Every so often the Devils draft a forward who you might classify as an 'enforcer' or 'tough guy'. This player would ideally be tasked with ensuring opposing players don't take liberties with their Devils teammates, especially the highly talented ones. In 2009 it was Ashton Bernard drafted in the sixth round (the team chose not to sign him and relinquish his rights), in 2004 it was Pierre Luc-Letourneau-LeBlond in the seventh round, and in 2002 it was Cam Janssen in the fourth round.
Is the enforcer a necessity in today's NHL? I think he is, provided he can contribute something on the offensive side of the ice and isn't a disaster defensively. The Devils’ problem with previous attempts to draft this type of forward is that those drafted didn't show any offensive acumen in the junior ranks. In the salary cap era it's just too hard to justify carrying a player who can only contribute with his fists. This brings us to our latest subject for an In Lou We Trust Prospect Profile: Cody McNaughton of the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League. After the jump we will learn a bit more about Cody and I will make a case that if the Devils attempt to draft an enforcer, it should be him.
Cody McNaughton Career Statistics:
Who Is Cody McNaughton?
McNaughton is a generously listed 5'10" 180 pound forward for the Guelph Storm. Drafted in the first round of the 2008 OHL Priority Draft by Guelph (12th overall) McNaughton was drafted in front of a few players that you might have heard of: Jeff Skinner, Cam Barker and Brock Beukeboom. At the time of his commitment the head scout for Guelph described McNaughton as "a player with speed and skill that's tough to play against."
Drafted for his tenacity and grit, McNaughton started his OHL career slowly tallying only 8 goals in his rookie season. He did however participate in the U-17 World Hockey Challenge, where he added 3 assists as the youngest player on the Gold Medal winning Ontario team. Check out that team's roster here. It's a who's who of the 2010 NHL Draft.
Despite his slow start, in the 2009 OHL Yearbook, he was described as:
Second-year fireplug winger a heart-and-soul type. Leads by example. Likes to play in traffic and has a knack for scoring those dirty goals around the crease. Owns good all-around skills. (To view the full document head to the link above and the pages where McNaughton is mentioned should show up)
Sometimes though the gritty players take it too far and make a mistake during the heat of the moment. During the 2009-2010 season McNaughton let his emotions get the best of him and he went too far in trying to coax Joey Hishon of the OwenSound Attack into a fight and essentially jumped him from behind. You can see the beginning of the scirmish here. McNaughton was in the wrong here, but I was impressed when I read up about the incident to hear what the local beat writer said about him:
No, it wasn’t a calculated move. It was an emotional one. Almost to be expected on occasion from a player for whom emotion is a huge part of his game.
Like all intense players, they often straddle the line when it comes to playing by the rules. They are so intense, so eager, so involved, they sometimes lose track of where that line is.
I have no doubt that McNaughton — who many, including me, believe will one day be captain of the Guelph Storm — will learn from this experience. As a player you can not put yourself before your team.
I have a feeling he regretted it seconds after it happened. Because if there’s one thing Cody McNaughton hates more than anything about all this it is watching his teammates from the sidelines
While I don't like saying those types of incidents are 'bound' to happen, I think the takeaway is that he has to control his emotions. He has only been suspended once since that point, and it was a questionable suspension off of a hit that occurred in the Storm's 2011 playoff series vs Saginaw. If you go to the video highlights here the hit he delivered that got him suspended starts at 2:10.
McNaughton has picked up his scoring in the past two seasons adding 15 and 16 goals respectively. Not earth-shattering but solid numbers for everything else he brings to the game. With an early birthday (he is probably among the oldest draft-eligible players born in 1992) McNaughton was ranked 183rd by Central Scouting when the mid-term rankings were released in April and 208th in the final rankings.
Here is some video of him with a sweet goal vs. the Ottawa 67's:
What Experts Have Said About McNaughton
After being drafted in the first round of the OHL priority draft, McNaughton committed to Storm shortly thereafter. The scouting report on him at the time was based upon his play in minor midget leagues.
OHL Central Scouting assessment said McNaughton is a forward who plays a very gritty, highly competitive and effective game. He competes in all three zones and finishes his checks while bringing some offensive productivity to the table.
He possess quickness and keeps his feet moving all the time. He rarely gets knocked off the puck and usually runs over defenders who try to take the body and get in his way. He relishes traffic and always seems to initiate contact.
All positve in nature, but of course remember that this scouting report was released before he played a game in the OHL and experienced the jump in competition. I like the fact that he moves his feet all the time as that shows he is a very active player. No standing around.
Cody McNaughton - #22 - RW - YOB: 1992 - 5‘9" - 172lbs.
NHL: Eligible in 2011
Report: Jan/21/10 - Undersized, but with a lot of pure talent McNaughton is a bit of a disappointment to me nearing the end of his 2nd OHL season. I really saw McNaughton as eventually becoming a go to guy for Guelph. He plays with a great edge which is nice to see out of player his size, but ultimately reminds me of former Sting player Daniel Lombardi who was another undersized player that played with an edge, and was able to produce just not up to the level that would legitimize him as an NHL prospect. McNaughton is slowly entering that territory, but fortunately for him he’s a late 1992 birthdate so he will not enter the draft until next year. But there is no question a strong finish this year, combined with a big season next year is absolutely critical if McNaughton wants a professional hockey career. Of note McNaughton was the only Storm player who finished the game with a minus rating.
This report was based upon his play early in the 2009-2010 season, so it's not that surprising that he hadn't demonstrated much offensive firepower yet. He finished the season with 16 goals, doubling his output from the previous season.
Unfortunately his increased scoring did not continue on to the 2010-2011 season as he scored a few more points but ended up with only 15 goals. Towards the end of the 2011 season the OHLProspectsBlog had a game report on McNaughton:
22. RW Cody McNaughton | 5.10, 180 lbs. | October 16th, 1992 | Petawawa, Ontario | 2011 Draft Eligible
Cody McNaughton is a wildcard of sorts right now. He is not someone that is touted to get drafted, but he may be on some team’s radars come the 6th or 7th round. Being listed at 5.10 is likely generous, but he plays as though he is 6.02. He is not afraid to throw the body, defend a teammate by dropping the gloves, and has a tireless work ethic. A major issue is that he does not possess the speed to offset his size to be a legit NHL prospect. If he can find some of the offensive flair he possessed in minor midget this season, he could find his name being called in June 2011.
Some positive comments (especially about playing bigger than he is), but the negative comments stand out much more. Specifically his lack of speed and the lack of offense that was expected of him. As we can tell from his stats above he didn't pick up his scoring pace much.
McNaughton is not the type of prospect that has the potential to become a top six forward. No one will consider him a steal on draft day. Still, he could become the type of role player teams need on the third or fourth line to be successful. As we watch the Stanley Cup Finals, it is evident that part of Boston's success has been due to their secondary and even tertiery scoring. Goals are often the result of hard work by forwards in the corners and on the forecheck. I think a player like McNaughton can bring a strong work ethic with him to the next level and be successful as a fourth line energy player at the next level. Plus, he is willing to drop the gloves and in the right situation could contribute a few goals on a fourth line. A combination that has been lacking in the New Jersey organization for the past few seasons.
With a pick in the late rounds of the draft, I hope the Devils select McNaughton. There are no sure things that late in the draft, but if you select McNaughton you can be sure that he is going to give 110 percent out there.
Now that you've read all of this information on McNaughton, I want to know what you think of him as a prospect. Do you want the Devils to pick him in the later rounds of the draft? Did you see him play or know of any other good scouting reports on him? If so, then please share them in the comments. Thanks for reading and sound off below!