November 08, 2010
There is no confusion over which Ontario Hockey League wunderkind has a Calder Trophy bandwagon behind him heading into their first meeting as pros on Tuesday.
The reunion of the Carolina Hurricanes' Jeff Skinner and Edmonton Oilers' Taylor Hall — when they faced each other in the spring, Hall and the Windsor Spitfires pulled off a comeback from a 3-0 series deficit over Skinner's Kitchener Rangers — is a prompt to renew an endless debate. What comes first when drafting, physical tools or projections based on statistical performance?
Hall, whom in hindsight was the tools guy in the 2010 draft class, is tantalizing and teasing on a nightly basis. He has shown he can change a game with his speed, although as David Staples pointed out last week, doing the dirty-area deeds that are vital for a top scorer in the NHL will have to wait. (Staples' term is "hard plays.")
Now, along comes Skinner. It turned out, after the fact, his major junior numbers projected better (as previously noted at BTN) to the NHL than those of anyone else in his draft class. At the same time, NHL Central Scouting ranked him as its 34th-best North American-based skater prior to Kitchener's playoff run.
Fast-forward to the present and the Rangers grad is holding down the first-line centre spot for Carolina. He's sparking talk of someday being a 50-goal scorer in the big league, like he was in the OHL in his age-17 season. He can also serve as a nice contrast for Toronto columnists wishing to tweak the Toronto Maple Leafs over the progress of the No. 7 pick from 2009, former Ranger and London Knight Nazem Kadri.
"Within a few seasons, you could be looking at a 50-goal, 100-point player. Now, whenever I say stuff like that keep in mind players rarely get there — he is just one of the few who 'could' theoretically do so. The hands and hockey sense are there and he's certainly on the right track. Count on 60 points this season and at least 25 goals — it seems pretty likely he will at the very least round into a point-per-game player or close to it … Skinner has five goals and 12 points and last week Carolina head coach Paul Maurice moved him onto the team's top line with Eric Staal and Chad LaRose." (The Hockey News)
Would Skinner's quicker success (although it is early yet, very early) have repercussions down the line, perhaps as early as the 2011 draft? Perhaps NHL teams, presuming some already do, will take a harder look at prospects' CHL numbers, or at least at putting them in context.
(It might not be for nothing Skinner went to the same NHL organization which selected then-Belleville Bulls goalie Mike Murphy in 2008. Murphy was OHL goalie of the year in his age-18 year, '07-08, but perhaps since he is only 5-foot-11 and about 170 pounds, was still around in the sixth round. He went on to win the CHL's top goalie award and is putting up some sweet stats in the American Hockey League.)
Skinner's fast start suggests, yeah, the numbers matter. Hall, of course, has a lot of upside.
Putting out the four-ore
Meantime, on the Hall front, may we put the furore (four-ore?) over Mark Seidel's inflammatory blog post to rest?
Seidel, of North American Central Scouting, has apologized to Hall, his family and the Oilers. He was in the wrong, but it was would be remiss to not note there was some effort made to make it right and save face. It is an old issue except to old media who used it to do some blogger-baiting.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
(Photo: Getty Images.)