It's remarkable how much a few years can change the perception of a draft eligible prospect for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. The majority will be selected as early as possible, those who are 18 or will turn 18 in mid-September. Scouts look at their game and determine what they are doing at that age, determine how they may improve in a few years, and rank them accordingly. Those who stand out in their league as a 17 or 18 year old tend to go very high. Sean Couturier, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson, and so forth aren't just players who have been excellent in their own leagues, but they're doing it as such a young age.
Now, consider a player one or two years older. In that extra time, the prospect may be one of the older players in a junior league - making their accomplishments not nearly as impressive. Also in that time, the player has become more developed physically, mentally, and from a hockey standpoint. It's clearer as to what the player may be in the future, but usually it results in a much lower ceiling. This is why 19 and 20 year old players don't get highly touted in a draft, even if they are just late-bloomers. This isn't to say they don't ever get drafted. That depends on position (e.g. Magnus Hellberg being a goaltender helps his chances greatly at getting picked), what the player has done, and what the team may be interested in.
Today's prospect profile is one of those older prospects, right wing Jonathan Parker. He didn't get drafted when he was first eligible, but his last season may be enough for a team to take him late. Let's learn a little more about him.
Who is Jonathan Parker?
Let's start with an interesting biographical note. Jonathan Parker is from Solano Beach, California and literally had to go north to advance his hockey career. According to this 2007 North County Times article by Matt Null, Parker moved from his hometown to Los Angeles and live in the garage of one of his coaches to be closer to his midget team. In the story, Parker mentioned how he hoped to be drafted by the USHL and go the college route, he ended up going into the Western Hockey League. The things players do to get more notice is remarkable.
Anyway, let's check out his profile at Eliteprospects. Jonathan Parker has a mid-September birthdate and will be turning 20 this year. He's not very large at 5'10" and 181 pounds and apparently he's a center. The WHL's player page on Parker has him at 195 pounds and at right wing. I'll defer to the league on both; but all the same, he's not a big guy. Either way, here are his stats from EP:
His last season with the Prince Albert Raiders can definitely be called a "breakout." His production just shot up like a rocket, and he was even named the CHL Player of the Week once. A full season and being an older player certainly helped his team's cause. According to the WHL regular season stats, Parker was 13th in the league in scoring and tied for fifth with Emerson Etem in goals. You'll also notice that there's a listing with the ECHL in the end. After Prince Albert was eliminated in the WHL playoffs, Parker signed with the Bakersfield Condors on April 3 per the team's official website. (The transaction at the league's site has the signing at April 4, but whatever.) He didn't play any games, but the fact that a pro team sought him out speaks to his current value at that level.
Parker didn't get drafted last season, but he is still eligible this year. Despite the breakout season, the fact that he was an older player in a junior league is pretty much poison for draft stock. Central Scouting Services has him as their 186th ranked skater among North Americans according to NHL.com - he was unranked at midterms. Still, the big 2010-11 numbers have got him some attention.
What Have Others Said about Jonathan Parker?
There's not a whole lot out there for Parker, so I can only point you to the following two articles. The first is this short profile by Dan Sallows. He was quite complimentary, which makes sense since the guy has been very, very good for Prince Albert last season.
Parker had an excellent rookie campaign wirth the T-birds, with 17 goals and 39 points in 65 games in 2008-09, yet fell off the radar last season. But, if you follow the notion made famous by Meat Loaf "Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad" as the 19-year-old has done more good than bad in his 3 years in the league. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound right winger is a good skater, with a nice shot he can get off in full stride, has excellent offensive instincts and hockey sense, dishes the puck well, and reminds me a little of Michael Cammalleri with his overall make-up. With a lot of uncertainty among many of the players going into the 2011 NHL Draft, Jonathan Parker in my mind is well worth the risk.
These are all certainly good traits, but one has to recall that Parker was also older than most of his condition. The skating maybe good on it's own as is his shot; but the big questions is whether the other positives are truly his own or a function of where he's playing? What is very interesting is noting that he had a good rookie season followed by a bad one in his draft eligible year. I'm very glad Sallows brought it up as it may suggest he got passed over for just having a bad season as opposed to just not being good enough, not having the right potential, or something like that.
The second main article that describes Parker is this Prospect Watch article by Kyle Palantzas of The Hockey News. It's got plenty of quotes that flesh out what about Parker has stood out beyond piling up a lot of goals and points in the 'W' last season. Here are a few:
"He had a breakout year and regained his confidence from last season," said Raiders coach-GM Bruno Campese. "He was able to score so many goals because he’s got an NHL release and when he gets open and keeps his feet moving he can certainly find the net and that’s what he did all year."
"The kid is tough-as-nails and pound for pound he will take a beating to make the play," said former NHLer Joe Noris, who coached against all three California prospects. "There are not many guys who will take hits game-in and game-out and at some point I know someone is going to say, ‘Wow where did this kid come from?’ "
The article specifically notes how good his shot is, which bodes well for Parker's future in hockey. Having a good shot really does help. Not that he's some kind of cannon, he'll make passes; but his actual shot seems to be a major plus. That Noris noted his toughness will also help him in his forays into minor professional hockey since Parker is not a big forward.
At the same time, I'm left wanting. Can he play any defense? Can his hockey sense and passing translate to the next level? Is his skating good enough for the WHL or just plain good? Most of all, and I have to come back to this, how much of his good work comes from his own development and how much of his performance stems from being older than most of his competition?
An Opinion of Sorts
I'm still struggling what to make of Jonathan Parker, as a prospect. A part of me wants to say that he could very well be just a guy who got it together a year later than other prospects and could be worth a late pick. Yet, if he's entering the minor professional ranks, then why spend a pick on him at all? Just let him play out his first season or so in the ECHL, see if he develops, and then try to sign him as a free agent. Instead, spend a late pick on a prospect who may be a long term project or something like that.
It all really comes down to how one views the player. I can't really say much as there just not a lot out there on him in terms of an analysis. Not even Kirk Luedeke has anything on Parker on either his 2011 or 2010 sites. I can buy into his shot being a great trait and that his other offensive skills may be of similar substance. I can agree that his poor 2009-10 pretty much undone his shot at being drafted in 2010; and that his 2010-11 wasn't just a breakout season, but also a redeeming one. How much that can be separated from the fact that he is an older prospect will determine whether he gets drafted at all. I have a feeling he might be a late selection to some team, but I don't know if that team should be New Jersey.
Now that you've read what is out there about Jonathan Parker, I want to know what you think. Do you care that he was passed over once in the draft? Would you mind if he was selected late by the Devils, or do you think they should pass on him? Lastly, did you see Parker play in the wHL or know of any other good reports on him? If so, then please share them in the comments along with other thoughts on Jonathan Parker. Thanks for reading.