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September 20, 2011
From Daigle To Datsyuk
2011 Rookie Camps

by Corey Pronman

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NHL teams just held several rookie camps and tournaments over the last week or so. I was able to watch some, but mostly outsourced to scouts and other sources I knew in the industry. The following are notes from the Traverse City tournament and the NYI-BOS matchups. Seeing as I have just wrapped up profiling over 300 prospects from the Top 10 Prospect series, I'm only going to note prospects who made good strides over the summer, were a little lackluster, or were for any other reason notable.

Boston Bruins

Alexander Khokhlachev, Center: One pro scout said on Khokhlachev, "While his effort level is usually pretty good, he was quite lackluster at this camp. His compete level for the puck was lacking, he was forcing bad decisions, and he just looked lackadaisical and soft physically."

Dougie Hamilton, Defense: Said the same scout, "He was making plays with the puck, freewheeling and showing creativity such as some nice backdoor plays. He also was pretty snarly defensively. His decision-making was too analytical and slow though."

That's been Hamilton's main knock and why I was skeptical to put him onto my top eight at the draft where just about every team had him. While he's very smart, I need to see more evidence he can play at a pro pace and display fine hockey sense from the back-end. If Dougie makes the Canadian U-20 team, seeing him play at that high tempo in that tournament will be something I'll be watching closely.

The notes about the offensive skills and creativity he displayed are certainly intriguing, though, as if that aspect of his game takes a leap forward it would do a lot for his value.

Buffalo Sabres

Luke Adam, Center: One NHL executive I talked to just raved about Adam and said he was one of the best players at the Traverse City tournament. There was a ton of praise about Adam's hockey sense, puck skills, and a skating tool that showed notable improvement from past years.

Mark Pysyk, Defense: I got mixed feelings on Pysyk from those who scouted him at Traverse City. Some liked the skating, defensive awareness, and puck-moving, but there are still many in the industry that are concerned with Pysyk's reluctance to play the body and how he's going to do in a more elevated physical environment.

Carolina Hurricanes

Ryan Murphy, Defense: Said one NHL executive, "He's so special and did a lot of things that just brought you out of your seat. The defensive game still needs some attention, so I hope Carolina takes their time with him."

Victor Rask, Center: Those who saw Rask at Traverse City came away a little underwhelmed, but one NHL head scout noted that Rask may have been one of the youngest Europeans to come overseas to one of these events that he's ever seen so it's understandable that the transition may have been a little rough. He also noted that Rask had a lot of playing time issues last year, and is somewhat behind on his development curve because of that.

Columbus Blue Jackets

John Moore, Defense: One scout noted that Moore's physical development has gone pretty well and that his body is ready to make the jump to the next level, but aside from the skating, those in the industry who scouted him don't see a standout tool for Moore. I can share that skepticism, but I think he's average enough at a lot of things, and is far along enough in his development to have a low projection risk at a solid upside level, which is partly why I ranked him so high in my Top 100 Prospects.

Dallas Stars

Brenden Dillon, Defense: When I wrote about Dillon two months ago I said, "Nobody would blame you if you didn't know who Brenden Dillon was, but he's a name you're going to see in the league rather soon." After how he performed in TC, that seems to as true as ever. Scouts were quite impressed with his improving physical game and overall frame as he has put a lot of work into that area. He may not break camp with the team, but might only need part of an AHL season before he's pushing for a regular NHL job.

Jamieson Oleksiak, Defense: After I saw Oleksiak at the Canadian U-20 camp, I noted how he was getting involved in rushes and showing more offensive promise. That trend continued at Traverse City. One NHL head scout said, "I don't know what to think of Oleksiak. At Northeastern—whenever I saw him—he was a pure stay at home defenseman, and here he was all over the place offensively, rushing the puck, handling it a lot, etc."

If this offensive upside is for real, and this could turn from a trend into something else after all, Oleksiak may be a real value snag by Dallas.

Detroit Red Wings

Gustav Nyquist, Right Wing: I didn't get a lot on Nyquist from anyone, but just more or less the same I've come to expect when hearing about him—top-end hockey sense, and scouts said he was a threat every time he touched the puck.

Brendan Smith, Defense: Said one NHL executive, "I have no idea how he doesn't make Detroit's team right away."

New York Islanders

Matt Donovan, Defense: Donovan had an interesting camp. Here's a prospect who has made himself known for his top-end offensive skills and exciting plays, but needed some work around the edges. Well, one pro scout described his camp as the opposite, noting he didn't really stand out in a flashy manner, but was just moving the puck efficiently and played a solid defensive game matching his marks up physically and playing fine positionally in his own end.

Kirill Kabanov, Left Wing: Scouts say Kabanov was up and down between the two games versus Boston. The first game he was very good, showing his elite-level skills, making very creative plays and showing top-end playmaking ability while playing energetic hockey at both ends. The second game, he disappeared for long stretches and didn't show much of a physical game.

Ryan Strome, Center: Strome had a tremendous all-around showing, with scouts ravings about the creativity, vision, and effort he put worth. He played well defensively, too, from a positional standpoint and also impressed observers with his acceleration and ability to change gears rapidly.

New York Rangers

Dylan McIlrath, Defense: One scout noted that McIlrath's puck-moving skills were showing subtle improvement since last year as he gets more coordinated within his frame. How far that aspect continues to improve over the next year will be significant for his NHL future. Right now, though, I'm skeptical about his offensive projection.

Shane McColgan, Right Wing: One scout described McColgan's camp as a really standout performance, where the talented right winger's skating ability and compete level made him quite noticeable. Considered a sure-fire first round talent this time last year, McColgan fell to the fifth round in June. From what I've seen and heard about him, that was way too low for the kind of upside he brings to the table.

Up next will be notes from the Oshawa Tournament, the Youngstars Tournament, and the tournament in Florida.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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