The Skinny: Slater Koekkoek – a big, mobile, attack-savvy defenseman from Peterborough will have commentators struggling with pronunciation guides come June – but how much did season-ending shoulder surgery cost his draft value?
His isn’t the easiest name to pronounce (Kuh-Kook), but Slater Koekkoek’s name has found its way onto the tongues of scouts and analysts around the hockey world. The large-framed defenseman from Mountain, Ontario has the two-way chops to be a top pick in 2012. If not for suffering a torn labrum in November and the resulting season-ending shoulder surgery, we could have been talking about a top-ten pick.
His skating game jumps out during many first viewings – Koekkoek has excellent speed for his size and great agility in all directions. He has a powerful stride and almost effortlessly blows by opponents. This world-class size/speed combo is his hallmark – and a big reason why his stock remains so high despite his injury.
In addition, Koekkoek has excellent distribution skills. He walks the line when in the offensive zone with possession, holding the puck patiently and looking for holes in the defense: His vision is top-notch. He’s a solid shooter but projects more as a playmaker/PP QB than a triggerman. Koekkoek possesses excellent hands for a blueliner and has the ability to weave through traffic and capably keep the puck in the offensive zone.
Very solid on the breakout, Koekkoek earns the ‘puck-moving’ moniker but is equally adept at jumping into the rush and skating the puck for zone-entries and attacking opportunities.
Like many players his age, Koekkoek is a work in progress defensively, but he brings equal attention as a defensive-minded blueliner. His skating and superb hockey-IQ earn him considerable praise from scouts and analysts alike.
Some scouts point to his physical game as underdeveloped (though there are others who argue completely the opposite). This is concerning – though not unexpected. Koekkoek needs to work on building up strength and upper-body mass commensurate with expectations brought on by his height. The defensive concerns will need to be addressed (and losing much of a year of development hurts) before he reaches professional hockey – but his own-zone potential is still high.
Furthermore, there are those who point to consistency as one of their greatest concerns with regards to Koekkoek: They feel that his game-to-game compete levels are far more disparate than ideal from a player of his level.
While the questions surrounding Koekkoek can’t be answered by performance this season, expect him to land earlier than most mocks have him. Why? Simply put – his overall potential or ‘upside’ is among the highest of any defenseman in this draft. We feel that if he were healthy, he would have undoubtedly been the first OHL defender drafted. That said, his injury (and extremely varying estimations of his value) have him as a wild-card in 2012. He could be off the board by 12 (and has decent value there) or still sitting around come 24. If he falls beyond 20, he represents a huge value selection for whoever gobbles him up.
Ideal Fits: Mid- and low-round teams looking to take a risk on a potential blue-chip blueliner: Washington, Buffalo, Boston and Philadelphia
Why Your Team Will Take Him: Because his upside might be as high (or higher) as some of the elite-five defensemen in the draft.
Why Your Team Will Pass on Him: Because the book is still out on his potential and losing much of a year of development will cost him; because he’s a project; because there are safer options with arguably-similar upsides (Ceci, Trouba, Skjei).
Strengths: Size, Skating, Hockey IQ, Playmaking, Shooting, Puck-Moving, Hands
Weaknesses/Concerns: Overall Physicality, Strength, Defensive Game, Consistency
Projection: Number Two/Three Two-Way Defenseman (10g, 45p potential)
Predicted 2012 NHL Draft Range: First Round (11-24)
Overall Rank: 12
N.A. Rank: 10
OHL Rank: 4
Defenseman Rank: 6
Canadian National Rank: 5
1.) Seth Jones – D – 6’4, 205
2.) Nathan MacKinnon – C – 5’11, 180
3.) Jonathan Drouin – LW – 5’11, 175
4.) Aleksander Barkov – C – 6’3, 205
5.) Elias Lindholm – C – 6’0, 185
6.) Sean Monahan – C – 6’2, 195
7.) Valeri Nichushkin – RW – 6’3, 175
8.) Hunter Shinkaruk – LW – 5’11, 175
9.) Ryan Pulock – D – 6’1, 205
10.) Nikita Zadorov – D – 6’5, 220
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