By Mackenzie Liddell, Sportsnet Staff
Much can change over the course of a season for NHL prospects in their draft year.
Whether it’s injuries, poor production, failed expectations or stagnant development, there are a number of reasons why some of the hottest prospects coming into the season fall off the map come draft day.
With the help of hockeyprospect.com’s Mark Edwards, here are five players whose stock has dropped heading into the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh, June 22-23.
1. Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
There is perhaps no player in the upcoming draft more polarizing than Mikhail Grigorenko. Blessed with a dynamic offensive skillset, Grigorenko came into the season expected to battle Nail Yakupov as the No. 1 prospect. Despite scoring 40 goals and 85 points in 59 games with the Remparts this season – his first in North America – there are concerns about his compete level and consistency.
Scout’s take: “He’s got the talent to be a top-three pick, but he doesn’t bring it every game. When the puck is on his stick he can do incredible things, but he doesn’t work hard enough to get the puck on his stick. There’s no one that was beat up more (by NHL scouts) than him. The Russian factor is real, and the KHL is always a threat. He really does have amazing vision and playmaking ability, but there are safer ways to go.”
2. Matia Marcantuoni, RW/C, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Although not as high-profile as Grigorenko, high expectations were placed on speedy Kitchener Rangers forward Matia Marcantuoni at the onset of the OHL season. After an injury-shortened rookie season in 2010-11, during which he scored 11 goals and 27 points, Marcantuoni never took off in his sophomore campaign and finished with nine goals and 14 points in 24 games after missing time with various injuries. The Woodbridge, Ont., native is considered one of the fastest skaters in the 2012 draft.
Scout’s take: “He’s a hardworking, energetic, speedy player who was always overrated offensively but should get props for how hard he works. We had him ranked 26th in the preseason, and he dropped to 76th in the final ranking. Concussions and injury history also hurts his stock. I don’t like to call a guy injury-prone, because I think it’s more about bad luck, but when some guys keep getting hurt, you start to wonder.”
3. Martin Frk, RW, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Frk was expected to take a big leap forward after a solid rookie campaign in which he registered 22 goals and 50 points in 62 games. The six-foot, 204-pound Czech missed the first half of 2011-12 due to injury (concussion), a recurring theme in this year’s draft class, and finished with 16 goals and 29 points in 34 games.
Scout’s take: “I don’t know if there’s a guy we struggled with more than Frk. He has top-six ability, but you just don’t know what guy is showing up. He’s not the most fantastic skater, but he has a ridiculous shot. He plays gritty and works hard but will take a few games off. How he pans out is really going to depend on who drafts him and how they develop him.”
4. Nick Ebert, D, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
The puck-moving blueliner was a hot commodity when he left the USHL to join the Windsor Spitfires in 2010-11, and many pegged him as a sure-fire first-rounder. He didn’t disappoint in his rookie year, finishing with 11 goals and 41 points as a 16-year-old. Unfortunately his production dropped alongside his draft stock after a mediocre sophomore season. Ebert has good size and possesses a deep toolbox of skills — hard shot, good skating, puck-moving ability, physicality — but has failed to make a significant impact in the OHL and often struggles defensively.
Scout’s take: “Nick is a kid who doesn’t do anything extremely elite, but we also don’t think he does anything so horribly wrong either. He is good in a lot of areas; I think part of the problem is that he was overhyped. He was never quite as good as people said he was, and he’s not nearly as bad as people say he is now.”
5. Andreas Athanasiou, LW/C, London Knights (OHL)
There are always high expectations for players as skilled as Athanasiou. A wickedly fast skater with slick puck skills, Athanasiou was expected to play a key offensive role with the Knights in 2011-12 and was pegged as a likely first-round pick. Although he showed flashes in a 22-goal, 37-point regular season, Athanasiou disappeared for long stretches and was a healthy scratch various times during the Knights’ playoff run.
Scout’s take: “He’s not a bad mid-round pick based on his skill and upside, but the kid isn’t the smartest hockey player. Everybody knows the book on him.”
Mark Edwards is the founder and director of scouting for HockeyProspect.com and creator of the 2012 NHL Draft Black Book.