Monday, June 6, 2011

2011 NHL Draft Prospects: Matt Puempel

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.  There are a number of offensive prospects that could be available at 15.  We have already looked at Mark Scheifele, Mark McNeill, Zack Phillips, Joel Armia Sven Bartschi and Ty Rattie for their potential fits for the Rangers.
Today we will look at a player who performed admirably given how bad his team was, but suffered a season ending him injury.  That player is Matt Puempel of the Peterborough Petes in the Ontario Hockey League.  Puempel put up 34 goals and 35 assists in just 55 games for the Petes despite being keyed on every night and having little other talent to work with. This was following his OHL rookie of the year winning 33 goal 31 assist effort in 59 games during the 2009-10 season.
Kirk Luedeke of Bruins Draft Watch’s:
The 2010 CHL Rookie of the Year followed up his 33-goal first OHL season with 34 goals and 69 points in 55 games (to finish with the team scoring lead even though he missed 13 games) before suffering a hip injury that ended his season. His production was laudable because he didn't get a lot of help on his Petes team, but still managed to remain a threat to score even with a lot of checking attention on him. He has just average size at 6-0, 190 pounds, but compensates for that with his skating, hands and heavy shot that has pinpoint accuracy. Smooth stride and can gain separation; will go into traffic and the places on the ice where he must in order to score. He reads and anticipates the play extremely well, and is one of those guys who just seems to find ways to get himself into scoring situations. When all is said and done, he's probably one of the more underrated players in the OHL class, because given what he's accomplished in two seasons offensively, he's not on the tips of many tongues when talking about the top-10 guys in the 2011 draft. Puempel has a slender frame and needs to get stronger, but there are no issues with his high-end skills. He's been dinged for going through streaky periods where he isn't involved as much as he should be, but the reality is- he played hurt in the Ivan Hlinka (back) and still managed to be productive. He's probably got more skill and talent than several of the players ranked ahead of him and could be another one of those steals who, people will look back on and wonder how he lasted where he did in the draft.
Stock watch: Steady- no playoffs for Puempel, which means NHL teams who draft him will have to be confident that he'll come back from his hip injury as good as he was before. Given the advances in medical science that allow full recoveries and other injured players who have still been taken high in the NHL draft with injury concerns, Puempel shouldn't drop very far because of that.
The Scouting Report (Ranked 5, midseason):
Puempel has been a faller in many people’s eyes this season, but we’ve been impressed by his ability to be a dominant offensive player on one of the weakest offensive teams in the OHL. He’s got an elite release on his shot and exceptional offensive hockey sense, but he’s also showed more of an ability to create on his own this season. Still guilty of disappearing for periods of a game, but his innate offensive ability would look good on the top line of an NHL team.
Puempel's an interesting player available for this draft. I think the fact that he hasn't slid further in most rankings, is a testament to his talent level and potential. The Petes had a dreadful season and Puempel has to shoulder some of that blame (a large reason CSS has him lower on their list). Puempel also had to have season ending hip surgery, causing him to miss the Under 18's. But the good news is that the surgery on his hip isn't for a debilitating condition and he will recover. If Brett Connolly can still go high in the lottery with his injury trouble, Puempel has a chance too. Puempel is definitely one of the better goal scoring forwards available in this draft. Some guys were just born to be goal scorers. He's got a great shot and he can unleash it anywhere on the ice. He's also a very intelligent player and seems to find his way to loose pucks in front of the net. The next step for him will be improving his ability to take the puck to the net and create offense from any good goal scorer does. He'll also need to refine the rest of his game (play along the boards, backchecking, intensity). But you can't teach the skills he has. I think whoever takes Puempel will need to be patient with him (much like the Coyotes have been with a guy like Brett MacLean), but he definitely has top 6 NHL ability.
The best thing you can say about Puempel is that he is a pure scorer, which is something that the Rangers definitely need.  You cannot discount a player who has back-to-back 30 goal seasons, which might make him come off the board earlier than currently projected.  As of now he is seen as someone that you could trade down to the early 20's, obtain more assets and still have on the board.