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Who makes it, who doesn't, is sometimes very surprising

Junior success doesn't always translate into NHL success for a player

It is a common topic of casual discussion: Guelph Storm players who made the NHL who you never thought would, and Guelph Storm players who didn’t have the NHL careers and you thought they would.

It came up again this week thanks to an interesting story in the Hockey News has an interesting story in its latest issue, looking at which major junior teams has produced the most NHL talent since 2004-2005.

It’s calculated by using how many National Hockey League games the player play. If a junior player played for more than one team, then their NHL service is shared accordingly.

Out of 60 major junior teams, Guelph ranked 15th. Leading the way was the London Knights, with more than twice as many NHL games from its former players than the Storm.

For fans, it’s easy to be smitten by a player’s ability at the junior level, not really taking into consideration how that player’s skill set and personality will translate to the NHL level.

The exception at the junior level is often the norm at the NHL level.

A high scoring junior player does not guarantee anything at the pro level. A great skating junior can be an average NHL skater. In the NHL, most players are big, strong and tough.

That’s why NHL scouts have to view the game differently. They will be more impressed by a player’s decisions in the neutral zone in a 5-0 win than they will by that same player scoring a hat trick.

Three assists on the power play? Who cares, why did you not fill the shooting lane on the one-timer from the point?

Years ago sitting in the media room in Sudbury and the topic of conversation was which member of that version of the Guelph Storm would go on to have the longest NHL career.

The scouts and former NHLers in the room all agreed it would be Jason Dickinson, who at the time was a second and third line player who might have been 10th in team scoring.

But even then they saw Dickinson’s intelligence and willingness to do the small, unheralded things that get you to the NHL.

That being said, some players do, almost immediately, have “NHL” written on them. It doesn’t always work out that way. Even for the scouts.

So without judgement or criticism, just observation based on the type of player they were in junior, here’s my list of Guelph Storm players I thought would make it but didn’t (or haven’t yet) and those that did make it and surprised me.

Surprised me by their NHL success: (1) Aaron Downey, (2) Dan Girardi, (3) Garret Sparks, (4) Richard Panik, (5) Matt D’Agostini.

Surprised me by their lack of NHL success so far: (1) Matt Finn, (2) Mike Caruso, (3) Kelsey Wilson, (4) Thomas McCollum, (5) Kerby Rychel.


Tony Saxon

About the Author: Tony Saxon

Tony Saxon has had a rich and varied 20 year career as a journalist, an award winning correspondent, columnist, reporter, feature writer and photographer.
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