Friday, January 8, 2010

WJC 2010 Draft Eligible Scouting Reports Pt. 3: Cam Fowler, Jack Campbell and Jason Zucker Plus John Ramage

Here's the next installment of WJC scouting reports based on my own opinion and assessments of the recent Under-20 tourney in Saskatoon.

Cam Fowler, D, 6-2, 198, United States (5 Dec 1991)

Good size (with room to grow- needs to get stronger) and long-limbed for a nice reach. Deceptively fast skater with a loping, effortless stride and outstanding edge control/agility that allows him to recover quickly and change directions in an instant. Very good initial burst; quick off the mark and able to get back in the play easily. Sees the ice well; makes the crisp outlet pass and likes to transition the puck whenever he sees an opening. Hard, heavy shot that is low and able to be deflected by teammates. Needs to work on release- getting it off quicker and taking less of a windup to allow defenders to move into the shooting lanes/goalie to prepare for the shot. Gap control/spacing was OK, but tended to play the puck more than the body at times. Played a brilliant shutdown game against Windsor teammate and top draft candidate Taylor Hall, not giving him an inch of time or space in two games.

Overview: Fowler solidified his standing as the 2010 draft class's best bet on defense, but he does have some things to work on beyond the obvious strength training/decision-making improvements that just about every young defenseman goes through in their development. One scout told me earlier this year that Fowler has a tendency to defer to more senior defensive partners, meaning that he'll pass up clear shooting opportunities and not play as aggressively as he is capable. This isn't a weakness per se, because it is something he'll grow out of, but at the same time, it begins to explain why he didn't take on a dominant performance in Saskatoon as some expected, carrying the game and dictating tempo. The same scout said that Fowler has demonstrated clear No. 1 take-charge tendencies this season when Ryan Ellis missed time, so he has it in him. If you're someone who watched the WJC and didn't see Fowler carrying the play in his own end and on offense, this serves as an explanation for that. Regardless, Fowler seems destined for a top-three overall selection given his limitless upside and elite physical tools. He's also a good kid who is a respected teammate and handles himself well off the ice. In short, he's everything you look for in a high-end NHL prospect and would benefit hugely from being mentored by Zdeno Chara were he to end up in Boston.

Jack Campbell, G, 6-2, 185, United States (9 Jan 1992)

On the radar for quite a while after he backstopped last springs U.S. Under-18 to gold on home ice in Fargo, N.D. Former Michigan recruit who passed on the Wolverines for a job with the Windsor Spitfires next year has a live, athletic build and terrific reflexes. His down-up-down motion is quick and recovery good. Soft pads- handles rebounds well. Good glove- watches the puck into the leather and catches it cleanly most of the time. Side-to-side agility is superb. Technique still needs work- got scrambly and swam too much late versus Canada in both games. Normally plays more composed and effectively (see shutout vs. Switzerland) and will improve as he gains experience. A winner; mentally tough player who should have gone to pieces after blowing a pair of two-goal leads to Canada, but came through in OT for gold.

Overview: Campbell is a little more Tim Thomas than Tuukka Rask at this point, but he's a heck of an athlete who could benefit from a good goalie coach. A terrific competitor who showed composure and maturity beyond his years when he shook off a disastrous final three minutes in the gold medal game and slammed the door. Long-term project who looks like an elite/upper echelon goalie someday in the NHL, which is something Boston lacks with Rask's promotion this year. Should shine in Windsor, the OHL's model franchise, and will thrive in that pro-style environment. Watch for Campbell to carry Team USA international hopes in net (Olympics excepted) for the next 2-3 years.

Jason Zucker, C/LW, 5-10, 175 United States (16 Jan 1992)

Las Vegas born and bred Zucker is the first native of that state to play at the World Jrs. Good hands as evidenced by the goals he scored in the tournament. Plays a high-energy style and likes to compete hard. Has a natural nose for the net and will only get better. Sometimes tried to do too much and beat the whole opposition team by himself. Questionable vision and sense; missed open teammates and took the puck into well-defended areas rather than distribute for the smarter play. Will improve with time and experience. Not big, but strong on his skates. Displays a lot of hustle and will go hard to the net/take the hit to make the play. Extremely confident in his abilities and lets play speak for itself.

Overview: Zucker, the youngest member of Team USA showed off his potential at the tourney as a strong two-way player with some jam. Saw less ice time when Dean Blais shortened his bench but played well overall. He'll become a prominent player for USA in the future. A solid bet for second-round NHL draft consideration and might sneak into the late first round if a team likes him enough.

Defenseman John Ramage, son of NHL All-Star Rob Ramage, was passed over in the 2009 NHL Draft, but the University of Wisconsin freshman should get a call this time around. He's played well as a collegian, and he played within his limitations at the WJC. The St. Louis native is a hard worker, but lacks the kind of footspeed and mobility you want from a prime first- or second-pairing NHL D and minute muncher. Grew up around pro hockey and it shows in his work ethic and poise. It was Ramage who gathered Campbell's rebound in OT and fed it to John Carlson on the breakout for the game-winner. I saw him make some mistakes, and he was a victim at times of his heavy feet. But overall, he played well enough to earn a call at some point in the draft. I wouldn't be surprised to see his hometown Blues take a flier on him; he's best friends with Phil McRae, and the Blues have no doubt seen enough of him to have a more extensive scouting profile than most teams.

Well, that wraps up Team USA. Next, I'll do Taylor Hall. I won't be saying much that you don't already know, but suffice to say that for the most part, he was a treat to watch and lived up to his hype. He didn't have a great two games against the USA, though- and that might have been the difference. Much bigger things are in store for the youngster.

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