Perception is everything when it comes to scouting 17 and 18-year-old hockey players - and the only real certainty is that you just don't know how a player will turn out.
The microscope intensifies at this time of the season - with six months in the books - as every facet of a player's game being dissected and chewed up and whatever is left - in the words of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - must be the truth.
However, along with clarity also comes skepticism and doubts about whether they will ultimately fall short of fulfilling potential.
As is the case with every draft class, the shine has rubbed off for some of this year's first-round candidates, having had holes and shortcomings exposed.
Initially presumed a sure-fire NHL prospect, but now veering towards 'boom-or-bust' territory.
Certainly Russian thoroughbred Valeri Nichushkin headed down that path before restoring his stock with a 'man-against-boys' performance at the U-18 Five Nations earlier this month in Sweden. Nichushkin entered this season as a probable top ten pick, so his major rise is more a re-adjustment than a sudden epiphany.
GAUTHIER SOMEBODY THAT I USED TO KNOW
Rimouski center Frederik Gauthier is one of the developing wildcards for this draft. There was talk over the opening months that Gauthier might challenge the top 10 as he appeared to be shaping into a big two-way force. However, since suffering a broken jaw, his play has regressed alarmingly with the edgy physical side he displayed earlier giving way to a more tentative version. He's also let his defensive play slide, an area once considered a given area of strength.
There are also growing concerns about Prince Albert blueliner Josh Morrissey and specifically whether he will develop the strength and jam to defend at the next level. There's not much push-back to his game and his lean body is getting knocked around pretty good as the playoff race thickens.
Medicine Hat winger Hunter Shinkaruk can expect a similar rough ride against NHL bodies, however his stock has softened over questions about his vision and game sense - even despite the impressive stat totals. A strong playoff push from Shinkaruk would help put him back in the top-ten discussions.
It hasn't been a great campaign for Andre Burakovsky of Malmo, a significant faller in this month's McKeen's top 30 rankings. A detailed report on Burakovsky and his progress to date will be published shortly on the site.
THERE A NURSE IS IN THE HOUSE
Along with Nichushkin, another heavy mover this month was Sault Ste Marie defenseman Darnell Nurse whose game has blossomed recently under the tutelage of Greyhounds coach and former NHLer Sheldon Keefe. Nurse has advanced his game further than many of his peers - and ditto for Halifax wizard Jonathan Drouin whose progress appears to have no bounds. Drouin is currently riding a phenomenal 24-game scoring streak (22-32-54) - and has left no choice but to bump him ahead of injured teammate Nathan MacKinnon.
The only newcomer to the top 30 this month is Owen Sound defenseman Chris Bigras, a steady riser all season, bumping Guelph's Jason Dickinson.
|1||1||Seth Jones||D||6-3/205||10-3-1994||Portland (WHL)||55-10-38-48|
|2||3||Jonathan Drouin||LW||5-11/185||3-28-1995||Halifax (QMJHL)||43-37-57-94|
|3||2||Nathan MacKinnon||C||6-0/180||9-1-1995||Halifax (QMJHL)||41-28-41-69|
|4||4||Elias Lindholm||C||6-0/190||12-2-1994||Brynas (Swe)||48-11-19-30|
|5||5||Aleksander Barkov||C||6-2/210||9-2-1995||Tappara (Fin)||49-21-25-46|
|6||6||Ryan Pulock||D||6-0/210||10-6-1994||Brandon (WHL)||53-14-29-43|
|7||7||Sean Monahan||C||6-2/190||10-12-1994||Ottawa (OHL)||50-26-43-69|
|8||19||Valeri Nichushkin||RW||6-4/195||3-4-1995||Traktor (KHL)||18-4-2-6|
|9||15||Darnell Nurse||D||6-3/190||2-4-1995||Sault Ste Marie (OHL)||60-11-25-36|
|10||8||Adam Erne||LW||6-1/195||4-20-1995||Quebec (QMJHL)||60-25-41-66|
|11||10||Rasmus Ristolainen||D||6-3/205||10-27-1994||TPS Turku (Fin)||47-2-11-13|
|12||11||Valentin Zykov||LW||6-0/210||5-15-1995||Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)||59-35-34-69|
|13||13||Anthony Mantha||RW||6-4/200||9-16-1994||Val d'Or (QMJHL)||60-45-37-82|
|14||9||Hunter Shinkaruk||LW||5-10/180||10-13-1994||Medicine Hat (WHL)||57-32-41-73|
|15||17||Mirco Mueller||D||6-3/185||3-21-1995||Everett (WHL)||54-6-19-25|
|16||22||Robert Hagg||D||6-2/200||2-8-1995||MoDo (Swe)||25-0-1-1|
|17||14||Nikita Zadorov||D||6-5/230||4-15-1995||London (OHL)||54-5-17-22|
|18||20||Alexander Wennberg||C||6-1/190||9-22-1994||Djurgardens (Swe 2)||45-14-17-31|
|19||12||Frederik Gauthier||C||6-5/210||4-26-1995||Rimouski (QMJHL)||55-19-37-56|
|20||23||Bo Horvat||C||6-0/200||4-5-1995||London (OHL)||59-28-27-55|
|21||21||Max Domi||C||5-9/195||3-2-1995||London (OHL)||56-35-40-75|
|22||16||Andre Burakovsky||LW||6-1/180||2-9-1995||Malmo (Swe 2)||42-4-7-11|
|23||18||Josh Morrissey||D||6-0/185||3-28-1995||Prince Albert (WHL)||62-15-28-43|
|24||27||Kerby Rychel||LW||6-1/200||10-7-1994||Windsor (OHL)||60-35-42-77|
|25||24||Curtis Lazar||C||6-0/195||2-2-1995||Edmonton (WHL)||65-34-18-52|
|26||25||Zachary Fucale||G||6-1/180||5-28-1995||Halifax (QMJHL)||39-5-2, 2.39|
|27||26||Linus Arnesson||D||6-1/190||9-21-1994||Djurgardens (Swe 2)||30-0-1-1|
|28||28||Eric Comrie||G||6-1/170||7-6-1995||Tri-City (WHL)||20-14-3, 2.62|
|29||29||Ryan Hartman||C||5-11/185||9-20-1994||Plymouth (OHL)||51-23-34-57|
|30||NR||Chris Bigras||D||6-0/190||2-22-1995||Owen Sound (OHL)||59-6-25-31|
|* Goalies (W-L-T, GA)|