Previous picks here.
With the 21st overall pick in the 2011 SBN Mock Entry Draft, Silver Seven is pleased to select, on behalf of the Ottawa Senators, from the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major-Junior Hockey League: Tomas Jurco.
In many ways, this was a more challenging pick than the 6th overall selection--that debate was limited to Jonathan Huberdeau and Ryan Strome. However, as we watched this pick loom closer with players we openly coveted, like Zack Phillips, Nicklas Jensen, and Rocco Grimaldi still available, it became clear this was going to be a more difficult decision. Make no mistake: Any of those players would be a great pick here, but what the Senators lack the most among their forward prospects is talent, and what separates Jurco from those players is his talent.
Jurco (pronounced YURR-ko) is somewhat of an Internet sensation because of his shootout skills, but don't let highlight reels decieve you. Jurco is a scorer. His four goals in four games during the Memorial Cup tournament had him tied for the lead with Kootenay Ice's Matt Fraser (who needed a fifth game to hit the same number) and his five points total had him second on his team in scoring, one behind fellow Senators fake-draftee Huberdeau. Freshly 18, Jurco put up 56P (31G, 25A) in 60 games while playing on the second line, and his 18P (6G, 12A) in 19 total playoff games had him fourth on the Sea Dogs in scoring. Overall, Jurco saw his points per game production rise from .79 in 2009-10 (his first North American season) to .93 this year.
So where does he fit in the organization?
Ottawa's most glaring hole is that they don't have any top line wingers in their system. As of today there isn't anyone who can be legitimately called a top-3 forward prospect, though many have that hope for Bobby Butler. Officially standing 6'2" and weighing 187lbs at the NHL combine, Jurco posted some impressive strength numbers: Top 3 for grip strength, Most Bench Press reps (tied with three other players) and Top 6 for Seated Medicine Ball throw. It's not at all surprising, then, that Jurco has a tendency to get in front of the net and not be dislodged. He is also known to be quite fast, and his stickhandling skills cause rave reviews, as you'll soon read. In short, he is fast, strong, and skilled -- everything the Senators need.
Sound too good to be true? It is, sadly. The knock on Jurco--the only knock--is his consistency. He is known to disengage from the game when he doesn't have the puck, and this leads to long stretches where he isn't making an impact. According to scouting reports, this was an area he improved on throughout the year. As Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News writes about him:
If there was a player who answered a lot of questions at the Memorial Cup, it was Jurco. The Slovakian import is a known quantity when it comes to his hands and high-end scoring ability, but consistency was a concern. In Mississauga, however, Jurco was one of Saint John’s best players each night and his willingness to play physically was impressive.
"That’s why I came over, to get used to the style of play I want to play my entire life," said the second-year Sea Dog. "I was playing the same way in the (Quebec League) playoffs, trying to be physical and play both ways. I hope I impressed people who may be interested in me and we’ll see what happens at the draft.
Given that his consistency improved as the year went on, it can't be considered a major red flag. In fact, given the strides we saw in Binghamton's players this year, the Senators might be the perfect organization for Jurco to continue his development in. He won't be making an impact with the team next year, but his ceiling is simply too high to pass on. There's no guarantee of success with this pick, but if it pans out, it will be a massive victory.
What the scouts say
His puckhandling skills border on the obscene. If there was some kind of unearthly substance that had a magnetic effect on rubber, we'd think that Jurco was the one who discovered it. He can dangle with the absolute best of them and scored a vintage breakaway goal early in game 1 of the Memorial Cup against Mississauga when he broke in alone on J.P. Anderson and buried it after some dazzling moves. He has a quick burst and some deceptive speed with the agility to turn defenders and make opponents look silly. In the open ice, he's absolutely deadly- a quick fake and flick of the stick and he's effortlessly around those who don't take the proper angle or maintain an effective gap.
"He's a very good skater with size and excellent puck skills. He has all the tools of a first-round draft pick."
While it is nice to add to Slovakia's reputation for turning out players with great one-on-one skills, Jurco is anxious to show he's not a novelty act and will grow into a well-rounded pro; it's worth noting that Team Slovakia used him as a penalty killer during the world junior championship even though he seldom did that with the Sea Dogs.
[...] he has that rare game-breaking ability that is extremely rare amongst prospects. He’s a player that can absolutely fly and has all the dynamic puck moves you would want to accompany that level of speed. He’s a fairly good finisher, although he could probably stand to take opportunity on more of his chances, but the talent is there.
There are many forwards in this year's class who can fly, but it is difficult to find one who not only possesses the speed, but who also has the stickhandling ability and moves to accompany it. This combination of talent gives Jurco the ability to be a game-breaker on any given night.
Anonymous Scout, via ESPN Insider (subscription required):
He's an unfinished player and it's up to him to get his game finished -- that's all. If somehow you had [Zack] Phillips's head on Jurco's shoulders you'd have a top-10, maybe a top-five kid.
Tomas Jurco Highlights (via Noaks13)
Tomas Jurco shows off his skills - 2011 NHL draft prospect (via nhlsarok)