In my last article, the Under 18 Review, I mentioned that in the near future I'd have the opportunity to ask McKeen's Scouting Director David Burstyn a few questions about the tournament. Well the near future has become the present as today Dave was able to answer some of my questions about the tournament (which he was at live), and the draft in general.
If you remember, we last spoke to Dave in January. He's always got great insight and I appreciate his candidness. He doesn't hold back any punches.
Here's the transcript:
Brock Otten - Obviously the big buzz in the scouting community revolves around the completion of the Under 18's. I understand you were in the Czech Republic to take in the action live. Which OHL players who suited up for Canada did you feel had the best tournament and did anyone really raise their draft stock with their performance?
David Burstyn - Several OHL players I thought played very well in particular Matt Murray and Scott Laughton. Murray gave Team Canada a chance to win each game and was especially good in the semi-final game against Team USA where he only surrendered two goals and made some big saves earlier in the contest to keep Team Canada in the game. Since the second half of the season, Murray has really improved on all facets of his game namely his rebound control. He can still sprawl and be out of position to make a save but he does have a high compete level and doesn't give up on shots. At 6'5 he has the requisite size NHL teams look for in the position. Upgrades need to be made to his skating.
Laughton played very well as he was situated on the top two lines and was the architect on a line with Gaunce and Sam Reinhart. He was constantly creating and was hard on the puck. Considering how he retooled his game in the second half and in the playoffs, his draft stock rose for us however his U18 performance also helped his cause.
Additionally Darnell Nurse played very well as he was partnered up with Dumba and often recovered for Dumba's 'maverick' style of play. Nurse was a regular on the PK and has such great size and athleticism that he can be an ideal shut-down defender, something GM Dubas asked him to do in the second half of the season. This tournament undoubtedly spiked his development and he should stand a great chance to make the Hlinka tournament as a result as he is already on Hockey Canada' s radar.
The assessments that you made on other Team Canada players on your site were also very accurate!
BO - Just the same, was there an OHL player whose performance disappointed you? A guy whose draft stock might have taken a bit of a hit?
DB - It is important not to over value a tournament such as this based on six games and forget about the player's entire body of work all season. For example Scott Kosmachuk (aside from Kerby Rhychel who is a late '94) scored the most goals in the OHL amongst draft eligible players on this team but he was essentially lost in the shuffle as he received very limited shifts and was relegated to the fourth line after the Czech game. Having said that when he did play, he was very enthusiastic however his shifts were so sparse it was difficult to get a read on him.
Zharkov was another player that did not have much of an impact on games. He played with good line mates however the Russian team as a whole was very disappointing. Too often he would make individual rushes that would quickly dissolve and he simply did not generate enough scoring chances. Even though the entire team struggled, Zharkov didn't help matters, as there appears to be a dimension missing from his game.
BO - Let's turn our attention to another important event, the OHL playoffs. I'll ask you the same question. Any draft eligible players who you think have really performed well in the postseason and raised their ranking?
DB - I mentioned Laughton and I was particularly impressed with him in games against Niagara as he would engage physically and even fought in a game when the Generals were down 5-0. This shows to me his true character and willingness to do anything to win.
I thought Jake Paterson helped his cause better than any other player. Since the coaching change, Saginaw's entire approach to systems defence and break-outs were completely revamped and it gave Paterson more confidence in his defence partners, the end result was improved play. He has good size, is always in position and certainly looked poised to even beat London at one point during their series. Paterson is a perfect example at how getting hot at the right moment can salvage a mediocre first half of the season as I firmly believe he cemented his status as a top 60 prospect following his playoff run.
BO - And again, are there any players who you feel have had a quiet postseason/you've been disappointed with?
DB - I didn't feel that Nick Ebert was able to help his cause during the London series. His draft stock has plummeted since the beginning of the year and his playoff was full of defensive errors and a stagnant offensive game. At this point he lacks an identity.
Even thought he enters the draft as the top rated player, I felt that Nail Yakupov's playoff was very poor. He sported a team worse -7 and looked like a different player following the Mike Halmo hit as he was not playing his inside game. When you look at the Spirit defenseman on paper, Yakupov should have been able to pick apart each and everyone of them yet they kept him in check and he appeared visibly frustrated following game four. He was a virtual non-factor in the final two games when the team needed him most.
BO - I have to ask you about the return of Alex Galchenyuk. How do you feel he fared in his brief return to action? Did he cement himself as a Top 10 pick? Top 5 pick?
DB - We have always had him in our top 10 since the beginning of the season. I was part of the scouting staff that drafted Galchenyuk with the first overall pick so I understand the mental make up of the player and the fact that he willingly came back and not only played but contributed in the playoffs is a testament to his skill and character. He is a player that leads by example and has the skills to be a game breaker at the NHL level, his skating has marked considerable improvement and he plays a 200 foot game. During the playoffs he was a step behind plays but given the severity of his injury, one can certainly not fault him for that. Galchenyuk is extremely hard working off the ice as his training regimen rivals that of current NHL'ers. I think given his commitment and the work he will do in the off-season he has an outside chance of sticking next year in the NHL. He will certainly get his 6-8 game NHL audition similar to that of Mark Schiefele of the Winnipeg Jets last season.
BO - After Yakupov and Galchenyuk, the votes seem to be split on who the best forward available from the OHL. Who do you favour, Kitchener's Radek Faksa, or Belleville's Brendan Gaunce?
DB - I have struggled with this one all season and fortunately I still have an opportunity to see Faksa upon my return from the U18's. At this point I am leaning towards Faksa, a player who can do many little things well, is extremely diligent on the defensive side of the puck and has enough creativity in the offensive zone. At worst he is a Radek Dvorak at best he is a Bobby Holik. While the Dvorak comparison may not be the most flattering, he was a former first round pick (top 10), managed to play in a top six rotation for several organizations and has played over 1100 games. Naturally Faksa would have to improve his foot speed and skating.
BO - In similar fashion, the vote seems to be split on who the top defenseman available from the OHL is. Some say Ceci. Some say Maatta. Some even say Finn or Koekkoek. Again, who do you favour?
DB - I would say that Ceci and Maatta are in the only two defenseman in this discussion. I have wrestled with this one as well having seen each player more than a dozen times each however my nod goes to Maatta for a multitude of reasons. Maatta will be able to play a more complete two-way game at the NHL level. Once he learns to let the play come to him in the defensive zone through coaching he will be very serviceable as he can also make a solid first pass. Maatta has great range and considering how well he has adapted to North America in his first season, (Ceci has already played three OHL seasons) and how much Coach Hunter leans and trusts him in all situations he is my choice. Maatta showed great mental resolve as well to come back from his concussions after the WJC and finish strongly in the months of February/March and is currently enjoying a long playoff run.
BO - What about Koekkoek though? Obviously there's intrigue about his potential, but his enigmatic play/combined with the season ending injury seems to have him slowly falling on most lists. Is he still a first rounder in your opinion?
DB - I thought Koekkoek came into the season with a tad too much hype however one can not argue the impact he had on the Petes. Had he been healthy, they would have made the playoffs as he was playing upwards of 35 minutes a game. If you look at the stats only two defenseman scored more points than him however he played 25-35 less games than his counterparts. Koekkoek needs to work on his defensive game but he has size, skating ability and can handle the puck, which should make him a first round selection.
BO - Same question, different player. Jarrod Maidens still seems to be ranked in or near the first round on most lists despite not playing since before the Christmas break due to a concussion. Just where do you see him being taken in the draft?
DB - Maidens has yet to play since November 30 and it is rather unfortunate as I was very excited to watch his development. Maidens has always been one of the best players in his age group and the season started with considerable promise for him as he was on the top line to start the season. Maidens skates well and has great size in addition to his maturing offensive game. He needs to compete harder, win his board battles and move his feet more in the offensive zone. Nonetheless he is a second round selection and if a team had two picks in that round, he would be a worthy gamble.
BO- I want to ask you a question about an "overage" prospect (something that a lot of draft fans seem curious about). Seth Griffith. I thought for sure he'd be drafted last year. Obviously it didn't happen. He comes back this year and looks fantastic (IMO). Yet, we don't hear anything about him being ranked the way say, Tanner Pearson is. Why is that?
DB - Personally I was shocked that he was not drafted last year either but his situation may not be different than Justin Azevedo's was in Kitchener. Griffith put up outstanding regular season numbers and has continued his strong play into the playoffs. Size definitely is a factor and his play without the puck needs considerable work however his offensive zone awareness is at a premium. I do not think NHL teams will make the same mistake twice as he should be selected in Pittsburgh however if he is not I am sure he will get a call immediately by a majority of NHL teams after the draft asking him to join their camps as a free agent invite.
BO - Last time we spoke, I asked you about some guys flying under the radar who people should take more notice of. One of them was Niagara forward Joel Wigle. Have to admit, you were right on the money there. Had a chance to see Niagara play several times in the second half and he was fantastic despite limited ice time. Are there any other guys you really feel aren't getting enough exposure right now?
DB - I like a handful of players. Josh Anderson is no longer considered a 'sleeper' after his long playoff run and NHL Central moving him up considerably. However it is important to note that he scored double digit goals on the fourth line with virtually no PP time. He is an interchangeable forward who works incredibly hard on the fore check and uses his size advantageously.
Another player I thought improved alot during the course of the year was Ben Johnson. He is a great skater, led the Spitfires in hits, plays a good offensive game and was on their first PK unit. His style of play reminds me alot of Darren Helm.
Lastly, Jake Dotchin was a player that improved considerably for Owen Sound to the point where GM DeGray traded away Petgrave and Schemitsch at the trade deadline to open up more ice time for him. He can make surprising plays with the puck, is naturally physical, will drop the gloves and has improved not only his footwork but his puck decisions as well. He has made himself endearing to both his team mates and the coaching staff absolutely loves him.
BO - Perhaps we could do a little rapid fire to conclude the Q & A... From the OHL, which draft prospect:
a) is the best skater (if it's Yakupov, maybe give us another one too):
DB - In terms of quickness and speed Gemel Smith
b) has the best shot (again if Yakupov, maybe an additional one):
DB - Marchese - lethal on the PP as it is geared around his shot
c) has the best vision/playmaking ability:
DB - Scott Laughton - he finds his trailers and is always aware of his line mates in correlation with the play, in addition he can generate and maintain a good cycle
d) is the best defensive player as a forward:
DB - Radek Faksa
e) is the hardest worker on the ice:
DB - Josh Anderson and Garrett Hooey
f) has the greatest potential to be that guy people say, "man how was he drafted so late?"
DB - Dane Fox, despite some 'character issues' he has a little bit of Dave Bolland in him and his skills and skating ability are elite
BO - Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions Dave. Could you tell us how we can order the McKeens Draft Guide this year?
DB - This year our draft guide package consists of three separate PDF's for the low price of $30, which is essentially $10 per issue.
The first PDF features over 20 pages and covers the WJC and U17 tournament. Our second PDF is 30 pages and highlights eight prospects in lengthy detail from all the leagues including the CHL, USHL, Prep School, CCHA and of course Europe.
Lastly our final draft guide which will be out May 25 will focus on the top 100-125 players, feature Honourable mentions and Sleeper picks. In addition we will include the top 30+ for 2013 and the top 10 for 2014.
I am very proud of the product and the work all of our scouts put in this season, having gone to the U18's and seen over 300 live games of various leagues this season, coupled with our network of scouts scattered through North America and Europe. This showcases to our loyal subscribers and potential new ones, that we have a great handle on the prospects and paint the picture of them accurately. I guarantee that purchasers of the Draft Guide Package will not be disappointed!
Our draft guide link can be found here :
We are also running a very cool Yakupov signed jersey promo with no purchase required:
Lastly, fans and draft enthusiasts can follow me on twitter:
Thanks so much for the opportunity to talk OHL Prospects with you Brock, it is always a pleasure!