Now that Nathan Horton is a member of the Boston Bruins, I thought it would be cool to go back to 2003 and see what the various draft publications and magazines were saying about him then. I went through my archives and found old standbys Red Line Report and THN, plus the defunct Hockey's Future publication (which lasted the 2002-03 season before shutting down) and ISS's first-ever draft guide.
Let's face it-- Horton hasn't achieved all that was expected of him, but he's that rare mix of real size and pure scoring ability at forward, even if he hasn't put it all together yet. He's not been in the greatest situation down in Florida, so perhaps the change of scenery will do him good.
Anyway-- here are some of the writeups on him. He had quite the buzz going back then, and I've seen moments when he justified every bit of that hype. Unfortunately, those moments have been few and far between for him thus far in his NHL career.
Nathan Horton, C Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Red Line Report 2003 Draft Guide
Ranking: #2 of 281 (Behind M-A Fleury)
Projection: 1st line power forward
Style compares to: Joe Thornton-lite/Bill Guerin
Entered season as top-ranked player, but was maddeningly inconsistent. Terrific size, speed, strength and a bit of a nasty streak all add up to world-class prospect. Outstanding skater for a big man who can make plays at top speed and is adept at giving and receiving passes. Has excellent hands and a shot that he can get off in tight quarters, but sometimes doesn't look like a pure finisher. Very strong on the puck, has a solid work ethic, and understands defensive concepts. Year has been marked by too many highs/lows. Needs to play a physical style but occasionally plays on the perimetre. If he learns to compete hard all the time, Horton has the highest upside (of any '03 prospect). Struggled for quite a while after getting jaw broken by fellow top prospect Anthony Stewart in early season fight, but could be a franchise player. Once he's comfortable with the role of true power forward, he will be a force.
RLR 2003 Awards section:
#10 in "Best Pure Skaters" category": Rare for such a big man to have the combination of power, acceleration and balance that he has.
The Hockey News 2003 Draft Preview
Ranking: #3 of 100
There is a train of thought that says Nathan Horton could wind up being a better NHL player than Eric Staal if he shows more consistency in his game. The book on Horton reads like this: smart player, above-average skater who competes very well, smart defensively and responsible in his own end. He has the makings of a budding power forward who can put up points and finish plays. But he could use his size better.
There were times this season when scouts wished they could see the Horton they saw in 2001-02. He played a hungrier game then.
"Consistency is a concern, but we heard the same thing about (Ilya) Kovalchuk and (Jason) Spezza," said one GM. "These guys sometimes get bored. But he turned it up in the playoffs when he had to."
Scouts still talk about the time Horton took a beating in a fight with Anthony Stewart of Kingston and how he wasn't the same player for about a month after.
"But he came back at the end of the season and he had a couple of great playoff games."
Hockey's Future Magazine, June 2003 Draft Issue
Ranking: #3 of 240 (Behind Eric Staal, M-A Fleury)
The Analysis: Nathan Horton is a power-forward type center with enough finesse elements in his game to be offensively productive at the NHL level. For his above-average size, he has great skating ability. He also has terrific touch around the net and the offensive awareness to develop plays. His overall offensive ability is coming out of the raw stages that plagued him earlier in his career. Horton continues to show promise of being a consistently productive offensive force. He is an agile enough skater currently to handle OHL defensemen down low but could use a little refining at the next level. He's an exceptional skater with great straightaway speed, excellent puck skills as well as an accurate wrist shot and slap shot. Horton goes to the net with tenacity and is physically dominating in traffic and along the boards every game. He is great on the forecheck and he can force defensemen to make mistakes and create space for his smaller teammates. His defensive responsibilities need work, but that will come with time and increased opportunities to learn that aspect of the game.
The Skinny: Horton has the potential to be somewhere in between a Joe Thornton and a Jason Arnott or Keith Primeau-type player in terms of offensive production. His bull in a china shop mentality will serve him well through the rigors of the NHL grind. Expect him to be a team's No. 1 center in the future or a great No. 2. One of the top prospects this year, Horton is expected to be among the top five picks in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.
Internation Scouting Services 2003 NHL Draft Guide
Ranking: #1 of 250
Hockey Sense: A
Skill: Blue-chip prospect. Good neutral-zone player. Has a nose for the net. Has a good scoring touch. Explosive skater. Strong in the corners and in front of the net. Protects the puck well- a real team leader.
Overall Game: Highly skilled, tough power forward with tremendous upside. He shows great strength and balance. What makes him ISS's #1 ranked prospect is his ability to dominate both offensively and physically, and control the pace of the game. After suffering an injury, he bounced back from a somewhat disappointing regular season filled with high expectations. Horton elevated his game in the playoffs, displaying his franchise player qualities.
Weakness: His only need is consistency.
ISS forecaster: The total package; look for Florida to add Horton to complement Bouwmeester and Luongo.
(Editor's note- The ISS rankings are curious- Eric Staal had significantly higher grades on his report card than Horton did but was ranked #2. Weird.)
So, that was what was being said about him seven years ago.
Now, that you've seen Horton in action since at the NHL level what say you?
Seems like a disappointment who's shown flashes of that predicted dominance, and has certainly done OK in scoring as 20-goal guy, but who probably hasn't been nowhere near as good as people thought he'd be.
Can he turn it around in Boston? We'll find out soon enough.
I've dug up some stuff on Greg Campbell and will get to him a little later, but let's face it- he's replacing Steve Begin in the lineup. He's a fourth-line veteran with NHL experience, but he'll contribute offense just once in a blue moon...just like Begin.