Graham Black THW Close-Up:
Date of birth: 13 January 1993
Place of birth: Regina, SK
Ht: 6’0″ Wt: 173
NHL Entry Draft Eligibility: 1st time eligible 2012
*Click Here for “Notes Up Front” and the “Legend” for various topics covered below in the “Live Updated” THW’s NHL 2012 Entry Draft Guide – The Next Ones home page.
Swift Current Broncos’ overage centerman Graham Black is one of two draft-eligible Broncos in 2012 to be ranked by NHL Central Scouting, the other being high-scoring rookie winger Coda Gordon. Black, however, brings a very different and arguably more complete game to the draft table than his teammate, even if he’s getting next to nothing in the way of obvious attention as the draft approaches. Those who saw him play live on more than a couple occasions are quick to say he was the best player on the ice, hinting at the possibility of him as a sleeper pick in the later rounds.
In his first full season in the WHL, Black scored 17-33-50 in 71 games for Swift Current, picking up 49 PIM along the way including one fighting major. His +3 rating stands out on a team on which virtually every player had a minus rating, with many of them deep in the double digits. All told, his numbers were good enough for 10th overall among all WHL rookies.
Black was originally signed by the Broncos in February 2011 while playing for the Regina Pat Canadians of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. He wrapped up his time with Regina having tallied 47-29-76 in 43 games, leading the entire league in goals and points. He then joined the Broncos at the tail end of March 2011 for six games, registering 2 points (1g, 1a).
One of the more impressive aspects of his numbers this past season is his 5-on-5 scoring–namely, that he did not play on the team’s impressive first power play unit, and of his 50 points, only eight (2g, 6a) came with the man advantage. A gifted skater with great speed, Black’s tenacious forechecking creates turnovers in the offensive zone and he’s fast to jump on loose pucks. His wheels even earned him a penalty shot in a home game against Prince Albert; it was an opportunity he didn’t waste, showing great poise and creativity in deking goalie Luke Lee-Knight to the ice before burying a wrist shot into an open net.
Black did experience a pretty hard-core scoring slump over the winter, going goal-less in 22 straight games between 27 December 2011 and 18 February 2012 and earning just eight assists in that time. That said, in a stat that speaks to his skills on defense, he was only a -3 in that span, despite the team winning just seven of those games.
He ended the slump in a blow-out of the Saskatoon Blades on 18 February and finished strong, putting up 17 points (5g, 12a) in the final 13 games of the season.
NHL Central Scouting first ranked Black at Midterm, placing him at #53 among North American skaters. In its Final Rankings, he had dropped to #83. THW’s Chris Ralph has Black ranked at #110 overall but there is a noticeable dearth of quotable, knowledgeable opinions on him available, and his omission at the upcoming combine won’t help the issue come draft time.
“Black is a two way centre for the Broncos. He showed solid offensive skills this year as a rookie, is a great skater, but his best value comes on the defensive side of the puck. Good on draws and very responsible all over the ice. Has a good frame to grow in to. I value him as an early 5th rounder.” Cody Nickolet, WHL From Above.
“Graham Black is a unique player and can certainly be a game changer. He has explosive speed that challenges any defenceman he faces. He has a creative hockey sense that brings energy to the game. His speed and accurate shot have the potential to make him a top scorer at the next level.” Former Swift Current Captain and teammate Taylor Vause.
- Shawn Mullin audio interview with Black following midterm rankings.
- Kelly Friesen’s NHL Draft Tracker interview with Black.
ETA = 5 yr
Risk = 3/5 Reward = 5/5.
Top 6 forward. He plays a smart, fundamentally sound game that can only get better. He has great playmaking skills and seems to grasp the breadth of responsibilities that come with playing center.
*See “THW Close-Up” section above.
- Skating. Excellent in all situations, with and without the puck.
- Two-way game. Very responsible in all three zones.
- Face-offs. Especially aggressive on offensive draws.
- Passing. Eyes-in-the-back-of-his-head kind of passer.
- Tenacity. As a checker he’ll outwork anyone.
Flaws/Aspects He Needs To Work On:
- Size. Already skates bigger than he is; with added muscle, look out.
- Shot. Average shooter, comparatively speaking.
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offensive = 6/10
NHL Player(s) Comparison:
Cody Nickolet sees Chris Kelly.
- Broncos vs. Ice, 6 March 2012. A three-point night for Black, all assists: at the :15 mark from behind the net, the :54 mark along the far boards, and off an impressive face-off win at the 1:05 mark.
- Broncos vs. Raiders, 10 March 2012. Another three-point night for Black. At the :33 mark, watch him chase the D-man around the net, strip him of the puck and score. At the 1:13 mark, watch him score on a well-earned penalty shot (poor audio).