Red Line Report chief scout Kyle Woodlief has an interesting column up over at USA Today's website, a condensed version of his February rankings.
To boil it down, he's concerned about the lack of upside at the defense position, which underscores how things can change during the course of a hockey season. Back in November, I interviewed Kyle and the defense group looked pretty good at the time, with Cam Fowler having established himself as the cream of what was shaping up to be a good crop. Just three months later, Fowler has been pushed down by Minnesota native Derek Forbort of the U.S. National Team Development Program Under-18 Team, and Woodlief's assessment could serve as a wakeup call for Fowler to establish himself more as the player he has the talent and tools to be.
Also of interest are Woodlief's comments about Windsor forward Taylor Hall.
"Now, we don't dispute that Hall's rare offensive gifts give him the edge for the No. 1 overall slot in this year's draft. But we'd hate to be the NHL coach whose job it will be in a few months to rein in this selfish, immature winger with a head swelled so large that he can't fit through doorways and absolutely no concept of doing what's best for the team instead of thinking of himself."
I know that even with the unhappiness he expressed with Hall's attitude, Woodlief still believes Hall to be the best talent in the draft and knows that offensively, there are so many things Hall can do and do better than anyone else in his peer group. But, his scathing commentary about Hall is sure to generate controversy in the coming months.
Woodlief makes no apologies for his strong opinions, and you won't see him back away from anything he said. The interesting thing will be to see whether other NHL teams agree with him.
Also of interest is the mention of Kootenay defenseman Joey Leach. I'd actually heard of him before reading about him in the column, but that was thanks to an intrepid HFBoards poster named "Rumpy" who does a great job following the WHL and Western Canadian hockey and knows Leach, who hails from his hometown. Leach was not ranked on the CSS midterm list nor on Red Line's rankings prior to February, so I had to be honest with Rumpy, who suggested he might be worth a fourth-round pick, and nonconcur given Leach's lack of exposure. Well folks- looks like Rumpy was right again (he called Joe Colborne for Boston before the '08 draft for example) on this guy, who seems to be shaping up as a solid 4th or 5th selection because of his significant improvement in skating. Rumpy deserves credit, because he brought Leach to my attention via private channels, so I'm making sure that everyone knows that he was onto him before anyone else, present company included, was. Rumpy's insights on the WHL and draft prospects playing in that league are always worth reading.
So, there's a lot to digest in the latest Red Line column from Woodlief. I can't say I agree with him dropping Fowler, but he and his staff have seen him a lot more than I have.
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