Defenseman Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers has 35 points through his first 20 games. (Photo courtesy OHL Images)
Draft rankings are never set in stone, so it’s not surprising the two major players in the hockey world – International Scouting Services and the NHL’s own Central Scouting Bureau – have posted shake-ups on their recent releases. But what can we parse from the rankings? There are some interesting moves afoot.
Portland Winterhawks right winger Ty Rattie was ranked 40th overall by ISS heading into the season, but his blazing work so far stepped him up to No. 25 with the November rankings. Rattie, a swift offensive threat with some nice hands, currently sits second in Western League scoring with 39 points in 23 games, meaning he has already passed his totals from all of last season.
He’s not small (six-foot, 170 pounds) and though scouts have argued about his defensive game he’s a plus-16 right now, also the best in his career. He was also the second overall pick in the 2008 bantam draft behind top Dub prospect Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, so Rattie has the pedigree. Perhaps last year was just an off-campaign for him.
Central Scouting’s latest rankings are by circuit and from the outset the most shocking shift comes at the top of the United States League, where right winger Tyler Biggs of the U.S. national team development program has usurped Omaha right winger Seth Ambroz. In fact, Ambroz is also behind Biggs’ NTDP teammate, JT Miller. But is it really a shock?
One scout I talked to recently had expressed disappointment in Ambroz this season, particularly since the Lancers power forward is now in his third USHL campaign. But both Ambroz and the team are struggling, which another scout used to argue things aren’t as bad as they seem: Ambroz is trying to do too much and is getting less done in the process.
Ironically, that first scout had said to me weeks ago that he’d put Biggs ahead of Ambroz – the NTDP kid is aggressive, a punishing hitter and he can produce offensively. He also goes to the net with or without the puck. ISS still has Ambroz ahead of Biggs (defenseman Robbie Russo is the top USHL player on that board, followed by Ambroz, then Youngstown’s Scott Mayfield and pint-sized NTDP dynamo Rocco Grimaldi, then Biggs), but it will be interesting to see if that changes in future rankings.
Don Cherry made Murphy a household name last week when he said the Kitchener Rangers defenseman would be the top pick in 2011. ISS dropped him one spot to No. 5 in November, bumping teammate Gabriel Landeskog ahead of him. Central Scouting was even more bearish, proclaiming him just the eighth-best prospect in the Ontario League, listing Niagara’s Dougie Hamilton as the top D-man in the circuit (and third overall in the OHL). So who’s right?
Here are the pros and cons of the most divisive player in the draft (Grimaldi and Russo also fit into the category; size being a factor for all three):
Pro: Murphy is devastating on the rush and has a great shot. For proof, just look at his 35 points in 20 games, tying him for third overall in the OHL. Kid’s got the Ryan Ellis-Mike Green gene for sure.
Con: He’s barely 5-foot-10 and got bounced around by bigger players at the NHL’s Research & Development Camp this past summer. Considering those camp games were played against most of the best players available in 2011, what does that say about Murphy’s next-level potential?
I believe Murphy will be nabbed somewhere in the middle of the ISS and Central Scouting rankings and, much like Ellis, by a team that is intrigued by his pros and doesn’t see his cons being as debilitating as some others.
Notoriously difficult to predict, particularly in major junior where older netminders get the starts while the backups get drafted based on potential (Steve Mason being the best recent example), there isn’t a lot of consensus right now. Top names include John Gibson of the NTDP, lanky Finn Samu Perhonen and Chicoutimi’s Christopher Gibson, who is actually half-Finnish himself. The latter Gibson (whose battery mate, Robin Gusse, is also draft eligible) has been raising a lot of eyebrows in Quebec, where one scout told me he had witnessed one particular performance that had not been seen since the days of Marc-Andre Fleury or Jonathan Bernier.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Fridays and The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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