HF Draft Review Is Divorced From Reality
Long time readers of the website know that the staff here at Bolt Prospects has a bit of a chequered past with that other hockey prospects website, Hockeysfuture. Without getting to deep into the specifics, after years of myself, Chad and Tim working the Lightning page on that website we as a group had a falling out with management over what seemed to us to be obvious bias in their decision making process against us and the Lightning's prospects. It wasn't something that happened overnight and we didn't leave all at once but eventually Tim had the idea to start a blog and we seized on it and started making plans. The rest, as they say, is history.
Long time readers of this website also know that we've never been afraid to call out Hockeysfuture for what we've seen as continuing bias in the product over at that website. One of the most obvious points of contention we had with HF was their refusal for almost two years to assign a writer to cover the Lightning's prospects. It wasn't until shortly after the Lightning internet community responded strongly to an incident in which a high ranking HF writer called prospects Blair Jones and Justin Keller trash and Bolt Prospects' subsequent smackdown of said writer that HF finally conceded and assigned longtime writer and all around standup guy Phil Laugher to cover the team's prospects. Laugher earned his street cred with the Lightning fan base when he apologized publicly to Lightning fans about a year prior when HF released a set of rankings that had NHL regular Paul Ranger 9th in the organization, soon-to-be NHL regular Nick Tarnasky 19th in the organization, and Keller and Russian superprospect Vasily Koshechkin out of the rankings altogether.
Under Laugher, it has been our website's opinion that the product on HF has improved by leaps and bounds. Considering he's been struggling upstream against an online editor who clearly has ulterior motives, their site has actually become tolerable over the last year. As such, we've had an unofficial truce with HockeysFuture over the past 14 or so months. Unfortunately, Phil didn't write the horribly divorced from reality draft review HF just put out for the Lightning, a piece so bad I got multiple e-mails from the Bolt Prospects staff within moments of their reading it. Considering their strong negative reaction to the article, I'm afraid we as a site have to respond.
Now, admittedly I have no idea who Elisa Hatch is. And let me just say ahead of time, it's not her fault Hockeysfuture's editors and management decided to put her in a difficult situation and its not her fault they offered her so little editorial support in the course of writing this article. Nearest as I can tell this is Hatch's first solo article at HF and unfortunately, without knowledgable editors who actually care about the subject matter, the quality of the work suffered.
Bottom line: several of the contentions of the article are diametrically opposed to the professional opinions of several reputable scouting outlets including the Lightning's scouting staff, THN, Red Line Report and the NHL Central Scouting Service. You don't have to take it from us that the article is flawed. Take it from those other professionals.
For instance, take the contention that 2nd round pick Dana Tyrell has "questionable defensive zone coverage." Really? That's news to us. More importantly, it's 180 degrees away from what THN said in labeling the young Prince George forward a "two-way forward" prospect and Red Line Report's contention that Tyrell shows, "Outstanding hockey sense at both ends, and is very effective defensively." The NHL's Central Scouting Service says Tyrell is, "Very responsible defensively..." But hey, apparently according to HF the guy won't backcheck.
Furthermore, the article goes on to call into question 3rd round pick Luca Cunti's finishing skills even though Red Line ranked Cunti the 13th best finisher in the entire draft. THN quotes one scout who claimed Cunti "Has as much skill as anyone in this draft" and the NHL's CSS called Cunti's hands "good" although they suggested his wrists could be a little stronger. Still, how does one explain the large gulf between one scouting servive claiming Cunti as one of the top 20 finishers in the draft and HF claiming that Cunti has to "Upgrade his finishing skills."
3rd round pick Alexander Killorn's capsule carries the equally erroneous contention that he, "Has a minimal physical presence on the ice." Nevermind the fact that Red Line said Killorn is, "Offensively gifted with a nasty side to his game; isn't shy about mixing it up in traffic, driving defenders to the net and battling for puck possession, where he usually comes out on top." NHL Central Scouting also calls Killorn, "A skilled forward with an aggressive style, works hard in all zones and can deliver a big hit to separate an opponent from the puck." But, according to HF, Killorn is soft as warm butter, because, I guess, he's 161 pounds at 17 years old with 1 more year of prep hockey and 4 years at Harvard left to grow into his body? Seriously, that's the only reason I can imagine that comment exists, because sight unseen Killorn doesn't weigh much he can't possibly have any edge to his game according to HF.
The real granddaddy of whoppers from the article, and the one which puzzled the Bolt Prospects staff the most was Hockeysfuture's contention that Matt Marshall, "Lacks speed and agility for a top line player" and has, "Underdeveloped defensive skill and skating ability." That struck Chad and Tim as a wee bit odd considering Jake Goertzen of the Lightning scouting staff said, "Heâ€™s one of the best skaters in the draft and he can really skate." Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune also reported that, "(Lightning GM Jay)Feaster said he believes the Lightning selected two of the best skaters in the draft, including Massachusetts prep school forward Matt Marshall, a fifth-round pick acquired in a deal with Ottawa." NHL Central Scouting also claims Marshall is, "A skilled, smooth skater who has great speed and acceleration." So, on the one hand we have the Lightning scouting staff and the NHL's CSS claiming Marshall's skating is beyond reproach. And on the other hand, HF claims Marshall can't skate a lick. Who is a hockey fan to believe?
The most gauling thing is that all of this information was freely available on this website and in the local media long before July 10th when HF chose to publish this article. Why they chose to wing it instead, well, that's a question they'll need to answer themselves.
Most Lightning fans have long since learned to take HF with a grain of salt since Bolt Prospects has started to rise into the fan base's consciousness, so my expectation is this article won't have a negative effect of their perception of the Lightning's 2007 draft prospects. Unfortunately, HF still has a wide enough readership that other hockey fans will probably buy into the clearly mistaken representations of several of the Lightning's prospects. Once the faulty ideas that Dana Tyrell won't backcheck, Luca Cunti can't finish, Alex Killorn is soft and Matt Marshall can't skate start to become conventional "wisdom" it becomes incredibly difficult for those stultified opinions to be changed. And if the conventional "wisdom" is that these players have knocks on their games that don't exist, it becomes that much easier for HF to marginalize them and the Lightning organization.
That's the danger in not responding to the article and why we broke our over year long silence regarding HF to do so. It is our hope that in the future they will make sure such important articles are assigned to an experienced beat writer and vetted by knowledgable staff who understand and are actually engaged with subject matter. But, seeing as we know HF under its current management configuration will never have the latter, we'll settle for the former, because the alternative is getting saddled with an article as off base as this one by HF was.