Scouting the 09 Draft - Ryan O'Reilly


Unlike a lot of the other prospects profiled thus far, O'Reilly's value seems to lie almost exclusively in his "intangibles" which are cited endlessly in just about every scouting report you can find on the kid. That's both good and bad - good, because things like determination, leadership, will to improve and succeed, etc are particularly valuable in prospects since the road to the NHL is a difficult one. On the other hand, hearing that his attitude is his best attribute is about  as worrying as hearing the same thing before meeting your blind date...

O'Reilly played for a lousy Eerie Otters last year and his results were "good" but not great. He managed a second best 66 points on the back of a team high 50 assists. His +1 rating wasn't significantly out of line with the team average, although there were much better (+24) and much worse (-21) players on the club by this metric.

His 16 goals in 66 games is a little worrisome. It's the smallest total of any of the CHL forwards I've profiled thus far and it's actually a step backwards from his rookie total of 19. The fact that he didn't take much of step forward in terms of points per game from last year (0.85 PPG versus  0.97 PPG) is something else that concerns me.

O'Reilly is also completely average in terms of size: at 6' and 205 pounds he certainly isn't small, but he's not overly large either.  

As mentioned, the kid seems to endear himself to scouts via a tireless work ethic and extremely high utility owing to a willingness to contribute in every area of the ice. Sean Keogh from the OHL Prospects blog says

There is little O’Reilly is not able or at least willing to do on the ice. He can score, hit, play defence, win faceoffs, kill penalties and in general play in almost any situation. At the next level, I do not see big offensive potential, but would be surprised if he does not make the NHL in some capacity.

A Patrick King article for Sportsnet echoes many of Keogh's sentiments regarding O'Reilly:

It's often said that some of the most uniquely-talented players possess a drive and love for the game that far exceeds that of their peers. As teammate Shane Owen says, truer words were never spoken as O'Reilly tends to arrive an hour or two earlier than his teammates to prepare himself for games.

"I've never seen someone so dedicated to the sport before," Owen said. "He does everything he can just to make himself better.

Now for the bad news. O'Reilly is apparently a below average skater even at the OHL level, which is a significant concern when trying to make the step up from the minors. Keogh tempered his glowing review of O'Reilly with some words of caution:

The limiting factor with O’Reilly is his skating. Not only is he not that quick, but his stride is technically weak, leaving him without much room to improve his power, acceleration, balance or agility. At the OHL and U18 level he can keep up, but it would take a lot of work to get his skating to the level where he can unlock any greater potential he may have.

That's a big red flag for me, at least in terms of a first round pick. Skating is fundamental to the game and you can have all the passion or will you want, but it won't help you if don't have the speed or balance to compete. Below average skating probably significantly erodes his potential to make an impact at the NHL level.

Why the Flames might pick him

A few years ago I would have declared O'Reilly to be slam dunk Flames pick: Sutter transparently covets things like leadership, character, will to improve and "coachability" in players, even established NHLers. The fact that O'Reilly is roundly considered a "safe" pick due to his compliment of intangibles would have made him a top 3 target at the Calgary draft table previously.

Why they might not

That said, the Flames scouting staff have seemingly shifted focus away from potential role players in the last couple of drafts - the change was visible in '07 when the first two picks went towards Backlund/Negrin, while the '08 draft featured guys like Nemisz, Wahl and Brodie. With this in mind, I think Calgary will likely be looking for something more than a guy with a 3rd/4th line ceiling in their first round target.

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