National Hockey League eyes are on the Kootenay Ice once again.
Tuesday morning, the NHL Central Scouting Service (CSS) released its preliminary list of players to watch in anticipation of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Kootenay Ice RW Zak Zborosky and D Troy Murray were two of 39 WHL players named.
“This is a quick first glimpse at the prospects we’re going to be looking at to start the season,” said NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr Tuesday afternoon.
“This is not a complete list by any means. It’s a list of the players we tracked from our views last year and we’ll be updating it again in November.”
Zborosky, a 17-year-old native of Regina, was ranked with a ‘B’ classification.
“It was a friend who told me [I had been named],” Zborosky said prior to practice Tuesday afternoon. “I was a little bit surprised, but pretty excited about it.”
Zborosky’s listing as a ‘B’ player means NHL scouts and general managers could be traveling to Cranbrook once again this season, just as they did last season for centre Sam Reinhart who was drafted second overall by the Buffalo Sabres at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
“We think [Zborosky] is poised to breakout offensively,” Marr said. “He’s paid his dues. He is a skilled forward. He’s got the skating and the hockey sense to generate some offence for the team…We know he’s a decent play-maker with a good shot. We’re going to look to see how creative his game is this year.
“We think he has the potential to continue to develop as a skill forward and maybe add a little power-forward element to his game.”
Zborosky rang up eight goals and 13 assists in 66 games for the Ice through the 2013-14 season. So far in 2014-15, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound forward has racked up one goal and one assist in two games.
“Now that it’s my second year in the league, I know what is expected from coach [Ryan McGill] and what is [needed] to have success out there on the ice,” Zborosky said. “If I can put it together, I can have a breakout year.”
Zborosky wasn’t the only second-year member of the Kootenay Ice named to the CSS preliminary list. Defenceman Troy Murray, a 17-year-old native of White City, Sask., was listed with a ‘C’ classification.
“He has a very composed game,” Marr said of Murray. “He moves the puck smartly, good vision, solid defensively. He is just solid in all areas. There’s a lot of respect given to that. You don’t need a guy to go end-to-end and make the rush all the time. [Troy] is someone who seems to understand his position, understand his role and he quietly and efficiently goes about his business.”
Murray’s older brother, Ryan, was the second-overall selection of the Columbus Blue Jackets at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
“It’s a little intimidating having him go so high,” Murray said of his older brother. “But I always watch him and try to follow how he [plays the game].
“I’m just looking to play my game again this year. I thought I had a pretty good season last year. I’m just trying to improve every day in practice, every day in the game.”
Murray is fresh off his rookie season with the Ice where he suited up for 64 games, registering 12 assists in the process. The sophomore defender has grabbed two assists in two games to start the 2014-15 season.
Players are not ranked on the preliminary watch list, but are given one of four classification ratings. A player with an ‘A’ rating is projected as a candidate to be drafted in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. A ‘B’ rating indicates a player who is a candidate to be drafted in the second or third rounds of the draft and a ‘C’ rating is used for players with the potential to be a fourth-, fifth-, or sixth-round selection at the draft. ‘LV’ ratings indicate players who have not been viewed sufficiently due to injury.
“We’re a service department for the 30 [NHL] teams,” Marr said. “If we designate a player an ‘A’ or a ‘B’ player, [NHL] general managers and scouting directors know that we’re saying it’s worth your time to travel someone in to watch those players.”
More than 350 players from around the world were named to the NHL CSS preliminary list, including 37 from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, 39 from the WHL and 41 from the Ontario Hockey League.
Marr and the CSS will update the preliminary watch list in November, adding players who find their way onto the radar early in the season, and refreshing classifications as players emerge or fall off the grid.
Prior to the CHL Top Prospects game, the NHL CSS will then release a mid-season rankings list to capture where prospects are in terms of development at that point in the season..
The OHL’s Niagara IceDogs will host the 2015 CHL Top Prospects game, scheduled for Jan. 22, 2015 in St. Catharines, Ont.