In 2005, the top prospect for the OHL draft was Logan Couture. Considered a holy lock to go first overall, he decided to try his talents at the junior B level instead of AAA where at least 95% of players get drafted from. There are others who make this choice, and it is usually an awful, awful choice....unless you're as good as Couture. I wanted to see how he was doing so I went to see a playoff game he was playing in. The arena was swarming with OHL scouts. This seemed odd to me. This guy was a lock to go first overall (although he didn't because of JT). At most, only teams with a top 5 pick should have been there in case he happened to slip. I struck up a conversation with the head scout from the Owen Sound Attack.
Since there were no other draft eligible players worth watching in the game, I asked him why one of the top teams in the OHL (at the time) would be scouting a player they had absolutely no shot at getting. His answer?
"I'm not here to scout him, I'm here to enjoy watching him play. This kid will be a first round pick in the NHL."
You're probably telling yourself, "Lahey, not only do you consistently get drunk and piss yourself, but all of your stories lack a point!!"
Touché, but this time I have a point. My point is, sometimes a player is so good that you just want to watch him play hockey, even if you don't have a horse in the race. Jacob Trouba is that good.
Team: Detroit Compuware/USNTDP
Level Of Competition: USHL/US U-18 (A+)
Claimed Size: 6'1, 172lbs
NHL Draft: 2012
OHL Draft: Kitchener
Eyeball Test (is he actually the claimed size?): Trouba is all of 6'1, 172lbs. Very solid frame to put on more weight. Thick neck.
Scouting Report: There is no shortage of scouting reports on him, so I'm going to give my own personal opinion here just so you guys get something different.
Trouba is a total package defenceman with elite ability. Looked like a man among boys in AAA, and that pretty much continues in the USHL. Has excellent size, will probably grow an inch or so and end up somewhere in the range of 6'2 215lbs as a pro.
Trouba makes a clean, smart first pass out of his zone and plays with perfect position on breakouts. Stays calm, never panics, and consistently loses the forechecker completely behind the net to create odd man rushes. This won't happen at the next level as often, but he shows the poise needed to create good breakouts at the next level.
Takes care of his own end, does not allow himself to get pushed around in front of or behind the net. Superb zone awareness.
Great skater, very smooth, very adequate top-end speed. Changes direction nicely. Good puckhandling skills. Shot from the point is decent, not exactly Ryan Ellis but it will get stronger.
Likes to get involved in the offensive plays. Makes nice, controlled rushes but knows when to bail on a rush when he doesn't see what he wants. Rarely gets caught up ice because of his excellent decision making. Smart on pinches. The only time I saw him get caught on a pinch he absolutely destroyed the player who beat him to the puck.
His best attributes are his physicality and his stick skills. This guy loves contact. He plays the game very well, but he is always waiting in the weeds for his chance to make the crowd go OHHHHHH. He hits often, but always has one or two massive open ice hits a game. When he connects, he puts his shoulder right between the nipples for perfectly clean hits. His stick skills are unbelievable. One of the hardest skills for a d-man to learn is stick patience. He is extremely patient and strikes very quickly and with pristine timing when he goes for the poke-check. This makes him nearly impossible to beat 1 on 1. He will need to get used to significantly better stick handlers in the OHL or NCAA but he'll adapt.
All indications are that he is a quality kid with excellent leadership skills and a solid work ethic.
Everyone and their dog keeps making the comparison to Cam Fowler, the Windsor Spitfires d-man who had an excellent rookie season with the Ducks. I don't really see it, to be honest.
Trouba is definitely smooth like Fowler is, but not quite as smooth. He also likes the jump in the play like Fowler does, but he isn't quite the offensive player that Fowler is. Having said that, Fowler always got knocked for not being physical enough, especially behind and in front of the net. You will never, ever have that issue with Trouba. Trouba eats forechecking forwards for breakfast.
I have two comparisons of my own. The first is Drew Doughty. Now before you go crazy with excitement, I will say that Trouba is not as good as Doughty was at the same age, nor does he possess his insane offensive ability. But what makes Doughy so good is his play in the defensive end, especially when breaking out. Drew has this ridiculous talent that allows him to manipulate forwards into giving him space. He has a magical ability to wait until the very last second before he releases a pass, leaving the opposing player chasing him totally out of the play.
Trouba has a little bit of that in him. He is always making the opposing forwards react to him, not the other way around. He does a great job of releasing the puck at the last moment, giving his team a lot of odd man rushes.
The second comparison is Dion Phaneuf. Once again, Trouba is probably a bit below what Phaneuf was at this point, but his physical style is very similar. Like Phaneuf, opposing players fear his wrath all over the ice. In junior, players didn't try things on Phaneuf they would try on other guys because he would put your face through the Little Caesar's advertisement. Trouba has that same type of game. He doesn't run around like a goon looking for blood, but the big hit is always in the back of his mind. He's just waiting for you to make a mistake so he can make you pay.
Don't get discouraged because I am saying he isn't as good as those guys, the fact that I'm using their names for comparison tells you everything you need to know.
Will he Stick With Michigan?
The hockey community really isn't very big. People talk and everyone who is anyone knows each other. I remember when there was a thread about Max Domi getting drafted by the Frontenacs and the board freaked out about him leaving. I posted that I had already heard that he was OHL-bound. That was no secret, most people already knew. That is because information travels fast in hockey circles.
Jacob Trouba will stay. Neg me to hell if I'm wrong, but I won't be. I am of little importance in the hockey world, but I work for people who are kind of a big deal, and I know a lot of people. If there was even a 10% shot of him bolting to the OHL, I would have heard something about it. But I haven't. He will be a Wolverine.
Brian alluded to the fact that Kitchener is one of those teams that tends to snatch college-bound players. I think that is a bit overblown. Kitchener has a decent franchise, but there are only two teams you really have to worry about: the Windsor Spitfires and the London Knights. These teams have put countless players in the show, and are always good. They both have state of the art hockey arenas in hockey-insane cities with very dedicated fan-bases. They have coaches who are former players, very rich (and like to show it), very charismatic, and very connected.
If some little trade shows up on the ticker where either Windsor or London have acquired the rights to Trouba in some obselete deal, it is time to start worrying. But Trouba is already old enough where I don't think that is going to happen.
Do you have anything else for us to be paranoid about?
Why yes, I do. Trouba is such a good prospect that there is very little chance he stays until his senior year. By very little, I mean none. Trouba is going to make a very good living playing hockey, his career path is set. Chances are that Michigan gets him for two years and then he signs his NHL contract upon which he either plays in the show full time or splits time between the AHL and NHL. He is just too good to stay in the NCAA, it would actually hurt his development.
This is not a bad thing, Trouba will step onto the Michigan team and immediately be one of the best players. By his sophomore year, he will be on of the top players in the NCAA. Not only will this help on the ice, but it is always great to get a top prospect, it makes other top prospects want to come as well.
I often see posts on the board about players who play in the AHL like it is some sort of bad thing. The AHL is a top league with top players. The money is good, so it isn't a stupid decision when someone leaves the NCAA to play in the AHL before they start their NHL career. I'll give you a break down of what Trouba's contract will be when he signs it.
Trouba wil be a top 15 pick in the NHL. That means his contract will be the maximum allowable for an entry level deal. Standard entry level deals are 3 years. His AHL salary would be approximately $68,000 per season. Not bad, right? Yes, except that it doesn't even include his NHL signing bonus which would be about $285,000. The signing bonus gets chopped up into 6 payments twice a year over three years.
That means that a player who signs a max deal will still be making a crapload of money, even if they don't make the NHL in their first three years.
$68,000 + $95,000 = $163,000US per season while in the AHL.
He would get paid NHL money for every game he was up with the big club. If he stays the whole season, although the rookie salary cap states that his actual salary will be $900,000, top draft picks have contracts which are stuffed with the easiest incentives you have ever seen. If he just shows up to play, he will stand to make just under $2,000,000 a season in his entry level contract, more if he plays well.
Be very, very happy about this. Not only will Trouba come to Michigan and make them a better hockey team, but he is going to be one of those NHL alums that causes future prospects to pick Michigan because they saw him do it and want to be like him. It will be like high school offensive tackles picking Michigan because they want to go 1st overall like Jake Long, or hopefully in the future, abuse donkeys like Taylor Lewan.
Thanks for reading, folks!