Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Penalty Kill: John Moore

Anaheim calling to the hockey world...

Last week, Central Scouting released their final rankings for this year's Entry Draft. This is an important draft for the Ducks, who have amassed an Iowa team stocked with two-way forwards and frequently called-up defensemen. And while that is exactly the kind of team that Brian Burke intended to build, many are putting the smart money on the Ducks picking a Top Six scorer or a solid blueliner to balance out their prospect pool.

I secretly believe the Ducks will ignore those smart money decisions and pick someone like Zack Kassian, but I feel it important to profile some of these "smart" picks. If Anaheim is indeed picking a defenseman this year, they have no shot at Victor Hedman and Jared Cowen's size (despite his shiny new ACL) will get him picked in the top 10. For my money, the third best defenseman in the draft is John Moore, and he may just fall into the Ducks' wheelhouse.

[UPDATED VIDEO: feature to replace that camcorder vid.]

Moore may be higher in your mock draft (or lower-- we'll talk about that later), but as he blossomed late in the scouting cycle, I think he will be there right around 15th.* Central Scouting places him as the 6th best skater in North America and the 2nd best College or College-committed player available on draft day, while the ISS Rankings from March place him as the 17th best overall.

John Moore is a native of Winnetka, the suburb 10 miles north of Chicago that passed for the fictitious Shermer in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. In 2007, after a growth spurt that carried him to the 6-ft. mark, he tried out for the USHL's Chicago Steel. Although he missed the cut, a member of the Steel roster moved on to the OHL, which opened a spot for Moore at 7th defenseman. He made the most of the opportunity, posting 4G and 11A with 2A in the playoffs and ending the season as a Top Four in the depth chart.

Moore added some juice to his scouting buzz when he helped the USA win the Gold at the World Junior A Challenge in Camrose. Among the skills he displayed on the international stage were a big shot, natural offensive talent and dynamite skating ability, which he honed under the tutelage of power skating coach Rafe Aybar.

Going into his second year with the Steel, Moore worked to improve his strength, conditioning and nutrition, bringing the 6'2" blueliner to the 190 lbs+ mark. The improved regimen showed in his puck-handling, skating and scoring touch, prompting Steel coach Steve Poapst to declare him "head and shoulders above anyone at [the USHL] level." For proof of that, you need only look to the rearguard's 2008-09 USHL Defenseman of the Year award, an honor he won with a 14G 25A campaign that featured a natural hat trick, 18P on the power play and 3P on the PK.

Moore describes himself as a puck-moving defenseman, a strong skater and a good passer. When modeling his game, he looks to players like Duncan Keith and Scott Niedermayer, who use skating ability to position themselves and be effective on both sides of the puck. As far as the improvements required to bring his game to the next level, Moore cites gap control, positioning, down low 1-on-1 and better work along the boards.**

The main concern when scouting Moore was his offensive decision making; his coach and teammates often razzed him for trying to be the fourth forward on every shift. However, halfway through this season, Moore made the conscious effort to pass on entry and to survey his options from the blue line, rather than bring the puck in and attack on his own. He's also worked hard to find consistency in his mental approach to the game. The increased discipline has shown on the ice and on the scoreboard. And his ability to make these minor adjustments shows he has a strong work ethic and a coachable personality.

Moore went undrafted by the Canadian leagues, and has committed to play at Colorado College next year. If I were Murray, I pick Moore for these three reasons:

1) Skating. No one is the 'next' Scott Niedermayer, but strong skating defensemen play well in the Anaheim system. And not only is Moore maybe the best skating d-man in the draft, but he consciously works to make skating the cornerstone of his game.

2) Still improving. The kid has a smiling and hard-working approach to hockey, and he's eager to address any shortcomings in his game. Not to mention the fact that he's still hitting growth spurts and may end up 6'4" 210lbs+ when all is said and done.

3) WCHA scouting reports. Anaheim has always had faith in the US College programs and the structured year-to-year progress reports that they offer an NHL team. If Moore indeed attends Colorado, he will be brought along properly and methodically, while being consistently tested by WCHA teams that are heavy in NHL drafted forwards.

Now, remember when I said we'd talk about YOUR mock draft, which so clearly disagrees with mine? Let's do that now. First, if you have Cowen falling out of the top ten and into the Ducks' system-- awesome, you're an optimist. I just don't think that the teams ahead of the Ducks will let a blown ACL scare them off of the second best defenseman in the draft (though he will miss the draft combine). If you agree with me there, you probably have Ryan Ellis, Dmitri Kulikov or Simon Despres as better options than Moore.

I'm going to dismiss Ellis as a good fit for Anaheim. They tried bringing a small defenseman into Carlyle's system as recently as Bergeron, and it didn't work. Ellis is good, but at 5'9" he's not a Carlyle blueliner. Kulikov is a good choice (especially if he's still available around 15th): naturally offensive but able to play purely defensive hockey when asked. He's been great in the QMJHL, but he's not quite the skater that Moore is, and he lacks the physical presence that Despres can bring. Also, the Ducks have managed to get rid of almost every Russian/E.European player and prospect in their system-- that's right, Daniel, I went there --so I don't see him as a likely pick. I like Simon Despres, and I think he offers tremendous shut down skill at the expense of offensive production. I will try to cover options like Kulikov, Despres and others if I have time in future PK posts.

*An estimation based on the end of the season standings, not a forecast of actual draft position (if you know what I mean).

**Comments culled from his interview with The Pipeline Show.

A follow up to this post is available here.

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