With their second selection of the sixth round, the Toronto Maple Leafs chose Ryan Rupert, a 5'10", 180 lb centre from the London Knights of the OHL. After a sophomore season that saw him post 17 goals and 48 points in 63 regular season games, followed by 9 goals and 15 points in the OHL and Memorial Cup playoffs, Rupert saw his stock rise to draft worthy status this week.
Ryan and his twin brother Matt (who is an undrafted invitee to Leafs rookie camp) both played strong supporting roles on a deep, competitive London Knights side this past season, but the distinguishing feature for Ryan would be his "jam" - that truculent nature Brian Burke so loves to cultivate on his teams. Ryan posted 151 total penalty minutes this year during the regular and post season, making him easily the Knights' infraction leader by a surprising 49 PIM. For an undersized kid, he likes to make his presence known.
His compete level is never in question, as most scouts describe him as being willing to do ANYTHING it takes to win games - drawing comparisons to London's head coach Dale Hunter. Editor's Note: Just don't make him the head coach then. Unfortunately, his decision making and composure are called into question regularly, as he does occasionally hurt his team with his penalties. If he can rein these tendencies in a tad, the Leafs are basically hoping his offensive upside and potential are higher than many scouts predict and that his drive and competitive nature push him to the NHL level.
Here is what Leafs head scout Dave Morrison said to Michael Traikos of the National Post on the subject of Rupert:
"He just epitomizes the kind of player that likes to win and he’ll do whatever it takes to win a hockey game. We were thrilled. Even though he’s small, he’s built pretty well and he’ll go through a wall for you."
His passing skills are solid, he has room to grow offensively, and he reads the play reasonably well from a defensive standpoint. Some scouts have described his defensive awareness as excellent for this early stage of his development, with coaches around the OHL noting him in that regard consistently. Scouts have also credited his dogged determination in winning board battles for the puck in both the defensive and offensive zones.
Rupert is listed as a C but was taking regular shifts on the wing alongside top Nashville prospect and 18th overall selection in the 2010 Draft Austin Watson. Together their line was quite formidable, as Watson helped Rupert climb to the 3rd leading point producer amongst London's forwards in the playoffs. Not only was their offense handy but they played excellent defense en route to their OHL championship.
Ryan and Matt Rupert both have an obstacle when size comes into question regarding their progress to the NHL but Ryan's pit bull mentality has led to him overcoming that obstacle at every level he's played at. He plays far larger than he is and that should stand him in good stead going forward. Basically the Leafs hope they've landed another Brad Ross style of player and in all likelihood Rupert is at least 2 years away from the AHL and 3-4 away from the NHL - if he makes it at all - barring a significant increase in his offensive productivity.