Wednesday, 11 December 2013 13:28

Broncos right on the (TSN) Button

Written by  Brad Brown, A Bard's Eye View
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The World Junior Hockey Championship. The Ivan Hlinka memorial tournament. The world under-18 championship. Swift Current.


They’re all among the stops TSN’s Craig Button considers vital this year as he works toward a final ranking of prospects for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Button, the former general manager of the Calgary Flames as well as a former director of scouting and player personnel with the Dallas Stars, now provides monthly rankings of prospects for the upcoming NHL draft to TSN.
Craig’s List isn’t a mock draft — he doesn’t claim to be projecting the needs or philosophies of all 30 NHL teams — (nor a website to buy and sell goods or track down the guy who stole your bike, for that matter), but rather his take on who will prove to be the best players in three to five years’ time.
In Button’s latest rankings, released Monday, rookie Swift Current Broncos defenceman Julius Honka was rated 15th while second-year teammate Brycen Martin came in at No. 21. The Kelowna Rockets were also represented on the list with Tyson Baillie ranked 66th.
“Swift Current, yeah, there’s easier places to go to but when you see a game like Kelowna and Swift Current, two good teams and a real chance to evaluate at what I call a high level of competition you’ve got to make it happen,” Button said prior to taking in Tuesday’s game between the clubs at the Credit Union iplex.
Button wouldn’t have it any other way. He made that clear when TSN approached him with the concept in 2011.
“To me there was no middle ground ... either we were going to do it the right way or we wouldn’t, and they never even considered another option,” he said. “They said we’ve got to do it the right way.”
That’s meant providing Button with the resources to make it not just to junior games across Canada, but in Europe as well along with all the major tournaments throughout the year.
The result, he said by way of example, is that Tuesday’s game marked the 22nd time he’s seen Honka play live.
“By the time Julius Honka’s drafted, or maybe the better way of putting it is by the time I go and I’m sitting there saying ‘This is what I believe, I’ve seen him,’ I will have seen Julius Honka play 25 to 30 times,” said Button, whose father, Jack, was the founder of NHL Central Scouting. “I can tell you that of the players in my Top 60 —55 of them I have seen play 10 times — at least 10 times.”
Should Honka and Martin both be taken in the first round of next June’s draft, it would be the first time the Broncos supplied two first-rounders since 1987 when Joe Sakic went to Quebec and Peter Soberlak was taken by Edmonton.
However, Button also cautions that even his final rankings aren’t intended to be set in stone.
“I look at ranges,” he said. “I’m not smart enough to know if the 16th guy is better than the 17th. What I try to do is get them into groupings.
“So if you and I are sitting here and I go from 20 to 30 and you think the 30th guy is better than the 20th, I might say, ‘very well — that I can’t disagree with you.’”

Brycen Martin, 1996 D
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 178
Stats: 34 GP, 2 G, 18 A, -5
November ranking: 20
December ranking: 21
Craig says: Really good poise. He makes a really good play with the puck. He might not be as rugged but I don’t look at players for what they don’t do. I look at players for what are your strengths, do you play to them? And I think that Brycen is gaining a lot of confidence. He skates well, he turns for the puck, he pivots, he gets the puck moving out of his own zone really well, and the things he needs to work on are all developmental — positioning, making sure guys don’t come back into the play. Certain players have inherent flaws, other players have developmental flaws. I watch Brycen Martin play and I see no inherent flaws in his game. I think that he’s got a terrific upside and that his potential is as a really good Top 4, if not Top 3 defenceman in the National Hockey League.

Julius Honka, 1995 D
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 178
Stats: 33 GP, 11 G, 23 A, +9
November ranking: 18
December ranking: 15
Craig says: Here’s a player that despite his size is in the middle of everything. He’s a competitor physically. He’s got real confidence with the puck. He’s got real jump. He wants to make an impact in all areas of the game ... You’re seeing Julius Honka take the initiative and not only take the initiative but be a player that’s very, very hard to take out of the game ... Duncan Keith was 5-foot-10, 160 pounds when he got drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks. Erik Karlsson, players like that. P.K. Subban wasn’t the biggest guy. Danny Boyle ... Julius Honka I don’t care if he’s 5-foot-10 or whatever he is. I go to the games and I see a player that is a really, really good player and I see a player that I think can help NHL teams be incredibly successful.
Follow Brad Brown on Twitter @saskawhat

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