The best development for Scott Kosmachuk is that his team's situation has helped him grow up fast.
The right wing has become an offensive leader for a very young Guelph Storm which is hanging around the fringes of the playoff race in the Ontario Hockey League's Western Conference playoff race. That has helped the 18-year-old Kosmachuk, who cops to having some issues with consistency, get on the NHL draft radar. If he can help the Storm squeak into the second season, it could do wonders for his draft stock.
"People don't expect us to do well because we're a young team, but we're a hard-working bunch and we're going to continue to develop," says Kosmachuk, who was 23rd among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's January midterm ranking.
The Richmond Hill, Ont., native likely falls in the range between having an outside chance at sneaking into the first round and being a more probable second-rounder. Kosmachuk can make plays at speed and is a strong north-south player. He is third in team scoring with 24 goals and 45 points in 51 games. At 5-foot-11 and 182 pounds, he's also willing to get his nose dirty; he's actually second on the Storm in penalty minutes, which is an odd distinction for a top-6 forward.
The Storm, who also have defenceman Matt Finn projected to go in the first round, are one of the more scouted OHL teams. For Kosmachuk, that means he has a chance to grow on the scouting community. He is hopeful he can block that out and focus.
"You just have to fun with it," says Kosmachuk, who played in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game two weeks ago. "You know the scouts are going to be there every game. I try to bring a lot of energy to my game and bring a lot of consistency, put up numbers offensively and play a good all-around game."
1. Apart from the obvious such as getting stronger and quicker, what skill do you need to improve the most before you can turn pro?
"I would say being consistent every game. Some games I have a lot of jump, some games I don't have a lot of jump. I've had patches of offensive streaks throughout the season, then got on and off."
2. Whom in the NHL do you watch closely and think, "I need to play more like he does" or "I see what he's doing and I can build that into my game?"
"I like to say I model my game after [Calgary Flames forward] Jarome Iginla. He's like a strong offensive forward, he plays an all-around game, tough and gritty. But then I watch Sidney Crosby and watch the little things he does, the little things I can incorporate into my game."
3. Outside of family, who has the greatest impact on you in hockey?
"I would have to say [Toronto minor hockey coach] Dan Brown. He was my coach all the way up to minor midget. I played for about 10 years under his coaching. He taught me everything I know, including a lot of little things that people don't teach you." (What was one specific example?) "When we were young, we had a team that was very strong and he started teaching us extra things, like getting extra low in your stride when you're breaking out so you can get extra speed when you're coming up the ice."
4. This is not really a question, but we understand you were a pretty accomplished cross-country runner in your younger days?
"Once I got into high school, I had to cut if off because I was focused on hockey, but I was a really good runner. Really loved it. I actually started about grade 3 or 4. My brother was playing for the Vaughan Kings and they did a training program where they ran every day and I just joined in. They were two years older than me so I wanted to show I could do it and I ended up being better than most of them."
5. What is your diversion when there is a time during the season when you just need to get your mind off hockey?
"Just go home and unwind. Toronto, Richmond Hill, is not too far from Guelph, so I get to go home occasionally and be with friends and just do my thing."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: OHL Images).