April 08, 2014
Think of the NHL Central Scouting draft ranking like a pyramid — a few can't-miss kids at the top, the definite-maybes on the second rung, and on through the maybe-maybes and the darkhorse who have a scout or two in their corner.
As fun as the draft is to discuss, and as much work goes into CSS' work and those of independent scouting services that rate just as much attention, there's a human fallibility coursing through all of it. That is why it is fun. So one shouldn't make too much of a player whose stock was uh, re-adjusted from January until the final ranking that was released on Tuesday. Not to Nate Silver the whole process, but there is a psychology behind it all that someone will probably figure out someday and earn a very, very small fortune. In other words, fallers is such a loaded term, hence sliders (well that and it's lunchtime).
Here's quick survey at names that jump off the page when it comes to risers and sliders.
Nikolaj Ehlers, centre/left wing, Halifax Mooseheads (13th from 22nd) — One question Central Scouting wrestles with is how to project the good little man to the NHL, since it doesn't have a crystal ball to determine how much room the big league will have for the smaller player. Ehlers is a listed at 5-foot-11 and 162 pounds but the dashing Dane has demonstrated that he's hardly riding on Jonathan Drouin's coattails with the Mooseheads. His 49 goals were the most by a Quebec League newbie since someone named Sidney Crosby. Climbing the ladder nine spots to become the top-ranked QMJHL prospect is no mean feat.
Dylan Sadowy, left wing, Saginaw Spirit (33rd from 89th) — Under coach Greg Gilbert, the Spirit have done well at bringing players along steadily (see Winnipeg Jets pick Jimmy Lodge and Columbus Blue Jackets choice Nick Moutrey last season). The 5-foot-11¾, 183-pound Sadowy emerged over the back half of the season in Saginaw, putting up the Cy Young line of 27 goals and nine assists after becoming the 'skill guy' alongside Moutrey and Buffalo Sabres pick Justin Kea. A team might see Sadowy's drive and determine that it can bring his skating up to snuff.
Hunter Smith, right wing, Oshawa Generals (39th from 140th) — The Big Rig, listed at 6-foot-6½ and 208 pounds, got over some of his teen gawkiness to become a strong finisher for Gens, where he has 11 points in the first six playoff games. (Oshawa, granted, hasn't had strong opposition but that's still pretty decent.) Height and hands can't be taught. Smith wasn't looked at for the 2013 draft, but bear in mind he only made the age cutoff by four days.
Darcy Llewellyn, left wing, Kitchener Rangers (64th from 113th) — The redhead from Ann Arbor, Mich., started the year as a fourth-liner, but broke out as a 25-goal scorer on a team with a dearth of veteran catalysts. Llewellyn scored only six goals after Jan. 1, so presumably there was a commensurate improvement in his all-around game. Teammate Nick Magyar, inexplicably left off the OHL all-rooke team, moved up from 52nd at the midterm to 32nd.
Kelly Summers, defence, Carleton Place Canadians (73rd from 155th) — The Central Canada Hockey League has produced one pick in each of the past three drafts, as it's more of a loop for the late bloomer who blossoms in the NCAA. Summers, a Clarkson Golden Knights commit, could somewhat break that mould. On a CCHL scale, he's been likened to a young version of Chris Phillips, becoming a dynamic two-way defenceman with NHL-requisite size at 6-foot-2, 195. Normally, a 17-year-old defenceman in Junior A is playing a depth role, but Summers was a point-a-game scorer and has also helped the Canadians reach the league final.
Roland McKeown, defence, Kingston Frontenacs (27th from 15th) — Going from the middle of the first round to borderline first round stands out, but rankings for offensive defencemen tend to have a lot of standard deviation. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound McKeown has a great set of tools as a right-shooting offensive defenceman and uses his stick sagely, but it's fair to wonder how being more of a positional defenceman than a pounder will transition.
There is a curious phenomena with teammates of a possible NHL lottery pick that scouts make sure to watch, and watch, and watch some more because of the size of the investment involved. There's more of a chance to pick nits with the other guys. Sometimes less heralded players also get an artificial bump.
Aaron Haydon, defence, Niagara IceDogs (54th from 28th) — The 'Dogs have sniper Brendan Perlini ranked eighth among domestic skaters and Brent Moran is the top-ranked OHL goalie (and he's even from Ontario to boot, imagine). The 6-foot-2½, 197-pound Haydon and 6-foot-½, 192-pound blueline mate Blake Siebenaler ended up ranked consecutively at Nos. 54 and 55. Haydon, as a first-rounder in the OHL priority selection, came into the season with more cachet and has good size. Siebenaler, by season's end, seemed to have more rope from IceDogs coach-GM Marty Williamson. Put this down to a contrast between tools vs. hockey sense, although both Haydon and Siebenaler has plenty of each trait.
Matt Mistele, left wing, Plymouth Whalers (88th from 51st) — The Whalers broke in four new centres this season and Mistele went from a 34-26-60 on a stacked team in 2012-13 to 18-19-37 on a very young team. Whalers coach-GM Mike Vellucci told BTN in February that he believed Mistele had found his form down the stretch, but the team's playoff run ended too quickly for the Whitby, Ont., native to make much of a late push. Mistele could be that type of value pick teams find in the middle of the draft.
Two other Whalers, Connor Chatham (46th from 30th) and Josh Wesley (111th from 79th), were also reassessed.
Reid Duke, centre, Lethbridge Hurricanes (137th from 65th) — Being on the worst team in the Western Hockey League didn't help. Just as there's a good team bump, there's a bad team drag. Duke certainly has his backers.
Jacob Middleton, defence, Ottawa 67's (172nd from 87th) — Middleton found himself as a top-pairing D for a 67's club that outshot only seven teams all season, which meant a lot of defensive zone time and higher potential to make a mistake. That is a lot for a defenceman to bite off in his second season, especially after being limited to a half-year as a 16-year-old due to a high-ankle sprain. Whether those are excuses or extenuating circumstances are in the eye of the beholder.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.