Friday, March 16, 2012

Officially On The Radar: Coda Gordon

The Swift Current Broncos have once again produced an intriguing NHL draft prospect in first year WHLer Coda Gordon.

Gordon has burst onto the scene this year, registering 29 goals through his first 64 games. That total sits right near the top of all rookie WHL players.

He's an interesting prospect for many reasons, but mostly just because he's a very well rounded player. He's got good size at 6'1 and he's not afraid to go to the front of the net. In fact, that's where he scores most of his goals as he goes to the crease, plants himself in front and makes life miserable for opposition goalies.

I haven't seen too many players in the WHL this year that are as dangerous as Gordon is right around the front of the net. He's got good reach in puck battles and has above average finishing skills.

He's not as physical as you might expect and that's the one area of his game that I would like to see him develop the most. For a big kid, he doesn't have much 'mean' in his game as he only has 12 penalty minutes at this point of the year, which is an astonishingly low number.

The other area of his game that could use some work is his general foot speed. He's a bit of an awkward looking skater, but with some hard work it shouldn't be an area that holds him back at the next level of hockey.

As mentioned, he's well rounded, is a strong player in all three zones and his hockey sense is at a very high level. There's lots to like for NHL teams looking to add a scorer with some size.

As far as a comparable NHL player goes, someone like Matt Moulson in NY might fit the bill. Goes to the net, not the most fleet of foot, but is a pure scorer in close.

Gordon is Officially On The Radar and I would expect an NHL team to call his name at the draft within the top 60-75 picks.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Officially On The Radar: Brett Kulak

The Vancouver Giants are one of the most famous WHL franchises for producing elite NHL talent.

Over the last handful of years names like Milan Lucic and Evander Kane have left the Giants and gone on to solid young NHL careers.

Defenceman Brett Kulak could very well be one of the next players to join their illustrious list.

The native of Stony Plain, Alberta won't jump out at you when you watch him. He plays a very quiet and effective style of game. But, that doesn't mean he's not worth the price of admission.

Kulak has solid size, listed at 6'1 and 175 pounds. To go along with that good frame, he's got solid skating ability. In my lone live viewing of him this season there was one play in the game that really stood out to me. He skated down Blades forward Josh Nicholls in a race for the puck, saving a breakaway chance. Nicholls is no slouch in the speed department and it really showed me that Kulak has a nice set of wheels to go with his frame.

Kulak is also a solid offensive defender. He displays a nice stretch pass, good offensive instincts and a very hard slap shot. His numbers this season also won't jump off the page at you, but there is definitely potential for that area of his game to grow.

Defensively he's very solid as well. He's not overly physical, relying instead on his smarts and stick to keep defenders to the outside. Being a first year WHL rookie as a 17 year old, he's definitely still quite raw in his game but scouts like to see that sometimes. There's lots of nice skills with Kulak to mould and develop.

As far as comparison's go, his game reminds me a bit of a player like Ryan Suter in Nashville. A solid two way defenceman, who isn't overly physical (Suter only has 38 hits through 66 games this season), as well as a guy who will slowly start to develop a more offensive game.

So where does Kulak get selected in the draft? To me, he seems like a safe pick in the third round. But, there might just be enough here for a team to gamble on him late in round two.

We'll have to wait and see how it plays out, but there is a lot to like with Brett Kulak. He's officially on the radar.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Officially On The Radar: Mathew Dumba

It looks as if for the second straight year, the Red Deer Rebels will have an elite-level player in the NHL draft.

Last year it was Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, this year it will be defenceman Mathew Dumba.

After playing 6 games with the Rebels as a 15 year old, Dumba exploded onto the scene in the 2010-2011 season. The former 4th overall bantam draft pick posted 15 goals and 26 points in 62 games last year. Those 15 goals were top 10 in the league for WHL blueliners.

The offence that Dumba provides truly is the reason why he's considered an elite prospect. He's a very good skater with great foot work and a ton of explosiveness. Not only that, but he's great on his edges which allows him to have top-end agility on the ice.

To go along with his skating, he's a very smart player offensively and isn't afraid to lead or join the rush. Another one of his best assets is his release. He's able to let go of the puck very quickly and his shot is hard and accurate. He's a good PP quarterback and has incredible poise and patience when standing with the puck on the offensvie blueline.

Coming into this season his biggest weakness was his defensive play. It's grown this year but is still an area that needs work going forward. He's a good enough skater to stick with players of any speed and he plays physical enough to defend against bigger bodies. He just needs to work at it and become much more consistent in this area of his game.

Physically he continues to improve, adding size and strength. He likes to play the body and is known for huge hits in the neutral zone. Those hits have raised up the name Dion Phaneuf as a comparable for Dumba. Is that 100% accurate? Not really. I would say he plays more like PK Subban of Montreal, when looking at style of play.

Going forward, Dumba is going to make some NHL team very happy. I have him rated to go inside the top 5 of the 2012 NHL Draft and he could even end up going inside the top 3.

His draft position is still definitely up in the air, but one thing is for sure. Mathew Dumba of the Red Deer Rebels is officially on the radar.