Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Risk that is Sean Monahan

The biggest stage for young North American kids playing junior hockey to strut their stuff is the World Junior Hockey Championships. The Memorial Cup would be next on the list with the WHL, OHL and QMJHL playoffs ranking third on the list.

It's in these high profile settings where the games matter the most, the competition is as tough as its been, the intensity is ramped up and in the case of the World Juniors and the Memorial Cup, all of Canada is watching, putting enormous added pressure on the shoulders of these young men.

In 2013, Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Seth Jones all seized each of these opportunities to show off their game and leave a lasting impression and it is no coincidence that they are expected by many to be the top three players selected in Sunday's NHL Entry Draft.

Once you get past these three and as well as top-ranked European skaters Aleksander Barkov (Finland) and Valeri Nichushkin (Russia), which round out most people's top 5, you venture into some wide open terrain, chockful of debate in terms of who could and should be next.  Of course, this is a situation of great interest and much consternation for the Flames and their anxious fan base as Calgary is the team that holds the 6th pick.

Failing one of the aforementioned five players falling out of the top five, and if you subscribe to the notion that a forward and preferably a big centre is the Flames top priority for their top pick, it seems more and more like the decision at No. 6 will come down to either Sweden's Elias Lindholm or Sean Monahan of the OHL's Ottawa 67's.

Monahan - An Interesting Situation

Remember that terrific Memorial Cup final between Portland and Halifax back on May 26 when MacKinnon had a game for the ages with two goals and three assists? That game came 70 days after Monahan had his last opportunity to leave on-ice impression with NHL scouts and GMs.

Monahan had a great season, for sure, 31 goals and 47 assists in 58 games, but he did so as the best player on a horrible team. The 67's won just 16 of 68 games, had the worst record in the OHL, and also had Ottawa's worst season since joining the league in 1967-68.

While the scouts clearly liked what they saw from Monahan between September and March, they didn't get a chance -- for better or worse, to see his game head-to-head with everything on the line against the likes of MacKinnon, Drouin and Jones. Monahan was at Canada's World Junior camp but he didn't get to share the ice with them for very long there, either, as he was in the first round of cuts.

Perhaps, if he had the chance, Monahan could have driven up his stock. If the Memorial Cup had come down to Portland and Ottawa and leading up to that, Monahan had two months of playoff hockey to showcase his skills, maybe he's in the conversation for top three right now. Or, maybe he would have had areas of his game exposed and drifted the other way in all the rankings and mock drafts. Instead, scouts and fans alike are left wondering.

History Lesson

If you go back to 2000, there have been 20 players drafted in the first round of the NHL draft, who came from WHL, OHL or QMJHL clubs that did not qualify for the playoffs. Are there lessons to be learned that Flames General Manager Jay Feaster should take into account, when mulling over who to take at No. 6 on Sunday? History suggests that yes, there is.

While generally speaking, defencemen plucked from non-playoff teams are less worrisome and in some cases, have turned out excellent -- see Mike Green, Brent Seabrook and Jay Bouwmeester, the same cannot be said for the 10 forwards on the list, who you could argue have all underachieved compared to the quality of forwards chosen right after them.

While I'd like to give Mark Scheifele, 7th pick in 2011, chosen from the Dale Hawerchuk-coached Barrie Colts (an awful 15-49-0-4),  the benefit of the doubt, the Jets could have selected Sean Couturier instead. In 2010 when Brett Connolly went No. 6, Tampa Bay passed on Jeff Skinner, who went 7th. Michael Grabner was taken 14th in 2006 by Vancouver and while he's put up some decent offensive numbers, forwards that went later in round one that year included Chris Stewart, Claude Giroux, Patrick Berglund and Nick Foligno.

So, what it comes down to is figuring out if Monahan is actually a 3 dressed up as a 6, or is he a 9 dressed up as a 6? You know NHL scouts wish they would have seen him on the ice in the last three months with hockey at its most feverish pitch, to figure that out. If it were me, a bit of a historian and a big believer in learning from the past, I'd be taking Lindholm.

  • 7 - MIN Mathew Dumba D, Red Deer (WHL) 
  • 10 - TB Slater Koekkoek D, Peterborough (OHL)      
  • 7 - WPG Mark Scheifele C, Barrie (OHL) 11 games, 1-0-1
  • 24 - OTT Matt Puempel LW, Peterborough (OHL)   

  • 6 - TB Brett Connolly RW, Prince George (WHL) 73 games, 5-11-16
  • 17 - COL Joey Hishon C, Owen Sound (OHL)
  • 23 - BUF Mark Pysyk D, Edmonton (WHL) 19 games, 1-4-5

  • 12 - NYI Calvin de Haan D, Oshawa (OHL) 1 game, 0-0-0

  • 16 - MIN Colton Gillies LW, Saskatoon (WHL) 154 games, 6-12-18

  • 14 - VAN Michael Grabner RW, Spokane (WHL) 219 games, 75-41-116

  • 10 - VAN Luc Bourdon D Val d'Or (QMJHL) 36 games, 2-0-2
  • 26 - CAL Matt Pelech D Sarnia (OHL) 7 games, 0-3-3

  • 29 - WSH Mike Green D, Saskatoon (WHL) 433 games, 94-183-277 

  • 14 - CHI Brent Seabrook D, Lethbridge (WHL) 599 games, 56-190-246
  • 22 - EDM Marc-Antoine Pouliot C, Rimouski (QMJHL) 192 games, 21-36-57
  • 25 - FLA Anthony Stewart RW, Kingston (OHL) 262 games, 27-44-71
  • 30 - STL Shawn Belle D, Tri-City (WHL) 20 games, 0-1-1

  • 3 - FLA Jay Bouwmeester D, Medicine Hat (WHL) 764 games, 72-235-307

  • 28 - NJ Adrian Foster C, Saskatoon (WHL)    

  • 16 - MTL Marcel Hossa LW, Portland (WHL) 237 games, 31-30-61

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