Name: Jeff Skinner
Position: Center/Right Wing
Born: 5/18/92, Markham, ON
Last Team: Kitchener (OHL)
Rankings: CSS 34 (NA Skaters), ISS 15 (Skaters), RLR 7 (Overall), THN 25 (Overall)
Kitchener (OHL), 64 GP, 50-40-90, +7, 72 PIM
Kitchener (OHL) Playoffs, 20 GP, 20-13-33, +3, 14 PIM
Hereâ€™s the real wild card of the top ten to fifteen picks of this draft: Jeff Skinner of Kitchener. The forward failed to gain much traction as a potential lottery pick despite potting 50 goals and 90 points for Kitchener this season in the OHL. Scouts have knocked Skinnerâ€™s size and his mediocre skating ability, but time and time again heâ€™s shown good work ethic and a preternatural ability to read the play and get open to bury scoring chances. Despite that, it wasnâ€™t until Skinner went crazy in the OHL playoffs by scoring 20 goals and 33 points in 20 games while coming within an eyelash of knocking off top prospect Taylor Hallâ€™s Windsor team that he started to garner the respect of the scouting community. That performance has led to a lot of late movement toward Skinner, who came out of the same Markham Waxers program that produced another sniper by the name of Steven Stamkos. We at BoltProspects believe someone in the top ten will pull the trigger on Skinner and get a big time scorer, and it might even be the Lightning. Skinner's knack for putting points on the board and his willingness to play with surprising edge for such a small player have led to comparisons to former Lightning player and future Hall of Famer Mark Recchi.
Previous Prospect Profiles:
11 for 6: G, Jack Campbell
11 for 6: D, Cam Fowler
11 for 6: D, Erik Gudbranson
11 for 6: D, Brandon Gormley
11 for 6: C, Alex Burmistrov
11 for 6: RW, Brett Connolly
11 for 6: LW, Nino Neiderreiter
Name: Nino Neiderreiter
Position: Left Wing
Born: 9/8/92, Chur, Switzerland
Last Team: Portland (WHL)
Rankings: CSS 12 (NA Skaters), ISS 9 (Skaters), RLR 8 (Overall), THN 8 (Overall)
Portland (WHL), 65 GP, 36-24-60, +11, 68 PIM
Portland (WHL) Playoffs, 13 GP, 8-8-16, +1, 16 PIM
Switzerland (U20 WJC), 7 GP, 6-4-10, -2, 10 PIM
No one did more to help their draft stock at the U20 World Junior Championships than Nino Neiderreiter in his Superman-like performance for the tournament darling Swiss side. In the quarterfinals, Neiderreiter almost single handedly defeated a strong Russian team with a pair of goals, including the overtime winner, and he was eventually named a Tournament All-Star by the media for collecting 6 goals and 10 points in 7 games for the upstart hockey nation. Nino-mania quickly gripped the hockey world, but a pedestrian second half of the season for Neiderreiter has led many to re-examine the power forward and ask themselves whether they can truly value him as a top pick based on that performance alone. Neiderreiter plays a strong, North American style north-south game that has been compared to former NHL All-Star Brendan Shanahan. He posseses a quick, accurate shot and loves to take the body but he still needs to work on his first step acceleration, playmaking, and puckhandling skills. Heâ€™s among the youngest players in this draft class, which should afford him a little more time to fill the holes in his game, and yet he is already more physically mature than many of his contemporaries. He also stabilized his draft stock by snapping out of his second half trance well enough to score 8 goals and 16 points in 13 playoff games for the Winterhawks. But, the Lightning would still have to take a little bit of a gulp before drafting a player who seemed disinterested in junior hockey for half the year and who canâ€™t be moved up to the pro ranks in the AHL right away. Or was it just that Niederreiter, who was no doubt used to playing a fewer number of games in Europe, hit a wall in the long grind of a full junior season? Both theories have been forwarded, but which one is true? His style of play is a good fit for the Lightning, who could use some more presence along the wall on the forecheck, but will he show the same intensity in Portland next year once this yearâ€™s U20 WJCâ€™s are just a distant memory?
Name: Brett Connolly
Position: Right Wing
Born: 5/2/92, Prince George, BC
Last Team: Prince George (WHL)
Rankings: CSS 3 (NA Skaters), ISS 11 (Skaters), RLR 13 (Overall), THN 4 (Overall)
Prince George (WHL), 16 GP, 10-9-19, -3, 8 PIM
Canada (U18 WJC), 4 GP, 1-0-1, E, 10 PIM
Like Burmistrov, the potential draft position of Prince Georgeâ€™s Brett Connolly also varies wildly depending on which media outlet you believe. We at BoltProspects think Connolly will fall out of the top ten, but he could go as high as third overall based on pure potential, despite the fact he barely played hockey this season. Connolly, a former teammate of Lightning prospect Dana Tyrell, was considered to be the purest sniper in this draft class before suffering injuries to both of his hips that ultimately cost him all but sixteen games of his junior season. Connolly returned for the U18 World Junior Championships late in the year, but like most of his Canadian teammates he struggled and his skating looked very rusty, partly due to not being in top condition. Therein lies the gamble for whatever team takes Connolly: theyâ€™ll be getting a player who, according to legend, has Brett Hull-like ability to find seams in the offensive zone and world class ability to finish and who prior to his injuries displayed good top end speed and agility. The problem, though, is that theyâ€™ll also be getting a player that has had problems with both of his hips by the age of 18 and who has already lost a critical year of development in his young career. The Lightning have a fair amount of young goalscoring ability already, including the leagueâ€™s best young sniper in Steven Stamkos. Is it worth the risk of taking Connolly, who could end up becoming a part-time player, to have the luxury of having another one?
Here's an interesting statistic. Actually, here's several interesting statistics. Did you know that of the ten leading scorers in the NHL last season, eight (80%) were players who were selected with top ten picks? Only Martin St. Louis and Brad Richards weren't high draft picks. Of the league's top twenty scorers, sixteen (80%) were taken within the first twenty picks of the draft, with the only other exceptions being Paul Stastny and Corey Perry. In other words, eighty percent of the league's top scoring talent comes from within the top twenty picks of the draft, and the lion's share of those players comes from the top ten picks. Therein lies the lure for any scouting staff when they have a high draft pick like the Lightning do this season. It's a rare opportunity for any club to add a premiere scorer.
Simply put, forwards play a simpler game and it is easier to identify the best ones at a young age. As a consequence, teams tend to snap up most of the really good ones early on in drafts. Defensemen and goaltenders mature later in their careers due the complexity of their positions and the fact that those positions are far more about mental maturity than just pure athleticism and hand-eye coordination. As a consequence, it's far more likely to find top flight defensemen and netminders outside of the top twenty picks of the draft. Consider the top twenty scorers from the blueline in the NHL last season, where only seven of those players (35%) were selected in the top twenty of the draft: Drew Doughty, Chris Pronger, Sergei Gonchar,Tomas Kaberle, Tyler Myers, Scott Niedermayer, and Joni Pitkanen. Between the pipes, of the top twenty goaltenders in wins in the NHL this season, only three (15%) were selected in the top twenty picks of the draft: Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, and Marc-Andre Fleury.
That's what makes it so difficult, in our opinion, for any club sitting outside of the top couple of picks in any given draft to select a defenseman or a goaltender. Unless a team has an opportunity to select a sure-fire number one defenseman, like the Lightning had with Victor Hedman last season, or number one goaltender, the odds of being wildly successful seem to be much better on the forward side of the ledger. Moreover, for the team looking for a defenseman or a goaltender, they can be sure the pickings are much better to find one from picks twenty one on than for the team looking for a top-flight scorer.
The Tampa Bay Lightning pick sixth in the 2009-2010 NHL Entry Draft, and the consensus of the NHL scouting community seems to be that of the four non-forwards likely to go in the top ten picks, only goaltender Jack Campbell and defenseman Cam Fowler seem to have the potential to end up among the league leaders at their position once they develop and become regulars in the league. Meanwhile, there are seven forwards that we have identified as draft possibilities for the Lightning that all have significant NHL scoring potential and draw comparisons to past and present NHL superstars like Saku Koivu, Mark Recchi, Brendan Shanahan, Eric Staal, and Patrick Marleau. What is a scouting staff to do?
Name: Brandon Gormley
Born: 2/18/92, Murray River, PEI
Last Team: Moncton (QMJHL)
Rankings: CSS 6 (NA Skaters), ISS 5 (Skaters), RLR 5 (Overall), THN 7 (Overall)
Moncton (QMJHL), 58 GP, 9-34-43, +31, 54 PIM
Moncton (QMJHL) Playoffs, 21 GP, 2-5-17, +14, 10 PIM
If youâ€™re looking for a sexy draft pick, youâ€™re not going to find one in Monctonâ€™s Brandon Gormley. If youâ€™re looking for a solid two-way defenseman who is going to play 20+ minutes a night and have a 10-15 year NHL career, Gormleyâ€™s probably your man. Gormleyâ€™s positives are that heâ€™s got a good sized frame, is a strong skater, passes the puck well, and heâ€™s an extremely cerebral defender. A product of the same Notre Dame prep school that began the careers of Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards, efficiency is the hallmark of Gormley's game. He is incredibly cool under pressure and has a propensity of using his positioning and mobility to win races for loose pucks and move them out of danger long before forecheckers arrive on the scene. The down side is that Gormley is lacking in upper body strength, as evidenced by his poor performance at the NHL Combine, which has been a contributing factor to accusations that he plays a bit soft. In addition, while Gormley has upside as a puck mover at even strength, there are some doubts that he will ever be a top flight power play quarterback in the NHL. The Lightning have no doubt seen plenty of Gormley, whose teammate at Moncton was none other than recently signed prospect Mark Barberio, so they likely know exactly what theyâ€™re getting if they select the PEI native. The question is how keen the Lightning will be to use a sixth overall pick on a player that doesnâ€™t have the dynamic offensive upside of a future number one defenseman and who is a lefty shot and therefore likely will be relegated to the second power play unit by Victor Hedman. Will the Lightning be willing to select a quiet, solid, 30+ point a year, minute eating defenseman when there are dynamic scorers at the forward positions still sitting on the board? Thatâ€™s a tough call to make for any scouting staff, even if itâ€™s the right one.