Yesterday we ran through the first four selections of the Leafs 2011 Draft, describing statistical comparables and running through some ideas of their potential. I may have come across as a tad harsh with respect to the Leafs first of two first round selections, Tyler Biggs. Before the angry e-mails get sent my way, I should point out that I did not and would not predict that Biggs will be a failure in the NHL. He may yet develop into a consistent offensive contributor, but at this stage, there is little in his offensive output to indicate that is likely. Hope springs eternal, and the Leafs scouting staff obviously see a few things in Biggs game that they value highly. His size, truculence and solid skating are definite positives, and will likely serve him well in making his way to the NHL. My main concern is that the Leafs traded away a high 2nd round pick in order to move up to draft a player that is unlikely to be significantly more important to their future than a player they could have selected at the 30 slot (where they were originally positioned).
If one looks at the list of players taken between 22 and 30 (minus the 25th selection Stuart Percy who also went to the Leafs), there is no reason to assume Joe Morrow, Matt Puempel, Zack Phillips, Nicklas Jensen, Vladislav Namestikinov, Rickard Rakell, Phillip Danault... or even second round selections David Musil, Ty Rattie, Rocco Grimaldi, Tomas Jurco, Boone Jenner, Scott Mayfield, Dmitrij Jaskin, Victor Rask, Alexander Khokhlachev, Brandon Saad, Brett Ritchie, or Nikita Kucherov couldn't provide a comparable contribution in other aspects of the game to what Biggs would.
The plus side in the non-trade scenario is that the Leafs would now boast 3 of these players, or 2 more in addition to Percy (or Biggs, or whomever else would have fallen to them). Do not mistake my disdain for Biggs' upside as an indictment of the player selected. I'm more perturbed that the difference he will make is relatively insignificant in comparison to the difference presented by any of the other players in his range, and certainly is unlikely to be significantly superior to two players from that group.
Moving on from this discussion though, let us examine the remainder of the Leafs selections from the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Tony Cameranesi - 130th overall
The story on Cameranesi starts and stops with one aspect of his game: speed. Cameranesi is quite possibly the best skater available in the 2011 draft, and his acceleration and explosiveness are quite remarkable. That's important because his size (5'9" and 160 lbs) doesn't help him stand out from the competition in a serious way.
He's made a verbal declaration to play with Minnesota-Duluth of the WCHA for this upcoming season so he should get some solid exposure on a top NCAA program over the next few years. He was one of the top HS players in Minnesota this past season while lining up for Wayzata HS and Team Northwest in the Minnesota Elite league. He had the 14th highest point per game production rate amongst US High School players under the age of 18 (2.16 ppg). In the MN Elite league he posted 16 goals and 33 points in 21 games for a 1.57 ppg scoring rate. Overall in his HS hockey career he's posted 132 points in 72 games for a 1.83 ppg production rate.
Just by way of comparison here are some production rates from other Minnesota High Schoolers from recent seasons that you may recognize:
I'm throwing this up for the sake of those that have no idea how to rate high school hockey players in Minnesota. Obviously he's in some decent company. Many of those names listed above played at the renowned hockey factory prep school, Shattuck St. Mary's, who don't play a regular Minnesota HS schedule, but play tournaments and individual games against a wide variety teams from across the US and Canada. This often includes elite state teams, such as the Minnesota Northwest Elite team that Cameranesi played for this past season. His 1.57 ppg rate on the Elite team would still put him well above the level of Ruegsegger and more on par with the likes of Okposo or Toews.
Based on his offensive production thus far, it isn't beyond the realm of possibility that he'll be granted a top offensive role with NCAA National Champions Minnesota-Duluth as early as next season. With the graduation of the likes of senior forwards Justin Fontaine and Kyle Schmidt, new Leafs prospect Cameranesi will be in competition with other recently drafted players like Max Tardy (St. Louis), Joe Basaraba (Florida), and Dan DeLisle (Chicago) for a role on the top lines.
Here's a compilation video of highlights from 5 of his games this past season:
David Broll - 152nd overall
Broll is another Burke type selection. A big, bruising, physical winger with little in the way of offensive upside. Broll was one of the oldest players selected by the Leafs at the draft, born on January 4th of 1993. He is also likely the biggest at a robust 6'2" and 220 lbs. He posted 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points in an OHL season split between Erie and Sault Ste. Marie. That went along with 85 penalty minutes largely on the merits of 12 separate fighting majors. He also registered a relatively significant concussion in a mid-season in a fight against Justin Sefton of the Sudbury Wolves, shown below:
Frankly I'm not a huge fan of picks like this, but I suppose we should expect it from Burke. Broll can be added to the likes of Richard Greenop, Jamie Devane, and heck, even Brad Ross and Tyler Biggs in the ranks of "tough" Leafs prospects for the future. It'll be interesting to see how many of these guys do end up in the NHL in the next 5 years. I'd put the over under at 2 for starters, although I think on the basis of Devane's last season he still has a shot.
Here is a description of Broll from a scouting evaluation, courtesy Scott McDougall of The Scouting Report, at the Canadian U18 selection camp prior to the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tourney:
Broll was the oldest and biggest player in camp. He was by far the most physical player at camp and had several massive hits. He didn’t handle the puck too well, his skating was poor, and his acceleration even worse, but he made everyone aware of when he was on the ice with his big checks. He may not have the skills to be an NHL player, but some teams are going to absolutely love his physical presence as a bottom 6 forward if he can improve his skating.
On this basis I assume we can look forward to Broll working hard at skating a bit better as we move forwards. I guess Colton Orr won't be the Leafs enforcer forever.
Denis Robertson - 173rd overall
Robertson is a late bloomer in many senses. Drafted at 20 years of age, he's easily the oldest Leaf draft pick of the 2011 selection. Having completed 1 year of NCAA Div. 1 hockey with Brown University of the ECAC, Robertson was named to the ECAC All-Rookie team for the 2010-11 season after posting 6 goals and 11 assists for 17 points in 30 games.
There isn't a lot to go on here beyond the fact that Robertson played with the Langley Chiefs in the BCHL for two years, and was their 2nd highest scoring D man in his final season behind St. Cloud State D man Tim Daly. He has a "booming" shot from the point and could perhaps develop solidly if he gets more opportunity going forward. Here's a quote regarding Robertson's play from US College Hockey Online ECAC Columnist Bryan Sullivan:
"The biggest surprise is [Dennis] Robertson, who has four goals, all on the power play. He’s an excellent defenseman and he’s got an absolute cannon for a shot from the point."
Robertson is a 6’1″, 205-pound rookie blue-liner out of rustic-sounding Fort St. John, B.C. It sounds like the kind of place that breeds lumberjacks and explorers, and the town’s native son is representing it well with a lot of heavy lifting and a lot of goal exploration. Robertson’s blasts are playing well in Providence, as his four goals are the second-most on the team.
"Dennis is a guy that we had high expectations for. He was a very very good player in the BCHL. But to say that we expected him to have four goals, to say that we expected him to be logging 25 or 30 minutes a game, I don’t think those were our expectations. You never really know when a freshman comes in... there’s a large adjustment period, especially for a defenseman. For him to be able to come in and do what he’s been able to do is a tribute to him. He’s pretty high-end; he’s a good, good hockey player."
Robertson has played a big part in a resurgent Brown power play, a unit that has scored on nine of 32 opportunities (better than 28 percent) on the heels of last year’s barren 13 percent success rate. The PP corps has accounted for more than a third of the team’s offense — an offense that has scored 10 more goals (25 total) than it had through the same number of games last season.
Sounds like a sleeper pick if ever there was one. Robertson may yet have some offensive upside, and based on how the Leafs have been selecting over-age D men in the past few years, it's not a strange sight at this point... just ask Carl Gunnarsson.
Garret Sparks - 190th overall
Another American draft pick of the Leafs, this time a goaltender Garret Sparks of Elmhurst Illinois, who played in 19 games this past year for the Guelph Storm of the OHL. Standing in at 6'2" and 209 lbs, Sparks fits the mold of big body keepers that goalie guru Francois Allaire likes to work with.
As an OHL rookie, Sparks recorded an 8-6-1 record with a 3.64 GAA and .890 SV% at the age of 17. For comparison we can look at the numbers of 4th year incumbent Guelph starter Brandon Foote, who posted a 24-19-6 record with a 3.60 GAA and .895 SV% in 51 games at the age of 19. Thus it's fair to say that Sparks was pretty comparable to the regular starter, and the team didn't play particularly worse in front of the rookie keeper.
Here are some other comparables for 17 year old goalies in recent OHL memory:
|Malcolm Subban||Bellville Bulls||10-11||32||10-17-2||3.16||.900|
|Matt Mahalak||Plymouth Whalers||10-11||21||8-8-4||3.08||.908|
|Jordan Binnington||Owen Sound Attack||10-11||46||27-12-5||3.05||.899|
|Andrew D'Agostini||Peterborough Petes||10-11||43||10-25-2||4.35||.882|
|Mark Visentin||Niagara Ice Dogs||09-10||55||24-26-5||2.99||.911|
|J.P. Anderson||St. Mike's Majors||08-09||36||23-10-1||2.60||.899|
|Peter Di Salvo||Barrie Colts||08-09||34||15-13-4||2.83||.919|
|Michael Houser||London Knights||09-10||25||17-4-1||3.10||.900|
|Phillipp Grubauer||Bellville Bulls||08-09||17||7-8-0||3.93||.888|
Frankly it's virtually impossible to tell how a goalie is going to pan out based on their numbers as a 17 year old, so I'm going to trust that Allaire and the Leafs goalie scouts have half a clue in helping the team pick a good goalie prospect. He's seemed to manage alright generally so far.
Max Everson - 203rd overall
Back in 2010, before the 2010-11 hockey season began, Everson was in the running for Mr. Hockey in Minnesota along with fellow Leaf draft pick Tony Cameranesi. He is touted as a two way D-man with solid skating and good puck handling skills, though less than impressive size at 6' 180 lbs. He apparently has a heavy shot despite his lack of size, and makes a good first pass to get the puck up ice.
The best scouting report I've seen thus far on Everson comes courtesy of Kirk Luedke, a writer for the New England and New York Hockey Journals. He interviewed Max Giese, the director of player personnel for the USHL's Chicago Steel, and Red Line Report's NCAA, USHL, and US HS scout for the midwest and got the following:
"At first I thought he had a great game. When he wanted to, he could take over the game with his ability to transition to offense. I like his feet; he's a real good skater, but I noticed that he didn't use the feet offensively in terms of leading the rush and using his speed to exploit the defense. Another interesting aspect of his skating is that he's the same skater he was two years ago, so you'd like to have seen some improvement from him. You can see he's gotten stronger, but not necessarily faster. Instead of a powerful, wide-based stride, he has kind of a backwards kick to his movement, which I think is a detriment. If he can fix that, I think he could be one of the better skating defensemen out there.
He's got a real hard shot and can quarterback the power play. He moves pretty well on the point. But the thing with Everson that I've noticed is that he's one of those guys who won't make the play if it's not there. What I mean by that is that he's not a dynamic guy who you watch and then say to yourself, 'How did he find that lane?' He tends to take what he's given which isn't a bad thing, but you wonder about his creativity and whether he's going to be able to bring the offense at the next level.
He may end up being a steady, stay-at-home shutdown guy with his feet, stick and defensive sense, but I don't know if that's a great thing. Is he going to be a 'tweener? It's tough to be a shutdown guy in the NHL when you're only about 6-feet."
He's declared for Harvard, and that may not be the best thing as the Crimson haven't developed many NHL Defenders (Alex Biega not withstanding). It makes sense for him as his older brother Marshall also plays for Harvard, and the team does feature 8 NHL draft picks entering next season. Hopefully they develop as a unit and Everson fulfills some of his potential.
So that's that everyone, feel free to discuss further below.