In the NHL, squeaky wheels don’t get oil; they get demoted. Stay in your lane, don’t make waves, and that train ticket to the minors sticking out of Jack Adams’ pocket won’t have your name on it.
The League prefers its players seen and not heard. It always has. “It’s easy to impress Scotty [Bowman],” Steve Yzerman once said. “Just show up, work hard and keep your mouth shut.”
It almost doesn’t matter how a player gets a reputation for being difficult or for being a problem; once he gets it, shaking it can be nearly impossible without a second chance.
Below are three NHL 2015 draft prospects who made some poor decisions when they were younger and who, for reasons that may or may not be fair, bring some excess baggage with them into the draft. How costly will it be for them? Only time will tell.
While playing for the Chicago Young Americans Midget AAA team, Saint John Sea Dogs forward Adam Marsh had some run-ins with his coach–run-ins that led to his quitting that team on two occasions, the second time for good.
That may not sound like much, but evidently it was all that scouts in the OHL needed to hear; despite having his territorial rights, nobody drafted the talented, hard-hitting forward. His attitude wasn’t worth his talent.
“There were rumors around him,” said Wayne Smith, head coach of the Windsor Spitfires. “But his on-ice ability was good, and there was great potential and upside if you gave the kid an opportunity for a fresh start. The teams that wouldn’t touch him didn’t do their due diligence.”
Scouts in the QMJHL did do their due diligence, and Saint John picked him up. This past season as a rookie Marsh scored 24-20-44 points in 60 games to help lead St. John into the playoffs.
I wrote about this Finnish forward back on 10 June. Before he was 13, Saarela was a hockey prodigy in Finland, a sure-thing, can’t-miss mega-hockey star. He was climbing the ranks across Finnish hockey leagues until April 2014 at the U18 World Junior Championships–the tournament designed for players his age to showcase their stuff.
That’s when something went down betwee Saarela and his Team Finland coach. Instead of showcasing his immense skill-set, this top-line centerman was riding the pine. He got into just a pair of games, and even then, his ice time was limited.
That summer, Anthony Mauro of Draftbuzz made note of the rumors that Saarela had ‘character issues’ and when Redline Report publsihed a brief scouting report on him a few months later, Kyle Woodlief wrote that his development had stalled and that “his game is stagnant.”
Whatever it was that got Saarela sidelined appears to have past, but the damage has been done: he is no longer anywhere remotely near being Finland’s top-ranked prospect, and in fact may find himself out of the draft pool altogether.
Askew is a highly skilled, big-bodied centerman from South Boston who last season played in Moncton on the most potent offensive line in the QMJHL. It seemed like he had finally found some stability, after an amateur hockey career that up until then was littered with ups and downs.
Askew’s bridge-burning began when he committed to play hockey at Northeastern. Eventually he de-committed, committing instead to Boston University. De-committed from there as well. The Indiana Ice drafted him in 2012; he attended their camp and made the roster. Before the season began, he changed his mind and went home to play for Cushing Academy. Having signed a tender before backing out, Askew cost the Ice a future first round draft pick. To the surprise of many, when drafted by Drummondville of the QMJHL in 2013, he signed on.
But Drummondville didn’t go well. He played fourth line minutes and put up very few points. According to whispers on the Hockey’s Future boards, half way through the season he sought a trade; disagreements between Drumondville and Askew’s parents finally led to his being sent over to Moncton in May. Despite some inconsistencies, he appears to finally be finding his game.
Nonetheless, few players plummeted between Central Scouting’s midterm and final rankings as far as Askew, going from the 79th ranked North American skater to the 154th. While this could be due to many factors, some believe his reputation for quitting on teams and his inability to make adjustments when things get tough played a role.
As one poster on those boards noted, “He’ll have some tough questions coming from NHL teams.” No doubt– if he hasn’t already cost himself the interview.
For coverage of over 150 prospects in the upcoming draft, check out THW’s The Next Ones: NHL 2015 Draft Prospect Guide, available for the Kindle and all other e-reader formats. It is also now available at iTunes.