Around the OHL – Strome is the real deal

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Scouting Report – Connor McDavid

Bio
Team: Erie Otters                                                             Draft Status: 2015 Draft Eligible
Position: C
To date stats: 33 GP, 29 G, 54 A, 83 pts, 42 PIM
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 6-1”, 187

Date Seen: Feb. 16, 2015 @Mississauga, Nov. 6, 2014 @ Niagara, both OHL regular season. Jan. 22, 2015 – CHL top prospect game. Various WJC games.

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

For nearly any other player, if he skated like McDavid, it wold be the only thing anyone else ever mentions about him. He has elite level acceleration that is breathtaking. That said, if you do take a breath, you will miss him. He can go inside or outside depending on coverage with the elusiveness to switch it up with no notice.  The fluidity of his stride would make him a dangerous player at the NHL level right now. It seems as if every second game sees a McDavid highlight that shows him going on an end-to-end rush and slipping the puck past the netminder, sometimes after skating it around the net, sometimes without.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc)

A somewhat understated part of his even though he scores at a superb rate. The simple fact is that a great number of McDavid’s goals are scored through his skating and puckhandling. His moves are so high end that he sometimes doesn’t even need to shoot the puck. He can just tap it into the net. That all said, he does have a very, very good wrist shot with a tricky release that can trick the goalie into thinking he has an extra fraction of a second to make the save. He doesn’t though.

Puck Skills

McDavid’s hands are as fast as his feet. His puck skills are simply off the charts. He can break a defense in any direction. If they give him a gap even the width of the puck, the Otter pivot will be gone. His passing is elite with superb vision in the offensive zone. His passing skills will actually play up at the higher level, as more skilled teammates will be more capable of accepting his feeds.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

McDavid’s smarts come to fruition mostly as an offensive player. The Erie Otters are rarely on the defensive when he is on the ice. As a sign of the trust placed in him, coach Kris Knoblauch gives McDavid plenty of time on the PK, where he has chimed in with two shorthanded goals this season. His general anticipation and hockey sense play well across all zones. If there is a slight knock, his bout with Mississauga’s Bryson Cianfrone earlier in the year proved that the dynamo still needs to learn to brush off physical play but that will come with added maturity.

Physicality

Not exactly the most note-worthy aspect to McDavid’s game, as he can be knocked off of the puck if hit flush. But he is so quick as to rarely be caught head-on. He is slight, but has a respectable frame for his age. He has sufficient upper-body strength to maintain puck possession even when double teamed along the boards. He will only lose the puck when he is ready to give it up. Will likely gain 10-15 pounds of muscle over the coming years to make any concerns in this area entirely moot.

General Assessment

No need to bury the lede here. Connor McDavid is the top talent in the 2015 draft and the most NHL ready prospect outside of the professional game today. There should be zero question that he goes at the very top of the draft to whichever team is lucky enough to win the draft lottery and will step right into the NHL lineup at a top six spot for the 2015-16 season. The skill set is mature and robust enough for McDavid to play a top six role right off the hop, and will be ready to move into a first line center role by year two. As he has a very notable work ethic as well, there is nothing within reason that will hold this generational talent back from a long and productive NHL career. In the interest of redundancy, he is a Tier I prospect.

Scouting Report – Dylan Strome

Bio
Team: Erie Otters                                                             Draft Status: 2015 Draft Eligible
Position: C
To date stats: 53 GP, 34 G, 63 A, 97 pts, 28 PIM
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 6-3”, 187

Date Seen: Feb. 16, 2015 @Mississauga, Nov. 6, 2014 @ Niagara, both OHL regular season. Jan. 22, 2015 – CHL top prospect game.

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Unlike his teammate featured above, Strome’s weakest link is his stride. He can keep up with the Joneses, but the rangy center lacks a separation gear. That said, the rest of his game can generally mask this relative weakness. In tests, his speed is around middle of the pack, but he seems to conserve energy in game situations. Regardless, he manages to always be around the puck and backchecks hard enough so as to be disruptive.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc)

Strome’s wrist shot is a plus weapon and he is known for his accuracy. He can find the net from very wide, obtuse angles. As he is exceptional at finding seams in coverage, many of his goals are of the easy tap in variety, but he has proven that he can score from middle distance as well.

Puck Skills

His stickwork and nose for the disc make up for any lack of speed in his profile. Strome can stickhandle through traffic based on the dexterity in his hands more than his footwork. He is very comfortable carrying the puck up the ice as he has the confidence of knowing that he can feint and dangle if a defender gets in too close.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

This is where Strome shines. He is always in the right position for the puck or to make a play. He has excellent anticipation for where defenders will go and how they will get there allowing him to make smart passes, defend soundly and do the countless little things that give his team a better chance to win.

Physicality

Strome has a large frame that looks capable of carrying more weight down the line. He is already very strong for his age, and looks almost nonchalant I boxing out opponents on the draw. The Erie second fiddle will also always finish his checks, leaving his mark on the ice. Will not be outmuscled.

General Assessment

Strome confused me for much of the season. While his production was among the league leaders from day one, his biggest weakness is the one skill I value above all others – speed. Watch him once or twice, and it is easy to fail to be impressed. He will get his points, but not look fancy doing it. Johnny-on-the-spot points, if you will. But keep watching, and you notice subtle things that he does, like how he gravitates to that open spot when the defender’s back is turned, or the way he takes faceoffs. Before too long, you realize that he is the smartest player on the ice. Like his older brother, New York Islanders forward Ryan, Dylan Strome is a prime candidate for the top half of the lottery portion of the draft, a clear cut Tier I prospect. He projects as a second line center and could get there within 18 months. The team that drafts him may be tempted to have him play in the NHL next year, and Strome may be able to tread water at that level, but his development would be best served by one more season with Erie. There is also a reasonable chance that he could eventually rise to the level of top line center, but there is very low risk if second line is the projection.

Scouting Report – Remi Elie

Bio
Team: Erie Otters                                                             Draft Status: Dallas Stars, 40th overall, 2013
Position: LW
To date stats: 49 GP, 23 G, 30 A, 53 pts, 36 PIM (season split between Erie and Belleville)
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 6-1”, 202

Date Seen: Feb. 16, 2015 @Mississauga, OHL regular season.

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Elie has a strong stride. His skating doesn’t pop, but his combination of fleetness of foot, agility and edgework as well as strength in his legs make him a force to be reckoned with in the opposing end. His wide frame adds to his skating grade as he uses it well to help him get to where he needs to go as he has a bit of the bull in him, style-wise.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc)

Elie has a good shot that will make him a weapon at the next level. His slap shot is heavy and he has a quick release on an above average snap shot as well.

Puck Skills

Elie’s hands are quicker than his feet and he can use them to lull defenders and netminders into a false sense of confidence. He should be used at least occasionally on the shoot-out. Elie is also a good passer, although he is more notable for accuracy than creativity on that front.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

Elie is a very dependable two-way player. He shows zero hesitation when backchecking. Playing with McDavid, his general on-ice awareness allow his super-talented linemate to take more chances to create as Elie will keep himself in position to head back to his own end and begin coverage. Having spent enough time on a sub-par Belleville squad, he would have learned that games are not won in the offensive end only and that lesson seems to have taken.

Physicality

Elie puts his large frame to good use on the ice. He has the strength to go into the corners and win a good percentage of puck battles. His size and strength will not hold him back at the next level.

General Assessment

Remi Elie does everything well, but nothing exceptionally. Already signed to an entry level contract by the Stars, Elie should make his professional debut next fall, assuming the Otters make a deep playoff run this spring. His two-way, physical ad skilled game should make him a favorite of his coaches and fans, but his upside is best limited to a third liner role who can chip in 15+ goals in a full season. As the Jim NIll era Stars seem to be following the Red Wings model of patient development, Elie will receive the benefit of at least two years in the AHL before he can compete for a full time NHL gig. That said, his game does not have too many rough edges and once he does come up, he should be there to stay. Playing with McDavid – and fitting in with him as well – prove that he could be used as a foil on a first line, much like Dale Weise often plays with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais in Montreal. Not that I am comparing Elie to Weise. Elie has far higher upside.

Scouting Report – Julius Honka

Bio
Team: Texas Stars                                                            Draft Status: Dallas Stars, 14th overall, 2014
Position: D
To date stats: 47 GP, 5 G, 12 A, 17 pts, 37 PIM
Shoots: R
Height/Weight: 5-11”, 185

Date Seen: Feb. 21, 2015 @Toronto, AHL regular season. Multiple 2015 WJC games

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Honka is a puck carrier. He is very mobile and has strong edge work, allowing him to pivot out of danger, if and when necessary. His feet are always in motion and never static. Honka is ready to move and will beat the majority of opponents to the puck. He can be dangerous on zone entries due to his slippery style. If he sees a small seam, he will breeze right through it.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc)

The Finnish teenager takes a full windup to his slapshot, putting his entire frame into the shot. Honka keeps his shots low and can be an asset from the point on the power play, either for generating tips or rebounds.

Puck Skills

Honka is a confident puck mover and doesn’t dawdle when carrying. He has a good pass in terms of both accuracy and zip. His hands are quick enough to avoid most forecheckers and their sticks.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

Honka sticks closely with his mark in his own zone. Recognizing his physical limitations, he will utilize his stick to try to neutralize threats in his end. If he loses puck battles, he is quick enough to recognize the situation and switch to man coverage.

Physicality

Honka lacks physical presence, but still manages to play a moderately physical game. He is not a big body checker, but will bump his opponents off their stride. He will not back down against bigger opponents either, which is especially notable as a teenager in the AHL, where not only are they all bigger than him, but they are almost universally older and more experienced than the first year pro.

General Assessment

Julius Honka is an exciting offensive defensemen who shares a number of traits with fellow Stars blueliner Alex Goligoski. As the NHL moves away from size, there is more room for undersized players to excel, provided they have above average smarts and mobility. Honka has both of those traits. His game is also very mature, as evidenced by being one of the very few teenagers currently playing in the AHL, and putting up good numbers against much older and more experienced competition. Honka profiles as a power play ace, but will need to be protected at the highest level so he is not subjected to heavier opponents. This may be an occasional problem in the more rugged Western Conference, but he also would not be the first smaller blueliner to excel out west either. Thankfully, the Stars have a good number of young defenders in their system, which will allow Honka more time to grow into his frame and add some strength to handle a league that is altogether faster, smarter and more physical than the one he plays in now. He should eventually find himself as a second pairing defenseman who receives first unit power play time.

Scouting Report – Ryan Kujawinski

Bio
Team: North Bay Battalion                                                           Draft Status: New Jersey Devils, 73rd overall, 2013
Position: C
To date stats: 41 GP, 21 G, 17 A, 38 pts, 24 PIM (season split between North Bay and Kingston)
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 6-2”, 207

Date Seen: Feb. 8, 2015 @Ottawa, OHL regular season.

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Kujawinski displays good edge work when skating with the puck. Agility helps him maintain puck possession in the offensive zone. Has a well-earned reputation as a plus skater.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc)

He owns a good wrist shot with a very quick release. It can be a weapon, but not an elite one, or one that would have anyone referring to him as a sniper. He does not need to be in full control of the puck in order to unleash the wrister. This may be viewed as a bug or a feature, as it means less power and accuracy to his shot, but also can be a good way to avoid losing the puck.

Puck Skills

He is good stick handler, but his hands are not as fast as his feet. This is not a big part of his game.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

Kujawinski is a very disciplined player in his own zone, a necessity in the North Bay system. He is aware of all other players on the ice and does not seem to overcommit, defending as needed but ready to transition into attack as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

Physicality

The Devils prospect has a good sized frame and will complete his checks. That said, I would expect a player of his bulk to hit heavier than what I have seen.

General Assessment

In a system devoid of high upside forward prospects, Kujawinski at least stands out as one who will play at the next level. He has some offensive ability, but without having increased his offensive output in four years in the OHL, it is fair to question if he has peaked. His well game will allow him to play in the AHL, but he will need at least two full seasons there to get an NHL opportunity and he in unlikely to ever be more than a bottom six forward. His versatility will help him achieve that upside, and there is good value in having a cost controlled player with some physical tools in the bottom six, but it’s hard to see him scoring more than 10-12 goals per season.

Scouting Report – Brett McKenzie

Bio
Team: North Bay Battalion                                                           Draft Status: 2015 draft eligible
Position: C
To date stats: 48 GP, 6 G, 14 A, 20 pts, 24 PIM
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 6-1”, 188

Date Seen: Feb. 8, 2015 @Ottawa, OHL regular season

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

McKenzie looks somewhat labored in his stride. He is strong on his feet and keep his balance and forward momentum under tight physical coverage, but is not a speed demon. That said, he has the ability to lower his head and beat his defender to the outside.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc)

He has good control on his snap shot and was seen in this viewing to roof a puck  from the top of the crease while skating in from the corner.

Puck Skills

Stickhandling ability is middling but he has a knack for making accurate passes. He can flash the occasional glimpse of latent skills, but for the most part, will let it simmer below the surface.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

A typical Stan Butler coached, North Bay player. McKenzie plays a two-way, tightly structured  game.

Physicality

He could stand to fil out more, but McKenzie is a strong player who can be very difficult to knock off his stride, or to knock the puck away from his stick.

General Assessment

Although a very highly touted midget player prior to his OHL draft year, Brett McKenzie has not lived up to his advance billing. Yet. It is difficult for North Bay players to shine offensively due to the nature of their team game, but it is still disappointing to see the lack of increased production from his rookie campaign to his draft year. There is skill there, such as one play where he took the puck above the offensive faceoff circle, with the goalie to his left, kept the puck to the outside as an opposing defender hounded him and beat the defender to the outside. McKenzie then quickly shifted to the inside as he approached the corner and laterally skated through the crease before beating the netminder high. The Battalion forward is definitely worthy of a section in the 4th-6th rounds as a gamble on his raw tools blossoming into something more, making him a Tier V prospect. Right now, his potential outcomes range from early pro flameout, to third line forward

Scouting Report – Matthew Spencer

Bio
Team: Peterborough Petes                                                         Draft Status: 2015 draft eligible
Position: D
To date stats:  57 GP, 6 G, 22 A, 28 pts, 56 PIM
Shoots: R
Height/Weight: 6-2”, 194

Date Seen: Mar. 1, 2015 @Oshawa, OHL regular season. Nov. 13 2014, Subway Series

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Not an elite skater, but he has more than enough stride to play at the next level. Sufficient mobility such that it will not prevent him from a full NHL career.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc)

Did not witness Spencer shoot the puck in either of my viewings of him this season.

Puck Skills

Spencer has very quick hands. His first pass is exceptional for its accuracy but more so for the amount of zip he places on it. That skill transfers over to the offensive zone as well. Also has the ability to kick puck from skates to stick if he loses his grip when in motion. This is one area where this prospect shines.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

Spencer shows very good gap control when defending. Teams tend to try to enter the Peterborough zone against the other defender instead of attacking Spencer directly. He is also a feature on the team’ s first PK unit.

Physicality

Board play is a strength of Spencer’s. He will bump above-average sized players off the puck with nonchalance. That said, he doesn’t play an overpowering style of game. This facet of his game should improve as he fills out more.

General Assessment

Spencer is not the most exciting defensive in the 2015 draft, between playing for a mediocre OHL team and not having many elite tools, but once he see him begin the transition, you can see why there is reason for fussing over the former third overall pick of the OHL priority draft. His first passes are simply ferocious. Beyond that he has a good sized body, and above average tools in his skating and puck handling making him a fairly safe bet for a good professional career. His skills set would not be out of place as a late first or early second round pick, but in a draft as deep as this one, he may fall to the later second round. His overall toolset makes Spencer a worthy Tier III draft prospect.

One thought on “Around the OHL – Strome is the real deal

  1. Pingback: Matt Spencer-The Next Ones 2015 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

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