Position: LW / Height: 6'0" / Weight: 190 lbs. / Junior Team: Peterborough Petes
Goals: 34 / Points: 69 / PP Goals: 15 / PP Points: 34 / SH Points: 0
Midterm CSS Rank: 29 / Final Rank: 28
Coming off of his second year of Junior hockey with the Peterborough Petes, Matt Puempel is another high-scoring forward that hails from the Ontario Hockey League heading into this month's NHL Entry Draft. After being named the CHL Rookie of the Year following a successful 2009-10 campaign in which he accumulated 33 goals and 64 points, Puempel delivered a second 30+ goal season in his sophomore year with 34 goals and 69 points in 55 games with the Petes, who finished second-last in the OHL's Eastern conference.
Despite suffering a hip injury that required surgery in February, Puempel actually moved up one spot in Central Scouting's final rankings thanks to his offensive ability as described by Hockey Prospectus' Corey Pronman:
Matt Puempel is one of the better goal-scoring prospects in this draft class, but one who after the shot/finishing tool has a lot of aspects that need to be fine-tuned. He has terrific mechanics and accuracy on a shot that is above-average and flashes plus potential. The word "quick release" is sometimes overused in scouting circles, but with Puempel his release is something that separates him from other goal-scorers and his ability to get quality shots off in motion and without having to set his feet is a very desirable trait. He anticipates the play well coming out of his own zone and finding gaps in the offensive zone to slide into scoring position. His puck skills are solid with the ability to handle the puck well in tight and he displays solid passing ability. Puempel's skating tool grades as below-average with average speed when he gets going in a straight line. While he does show decent balance and grit on the puck, he has to put on a fair amount of strength to continue playing his style of game at the next level. He has the hockey sense to play a decent defensive game, but like most young players, that aspect of his game isn't as consistent as one would like it to be.
Coach Mike Pelino spoke about wanting Puempel to round out his game after the forward was struck with a season-ending injury [NHL.com]:
"I think Matt just needs to continue to find a complete game and he made great strides in that direction. I think throughout his whole youth, he was such a natural scorer. This year we've got him killing penalties and playing in key defensive situations, primarily to give him the opportunity to develop in those areas. As he continues to round out his complete game, he'll continue to be that much more effective."
Puempel spoke about not wanting to be perceived as a "one dimensional player" going into the Draft, a knock on a lot of goal-getters coming out of Junior; his powerplay stats aren't exactly indicative of a player who was given tons of time on the penalty kill, but becoming a better defensive player doesn't happen overnight, especially for those ranked in the bottom-half of the first round or in later rounds of the Draft.
With the Flames' obvious needs centered around the forward position, it's nearly a given that they will have to take a flyer on a player with holes in his game in one way, shape, or form. That being said, it's hard to really fall in love with any of the players that may be available to them, at least right away. Players do change and circumstances change, which is simultaneously one of the best and worst things about the Draft and developing young players--they may not turn out to be what we thought they were.
Draft-day Outlook [Maple Leafs Hot Stove]:
Very much like Jeff Skinner last season, this could be one of the toughest players to follow on draft day. Though Central Scouting and ISS have Puempel going in the late twenties, I think that a team that falls in love with his upside could gamble on him as early as the top ten, though it’s more likely he’ll slot in somewhere in the teens. Keep in mind that Central Scouting didn’t even have Skinner in their top thirty last year. The hip surgery may cause teams to at least pause, but it should have a negligible effect on his ultimate draft status.