Draft rankings for the fans
E.J. McGuire, the NHL’s Central Scouting boss, spends a lot of time warding off angry hockey agents who don’t like his ratings prior to the entry draft.CHRIS SEWARD, RALEIGH NEWS & OBSERVER, FILE Carolina’s 2010 first-round draft pick Jeff Skinner checks Patrice Cormier of the Atlanta Thrashers into the Hurricanes’ bench during an NHL game at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C., last week.
It’s not like the former NHL assistant coach has a personal stake in ranking this June’s high-end players like big centre Sean Couturier or power forward Swede Gabriel Landeskog.
“They’ll say, ‘What am I going to tell the parents?’ ” said McGuire. “I say, ‘What did you tell the parents when you wanted their boy as your client? Did you lie to them?’
“I get a little irritated and defensive and a little snappy with agents. I’ve heard from agents of players who’ve we’ve ranked 50th ... and they think they should be in the top 10. I say, ‘If you bring this kid to Minneapolis (for the 2011 entry draft), you’re going to have parents and the kid crying in the stands at the end of seven rounds.’
McGuire also watches games as a supervisor in the NHL’s war room in Toronto in case there are goal disputes or possible infractions that might need further discipline.
That’s in addition to scouting hundreds of junior games along with his staff (former Edmonton Oilers winger Blair MacDonald is one of the nine bird dogs) and providing a primer for the draft. The NHL teams don’t have to take the Central Scouting lists in the fall, midway through the season, and the spring as gospel, but McGuire and his scouts see everybody.
“What we’re trying to do is paint a picture for the fans with all these players,” he said.
It looks like there’s another good crop of prospects again this year. There’s no lead-pipe No. 1 or No. 1a pick like Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin last year, or a kid head and shoulders above everybody else like Sidney Crosby in 2005. But no matter where the Oilers finish in the lottery, they’ll get a player like Swedish defenceman Adam Larsson; Couturier; Ryan NugentHopkins, a dynamic smaller centre; or Landeskog, the tough-nosed captain of the Kitchener Rangers currently ranked No. 1.
“This is a very good one and a very even draft year, although many would be a year away from playing (in the NHL), and I don’t mean to demean these talented kids. It’s just that they’re a bit on the skinny side. You never know, though. God bless that Alex Burmistrov. I thought he might be laying on an operating table right now. Last year in Barrie, he was all of 162 pounds, wringing wet. Either Atlanta’s protecting him well or he’s put some weight on. Good for him. And Jeff Skinner in Carolina? He’s beating the odds (as the eighth overall pick); a smaller-sized kid with great hands. It’s a surprise he’s there and doing so well,” said McGuire.
McGuire says there’s little difference for teams picking early in the draft. Central Scouting has the Swedish world junior winger Landeskog, currently out with a high ankle sprain, in first place, but barely. Other possibilities are Couturier, whose foot speed is a little suspect; small Justin Huberdeau, who has 62 points in 40 games while playing on the best line in junior hockey in Saint John, N.B., with two other likely firstrounders, Zac Philip and Slovakian junior Tomas Jurko; and former American Hockey League star Don Biggs’ son Tyler, a U.S.-born power forward.
“Couturier is a bit on the unpolished side. He’s not your prototypical Quebec League skater ... not to bring up bad memories like Alexandre Daigle. I’m an oldtimer. To me, he’s Jean Ratelle. He is a slinky offensive player and nobody plays better in his end,” said McGuire.
“Landeskog goes to the net and stays there. Takes a beating. He’s a polished speaker and a legitimate captain in his second year over (in North America). That’s a bit of a departure from the Victor Hedmans and Adam Larssons, who stayed in Sweden, playing in the Elite League, playing against men,” McGuire said.
Larsson is the players the Oilers should go after.
“He’s a little flashier than Hedman (the No. 2 pick in 2009 currently on the Tampa Bay defence). The round-the-campfire, second-hand story is he’ll crosscheck you to hurt you, not to move you out,” said McGuire.