Wednesday, May 25, 2011

2011 NHL Draft Prospects: Mark McNeill

The 2011 draft now less than one month away, and the Rangers scouting and front office staff is looking through many prospects to see who they want to select with the 15th overall selection.  With the current state of the Rangers defense both at the NHL and prospect level one would expect that New York will look for offense in the first round of the draft hoping to find an impact scorer.  Yesterday, I took a look at Mark Scheifele, who is a center from the OHL that produced against the best the opposition had to offer despite playing with inferior talent around him.  Today, I will look at another player who produced beyond the level of his supporting cast in Mark McNeill of the Prince Albert Raiders (WHL).
McNeill is a rising prospect in the eyes of many who just came off a tremendously improved second season in for the Raiders.  During his first year he had only nine goals and 15 assists in 68 games.  Those numbers left him unranked in the initial Central Scouting preliminary rankings of the top 25 North American skaters last November and the International Scouting Services' October, 2010 top 30 list as well.
In his second season those number skyrocketed to an impressive 32 goals, 49 assists and 81 points in just 70 games.  His play moved him up to 22nd in the Central Scouting mid-term rankings, but then he vaulted again to 14 by the end of the season. He also checked in at number 20 on the ISS final rankings.
The most talked about aspect of McNeill is his size as he stands 6’2” and 204 pounds.  At that size, McNeill has the potential to be the power forward type player that the Rangers have coveted for years.  Beyond just his sheer size, he possesses a willingness to go into the dirty areas and the ability to come out of there with goals on the board.
He’s really composed and has a real pro-style game. He has a nice touch, can dish, and has nice, soft passes. His on-ice awareness is very good and he’s paid attention to detail at both ends of the rink. He has good defensive-zone coverage as well as being offensive at the other end.
Kirk Luedeke of Bruins Draft Watch’s
Big horse has been impressive for Canada in the tourney so far. Anyone who thinks he doesn't have upside hasn't been paying close attention to what McNeill brings to the table (82 points for Prince Albert this season) and he's making a legitimate run to a potential top-10 selection in June. McNeill drew primary assist on the Locke goal, taking Murphy's point pass and getting it hard to the net where Locke was able to convert the rebound. But, what impressed us was McNeill's defense and discipline. He moved the puck smartly, backchecked diligently and didn't force things that weren't there. On offense, he protects the puck well and sees the ice like a true playmaker. Stock watch: goin' up.
Hockey Writer’s scouting report:
Mark McNeill, the Prince Albert Raiders powerful, gritty forward showed why he should be a top 15 draft selection in this years NHL Entry Draft last season. He uses a combination of grit, with good playmaking ability to make him one of the top centers in the Western Hockey League.
A player that thrives on being strong on both ends, McNeill is also never afraid to drop the gloves and stick up for his teammates. To add to his impressive total of 81 points this year, he also finished with 53 penalty minutes.
Defensively, McNeill plays the shutdown role very well. He uses his strength and strong positioning to easily knock opposing players off the puck. He is also a strong faceoff man, which in addition to his strong defensive game makes him a good penalty killer.
"I pick aspects of [Getzlaf's] game and try to bring them to the ice," McNeill said. "I try to be a power forward, to play solid at both ends and to play with an edge; anything to help my team."
Having a player that tries to emulate a Ryan Getzlaf is exactly what the Rangers need right now to take the next step.  The Rangers have some skilled players and some edgy players, but they have few players that combine the two and McNeill can play a skill game, a grit game and do it with edge.
Everything written about McNeill pegs him as an excellent fit for the Rangers system as he can use his size and strength to get in on the forecheck and create chances while being a responsible two-way player that does his job in his own end.  This would be a fantastic pick for New York at 15, if he is still on the board.