Continuing on my last post, I'll be wrapping up my notes from the Rookie Tournaments that just ended. While I was able to catch some games, I outsourced for quite a few of them to sources I know in the industry. Seeing as I've just done over 300 profiles in the Top 10 Prospect series, I'm only going to mention players who took strides over the summer or were notable for one reason or another.
Michael Ferland, Left Wing: Whenever I reach out to WHL scouts, Ferland is the type of prospect who they come at me with "fourth-liner at best". However, whenever I've seen him in the WHL, or in this instance at the rookie camps, he shows flashes of something beyond that in terms of skills and sense that make me think that while he may not be a top-six player, there's certainly something to this player beyond just intangibles.
Brandon Saad, Left Wing: There's the Brandon Saad everyone thought would go in the top 10-15 around this time last season. Saad's stock fell quite a bit last year after a lackluster first OHL campaign and dropped to 43rd overall (I had him ranked 22nd). The skills aren't overwhelming when it comes to Saad, but he's just such a nice overall package. His hands and sense I'd say are about average, and then when you plug in an above-average skater and a nice frame who can score and be effective physically, you have the kind of package who can potentially project to play a top six role in the NHL. I thought the Blackhawks had a tremendous draft this past June, and Saad was a big reason why.
Shawn Lalonde, Defense: Lalonde looked up and down at this event. One game I saw of him his decision-making in all ends was poor, and then the next game his defensive game looked sharp and he was showing much better sense. His straight-line speed is certainly above-average, although I got a note from one scout in attendance at the tournament who noted his first step or two were a little laggy for a player who makes a living off his speed. Nevertheless, he's quite a skilled defender who could push for ice time soon at the top level, although I was hoping to see more physical development from where he was last year.
Ludvig Rensfeldt, Right Wing: Ludvig has fine hands and can certainly make plays, but scouts who saw him in Oshawa are very concerned with his skating ability, describing it as a knock-kneed stride with poor first step acceleration.
Erik Gudbranson, Defense: The tremendously gifted blueliner wasn't a huge standout at camp, but he didn't hurt himself either, which is a huge step in the right direction from what I had heard from scouts in the OHL. With his well above-average skating ability for a big man, elite physical game, and puck abilities that are quite decent for a defenseman of his style, as long as he doesn't shoot himself in the foot with his decision-making he can likely find a way onto an NHL first pairing. I wouldn't say his hockey sense impressed scouts, but it didn't underwhelm them and he was even finding ways to get involved offensively.
Alex Petrovic, Defense: Petrovic has made some really nice strides in the last year or so. Not only has his decision-making significantly improved, but notes out of this camp were that his puck skills looked better than where they were at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. His skating still leaves a whole lot to be desired as it's a replacement-level tool at best, but he's still a fine prospect and projects into the league.
Mattias Ekholm, Defense: Ekholm didn't truly stand out like I'd hoped, but he certainly looked good. I had previously heard he was an average skater and above-average for his size, but reports out of camp were that he looked like an above-average NHL skater. Keep in mind that he's a 6'4" defenseman (although I think he's listed at 6'3"). His puck-moving was fine, he didn't show the top-end sense I had heard glowing reports about from his play in Sweden, but he certainly looked above average.
Craig Smith, Center: I'd say that he killed it, but I think that may be insulting to his performance. He's ready for the league right now in my opinion, could be on a top nine in short duty, and may even push for top-six ice time sometime this season if his development goes well. He's not dynamic, but he does so much well, works his tail off, and has a plus shot.
Stephane Da Costa, Center: Da Costa showed flashes of his desirable skills in regards to his puck-handling, playmaking, and shooting abilities, but one scout came away quite unimpressed with Da Costa's physical game, saying he drifted off to the perimeter too easily.
Andre Petterson, Right Wing: Petterson was one of the players I was really looking to watching/hearing about and he certainly didn't disappoint. His puck skills are plus, his skating has really taken steps forward, looking like a true above-average skill. I'm not sure if his sense is truly above-average, but he looks to have a good enough all-around offensive skill set to do damage in North America despite a below-average physical game.
Patrick Wiercioch, Defense: I got very positive reports on Wiercioch out of this rookie camp. He was reminiscent of the player I thought he would have been last year in the AHL, where he struggled mightily at times. The frame, skating, and puck-moving skills have always been his assets, but it was nice to see him getting involved physically, playing his mark closely, making good decision in both zones, and not getting too overaggressive offensively.
Mika Zibanejad, Left Wing: While if I were making decisions for the Senators, I would send Z overseas for one season, I wouldn't be surprised if he made the team this season. I said going into the draft I thought Mika could fast track into the league, but that he had to physically develop first, however he took care of that issue promptly. His all-around game is refined, his skill set is quite desirable, and he looks like he can go toe-to-toe with pro defenders in the corners.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Mark Barberio, Defense: One NHL source described Barberio's camp as an up-and-down performance. There were certainly flashes of the above-average skating ability and puck-moving skills, but some of his decision-making was a little off and he may need a little more polishing in the minors before pushing for a top-level job.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Jake Gardiner, Defense: Gardiner's top-tier skating abilities as well as his above-average puck-moving skills certainly shone at this camp, but I was hoping to see a little more improvement from his physical game. His strength level didn't seem at all different from where it was last season, and it's an aspect he certainly needs to work on. One scout noted that his decision-making is still a little behind the pace of the top level and that he likely needs a fair amount of AHL seasoning still.
Matt Frattin, Right Wing: Frattin was extremely impressive at this camp, especially with the significant development he's made in a year's time. His skating ability looked significantly better, going from fringe level to around NHL average. His physical traits also looked better as he showed a higher level of strength and ability in the physical game. One scout said he still needed a fair amount of attention given to his defensive game, but aside from that, I'm quite optimistic about Frattin's projection.
Mark Scheifele, Center: Scheifele certainly showed well and flashed the above-average puck skills, vision, and overall hockey sense that turned him into a desirable prospect. I'm not sure if any of his raw possession tools are of a dynamic enough element and coupled with below-average skating ability, I maintain my stance that he's more of a low risk projection prospect a than high upside one. He's still a nice player to have in a system, and I could see him push for the 75-100 range on next year's Top 100 NHL Prospects list.
Zach Redmond, Defense: One reason I didn't put Redmond in my Jets write-up was due to a lack of notes on him, so I was somewhat looking forward to seeing him. There isn't a lot of above-average abilities to Redmond, but he has a nice frame, skates at a pro-level, and can certainly think the game at a solid to above-average level. His ceiling isn't particularly highmaybe a below-average second pairing defender in a perfect worldbut he certainly has the skills to play a third pairing for sure.
Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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