Home > 2014 NHl Entry Draft, OHL, Sarnia Sting > NHL Draft: Evaluating the boom/bust prospect

NHL Draft: Evaluating the boom/bust prospect

(Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

(Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Exclusive from the submissions of Youngblood [Special Edition]: 2014 NHL Draft Midterm Guide

Tuesday, Febraury 18, 2014

No prospect is a sure thing but some come with more alarming risks

The 2014 NHL Draft class is an intriguing one in the sense that there are several players with elite skill sets that aren’t necessarily complete, owning one or two concerning flaws. Whether it is a lack of size, deficiencies in the defensive zone or questionable character, NHL teams are always occupied at determining how much emphasis to place on players’ shortcomings and deciding at what point in the draft makes drafting a risky prospect worth it.

Making headlines most recently, Sarnia Sting defenseman Tony DeAngelo was suspended internally by the Sting after an incident that took place between a teammate and himself on January 31st versus the Guelph Storm. Sarnia decided to take the situation to the OHL head office and the league’s iron fist came down with an eight-game suspension after DeAngelo violated the OHL’s harassment and abuse/diversity policy. As the OHL’s leading defensive scorer with 60 points through 43 games, Tony DeAngelo’s skill level is apparent but it’s the recent red flags that could dictate his ultimate draft fate.

The details of the recent incident will likely never be released publicly and while it’s an alarming black mark on his hockey resume, it isn’t without precedent. Playing an intense game, DeAngelo’s hot temperament and attitude concerns have been well documented in the scouting world. The same passion that drives DeAngelo’s tremendous offensive game can also contribute to undisciplined reactionary actions.

In discussion with Mark Siedel,Chief Scout of North American Central Scouting, he openly spoke on player character, “Character is a huge part of the evaluation process. The actual evaluation of a kid’s ability to play the game and physical abilities like skating, shooting and playing the game are obviously important but the tougher part is forecasting whether these are kids that you want  or can build a team with.”

The Sewell, New Jersey native is playing in his third OHL season after the Sarnia Sting drafted him with the 26th selection of the 2011 Priority Selection Draft. DeAngelo’s future draft position remains uncertain for more reasons than just his recent suspension. Despite his tremendous offensive skillset, DeAngelo’s defensive deficiencies have been glaring at times. Former NHLer and current Sting assistant coach Andy Delmore has had a positive influence on improving his game inside the defensive zone but DeAngelo is still prone to breaking down and reverting back to bad habits.

Scouts are familiar with the good aspects of DeAngelo’s game as there are few who can skate, handle the puck, quarterback the powerplay or unleash an unruly point shot like him. Ranking the talented defenseman isn’t as black and white as it appears. Truth be told, NHL teams could (and likely do) have DeAngelo entirely off their list – a common practice in the scouting community. For public draft rankings (like the one found here in Youngblood), weighing his reward with his well-known risks is a complicated process. More likely than not, this first round talent falls out of the opening round altogether and lands in the hands of a team later in the draft that’s willing to work on his deficiencies.

Seidel echoes the uncertainty of DeAngelo’s draft future, “It [the suspension] would have to be investigated a great deal to find out the exact issues, the history, the track record and the reasons but it certainly will increase the level of scrutiny for this kid as we head towards June.”

Seidel also confirms that it’s about weighing the risks and rewards, “At some point and time, questions of character will be bypassed by being too much value for a team to pass up on but DeAngelo, at 5’11” and being primarily an offensive guy, won’t see that happen in the 1st round unless a team is absolutely convinced that this was a unique situation and that he is truly a good kid with whom they want to try and build around.”

Siedel admitted the importance on making every pick count, “NHL teams only have seven picks per year usually so they need to use those picks on kids that will be able to handle the off-ice issues, pressures, and temptations.”

Deciding on that exact draft slot is a grueling decision and the team who eventually selects him will undoubtedly be taking on some inherent risk.

Due diligence is a big aspect of evaluating boom/bust type of players and NHL teams want to leave nothing unanswered.

Seidel explains, “The financial and team direction investment that teams have to put into players, especially 1st and 2nd round selections, is such that they want to be as sure as possible that they are getting a kid that can handle things on and off the ice to allow them to become NHL regulars”.

Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Terry Wilson/OHL Images

DeAngelo is only an example of one player but when character is called into question, the process will be intensified.

“Lots and lots and lots of interviews, investigations and questioning is the norm for the usual prospect but with this situation, that will only ramp up tenfold,” is what Seidel had to say when asked about what DeAngelo should expect heading forward after this unfortunately situation.

It’s not the end of the world as the hockey community has been through similar situations. The fact that DeAngelo is a tremendous talent is what makes the entire situation so fascinating. Every team would love to add DeAngelo’s offensive skill set but it’s figuring out at what expense it makes the investment a sound one. Come draft day, DeAngelo will be selected and that could be a refreshing new start for him.

One thing is for certain, Tony DeAngelo is going to need to work his way back into good favour with his coaches, teammates and the scouting community watching him. That will take time and patience.

Tony DeAngelo will be eligible to return to action on Saturday, February 22nd when the Sarnia Sting host the Ottawa 67’s.  The Sting currently sit in last place in the OHL with 36 points and look destined to miss the playoffs for the third time in the past five seasons. Returning to the ice and displaying the high-end skill set that few players possess in this draft class will be vital for him heading towards the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Barring a massive winning streak to end the season, DeAngelo has just nine games remaining in his 2013-14 OHL season.

Brendan Ross can be followed on twitter @RossyYoungblood.

Special thanks to Mark Seidel, Chief Scout of North American Central Scouting. You can follow Mark at @MarkSeidel.

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