournament with 13 points. Not bad for a defenseman.

Now for the fallers:

11. J.T. MIller, C U.S. NTDP (USHL) -2
18. David Musil, D Vancouver (WHL) -12
20. Brandon Saad, LW Saginaw (OHL) -16
45. Victor Rask, C Leksand (SWE-2) -37
55. Seth Ambroz, RW Omaha (USHL) -48
60. Shane McColgan, RW Kelowna (WHL) -50

Miller is not really a "faller" dropping down two spots from 9 to 11, but we've heard whispers that he was too highly ranked by RLR all season. After his superb U18 performance, we wouldn't be surprised to see him jump back into the top-10 for May, given how close he is.

Musil and Saad are two players who are clearly sliding, but could prove to be nice value picks later in the first round. We don't believe they'll drop out of the top-30 altogether, but given the expectations for them coming into the 2010-11 campaign, they've regressed. Thing is, they both have such impressive natural talent, that if they reverse the developmental trend, they could end up being very good NHL players. We like Saad's upside better, and we hear that the situation he's dealing with in Saginaw may have a lot more to do with it than his not being able to play at the highest level. He could use a change of scenery.

Rask may have slowed his descent a bit with a strong Under-18 performance for Team Sweden, but he's still a 1st-round wildcard. His season hasn't warranted being picked in the top-30, but if scouts believe that the 16-17-YO Rask they saw last season and was seen more in the 2011 U18 tourney is more of what to expect from him, you have to think someone will grab him between 20-30.

Ambroz has withered on the vine- he's the classic case of a physically dominant kid who emerged three years ago, but has not progressed much, while a good number of the kids in his peer group caught him and passed him. Last year, Ambroz would have been a slam-dunk top-10 pick had he been eligible. But, with another full year to dissect and nitpick his game, look at his ugly skating stride and lack of acceleration, plus hear stories about how he's passed on summertime opportunities to improve his game, this Minnesotan will be lucky to be a second-round pick. We believe someone will take him there simply because there is still a lot of raw potential with him, but it would have to be a club with extra picks to risk on a reclamation project with a questionable work ethic. Don't be surprised if he drops into the third round, though.

Finally, McColgan got off to a horrendous start after having surgery to remove his tonsils on the eve of the season and taking a good 1.5 months to settle in. Already small and not having much room to add mass to his frame, he's a risky pick to begin with, but when you get down to it, there isn't a whole lot of difference between McColgan and Grimaldi. In fact, it's almost astounding to see the two have juxtaposed their positioning, with McColgan being the top-10 guy before the season and now down where Grimaldi was. The difference? We have to believe it is Grimaldi's production and the fact that he hit the ground running from the start of the season. McColgan is not chopped liver- he's still a skilled, dynamic little winger with some serious offensive skills. His strong finish with the Rockets should keep him from falling off the map too much on draft day.

For more on Red Line Report, you can visit the website.

The draft guide will be coming out in early June and will feature in-depth scouting reports on the top-110 or so draft prospects, plus team draft analysis, mock drafts and the ever-popular awards section.

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