More than a few of scouts have mentioned to me it's typically the second season after a prospect is drafted that those in the evaluation business get a real sense of if the teenager is going to make it big, make it small, or not make it at all.
There are exceptions to be sure. Many of them. From late-bloomers, who don’t make it until their mid-20s, to flat-liners who star at the major junior level, but can’t convert at the pro level.
But for the scouts who watch these prospects intently in their draft year, there’s an unspoken level of expectation they anticipate the following season, and then more importantly, the season after that, when entry level contracts are offered and signed. It’s what they call “moving” season. Accurate projections can now be made as to whether that first round pick will someday blossom on a first line in the NHL, max out as a two-way second-liner, or be hard-pressed to be a bottom-six forward.
In establishing our top 50 list of NHL-affiliated prospects in our recently released Future Watch 2013, we canvassed scouts from every NHL team and asked them to project five to 10 years out on the best players in the system league-wide. St. Louis right winger Vladimir Tarasenko finished No. 1 on the list, while Future Watch 2012 winner Evgeny Kuznetsov slipped to No. 3.
Based on the feedback from scouts, we re-ranked the order of the 2011 first round in Future Watch 2013. Had it been held today, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog would still be at the top of the list (don’t let RNH’s recent struggles cloud the big picture on him). I won’t give away all the results because it’s in the issue, but interesting evaluations to cull from it are: Dougie Hamilton would have moved way up from being selected ninth overall to inside the top five; and Duncan Siemens (11th overall) and Jamie Oleksiak (14th) would have slipped outside the top 20.
Of course, this exercise doesn’t take into consideration individual team preferences. Though we’ll never know for sure publicly, maybe the Colorado Avalanche would still take Siemens 11th overall even though the scouting community at large wouldn’t touch him until at least the 20th pick.
So how about the 2012 first round? How might that unfold in the eyes of a scouting panel if we were to re-convene today? After a half season of evaluation to consider, here’s the revised order based on voting for the top 50 prospects in Future Watch 2013.
1. Nail Yakupov, RW (actually taken 1st by Edmonton)
2. Alex Galchenyuk, C (taken 3rd by Montreal)
3. Ryan Murray, D (taken 2nd by Columbus)
4. Jacob Trouba, D (taken 9th by Winnipeg)
5. Hampus Lindholm, D (taken 6th by Anaheim)
6. Mikhail Grigorenko, C (taken 12th by Buffalo)
7. Morgan Rielly, D (taken 5th by Toronto)
8. Filip Forsberg, RW (taken 11th by Washington)
9. Griffin Reinhart, D (taken 4th by NY Islanders)
10. Andrey Vasilevski, G (taken 19th by Tampa Bay)
11. Teuvo Teravainen, C (taken 18th by Chicago)
12. Scott Laughton, C (taken 20th by Philadelphia)
13. Tomas Hertl, C (taken 17th by San Jose)
14. Olli Maatta, D (taken 22nd by Pittsburgh)
15. Derrick Pouliot, D (taken 8th by Pittsburgh)
16. Malcolm Subban, G (taken 24th by Boston)
17. Mathew Dumba, D (taken 7th by Minnesota)
18. Zemgus Girgensons, C (taken 14th by Buffalo)
19. Radek Faksa, C (taken 13th by Dallas)
20. Tom Wilson, RW (taken 16th by Washington)
21. Stefan Matteau, C (taken 29th by New Jersey)
22. Mike Matheson, D (taken 23rd by Florida)
23. Oscar Dansk, G (taken 31st by Columbus)
24. Henrik Samuelsson, C (taken 27th by Phoenix)
25. Mark Jankowski, C (taken 21st by Calgary)
No other 2012 draftees received votes for the top 50. That includes actual first-rounders Slater Koekkoek (taken 10th by Tampa Bay), Cody Ceci (taken 15th by Ottawa), Jordan Schmaltz (taken 25th by St. Louis), Brendan Gaunce (taken 26th by Vancouver), Brady Skjei (taken 28th by the New York Rangers) and Tanner Pearson (taken 30th by Los Angeles).
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.