Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Doug Miller on 07/25/11 at 03:06 PM ET
Height: 6’ 2”
Weight: 191 lbs
Drafted: 2011 DET - 2nd Round - 35th overall
It seemed to be the general consensus of the hockey media going into the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minnesota, that this was potentially the deepest draft class since 2003. With top notch prospects at spots 1-8 (and even potentially picks 9 and 10 depending on who you asked), and then the next tier of talent was considered to be a bit of a free for all when it came to the next 30-40 picks, and the general vibe I got from teams in the first round, and early into the second round, was that there was indeed a tremendous value on early picks (mid to late first round), as well as almost any pick in the second round, and even leading up to and into the early third round picks, until the next major level of drop off in pure potential. As such, this resulted in quite a few teams being very active when it came to making trades involving any potential pick(s) from this vastly large pool of “second tier” prospects.
So it came as no surprise to me that a team like Detroit would be one the teams to make a “depth” trade early on, with this kind of draft class, sending their first round pick (24th overall) to Ottawa for two second round picks (35th and 48th overall). What did surprise me, however, was that when Detroit was on the clock to make that 35th overall selection in the second round… Tomas Jurco was still on the board. Which was something of a shocker, I thought, considering the following…
Going into draft day, Jurco held the 20th overall ranking amongst North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. This ranking was likely bolstered a bit given his role as one of several key players on the talent-rich 2011 Memorial Cup Championship team, the St. John Seadogs, of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Although I’ve heard and numerous times that “Jurco’s draft stock would likely have been higher if he had a better a better second year with St. John.” I’m not sourcing that quote, because it’s not a direct quote, but just how I’d generally sum up the impressions I was getting from various reports on Jurco (both before and after the draft). Here’s a good example of the kind of thing I’m talking about:
The 18-year-old winger was relegated to more of a secondary role on the deep Sea Dogs offense and suffered through stretches of inconsistency in his second QMJHL season.
However, the thing is… the numbers don’t really seem to tell that story, as you’ll see…
Tomas Jurco - QMJHL Regular Season for St. John (stats via eliteprospects.com)
2009-2010 - 64 Games Played - 26 Goals and 25 Assists for a total of 51 points (0.80 point per game average)
2010-2011 - 60 Games Played - 31 Goals and 25 Assists for a total of 56 points (0.93 point per game average)
So, despite having a “lesser” role his second season, he still managed to improve his point production… yeah, I don’t really see that “inconsistency” that is being talked about there. Granted I didn’t watch him play every single game, or track his stats throughout the year, we can still look at the end result and draw a conclusion. However, even Jurco himself has said in regards to his last season;
“I would have three really good games, then I would have a bad game.” - Tomas Jurco
It’s still my opinion that Jurco showed an overall improvement from his first season to the second, despite having presumably less ice time to do so, having being reassigned to more of a secondary role. Sure, his production might have been “streaky” at times, but I still think it’s the end results that matter. Perhaps it should also be taken into consideration that Jurco was nominated for QMJHL Rookie of the Year in 2009-2010. Which a pretty nice accomplishment to have on your resume, especially considering Jurco came over to the QMJHL from the Slovakia Under 18/20 League, and had to adjust to the “North American” game, and ice, his first year in the Q with St. John.
Just like every other report you’ll read on any so called “second tier” forward prospect from this year’s draft, he’s got to work on his “consistency” and “defensive game”. Reality Check: That’s going to be true of any (I don’t care what round or overall pick) prospective forward looking to make a career in the NHL, so I feel it’s rather redundant to go into that stuff. Clearly, if you just look at his regular production (nearly a point per game) and if you simply watch him play, (which thankfully I got the chance to do while watching coverage of the 2011 Memorial Cup Tournament) then you can tell that this kid has some real potential. I thought he was clearly mid to late-mid first round material (considering the draft class this year) and I wouldn’t have been the least bit shocked if someone went a bit off the board on him, and grabbed him at somewhere between picks 14-21. Which again leads me back to my feeling of surprise that he was still sitting there at 35. Because to me, he seemed like a natural fit for Detroit, and I guess I wasn’t the only one thinking that, as the Red Wings quickly selected him before moving on to consider their options for their 48th overall second round pick.
After the draft there has been much speculation around many circles both inside and outside of Detroit, that the Wings would have likely selected Jurco at 24th overall had they not made the trade with Ottawa. Although no one from the Red Wings organization has ever officially confirmed this (to my knowledge). However, shortly after having made the selection, Jim Nill did intimate that Jurco was someone they have been watching very closely for a few years. So it’s very likely, that in all reality, the Red Wings made a calculated gamble at the draft, and they figured that if they could find the right deal (which apparently they did), they could make a depth trade, and move down 11 spots, and still get the first round pick they had their eyes on.
Tomas Jurco is an exciting prospect for many reasons. There is no argument in my mind that he is without a doubt, already an insanely (see YouTube) highly skilled and dynamic player, and if given the time to properly develop… which he will be, being with an organization like Detroit that has a history of patiently letting their prospects “over-develop” at the minor league level before unleashing them into the NHL. He could very likely turn into an impact player, and eventually blossom into a full blow star that would continue to add key depth on a roster that already more stock full of highly skilled forwards than you (or even Pavel Datsyuk) can shake a hockey stick at.
The only question that seems to remain for now: How long will it take?
I find it very likely that we’ll be looking back on this draft years from now, and be wondering how it was that Tomas Jurco fell as far as he did, and right into the Detroit Red Wing’s lap; when he was clearly a very talented and high-potential prospect who became the victim (in the sense that he should have went higher) of a very deep draft. Personally, I think we’ll have to add his name to the ever growing list of absolute gems that Ken Holland and company have mined from the draft, well after they should have been picked up by someone else in front of them.
At least that’s my prediction. As always, time will ultimately either prove a man a fool or a genius.
What I really want to know, is what do you think? Is Jurco going to turn out to be yet another steal for the Red Wings in the draft? Or is he just an over-hyped, overrated, and inconsistent, internet sensation?
Stay tuned, as I plan to revisit the subject of some other great prospects, who by nature of this deep draft, fell right into the hands the perfect team for them.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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