Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Q & A with Mckeen's Director of Scouting David Burstyn

This week David Burstyn, the Director of Scouting for Mckeen's Hockey, took time out of his busy schedule to answer some of my questions about the OHL and the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Mckeen's Hockey has been around for a little while now and you may recognize the name based on the NHL season preview magazine (the best of the bunch IMO) that they put out in stores every year. But I would say their roots are grounded in the NHL Draft and they do an equally good job putting out scouting reports, rankings and a draft guide each draft year.

The link to their website can be found on my blog roll on the home page, but in case you're too lazy to look a little bit to the right, here it is again.

Here is the transcript of the Q & A between David and I:

Otten - Firstly David, thanks for doing taking the time to answer my questions. Let’s start off with something general. How do you see the talent level from the OHL this year? Is it a good year? Better than last years crop?

Burstyn - This year talent from the OHL is deep but I never like to draw comparisons from previous drafts. Each one is individual of one another and offers something unique hence why scouting each year is so exciting. Our current list has the three top picks hailing from the OHL; Hall, Seguin and Fowler in that order. There are many other players that should creep into the first round more so than any other CHL league. Players such as Hishon, Skinner and Spooner are smaller guys but have proved that they can bring something to the table. The Russians, both Telegin and Burmistrov are also first round selections as they have adapted nicely to the North American style of play and have thrived for their respective clubs. The OHL also boasts some considerable depth with the likes of Smith Pelle, Knight, Archibald and Beukeboom as strong second round picks.

Otten - Just how close are Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin as the top available players from the OHL (and in the entire draft)? If you've got the first pick, who do you take?

Burstyn - This is a difficult question to answer as they are both elite talents that bring a different dynamic to the table. I have seen each player live over a dozen times this year including the playoffs and it still has not become any easier. Hall brings a level of speed and game breaking ability whereas Seguin appears to process the game better and offers outstanding vision. Personally I would take Hall at this point simply due to the fact that he has won the Memorial Cup, captured MVP honours and also played a key role in Canada’s silver medal performance at the WJC. Truthfully though I do not think either would be a poor selection but whichever NHL team has the privilege to be in a position to draft either one will be based entirely on team needs. Should Edmonton select first they may opt for Seguin to compliment Paarjarvi.

Otten - Is Cam Fowler still mentioned in the same breath as Hall and Seguin, or has he fallen behind a bit? If so, has a guy like Erik Gudbranson narrowed the gap as the third best player available from the OHL (and the top defenseman)?

Burstyn - Fowler is third and is a good option but not in the same respect as either of two forwards. Fowler has remained steady all season and does an admirable job patrolling the blue line for one of the best teams in the OHL. While there are some concerns about his lack of physical play, Fowler has a great skill package and handles himself with tremendous poise. Gudbranson has not looked the same as he did at the U18’s last year in North Dakota due to a variety of reasons namely injuries. He appears to still be recovering from Mono as his play has been sluggish.

Otten - If Hall, Seguin, Fowler, and Gudbranson are the top 4 available from the OHL, who's the fifth best? Is there a group of players in that range?

Burstyn - Burmistrov is making a strong case for him to be drafted in the top 10. He endeared himself to NHL scouts by coming to the OHL and following that up with a very productive season. He has all the tangibles to be a player as he is fast, instinctive and can score.

Otten - Just how big are the OHL playoffs for draft eligible players? Just how much can a really strong or weak performance affect a player's ranking? The one example I can think of is Brent Burns in 2003, who used a strong performance for Brampton to creep into the first round.

Burstyn - The playoffs are massive and it is no different than the NHL. Players are measured when the chips are down and the stakes get higher. While that may sound like a cliché the bottom line is NHL scouts are flocking to CHL rinks to catch one last glimpse of a player. I was sitting with an NHL scout in Barrie last night and he told me that he will be flying to Moose Jaw on Monday and then coming back on Tuesday to see Spooner and Watson in Mississauga. While I do not have quite the budget I have made arrangements to see at least one game of each series for extensive coverage of all the draft eligible prospects for that exact reason.

Otten - What are your thoughts on John McFarland? He seems to be dropping like a dead weight right now. Can a strong performance at the Under 18's (assuming Sudbury fails to come back from a 3-0 deficit) save his draft stock?

Burstyn - McFarland has to be more accountable for his play. He struggled considerably this season with only 1 goal in the month of November and did not finish well down the stretch. Hockey Canada is very fond of McFarland though. They view him as another Patrice Cormier, a player that can fill that role. I am confident McFarland will make that team and given a strong performance his stock could bounce back. He still needs to mature but he does have many nice attributes that NHL teams are drawn too.

Otten - What's the deal with Stephen Silas? Every time I've seen him play, I've come away impressed and I thought he had a fantastic Top Prospects Game. Has playing on such a poor Belleville team this year negatively affected his draft ranking? Is he a guy who could vault himself into contention for the NHL first round with a strong performance at the Under 18's (assuming he's on the team)?

Burstyn - Silas is a steady defenseman who did a great job of improving his offensive stats and fell just behind fellow defenseman Lalonde in team points. He has done a really nice job of fixing his skating to the point where he handles himself very well on the Olympic sized ice in Belleville. His play at the TP game was very good despite his -2 rating. He often had to play against Hall and did a good job containing him. With that being said I do not think he will be a first rounder but a mid to late second is not out of the realm of possibility. I think he will make the U18 team as he made the Hlinka summer U18 team. Silas reminds me of a Ken Klee type of player, a serviceable low maintenance guy that could have a long standing career in the NHL.

Otten - Is Mark Visentin the top rated goaltender available from the OHL? If so, just how high can he go in June? If Visentin is number one, who's number two?

Burstyn - I would say Visentin is the #1 simply because he received a lot of playing time and did a great job in helping the Ice Dogs make the playoffs. His play down the stretch became one of the reasons that the Ice Dogs were able to avoid playing Barrie as he shined in his last half dozen starts. His game still has holes but I can see him landing within the top 90 due to the fact that he showed good mental composure and has solid mechanics. He still struggles with the long shots and that is an area of his game he will need to address. As far as other goalies in the OHL this season, Scott Wedgewood did not get much action behind Matt Hackett but he shows promise. I also liked the play of Petr Mrazek, he is unorthodox but successful.

Otten - Who?s the most underrated draft prospect from the OHL currently? Is there a guy you feel should be receiving more attention?

Burstyn - I have liked the play of Dalton Smith and Austin Levi. When I think of where these players were last year and the improvements they have made to their overall game it bodes well for their draft stock. Levi, (Plymouth) is a big defenseman with great mobility for his size and a cannon of a shot. He is still physically under developed but he has shown a willingness to drop the gloves and come to the aid of his team mates. Smith (Ottawa) has good NHL bloodlines as his father played for the Flyers. He improved his goal total by 19 and managed to play with some of the more talented players on the 67’s including Martindale and Toffoli and not only keep up but offensively produce. I was particularly fond of his physical play, banging bodies which opened up room for his team mates. He was also defensively conscious.

Otten - Not sure if you've read any of my articles (or theories) on the increase of the tendency for NHL teams to draft second and third year eligible players, but I'm curious about your take on the issue. Why do you think NHL scouting staffs are selecting more and more of these guys?

Burstyn - I am not familiar with your theories but my take is that players have improved and defined a niche for themselves. Graduations play a huge role in other players developing with increased ice time. I think last year was more of an anomaly than in third year players chosen in the ’08 draft.

Otten - This leads to my next question. Who are the top second and third year eligible players from the OHL? Which guys have a serious shot at getting drafted? Taylor Carnevale? Darren Archibald?

Burstyn - Quite frankly we were shocked that Archibald did not get drafted last year as we had him in our top 125. I believe he had a try-out with Columbus but I doubt that he will go undrafted again this season. Carnevale started off hot but fizzled without the PP time. Another guy that make get hard looks is Michael McDonald, he scored 25 goals this year for a very under the radar London Knight squad. He has great speed, a nose for the net and a tireless work ethic. He could possibly carve himself an NHL career by playing in that defined role.

Otten - What do you make of Owen Sound's Geoffrey Schemitsch and Niagara's Matt Petgrave? Both of these guys have really impressed me this year and seem like solid, under the radar type selections. Do they have a good shot of getting drafted in June?

Burstyn - Schemtisch broke his leg playing minor midget and as result not many teams saw him. He went undrafted and played Midget last year for Mississauga and made the Attack out of training camp. I thought he played much better at the beginning of the season and then with the arrival of Blacker he took a backseat and was no longer contributing as much as he had offensively. NHL teams may look at him as another case of deHaan; a player that came out of virtually no where. However his game is not as dynamic and if he gets drafted I suppose it would be late round as he simply is not dynamic enough. Petgrave is too erratic for my liking and I fear his lack of high end offensive ability coupled with his questionable decision making cripples his chances of being an NHL player.

Otten - While not directly related to this year's NHL draft, I'd be curious to hear who you think have been the most impressive 1993's in the league this season. Which four or five players have impressed you the most?

Burstyn - Team Ontario finished second at the U17 and only a hot American goalie in John Gibson got in their way of a third consecutive gold medal at that tournament. The OHL should be strong again and loaded with defenseman including the likes of Harrington, Sefton, Hamilton and Murphy. I think Landeskog will be an elite prospect and high end NHL pick. Matthew Puempel is a scoring machine and Boone Jenner has the potential to be a very dominate player next season.

Otten - Last question, when and how can my readers buy the McKeen's NHL Draft Guide for 2010? For those unfamiliar with your site, why should this be a must buy for any draft fanatic?

Burstyn - McKeens Hockey has become a reputable source and industry leader for prospect information for the last ten years. We produce a yearly magazine that sees a circulation of over 100,000 and have been mentioned on TSN and Sportsnet. This will be the third year we will be doing the NHL draft guide and have built a great reputation amongst our readers due to our strong content on the website. This can be credited to our committed group of area scouts that are dedicated to putting together the most thorough and comprehensive lists. The guide will feature profiles on the top 90 players along with several stories that are sure to interest hockey draft enthusiasts. mckeenshockey.com has a link that has been set up to preview the player profile page as well as a cover. There will also be a pre-order option set up within the week. Repeat and new customers will be happy to see that we have lowered our rates while not compromising the quality of our content.

Otten - Thanks so much for answering my questions David!


Anonymous said...

Very cool interview, Brock. You da man! Interested in more info on the 2nd/3rd year eligibles. What do you think about the chances for guys like Schmitz, Jenner, & Mahalak especially considering your recent theory? I think all three have stepped up this year, but is it enough to put them on th board in June?

Brock Otten said...


Well all three of those guys fit into a different category.

Due to his late birthday, Mahalak is actually first time eligible this year. Considering his injury troubles (and the interruption of his development), I think he'll be hard pressed to get drafted this year though.

Jenner is not eligible for the draft as an overager. He is able to sign an NHL deal though. He came in at number 10 on my top OA's to sign list recently (Sunday Top 10 article), so I think he's got a slight chance. Might not get an NHL deal, but could earn an AHL/ECHL deal if he decides to stay away from the CIS for now.

Schmitz definitely has a chance as a second time eligible. Made definite improvements defensively and in his decision making with the puck. I'm still not sure he's big enough though for the NHL level (at least in the role that he plays). When I release my Sunday Top 10 of the top 2nd and 3rd year eligibles for the draft, I'm really not anticipating him being on it.

Ryan said...

Awesome read, honestly one of my favourites all year.

Part of me was really hoping you'd ask about a few of our underdogs, and the guys we interviewed this year Schemitsch, Knight, Wind and for me Chiarlitti.

I did see a little about Schemitsch, but a minor comment about Knight, but was more curiosity than anything, and you looked like you had a full slate of questions anyways :)