2011 NHL Entry Draft Prospects: Mark McNeill

With the second pick in the Blueshirt Banter draft preview ... OK, maybe we'll put an end to that kind of a beginning.

But, for the second prospect we will be reviewing, I give you Center, Mark McNeill, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL).

We discussed this in my preliminary draft story a few days ago, and you guys talked about it in Geroge's post on Nicklas Jensen yesterday, but I think we all agree the Rangers will be going after some offense this year at the draft podium. The Rangers, who took defenseman Dylan McIlrath with the 10th overall pick last season, will have a few interesting options at 15.

One of those options could be McNeill.

McNeill just finished his second season with the Raiders, posting 32 goals and 49 assists for 81 points in 70 games. That's a heck of a jump from his modest nine goals and 15 assists for 24 points in 68 games the year before.

McNeill possesses three tremendous talents the Rangers value very highly.

For starters he's big and tough, coming in at 6'2'' and 210 pounds. Scouts have gone crazy over his willingness to go to the tough areas of the ice on a consistent basis, and succeed time and time again.

Going to the tough areas of the ice does not make you a potential first round pick. Scoring once you get there, however, does. That's one of McNeill's biggest strengths. He is most dangerous around the net, physically creating space for himself in areas where other players are rendered helpless.

Aside from scoring, McNeill has fantastic vision. I mean "vision" in two ways. One: He can pass the puck to anyone on the ice, at any time, at will. Two: He often passes the puck, then moves himself into open areas of the ice to put himself into goal scoring position. You can't teach that at 17, good thing he comes in knowing how to do it.

Join me after the jump for his last trait.

Finally, McNeill is very aware of the play in his own zone. He backchecks like crazy, and is very responsible in his own zone. That's not only something a guy like John Tortorella loves to see, it's something you should love to see as well, especially when he's scoring 81 points in 70 games played.

McNeill has opened up a lot of eyes this season, and is even ranked third of all draft eligible prospects out of the WHL by thescoutingreport.org. Here is their tiny scouting report on him.

3. LC Mark McNeill | Prince Albert - Big center that plays hard at both ends of the rink. Has produced offensively despite limited help.

This is what Bruins 2011 Draft Watch had to say on him:

Big horse has been impressive for Canada in the tourney so far. Anyone who thinks he doesn't have upside hasn't been paying close attention to what McNeill brings to the table (82 points for Prince Albert this season) and he's making a legitimate run to a potential top-10 selection in June. McNeill drew primary assist on the Locke goal, taking Murphy's point pass and getting it hard to the net where Locke was able to convert the rebound. But, what impressed us was McNeill's defense and discipline. He moved the puck smartly, backchecked diligently and didn't force things that weren't there. On offense, he protects the puck well and sees the ice like a true playmaker. Stock watch: goin' up.

Here are the two scouting reports from his NHL player card:

NHL Central Scouting's Blair MacDonald
"One thing I like about him is that he's a right-handed center, which is good to have. He's really composed and has a real pro-style game. He has a nice touch, can dish, and has nice, soft passes. His on-ice awareness is very good and he's paid attention to detail at both ends of the rink. He has good defensive-zone coverage as well as being offensive at the other end. All around I think he's got a real solid game I think his offensive game will improve the older he gets and the more confident he gets. I think he'll be a better offensive player than he's showing right now. He's good at both ends of the rink. He comes down low and helps out defensively."

Port McNeil GM Bruno Campese
"He's one of those kids that has the ability to do so many different things, he's got so much upside to him. ... He's a powerful skater and has great hockey sense. He's got very good basic skills and he's got the ability to be a real tough person to play against. He's got the mental capabilities to understand the game as well . . . I really believe he has all the attributes. He's got certain gifts that other players just don't have. That really bodes well for playing in the NHL."

There are two things in there that automatically draw my attention:

1. "I think he'll be a better offensive player than he's showing right now."

2. "He's got certain gifts that other players just don't have. That really bodes well for playing in the NHL."

Personally, if McNeill's name is called when it's the Rangers turn to pick, I would be thrilled. To put up more than a point-per-game in the WHL as a 17-year-old, and have scouts still say that he will get better offensively when he gets more confidence, is a great thing to hear.

And seeing scouts say that he has gifts that other players don't have is important as well. A good first round pick, and at 15 you should be picking a good prospect, has those types of intangibles. McNeill seems to have them all, and is one of the most well rounded players in the draft.

Thoughts guys?