Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On Jonathan Huberdeau and a Competition at Center

Last night the Saint John Sea Dogs captured the Memorial Cup and center Jonathan Huberdeau took home the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as Tournament MVP. This came after Huberdeau had already won the Guy Lafleur Trophy as playoff MVP en route to a QMJHL championship as well. In doing so, Huberdeau became one of only a handful players in CHL history to be named MVP of their league playoffs and the memorial cup, with Taylor Hall being the most recent back in 2009. Hall of course went on to be selected first overall by the Edmonton Oilers after winning another Memorial Cup and MVP award in 2010. Could Jonathan Huberdeau do the same?

Back in October when International Scouting Services released their initial top 30 prospects for the 2011 NHL entry draft, Huberdeau's name was not present on the list. When ISS released their final rankings today, Huberdeau's stock had risen all the way to 3rd, behind Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Larsson, and ahead of Sean Couturier, who started the year at #1. After scoring 35 points as a rookie in the QMJHL last year, Huberdeau revealed his offensive skill this season scoring 43-62-105 in 67 games to finish 3rd in league scoring. He followed that up by scoring 16-14-30 in 19 playoff games and 3-3-6 in 4 games at the Memorial Cup. While some would argue that Huberdeau had the benefit of playing on a very strong and highly skilled Saint John team which helped inflate his numbers, the same thing was said about Taylor Hall and the Windsor Spitfires last year and certainly no one is doubting his abilities today.

Center ice is definitely an area of weakness for the Edmonton Oilers, and if they are looking to fill that need with this draft I think the choice will be between Huberdeau and Nugent-Hopkins. While the biggest knock on Nugent-Hopkins has been his size at 6-0/165, Huberdeau is not much bigger at 6-1/168. Both of these prospects will have some filling out to do in order to take the next step. The advantage that Huberdeau does have on Nugent-Hopkins however is that he knows how to perform in the big games and knows how to win, something that helped put Taylor over Tyler last year. In terms of the rankings, Nugent-Hopkins has been highly rated all season long by all scouting services and has finished as the consensus #1 prospect. On the other side, Huberdeau has worked his way up the ranks over the course of the season and managed to get himself into the conversation of first overall pick, a situation not unlike last year with Hall and Seguin.

So at the end of the day has Huberdeau done enough to warrant being selected first overall and ahead of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Nugent-Hopkins and Huberdeau were the only two draft eligible players to score in the triple digits this year, but RNH did it in a more defensive and physical league, and with a weaker supporting cast than Huberdeau. With the draft combine coming up it will be interesting to see how they compare head to head, but ultimately it may be the things they say in the team interviews that make the biggest difference. If it was my decision, I would still draft Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as the prospect of him and Taylor Hall playing on a line together in the future is too good to pass up, but no doubt the team that ends up with Jonathan Huberdeau will be getting a very good player.

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1 comment:

  1. It's interesting how there is always a player every year whose stock rises dramatically and raises the argument for these players having a higher "ceiling" in development.
    It's such a crapshoot with players at such young ages. I have faith the oilers scouting staff will make the best possible pick at the entry draft!

    ps. FIST