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Defining a Prospect/Project Beyond "Potential"

It was the draft this weekend and my brother and I (if you've read any of my other posts we talk hockey a lot) were talking about prospects. Not only prospects that were coming up in the draft but draftees from previous years all the way back to 2008. He said If you cannot describe a prospect without using the words "size" or "potential" that should be a serious warning sign.

This is especially true for players aged 20-24 who have had time to develop. His point is that a quality NHL prospect should do at least one thing well enough for your to be able to use it in a definition. For example define Zack Kassian without using the words size or potential or synonyms for those words. I tried, it's hard. There seems to be a developing mentality in hockey that players have to be huge and can make up for a lack of skill with pure size. I'm not saying that teams should go out and start drafting that 5'3" kid with a wicked shot, size is still very important but maybe they could start looking at qualities beyond having a 6'3" 210lb frame at 18 and the "potential" to become elite. Guys that are 5' 10" at 18 aren't necessarily done growing and could easily become 6 footers. I'll take someone who is 6' 185 and can see the ice over a guy 30 lbs heavier who can punch someone's nose out the back of their head and might one day be a good net presence. It's important to note that I am very much not against drafting or trading for big bodies, I just want more than "he's big".

Below I have taken a selection of young Canucks and tried to describe them with emphasis on the use or lack of use of "size" and "potential". The scouting is mostly taken from various places on the internet like bleacher report, hockey's future and whatever Google found along with my meager observations.

1. Nicklas Jensen, RW He can score, 4 goals in 6 games in the AHL this last year as well as being over a point-per-game in the OHL and maintaining a +/- over 0. BR notes that he is a good skater "for his size" without watching him in pre-season I don't have a lock on what this means but qualifying statements are in my opinion not overly useful. He's Big and talented, this is what we like to see and what should be expected from a first round pick, a complete package that can be defined by offensive talent without having to mention his size or banking on future potential. Size/Potential Factor: Not a worry he has it but it doesn't define him.

2. Zack Kassian, RW. The best I could find for Kassian that wasn't size or potential based was from BR that gives him an "underrated scoring touch" I didn't see much evidence of that this past year. He's young and has the POTENTIAL to become a decent second line power forward because of his SIZE. He's supposed to be strong on the puck and willing to throw his weight around. 3 fights last year 1 win 1 loss 1 tie according to hockey fights and from what I saw he wasn't that good with the puck and worse away from it. Size/Potential Factor: Problematic, he's big and might one day be useful but that is all you can use to describe him with right now.

3. Jordan Schroeder, C. Again I'm working with a player who I haven't personally been able to watch. From what I've read Schroeder can see the ice well and is a creative player who is responsible at both ends of the ice. I'd like to think that the 15 point swing in his +/- this year implies that he is adapting his game to the professional level and is not a liability in his own end. That said at 21 he scored 44 points in 76 games in the AHL, a marked improvement from the year before, but he's not exactly tearing things up. Size/Potential Factor: Worrying, his size in this case doesn't help him at just 5'8" he's not big and with only 44 points it's possible doesn't have the talent to play as an NHLer his "potential" is fading.

4. Chris Tanev, D. Calm and responsible Tanev is a defenseman ahead of his years. While he will never burn out the goal lamp he will stop the other team doing the same. He stumbled this year under the pressure of a heavier work load but has shown the skills to play at the NHL level. Here again you can describe Tanev without relying on size (he's finally grown a little) or potential (he's got plenty but is already a good player) Size/Potential Factor: Not a worry, Tanev is already producing at an NHL level and is easily described without using the buzz words.

Obviously this isn't a complete run down of every prospect or even a detailed view of the few I have selected here. This is just an example of applying the Size/Potential factor to some of our prospects and seeing how they measure up. I welcome counter arguments or reviews of other players or just comments. What does everyone think of applying this measure to young players?

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