Wagman: OHL scouting notes

This week, Prospectus Prospecting brings seven scouting reports. Four are from players already drafted by NHL teams, including past first rounders from the Arizona Coyotes and New York Islanders as well as later picks by the Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings. The other three reports are for 2015 NHL draft eligible prospects, including one player currently earmarked as a top five draft candidate, plus another late first or early second rounder and finally, a sleeper to keep an eye on.

Scouting Report – Max Domi

Bio

Team:   London Knights, OHL                                      Draft Status: 12th overall, 2013 (Arizona)
Position: C/LW
To date stats: 34 GP, 19 G, 45 A, 64 Pts, 35 PIM
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 5-10”, 194

Date Seen: Jan. 25, 2015 vs Oshawa (OHL, regular season), plus numerous games at 2015 WJC

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Domi has plus straight ahead speed as well as very good agility and strong edge work. He has the ability to run around or through a defense. Has an extra gear that he an use to gain separation from defenders.

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

Has a very good slap shot which he is not shy of using from middle distances when he finds himself in space and with a lane to the net. Wrist shot is also a significant weapon and is able to use it to good effect with a defender acting as a friendly screen on the opposing netminder. Has a goal scorer’s mentality.

Puck Skills

Very quick, soft hands. Can and will stick handle into and out of trouble. More quick than dazzling but not short of creative moves either. Strong passer as well who will give the puck to a teammate who has a better view of the net than he does.

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

Domi has plus-plus awareness and anticipation in all three zones of the ice. London does not hesitate to give him plenty of time on the first PK unit as he can be dangerous on a turnover, but more importantly, is responsible in his own end. His natural aggression is mostly contained as well and can be put to good use, such as in goading the opposition into a silly penalty.

Physicality

Although not a large player, Domi does not lack for strength. Somewhat like his famous father, Tie, Max is built low to the ground but solid all the way up. He plays a tenacious style, and will not back down from bigger, more physical players, although he does not actively seek them out.

General Assessment

Max Domi has made large strides forward in his overall game from the past season to the present one. He is on pace to end his junior career with a persona bang, as his all around game is rounding into professional shape, while his offensive exploits should see him set career best marks in assists and points, if not goals as well. While many were surprised that he didn’t make the offensively impotent Coyotes out of training camp this year, the decision to return Domi to London is proving to be for the best in the big picture. The soon-to-be 20 year old will be ready to make the leap into the NHL next October and could fulfill a role as a second or third line winger right away, with a ceiling that reaches still higher.

Scouting Report – Michael Dal Colle

Bio

Team:   Oshawa Generals, OHL                                  Draft Status:  5th overall, 2014 (NY Islanders)
Position: LW/C
To date stats: 36 GP, 29 G, 35 A, 64 Pts, 16 PIM
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 6-1”, 183

Date Seen: Jan. 25, 2015 vs London, Nov. 23, 2014 vs Owen Sound (OHL Regular Season), Nov. 13, 2014 vs Russia (Subway Series)

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Very good straight ahead speed. Good acceleration and can reach for extra gear as needed.

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

Dal Colle’s wrist shot is a fantastic weapon, with a deceptive release that adds to its allure. Very skilled at using opposing defenders as a screen to hide his release. Has a reasonable slap shot as well, but aims to shoot from in close enough that his wrister is generally his best bet.

Puck Skills

Has the confidence and skill to skate with the puck into traffic. Dal Colle is a very creative passer, and has been known to fake a shot to set up a teammate with a goalmouth feed on occasion. The Islanders’ prospect has a large wingspan which gives him excellent reach that is used for puck play as he can stretch out and still weave the puck around and through defenders.

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

Dal Colle’s hockey smarts are mostly seen in the offensive zone and in transition. He is a very passive player in his own zone, frequently floating near the point, waiting for a teammate to corral the puck so that he can break forward for a long pass. In the offensive end, he is a dynamo with incredible vision, patience and instincts.

Physicality

Dal Colle has a large frame, although he tends to shy away from the dirty areas. Very infrequently engages in physical play. He will battle if he gets caught in a jam, but generally is successful at avoiding those jams in the first place. The rangy winger will also take a hit to make a play is he feels that is the best option.

General Assessment

Dal Colle can turn off the viewer as he appears to float through some shifts, especially when Oshawa is hemmed in their own zone. He won’t be the one to break them out. As his point totals indicate, defenders rarely can match up with him when he has the puck in the offensive zone, which, when combined with his lackadaisical play in the defensive zone, indicates that his game will not progress much more at the OHL level. He would be a great test case of a player who is caught in the CHL-NHL agreement, as he is too good for junior hockey but not yet ready to play in the NHL. He should make his NHL debut early next season for the Islanders, but barring a change in his attention to defensive detail, may be forced to return for a fourth season with Oshawa. Will eventually grow into the role of a top line winger and power play producer.

Scouting Report – Tyler Bertuzzi

Bio

Team: Guelph Storm, OHL                                                           Draft Status: 58th overall, 2013 – Red Wings
Position: LW
To date stats: 40 GP, 24 G, 31 A, 55 Pts, 52 PIM
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 6-0”, 191

Seen: Jan. 11, 2015, vs. Kitchener (OHL regular season)

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Average speed. Not a weakness, but neither is it his defining characteristic. Less of a concern for Bertuzzi than others at his present level, as his instincts tend to have him in the right place at the right time, not often seen chasing the play.

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

Wrist shot is very strong. Slap shot not a big part of his game, as he plays to close to the net for a slapper to be of much use. Wrist shot has above average accuracy and all with a plus release, not giving the goalie much time.

Puck Skills

Not a dazzler, but more than enough puck skills to protect the puck from harassing defenders. Can carry the puck through traffic or can play keep-away along the boards to kill time as well. Skilled passer, a product of plus vision as much as owning a good touch. Can cross the zone through a tight seam to find an open teammate on the other side of the offensive zone.

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

Hockey bloodlines come to the fore with Bertuzzi (Todd’s nephew), who has an uncanny instinct to find the space on the ice where the loose puck is, or is about to be. If the open ice is not there for him, he has the vision to spot a teammate with more room to maneuver.  Can effectively QB a power play from the half-wall. Bertuzzi’s defensive play sticks out most for his physicality as he will complete checks whenever possible. Aggression can lead to too much time in the penalty box.

Physicality

A very physical player, belying his average sized frame. His style of game is that of a power forward, although not quite as daunting as Uncle Todd. Will crash the net if that is where the play is. Can keep his rear between the defenders and the puck when jockeying for position such as along the boards. In his own zone, will make his presence felt with solid checks along the half-wall area. Although a frequent fighter as a rookie, Bertuzzi seldom drops the gloves anymore, realizing that he has more to offer with them on. Can still get into penalty trouble due to physical nature.

General Assessment

Although injuries marred his draft +1 season, Bertuzzi returned before Guelph’s playoff run in 2014, putting up a point per game during the OHL playoffs and Memorial Cup. Fully healthy now, the former second round pick has taken his game to the next level, replacing the offense lost to the graduations of Kerby Rychel, Scott Kosmachuk and Brock McGinn, as well as some of the lost leadership, sporting an ‘A’ on his chest for the Storm. Signed to an ELC by Detroit early this season, Bertuzzi looks ready for the next challenge. His intelligence puts him a cut above at the OHL level, where mid-way through his fourth season in the circuit, he has already established career highs in goals, assists and points while cutting down on the rough-housing. While he would receive an NHL cameo earlier in another organization, will be well-served with the Wings’ slow approach to development. Could use 1.5 seasons in the AHL to adjust his game to situations wherein he is smaller by comparison and where his intelligence is not as remarkable. Future ceiling as second line winger.

Scouting Report – Zac Leslie

Bio

Team: Guelph Storm, OHL                                                           Draft Status: 168th overall, 2013 – Kings
Position: LW
To date stats: 36 GP, 5 G, 24 A, 29 Pts, 41 PIM
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 6-1”, 176

Seen: Jan. 11, 2015, vs. Kitchener (OHL regular season)

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Good agility and edgework, but speed component is average at best. Can be beaten to the outside. Hi slipperiness is more utile when he has the puck than when he is defending.

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

His wrist shot and slap shot are both quite accurate, but lacking somewhat in power. Slapshot from point has noticeable hump, in that it perceptibly begins to fall before reaching the net. Have seen him join the rush, and not get killed, but lacks the recovery speed to get away with mistakes at offensive blueline.

Puck Skills

Good puck distributor. That skill is the backbone of Leslie’s high point totals for the past 2.5 seasons. Useful on the power play, although more as a fulcrum than an end point.

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

Plays big minutes on both special teams units for Guelph. Knows his role as puck mover and plays it well. Has a high panic threshold, allowing him to avoid panicking under pressure and thereby make the smart play by not rushing it. Some tendency to make bad puck decisions. His lack of speed and size make it imperative to avoid those as he lacks recovery ability. Wears an ‘A’ on his chest for the Storm.

Physicality

Not a part of his game. Needs to put on more mass to be effective physically. Too skinny, at the moment, even for a teenager.

General Assessment

Already signed to an ELC by Los Angeles, Leslie has little left to prove in his final OHL season. His puck moving game should translate well to the AHL, but without putting on 15-20 solid pounds, will likely be at a disadvantage in his own zone and will have to be protected. While mobile, his straight ahead is already somewhat lacking, so the hope will have to be that added bulk doesn’t take away from the speed that he does have. Will require 2-3 years of development in the AHL before we can expect a finished project. If it works out, Leslie can be a third pairing blueliner at the highest level, with some time on the second power play unit.

Scouting Report – Mitchell Marner

Bio

Team:   London Knights, OHL                                      Draft Status: 2015 eligible
Position: RW/C
To date stats: 44 GP, 35 G, 57A, 92 Pts, 45 PIM
Shoots: R
Height/Weight: 5-11”, 164

Date Seen: Jan. 22, 2015 (Top Prospects Game), Jan. 25, 2015 vs Oshawa (OHL, regular season)

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Excellent first few step acceleration. Very agile with elite level pivoting. Will use his wheels to aid in elusiveness. In conjunction with his stickwork, Marner can and will use his legs very effectively to get out of potential jams.

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

Marner has a strong and accurate wrist shot with a quick release, but doesn’t lack for power on his slap shot, as indicated by his usage on the point for the London Knights’ power plays. A not insignificant number of his goals for London have been a product of his stickwork, as he has danced a few pucks into the net.

Puck Skills

Marner’s hands are incredibly quick and creative. While his goal scoring numbers are evocative, his assist are a better tell of his skill set. Along with his superb vision in the offensive end, the Knight forward will generally get the puck onto the tape of an open teammate, driving scoring chances. His stickhandling, as mentioned above, is at an elite level as well, with the ability to dangle from in tight as well as deep, lunging dangles to draw defenders out of position.

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

The Knights use Marner on the point on the PP and give him a regular PK shift as well. He has top shelf anticipation in the offensive zone. Unlike many junior level scorers, the draft eligible dynamo also puts in an honest effort in his own zone, backchecking hard and using his stick to try to separate the puck from opposition skaters. Further, he is often the first to spot a loose puck and is very quick to pounce on it and return the game to the other end. While his effort without the puck does not waver, he still has a bit to learn to improve his defensive awareness and coverage.

Physicality

While undersized, Marner does not fear playing in the dirty areas of the ice. Will not shy from hits, but will avoid them when possible. Has an interesting way to peel off the boards in unexpected directions to avoid checks. His lack of size will come to the fore if a defender can get in really tight and lean on him before Marner can escape.

General Assessment

One of the top offensive talents in the 2015 draft, Mitch Marner has the combination of top end speed and smarts to overcome his lack of size. He claims to model his game after both Patrick Kane and Doug Gilmour and both can be seen, although moreso the former than the latter. His willingness to engage in physical play and his effort in his own end will also endear him to scouts. Although he will need another year of OHL development before going pro, Marner should be a top six NHL forward in relatively short order. He may need to be sheltered as he continues to fill out so as to avoid some of the league’s more physical defenders, but his tools are more than enough to make a quick mark in the NHL. A surefire Tier I prospect for the 2015 draft and is in contention for third overall.

Scouting Report – Mitchell Vande Sompel

Bio

Team:   Oshawa Generals, OHL                                  Draft Status: 2015 eligible
Position: D
To date stats: 36 GP, 6 G, 34 A, 40 Pts, 26 PIM
Shoots:  L
Height/Weight: 5-10”, 181

Date Seen: Jan. 25, 2015 vs London, Nov. 23, 2014 vs Owen Sound (OHL Regular Season), Nov. 13, 2014 vs Russia (Subway Series)

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Plus mobility. There are no worries when Vande Sompel carries the puck out of his own zone. Dangerous to the opposition when moving forward who can draw penalties with speed alone. Will also use his speed to great effect when joining a rush.

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

Good, accurate wrist shot. In one viewing, he found a small seam from his position along the half-wall during an Oshawa power play to beat the goalie. Vande Sompel’s wrist shot also has impressive carrying power, as he can use it from the top of the point where others would be more comfortable unleashing the slap shot.

Puck Skills

He is comfortable carrying the puck from zone to zone. Also more than proficient in passing the puck from zone to zone if he does not have a lane to skate through. Vande Sompel has quick and soft hands and is able to use them to protect the puck from stick checks. His puck skills are impressive enough that Oshawa has occasionally used the defender as a forward both at even strength and on the penalty kill, where he will sometimes even line up as a center for faceoffs.

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

Vande Sompel seems to play in recognition of his physical limitations. As he lacks size and brute strength, he will often use his stick to check opponents in his own zone and is fairly good at stripping pucks through this method. He is also clearly gifted in the offensive end and has all of the desired skills in a power play point man.

Physicality

Obviously not a major facet in his game. Vande Sompel can impede an opposing puck carrier in his own zone, but not outright stop a rushing opponent.

General Assessment

In a draft class full of mobile blueliners, Mitchell Vande Sompel can hang with the best of them when it comes to offensive tools, but will be dinged somewhat by his size and strength shortcomings. On the other hand, the NHL has become more and more forgiving to size-challenged defenders as long as they have smarts and mobility, which this prospect has in spades. His experience as a forward is a decent fall back plan, but the Oshawa product will have more value to his future NHL organization staying with his natural position on defence. While he could be selected in the back half of the first round, a-la Anthony DeAngelo last season with Tampa, he is more likely to come off the board by the middle of the second round, making him squarely a Tier III draft prospect.

Scouting Report – David Miller

Bio

Team: Kitchener Rangers (OHL)                                                 Draft Status: 2015 eligible
Position: C
To date stats: 39 GP, 13 G, 13 A, 26 P, 29 PIM
Shoots: R
Height/Weight:  5-9”, 170

Seen: Jan. 11, 2015, vs. Guelph (OHL regular season)

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Slightly above average speed with good edgework. Very shifty on his feet, especially when he has the puck on his stick.

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

Very strong wrist shot with a quick release. Dangerous in the slot if he gets space to maneuver.

Puck Skills

Very creative with the puck. In spite of his meagre point totals – largely a result of being a second tier option on a stacked Sault Ste. Marie team before a mid-season trade to Kitchener for Sabres prospect Justin Bailey – Miller is very confident in his abilities when he has the puck. He has some flash to his stickhandling and will dangle.

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

His offensive zone smarts come to the fore very readily. In one sequence, he corralled a loose puck off of the half-wall and, without hesitation, backhanded a no-look to the slot to an incoming teammate, creating a quick scoring chance from nothing. Will get creative with his passing and routes in the offensive zone.

Physicality

Still physically immature, but not one to be cowed by larger opponents. Miller has significant feistiness to his game and will not relent when it comes to 50-50 battles for the puck. He plays bigger than his size.

General Assessment

David Miller could see a big spike in his scoring rates in the second half of his draft season, considering the expansion of his role with his new team. He has a lot of offensive talent, but more viewings are needed to gauge his ability to hold his own in his own end. An exciting player, his upside should be enough to make him a Tier IV/V draft prospect, worthy of a late 3rd/early 4th round pick.

 

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