The Ottawa 67’s were left in a McLeod of dust on Sunday as the high-powered top line of Mississauga featuring the McLeod brothers finally proved too much for the young Ottawa squad. Michael McLeod was unstoppable in the game, picking up two goals and three assists while dominating at both ends of the ice with his speed, skill and determination.
Ottawa goalie Leo Lazarev had 51 stops in the previous game and it looked like he was a bit tired out, finally succumbing to the steady pressure supplied by the Steelheads’ top line as Mississauga advanced to the next round by taking the series in six games with a 5-1 win.
The focus of my scouting attention was on Owen Tippett as I tried to get one last hard look at him live in Ottawa this season. To sum it up plainly and simply though; in the three games I saw him play in the past week he did not look like a prospect I would want to draft in the top ten.
Tippett had a strong first game in the series; in the next five his play and effort was quite spotty.
“He’s been horrendous,” noted one scout today when asked to describe his first-round playoff performance. “He hasn’t been the same since (Artur) Tyanulin smoked him. Too bad, because he has talent.”
It’s hard to argue that the hit early in Game 2 didn’t effect his game, as he was reluctant to go into the dangerous areas for the rest of the series, and after scoring a goal and four points in the series opener managed just two assists in the next five games.
If being belted by a 5-9 170-pound junior is going to throw you off your game and make you tentative, I can only imagine what he’ll be like after a hard hit from the likes of Zdeno Chara, and needless to say it raises some concerns, not that there weren’t already some before the series even started.
“I think he’s a moody player, a moody kid when you meet him, he’s a guarded kid,” said one scout. “I think he’s still growing up. When he wants to play, he plays. Drives the coach bananas, but he can also win you a game. I think if he wakes up and decides to be a consistent player he has a chance to be really good.”
Tippett can certainly score goals and that will get him drafted in the top 15 regardless of other concerns, but his reluctance at times to play a team game is a concern that may make teams balk on selecting him in the top ten when there are other talented players more willing to compete on a nightly basis and work within the team concept.
“He’s just a pure sniper,” noted one scout earlier in the year. “He ain’t going to work hard on the puck, he ain’t going to work hard on the backcheck but he can score, he’s got a goal a game right now. You’ve got to pay a premium for those guys. He doesn’t do anything if he doesn’t have the puck, he’s not very effective..but…he scores goals…big goals.
He didn’t score “big goals” the last five games of the series, and I can’t imagine he helped his draft stock.
Tippett CAN pass the puck, but that’s his last option on many plays, as was evident during yesterday’s game and for most of the season.
“He can pass the puck, he can lay it right on your stick, but he usually chooses not to,” said one scout. “But…you need guys who can score…we could use him. I don’t know if I’d like to play with him but he’ll score goals for you. He rubs a lot of scouts the wrong way.”
And therein lies the rub. Even though scouts aren’t crazy about how he always plays the game, up until the playoffs he was scoring goals at a prolific pace. He may have the best shot/release in the draft, he brings size and speed, and when he’s engaged he is one of the most dangerous prospects in this draft from the blueline in.
It will be interesting to see here he ends up going on draft day. There are a lot of similarities to Julien Gauthier and the big sniper ended up dropping into the 20’s, but Tippett has better vision and hockey sense…with Gauthier it was more question of him not seeing it than not being willing to pass it. Tippett’s issues will be easier to work on, but there is certainly work to do.