By JD Lagrange – In an interview on TVA Sports, Alain Chainey, who spent more than 20 years as a scout and Director of Amateur Scouting for the Anaheim Ducks, gave his opinion on this year’s NHL Draft. Every year, he talks to his ex-colleagues about different prospects and he was intrigued by the hesitation. It seems like Shane Wright isn’t as much of a consensus number as many want you to believe.
“When I was asking questions left and right and I was showing interest about him, there was a little moment of silence. There was a moment of reflexion, making me think that I had touched a delicate topic.”
Yes, Chainey relied on the opinion of a few current NHL scouts but he also did his own homework. I love the part when he downplays watching videos instead of being at the games to watch live, as some people have yet to admit that.
“I have watched closely the videos of the top-5 prospects this year: Shane Wright, Juraj Slafkovsky, Logan Cooley, Simon Nemec and David Jiricek. Of course, when watching a player on video, there are things you can miss, like his defensive game, his body demeanour when he gets to the bench, because cameras always follow the puck carrier.”
Chainey was asked which player he would select with the first overall pick. He had no hesitation.
“Slafkovsky. He is the guy who stood out the most in all of that. And I’m not one to claim that Shane Wright is just good, no more. He’s an excellent player who will have a good career, but I saw in Slafkovsky something more.”
“What I see in Slafkovsky is an upside, a potential, a growth development that’s really impressive”, said Chainey who in him a more imposing version of Andrei Svechnikov. “He needs to be more explosive with his starts, but his top end speed is really good. He’s not a slow skater. He has good hands, but a really good shot. He’s a guy who is involved physically. A player who protects the puck really, really well.”
“He’s difficult to check along the boards. It’s a rare combination, finally, of size, speed, abilities and physical implication. He’s not the type of player you see very often.”
Chainey is not worried one bit about his production in Liiga, the best league in Finland.
“It doesn’t scare me. I’ve seen excellent players sitting at the end of the bench in Europe’s elite leagues. Things like that happen.”
“He’s not the most creative player with the puck, with the best vision. However, he’s capable to make good plays. He’s not as creative as Logan Cooley, who is dynamic, or Shane Write, who’s an excellent playmaker and slow the play. It’s not necessarily his style. But you can’t be perfect at everything. Slafkovsky, his strength isn’t his creativity with the puck, but I can’t say that he’s a dummy either. He’s capable of making good plays.”
“He gets to the corners and we often see him win puck battles, move with the puck and make a good pass to a teammate. Is he crafty with the puck and make fantastic plays like Nick Suzuki? You can’t compare. It’s not his style. But on a hockey team, you need all kinds of players.”
Supporting new management
It is important to note that in no time during this interview, was Chainey putting down the young Wright. In fact, he had good words for all three top prospects (Slafkovsky, Wright and Cooley). But what this shows in that on the inside, in the professional scouting world, the race for the top-3 prospects available at this year’s NHL Draft is a lot tighter than amateur Draft people want us to believe.
At the end, we as fans owe it to the team’s new management to support their choice, no matter whom they select first overall. We have to understand that while it may or may not support our beliefs, our opinion, they have watched these kids live. That have conducted in-depth interviews with them. They have spoken to coaches, teammates, friends and family members. The Canadiens use Dr. David Scott to help with the psychological assessment. We don’t have that access. Let’s give them rope and see what they do with it. They can do great things… or they can hang themselves with it. The only way to know is to give them a chance to prove themselves. It’s the only sound thing to do.