After spending a couple of days last week looking at players who we have serious questions about whether they can score at the next level, we have a player who's shown modest improvement in his scoring.
Brad Ross scored at just shy of a point per game in 2009-10, when drafted. In each of his two previous years he acheived greater than a point per game, scoring 82 points in 68 games this past season (1.20) and a full point per game in the playoffs.
And despite that, Ross drops six spots in the rankings, the second greatest fall of all players from last year's rankings.
Why did Brad Ross fall so significantly? Follow me over the jump and let's try and figure that out.
The Leafs first pick from the 2010 Entry Draft (43rd overall), Ross is a strong player in all three zones; through 4 seasons in the WHL, he has been a key offensive contributor while playing against other teams' top competition. On a Portland team that has featured top offensive players such as Ryan Johansen, Nino Niederrieter, Sven Baerschi and Ty Rattie, Ross has been a constant for the Winterhawks, and having a forward like Ross provide scoring support and doing the dirty work has been key to Portland's success over that period.
Also? Brad Ross is kinda crazy. Ross accumulated over 120 PIMs in each of his four seasons, peaking in his draft year with 203 PIMs. He has reduced his totals a little in his two post-draft years, as his value as a veteran leader was greater when he was on the ice than off in the box. Ross plays with a decidely physical edge, but does have a habit of getting carried away and playing over the edge.
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Ross' drop in the rankings is curious. He dropped significantly on a lot of people's votes, dropping over 5 spots on many ballots, and a staggering 12 spots by SkinnyFish. Skinny drops him from 10 to 22, and Ihis reasoning is, um, unique.
Last year I had delusions of grandeur about the future of one Bradley Ross. I imagined the potential for a hard nosed 20G 20A 10 fight player; an Evander Kane light if you will. Then we drafted Tyler Biggs and debated what his figures and play style meant, and what production he should put up in the CHL this season, and that's when it hit me. Brad Ross is Tyler Biggs 1.0; Tyler Biggs himself then becomes Tyler Biggs 2.0.
About Biggs: If he doesn't put up 1.5ppg in his draft year plus two, he'll likely be nothing of merit. Check for Brad Ross.
About Biggs: Of course he did well at the Leafs prospect camp, he's a man among boys. Check for Brad Ross, although very little talk about him this year.
Brad Ross was a trial run for Burke drafting tough guys with limited scoring upside and gave him the "confidence" to draft Tyler Biggs. Brad Ross is a glorified fighter who did well playing against 16 and 17 year olds the last two years. Ladies and gentlemen, your Mike Brown replacement in 2014.
Personally, I think Skinny's way off base. I think he ranked him too high back in the winter and completely overreacted this time around. Brad Ross ending up as a future Mike Brown might happen, but the whole thing with being a precursor to Biggs is way the hell out there.
I've always seen Brad Ross as somebody who'd eventually find his way onto the third line, pestering the hell out of opposing teams forwards and scoring 20-30 points. It's just the type of player he is, and it's what he's projected to be since he was drafted. He's done nothing in the WHL to dispel that notion. He scores well enough that I don't have the same questions about that side of his game as Andrew Crescenzi or Tyler Biggs.
So why did he fall? Because other people who were directly below him had excellent seasons. Korbinian Holzer made great strides and is knocking on the door for the NHL. Jerry D'Amigo had a superb second half and playoffs and was heavily relied upon by Dallas Eakins. Mark Owuya transitioned incredibly smoothly to North American pros and moved up the Leafs goaltending depth chart. The Leafs also added a couple of young forwards who immediately took up spots on the Marlies top nine.
Brad Ross didn't suddenly become a worse player. His road to the Leafs became significantly more difficult due to the changes in the Leafs forward ranks over the last six months.
This year, the 20-year old will make his transition to the pros, and will likely find himself fighting for ice time on the Marlies. If Ross can solidify his place on that team and keep his emotions under control (i.e. stay out of the box), Ross can take a move back up the rankings. For now, there's lots of work still to do.