Memorial Cup Draft Evaluations

The Mastercard Memorial Cup is in Alberta this season for the first time since 1974. Since the London Knights are chock full of 2016 NHL Draft first-year eligible prospects and Red Deer is a relatively short drive, I made the trek up to check out Monday evening’s game.

Here’s my takeaways from London’s 9-1 whupping of the Brandon Wheat Kings.

LW MATTHEW TKACHUK

2nd-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting

As we were killing time in the Fan Fest beside the Enmax Centrium, a few fans told us that they heard that Tkachuk was injured. When he skated around, it was apparent that he was labouring a little bit. But besides a hitch in his giddy-up, he was one of London’s best players.

Skating on the top line with Christian Dvorak and Mitch Marner, Tkachuk made some really nice passes, protected the puck in the corners well, and set up Dvorak for a gorgeous tap-in on the first London power-play with a “blink and you’ll miss it” no-look cross-crease pass. By the time Brandon’s goalie realized that Tkachuk had the puck, it was on Dvorak’s stick and behind him. Tkachuk also scored on a two-on-one rush with Marner with 30 seconds left in the first to put the game out of reach.

An obviously not 100% Tkachuk was better than 95% of the players on either side, and he was still going into the corners hard and battling for pucks. I’m curious what he could do at 100%.

D OLLI JUOLEVI

5th-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting

Paired primarily with Aiden Jamieson (the Knights rotate bodies on the back-end situationally), Juolevi was smooth as silk. He regularly started off rushes with smart outlet passes, and generated lots of chances by his puck-moving abilities alone. He was rarely caught out of position and played a really smart game, using his size to box out attackers and his skating to keep the puck out of dangerous areas in his own end.

One word to describe him: poised.

LW MAX JONES

14th-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting

There are going to be 29 teams that absolutely hate Max Jones but really want him on their hockey club. He was all over the scoresheet: he took three minors, he drew three minors, and he had three shots and two points. He has good acceleration and uses his size well, to the point where he’s often a cross between a bowling ball and a battering ram in terms of his physicality.

Moreover, he was quite effective at agitating the Brandon players once London got a lead: he took a nice whack at Nolan Patrick late in the first period, and for the remainder of the game the Wheaties seemed just as interested in mucking it up with Jones as they were with trying to get back into the game.

On top of being an absolute pest, Jones has high-end skill. You’d hope he can reel in his antics a little bit, but you’d probably also want to be sure he’s engaged physically in every game. He was against Brandon, and he was a huge difference-maker for the Knights (along with linemates Cliff Pu and Aaron Berisha).

D VICTOR METE

74th-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting

Playing mostly on the second pairing, Mete is a smaller defender with almost Pu-like skating ability. He has the ability to keep pace with almost any attacker. Notably, he was able to keep up with Brandon’s superstar teen Nolan Patrick twice, once while skating backwards.

He also seemingly has a never-ending gas tank; he was kept out on the penalty kill for an entire two-minute span (despite the Knights having a couple whistles and the ability to change him off) and when the Knights went to a short bench in the third period after they went up 9-1, Mete was out for basically every second shift anyway.

C CLIFF PU

75th-ranked North American skater by Central Scouting

You could tell when Pu had the puck, because London fans loved shouting “Puuuuuuu!” Aside from the giggles, Pu seems to be a solid all-around player with really great skating. His mobility is almost deceptive, and he generated several scoring chances on his own simply with his speed and acceleration; by the time the defenders realized what was going on, he had closed the gap and stolen the puck.

He had a three-point night, never seemed to be out of position, and always seemed to find ways to create turnovers and turn on the jets to create separation between himself and the pursuing defenders. His skating alone should make him an NHLer.

G TYLER PARSONS

3rd-ranked North American goaltender by Central Scouting

You wouldn’t think the goaltender on the winning side in a 9-1 game would merit a lot of praise, but the Wheat Kings opened things up a lot in the second period and Parsons faced a ton of shots through traffic. He allowed just a single goal in the 47:38 that he played, and that one was a second-chance opportunity on a Brandon power-play.

Parsons tracked pucks well, reacted really well, and made 24 saves.

ALTERNATE PERSPECTIVE

I drove up with fellow Gauntlet alumnus and The Hockey Writers staffer Derek Neumeier, but we randomly ended up sitting next to Cult of Hockey’s Bruce McCurdy. Bruce obviously looks at things from an Edmonton Oilers perspective and was really keying in on Tkachuk and Juolevi. You can check out Bruce’s notes on the evening over at his neck of the woods!

      • Baalzamon

        I would agree with you that it’s a bit of a reach. Much prefer Tyler Benson at 35 if he’s there.

        Honestly, Carter Hart wouldn’t be a bad choice either. I’m normally not an advocate of taking goalies that early, but Hart has had really good results for a couple years now.

      • T&A4Flames

        I’m not sure what you or Baalzamon are talking about re: his rank. No, he’s not a top 6 pick, but he would be a steal at 35 IMO. The Hockey News had him ranked at 28 or something I believe.

        Baalzamon, no goalies with a top 60 pick please unless it’s being used to get a current #1 for us. Just no prospects.

        • freethe flames

          Central scouting has him ranked 75th amongst NA skaters.

          ISS does not have him in the top 30.

          I have been impressed by what I have seen but both these scouting organizations have seen him a lot so I think it’s a safe bet that taking him at 35 might be considered a reach.

          • T&A4Flames

            The Hockey News, which is a collaboration of a bunch of different scouts has him at #25, I just checked. During the intermission for the game against Brandon, the panel asked Chiarelli about him going in the 1st round to which he suggested it was a definite possibility. If he’s there at #35, we should definitly consider taking him.

          • Stan

            I would take central scouting and ISS’s rankings over “The Hockey News” rankings every day of the week and twice on Sundays. The Flames could do a LOT better with the 35th pick IMO. If he is available mid second round then maybe you consider trading up.

          • freethe flames

            Hockey news top 30 April 2016

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            2016 Draft Rankings: getting down to crunch timeRyan Kennedy
            By: Ryan Kennedy on April 14, 2016
            Filed under: Draft, International Hockey, Major Junior, NCAA, Predictions, Prospects SHARE: email
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            Pierre-Luc Dubois (Photo by Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)
            Pierre-Luc Dubois (Photo by Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)
            Welcome to the third installment of my 2016 draft rankings. I will do one more ranking before the actual festivities throw down in Buffalo, but with the CHL playoffs getting serious and the influential world under-18s about to start, this seemed like a good time for a snapshot. Here are a few notes to frame things:
            My rankings are based off numerous conversations with NHL team scouts/executives. They’re the only ones with skin in the game, so I value them the most. From those conversations, I’ve been told that this year’s crop is pretty good for about 20-23 picks and then the field is wide open. This is a sneaky way of me telling you the latter half of my first round may turn out to be off when all is said and done.

            For now, my rankings are based off “best player available.” This is pertinent because we would assume that Edmonton – guaranteed a top-five pick – will take a defenseman, based on organizational need. But anything can happen on draft day, so let’s just go with BPA for now.
            With that being said, here’s my updated top 30:
            Auston Matthews, C – Zurich Lions (Swi): Had a masterful season in Switzerland and despite an early playoff exit, the dominating, all-around center has more hockey to play. He’ll join Team USA for the IIHF World Championship in Russia.
            Patrik Laine, RW – Tappara (Fin.): Just won an epic playoff battle against No. 3 on my list. Laine is big, aggressive and can shoot the lights out. He is already incredible dangerous offensively and should have no problem stepping into the NHL next year.
            Jesse Puljujarvi, RW – Karpat Oulu (Fin.): Had some nice heroics himself in the playoffs. Puljujarvi may be a bit more rounded in his game than Laine and could also make the leap to the NHL next year.
            Matthew Tkachuk, LW – London (OHL): Just piling up points in his rookie OHL campaign. Smart, competitive and talented, Tkachuk has a ton of NHL attributes and is one of the best players on a stacked team.
            Pierre-Luc Dubois, LW – Cape Breton (QMJHL): A big riser as the season has gone on. Dubois is a versatile, 200-foot player who can rack up points and plays with a nasty edge.
            Olli Juolevi, D – London (OHL): The world juniors were a huge stage for Juolevi, whom scouts now prefer as the top defenseman in the draft. Smooth, poised and efficient.
            Mikey McLeod, C – Mississauga (OHL): Top-line centers are so hard to find and McLeod can be that guy. A powerful skater with some insane moves, he has also risen to the challenge at big events.
            Alexander Nylander, RW – Mississauga (OHL): Fantastic offensive force has great hands and vision. Great at the world juniors and in his brief playoff run with the Steelheads.
            Mikhail Sergachev – Windsor (OHL): Scouts and GMs love this kid. Sergachev has size, skill, skating and instincts. Plus, he is believed to be one of the most NHL-ready players in the class, too.
            Jakob Chychrun – Sarnia (OHL): Some team is gonna get a very good D-man in Chychrun. Juolevi and Sergachev have stolen his thunder, but the Sarnia product is still a great skater with size and skill.
            Clayton Keller, C – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
            Max Jones, LW – London (OHL)
            Julien Gauthier, RW – Val-d’Or (QMJHL)
            Tyson Jost, C – Penticton (BCHL)
            Logan Brown, C – Windsor (OHL)
            Jake Bean, D – Calgary (WHL)
            Dante Fabbro, D – Penticton (BCHL)
            Charlie McAvoy, D – Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)
            Logan Stanley, D – Windsor (OHL)
            Kieffer Bellows, LW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
            Luke Kunin, C – University of Wisconsin (Big Ten)
            Riley Tufte, LW – Fargo Force (USHL)
            German Rubtsov, C – Russia J18 (Rus)
            Alex DeBrincat, RW – Erie (OHL)
            Nathan Bastian, RW – Mississauga (OHL)
            Carl Grundstrom, RW – Modo (Swe)
            Pascal Laberge, C – Victoriaville (QMJHL)
            Vitalii Abramov, RW – Gatineau (QMJHL)
            Markus Niemelainen, D – Saginaw (OHL)
            Brett Howden, C – Moose Jaw (WHL)

            I don’t see him in the top 30.

          • piscera.infada

            To piggy-back on that point, Dale Hunter basically only had one power-play unit. It’s also fairly well documented that in terms of ice-time, London was a one-line team for the majority of the year.

            Pu intrigues me, because as many scouting reports indicate, he was kind of an afterthought on a very skilled team. He produced relatively well, and showed relatively well for a guy who was competing for scraps. It would not at all surprise me to see a huge bump in his production next year with the graduation of Marner and Dvorak.

          • Shoestring

            I’m unaware of what his deployment was during the season. He is 2nd line forward, 2nd PP and 2nd PK for this tournament, and was in the playoffs. I too would not be surprised by a huge bump next year.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Off topic but still seasonable. I wonder if the Flames and Ducks are circling overhead like a pair of vultures as they watch the Blues and Sharks wondering if Hitch gets stitched if the Blues lose.

    My gut tells me that it is Mickey Yeo’s job to lose in Calgary, but if Hitch becomes available later this week, I can’t think Tre wouldn’t call him up and say, “Let’s talk business.” Ditto for the Sharks.

    If the Blues don’t make it past the Sharks, I think there is a very strong possibility Hitch gets run out of town if for no other reason than management can try and placate the fans with “going in a new direction.” There is also a growing rift between Hitch and Valodi. Is it serious enough for the fat man to get fired because Taretanko ain’t goin’ anywhere.

  • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

    I was also at the game last night and while I do think that Tkachuk made some nice plays,especially that cross crease pass, I do not think that he was overly physical. Maybe he has a nagging injury like you say , but he never imposed his will physically.
    It was evident that Dvorak and Marner are the two that stir the drink with the Knights.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    When was the last time 3 linemates from a CHL team all graduated to the NHL and became stars? I don’t mean 3 linemates all just making the NHL, but 3 linemates becoming NHL stars. As far as I know, it hasn’t happened in my lifetime or for several generations, if at all. That being the case, do you really believe that Marner, Dvorak and Tkachuk are all going to become big NHL stars? If you do, I have some prime real estate in Baghdad you might be interested in purchasing. One or two of them might make it big, but not all three. So if you are planning to draft Tkachuk, you had better be certain he is going to be the one and Marner and/or Dvorak won’t. I’ll cut to the chase by saying that I would not put much money on Tkachuk becoming the best NHLer of that trio, so I would not make him my 1st round pick.

    • Baalzamon

      That’s been my argument about Tkachuk all year. BUT I firmly believe he’s a better prospect than Dvorak. Dvorak’s dominance is easily explained by his age (and the presence of Mitch Marner, not to mention Max Domi last year).

      Not that he’s a bad prospect, but I wouldn’t expect him to be more than a second liner.

    • SmellOfVictory

      It’s going to be an inherently rare occurrence given the rarity of star players in general; how many star NHL players are there within three years of each other in age at any given moment? A couple dozen? I don’t think that means, as a rule, that we’ll never see three future star players on the same line (although I also don’t think Dvorak is a star prospect, so the point is moot in regard to these dudes anyway).