Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

What would have happened to Jeff Skinner's pre-draft buzz if his training guru, universally respected former NHLer Gary Roberts, had said this before June 25?

No player had a bigger gulf between his NHL Central Scouting ranking (34th) and where he was expected to be selected than the Kitchener Rangers star,who went No. 7 overall to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Granted, since Roberts' gig is training young players, it's in his self-interest to compare Skinner to hockey royalty, but he probably doesn't make a Sidney Crosby comparison lightly.

"Roberts said Skinner reminds him of another NHL star and former workout partner: Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"The first time I saw Jeff I said, 'Holy smoke, he looks just like Sidney Crosby,' " Roberts said. 'It's freaky how comparable they are. Jeff has the same frame as Sidney.

" 'Sidney Crosby is more explosive. But Jeff will get there. I think he's going to be a really, really good player for the Hurricanes for a long time.' "

"... 'At 18, Jeff's strength is incredible,' Roberts said. "What we want to do is increase his speed and explosiveness.

" 'Sidney Crosby can open those hips up and really accelerate around you. Jeff, who skates like Sidney, should be able to do that, too.' " (Charlotte Observer)

One takeaway with Skinner is his exceptional balance. He has a certain aptitude for staying on his feet in the heavy going along the boards in around the net, which probably keeps plays alive that would go by the wayside for other players. That could certainly be free-associated with Crosby.

(For glib point of comparison, Skinner was a 50-goal scorer as a 17-year-old, no mean feat in an Ontario Hockey League season in which the only other 50-goal men were overagers.

Crosby rattled off 54- and 66-goal seasons in his two seasons with the Rimouski Océanic in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.)

Roberts' take perhaps explain why expert opinion on the 5-foot-10, 195-pound centre was so split on his draft year, when Skinner was scoring so many goals for the OHL's Rangers but having his skating questioned. It's a little bold to ascribe Crosby's characteristics to another young player.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Sports Canada. Contact him at neatesager@yahoo.ca and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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