With the NHL Entry Draft drawing ever closer, TSN.ca contributor Grant McCagg provides a look at some risers and fallers on the prospect watch.
Radek Faksa: The Czech Republic native has taken to the North American game rather seamlessly, averaging more than a point per game in his rookie OHL season.
"Yep, he is trending up," noted one head scout who wasn't always sold on the 6-3 center as a top 20 prospect. "I wasn't down on him, I always liked him but thought he was more of an early second rounder."
So what has Faksa done differently in recent weeks? "Effectiveness," added the scout.
"He's getting more done with and without the puck. Has improved the most of all prospects, and he is producing. He's very committed defensively." Faksa has entered the discussion when scouts talk about the top five prospects in the draft, and it's not inconceivable that he ends up being a top two pick.
Teuvo Teravainen: Scouts are raving about his performance at the recent U-18 Five Nations Cup in Pori Finland. Teravainen led the tournament with six goals and two assists in three games against strong competition, impressing scouts with his offensive capabilities and overall sense for the game. "He could be special," said one scout. "He plays off of his smarts. Good defensively. He could be the best player in the draft because of his smarts. He's got everything going for him except he's not very big."
There have been some questions about his willingness to get his nose dirty, but with dominant performances like he had in Pori, those concerns are disappearing quickly. He's gone from being a late first round candidate to a top ten prospect, perhaps even top five in a draft lacking high-end forward depth.
Brendan Gaunce: Doubts were beginning to creep in about Gaunce's offensive abilities after a poor January that was reflected in his production, contributing just two goals and eight points in 12 games, and having some nights when he lacked drive.
February has been a different story, as the 6-2 center has found another level to his offensive game and chipped in 14 points in 9 games, including a pair of four-assist games at home last week. "He really has come on the last couple of weeks" said one Ontario-based NHL scout.
"Belleville needed a big win against Mississauga to leapfrog them for the final playoff spot and Gaunce took them on his back with four helpers. It was nice to see him distributing the puck like that."
Gaunce is back in the conversation as a top ten prospect who will continue to rise in the rankings if he produces offensively.
Sebastian Collberg: Three consecutive standout performances on the international stage in front of many of the game's top scouts have Collberg darting up NHL draft lists. Once considered a mid or late first rounder because of size issues, Collberg has some scouts pondering whether he may be the best prospect in Europe if not the entire draft after another eye catching six points in three matches at the Five Nations Cup.
"He's a warrior," said one scout who thinks he is very close to fellow Swede Filip Forsberg in the rankings." An energy skill guy who can really dish the puck. You have to like his competitiveness."
Collberg has a knack for being around the puck, and has drawn parallels to Carolina's Jeff Skinner in that regard. Such comparisons will make it hard for teams to pass him up in the top ten.
Mikhail Grigorenko: There had been whispers over the past month that all may not be wonderful when it comes to the scouting world's perception of Grigorenko's competitiveness, but the whispers have grown into full-blown skepticism in some circles. "He could fall right off the map," said one scout who asserted that his club won't be considering him in the first round.
"He doesn't want to compete. If he's there at 25 and we are picking, we go by him."
His concerns were echoed by another eastern conference scout who insisted his team will not select the talented Russian no matter where they end up in the standings. "He's a dog. Take a look at what games Grigorenko gets his points. He gets a handful the other night against PEI. none at Moncton, and one assist (in the nationally televised game) in Saint John. A couple of weeks ago in Rimouski he's minus 6. He scares the (crap) out of me." While there's no denying his skill level, and his 73 points in 39 games as a QMJHL rookie are a testament to his offensive abilities, there will be a lot of teams watching him closely in the playoffs to see whether he has the competitive streak scouts like to see in their top five prospects. As of right now a number of teams have several players ranked ahead of him, and that trend will continue if he does not learn to compete at a higher level.
Phil Di Giuseppe: Leading up to the Christmas break Di Giuseppe was shooting up the draft charts as quickly as any other prospect, and with good reason. Heading into Canada's world junior tryouts in early December he was tearing it up as a college freshman with eight goals, tying him for the goal scoring lead on Michigan and despite being cut from the Canadian team he turned a lot of heads in camp. Two and a half months later he sits with nine goals, fifth best on his team, and has seen his draft rankings slip the past couple of weeks. "He's really gone in the dumper," said one scout.
"There are issues there that need to be addressed, not sure what the problem is, but he doesn't look like the same player. I thought he was a first rounder all day, but he's dropped to the second round."
Scouts had concerns with his defensive play when he was producing, but now that the goal scoring has dried up, those defensive issues become more pronounced. He will need a strong playoff performance to get himself back into the running for the first round.
Martin Frk: Long considered a top ten talent after a terrific QMJHL rookie season in which he tallied 50 points for Halifax as a 16-year-old, the Czech Republic native has battled injuries and weight issues all season long, and scouts are not impressed that a high-end prospect could pay so little attention to his diet while recovering from a concussion.
"He is fat and out of shape," noted one scout matter-of-factly. "He's good for about the first ten minutes of the game and then he's gassed. He is on a free fall... I bet he's there early in the second round." Frk missed the first 29 games with a concussion, and while he recovered in time to attend the Top Prospects Game, it may have been in his best interest to have skipped the event. Frk registered the highest body fat percentage, and finished second last in the skating drills, sending up warning flags to NHL teams.
Look for Frk to drop into the second round unless he can whip himself into shape before season's end.
Malcolm Subban: Subban has started seven OHL games since returning from a groin injury on Feb. 4 and seen his goals against average rise from 1.98 to 2.47 thanks to a 3.77 GAA during that period. He has been pulled in two games, including nine minutes into a game in Ottawa after surrendering three goals on ten shots.
"Based on his performance in the past couple of weeks he has to be falling in the ranks," said one NHL scout who had Subban in his top 20 earlier in the season. "You have to be concerned about his durability, and also the type of injury he just had. Groin injuries have a tendency to reoccur." Subban missed five weeks with a sprained ankle early in the season, and then injured his groin over Christmas and missed another five weeks. If the struggles continue expect him to drop out of the first round on most team's draft charts.
Grant McCagg is a former NHL scout and McKeen's co-publisher. You can follow him on Twitter at @grantmccagg.