Can a gangly high-schooler crack the 1st round?
- June 17, 2011 12:50 PM |
- By Darren Winkler
Every year NHL teams need to make a fundamental decision on high school players. Are they worth the risk?
The majority of these players are scholastic standouts who can boast of high-end skills, but are often considered long-term projects. They are good against their competition, but that competition is often at the low end.
Last year, a record 22 high schoolers were picked, three in the first round alone. Florida nabbed Nick Bjugstad at No. 19. He's progressed quickly and there is even some talk he may have a shot to crack the Panthers' roster next season.
Hit or miss, the trend is to at least take a shot at some of these hidden gems.
This year's crop of high school prospects is led by Minnesota's Mario Lucia. Lucia, ranked 34th by NHL Central Scouting, is the son of Golden Gophers coach Don Lucia and has a strong background in the game. It shows with his solid, fundamental base.
Lucia is a powerful skater with good hockey sense and soft hands. He has game changing ability and a knack for finding the net. On this goal, versus the eventual state champion Eden Prairie in January, he shows a nice skating burst on the power play and an ability to make quick moves in small spaces to set up the marker.
The big question with Lucia is his strength. He is tall and lanky (six-foot-two, 187 lbs) and far from the body size he will eventually grow into. Both times I've seen him play - once with the U.S. national under-18 team - he has struggled in battles along the boards. Here is Minnesota's high school player of the year, Kyle Rau (ranked No. 177 by Central), all five-foot-eight of him, sending Lucia hard to the ice at the end of a shift.
I had an interesting conversation with a scout about the hope of Lucia putting on pounds of muscles in the next few years. The scout wondered if Lucia would always be a skinny kid.
Some kids grow into their bodies quickly and some stay bean poles well into their 20s. I know a guy who is pushing 40 and is still rail thin. It's just his body type. The scout worried Lucia looked like one of those guys. It's just one opinion but it illustrates how hard it is for scouts to project his development.
At the NHL combine, Lucia performed in the middle of the pack when it came to the bench press. He was able to do six reps at 150 pounds. The strength questions remain.
So where will he get picked?
Early second round is my guess, though, the upside is that intriguing. It's also worth noting Lucia will be one of the younger players drafted. Born in September 1993, he just finished his junior year in high school and is almost a year younger than some draft eligible prospects, such as Gabriel Landeskog.
All Sports blogs
The Video Scout
- No quit in Canada: Hlinka champs Again
- They were unorganized and out of sync. And one after another, they skated to the penalty box in a stream of infractions. The result - an opening game loss to Sweden and a tournament title in jeopardy. ... Continue reading this post
- Rise of the Swedes
- There are some universal signs shared by hockey fans all over the world that require no translation. There's the shoulder shrug, the head shake, and the downward hand wave - all gestures generally directed toward officials, often illustrating disgust with... Continue reading this post