As if the debate between sniper John Tavares and huge defenseman Victor Hedman at the top of the NHL draft weren't hot enough already, the latest prospect rankings from highly respected independent scouting service "Redline Report" should pour some gasoline on the fire. Here's the stunning standings:
1. Hedman. 2. Matt Duchene. 3. Tavares.
Kyle Woodlief, the former Nashville scout who has owned Redline Report the past 10 years and served as its publisher and chief scout, pulls no punches in explaining the fall of Tavares, the player generally regarded as the "consensus No. 1 prospect" by most teams, scouting organizations and the media.
"I've always felt Hedman should be the No. 1 pick," Woodlief said. "The reason we flip-flopped Duchene and Tavares is due to the fact Tavares' effort level has been underwhelming through the first two rounds of the [Ontario Hockey League] playoffs. Tavares may score 40 or 50 goals a season, but he's one-dimensional. If he's not scoring, he's not helping.
"Right now, he's the third-best draft-eligible forward on his own team behind Nazem Kadri and Phil Varone. Tavares (9-10-19) and Varone (10-8-18) have about the same number of points, but Varone is plus-16, and Tavares is even. London has a great power play, and Tavares is getting all his points on the power play. Five-on-five, Tavares has been nothing short of a liability. His attitude of entitlement stinks."
The hype surrounding Tavares has been monumental ever since he scored 72 goals at the age of 16 for his former team in Oshawa. But he was traded at midseason this year to London, which currently is in OHL Western Conference finals against Windsor, the former team of Islanders center Josh Bailey, the No. 9 pick in last year's draft. Now, that he has a stronger supporting cast, it's almost as though Tavares' flaws have begun to stand out more. Most of the concern centers on his skating ability, which is nothing special.
"We all know what Tavares is going to be a good player," Woodlief said. Referring to NHL superstars Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, he added of Tavares, "At the same time, he's nowhere near the level of an Ovechkin, Malkin or Crosby. They were all multi-dimensional players. Ovechkin hits you like a ton of bricks. Tavares will hit and take hits, but he won't mash guys. Ovechkin works just as hard in his own end."
Asked for the prototype Tavares fits, Woodlief chose Brett Hull. It wasn't meant to flatter him. Hull was a pure goal scorer who put up huge numbers at a time when that was possible in the NHL, but he wasn't necessarily regarded as a winner. He was more of a compiler.
" Hull was a goal scorer who was selfish and not a particularly good skater," Woodlief said. "He wasn't a particularly good locker-room presence. Tavares has the same attitude, even the same body."
Explaining why he jumped Brampton Battalion center Duchene ahead of Tavares in the rankings, Woodlief said, "I put Duchene ahead of Tavares because he's the most complete forward in the draft, and he has dramatically improved his game. He's a Steve Yzerman-type. If he's not scoring, he's a center who can act as your shutdown guy against the other team's top line."
As for his infatuation with the 6-6 Hedman, Woodlief explains it this way. "A 220-pound defenseman who skates great and has offensive upside doesn't come along very often. He's dramatically ahead of Chris Pronger at the same age."
That's strong stuff, and coming from a scouting service that is widely used in the NHL as a cross-checking reference, it's sure to get serious consideration from the teams that will be making the draft decisions come June 26.