At first glance, Barclay Goodrow appears to possess the required tools and talent that get a kid drafted into the NHL. A big, strong winger, the captain of the Brampton Battalion is roundly admired for his wicked shot, hockey sense, physical play and leadership. Selected to the OHL's 2012 Subway Super Series squad and a participant at development camps for the Carolina Hurricanes (2011), Los Angeles Kings (2012), and New York Rangers (2012), Goodrow is performing well enough to attract the attention of those who matter most at the next level.
However, the 19-year-old already has been bypassed through two years of draft eligibility. If his name isn't called this June, Goodrow would be forced to market himself as a free agent. It shouldn't come to that, according to Battalion coach Stan Butler.
"He's had a breakthrough year," Butler pointed out, following a recent 4-1 victory over the Kingston Frontenacs. "Now it's up to scouts on whether they agree with me or not. I would have taken him a couple of years ago. We have three 19-year-olds on our team -- Goodrow, (Matej) Machovsky and (Zach) Bell -- and they play kids that have been drafted on a nightly basis and usually outplay them."
Goodrow may have only one significant shortcoming, but it's a biggie. Criticized for his skating ability since the early stages of his OHL career, the fourth-year veteran is well aware of what's holding him back. And he's actively committed to cultivating greater speed, quickness and agility.
"I'm working on my leg strength and my quickness," said Goodrow, crediting skating consultant Dawn Braid for helping him improve in that area. "They say my first couple of strides have always been my weakness. So I'm working out that and I think it's helped. I feel a lot quicker and faster out there this year."
Quick and fast enough for the NHL? Former NHL scout and current ESPN Insider contributor Grant Sonier remains skeptical.
"(His) skating for me, while it's improved, is still an issue," Sonier said. "I was at the Subway Series in Guelph where he played on a line with Sean Monahan (Ottawa 67's) and Connor McDavid (Erie Otters) and he couldn't keep up. It was really evident when he played on that line at a really high pace -- the Russians were a really good team -- and (his skating) was the issue. He didn't get a whole lot of playing time as the game wore on.
"He's got 20 goals, he's a big, strong kid, and he's persevering, but right now he's on the outside looking in for 30 NHL teams."
Not that Goodrow can be written off as a potential 2013 draft selection altogether. There's still plenty of time -- nearly seven months -- between now and when NHL general managers make their picks in Newark, N.J. At least one club may believe the Battalion's top scorer is worth the gamble.
"Everybody develops at a different pace," Sonier acknowledged. "And there's nothing saying this kid won't continue to develop. He clearly has the right attitude if he's taking the approach that he needs to improve his skating. He's realistic, which is a really positive sign."
"If you look at Tanner Pearson [formerly of the Barrie Colts], he was in his third draft (when selected by the Los Angeles Kings in 2012). He really did improve and as a result he was drafted. And now he's playing in the American Hockey League."
A comforting example, as far as happy endings are concerned. If Goodrow continues to work hard on his skating, he has the potential to take that next big step as well.
"I think players have the right to get better," Butler insisted.
A fair statement, to be sure. And, as far as the draft is concerned, the next few months will determine whether Goodrow is able to capitalize on that right.
Class of 2013
There's no better enduring story in the OHL than the triumphant comeback of Kitchener Rangers defenseman Ben Fanelli. If you're not familiar, Fanelli suffered severe head trauma following a vicious hit from Mike Liambas (since banned in the OHL) of the Erie Otters in October 2009. Never mind his hockey career -- the concern at the time was whether the then-16-year-old would survive.
Fortunately, that's ancient history at this stage. Not only is Fanelli healthy and fit, he's playing a dominant role for the Rangers' defense -- so much so, he could be a 2013 dark-horse draft selection. Kitchener coach Steve Spott hopes that's the case come June.
"He's done enough," said Spott, suggesting Fanelli could be signed as a free agent if bypassed at the draft. "He's answered all the questions with his medical concerns in two full years now -- one without the full [face] mask. I understand any NHL general manager might be concerned about putting him out there amongst big strong men, but I think he's answered the critics with his medical concerns ... hopefully he continues on [to become] a pro one day."
A popular character off the ice, Fanelli started HeadStrong (@BF4HeadStrong) -- a program to raise brain injury awareness and raise funds for numerous brain injury associations -- in early 2011.
• Highly touted draft prospect Sean Monahan of the 67's is the lone not-as-yet-drafted OHL player named to Team Canada's selection camp roster ahead of the world junior hockey championship in Russia. He should feel plenty rested; the 18-year-old forward is currently serving a 10-game suspension for a recent check to the head of Plymouth Whalers defenseman Colin MacDonald.
• Forward Ryan Hartman is in position to battle for a roster spot with Team USA. Hartman is averaging a point per game with the Plymouth Whalers this season.
• Kingston Frontenacs forward Henri Ikonen will take part in selection camp for the Finnish squad. The physical centerman has been a pleasant surprise -- at both ends of the ice -- for coach Todd Gill's team.
• Unsurprisingly, Nikita Zadorov is an early selection for Team Russia. The towering defenseman has rocketed up the rankings since making his debut with the London Knights this fall.
• The aforementioned Matej Machovsky -- goaltender with the Battalion -- is poised to fight for a roster spot with the Czech squad. Machovsky is sporting a 2.70 goals-against average and .907 save percentage. Only Garret Sparks (Toronto Maple Leafs, seventh round, 2011) of the Guelph Storm has appeared in more OHL games this season.
Notable NHL prospects
Kitchener is down two prominent forwards. Matt Puempel (Ottawa Senators, first round, 2011) is sidelined indefinitely with a shoulder injury, and Tobias Rieder (Edmonton Oilers, fourth round, 2011) remains out with a fractured foot. It's unlikely Rieder will be able to compete for Team Germany at the world juniors later this month.
• Kitchener goaltender John Gibson (Anaheim Ducks, second round, 2011) is on the mend after hurting his hip. The hot prospect should be able to participate in the U.S. world junior camp without much issue.
• Forward Daniel Catenacci (Buffalo Sabres, third round, 2011) is maintaining his torrid pace with the Owen Sound Attack. With 17 goals and 27 assists, the 19-year-old is well on pace for a 95-point season.