Scouting the 09 Draft - Zack Kassian

There's a bit of a buzz building about Kassian heading into the draft: big and bruising with decent offensive totals, Kassian's stock has risen thanks to favorable comparisons to Milan Lucic, who has been something of a revelation in Boston since breaking into the league. Kassian is the type of pick that could go early to a club looking for size and grit, or later thanks to some doubts about his ability to translate his totals at the big league level. NHL Central Scouting had Kassian ranked 10th among North American skaters in their final report, so there's an outside chance he could be around by the 20th pick, although, as mentioned, he bounces around individual scouting lists quite a bit.

The second best scorer on the Peterborough Petes this year, Kassian finished with 24 goals and 63 points in 61 games. That was good for 46th overall in the OHL; a respectable but not great relative showing, which is another reason the big kid may fall to latter half of the first round. That said, he seems to be known as much for his toughness as for his offensive abilities. From the Central Scoutings Chris Edwards via NHL.com:

 

"Kassian is one of the toughest guys in the OHL and probably the entire draft. Last season as an under-ager there were overage guys in the league who would not take him on. He has not fought much this season (because) he has not had to. He is at his best when he is playing physical and tough along the boards. He protects the puck very well and fights through checks."

 

This description brings to mind the notorious Chris Simon, who was a 36 goal, 74 point player during his draft year in the OHL back in 1990. Ignoring his multiple suspensions for a moment, Simon was a somewhat capable player in the NHL for awhile, although that's mainly relative to other enforcers. His best season was 29 goal effort for the Washington Capitals in 99/2000. He never really approached that level again, however, and was more a 10 goal 3rd/4th line option for a majority of his NHL career.  

Kassian is apparently a better skater than Simon, who was slower than molasses, but there are still some concerns about this area of his game. Sean Keogh describes his misgivings about Kassian in this post at OHL Prospects:

There is no doubt that Kassian has NHL size and strength, and that he has the potential to play a power game on more than a fourth line. He goes to the net, cycles the puck well and has some finish. However, I have serious concerns with not only his skating but his ability to create offence with the puck and on the fly. At the U18s, when the pace was quicker, the opponent more talented than the OHL, he seemed to have very little utility offensively other than as a big body down low. In the NHL, this would limit the number of systems where he could really have an impact.

In the same post, Keogh ranks Kassian as the 9th best OHL prospect. However, I've seen him ranked as high as 3rd by others, just behind the obvious top two of Tavares and Duchene. As mentioned, Kassian could go inside the top 10, or closer to the end of the first round and neither outcome would surprise me. 

Why the Flames might pick him

Kassian is a sexy pick for a lot of clubs at the moment, but even moreso for a team that likes to concentrate it's scouting and picks in Canada on big, home-bred kids. If Kassian is around when Calgary takes the stage, I can't see them passing on him. 

Why they might not

None, aside from the fact Kassian will likely be gone by the time the Flames turn rolls around. Milan Lucic's success as a Bruin has made this kind of pick seem like a pretty good idea at this time I think, so there'll probably be a couple of clubs with him near the top of their lists.

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