Perhaps the most interesting of the prospects we’ve covered so far is Matt Puempel. The OHL’s rookie of the year in 2009-10 after scoring 34 goals and 69 in 59 games, Puempel was considered a probable top-10 talent into the season before injuries and circumstances derailed things a bit. He still pops up in the first round on most lists, but unless someone goes off-board Puempel will most certainly be available when 13 rolls around.
As mentioned, Puempel hit the ball out of park in his rookie season for the Peterborough Petes with a PPG pace (1.25) that rivals many of the first round draft eligibles this year. Those numbers are notable in most circumstances, but outstanding for a guy who was 16 years-old when the season started in 2009.
A few things went south on Puempel this year though. Firstly, the Petes were terrible. They finished second last in the Eastern Division with a -103 goal differential (thus his own ghastly -33 rating). Only two other clubs in the entire league managed less goals than Peterborough’s 195. On top of that, Puempel suffered a season ending hip injury that required surgery and limited him to just 55 games.
His numbers in those games are bit conflicted as far as which way the arrows point. The Petes managed just 157 GF with Puempel in the line-up, meaning he accounted for an eye-popping 43.9% of the team’s total offense. On the other hand, his ES and PP point split is one of the worst we’ve seen of prospects so far: 46.4% ES/ 47.8% PP (and 4 empty net points) meaning he was more reliant on the man advantage than anyone we’ve looked at so far. With the Pete’s being such a weak sister this year (Puempel led the team in scoring despite playing 13 less games than second place Austin Watson) it’s hard to know if the ES/PP split is an indictment of the player or simply a reflection of playing with next to no help.
It’s hard to ignore the percentage of team offense though. With most high-end kids hovering around the 30% mark in their draft years, Puempel was far more integral to his club’s attack than most others. That said, maybe if the club was any good that wouldn’t have been the case.
On the qualitative side of things, Corey Pronman had this to say about Puempel, whom he ranked 33rd overall:
Matt Puempel is one of the better goal-scoring prospects in this draft class, but one who after the shot/finishing tool has a lot of aspects that need to be fine-tuned. He has terrific mechanics and accuracy on a shot that is above-average and flashes plus potential. The word "quick release" is sometimes overused in scouting circles, but with Puempel his release is something that separates him from other goal-scorers and his ability to get quality shots off in motion and without having to set his feet is a very desirable trait. He anticipates the play well coming out of his own zone and finding gaps in the offensive zone to slide into scoring position. His puck skills are solid with the ability to handle the puck well in tight and he displays solid passing ability.
Puempel’s skating tool grades as below-average with average speed when he gets going in a straight line. While he does show decent balance and grit on the puck, he has to put on a fair amount of strength to continue playing his style of game at the next level. He has the hockey sense to play a decent defensive game, but like most young players, that aspect of his game isn’t as consistent as one would like it to be.
Strengths: NHL caliber shot, good offensive instincts
Weaknesses: strength, defensive game, poor skating
Puempel’s injuries, poor team and mix of abilities has him at the bottom of the first round according to many consensus outfits. NHL central scouting had him 28th amongst NA skaters while ISS ranked him 29th overall. As mentioned, Pronman had Puempel 33rd.
It’s hard to ignore the scoring he put up as a 16-year old and the high percentage of points he scored for his team this year. On the other hand, it sounds like Puempel has some holes in his game and the spectre of a major hip injury is one that will likely hang over him at the draft (although the same thing didn’t hurt Brett Connolly’s stock much last June).
Frankly, he seems like a guy who might be had in the second round which is probably where the Flames should target him.