Ryan Kujawinski became the New Jersey Devils' third round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft this evening. The Devils initially didn't have this pick; they got it from Phoenix as they moved down from 39th to 42nd overall. He's a center who played for the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL. He's a young prospect in that he was born at the end of May so he was essentially 17 in his 2012-13 season. He did quite well as essentially a 16 year old in 2011-12 with Kingston but this season wasn't so impressive. That would be a reason why he fell down to the third round. According to Elite Prospects, he's 6'2" and 203 pounds and here's his numbers.
Those aren't the greatest numbers, but they're not too terrible. He's certainly been productive to a point. It's possible the Devils got some really good value if Corey Pronman's opinion bears out in the future. Pronman ranked Kujawinski 67th in his top 100:
Kujawinski had a bit of a disappointing season after entering it as a potential first round pick following a great 16-year-old campaign with the Frontenacs. He has a lot of interesting elements to his game but has been plagued with inconsistency. He is a strong forward with solid size, and he can simply fly up the ice with his great top-end speed and acceleration. He has the puck possession skill to create offense, but as one NHL scout put it, he only shows you pieces of good things. His offensive creativity is not always on display. He has quality defensive awareness, and a commitment to get back in his own end. Kujawinski also protects the puck well, and he plays a good game along the boards. Like his offense, his physical game can come and go. The team that selects him will be taking a gamble that his developmental track can stabilize. Regaining his form as a top prospect will be key for him, as there is a downside that he simply may not pan out.
Clearly, there's a lot to like based on Pronman's take. It's just a question of whether he can use the skills he's displayed more often. The dreaded "needs to be more consistent" canard, if you will. Brock Otten at OHL Prospects directly noted in naming him the 13th best OHL prospect in this year's draft. He has a few reasons for that:
Similar to Dickinson, Kujawinski saw his draft stock crumble this year due to consistency issues. Going into the season, I had him as the 3rd best prospect available from the OHL and figured he was a lock for the first round. There was just too much not to like about his game. After coming over from Sarnia last year, Kujawinski was a force for Kingston to close out 2012. And he was playing very well to start this season too. But like Dickinson, things fell apart after that. I think a lot of it had to do with confidence and having to deal with not being "the man" offensively for Kingston. As the season went on, the Watson/Bennett/Ikonen trio became Kingston's go to offensive unit and top powerplay, pushing Kujawinski to the back burner a bit. When that trio was absent near the holidays for the U-20's and U-17's, Kujawinski looked like a new man as the go to guy. The other thing that hampered his season a bit (I think) was the shift between center and wing. From what I've seen, his skill set seems more suited to play the wing at this time. The last blow to his season was the omission from the Canadian U-18 team (shockingly so), which prevented him from earning back some brownie points with scouts. All in all, it just wasn't the type of year many people expected him to have.
But do read the rest of Brock's take at OHL Prospects. He's certainly large enough, he's willing to go hard to the net, he knows what defense is, and he can make plays. The scouts must think he's got real talent and it's entirely possible he was just unfortunate last season. If he can get his groove back, then the Devils get a needed offensive forward in the prospect pool, if not for the future. If he doesn't, then the Devils didn't use a very high selection on him.
Now that the Devils drafted a forward and he could possibly have some significant talent, let me know what you think about the selection. Do you think the Devils found a diamond in the rough in Kujawinski? Will he get his groove back in 2013-14, priming himself for the next level? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the pick in the comments.