Open Mike Night - 5/18/09
Typically, I’ve been using this space to bring attention to an otherwise unheralded tournament or series of games. Coincidentally, the Memorial Cup is taking place and the games have been absolutely tremendous. They’re being broadcast every day on NHL Network if you’re so fortunate to have access to it. This year’s tournament features the Kelowna Rockets (WHL champs), Windsor Spitfires (OHL champs), Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL) and the host team, from the QMJHL, the Rimouski Oceanic.
There are a number of 2009 draft eligible prospects playing in this four-team tournament. Rimouski’s Jordan Caron, Windsor’s Ryan Ellis and Kelowna’s Tyson Barrie will likely be selected in the top 100 of this June’s NHL Entry Draft.
But how much will these players have their draft stock rise by just being in this tournament? Or, more appropriately, will their stock rise by having an average or better tournament?
The answer appears to be a resounding yes.
Let’s take a look back at last year’s draft. Justin Azevedo was passed over twice (2006 and 2007) and wasn’t ranked by Central Scouting Services. In 2008, Azevedo led the tournament in scoring and was named to the Memorial Cup all-star team. Next month, the Kings selected him in the sixth round.
Same tournament, same year but this time with Spokane Chief Mitch Wahl. Ranked 64th among North American skaters (meaning, not including European players or goalies from North America or Europe) by Central Scouting (CSS). Wahl placed in the top five in scoring during the Memorial Cup and was named to the tournament’s all-star squad – Wahl slid up to 48th overall. On the blueline of that same championship-winning team, undersized blueliner Jared Spurgeon was ranked 198th on the CSS North American skaters list (not very likely to be drafted considering there’s 210 picks in a draft). Spurgeon slid up 42 spots relative to his ranking to be selected in the sixth round, 156th overall.
Belleville Bulls acrobatic goalie Mike Murphy wasn’t ranked by Central Scouting. A few teams got an extra look or two at the unorthodox goalie and he obviously changed someone’s mind – Carolina made a sixth rounder out of a player that probably would not have been drafted otherwise. Murphy won the OHL goalie of the year this season.
On the QMJHL side, big blueliner Steven Delisle was ranked 171st among North American skaters but after a good tournament for Gatineau, Delisle found himself selected in the fourth round at 107 by Columbus.
In 2007, it’s more of the same. The Vancouver Giants had the best scorer and the best goaltender in the tournament. The scorer was Michal Repik, 58th ranked skater by Central Scouting but was selected 40th overall by Florida. Tyson Sexsmith was the eighth ranked North American goalie and the Sharks decided to grab him in the third round in 2007 (making him the seventh goaltender selected).
Carolina took a couple players a bit off the board again as well. 175th ranked Plymouth Whaler Chris Terry was selected in the fifth round at 132 and unranked Brett Bellemore was taken in the sixth.
2006 saw fewer draft eligible players in the tournament, but it doesn’t deviate too far. Milan Lucic stepped up in the playoffs and later and slid up from 58th ranked skater to 50th overall selection by Boston. Once again the Vancouver Giants would make the tournament in 2007 and Lucic wins the MVP. Also in 2006, Brad Marchand (ranked 80th, taken by Boston 71st) and Maxime Lacroix (unranked, taken by Washington 127th) had very good tournaments and got drafted (higher) because of it. Andrew MacDonald’s exposure with the Moncton Wildcats saw him go from unranked to sixth rounder – a common trend.
2005 is a banner year for this, for lack of a better term, theory. The Sidney Crosby-led Rimouski Oceanic got to the finals thanks to a line of Crosby, Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Dany Roussin. Roussin finished third in tournament scoring and went from unranked by the CSS to a second round pick (50th overall) by Los Angeles.
The two best goaltenders in the tournament Kristoffer Westblom (17th ranked goalie, 7th selected goalie) and unranked London goalie Adam Dennis (sixth round pick) both had their stock’s rise tremendously thanks in large part to the Memorial Cup Tournament.
In 2004, members of the championship-winning Kelowna Rockets saw their draft position rise. Mike Card and Tyler Spurgeon both were unranked but taken back-to-back in the eighth round. Islanders draft pick Blake Comeau was ranked 65th but was picked in the top 50 (47th). Olympique Nick Fugere slid up a handful of spots after finishing third in tournament scoring.
Just a month before the sensational 2003 draft, tournament all-star Mike Richards went from 30th ranked North American skater to 24th selection overall by Philadelphia. In 2002, Matthew Lombardi led the tourney in scoring and went from unsigned 7th round pick in 2000 to third round pick in 2002. Fellow re-draftee Jarret Stoll moved up ten spots (46th overall to 36th); getting re-drafted higher after not getting signed is somewhat rare.
Consequently, Guelph’s Daniel Paille didn’t have an exemplary tournament and he fell from 12th ranked skater to 20th overall.
Meanwhile, back in 2001, Kyle Wanvig (moved up more than 50 spots into the 2nd round after re-draft) and Stephane Veilleux (unranked to 3rd round pick) impressed Minnesota brass enough to warrant selections in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. Back to 1999, Matt Kinch is yet another that had an excellent tournament and went from “longshot to be Mr. Irrelevant” to a top 150 pick.
And the examples go back even further, especially as scouting becomes less and less precise over time. The “theory” is far from one-hundred percent of course. There are a ton of things to consider besides how a tournament that possesses more or less a fistful of games will effect a draft. In the same token though, an amazing tournament by Jordan Caron may take him from a 35th or 37th overall selection to a 26th or 29th overall pick. The crossover to the other side of 30 isn’t so much for monetary gain as it is for bragging rights and/or pride. Right now though, a lot of teams are wishing that they didn’t pass on Jamie Benn (four goals, five points in Monday’s game) in 2007 or Tyler Myers one year later – although Tyson Barrie stands to benefit.
The league’s scouts will get a few extra chances to see their future players go head-to-head with their peers in an attempt to win a championship. Regardless of the numbers and statistics say, scouts love this opportunity. Hardcore hockey fans do to, as some world-class junior hockey is broadcast to their living rooms all over the world.