By Paul Krotz/CHL
Choosing talented players will not be a problem when the NHL’s 30 teams gather in Pittsburgh June 22-23 for the Entry Draft, but figuring out where some of the top prospects belong in their rankings could be a challenge.
The 2011-12 season had a number of the CHL’s top prospects suffer from serious injury therefore playing just a limited number of games making it difficult for NHL scouts and management to evaluate.
“You're not able to chart their development or their production,” NHL Central Scouting Director Dan Marr told NHL.com. “It's unfair to compare them to the players that are still in the lineup, and vice versa.”
While top ranked Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting and second ranked Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips each missed over 20 games this season, their absences were nothing like that of the Sting’s Alex Galchenyuk, Morgan Rielly of the Moose Jaw Warriors, and Slater Koekkoek of the Peterborough Petes who are each ranked in the top 25 by NHL Central Scouting but combined to play just 46 regular season games providing a very limited window of opportunity for viewing.
“We’ve had some really significant injuries this year,” said Chris Edwards of NHL Central Scouting. “When you get that in the back of your mind, you are unsure whether they are totally healed or not so when you can bring a guy into an event like the Scouting Combine and get an impartial doctor to give you an opinion it puts your mind at ease.”
Both Galchenyuk and Rielly recovered from their injuries and returned to action during the CHL playoffs. Both players, in addition to Koekkoek, used the Scouting Combine as an opportunity to showcase different sides of their game.
“I think the teams know what kind of player I am and what to expect when they draft me,” said Galchenyuk, ranked fourth overall by NHL Central Scouting. “This combine experience they see what kind of person you are and what kind of character you have off the ice.”
While players recovering from injury may have attracted additional attention during the interview portion of the combine, all eyes were on them when they endured the physical testing.
“Scouts have seen me for multiple years now, but this was a big thing to show that I’m ok and I’m in good shape,” said Koekkoek, a defenceman ranked 23rd by Central Scouting. “I came here with something to prove and I think I did that well.”
Koekkoek gave scouts an early look at his abilities last season when he and Rielly suited up for Canada at the Under-18 Ivan Hlinka tournament and brought home a gold medal.
“I came in here and I was trying to prove myself and I’m happy with how it went,” said Rielly, the fifth ranked skater by Central Scouting who admits the anxiousness waiting for draft day. “Pretty nerve wracking, it’s been a hard experience up to this point but I’m pretty pumped about it.”
While teams determine their final lists and debate how to accurately project a player that played as little as some of the CHL stars did this season, recent history shows that high-end talent can still be selected early in the draft.
In 2010 Prince George’s Brett Connolly played just 16 regular season games after his CHL Rookie of the Year campaign but was chosen sixth overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It’s an unfortunate thing (injuries) that happens,” Edwards added. “But good players are good players, chances are the guys are going to recover and play well.”