Tuesday, May 24, 2011

2011 NHL Draft Prospects: Mark Scheifele

With the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in exactly one month, now is a good time to start looking at some potential prospects that could still be on the board when the New York Rangers pick comes.  There is always a question as to whether you draft for a need or take the best player available.  The Rangers have selected a defender in four of the last six first rounds.  While there is still some need for a puck moving defenseman, depending on the belief in the development of Michael Del Zotto, the Rangers biggest need is for offensive help up front. 
There are numerous offensive prospects who could be available with the 15 pick, one of which is center, Mark Scheifele of the Barrie Colts (OHL).
Scheifele posted 22 goals and 53 assists in 66 games during his first season with the Colts.  The 75 points alone are impressive, but the statistics become more impressive when you take into account that the recently turned 18-year-old played on an awful team and had to play against the top players on the opposition each night.  He proved that at the recently completed U-18 World Championships where he shined for Team Canada as he was surrounded by better talent than he had this season in Barrie.
Brock Otten at OHL Prospects talks about how much Scheifele helped himself at the U-18.
He was consistently Canada's best forward and showcased a real complete offensive ability. He can really do it all. At the beginning of the year, he was definitely more of a playmaking, possession center. But as the year wore on and he gained confidence, he became a much more complete player. By season's end, he was a beast at both ends of the ice (just like he was at the Under 18's). He'll take the puck and drive hard to the net, and stay there taking abuse. He's become a physical player who will participate on the forecheck and fight for pucks along the wall. He can score. He can set up teammates. He plays both ends of the ice.
He has excellent size at 6’ 3” though would need to add weight to his 175-80 pound frame.  The fact that he plays both ends, has that kind of size and loves the forecheck makes him seem like a fit for the Tortorella system.
Scheifele was ranked 16th in the final rankings among North American skaters according to Central Scouting during April.  The International Scouting Service released an update on May 15 and have Scheifele ranked 17 overall.  In the most recent series of NHL.com mock drafts he was projected to go 13 to Calgary, 15 to New York and 20 to Phoenix.
The Hockey Writers preview of Scheifele describes him as a very safe pick.
Schiefele possesses that which most scouts look for in a center– size, skating, vision, hands and hockey intelligence.
Seen as somewhat of a ‘safe’ pick by scouts, as he has all the tools needed to be an NHL’er, it’s just unknown in what capacity that may be. His playmaking and vision are his bread and butter, and he uses them in Joe Thorton-like fashion, always looking for the open man.
In a time where teams are so heavily looking for center depth, especially those playmaking pivots, Schiefele has seen his stock rise and could be a surprise pick to move into 15th or so.
With added strength to his frame, he could be all that much better, and a real gem for the team that brings him into the player development fold.
An NHL.com write-up of Scheifele has two very interesting takes on him.
From a Scout...
"He has to play against everybody's best players every night," the scout told NHL.com, "where you might have a player on a real good team that doesn't have to play against the top defensive pair or maybe they're playing against the third line every night. There's a big difference. You have to take that into consideration."
From Central Scouting's Chris Edwards...
"Mark protects the puck very well and will take it to the net while fighting through checks," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "He's got a great work ethic. His Barrie Colts have struggled this season and he has been relied upon to provide offense. He sees the ice very well and his playmaking ability is very good. He gets back quickly and works hard defensively."
When your weaknesses are considered needing to add strength and shoot more while your strengths are vision, hockey IQ, size, and stickhandling you are looking like a very good looking prospect for the mid-first round.  He appears to be rising as the draft process goes along and it is possible he could even be off the board by the time the Rangers select at 15, but if he is there, then the Rangers would be wise to take a long look at him as their first round selection in the 2011 Entry Draft.

Rangers Player Review: Ryan Callahan Improves Offense To Create Total Package

After a somewhat disappointing 2009-10 season in which Callahan did not take that next step offensively as he seemed poised to do following the hiring of coach John Tortorella to end the 2008-09 season, Callahan responded with the breakout offensive season many had hoped for.  The quality with which Callahan played this past season leaves Rangers fans with great hope that this heart and soul player can become a 30 goal, 60 point type player for years to come.  You know you are going to get the tremendous forecheck, excellent hitting, penalty killing and self-sacrifice of shot blocking, but the offense has been the question.

The reason for the raised offensive expectations heading into next season is that Callahan managed to set career highs with 23 goals and 25 assists in the 60 games he dressed this season.  If he was able to maintain that pace over an 82 game season, then you would be looking at 31-34-65 season.  Add that kind of offense to the way Callahan has played for his entire career and you are looking at a legitimate first line type player. 

Let us take a look at the breakdown of Callahan’s numbers by month.
Games Played

As impressive as Callahan’s numbers were this season, what showed his true value to this club was the difference in the team during the playoffs without his presence in the lineup.  The team as a whole lacked a sense of energy and the forechecking style that the team implemented, and Callahan epitomized, just never got going against the Capitals.   In a series as close, game to game, as the Rangers first round tilt against the Capitals was it is hard not to imagine that a healthy Callahan changes some of the games, if the not the end result of the series.  The combination of what he brings individually and what he allows linemates Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov to do on the ice makes a huge difference to the balance of the team.

The only negative thing you can say about Callahan’s year would be concerning the injuries.  Missing 22 games during the regular season and the first round playoff series is something the Rangers cannot afford to have happen.  His importance is both a statement on him and all that he brings to the team along with one that speaks to the overall talent level of the forwards on the team right now.  Offensive talent and production, especially consistent production, is something the Rangers lack and so they cannot afford to lose their second leading scorer, and pulse of the team, for a 27% of the games the team plays.  The flip side of that is you cannot be too upset with Callahan over the injuries because of how he sustained them.  Both major injuries occurred while he was playing his game and sacrificing his body for the betterment of the team, and if he changed those things, then he wouldn’t be Ryan Callahan.

Grade: A