Tuesday, August 7, 2012

One To Watch: New York Islanders

With the Islanders, how are you supposed to narrow it down to just one guy? Seriously, with a prospect pool bursting at the seams at every position, how can a person be expected to single out one guy as the most intriguing story to follow in 2012-13?

The sideshow that can come from Kirill Kabanov is certainly deserving of a mention. But so are Ryan Strome, Rhett Rakhshani, Casey Cizikas, Brock Nelson and Anders Lee. And that's just from the forwards!

You probably assumed I'd go with Griffin Reinhart because he plays in my backyard with the Edmonton Oil Kings but this series will have a few of his teammates and I wanted to spread it around. But Reinhart is definitely worthy of being the guy, as are fellow Islander defencemen Andrey Pedan, Adam Pelech, Brenden Kichton and Ville Pokka.

I think you'd agree that it's pretty tough to narrow it down to one guy but since I came up with the rule I can only blame myself. In the end, I settled on a defenceman from Missouri.

Photo: Rich Clarkson & Assoc.

Scott Mayfield (D)

Denver Pioneers
6'4, 200 lbs
Drafted 34th overall in 2011

I have to admit that Scott Mayfield was a guy that became a personal favorite during his draft year. That began even before his appearance on TPS in January of 2011 but that interview, like many we do on the show, really play a role in how I feel about a guy. In his case, that was a positive thing. 

Not being able to see USHL games in person, reports from scouts I know well are essential and very few people I spoke with had any negative things to say about Mayfield. Before the draft we put Mayfield and Jamie Oleksiak in a head-to-head comparison for scouts. Mayfield's skating and defensive toughness was noted and although the majority of our 10-scout panel said they would draft Oleksiak ahead of him, it was a 6-4 split. 

To quote one scout's comment from that piece:  
"I think Mayfield is going to prove to be a draft steal if he goes late teens or early 20’s. I think he’s much better than his stats show. He’s really smart offensively and makes great reads. He plays tough, he has size. He’s pretty well rounded. He’s not going to be a power play stud but he can play on the power play in the NHL."
Photo: Getty Images
After the draft where New York was able to grab him early in the second round, Mayfield moved on to Denver with the Pioneers. His rookie season was a success and he was singled out at one point as the WCHA Rookie of the Week and ended the year with a modest 12 points and a team high 76 PIMs through 42 games.

Last month I spoke with Denver defenceman Joey LaLeggia during the Edmonton Oilers development camp. We briefly talked about Mayfield who, as it turns out, is LaLeggia's roommate. According to LaLeggia, his teammate is the "real deal" both on and off the ice.

Photo: Rich Clarkson & Assoc.
What has my interest is seeing if there is a jump forward in development for Mayfield as a sophomore both statistically and physically. The scout quoted above said he believed his USHL numbers didn't reflect Mayfield's potential in that department. I don't think his 12 points last year support that argument so I want to know if he can be more productive now with a NCAA year already under his belt. 

At 6'4 and 200 lbs, there is still room to fill out his frame with more muscle too. That's the reason a guy like Joe Colborne, a former Pioneer, chose the college route and it worked well for him. I want to see if the same will hold true for Mayfield.

I also have to admit, I want to see how Mayfield responds to what the Islanders did at the draft. Here's a team that just used every pick they had on more blueliners - all 7. Will Mayfield take that as a challenge?  If so, might a strong season at Denver lead to an early jump to pro hockey next spring?

Those are questions we won't know the answers to for several months but that's why, for me, Scott Mayfield is "One to Watch" from the Islanders in 2012-13.

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