Mock draft (cont.)
Austin Watson, RW, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Watson is considered a lock to become an NHL player solely on the basis of his defensive skill set. "He battles as hard as anyone," said a scout. "He plays with a lot of desire. He'll pay the price at both ends...blocking shots, battling for position. Whatever it takes." The question is: can Watson develop the offensive game to become a top-six forward? Word is that several NHL teams see it in him, and that could lead to his name being called sooner. I'm not sold. I see him as more of a Kris Draper-type in the NHL, which makes him the ideal choice for a team that's about to lose the real thing.
Mark Pysyk, D, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
The broken foot that cost him the last 24 games of the season hurt Pysyk more than the minus-19 rating he picked up playing for the woeful Oil Kings. "He lacks the high-end quality that everyone wants in a first rounder, but he's the sort of kid you can throw out there every other shift and feel confident that he'll make the right play." Pysyk makes a good first pass, and has the skating ability to lead the rush and the smarts to know when to take the chance. He comes up a little short in the physical game, however, and that likely will push him towards the end of the round.
Riley Sheahan, C, Notre Dame (CCHA)
The Sabres would love to add some more size and skill to their front lines, especially down the middle. Sheahan has the build (6-2, 195), but there are questions about his offensive upside after he scored just six goals as a freshman at Notre Dame. Still, scouts see him finding a way to contribute once he hits the pros. "He's a high energy player," said one, who compared him to a poor man's Jordan Staal. "Even if the hands don't come around, he has the [will and the skill] to be an effective shutdown center."
Brock Nelson, C, Warroad (Minn. HS)
The nephew of 1980 Olympic Miracle on Ice star Dave Christian is projected as a hard-hitting power forward. Scouts are praising his smarts and his considerable work ethic. "He's already a solid player, but you can tell how badly he wants to be more," said one. "He's a very coachable kid."
Nelson is expected to spend at least two years honing his craft at the University of North Dakota. No hurry, say the Hawks.
Jarred Tinordi, D, US NTDP
Call him a chunk off the old block. Already 6-6 and 205 pounds, the son of long-time NHL banger Mark Tinordi projects as a bigger, meaner version of his father -- exactly the sort of hold 'em accountable defender the Canucks are lacking. "You don't want to spend too much time around the crease when he's on the ice," said a scout. He also earns praise for his leadership and character. His dad has said he sees more of an offensive touch to his son's game than he himself had, but beyond a smart first pass, don't count on too much.
Quinton Howden, LW, Moose Jaw (WHL)
With Tinordi gone, the Caps can add some size and strength on the wings with the 6-2, 183-pound Howden.
"I see a bit of Ryan Kesler in him," said one scout. "Great skater, reads the play well, and he's strong on both sides of the puck. [I'm} not sure he'll ever have the touch [to play] a top-six role, but he's a player who will find a way to make an impact with his minutes." At worst, he's seen as a strong penalty-killer.
Evgeni Kuznetsov, C, Chelyabinsk (KHL)
If it wasn't for the Nikita Filatov factor, a player as talented as Kuznetsov would earn consideration as a top-10 choice. "He's inconsistent, but when he's on his game, he can be the most dominant player on the ice," a scout suggested. "But how many Russians have you heard that about?"
While his detractors point to a non-descript performance at the WJC and question his desire to play in North America, Kuznetsov has an apparent skill level that has to appeal to a team lacking high-end offensive talent in its system, like the Habs. It's a risky pick, but the potential payoff of a top-six forward will have Montreal swinging for the fences.
Charlie Coyle, F, South Shore (EJHL)
Coyle is "a bit of a project" according to one scout, but he should be worth the wait. The Boston University-bound winger has all the physical attributes -- he's 6-2, 207 and ranked in the top-five in the key fitness tests at the combine -- but his game is still a work in progress.
"He's strong and he skates and is terrific at protecting the puck," said the scout. "But you want to see if he can score against high-end competition." If Coyle takes after cousin Tony Amonte, that shouldn't be a problem.
Tyler Pitlick, C, Minnesota State (WCHA)
Like Howden, Pitlick is a big body (6-2, 204) who lacks an elite offensive touch but plays such a responsible two-way game that he projects as no worse than a solid third-line center.
"No one's going to buy a ticket to see him play, but he's the sort of guy who'll hang around [the league] a long time." said a scout. Pitlick plays an honest, physical game that reminds some of Washington's Dave Steckel.
Jaden Schwartz, C, Tri-City (USHL)
A Canadian version of Mikael Granlund, Schwartz is short on size (5-10, 180) but long on talent. He led the USHL in scoring last season (33-50-83 in 60 games), thanks to a great set of hands and tremendous vision that makes him the league's top playmaker. He needs to improve his skating -- he's shifty but lacks overall speed -- but that could develop while he matriculates at Colorado College. He may need all four years, but the defending champs can afford to let him take his time.
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