Saturday, May 29, 2010

Someone you should know: Troy Rutkowski

Portland Winterhawks defenseman Troy Rutkowski isn't exactly a household name for the 2010 NHL Draft.

But with his size, mobility and potential offensive upside at the next level, he has the potential to develop into a much better pro than his draft status will likely accord him next month.

At 6-2, 210 pounds, Rutkowski has the ideal kind of size NHL teams look for, and is a very good skater (though not quite in Cam Fowler's class), one of the more mobile rearguards available this year. He's got all of the attributes of an offensively skilled defenseman too: nice first pass ability, big-time shot from the point and the understanding of when to join the rush and when to stay back.

Unfortunately, his draft stock took a hit this year after a good start because he wasn't producing. He finished the year with 12 goals and 43 points, which is decent, but won't likely see him land in the late first-round or early second, which is where his talent would justify him going. He's also a right-handed shot, which is a bonus for a team like Boston, who lacks a bevy of shooters from that side on D. That said, he showed more of a propensity to play defense this year, improving his gap control and overall play in his own end.

On the downside, he's had some issues with his conditioning and weight since arriving in Portland in his first WHL season and will likely need attention and a regimented program to keep on target with his pro team's fitness requirements. In Rutkowski's defense, he showed up to Portland in very good shape this year, demonstrating the kind of dedication and hard work you like to see from a youngster, so the conditioning concerns may be a thing of the past.

I talked to Red Line WHL guru Mike Remmerde about Rutkowski earlier this season, and this is what he had to say about him:

"He's been very frustrating. He's gone from someone I saw as a solid second-round pick and lottery-ticket type of selection because of his upside to a guy I think could fall in June because he simply hasn't produced the offense or played to his capabilities since getting off to a very good start in October.

"He's improved his defensive game, which is good, but he's far too talented a player to not be doing more on the offensive end, and that's why I've had to downgrade him a bit. He went from being so good (at age 16 and in the first month of the 09-10 season) as a puck-rushing, power play specialist to someone who has shown very little of that offensive skill which made him such an attractive player for me when I saw him last year."

Rutkowski did shake off some of the doldrums and finished with a strong regular season and playoffs, scoring four goals and seven points in 13 games.

"In terms of what he's got (physically and instinctively), if he finds the game he showed off early on, he's got that rare offensive-defensive mentality in terms of being able to rush end-to-end, make long passes and move extremely well, which is rare for someone with his 6-2 frame."

Sounds like a player who might be worth gambling a little with at 45th overall. He's only ranked 44th among North American skaters by Central Scouting on their final list (down from 43 at midterm), but Future Considerations had them 29th in their recently published 2010 Draft Guide. And, as far as Central goes, he's ahead of other names that have been bandied about as Boston options such as Julian Melchiori (45th), Danny Biega (46th), Minnesotans Justin Holl (47th) and Justin Faulk (56th).

If his size and skill set is as obvious as Remmerde has indicated, then Rutkowski could surprise in terms of how soon he comes off the board in L.A.

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