So, it's the 2008 entry draft. Greg Nemisz had fell beyond many draft analysts rankings, right into the lap of Darryl Sutter and company-and they jumped at the opportunity to be able to draft the 6'3 centre who had just finished up a 67 point season in the OHL. Many talked about what a steal he was at #25, and the Flames and their fans were excited to get a forward with so much upside. Two Memorial Cups and a World Junior silver medal later, it was off to Abbotsford for the highly-touted prospect.
As one of the last cuts from main camp (although some thought the only reason he hung around was his draft position), big things were expected from the guy this year in the AHL-predictions from analysts and scouts suggested he'd crest the 50 point plateau and make it hard for the Flames to cut him next season.
But he hasn't really made the kind of progress people expected, and now the whispers of "bust" are starting to turn into cries.
I consistently see Nemisz ranked at one or two in many scouting reports of Flames prospects, and that confuses me. I haven't seen growth of any kind from Nemo since the 2010 World Junior Championships, and I can't shake this feeling that I'm going to be disappointed this year with his results. He's 21 years old, and this is the point where most players start to distinguish themselves as either an NHL player or an AHL tweener.
There's always a lot to consider when talking about prospects. The reason no one's ever been able to come up with a foolproof development model is because we are dealing with humans-who are naturally confusing and unpredictable. But we do have tools and opinions to evaluate progress.
Why I'm Hopeful
Nemisz is at the point where his body won't be changing too drastically-he's 21, probably won't be getting taller and he's had 6 years with professional trainers now. This frame is likely what we'll continue to see over the next 5-10 years. Sometimes it's hard for players to adjust to changes in their body-I know I had one summer where I grew 3 inches and it completely threw off my stride for almost a month-and that results in some sub-par play. But now he has had time to work with his fully-grown body and I expect him to use it to his advantage. Before he could use the "he's stronger then me" excuse. No more.
He also played significant minutes in a PK role last year for the Heat, and was actually able to produce 3 shorthanded points from that time. This suggests to me that his overall defensive game is improving, which is a positive and will help him be a more valuable player in the years to come. A guy that can play on both sides of the puck is always a good thing to have.
One major knock on Nemisz in his draft year was his "poor" skating ability-he laboured to get around the ice at times, and that had an impact on his effecitveness. Not a huge one, mind you as we are talking about Junior, but it was noticable. In the 3 years since he was drafted, his stride has become quieter and he doesn't counter-skate as much with his upper body anymore.
The last thing here is both a sign of improvement and consistency. In Junior, Nemisz had NHLE values of 12, 24, 29 and 33-a steady improvement of point production is normally a good thing because it shows positvive growth of the player. But...
That last point leads right into this one-while he may have improved over his four years in the OHL, his NHLE took a massive hit in his first year in the AHL-a 15 point drop-off to an NHLE value of only 18. So why did that happen? Well, I don't think anyone would argue that the skill level of the Windsor Spitfires was higher (relative to their leagues, of course) then that of the Abbotsford Heat, but a 45% drop off is ridiculous. So, that in mind, I ask you-is Nemisz a "coattail" player? Let's look at his linemates in Windsor-Adam Henrique, Josh Bailey, Taylor Hall and Andrei Loktionov. Some pretty big names there, right? All of the guys have had some NHL experience-Hall in particular having a .65 NHL PPG-and have excelled at the AHL level. So what are the chances Nemisz had just enough skill to stick on the top line and got lucky points wise with these guys? You want an example? The one that cracks me up the most was the 2010 WJHC-even though he was playing on the top line and getting juicy PP minutes, everyone on the team except the goalies had a point before Greg. I can't really say for sure what that means, but I do know it isn't good. To me, it seems as if his counting numbers were more due to his situations and teammates then his actual skill.
I'll fully admit that I may be pushing the panic button early here-he's only a year older then I am-but I expect more from first round picks. I guess it's up to you to judge whether or not I'm being overly pessimistic.
My top-end expectation for his this year is ~40 points in the AHL and some NHL call-up duty. Don't get me wrong, Greg Nemisz is definitely going to be a 7 to 10 year NHL player. It's just that some more optimistic people expect him to be a first or second liner who's going to pot 20 to 25 goals a season; while I think he's going to be a good third liner that ends up with 10 to 15-a David Moss light, if you will. It's OK for people to feel that he should be a top-six player, since he was a first round pick. I just can't logically take that stance.