The Official Web Site of the Pittsburgh Penguins
Pens e-News Service Twitter Icon Facebook Icon SMS Icon Pens Mobile App Icon PensTV Icon YouTube Icon Pinterest Icon Pens e-News Service
 

Evaluating the Pittsburgh-Area Draft Class

Thursday, 06.23.2011 / 12:00 PM / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
X
Share with your Friends


Evaluating the Pittsburgh-Area Draft Class

Five Pittsburgh-area prospects who came up through the city’s developmental hockey system and grew up cheering for the Penguins – John Gibson (Whitehall), Brandon Saad (Gibsonia), J.T. Miller (E. Palestine, OH/Coraopolis), Vince Trocheck (Upper St. Clair) and Barrett Kaib (Upper St. Clair) – are ranked among the best players eligible for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, set for this Friday and Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.

To put that into perspective, Pittsburgh has never had more than two players selected at any one draft. The area’s last first-round pick came 10 years ago, when Plum native R.J. Umberger was taken 16th overall by Vancouver in 2001 (Gibson, Saad and Miller are all projected as potential first-round picks).

While www.PittsburghPenguins.com has covered this unique period in Pittsburgh hockey history by outlining the prospects’ Western Pennsylvania ties and the influence that the Penguins have had on their respective careers, this particular piece will provide insight into the type of players these five young men are and why they are projected to go in the draft.

We spoke with Kyle Woodlief, chief scout and publisher of the Red Line Report, an independent scouting service, about the Pittsburgh-area prospects. Woodlief, a former NHL scout with the Nashville Predators who contributes a column to USA Today, was kind enough to give us individual scouting reports on Gibson, Saad, Miller, Trocheck and Kaib.

See below for a final evaluation of all five Pittsburgh-area prospects.



JOHN GIBSON




Hometown:
Whitehall, PA
Position: Goaltender
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 206 pounds
Played the 2010-11 season with: US National Team Development Program (USHL)
Former Pittsburgh-area teams: Pittsburgh Hornets, Pittsburgh Predators

FINAL SCOUTING RANKINGS



NHL Central Scouting: No. 1 among North American goaltenders
Red Line Report: No. 35
The Hockey News: No. 27
TSN: No. 37

ANALYSIS



What’s special about John Gibson is that he is the perfect blend of size and athleticism. The 6-foot-3, 206-pound goaltender is multidimensional, as his size allows him to have solid net coverage while his athleticism allows him to move well laterally with both power and flexibility. And it’s clear that at just 17 years old, Gibson already possesses the mental toughness that is requisite of NHL goaltenders. He has proven himself to be up to the task when the pressure is high, the most recent example being his performance at the 2011 World Under-18 Championships, where he was named the tournament's best goaltender while leading Team USA to gold. Gibson takes pride in keeping his emotions in check, saying “I think I’m pretty calm and composed. I think the main thing is that I never let emotions get the best of me. I never get too high, I never get too low. I’m always just out there just wanting to give it 110 percent.”

WOODLIEF'S TAKE



“He is the consensus No. 1 goaltender and I’d be very surprised if anybody other than him was the first goaltender off the board. What you like about him is his size, but what I also like is that he plays very calm in the net. He lets the play come to him, there’s not a lot of wasted motion there. Also, that U.S. team is very strong with their puck possession, so a lot of times he’ll go long periods without seeing quality shots, yet he never loses his focus or his concentration. So I really like that about his game, that’s a sign of really good maturity in a young goaltender that he doesn't lose his focus and concentration when he doesn't get a lot of work. ... Just because of the fact that there’s always teams looking for goaltenders and he’s clearly the No. 1 goaltender on the board, I think he’s got to be pushed up higher in the draft then where I have him ranked. We have him ranked on a pure talent standpoint, and on a pure talent standpoint we have him going late in the first round. But some team that’s desperate for a goaltender is going to take him earlier than that.”





BRANDON SAAD




Hometown:
Gibsonia (later moved to Wexford)
Position: Left Wing
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 208 pounds
Played the 2010-11 season with: Saginaw Spirit (Ontario Hockey League)
Former Pittsburgh-area teams: Pittsburgh Hornets, Pine-Richland Rams (PIHL), Pittsburgh Junior Amateur Penguins, Butler Valley Dawgs


FINAL SCOUTING RANKINGS



NHL Central Scouting: No. 19 among North American skaters
Red Line Report: No. 20
The Hockey News: No. 14
TSN: No. 22

ANALYSIS



Simply put, Brandon Saad projects as a top-six power forward that will score goals at the NHL level. The 18-year-old left winger already possesses the requisite size and strength to be an imposing force at the next level, standing at 6-foot-1 and 208 pounds. And he’s a big man that can move – possessing speed and fluid skating ability – while his wicked shot and his hands are two of his biggest assets. Saad compiled 27 goals and 55 points in 59 games with the Spirit last season after posting 29 goals and 58 points in 63 games with the US National Team Development Program in 2009-10. What’s intriguing about Saad is that while he has the ability to post big numbers, he takes the most pride in his two-way abilities. In fact, he classifies himself first and foremost as a two-way player, saying “I like to help out at both ends of the ice and be a playmaker up front to help out my teammates and offensive ability.”

WOODLIEF'S TAKE



“He's just a big, strong, physical, aggressive guy who’s got a terrific shot. He’s got a great release around the slot. He has creative centermen who can get him the puck in scoring territory. He’ll bury a lot of chances. I think he got away from his strengths late in the season and I think that hurt him. His strength, really, is to use his size and strength to win battles down low and gain territory down and around the slot area so that he can set up his shot. For whatever reason – and I don’t know what the reason is – he got away from playing that hard-edged game where he was pounding the front of the net. He started taking it easy a little bit and playing more on the perimeter, which is not his game. … He’s got so many outstanding attributes. He’s a really big, strong guy who can muscle in the corners and drive the net. And that shot of his is terrific. He’s got a rocket. He’s got really strong wrists. He can snap it off on the fly. So he’s going to score goals at the NHL level.”





J.T. MILLER




Hometown:
East Palestine, OH/Coraopolis
Position: Center
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 193 pounds
Played the 2010-11 season with: US National Team Development Program (USHL)
Former Pittsburgh-area teams: Pittsburgh Hornets, Beaver County Badgers


FINAL SCOUTING RANKINGS



NHL Central Scouting: No. 23 among North American skaters
Red Line Report: No. 10
The Hockey News: No. 59
TSN: No. 18

ANALYSIS



The World Under-18 Championships, which occurs in April, is the biggest international tournament for draft-eligible prospects for a number of reasons. Not only are scouts from every NHL team in attendance to see how the players perform on such a big stage, but the timing of the tournament makes it one of the last chances to leave a good impression before the June draft. With that being said, Miller’s performance for Team USA in Germany in April will certainly boost his stock, as he was the dominant performer – posting a team-leading 13 points – on the gold-medal winning squad. Miller – who is 6-foot-1, 198-pounds – is a unique bleed of size, speed and strength. “I’m a pretty big kid for a forward and I’m pretty fast for my size,” he said. “I like to use my speed and make plays at the same time, and I think that kind of separates me from the next guy, as does my physicality. I like to add it to my game and be tough to play against. I think those three things are hard to find altogether.” What Miller also possesses is the type of work ethic, compete level and passion that make him a formidable opponent. He projects to be a second-line scoring winger.

WOODLIEF'S TAKE



"I feel he is a really complete player. This guy has really good size and strength. He’s got natural strength – he’s not a 220-pounder like some of these behemoths, he’s about 190 pounds. He’s got really good natural strength in that he goes into corners against bigger defenseman and usually always comes out with the puck. He’s always winning those one-on-one battles. He’s a very determined, persistent guy on the forecheck. He causes a lot of turnovers and havoc among defensemen with his heavy pressure. He’s a guy who uses that size to really drive hard to the net on a consistent basis. All of those things are very positive traits. And I think he’s got better skills, puck skills, then people are giving him credit for. … He’s a guy who consistently produces offense and creates chances out there every shift. I don’t know that he’s a natural sniper around the net, but he creates so many chances with his hard work and banging down low and winning the battles and driving hard to the net that I think he’s going to get his share of goals just based on that. But even more so, he’s going to create so many chances for his linemates, too.”





VINCE TROCHECK




Hometown:
Upper St. Clair
Position: Center
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 178 pounds
Played the 2010-11 season with: Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Former Pittsburgh-area teams: Pittsburgh Hornets, Pittsburgh Predators, SHAHA Panthers


FINAL SCOUTING RANKINGS



NHL Central Scouting: No. 41 among North American skaters
Red Line Report: No. 69
The Hockey News: No. 43
TSN: No. 59

ANALYSIS



In reality, Vince Trocheck tops out at 5-foot-11 and 178 pounds, but he wants those who watch him to second-guess his actual size. “I try to say that I play like I’m 6-foot-3 even though I’m only 5-foot-11,” he explained. Trocheck has done just that, compensating for his lack of size with the kind of superior hockey sense, smarts and vision that have him projecting as a legitimate third-line center in the NHL. He posted impressive numbers in his second OHL season, recording 26 goals and 62 points through 68 games with the Spirit while playing on a line with Brandon Saad. What also makes Trocheck special is his work ethic; the 17-year-old forward knows what he needs to work on and is doing everything he can to improve as a player. “Work ethic is what NHL teams like to see, so I’ve been doing my best ever since day 1 to continue to make myself better,” he said.

WOODLIEF'S TAKE



“Guys who are his size need to have one really special, outstanding attribute to make it at the NHL level. You’d like to see a guy his size have a little more of a burst and first-step quickness in their skating. He’s not very sudden, he’s not very explosive. So even though he’s got decent wheels when he gets up to speed, he’s basically the guy who’s got average size and you have to rate him as an only slightly-above average skater because of the lack of first-step quickness. But what I like about him is that he’s a really intelligent, smart player in all three zones. He’s got really good hockey sense and he plays a very high-energy, determined game. But having said that, with his size and his skating ability, I can’t see him being a top-six forward in the NHL. I think your upside is that you’re looking at a guy who might be a third-line energy guy."





BARRETT KAIB




Hometown:
Upper St. Clair
Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 188 pounds
Played the 2010-11 season with: US National Team Development Program (USHL)
Former Pittsburgh-area teams: Pittsburgh Hornets, Pittsburgh Predators, SHAHA Panthers


ANALYSIS



Barrett Kaib’s strength lies in his adaptability, as the 5-foot-10, 188-pound defenseman can adjust to whatever role is expected of him. Kaib explained that his role with the US National Team Development Program last season was “to be an aggressive, gritty, hard-nose defenseman who is tough to play against and good on penalty killing. I didn’t always rack up the points, but I had a great plus-minus, one of the best on the team. Just be out there in key situations and be a shutdown defenseman.” But while Kaib doesn’t shy away from physicality, the blueliner also possesses excellent mobility and great vision that allows him to see the ice well, making him a versatile two-way defenseman. Kaib will attend Providence College in the fall.

WOODLIEF'S TAKE



"I think his game is one of quick puck movement and quick decision making, and he’s a terrific passer. He makes that first outlet pass right on the tape. I think because of that, he can also help on the second power-play unit and that he’s a good puck distributor. ... I actually like him a little bit more than most. Even though he’s not tall at 5-foot-10, he’s kind of built stocky and he’s pretty solidly put together. And he doesn't mind the physical game at all. He will give and take hits to make plays. As I said, he’s got really good passing skills. Actually, for me, I would take a shot on him late. I would see him as some teams taking a shot on him in the sixth, seventh round, because I think he’s got a better talent level than that if he gets his confidence level back up when he moves on to a different level."



CONSOL ENERGY CENTER EVENTS
Founding Partners CONSOL Energy Center CONSOL ENERGY PNC Wealth Management UPMC FedEx Ground Verizon Dick's Sporting Goods 84 Lumber American Eagle Outfitters Highmark