Report: Seth Jones

sethjonesSeth Jones
6’4 205 lbs
Defense, Portland Winterhawks
Draft Eligible 2013

Born in Plano, Texas and son of former NBA star “Popeye” Jones, Seth Jones doesn’t exactly have the roots traditionally associated with a potential 1st overall NHL draft pick. However, after two standout seasons with the USNTDP and 17 points through his first 24 WHL games with the Portland Winterhawks, he is proving to be just that.

Jones is an extremely rare blend of size, mobility, skill and raw athletic ability. He already has an NHL frame, standing 6’4 205 lbs, and despite his size, has exceptional mobility and a very smooth skating stride.  He uses this high-end skating ability in Portland to carry the puck out of his own end and through the neutral zone with relative ease. When he isn’t given room to skate, Seth’s superb vision allows him to identify the appropriate outlet and make a crisp first pass out of the zone to start the play up ice. His calm demeanour and high hockey IQ means he seldom makes mistakes and turnovers in his own end are rare.

On the power play, Jones is capable of playing a quarterback role, but appears more comfortable as a shooter. He possesses an extremely heavy slapshot that he is not afraid to let go from anywhere in the offensive zone. His mobility allows him to fake, move laterally and create lanes to get his shot through which makes a very dangerous weapon at the point on the man advantage.

One of the most unique skill sets Jones possesses are his silky smooth hands; a very rare quality for a defensemen his size. He has the ability to stick handle his way out of trouble in small spaces and has excellent control of the puck at top speed. This was on full display during a highlight reel end-to-end goal scored back on Halloween against Everett.

Video: Seth Jones Incredible Goal vs Everett

In the defensive zone, Jones plays a more passive style of defense than one would expect from a player of his physical stature. He possesses a good active stick and his long reach provides him the ability to poke pucks away, take away passing lanes and quickly clear loose pucks while his skating allows him to maintain body position and keep up with even the quickest opponents as they try to drive wide. However, Jones could benefit from adding some more grit to his game and perhaps becoming more physically aggressive in the defensive zone. He is already a physically imposing figure; he just needs to make use of it. He will need to continue to develop the physical side of his game if he is to live up to the NHL comparisons he is drawing such as Chris Pronger and Rob Blake.

Strengths:

  • Very mobile for a big man
  • Calm under pressure; rarely panics
  •  Heavy slapshot
  •  Slick hands

Needs to Improve:

  • Physicality, particularly in his own end down low

Video: Seth Jones Game Highlights vs Tri-City

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Scouting Report: Jonathan Drouin

Jonathan Drouin
5’11 175 lbs
Forward, Halifax Mooseheads
Draft Eligible 2013 (BRCS Rank #8 for November)

Jonathan Drouin entered the 2012/2013 season in a position that would be envied by any draft eligible prospect this year. He would be a go-to player on a powerhouse team with several high profile players, allowing him to fly under the radar while playing alongside superstar teammate and potential 1st overall pick, Nathan MacKinnon.

Well, Jonathan had other ideas.

Drouin opened the season with 15 pts in his first 7 games, exceeding the output of MacKinnon before a shoulder injury sidelined him for 6 games in October. Since returning from injury, Drouin has 14 points in 7 games and while he certainly hasn’t stolen the spotlight from MacKinnon just yet, they’re definitely sharing it now.

Drouin’s game is all offense, which revolves around his elite skill-level and impressive vision. Owning perhaps the silkiest set of hands in the draft, Drouin excels in close to the net and in breakaway situations where he can utilize his lethal backhand shot.  On the power play, Drouin thrives in the role of playmaker. He has an impressive ability to use shoulder fakes to quickly change angles and open up seams that catch penalty killers off guard. He also loves to use his speed to drive towards the net from the top of the circle which draws defenders towards him, allowing him to pass off to an open man down low or cross ice. While his shot is not overpowering, it is accurate and he does have the ability to score on shots from outside the hash marks, however, much of Drouin’s offense is created in close where his elite hands can really work.

Far from a power forward, Drouin remains effective down low and along the boards as he is very shifty and able to pivot, and spin himself out of trouble more often than not. This gives Drouin the ability to be effective on the perimeter and in traffic, which is generally a rare quality for a player whose game is based around finesse and skill. Drouin’s skating, while not the most dynamic aspect of his game, is still notably impressive.  He has above average acceleration, excellent top-end speed and his side to side mobility is good. However, Drouin is more of an opportunistic scorer. He relies more on his high hockey IQ that allows him to find soft areas on the ice and puts him in the right place at the right time for scoring opportunities.

As mentioned, Drouin’s game is offense. His pure offensive instincts make him dangerous any time he is on the ice but also lead to some questions about his commitment to the defensive side of the game. In my viewings, he seems to have a habit of flying the defensive zone too early at times, occasionally leaving his defence hung out to dry.  He loves to hover around the offensive blue line and wait for a long outlet pass, however this can leave too large a gap between he and his defenseman and doesn’t leave them with an easy play on the breakout. When the long pass works, he is almost automatic on the breakaway, however Drouin would benefit from coming back deeper into his own zone to help his teammates on the breakout. His skating is good enough that he should have no problem transitioning from offense to defense and still get plenty of scoring opportunities.

There will inevitably be questions, as there is with every superstar prospect duo, about whether one can produce without the other. In my viewings, Drouin is not reliant on MacKinnon for offense as he is so dynamic and has such elite ability with the puck that he is able to create chances on his own and his top-end vision makes the players around him better, not the other way around.

Strengths:

  • Best hands in the 2013 draft
  • Elite vision and playmaking
  • Good skater; shifty along the boards
  • Excellent in breakaway/shootout situations

Needs to Improve:

  • Defensive zone awareness
  • Giving his defensemen an easy outlet on the break out

In-game footage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBXArsTYyNc

The Prospect of Best Fit

There’s somebody out there for everyone. The 2013 NHL Draft is no exception.

With a draft as deep and diverse as 2013 has potential to be, it’s hard to imagine any team picking in the top 15 coming away disappointed.  An impressive selection of skilled centers, playmaking wingers and mobile defensemen means that most teams should easily be able to fill their most pressing needs within the 1st round. This is my attempt at playing matchmaker.

The Task: Take all the non-playoff teams from 2011/2012 and pair them with the 2013 prospect that best fills their most pressing need. Or in other words, find the best “fit”.

Note: This is not a mock draft. The teams are listed as they finished the 2011/2012 season and the order the prospects are listed is not necessarily where I believe they will be picked.

1. Columbus Blue Jackets

Prospect of Best Fit: Nathan MacKinnon

Bringing good size, exceptional speed and an elite skill set unmatched by anyone else in the draft, MacKinnon would be the perfect #1 center to build a franchise around and would form a solid foundation with Ryan Murray for a struggling franchise.

2. Edmonton Oilers

Prospect of Best Fit: Nikita Zadorov

Nikita Zadorov of the London Knights is the most physically imposing shut down defenseman in this year’s draft and would perfectly compliment recently added offensive blueliners Justin Schultz and Oscar Klefbom.

3. Montreal Canadiens

Prospect of Best Fit: Jonathan Drouin

Jonathan Drouin is an offensively gifted winger with some of the best vision and playmaking ability in this year’s draft. Hailing from Quebec, Drouin could become a true homegrown talent and fan favourite in Montreal.

4. New York Islanders

 Prospect of Best Fit: Valery Nichushkin

Valery Nichushkin is a big, dynamic scoring winger who would fit in well in an Islander’s system heavy in young centers. A dangerous pick given his hesitancy to come over to N.A. so far, but could pay off in a big way. He would compliment Tavares nicely on the Isle’s top unit.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs

Prospect of Best Fit: Sean Monahan

Leaf fans are desperate for two things: a top line center and true homegrown talent. Sean Monahan has both covered. He’s also got some of the best hockey sense and two-way play in the draft.

6. Anaheim Ducks

Prospect of Best Fit: Elias Lindholm

The Ducks have long been searching for a gifted second line center that, coupled with Getzlaf, would give them a solid 1-2 punch down the middle. Elias Lindholm is a highly skilled center with elite playmaking skills who has had success in a professional league at the age of 17. He’s the kind of player who makes those around him better, not unlike Getzlaf. Not a bad “2” punch.

7. Minnesota Wild

Prospect of Best Fit: Max Domi

It’s hard to imagine the Wild needing much more after signing both Parise and Suter this off-season, but with great center prospects like Granlund and Coyle in the pipeline and good overall defensive depth, they could benefit from adding a highly competitive scoring winger like Domi to strengthen the second line in the future.

8. Carolina Hurricanes

Prospect of Best Fit: Andre Burakowsky

With the Staal brothers holding down the top two center spots and a surplus of mobile defensemen, the Hurricanes would likely benefit from adding a scoring winger with size, especially if the Alex Semin experiment is a flop. Burakowsky is just that type of winger; big, skilled and willing to go through a wall to score.

9. Winnipeg Jets

Prospect of Best Fit: Curtis Lazar

The Jets need bluechip talent in a big way, at all positions. Curtis Lazar is a tenacious forechecker with a great shot and solid all around game. He would look good forechecking opposing d-men alongside Evander Kane or sliding into the role of responsible #2 behind Scheifele in the future.

10. Tampa Bay Lightning

Prospect of Best Fit: Hunter Shinkaruk

There’s a dire need for young talent at all forward positions in Tampa Bay, but with Stamkos and Lecavalier holding down center positions for the foreseeable future and St. Louis rounding out his career soon, the wing may be the biggest positional needs for the Bolts and adding a talent such as Hunter Shinkaruk would be ideal.

11. Colorado Avalanche

Prospect of Best Fit: Ryan Pulock

Colorado would love to find an elite skating defenseman to pair with Erik Johnson for their top defensive unit and Ryan Pulock may just be the man for the job. He’s a smooth skater, reliable defender and has an absolute cannon of a shot.  The Avs would be set on defense for a long time with this pick.

12. Buffalo Sabres

Prospect of Best Fit: Adam Erne

The Sabres would love to add a gritty, scoring winger to compliment some of their smaller, skilled forwards. Adam Erne’s got the size and he can definitely score. A familiarity with recent Buffalo 1st round pick Mikhail Grigorenko doesn’t hurt either.

13. Dallas Stars

Prospect of Best Fit: Seth Jones

Is there any team in the NHL more in need of a #1 defenseman than the Dallas Stars? Jones is an extremely rare and unique blend of size, mobility and skill. He’s the perfect foundation for a defensive core in need of an injection of youth.

14. Calgary Flames

Prospect of Best Fit: Sasha Barkov

It seems like Calgary has been searching for a center to play with Iginla for…well, a long time. Sasha Barkov is a physically mature 17 year old already putting up points at a PPG pace in a professional league. His body is NHL ready and his skills are not far behind. His work along the boards and exceptional vision would make Iginla a happy man for a long time.

Scouting Report: Josh Morrissey

Josh Morrissey
6’0 175 lbs
Defense, Prince Albert Raiders
Draft Eligible 2013 (BRCS Rank #7 for November)

Entering the 2012/2013 season with little fanfare in Prince Ablert, Josh Morrissey has played his way into most publications’ top 30 and is one of the most steady risers so far in this year’s class. A strong start to the season with 14 pts in 16 games will only improve Morrissey’s stock and should see him picked in the top 15 players in June. He is currently ranked #22 by International Scouting Services, #8 by TSN’s Craig Button, #7 here at BRCS and was given “A” player status by NHL Central Scouting Services.

Morrissey’s games revolves around his incredible skating and mobility, which is among the best for any defenceman in the 2013 draft class. He’s relied upon heavily in Prince Albert to carry the puck through the neutral zone and gain the offensive line, which he does with relative ease. His excellent vision and superb creativity also makes him an effect quarterback on the powerplay where he has shown a knack for one-touch passes and cross-seam plays which often set up his teammates for open one-time shots. His shot from the point, while not overpowering, is accurate and often creates rebounds. His elite mobility allows him to elude penalty killers and find open shooting lanes consistently.

Josh is always eager to jump into the rush and become involved offensively. It’s not unusual to see him sneak down from his point position or carry the puck into the zone down low. He can sometimes be over aggressive with this pinches and interception attempts through the neutral zone which can lead to odd man rushes the other way, so he will need to learn to better identify when to be aggressive and when to sit back.

Standing 6’0 tall and a slight 175 lbs, Morrissey is not a physically imposing figure on the ice, but unlike most other smaller defenceman, he does not shy away from contact in the open ice. It is not uncommon for Josh to take advantage of forwards skating with their heads down through the neutral zone or as they cross the blueline. A hit of the year candidate on Moose Jaw’s Tanner Eberle in late October is proof enough of this.

In the defensive zone however, Morrissey does tend to play a more passive style of defense, usually content to just keep attacking forwards to the outside and playing sound positional defense. While there is nothing inherently wrong about this approach, it might benefit Josh to be more aggressive (specifically with his stick) in his attempts to separate players from the puck in his own zone and turn the play the other way, where his top tier offensive skills can really shine.

Strengths: 

  • Excellent skating and mobility
  • Creativity and vision on the powerplay
  • Doesn’t shy away from contact despite size
  • Accurate shot that gets through traffic

Needs to Improve:

  • Over aggressive offensively at times
  • More active stick in the defensive zone
  • Make the simple play when needed

In-game footage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuUk6tx1QQE

Top 15 for 2013 (November Edition)

1. Nathan Mackinnon
5’11 180 lbs
Center, Halifax Mooseheads
Using his incredible speed, quick hands and elite vision, Nathan Mackinnon is scoring almost at will in the QMJHL, racking up 18 goals and 29 points in just 16 games to open the season. He is as dominant a player there is in junior hockey and a generational talent. Expect him to go #1 overall and make an immediate impact in the NHL next season.
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2. Seth Jones
6’4 205 lbs
Defence, Portland Winterhawks
After a quiet first few games in the WHL, Seth Jones has begun to find the score sheet with regularity and has reasserted himself as a lock for the top 3 in the draft. He’s big, mobile and has a cannon of a shot that he’s not shy to use. A two-way defenceman in the mold of Rob Blake, Jones would be a welcome addition to any NHL team’s blueline as early as 2014. 
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3. Sean Monahan
6’2 190 lbs
Center, Ottawa 67’s
Sean Monahan is the kind of dependable center every team loves to have. He exhibits strong two-way play and exceptional hockey sense at both the offensive and defensive side of the rink. His offensive game is driven by his elite vision and playmaking ability and his drive, heart and leadership ability are qualities that all scouts admire. 
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4. Sasha Barkov
6’2 205 lbs
Center, Tappara
Sasha Barkov is a physically imposing, offensively gifted centerman out of Finland. He already has an NHL ready body and has shown flashes of dominance in a professional men’s league at the age of 17. Similar to Mats Sundin in both playing style and physical edge, there won’t be much holding Barkov back from playing in the NHL next season. 
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5. Elias Lindholm
6’0 190 lbs
Center, Brynas
Elias Lindholm is all about high-end playmaking ability and has arguably the best vision of any player in the draft. Like Barkov, Lindholm is playing against men and already looks like one of the most dangerous centers in the Elitserien at the age of 17. Drawing comparisons to fellow swede Niklas Backstrom, Lindholm projects to be a top 6 playmaking center in the NHL as early as 2014.

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#6-15:

6. Ryan Pulock – Defence, Brandon Wheat Kings
7. Josh Morrissey – Defence, Prince Albert Raiders
8. Jonathan Drouin – Center, Halifax Mooseheads
9. Valery Nichushkin – Forward, Chelyabinsk
10. Curtis Lazar – Center, Edmonton Oil Kings
11. Hunter Shinkaruk – Center, Medicine Hat Tigers
12. Adam Erne – Forward, Quebec Ramparts
13. Andre Burakowsky – Left Wing, Malmo
14. Max Domi – Center, London Knights
15. Rasmus Ristolainen – Defence, TPS Turku

Scouting Report: Morgan Rielly

 Morgan Rielly
 6’0 205 lbs
 Defense, Moose Jaw Warriors
 Drafted 5th Overall 2012 Entry Draft (Toronto Maple Leafs)

Having missed nearly the entire 2011/2012 season due to a knee injury suffered last         November, a lot of question marks surrounded Morgan Rielly entering the 2012 draft. A       strong combine, including top 10 finishes in the leg power, bench press and grip test helped alleviate some concerns, but it would be remiss to say there weren’t a few eyebrows raised when the Leafs selected Rielly 5th overall last June with forwards Mikhail Grigorenko and Filip Forsberg still on the board. However, with 20 points in 16 games to open this season, it is safe to say the knee is not an issue.

Offensively, Rielly is the most skilled defenseman of the 2012 draft class. His explosive and dynamic skating allows him to rush the puck up the ice and gain the offensive zone with ease. His exceptional vision and passing along with this skating make him a lethal offensive asset on the back end.  On the powerplay is where Morgan is especially dangerous.  He’s relied upon heavily in Moose Jaw to carry the puck through the neutral zone and gain the offensive line, which he does with relative ease.  Once inside the zone, Rielly draws extra attention from penalty killers, often drawing multiple defenders, however his elite skating allows him to be extremely shifty and elusive and he usually has no problem creating space for himself and finding an open teammate for a scoring chance. His shot from the point isn’t particularly powerful, but his mobility allows him to find and create shooting lanes and his shot does get through to the net more often than not.

Rielly’s defensive game is perhaps not as polished as fellow 2012 draftees Ryan Murray and Griffin Reinhart, but it is sound in its own right. While not overly aggressive physically, Rielly does possess a good, active stick and uses his elite skating to get himself out of trouble. His ability to pivot, spin, and shake forecheckers is second to none and will be a huge asset as he turns pro. Without the puck, Rielly does need to continue working on his defensive zone positioning as he can sometimes get caught chasing the puck and losing his man.  He can also become overly aggressive offensively at times with his pinches and high risk plays at the offensive blue line. There is so much pure skill and ability there, but it will be important that he learns when to rein it in and play it safe when needed.

Strengths:

  • Explosive skating
  • Vision
  • Passing
  • Ability to manoeuvre out of danger

Needs to Improve:

  • Positioning in the defensive zone
  • Point shot (accurate, but not heavy)

NHL Comparison: Kris Letang

In-game footage:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S50JtTjaiP8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNvc_JaJLjM