Takeaways From NHL Central Scouting’s Final Rankings
By virtue of not being a particularly good hockey team, the Flyers have been sent home to watch while other teams compete in the playoffs for the Stanley Cup. We’ve even done the exit interviews. Now it’s time for Central Scouting Rankings.
The next interesting landmark in the Flyers’ existence is May 8th, the day of the draft lottery. That’s when they’ll learn their fate.
Will they get lucky, and have Connor Bedard or Adam Fantilli fall into their laps?
Or–as is more likely–will they have to find high-impact players further down the board?
Assuming that the latter case happens, and the Flyers are selecting between 7-9 on draft day, it’s helpful to know the players who are going to exist in that range and a general guideline of what those players can provide at the peak of their development. They’re not guaranteed to be superstars. Many of them aren’t even likely to be superstars.
But contrary to popular belief, you are allowed to dream! It is possible. The most fun part of the draft process is finding some gem you like who you swear will shatter expectations and become the next big thing.
Of course, in order to shatter expectations, we need to have a clear understanding of what those expectations are. For that, the NHL Central Scouting Board is a good baseline to determine where the private NHL scouting community sees these players.
Their list is broken down between North America and International players, and we’re going to break down a couple of interesting portions here.
Note: this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive ranking. Not at all.
Those will become more relevant over time. For now, I just thought it was time to introduce a couple of names to the draft day discourse using these rankings as a launching pad.
Ryan Leonard Gains Respect.
One of the most slept-on prospects of this draft cycle is easily Ryan Leonard. There was a misconception somewhere along the way that he wasn’t a skilled player, or that he was the two-way presence of the NTDP’s top line. That sentiment was ridiculous.
For one thing, it would be ridiculous to assume the top line of the NTDP even had a two-way influence. They didn’t. They were either being buried in their own end or scoring ridiculous highlight-reel goals. There was no in-between. Actually, one of the more pleasant developments to Leonard’s game was that he became a bit more of a defensively conscious player as the year went on.
“We knew him as a highly-skilled player all the time, but he added a 200-foot element to his game,” Gregory said. “He has competitiveness and grittiness and is willing to be the guy that stirs the pot if that’s what his team needs, and shows leadership that way. He can read the game very well and is built like a truck. He can handle any kind of physical play and that’s made him a more complete player.”
With 42 goals and 34 assists in 49 games, it’s no secret what Leonard is. He’s a goal scorer first and foremost who can make a play to his teammate when he’s there.
He’s a damn good goal scorer, too. His shot isn’t the missile that future teammate (and Flyers teammate) Cutter Gauthier possesses, but it’s deadly accurate. And his release is quick. He’s a bumper player for the program, and I think it’s the perfect spot for him on all Power Plays as he develops.
The most intriguing part about Leonard, though, also goes for some of his higher-end teammates. His production carried over to the NCAA games that he played with the NTDP.
The Program is stacked with talent in every year, but that talent isn’t always ready to produce at the next level. That couldn’t be said at all for Leonard. He had 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 22 games against NCAA competition.
Is that because he’s playing with top-end teammates? Partly, yes, but to be over a point per game against competition decidedly older than you is not normal either way. And it isn’t even normal for the NTDP kids.
Beyond a goal scorer, Leonard is a power-winger through and through. He stands at 5’11”, but he weighs 192 lbs. He’s already built with more muscle than most kids his age, even ones who are several inches taller than him.
He uses strength and an underappreciated skill level to protect pucks and create the time and space that he needs to either use his own shot or find a teammate. His playmaking isn’t particularly fancy. He doesn’t try things as creative or as audacious as his higher-profile teammate Will Smith, but he completes effective plays at an efficient rate.
The idea of someone like Leonard is something like Matthew Tkachuk. He has the skill to make dangerous plays often, even if most of his individual plays aren’t going to end up on highlight reels. It’s a nauseatingly efficient game that Tkachuk plays where, before you know it, he’s racked up 40 goals and 100 points.
The capacity for high-end potential is there in Leonard. It isn’t remotely a guarantee that he hits it, but if it was, he wouldn’t be available past 3rd overall.
Nate Danielson Rises Fast
Nate Danielson has some assets that immediately attract him to scouts. He’s 6’1″ and 185lbs as an 18-year-old, which means he would grow into an NHLer of above-average size. He has speed and a quality shot. There were some question marks about his playmaking ability and his smarts in general.
Playing for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, Danielson started to answer those questions. And he answered them emphatically. The Wheat Kings were not a talented team around Danielson, but he did everything he could in the second half of their season to singlehandedly carry that offense. It was a herculean effort, but he nearly managed it.
The Director of NA Scouting for EliteProspects.com had this to say about Danielson and his second-half surge:
“Until recently, Nate Danielson’s WHL career has been one of solid impact but not dynamic play. That’s changing. He’s become more aggressive with the puck, cutting inside on defenders and attacking the net more. The depth of skill he shows is exciting: edges, handling skill, shooting, and vision. As Danielson continues to tighten up his timing and reads, those flashy sequences of individual skill should result in even more offense.
Speaking of vision, Danielson’s also become quite the playmaker. He’s more deceptive, more manipulative, and completing more advanced quick-possession and one-touch plays. The give-and-go regularly features, allowing him to bypass defenders with a pass before relocating for a scoring chance.
While Danielson’s production has slowed just a touch in recent weeks, he still has 43 in his last 30 on a mid-table team. And he is Brandon’s offense, shooting or setting up 25 percent of their chances at 5-on-5 in a seven-game sample, a top-20 rate in the CHL.”
Central Scouting concurred:
“In the second half of the season, I thought he really started to play and use all his assets, his size, his smarts, his speed, his shot,” Central Scouting’s John Williams said. “I think it reflects in how well he did over the second half and got rewarded with a little bump in the rankings. From a coaching perspective, you can throw him anywhere in the lineup. I really like him on the wing because he uses his speed more playing the wing, but he can play center, can kill penalties, and can run a power play.”
I’m not sure where he’ll go on draft day, or if he’s the guy the Flyers will take. But he’s played himself into some consideration for that kind of pick, and he’ll almost surely go in the top-15.
Plainly put? Danielson is a beast. And he’s developing rapidly.
Mandatory Credit: Dan Hickling - Hickling Images