Hello to all the draft watchers out there and welcome to my new feature here at HF called The Draft Document. This will be a weekly article focusing in on the so of the top names from this years NHL Entry Draft. I will be scouring the net and watching game tape on the top players from this draft in an effort to bring to you an informative look at tomorrow’s superstars. We will start of this week with Nathan Horton of the Oshawa Generals. This kid is viewed by many to be one of the top three picks in the draft, if not number one. So sit back and enjoy.
Nathan Horton, 6’3, 210 lbs.
Nathan Horton is right now without question the top power forward eligible in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. Already 6’3, 210 lbs and still growing, Horton will be a handful for any defensemen trying to move him. Coming of an outstanding rookie year for the Generals were he notched 51 points in 49 games, Horton has shot out of the gate this year with an overwhelming start. Despite missing 13 games with an injury, Horton has rattled of 9 goals and 18 points in just 9 games to stand fourth on the team in scoring and just 1 point out of third. Factor in that Horton doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff, as his average of two penalty minutes per game states, and you can already begin to see why he is so heavily watched by NHL scouts.
While Horton’s size is the first thing that jumps out at you but his other talents soon become glaringly obvious as well. His strength on his skates is remarkably good, enabling Horton to easily fight of checkers as he skates with the puck or fights for open ice. Add in his breakaway speed and he is virtually impossible to stop one-on-one. Due to this, teams can tend to over check him, leaving more ice for Horton’s teammates. Despite the intense checking that Horton is receiving on a nightly basis, his point totals are incredible. That is because Horton has that goal scorers knack; he can find open ice and has his timing down so he knows just when to get to that open ice for a scoring chance. Mike Bossy and Brett Hull are prime examples of players who could do this. Horton is also very adapt at passing the puck too, and he should continue to improve in that area giving the fact that he is so valuable to the Generals and he fits into all aspects of their game. He is required to control the power play from down low, kill penalties and lead the rush, all of which rely on the passing aspect of the game to be carried out effectively. Thus, Horton does not really as heavily on linemates as some of the other 2003 draft-eligibles.
Horton also uses an array of shots to finish of any scoring chances that present themselves. His slapshot is hard and his wrist shot and backhand are very accurate. Horton has the ability to raise his shot to the top of the net from virtually anywhere on the ice. Given that he is excellent along the boards and in the corners and takes the puck to the net with authority, these shots are utilized often. Add in his stick handling, which is right up there with Zherdev and the rest of the 2003 class and it enough to give a goalie the fits.
The things that will be the deciding factor in whether or not Horton gets the top spot on draft day are what he does away from the puck and off the ice. Horton is no Ilya Kovalchuk, who, despite his apparent so-so work ethic and no existent defense was drafted first overall in 2001 simply because he was far and away the top offensive player in the draft. Horton, while obviously very skilled in his own right, is in no way the clear cut top offensive player in the draft. So we look at his defense. While I don’t read to deep into plus/minus, Horton is still a solid +6 and is killing penalties, even chipping in two shorthanders. He backchecks with vigor and buys into the team system. Very coachable, Horton also brings a good work ethic to practice and to games, never quitting despite the score.
Horton’s game is already very close to NHL standards. He has a level head on his shoulder and the only thing he needs to add to get to the NHL and be dominate there is experience. Barring a major injury or the first prolonged slump of his junior career, Horton is a good better to go the World Junior Championships in Halifax this year. Already, scouts are touting this tournament as the place where first overall in the draft will be determined as Horton will face off with other top overall candidates like Zherdev, Brown, and O’Sullivan. Even with a poor showing at the WJC’s, Horton likely has already locked up a top five spot in this year’s draft. It is very likely Horton could become the pre-emanate power forward of the NHL in the next decade.