Being a big NHL draft and prospect follower, it was a pleasure for me to watch Mark McNeill of the Prince Albert Raiders during my two first WHL radio broadcasts.
The 17 year old from Edmonton was the 5th overall choice in the 2008 WHL bantam draft and should play a very large role with the Raiders this season.
It was a disappointing summer for McNeill. He attended Canada’s under 18 training camp with hopes of earning an invite to the Ivan Hlinka tournament in Slovakia. After a strong camp, including 3 points in 3 games, McNeill was left off the roster.
Hopefully he can turn that into motivation going into his NHL draft year.
At 17 years old, he already has a man’s body. He stands 6’1.5 and weighs in at just under 210 pounds. And he shows that size on the ice. He likes to play physical hockey and is a great forechecker. He is also a right handed shot as a centre, something many teams covet as a bit of a rare commodity.
He is the meat and potatoes of the Prince Albert Raiders top line, centering Belarusian forward Igor Revenko and 37 goal man from last year Brandon Herrod. He will be doing the dirty work and looking to set up the two more gifted offensive players on his line.
Last season as a fresh-faced 16 year old, McNeill netted 24 points in 68 games, including 9 goals. Those numbers don’t exactly jump off the page at you, but you have to realize the role he played, and the fact that his team was not a playoff club.
I would definitely expect those numbers to atleast double this season. Already through 2 games this year he has a goal and an assist.
Mark also has a history of being a high calibre offensive threat. In his bantam draft year he had 69 points in 33 games. He followed that up in Midget the next year with 39 points in 33 games, with 21 goals.
Many scouting agencies have him ranked as high as the middle of the second round for the upcoming NHL draft, but at this point I think the sky is the limit for him. If he can embrace his new role with the Raiders this season, he could slide into that late first round territory with his impressive size and skillset combo.