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What scouts are saying about NHL draft prospects

Jonathan Drouin dominated with Halifax this season and is expected to be an early first round pick at the NHL draft.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

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Jonathan Drouin dominated with Halifax this season and is expected to be an early first round pick at the NHL draft. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Every year I interview NHL team scouts from across North America and Europe about the upcoming draft class. Many of the quotes make it into stories, but I had so much material this year, I thought it would be cool to publish the raw quotes on a number of kids. The names of the scouts are still protected, but here’s what they said.

Hunter Shinkaruk, LW, Medicine Hat (WHL)
“He’s a highly skilled kid, very explosive skater. His hands are as quick as anyone’s in the league.”

“Because Hunter has been so gifted all the way up in hockey, he’s been allowed to get away with some things. He needs to learn the team game now and how to play away from the puck.”

Morgan Klimchuk, LW – Regina Pats (WHL)
“He’s a smart, two-way player. You put Klimchuk on a better team, you put him on Edmonton and their power play and his numbers go way up.”

“Very quick, very good skater. Reacts to the play well and doesn’t lose speed with the puck. A lot of his results were on his own – he was a marked man.”

Curtis Lazar, C – Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
“He grows on me every time I see him. I don’t think he’s a top two lines kinda player, but he’s a character guy. He’ll stand up for teammates and he’s as honest as they come. I don’t know how he has so many goals, seems to be at the right place at the right time. Really safe bet to play.”

“I see a Dustin Brown. He plays 200 feet, he’s responsible and strong. The question is his offensive ceiling and is he a center or a wing at the pro level?”

Mason Geertsen, D – Vancouver Giants (WHL)
“He wants to fight, he wants to showcase himself as a fighter. His dad was a golden gloves boxer and that’s how he sees the game for his son.”

“Don Hay is going to be great for him. That’s the kind of kid Don likes to work with, all full of piss and vinegar.”

“He’s a big, strong kid who can really skate for his size. He can intimidate players from stopping in front of his net.”

Zach Fucale, G – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
“Last year he looked better but that’s because he was facing 35 shots a night. Now he’s facing 20 and learning a new skill – keeping his head in the game. He’s very good down low and side-to-side. Pucks hit him.”

Hudson Fasching, RW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
“You wonder. He’s a big kid, gets to the net…can he be that power forward? Lucic wasn’t a power forward when he was drafted but good on the Bruins, who had the insight that he (Lucic) could become one.”

JT Compher, LW – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
“If you went to a game and didn’t have a scoresheet, you’d look at him and say ‘who’s that kid?’ ”

“He started off strong this year at the USHL Fall Classic. It was good to see him score at the Five Nations. I think he showed on a grand stage that he could lead by example.”

Keaton Thompson, D – U.S. NTDP (USHL)
“It’s time to figure out where he is on the curve, what his upside is. He’s a really good skater and can rush the puck. Now it’s time to see if he can create.”

Shea Theodore, D – Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
“Decent size, skates pretty well and rushes the puck well. Probably tries to do too much right now, but Seattle’s not a very good team again. Definitely a gambler, but I don’t have a problem with that; that’s coachable.”

Seth Jones, D – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
“He just gets better and better. That tournament in Ufa, that’s supposed to be for 19 year olds. He does everything. He rushes the puck and I’ve seen him where if he loses it, he’s pretty much the first one back. Willing to take a hit to make a play. He’s the real deal, a no-brainer No. 1 or 2.”

Madison Bowey, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
“Seeing him last year I thought he would be an offensive defenseman juggernaut kind of guy. I’ve been disappointed this year in that regard, but having said that, he’s a very good skater, very mobile and makes a great outlet pass right on the tape. I still like him. Not very physical, but he doesn’t get beat often thanks to his skating.”

Nathan MacKinnon, C – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
“He has the best first three-step quickness I’ve ever seen in a draft-eligible player. Technically he’s a great skater; good hip drop, long stride. In his puck game, he doesn’t have the hands of Drouin, but he has quick hands, he can score a lot of goals in close which is important at the next level. He’ll be a pro for a lot of years.”

Jonathan Drouin, LW – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
“Highlight reel kid because of his hands. Great agility, great edges, his skating is well above average. He’s got a sweet pair of mitts. Hands always moving and it’s hard to defend those kinds of players.”

William Carrier, LW – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
“Not the greatest skater, but better when he has the puck. He’s a wide tracker; he bends over when he skates. Smart player, he’s in good places at good times. Gritty, doesn’t mind getting involved. Fell off when the team fell off.”

Valentin Zykov, RW – Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
“Big-bodied guy, pretty weighty. Good puck skills and puck protection. Great shot, good release, very good skater. He has a lot of pro attributes, he’s a pretty attractive prospect.”

Brett Pesce, D – University of New Hampshire Wildcats (Hockey East)
“He’s the real deal. Tremendous poise with the puck, icewater in his veins. A good skater and he’s getting a lot of time for a freshman.”

“I was impressed. For a late ’94 to take a regular shift in Hockey East is a big deal. Has a lot of confidence – he wants the puck and he’ll call for it. I think he has just scratched the surface of his offensive ability. There’s a lot to like.”

Ryan Fitzgerald, C – Valley Jr. Warriors (EJHL)
“Skilled, tremendous hockey sense, very good offensive instincts. He competes and has a nasty edge to his game. Battles in the corners. His size is an issue, because he doesn’t have that extra gear that smaller guys like John Gaudreau or Rocco Grimaldi have.”

Teemu Kivihalme, D – Burnsville Blaze (Minn. HS)
“He reminds me of Phil Housley, from strictly a skating standpoint. He can be a wild stallion out there, but that’s Minnesota high school. Jake Gardiner was the same way.”

Tommy Vannelli, D – Minnetonka Skippers (Minn. HS)
“Probably the most talented player from an individual standpoint. He’s a right-shot defenseman who really skates. Needs to work on his intensity, but he’s an exceptional athlete.”

Rasmus Ristolainen, D – TPS (Fin.)
“He’s been on the board for the past three years. He has size and skating; he’s steady. He doesn’t wow me, but he has all the tools. I think he has more value as a solid two-way guy – he’s not Erik Karlsson. But he’ll be fine.”

Sasha Barkov, C – Tappara (Fin.)
“You can’t compare him to anybody in the past, you can go all the way back to the Koivus. He’s big, poised…pretty much man-sized. He sets the game’s tempo and there aren’t too many 17-year-olds who can do that. Plays tough games every night.”

Artturi Lehkonen, LW – KalPa (Fin.)
“I think the coaching staff threw him to the wolves at the world juniors. You don’t see him much, but he produces. Smart, great offensive timing and he reads the play well. Nothing flashy, average skater.”

Valery Nichushkin, C – Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)
“Certainly he has the physical attributes above most of the other kids. Excellent skater who generates power with his stride. Excellent vision. I had questioned his ability to make the right play in his decisions but man oh man did he prove me wrong. As far as talent, he’s top three.”

Jacob De La Rose, LW – Leksand (Swe.)
“I love his game. You get the same effort every game. He works in the trenches and plays don’t die with him. Big, strong guy. Top six is realistic, but he could also be a helluva third-liner.”

Robert Hagg, D – Modo (Swe.)
“I love him but he drives me crazy. I want to see more passion. Physically he’s such a big boy. The game is so easy for him – he passes the puck as well as NHL defensemen do now.”

Pavel Buchnevich, C – Almaz (Rus.)
“He’s a notch or two below Nichushkin. Typical Russian: selfish, one-dimensional, yells at his teammates when things aren’t going right. Very talented player; someone’s going to take him because of his ability, maybe in the late second round or early third.”

Sean Monahan, C – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
“Hockey sense describes him to a ‘T.’ Elite thinker, does everything well. Needs to work on his skating but it won’t hold him back; he just needs to work on his core strength. Protects the puck as well as anyone.”

Andre Burakowsky, LW – Malmo (Swe.)
“He’s had a tough year. It’s tough for those kids who are on the cusp of the big team but are too good for the junior team. They go on the road trips, but don’t play very many minutes. He’s a talented player. His skills from the blueline are great. Good hands, shot and goal-scoring ability.”

“Sorta flatlined. Playing more of a reactive game instead of proactive. He can establish the pace out there and that’s what he needs to be doing.”

Elias Lindholm, C – Brynas (Swe.)
“He’s taken the next step in his development this year. He’s getting power play time, bringing leadership…he’s an easy guy to like. Plays in the corners and provides offense.”

Jason Dickinson, LW – Guelph Storm (OHL)
“If I had a knock on him, it would be consistency. Some games he looks like a top-10 pick, some nights you don’t see him out there. He plays a real good two-way game when he’s on. Real good offensive instincts and can play in all situations.”

Chris Bigras, D – Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
“Simple yet effective, highly underrated performer. One of those complimentary players who is best when you don’t notice him out there. He’s responsible and accountable.”

Alexander Wennberg, C – Djurgarden (Swe.)
“He’s a very skilled player who carries that team as a young player. He sees the ice extremely well, he’s creative and has puck patience. His stock will continue to rise.”

Dillon Heatherington, D – Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
“I like Dillon. Big-time character. Never cheats, plays hard, doesn’t cut corners on a play even when he’s gassed. A busy skater, but he gets around quickly. His puck retrieval under pressure was great.”

Ross Olsson, RW – Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (USHL)
“He’s one of the rawest players available. Very skinny, gets pushed off his skates a lot. But on a good day he tries to be a physical presence. He’s going to be a big man and he’ll be physically imposing. Good shot, too. Production went up after trade.”

Gustav Olofsson, D – Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
“Exceptional hockey sense. He could be the best of the (USHL) bunch. Great skater, defends very well with his stick, poised and he can move the puck. I like that kid a lot.”

Juuse Saros, G – HPK (Fin.)
“Excellent goalie: quick, reads the puck great. Someone will give him a chance but I worry about his size. When he goes down in the butterfly, there’s a lot of room up top.”

Ryan Pulock, D – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
“Doesn’t necessarily bring you out of your seat, but that’s how he plays. Strong on his edges, solid build – a Datsyuk build – and he’s got that big shot. Not a search-and-destroy, fear of God kind of player.”

Adam Erne, RW – Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
“If he plays that power forward-type game, he’s good. This year he played a little man’s game at times, which might have been because of Grigorenko going back and forth. Strong kid, bang-and-crash type.”

Samuel Morin, D – Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
“Most upside of any defenseman in the league. Constantly growing as a player. He has figured out what he is going to be. Really skates well, has a little more offense in him and not afraid to apply himself physically. Looked really good on the big ice at the U18s in Russia, which isn’t easy for big guys.”

Dylan Labbe, D – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
“Played a few games last year for the Memorial Cup team and was intriguing back then. Good skater, good mobility and he processes the game well under pressure. This kid goes up against the other team’s top line every night.”

Nick Sorensen, RW – Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
“He has grown up to 6-foot-3 now. Shoots well, good vision – defensive play need a little work. He likes to play the perimeter and I don’t know if he’s willing to pay the price in the dirty areas.”

Anthony Duclair, LW – Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
“Lots of positives and lots of negatives. He’s one of the top five skaters in the draft, but he’s more about himself. Not a collective player, that’s the knock. Individually he’s a high-end talent. Likes the perimeter, but he’s effective. There are certainly NHLers who play that way.”

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Ryan Kennedy, the co-author of Young Guns II, is THN's associate senior writer and a regular contributor to THN.com. His column appears Wednesdays and The Hot List appears Tuesdays. Follow him on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy.

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