Brock Beukeboom isn't the only possible prospect who may be available in the second round that can be physical. One of the more intriguing names I've seen around the early second round is Portland Winterhawks winger Brad Ross.
Brad Ross - LW - 6'0" 175 lbs. - CSS Rank: 59 - Hometown: Lethbridge, Alberta (Source: NHL.com)
2009-10 Team: Portland Winterhawks - 71 GP - 27 G - 41 A - 68 Pts. - 203 PIM
No, Ross isn't big, but he certainly likes the rough stuff as indicated by his total number of penalty minutes. His production certainly broke out this season, especially while Portland's Nino Niederreiter (Jackets Cannon has a profile on him here) was away on international duty. The Devils aren't adverse to drafting enforcers (e.g. Ashton Bernard, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond) or gritty players (e.g. Patrice Cormier), and Ross has gotten a lot of buzz recently. I find out what others are saying about him after the jump.As usual, let's begin with the scouting profile at NHL.com. Ross was born on May 28, making him a very young 18 years old; so he could blossom in his next season. Still, Central Scouting Services didn't rank him all that well. While they improved their rank of him by 10 spots, he's still late second round/early third round per their North American rankings. Still, B.J. McDonald of Central Scouting had this quote on Ross:
"He's responsible at both ends of the rink, very good hustle, and he blends feistiness with good hockey skills. He has the discipline and smarts of not putting his team in penalty problems. He plays bigger than his size and shows good discipline at this early age, so he should be able to continue and have success at the next level. I like his tenacity and positional play I think he is a better all-round hockey player than people give him credit for."
I'm a little thrown off at his praise for his discipline. Didn't Ross take 203 penalty minutes? Maybe these are "good" penalties or mostly driven by fights, something Ross has done quite a bit of in Portland? Nevertheless, this quote gives me a sense that he may be more than just an energy player. In conjunction with his production last season and his age, his ceiling may be higher. After all, Team Canada found him good enough to represent the country at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka tournament; where Ross picked up an assist in 4 games. Nothing amazing, but not bad either.
His NHL.com profile includes quotes from Ross himself. Here are the two quotes from Ross that spell out what he thinks of his own style:
On his role as a winger: I like to grind it out down low. I mean, Nino and Johansen, they know I'll go in the corners and muck it up and get the puck to them and get the puck to Nino. He'll put the puck in the net and maybe I'll put the puck in the net, too, a few times.
On his physicality: Probably my brother [Nick Ross - 30th overall in 2007 Draft]. He was always a physical guy when he played for Regina and Kamloops. I just kind of developed that, too, and I go the a little bit of a scoring touch, as well, so I like to do that, too.
Again, Ross doesn't mind doing the hard work and prefers to be physical. Everything falls together here. The difference is that CSS may not think highly of that, but other sources think that may give him an edge over many prospects. This profile at Andrew's Stars Page by Mark Stepneski has an array of quotes from various scouting services. I'm not going to quote each one here, as they all praise his work ethic, aggressive play, and his speed. The one that stands out the most, in my opinion, is the one from International Scouting Services:
"A skilled agitator Ross’ work ethic creates a lot of pressure and openings for his teammates. He is physical and unafraid and will do whatever is asked of him to help his team be successful. Brad shows muscle. He does everything forcefully which can at times lead to him throwing the puck away or falling out of position but can also lead to takeaways and counter attacks." - International Scouting Services 2010 NHL Draft Guide
Interesting. If I'm reading this right, Ross may need to improve on when to be aggressive, when to just bear down and force his way through. Given that he's gotten this much attention because of his aggressive play, that may be hard, but necessary. Also, Brad may being showing muscle in the WHL, but at 175 pounds, it wouldn't hurt to add some this summer. In any case, do note the rankings for the moment and notice that CSS ranked him quite low. The other draft rankings (e.g. Red Line Report, The Hockey News, McKeen's, etc.) have him all over the place, but well higher than 59th.
For additional confirmation of why some people think Ross will go pretty high, as much as a possible late first rounder, this short summary at The Scouting Report highlights a big reason:
Ross has continued to excel throughout the season, cementing his status as a fan favorite. He’s one of the more physical players in the draft and is willing to drop the gloves whenever he has to as well. His offensive play is pretty good considering his age and the type of style he plays with, which makes him a pretty valuable prospect. He could be a player that reaches the end of the first round if a team really falls in love with his style of game.
Now, the Scouting Report ranked him 44th on their list; but as mentioned in the summary, Ross isn't just a agitator or a grinder. No, he put up points with it and that can be interpreted as a sign that he has a developing offensive game. Remember, he played nearly all of 09-10 at age 17 and there could be further development in his size and his skillset. Players who can play big both along the boards and with the puck are desirable. So his stock has been shooting up as opposed to being mired as a late second round pick.
For example, The Pipeline Show's Guy Flaming has been beating the drum for Ross to go early in the second round through this past season. Back in March, he pointed out Ross as a second round player; and even as recently as two weeks ago, he says he hopes Edmonton considers him at #31 in spite of what other scouts have told him. As a second example of outside observers seeing Ross going earlier than ranked by CSS, consider Max Giese's draft preview at Sharkspage. He lists Ross as a possible selection for San Jose's first round pick at 28th overall. Here's his short summary, with some interesting comparisons:
Fans who have wanted to see the Sharks play with more teeth and enjoyed what Scott Nichol brought to the lineup should be hoping that Ross is available when the Sharks make their pick in the first round. He’s a nasty agitator who also has enough skill to play on the second-line. Similar to Steve Ott and Steve Downie, Ross is chippy and disruptive with enough skill to contribute offensively.
Giese says Downie and Ott, as both are infamous pests on the ice in the NHL. Though, from what I've been reading so far, I don't see a reason why he may not turn out to be a slightly smaller version of David Clarkson. I think that would be great, but again, I'm a Clarkson fan.
A more sobering take on Brad Ross comes from Red Line Report scout Michael Remmerde, who covers Western Canada. Remmerde ranked 10th out of the prospects he's seen, just behind potential first rounder Emerson Etem; though, he's not sold that Ross could sneak into the first round. Here's his profile at Remmerde's blog, NHL Draft Notes. Of course, do read the whole profile, but this part sticks out:
Skill level was the biggest question mark on this player coming into this season, but the hands started to come around and produced a lot more offense than scouts expected. And it's not just a benefit of being on the Niederreiter/Johansen line. He's got some legitimate offensive ability. It's worth considering that this guy was a big scorer in Bantam and had a bit of a late growth spurt, so the coordination might have suffered from that. But having said that, I don't think he's more than a 10-15 goal guy in the NHL.
Played some of his best hockey while Niederreiter was away at World Juniors, which was a surprising revelation. But was quite underwhelming in the playoffs, where it was clear he had the leash on him and was trying to stay out of the penalty box. Struggled to make a difference in the playoffs.
This is why I appreciate Remmerde's profiles, he tends to point out areas where others haven't noticed. It does concern me that he wasn't as effective when he wasn't out there "doing his thing," his thing being physical hockey. It falls perfectly in line with the ISS quote on Ross. Yes, he's young, and hopefully he'll improve in this area over time. Still, being able to control his aggression whilst being a factor on the ice will be necessary if Ross wants to work his way into pro hockey. It may be more vital for his development to do that than getting bigger, working on his offense, and so forth.
All of this being said, I can see Brad Ross as being a good pick for the New Jersey Devils. At worst, he'll be a grinding, physical, energy player; but at most, he could be like David Clarkson as second/third line winger. No, Ross isn't tall, but neither is the 6'1", 205 lbs. Clarkson - again, Ross can add muscle to get there. Plus, having just turned 18 a few weeks ago, it's not completely unheard of for him to grow a bit. Besides, who else do the Devils have in the system that can be an effective player and pest on the ice? I would have say Patrice Cormier, but he was traded; none immediately come to mind (I may be wrong, but do let me know in the comments, of course). Ross could very well fit the need for a player the opposition despises to face. I keep stressing the Clarkson comparison due to this highlight video from NHLdraftvideo of Brad Ross.
I don't know about you, but a lot of what I saw in that video that reminds me of Clarkson!
That's my take as well as the takes from various outside observers. Now it's your turn. What do you think of Brad Ross? Did you see him play, and if so, what do you think of his game? Do you think he'll go high in the second round, or will he go later in the second? Would you be pleased if the New Jersey Devils drafted him? Did I miss anything? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.