By Kirk Luedeke
When it comes to Scott Kosmachuk, some of the reviews of the Guelph Storm right wing are a little mixed, but there aren’t many forwards in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft who bring the kind of attributes the Boston Bruins covet more than he does.
|Scott Kosmachuk finished the year with 59 points and 110 penalty minutes in 67 games for the Guelph Storm. (Photo by Terry Wilson/OHL Images)|
The native of Richmond Hill, Ontario may only possess average size at a listed 6-feet, 185 pounds, but he skates well, has a rifle for a shot and is a gritty competitor who brings versatility and upside to the table. Although it may be a stretch to call him a surefire first-round pick at the draft in Pittsburgh June 22, Kosmachuk is solidly in play because of his significant improvement over last year.
“It’s been a long journey from my first rookie (OHL) season,” Kosmachuk told New England Hockey Journal recently. “It was a little frustrating for me not getting the ice (last year) I was used to in minor midget, and I had to adjust my game to that. We had a lot of veteran depth and experience in that first season, but in my exit interviews, the coaches told me that they had higher expectations for me in my second year.”
Kosmachuk validated those expectations, firing home 30 goals in 67 games after netting just six in 68 as a rookie with the Storm.
“I was able to put up more numbers,” he said. “It was more than the goals, though. I think I improved my game and came a long way as an all-around player in general.”
Although the Storm saw another first-round exit as was the case a year ago, Kosmachuk and others on his club have said that the 2011-12 campaign under first year head coach Scott Walker was a successful one. Although the team went 31-31-2-4 for a .500 regular season record, the finish spoke positively for the lack of relative experience on the club compared to other OHL teams.
“I think the season was a great way to start off building a Memorial Cup team for the future,” said Kosmachuk. “We did pretty well, with a lot of younger guys getting a chance to step up. Not many expected us to take the Plymouth Whalers to six games, and while it was disappointing to come up short, we all hope to do well next year and accomplish more than we have.”
Kosmachuk had an excellent second OHL performance by most accounts, but he did have to weather the experience of being scratched from a game.
“Coach Walker talked to me at one point in the season when I was going through a slump,” noted Kosmachuk. “He said I needed to bring it every night. I have to be focused. Ever since then, I’ve tried to work as hard as I can, have the same schedule every day and do the little things the team needs from me.”
Walker maintained that the November 13 benching had nothing to do with bad behavior or poor play. After all, Kosmachuk tallied a hat trick in a season-opening win against Windsor and maintained a pretty steady scoring clip over the first six weeks of the campaign. However, the coach perceived that perhaps his young player was trying too hard at times to make a good impression in his draft season.
“It wasn’t a discipline thing. It wasn’t a bad play thing,” Walker told the Toronto Star. “It was more to take pressure off him, say: ‘Hey, relax and play your game.’ ”
In just his second contest back after sitting out against the Kitchener Rangers, Kosmachuk hung a goal and three assists on the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. After that statement, the points kept rolling along for him, but the experience sunk in for the aspiring first-round pick in Pittsburgh, and Kosmachuk concedes he’s a better player and person for it.
Another member of the powerhouse Toronto Jr. Marlboros ’94 minor midget squad that included fellow Guelph teammate Matt Finn, along with other current OHL standouts like Scott Laughton, Adam Pelech, Matia Marcantuoni, Chris Marchese and Connor Brown, Kosmachuk was a second-round pick of the Storm in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection. Since then, he’s tried to elevate himself into a better situation for the NHL’s annual talent lottery.
“I would say it’s a little bit of everything,” he said when asked about his playing style. “I have a good scoring touch, but I had good linemates to help me with that like Hunter Garlent and Jason Dickinson; (Brock) McGinn when he got back (from injury), too. Everyone chipped in and we worked hard.
“If you hadn’t seen me play before, then I would describe myself as a player who will do anything to win. I block shots, make defensive plays, sacrifice anything to get the win. I bring speed; scored 30 goals, so I can find the back of the net. I think it’s just trying to be a solid all-around player and doing what I can to help the team.”
One scout believes polishing up his skating game should be on Kosmachuk's agenda.
"He's a hard-working player with good finish around the net," said an NHL scout out of the Western Conference. "The Under-18s hurt him because his skating looked rough."
He’ll also have to work on his strength and conditioning, but the effort levels are rarely in doubt.
“He’s a hard-nosed player who works hard,” said an NHL Scout for an Eastern Conference team when asked about Kosmachuk. “He plays the game the right way, with a lot of energy and compete (level). He’s very active in the offensive zone and seems to always find a way to contribute.”
For inspiration, the Toronto-area native did not have to go far. As a diehard Maple Leafs fan, Kosmachuk grew up idolizing Mats Sundin.
“He was the captain and one of the better players so I looked up to him,” Kosmachuk said. “The player I try to model my game after would probably be Jarome Iginla. I just like the way he plays and is the leader on his team. I like to try to bring those same things whenever I can.”
With the NHL draft combine around the corner, Kosmachuk knows that he’ll have one more chance to make a positive impression and establish himself as one of the top-30 picks.
“It’s been an exciting year,” he said of playing towards the goal of being selected early. “Obviously, there is a lot of hype surrounding the draft. People tell you not to think about it and you try to keep it in the back of your mind, but it’s hard not to think about it at times. I’m just looking forward to it now and seeing where I end up.”
After weathering a minor storm in his earlier this season, Kosmachuk should see smoother sailing on draft day.