August 06, 2011

Jeff Angus



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A prospect to draft/trade for this summer – Boston’s Ryan Spooner. He is a center and may move to thne wing at the NHL level (as long as Bergeron/Seguin/Krejci are around, there isn’t exactly free ice time floating around).


Spooner isn’t as big or as strong as Jared Knight. He doesn’t have Jordan Caron’s nose for the net, either. What he does have is an extremely high hockey IQ. Players can have a ton of tools but no toolbox, and it is easier said than done to avoid overvaluing them.


I was thinking about this earlier while listening to sports radio discuss Tavaris Jackson to Seattle. I’ll try to keep the football chat to a minimum, but it helps with my point. Jackson is known for having a great arm, great mobility, and quick feet in the pocket. All three are great tools. However, his big questionmarks are decision making and accuracy.


The guy who was talking (a former quarterback, his name I can’t recall) mentioned how accuracy and decision making are nonstarters. Good/great QB’s MUST have both of them. Can you name me one starting QB who has succeeded without either/both of those two?


This relates back to hockey. Time and time again we see prospects (this trend seems to have died out a bit lately) with incredible tools – strength, speed, shot, whatever – gain a lot of hype/praise early on in their career as they dominate at lower levels.


There are the rare cases where a physical freak is also a very smart player (Alex Ovechkin is a great example). However, there are also many cases with pure talents not succeeding because the game never seems to be able to slow down for them. Nikita Filatov is a player who may fit into this category. There are countless others, as well.


How many physical freaks didn’t have the best hockey IQs? Eric Lindros, maybe, but that is selling him short. He was so strong so young that he got by on skating with his head down because no one was big enough to hit him until he reached the NHL level.


Back to Spooner. If you are reading about a prospect with average size and average weight, check for terms in his scouting report like hockey sense/hockey IQ/game smarts/poised. They are often immeasurable unless you get to scout a lot of junior games (I don’t see much aside from a handful of Vancouver Giants games each year), but these players, as long as they have a good work ethic to get strong and/or fast enough, rarely flop.


Some examples in recent years – both proven and on their way: Parise, Skinner, Eberle, Perry (Perry doesn’t get mentioned a lot, but he was a slow skater even by OHL standards – the work he has put in has been amazing), Pat Kane, Brad Richards, Giroux, and so on.


That’s it for my rant…


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