Hockey Prospectus’ writer Corey Pronman recently released his Flames top-10 prospects list. Pronman concentrates almost completely on the issues of prospects and amateur player procurement, so rather than simply post the list I decided to supplement his ranking with an interview discussing his methods and some of the particulars about the Flames system.
1.) For those unaware, share the basic methods or process you use to evaluate prospects. Do you rely on quantitative data, first-hand observation, second hand reports or some mix therein?
I watch every player myself a handful of times to make sure I have a grasp of who the player is, and then I talk to scouts and executives to supplement those notes. I only use stats as a glance-only reference, since there’s way too much context missing in basic stats (QUALCOMP, Corsi, Zone Starts etc.) that using scouting-based observations in my opinion is the only way you can get a truly accurate feel of a player.
2.) What factor(s) do you use to grade prospects when you’re putting together a top-10 type list?Current NHL readiness, future ceiling, overall raw ability, etc? Are some weighted heavier than others?
The most important factor is just their overall talent level, and at what projected level I think they can control possession in the NHL. That means looking at a player’s skills on the puck, their hockey IQ, puck-moving ability, etc. among many other factors that dictate puck possession. The closer they get to the NHL, the better you have a grasp of how projectable they are in the league and to what degree so it helps their value. In terms of raw upside, that’s just a case of risk management at times and how much a certain risk is worth in terms of the possible value. I also look at market values too by positions amongst some other things. Puck possession skills though are far and away the most important when it comes to evaluations, everything else is secondary.
3.) For interests sake, where would you have ranked Tim Erixon if he was still Flames property?
I have him as a top 15 prospect in the NHL (2011 picks included), so #1 obviously. He’s probably the best defensive prospect in the league behind Adam Larsson and maybe Brandon Gormley.
4.) You rank the Flames latest first-round pick Sven Bartschi as their best prospect currently, but note that his physical game is fringe at best. To what degree will he have to improve this area of his play before he can make the leap to the NHL?
It’s just strength, and it’s a common liability in nearly all 18 year old prospects. Most prospects are able to just get their work done in the gym to fix it, but there’s enough players who haven’t been able to do it, that it’s something you have to note and keep in the back of your head during evaluations. His intangibles point towards him working to fixing it, but with how physically poor he looked at times (despite showing good work ethic in the physical areas) it may take a few years.
5.) Your scouting report on Greg Nemisz makes him sound a lot like current Flame David Moss (albeit a bigger and perhaps slower version). Would you say that’s his potential ceiling in the NHL?
I’m not comfortable comparing players to one another, but I think Nemisz’s ceiling is a bit beyond that.
6.) John Gaudreau didn’t make your top-10. Where would you rank him amongst the Flames prospects overall?
He’d be in the 11-14 range. He’s a tremendously skilled player, but there’s not enough to his package beyond his skills. He was basically the TJ Tynan of this year’s draft. Tynan last year was praised as a top-end skills and playmaking forward, but as a very small player with only average skating, and that’s more or less the reports I’ve gotten on Gaudreau. Tynan went undrafted last year out of the USHL, went to college, improved his skating tool significantly, ended up being the best player on a team that went to the NCAA championship game, and went in the 2nd round this year. Gaudreau’s assets are in all the important areas, but he’s never going to improve his stature, so if he just gets that extra couple steps in his skating he could be a prospect who flies up the Flames’ prospect list. Until then, he likely is going to have an AHL-only tag applied to his name.
7.) Leland Irving was also left off the list and you state he is in danger of being passed on the depth chart by Joni Ortio. How close is Irving to being a "first round bust"?
He’s close, and I’d say he’s on a tight leash currently to make a push to show he’s an NHL-er before he gets the "no prospect" tag. I also said that Irving has been passed by Ortio (rather than in danger of being passed – ed.).
Thanks again to Corey for taking the time to answer my questions. For reference sake, here is how Pronman ranks the Flames prospects currently:
1. Sven Bartschi, Left Wing
2. T.J. Brodie, Defense
3. Greg Nemisz, Right Wing
4. Max Reinhart, Center
5. Ryan Howse, Left Wing
6. Chris Breen, Defense
7. Paul Byron, Center
8. Mitch Wahl, Center
9. Roman Horak, Center
10. Lance Bouma, Center
Make sure to swing by HP to see read the explanation behind the rankings and a scouting report of each player.