Image via Matthew Henderson
Before you can even start jotting names down when putting together your rankings for a project like this, you have to ask yourself what you personally value the most in a prospect. There’s a big ‘safety/reliability vs. potential/upside’ internal debate that needs to be had.
I tend to look for physical tools and a ceiling that is perceived to be high more than anything else. Especially this deep down the depth chart. You’ll always be able to get your hands on "just another guy", but even the slight chance of hitting a home run with someone that turns out to be a star is something worth rolling the dice on. Obviously, at some point, a guy projects so safely as a useful role player that you can overlook the potential lack of upside he may have. And vice versa.
With that being said, it’s at this point in our Top 20 that we’ve finally reached a turning point of sorts; we’ll now finally begin to discuss prospects who may actually have a legitimate shot of helping out at the NHL level (to varying degress, of course). While most of the upcoming handful of guys aren’t world-beaters by any means, I think we’re seeing a noticeable spike in talent as we jump from No’s 20-16 to our 15th ranked prospect, Patrick McNally. Yet still, a guy like McNally certainly isn’t presented to you without his fair share of warts.
Read on for more about the interesting dilemma McNally presents as a prospect.
There was some dissension in our rankings when it came to the team’s fourth round pick from the 2010 draft; in fact, I’d say that out of all the guys we discussed, he may very well have had the widest range of where people stood on him. I had him at number 12 on my personal list, and felt fairly confident about it. But one ranker left him off his list entirely, and another put him at #20, which resulted in McNally slipping in our overall rankings.
The former prep school defensemen – who was coming off of a season in which he obliterated Massachusetts prep hockey – burst onto the college scene as a freshman in 2011-12, posting 28 points in just 34 games. He drew rave reviews, and instantly became one of the leaders on a team featuring other NHL prospects such as Tampa Bay’s Alex Killorn, and Carolina’s Danny Biega.
If you’re unaware of what he brings to the table as a player, here’s a useful scouting report from Corey Pronman’s ranking of the team’s system from last Fall (in which McNally slotted in as the 7th ranked prosect):
The Good: McNally has ridiculous offensive tools and oozes upside. He’s a high-end skater, puck-handler and offensive thinker who plays an aggressive style and can threaten a defense, and was his team’s best defenseman. His top speed and acceleration are great and he can weave in and out of traffic, but he can slow the play down and use his tremendous vision to create a lot of chances. McNally has a big shot from the point.
The Bad: He’s what one scout calls an "all offense" defenseman, and the same scout says "I question his ability to defend." McNally is certainly a gambler and will take unwise risks at times to try and create scoring chances. He needs more strength, too.
Projection: He could be a top-four defenseman, but is a bit of a project.
Sounds about right. I obviously haven’t gotten to see McNally play a ton, so I’ve had to resort to what I’ve not only read about him from those who have, but also watching videos such as the one I’ve attached below. Let’s just say that his particular set of skills lend themselves favourably to highlight packages.
You may have noticed that I’ve been referring exclusively to things that happened two years ago, and there’s a reason for that. Back in December, after having appeared in just 7 games, McNally was booted off of the Crimson’s roster due to a cheating scandal. Considering the season he was coming off of, this was a brutal blow for not only the player, but also the team who had drafted him knowing that he was a "project" who needed to get some games under his belt.
I spoke to Chris Peters – who keeps a much closer eye on NCAA hockey than I do, personally – about McNally, and the entire situation. Here are some of his more prevailing thoughts:
In terms of the suspension, losing all of that time is certainly not helpful at this stage of his career. I’m not sure how McNally filled his time or how he trained since he couldn’t be part of the team. But there’s nothing he really could have done that would match the importance of the development gained through game reps. Having had such a big freshman season in terms of production, he was poised for an even bigger role. Now he’s had many months off and I think that hurts his projection.
The other thing to note when looking at his numbers is his that he’s old for his grade in school, so the numbers need to be viewed with a slight grain of salt anyway. Based on the little I’ve seen on McNally, I’d agree that he’s more of a project. He’s 21 years old now, so I think his window of meaningful development is shrinking. He went straight from prep school to Harvard, a transition he managed well, which is encouraging.
However, project-type defensemen need reps and need to build strength. Not having access to the team for practice or weight training means McNally was on his own to put himself through elite-level training. That’s a lot to ask. I think his future is much more cloudy now, with him having been derailed at such a crucial stage.
What’s next for the embattled offensive defenseman? For what it’s worth, his name is back to being listed on the Crimson roster. Barring something unforseen taking place over the next few weeks, I’d expect him to be playing for Harvard’s hockey team as a Junior.
There was some concern regarding Patrick McNally as a prospect given his style of play, and whether he’d be able to ever refine his defensive game even to the point where he’d be passable in his own zone. Now, that has obviously been compounded by him missing what pretty much amounted to a full season during an essential developmental period.
Yet the fact still remains that if you were to judge every single player in Vancouver’s system solely based on raw talent and ability, he’d appear in everyone’s Top 10. Maybe even the Top 7 or 8 or so, actually. It’s because of that fact that I think, despite all of the warts, he’s a name to keep in mind going forward. You may be hearing a lot more of it, but just be patient, because it could take some time.