Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Jeff Skinner Rankings: Nathan MacKinnon, Hunter Shinkaruk project best to the NHL

PITTSBURGH — Nathan MacKinnon is taking in the NHL draft just to see what's he in for next summer. No NHL general manager can call out his name tonight, but it might be a good idea to nab him in a keeper hockey pool if you have not already.

Buzzing The Net's annual Jeff Skinner Rankings, which are a statistical projection of how top junior scorers could be expected to do if they became full-time NHLers immediately, favour youth. The method number-cruncher Rob Pettapiece deploys into account that the older the junior player, the closer his production is to what he might become as a pro.

The reasoning behind it is simple; NHL teams look at a player's tools to make a well-educated guess on how his skating, frame and hockey IQ will play in the pros. The JSR, which draws on pioneering hockey analyst Gabriel Desjardins' work with NHL equivalencies, looks strictly at points per game and the player's age. By happy accident, the name was taken from what happened two years ago. Jeff Skinner was fresh off scoring 70 goals for the Kitchener Rangers in the regular season and playoffs, but concerns about his skating kept him low in some draft rankings. The Carolina Hurricanes tapped him with the No. 7 overall pick in the NHL draft and he promptly became rookie of the year.

So it's not a shock when players a year away from the draft such as the Halifax Mooseheads' MacKinnon or Medicine Hat Tigers left wing Hunter Shinkaruk rank 1-2, as they do in this ranking. Last season, Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk were among the top three. However, the class of 2013 really is monopolizing the top spots.

For the first time, the JSR includes the United States Hockey League along with the three Canadian major junior circuits. Two USHLers cracked the top 20.

1. 50.6 — Nathan MacKinnon, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): In other words, if Nathan MacKinnon became a full-time NHL player next season, one could reasonably expect 50-point season from him if he played a full 82-game schedule.

How does that compare with 16-year-old, Rimouski Océanic-jersey-rocking Sidney Crosby? Pettapiece found Crosby's NHL equivalency in 2003-04 with Rimouski was 52.6. MacKinnon's 50.6 is in the same ballpark.

Crosby, of course, has averaged 115 points per 82 games during his NHL career. So yes, the hype about MacKinnon is warranted.

2. 46.4 — Hunter Shinkaruk, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL): Shinkaruk could have been in the running for the best forward in the 2012 draft if he had been born a month earlier. He had a 49-goal season in The Hat and just missed an empty-netter in the regular-season finale that would have given him the magic 50.

Jeff Skinner Rankings: Nathan MacKinnon, Hunter Shinkaruk project best to the NHL3. 40.1 — Mikhail Grigorenko, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL): Go ahead, be that guy who makes the joke that Grigorenko has to be older than 18. A NHL equivalency above 40 is nothing to sneeze at and shows Grigorenko is a rare individual talent.

4 (tied). 39.9 — Sean Monahan, Ottawa 67's (OHL): The easy way out might be to lump Monahan in with recent straight-to-NHL CHL grads Gabriel Landeskog and Sean Couturier. He has similar size at 6-foot-2 and 193 pounds and his faceoff ability and perceptiveness on the ice could get him to The Show at 19. Monahan, who tallied 93 points in 80 total games in the nation's capital, has some offensive upside. He has a stellar shot and thrives at finding a blind spot in the defensive coverage. It is worth noting that he's always had significantly older linemates in Ottawa.

4 (tied). 39.9 — Anthony Duclair, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL): Counting playoffs, the speedster was a point-per-game player for the Remparts with 36 goals and 74 points in as many games. That extra giddy-up is going to make him a first-round pick. It's just a matter of filling out his 5-foot-11 frame and fleshing out his all-around game.

The QMJHL has four 2013 NHL prospects in the top 10, including one American. Let's just say no one will have to ask league commissioner Gilles Courteau why he is smiling at next summer's draft. By comparison, the neighbouring OHL has four 2013 picks among the top 40.

6. 39.8 — Taylor Cammarata, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL): MacKinnon's former Shattuck teammate essentially duplicated his buddy's feat in the United States League. He put a team on his back and led it deep into the playoffs, helping the Black Hawks reach the Clark Cup final. It is evident the only drawback for Cammarata vis-à-vis the 2013 NHL draft is that he is small, listed at 5-foot-6 and 145 pounds.

7. 39.1 — William Carrier, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL): The JSR looks more at production than top-end skill. Carrier is a power winger whose 70-point season for the Eagles was probably a byproduct of how thoroughly he competed after getting the chance to play big minutes for a 16th-place team. He might not mature into a scorer, but he's showing there is reason for scouts to visit the CHL's eastern outpost.

Jeff Skinner Rankings: Nathan MacKinnon, Hunter Shinkaruk project best to the NHL8. 37.9 — Sam Reinhart, Kootenay Ice (WHL): The youngest player in the top 10 and only one whose draft season is 2014. Imagine what Reinhart (64 points in 71 total games) will do once he's more up to the physical rigours of the Western League, which will only come from time.

9. 36.6 — Nail Yakupov, Sarnia Sting (OHL): Would that The Saucy Tatar had made it through the season without significant injury — and perhaps while playing on a team which gelled better. Yakupov's first half, 53 points in 27 games, was a harbinger of a future 40- or 50-goal scorer in the NHL and he didn't shirk laying the body during that time. His production dropped by nearly half after he injured his knee in the world junior game. Being ninth as someone who is nearly 19 years old is impressive in light of those difficulties.

10. 36.2 — Jonathan Drouin, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): Drouin deferred his arrival in Halifax to December, which means his 26-point post-season probably goosed his rating a little. No matter. The slick-handed, shifty winger showed he was worth the wait for the Herd, who will now have two likely first-rounders next season. The Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament in August is likely the next proving stage for the 17-year-old Drouin.

11. 35.8 — Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL): The Florida Panthers' No. 3 overall pick in 2011 had an injury-shortened year with the Sea Dogs, but he still captained a team which fell two wins shy of repeating as MasterCard Memorial Cup champions.

12. 34.8 — Charles Hudon, Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL): Part of the purpose for this is to turn up players who draft stock might belie their true potential. Hudon will likely be a third- to fifth-round choice on Saturday, which is his 18th birthday. One red flag is he didn't increase his points from his rookie to sophomore season, going from 60 to 66. But he was a leader for the President's Cup runner-up Saguenéens and his team had one of highest strengths of schedule in the Quebec League, thanks to playing in the loaded Telus East Division, which accounted for three-fourths of the league's semifinalists and the Memorial Cup champion.

13 (tied). 33.4 — Ty Rattie, Portland Winterhawks (WHL): He totalled 154 points combined in the regular season and playoffs. Pretty self-explanatory.

13 (tied). 33.4 — Adam Erne, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL): Offensive instincts helped Erne, who did not turn 17 until three days after the Remparts' season ended, put up 55 points in 64 games. That year he spent in with the USHL Indiana Ice as a 15-year-old clearly has put him ahead of the curve and made him a power winger to watch next season. It's worth noting he usually didn't line up with the two aforementioned Remparts.

15. 33.3 — Ryan Strome, Niagara IceDogs (OHL): Like Yakupov and Huberdeau, Strome's stop is byproduct of advancing age — he turns 19 in three weeks. Strome did not have a blow-'em-away post-draft season, counting 91 points in 68 total games for the 'Dogs but coming up snake eyes in the five-game OHL final loss to the London Knights.

Jeff Skinner Rankings: Nathan MacKinnon, Hunter Shinkaruk project best to the NHL16. 33.1 — Kerby Rychel, Windsor Spitfires (OHL): Rychel profiles a little like Brendan Gaunce of the Belleville Bulls. Each is a big centre who plays a serious all-around game, eschewing the stuff of viral virtuosos. Rychel ended up with more points in the OHL (74) than Gaunce (68). A third year to showcase himself for the draft could help Rychel cement his status as a first-rounder in 2013.

17. 32.8 — Ryan Pulock, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL): Pulock's 102 points in 134 games across his first two seasons in Westman makes him the lone defenceman to crack the list. That's pleasantly ironic for him to make this list as a late-1994 birthdate when five of his WHL blueline peers are expected to be drafted in the first round this year. Pulock already has a smooth handle running a power play at 17. By the way, you can't make this up: Pulock's blueline mate, Eric Roy, and his USHL namesake Kevin Roy finished 26th and 27th.

18. 31.8 — Sven Bärtschi, Portland Winterhawks (WHL): The oldest player to make the top 20. I guess it's not surprising Bärtschi projects well to the NHL when he scored three goals in a five-game call-up to the Calgary Flames this season.

19. 30.9 — Max Domi, London Knights (OHL): To think that Maximilian Slick was perceived as having a slow second half, since he scored only 17 of his 49 points after Christmas. He is still the only 1995-born player from the OHL to crack the top 20. He also did that despite having his minutes cut back after London loaded up for a cup chase. Only two other OHL yearlings, Guelph's Hunter Garlent (38th) and Peterborough's Nick Ritchie (47th), finished in the top 50. Kingston's Ryan Kujawinski cracked the top 60 despite getting a regular shift for only half a season.

Jeff Skinner Rankings: Nathan MacKinnon, Hunter Shinkaruk project best to the NHL20. 30.2 — Austin Cangelosi, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL): The first Floridian to ever crack the JSR, Cangelosi counted 64 points in 59 total games for Youngstown, including one audacious chip-shot goal. The 5-foot-8, 165-pound Boston College recruit only makes the age cutoff for the entry draft by 19 days and could be a value pick in the later rounds.

The rest of the top 40: 21. Mark Stone, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL), 30.1; 22. Alexander Khokhlachev, Windsor Spitfires (OHL), 30.0; 23. Nick Cousins, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL), 29.9; 24. Michael St. Croix, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL), 29.8; 25. Alex Forsberg, Prince George Cougars (WHL), 29.7; 26. Eric Roy, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL), 29.2; 27. Kevin Roy, Lincoln Stars, 28.6; 28 (tied). Coda Gordon, Swift Current Broncos (WHL), 28.4; 28 (tied). Anthony Mantha, Val-d'Or Foreurs (QMJHL), 28.4; 30. Emerson Etem, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL), 28.2.

31. Dougie Hamilton, Niagara IceDogs (OHL), 28.0; 32. Vincent Trocheck, Saginaw Spirit (OHL), 27.8; 33 (tied). Connor Rankin, Tri-City Americans (WHL), 27.4; 33 (tied) Mathew Dumba, Red Deer Rebels (WHL), 27.4; 35 (tied). Michael Sgarbossa, Sudbury Wolves (OHL), 27.3; 35 (tied). Jordan Weal, Regina Pats (WHL), 27.3; 35 (tied). Stefan Noesen, Plymouth Whalers (OHL), 27.3; 38. Hunter Garlent, Guelph Storm (OHL), 27.2; 39 (tied). Marc-Olivier Roy, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL), 27.0; 39 (tied). Tim Bozon, Kamloops Blazers (WHL); 39 (tied). Curtis Lazar, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL), 27.0.

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

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