Over the last month or so I've been contacting a number of scouts in order to get a strong gauge on how they feel about a few different players and groups of players in the Class of 2011. "Pickin' Brains" I call it.
I believe that TSN analyst Bob McKenzie's rankings are based on the opinions of 10 scouts that he speaks with (correct me if I'm wrong on that, Bob). That seems like a reasonable line in the sand so to following his example, I have done the same thing.
10 scouts, coming from all 6 divisions and both conferences but no NHL team represented more than once.
Question #1: Is Edmonton Oil Kings leading scorer Dylan Wruck someone that you would push for in your team meetings as a player to draft?
For the results...
With 75 points, Wruck is Edmonton's leading point getter and the club's top goal scorer with 36. 36 goals rank him 17th in the league for lamplighters this season. His point-per-game production in 2010-11 is up a mind blowing 380% over last year (.23 to 1.10) where he finished the season with just 12 points in 53 games.
Wruck, a product of Saskatoon, is listed by the Oil Kings at 5'8 and 162 lbs although almost everyone I have spoken with believes both of those figures are generous.
10 years ago there would be absolutely zero chance that Wruck would be considered worthy of a draft pick. But times have changed and smaller players can be seen throughout the league not just playing but starring. Patrick Kane won the Calder Trophy in 2008 after being selected 1st overall in 2007 - he was listed then at 5'9.5 and 160 lbs.
There are currently 12 players listed by NHL.com as being 68" (5'8) or under and playing in the league this year with Nate Gerbe (BUF) coming in at a paltry 5'3. Steve Sullivan (NSH) is the lightest of the 12 players at just 161 lbs but the 36-year-old veteran has still carved out a 17-year career for himself despite his size disadvantage.
So playing the NHL at Wruck's size has been done, is being done now, but it's obviously extremely rare. Can Wruck be one of those guys? Here are some of the comments I got from the scouts when I asked them about the Oil Kings forward.
"He plays a lot bigger than you might expect a guy his size would play. He doesn’t shy away at all from going to all the tough areas."
"I would project him to be a pretty good AHL player, maybe a fringe NHLer but if he can grow even a little bit more and then get a lot stronger, with his grit and his ability to do things with the puck he might have an outside chance."
"He’s smart in that he doesn’t plays with a chip on his shoulder where he tries to beat all the big guys."
"I saw him do it in Bantam when the odds were against him, again in Midget AAA and the odds were against him and now he’s doing it in major junior so... he’s a smart enough and competitive enough kid that he can have success. He’ll need the proper fit in an organization though, a team that is willing to give small guys a chance."
"I love the kid, I think he’s all heart."
"He’s really developed his game this year a lot better, a lot more consistent and he’s proving this year that he can score. He has to keep doing what he’s doing – working hard, competing and keep scoring. Those are his strengths."
"He does a lot of things extremely well, he’s got high skill and he competes in all the right areas. He’s not afraid to play where it is hard. He’s quick, fast and competitive. Players like that find a way."
"He’s a very nice hockey player and an interesting to watch down the stretch."
Those are all pretty positive comments but like all players, Wruck is not without his red flags and for scouts it clearly is his physical size.
"I think his size is going to hurt him. Wruck needs to get stronger but he’s got balls, I’ll give him that. He could be a guy that falls to the ECHL, gets a call up to the AHL but I think he’s always going to fall into that grey area simply because of his size."
"The height isn’t his biggest problem, it’s his weight. He darts around and he has a flare for the offence, but at his size he struggles in the defensive zone. How will he get to the net against 6’2 players who aren’t 16-years-old? If you’re under 185 lbs, it’s tough to get through. If you’re 5’8 or 5’9, you almost have to be as wide as you are tall."
"There are guys who can play at 5’8 but they’re 180, 185 lbs.; I think that Dylan is just too small."
Does Wruck remind the scouts of anyone either playing in the league now or maybe someone who was drafted not that long ago? For fans who don't get a chance to watch Wruck play, who should they think of?
"I think Wruck has enough to be a good 3rd or 4th line guy for you, maybe kill penalties. I think of Kris Draper (right) when I look at Wruck. His game will evolve like Draper’s did, he was also a point producer at the same age."
"Brandon Kozun (LA) was 5’9 but much thicker. Mike Connolly who was in Camrose, 5’8 and has sick skills, he's a similar guy to Wruck but again, much thicker."
"Tyler Ennis (BUF) had the big jump, the big shot and he was not scared to go into traffic. Wruck isn’t either."
"I saw the Jones twins (Connor and Kellen) play in Vernon and Wruck’s like they were - smart, work hard but all of them will probably never play in the NHL."
The Bottom Line
OK so we have the good, the bad and the comparables... but what's the bottom line? Is Dylan Wruck a player you would draft?
"Oh no, I think you have to consider drafting him. He won’t be a high draft though."
"I want to watch him more but I think he’s too small for me."
"Yes and I think he’s got a really good chance to get drafted, he’s having a great year."
"No... I think he’s too small to get drafted."
"If size doesn’t bother the player then it doesn’t bother me. It wouldn’t be a waste of a draft pick because his skill level is just too good."
3 of the 10 scouts I spoke with said they would bring Wruck's name up in their draft meetings as a player they felt worthy of drafting. The other 7 were not willing to go that far.
However... 100% of the people I contacted said that if Wruck were to pass through the draft, he is a player they would like invited to their summer prospect camp so they could take an extended look and have an exclusive window to possibly sign.