John Klingberg is a fifth-round draft pick, and I just am such a humongous fan of his, as you ought to be. The more we see of Klingberg, the more Stars fans just shake their heads when they realize that he fell as far as he did in the draft.
But Ralph has said it a few times this year: nothing's ever easy. When it comes to the draft, that's certainly been the case, as the Stars' rather lackluster work in the first round (pre-Nichushkin, mind) could have set the franchise back quite a ways. As we know, that has not happened. While we like to play coulda shoulda woulda with passed-up players like Cam Fowler and company, we must keep in mind that the Stars' late-round picks (or no-round, as with Garbutt, Roussel and Jordie Benn) have managed to keep this team more or less supplied with decent talent despite the minimal amount of NHL contribution they have received from their earliest picks. That's a pretty remarkable thing when you consider the first-round gold that other teams have used to remake their rosters in My NHL.
But this discussion takes a whole new turn when it comes to the Stars' greatest late-round find as of this writing. Yes, I am talking about the Captain, and so is Fluto Shinzawa. You know how Mike Modano's parents forced him to take skating lessons before they let him play hockey? Well, Jamie Benn kind of took the opposite route:
...As a teenager, Benn wasn’t a good skater leading into both the NHL and WHL drafts. The way prospects move is how they get noticed.
There is no bigger crapshoot in the NHL than the amateur draft. It is very hard to view a teenager in select windows and project how he will perform as an adult against angry men.
But it is easy to cull the herd. Scouts always look at a player’s skating first. If he skates well, the eyeballs will stick to monitor how he plays with the puck, reads off his teammates, and competes around the ice. If he can’t skate, the player will be forgotten, regardless of how well he performs the other components of the game.
If a scout is not impressed with his first viewing, two things happen. The player becomes dismissed. Even in subsequent viewings, the first subpar impression is hard for a scout to shake.
"It’s a common mistake scouts make," said former NHL scout Gary Eggleston. "You’re very quick to write off people because it’s easy. They’ll take that route out. They won’t go back to see the player."
This is why players such as Benn get lost in the system.
"My skating wasn’t that great when I was younger," said Benn, who recalled he was approximately 5-3 when he was eligible for the WHL draft. "It was something I had to work on. Eventually, I did. Pretty much all aspects of the game, you can get better at."
Like all leagues, the WHL has a history of overlooking future NHLers, especially those who don’t skate well. In 2003, every WHL team declined to pick Milan Lucic. Like Benn, Lucic wasn’t a good skater as a young player. He had an awkward stride. It took a long time for him to get up to speed. When he wasn’t drafted, Lucic even considered quitting hockey.
Benn never got to that point. In 2006-07, his NHL draft season, Benn had 42 goals and 23 assists in 53 games for the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies.
There's plenty more on Benn in there, so if you're looking for some happy thoughts before Anders Lindback scores two goals tonight, you know where to find them.
Also, am I totally ignorant, or does Jamie Oleksiak actually have a similar function-over-form skating style to Benn? That thought popped into my head the other day, so please tell me if it's nonsense.
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Buffalo today. We shall not speak of what happened last time, because nothing happened, because what other Buffalo game?
Mike Heika seems to have enjoyed the Chicago game. Can't say as I blame him one bit. [DMN]
Kari Lehtonen is "rekindling" the Stars' playoff hopes? Well, I guess kindling is what you use when there is almost zero fire to speak of, so, sure he is. [Hockey Writers]
Does Shea Weber deserve the Norris Trophy this season? I honestly have no idea, but sure, why not? He's big, and Nashville's good. [THN]
Niklas Backstrom has to get bought out next year, right? That's my thinking, at least. He provides negative value to Minnesota if they have Dubnyk and Kuemper. [Hockey Writers]
Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored his 20th goal yesterday after he took a shot, then fired the rebound, then scored on the next rebound. Luca Sbisa probably did not do his job correctly here. [NHL Video]
The Ducks meanwhile decided to give up a touchdown to the Rangers, who are trying to convince everyone that they could actually beat a team from the West in the cup final this year. Hahahahahahahaha [Rangers]
Erik Cole scored another goal, and Justin Abdelkader got the OT winner as the Wings toppled St. Louis yesterday. The game-winning goal certainly looked to have been shot into the net with a breaking/broken stick, so naturally everyone is screaming for review on this play in the future since it happens so often and everything, right. [NHL]
Connor McDavid wrapped up his OHL season last night. After missing a good stretch earlier in the year (post-fight, you may recall), McDavid only managed to put up 120 points in 47 games. Uh-huh. [Pro Hockey Talk]
And now, for our annual "combine the best hockey thing with the worst candy thing" feature, we have a Peeps Zamboni. Seriously, does anyone eat Peeps anymore? No, they do not. [Puck Daddy]
Finally, I saved the best for last. Here is a poignant letter of farewell to the game of hockey from someone who lived and breathed the game for 25 years. Can't recommend this one enough. [Dear Hockey Goodbye]