Final Pre-Season Prospect Assessment

orcatown
10-05-2003, 02:54 AM
With the preseason over, players assigned and the College, Junior and overseas leagues up and running, its time to grade out the Canuck Prospects. I did a similar ranking just before training camp but that assesment is need of a revision. I throw this out as way of updating our prospect list and initiating some discussion from others about how that list should look. This will provide a platform for a Canuck prospect list that could be revisited at some intervals throughout the season. I will try to provide my own update around Xmas. Anyhow, and for what its worth, here is my take.

1. Kesler. Some might put King ahead since he beat out Kesler for the team. However, I still see Kesler, long-term, as the best prospect. King is really here on a trial basis and his success is far from guaranteed. I think Kesler will make it for sure. Also I think Kesler is the much stronger skater and is tougher on the puck. He’s very quick to puck and stays on the puck the whole shift. Just has great focus. A team of Keslers would be very tough to play against. Kesler needs to work on his shooting which is not accurate enough. Right now he seems to score only off rebounds. Goes for rebounds exceptionally well but needs to develop more offense off the rush. This inability will limit his long term chances of being upper level offensive threat. Long term Kesler should develop into a very solid second line player.

2. King. Quite simply a hockey player. Very high skill level and strong on his skates. Sneaky quick he has a good feel for where to go and where to move the puck. Very intelligent player who knows how to get the most out of his assets. There’s a certain calmness to his game that a goal scorer needs (see B. Hull). However, King still needs to work on strength and making sure that he keeps all shifts at a high tempo. Also needs to skate faster with the puck and be better able to beat players one on one. The most enticing aspect of King’s play is that it remains on an upward trajectory. Whereas so many of our prospects seem to be plateauing (which is fatal) King shows promise of continued development. King has the potential to be a top 6 forward and a decent scorer at the NHL level.

3. Umberger. Might never see him in a Canuck sweater and that’s too bad. Canuck management is not stupid and their doubts may well be justified. However, Umberger is supposedly a better skater than Kesler and there seems universal agreement he has a better skill package. No question he is the better goal scorer. A player of his size with his touch must be considered, still, an excellent prospect. If there are holes in his game it might be that there is a certain softness to his game and a tendency to be too fancy and hoggish with the puck. Canucks are probably rightly concerned that he might be a turn over machine. Has the potential to be a top six forward. Will either be that or nothing since he has no history as a grinding type player or a good checker.

4. Mojsis. Good case could be made that Mojsis is indeed our top prospect. His upper end potential may well be above that King or Kesler. Has the outside chance of being a star. However, I think you have to cautious with training camp phenoms. That said, it should be noted that this is the second camp where Mojsis clearly stood out. Last year in Junior he seemed, at times, bored. Might be he needs higher level competition to bring out his game. Mojsis seems to have the whole offensive package. Exceptional skater, great stickhandler and passer, and high level anticipation. On top of that reports from camp suggest he he had superior upper body strength. Most heartening thing was the glowing praise that he receives from other players. Perhaps better than anyone else the players know who can play and who can’t. Obviously we need to see more from Mojsis before we can get too carried away. He needs to show over the long haul that he can maintain a high standard of play. He may also be prone to high risk moves. Also needs to demonstrate better coverage decisions in his own end. Still most of Mojsis faults seem correctable and, given his wheels, his upside is very high. Has the potential to be a top offensive defenseman and QB on power play.

5. Auld. Ranking here is based mainly on the Canuck assessment that he will become and NHL goal tender. Seemed solid enough during the pre-season

6. Koltsov: Did nothing to really rate this high. Gets here because of the relative decline of those lower on the list and credentials build up in Russia. Some players have put their NHL careers in real doubt. Can’t really say that about Koltsov because he hasn’t had time to demonstrate, to any significant degree, his upper level potential. Thus its a case of not so much Koltsov did as what others didn’t do. Also with a player like Koltsov you need patience. His is basically a finesse game and that type of game is difficult to quickly assess because it takes time to appreciate it. Also Koltsov needs time to adapt his game to the a North American one. Finally Koltsov seems to have come to camp in woeful shape thus inhibiting his ability to show off his game. Having said that much of the shine is off the bloom for Koltsov. He needs to do an entirely better job of taking the body and keeping players away from the front of the net. Players were simply walking through during rookie games. Koltsov must bulk up to the point where his size will not be such an issue or find ways to compensate for his lack of size. Also Koltosv must compete harder and play better away from the puck. In both these aspects lack of conditioning was a factor. Has some nice features to his game such as his stick handling and passing and these may help him overcome other problems. Koltsov still has the potential to be a clever and dangerous offensive defenseman. However it difficult to see him in the NHL if some fundamental defensive problems are not overcome.

7. Grenier: Given the recent loss of Langdon his stock has risen. If Grenier makes it will be as a enforcer. However, Grenier needs to be more assertive in this role if he is to create the kind of deterrence the Canucks need. Also Grenier poor foot speed and slow movement without the puck means he can be a large liability. Also his inclusion in the line up creates problems because it would only be as a 7th defenseman. Doubtful that Grenier could be converted to the wing, but if he could chances of playing in the NHL would be greatly enhanced. High ranking here is, in part, based on the fact that big time enforcers like Grenier generally end up in the NHL. Often they get bounced around a lot. But they always seem to be popping up on someone’s roster.

8. Fedorov. Has become the popular whipping boy of Canuck fans and criticism has become exaggerated. Fedorov suffers under the burden of expectations. People see his ability and assume that if he is not doing that much with it then it must be the case that he is a malinger and not trying hard enough. His missed practice at training camp certainly contributed to this impression. However, the explanation for FF troubles could easily lie elsewhere. Could well be that Fedorov is still in the midst of learning the pro game. The key to unlocking Fedorov potential could well be patience. For example. Ottawa has suffered along with Schastlivy for the last few years. Schlastlivy, who is two years older than Fedorov, now looks on the verge of a break through. If he does Ottawa has another game breaker. The Rangers, on the other hand , weren’t willing to live the growing pains of Kovalev and had to watch him blossom in Pittsburgh. Fedorov remains the Canuck prospect with the biggest offensive upside and Canuck management and fans should back off and give him the time necessary to develop that potential. FF still has the potential of being a top line offensive player.

9. Reid: Biggest disappointment at camp. Simply could not produce the offense he must. Added weight seemed to help little and, in fact, might have reduced his effectiveness. Biggest concern is that his game may not be well adapted to the NHL. Other small men in the NHL (see Ronning, Sullivan) get by because they are deadly accurate around the net and can jump on opportunities. They move the puck quickly and then try to hit the holes. Reid tries to carry it ala Forsberg. At present he just getting steered to the corner or to a position where he can’t get the puck to his line mates. Reid has to realize he can not dominate at the NHL level. He needs to stop over-carrying the puck. Might be that Reid would be better on the wing where his quick burst of speed could create breakaways and two on ones rather than having him in the trying to move the puck up through the middle of ice. Although Reid is no where near as good as Kariya might try to look at how Kariya uses his speed. Reid remains a prospect but, presently, career has taken a big backward step.

10. Ready. Hard to call him a prospect when he will shortly be 25. However, a good camp has put him in position to make the team or be an early call up. Kind of junk yard dog, Ready has some significant issues with skating. In a way reminds me of a Dave Lowry who also took time to carve out an NHL career.


11. Bieska. Maybe a case that while we have had time to pick away at better known prospects Bieska remains largely unseen. However the US Colleges are consistently developing good NHL defensemen. The fact that Bieska is upper level defenseman at that level suggests that he may be another one. Seems that skating is no longer an issue (if it ever was) and his toughness and leadership is unquestioned. Moreover seems to have improved each year at Bowling Green. Top end potential is probably as a solid 5 to 7 defenseman.

12 Vydarney. Another training camp disappointment. At this point would have to say Vydarney is on his third strike. He must make a break through in Manitoba this year. Biggest problem is that he continues to make the same mistakes. Still forces passes and skates puck into trouble. Also tends to get caught flat-footed at the offensive blue line on turnovers. As the old expression goes seems to have the tools but maybe he doesn’t have the tool box.

13. Grot. Has not made the progress in Russia necessary to create much expectations for him. Not named (at present ) to the Russian U 20 team. Seems very limited offensively. Still young, however, and draft position suggests the team sees some NHL qualities in his play.

14. Jokela. Good at most things but exceptional at nothing Jokela looks for all the word like a player who will exist on the fringes of the NHL. At 23 there is still a chance but it is a dwindling one. Must play the game with more passion and assertiveness. Doesn’t do much wrong but doesn’t do enough right to suggest he will make a break through. Fact NJD gave up on him is not a good sign.

15. MacVicar. Had decent camp and won praise from other goaltenders. Has put himself in the mix.

16. Bouck. Much of what was said about Jokela applies to Bouck. The one big exception is that Bouck plays with plenty of passion. The problem with Bouck is that his game plateaued two years ago. There has been no significant improvement in his game and there is little to suggest there will be in the future. Like many players coming out of the WHL, Bouck is a “tweener”. Not big enough to be an overpowering physical force and not skilled enough to be offensive presence. Unfortunately you can’t make the NHL on character alone.

17. Bernier. No doubt he’ll fill up the net in the Q. this year. Has size and real knack to score. However, skating is very poor and this almost eliminates any chance to make the NHL. One upside is that Bernier is far from a polished player and thus there is plenty of room for growth.

18. Skinner - Pretty good freshman year in US college. Needs to bulk up.

19. Nolan. Opposite of Bernier in that he is polished. Downside of this is that its difficult to project future improvement. Nolan will probably remain much as he is. Unlike the big clumsy kid, who is growing into his size and will improve, Nolan seems topped out. There seems little room for future improvement. Like Barrett and Druken, and a lot of Canuck past drafts, a kid that is close to peaking at the time drafted.

20. Kaapanaren - several solid years in Finland suggest that this stay at home defenseman may deserve more of a look.

Others

Gladshihk - Hard to see how a 4th liner in Russia becomes an NHL player. Stats are poor.
Morrison - probably his last chance was this year. Poor decision maker and turns the puck over too much. Could have decent year with the Moose
Morris - will have to see how he does in WHL this year.
Mensator - had a poor camp. Probably too small and too skinny for the NHL. Trend is toward bigger goalies. Relies too much on reflex
Krikunov - Sounds like he has talent but has a very slight frame. Should ring up some points in the Russian League. Hopefully can make the U20 Russian team.
Schultz - totally unimpressive camp. Showed absolutely nothing to suggest he has NHL potential. His early cut suggest Canucks not happy with what he showed. In tough to make the Moose.
Danielsson - small. Only good point is that he made the SEL at a young age. However did nothing in the league. In 26 games got 4 assists and no goals
Guenette - another small player. Best hope is that he could develop like King. Seems good around the net but skating is not much better than average.
N. Smith - did little at camp. Seems doubtful he remains much in Canuck plans
T. Smith - good little player but too small. will have trouble making the Moose
Finally some players such as Neilson, Komnariski, Obsut and probably Kavanagh are no longer prospects. Their window of opportunity is closed. Have established that they are career minor leaguers.

maruk14
10-05-2003, 07:02 AM
Good post overall orcatown. It appears a lot of thought went into it, and it is thorough and for the most part I agree with your assessments.

Personally, I would probably flip Reid and Grenier. Yes, it is possible Grenier gets called up sooner because of a need for a heavyweight enforcer, and Reid did have a poor camp. All of that I agree with. I am not as down on Reid as you are, however. He did put on some extra weight, and while reports indicate it didn't seem to effect his speed much, which is a good thing, it does take a player some time to learn how to play at a heavier weight, especially when it is put on relatively quickly. A perfect example of this is Sopel. It took him 3 months or so to get used to the weight, and that was after he shed a little of it off and found that happy medium. If Reid isn't hitting his stride by Xmas I will start to share some of your concerns.

As having seen Mojzis a fair amount last year I can say he didn't take too many nights off, and was one of the best players on the ice almost every night. My concern with him making it in the NHL was how he would handle the bigger forwards. He proved he isn't going to get thrown around at camp, and his next hurdle is showing it over a full season. If he continues to improve in this area the rest of the skills are there in spades and we will have a gem on our hands. Great overall skill package.

I also share your sentiments about Fedorov. Patience is the key with him. The organization controls his rights, and would be foolish to let him go unless he was part of a deal to strengthen the NHL team. Barring that, continue to let him develop in the minors. People forget, with all the injuries he has endured, last year was his first full season of pro. I am not saying he is guaranteed to be an NHL'er some day, but he has all the skills you can't teach, now it is up to the organization to teach him how to be a player. Time will tell on this one.

nucks2001
10-05-2003, 07:31 AM
Gladshihk - Hard to see how a 4th liner in Russia becomes an NHL player. Stats are poor.

You realize all prospects play on 4th lines in Russia right? Its a men's league and the teams treat it that way. Andrei Kastistyn and Nikolai Zherdev both played on the same 4th line. In fact Kastistyn has even been demoted to the 2nd team.

orcatown
10-05-2003, 10:47 AM
nucks2001 - Just not so - Frolov played on the top line on his team. Last year Grigorenko led his team in scoring. Lots of young drafted Russians play beyond the 4th line. Fact is that Galdshikh remains of 4th line because he can't produce points. If he was he would move up. If Zherdev was in Russia this year he would not be on the 4th line.

Waveburner
10-05-2003, 01:05 PM
A very thorough report orca :) I don't really agree with everything said but most of it I do agree with. The rankings are very different from how I would put them, but to each his own ;)

cc
10-05-2003, 01:15 PM
nucks2001 - Just not so - Frolov played on the top line on his team. Last year Grigorenko led his team in scoring. Lots of young drafted Russians play beyond the 4th line. Fact is that Galdshikh remains of 4th line because he can't produce points. If he was he would move up. If Zherdev was in Russia this year he would not be on the 4th line.

I've heard that Gladskih's team is one of the deepest teams in the superleague foward wise.

nucks2001
10-05-2003, 01:32 PM
nucks2001 - Just not so - Frolov played on the top line on his team. Last year Grigorenko led his team in scoring. Lots of young drafted Russians play beyond the 4th line. Fact is that Galdshikh remains of 4th line because he can't produce points. If he was he would move up. If Zherdev was in Russia this year he would not be on the 4th line.

Zherdev played on the 4th line last year. Kastistyn actually got demoted from his pro team this year. Players don't put up big numbers in Russia. more examples? Alexander Semin was 4th line material but he will make the Caps this year. The fact that he gets 4th line minutes in the Russian league is a very good sign. They bring the youth along very slowly