Jeff Skinner, C Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Born: May 16, 1992 in Markham, Ontario
Scouting report: Undersized, but ox-strong pivot is right up with Taylor Hall and Vladimir Tarasenko as the best pure scorer available in the draft; you can make a strong case for him being No. 1, but needs to better round out his game to be a force at the next level.
Strengths: Wicked scorer who would shoot the lights out on the jumbotron if it meant his team would get credit for a goal. The puck is a blur on his stick; gone in a flash and usually hitting the back of the twine a split second later. Hard, heavy, accurate shot that he can get off in an instant and in tight with very little time and space to work with, or in the wide open with plenty of room-- he's as natural a shooter as any player you'll find and absolutely deadly from the hashmarks on in. Excellent hand/eye coordination for tipping point shots and redirecting pucks on net. Excellent core strength and lower body drive given his small stature. A master of his edges (thanks to an elite figure skating background) who is strong on his skates with very good balance and nice elusiveness/change of direction. Will carry the puck into the offensive zone and then shake-and-bake; throws off defenders with quick fakes, lateral moves and puck control. Excellent vision and that killer instinct around the net. Knows how to get open, go to the net or anyplace on the ice where he'll be in position to generate a scoring chance. Gritty little competitor; just goes out and gets it done when his team needs a score. Intelligent kid who was all set to go the NCAA route before switching to the OHL; education is important to him and his family.
Weaknesses: Lacks the ideal size NHL teams look for in the modern forward. Doesn't possess a lot of speed or a separation gear; lacks the explosive burst players who stand under 6-feet are expected to bring to the table. Has gotten better as a defensive player, but his effort level and success is still significantly tilted in the other side of the ice. Needs to keep working on not taking the cheap way out by diving and trying to draw calls in his favor. Consistent effort and intensity levels need some more improvement; he's come a long way from where he was at the beginning of the year, but he's got to shake the idea that he's not as motivated away from the puck as he is when it's on his stick or he's close enough to collect the next pass.
Style compares to: Mark Recchi (everyone's doing it, but hey-- it's one that works. Small, not a great skater, but just knows what to do with the puck when he's anywhere near the net)
Draft prediction: Eighth overall to Atlanta. No more Ilya Kovalchuk? No problem, Rick Dudley--Just draft the kid who scored 70 goals in 84 regular and postseason games this year. Granted, Skinner's probably not ready for primetime in 10-11, but he's not all that far off. Put him out there with Evander Kane and those two could give a lot of teams fits. Other players you could see the Thrashers opt for here: Nino Niederreiter, Alexander Burmistrov, Ryan Johansen or Derek Forbort.
Projection: Although Skinner has insisted he wants to play center at the next level, Red Line Report and others have said that he'll more than likely convert to the wing and be far more effective there. He's not a bad passer, but clearly, his bread-and-butter is the finish. He has top line upside, should be a solid second-liner given his impressive skill set and will eventually become a power play fixture. Unlike Recchi 22 years ago, he won't fall to the fourth round after two previous years of being passed over entirely.
Background: Parents are Andy and Elizabeth Skinner. Comes from a highly athletic family: parents met playing basketball while in law school. One of six children: has three older sisters (twins Andrea and Jennifer played at Cornell and Harvard), one older brother (Ben) and a younger sister, all of whom are hockey players. First round pick of the Kitchener Rangers in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection Draft. Scored 65 goals in his final midget season with the Toronto Young Nats before joining the Rangers; switched to No. 53 because his normal No. 23 was in use by Brandon Mashinter. Led Team Canada with six goals in four games at the Ivan Hlinka tourney in August, 2009, winning gold. NHL player he most looks up to: Sidney Crosby
"There's lots of guys out to prove to the scouts they deserve to be a bit higher than they are, and they belong out there with the top prospects. I don't mind stepping back from the spotlight. As long as I'm helping my team win, that's the goal."- Jeff Skinner to NHL.com; January, 2010
"I don't focus on the numbers, I just go out and work hard. When you look back at the numbers at the end of the season, that's when you can be surprised or be proud of your numbers. I'm just taking it a game at a time, that's where I am right now. Just worried about the next game and the next shift, that's what my focus is on."- Jeff Skinner to NHL.com; January, 2010
"His ability to get open and finish puts him with Taylor Hall, but he doesn't skate like Hall. He's definitely a game-breaker. If he gets another step, he could be a Mike Cammalleri."- NHL scout in The Hockey News 2010 Draft Preview; May 2010
"Skinner doesn't get the love he deserves because he's 5-10 and isn't a dynamic skater. What he is, however, is one of the most instinctive players in the draft at the offensive end and his compete level when he smells a scoring chance is unmatched."- Kyle Woodlief, Red Line Report; in USA Today
"I started figure skating around five or six years old. Most of my sisters did it-- well, all of them did-- I think I competed at the highest level and I ended up making it to junior nationals and coming in third place. So, that was a great achievement and I think it's probably benefited my hockey with the way I could use my edges on the ice."- Jeff Skinner to NHL Network
"Their mental toughness is the same, their ability to make guys better. They both have some differences, but I think their body type, their skating stride, their ability to make guys better, that's where I would compare them."- Kitchener Rangers GM and head coach Steve Spott to NHL.com; May, 2010 when asked to compare Skinner to former Kitchener captain Mike Richards
B's Will Need To Maneuver For Skinner