In the latest edition of Hockey's Future's HF Mailbag, the question was posed "What five players stand out as most improving their status as legitimate prospects?" HF's answer includes a Caps' prospect, defenseman Patrick McNeill, who was the team's fourth round pick (118th overall) in the 2005 draft. Quoth HF:
Human nature loves to root for the underdog and there is no larger of an underdog than a prospect that was passed over several times by every organization in the draft just to break out with an awesome season to prove everyone wrong. In any given year, there are several prospects that emerge onto the prospect radar. Here are just a few, and by no means all, of those that we feel deserve some mention.Back in early April, HF had a little more to say about McNeill, who they rate as either the Caps' 10th or 11th best prospect, depending upon which side of the screen you choose to look at:
Patrick McNeill, a fourth round choice for the Washington Capitals, went from 33 points in 2004-05 to 77 points in 68 games with Saginaw of the OHL as an 18-year-old for most of the season. He turned his plus/minus of -29 in 2004-05 to a +24 in 2005-06.
A 2005 draft steal?McNeill was the fourth defenseman the Caps selected in last year's draft, and if his draft classmates can follow his example, the future of the Caps blueline will be bright indeed.
McNeill’s draft status may have suffered due to the fact that he was on a very bad team last season. However, it appears that this year he has done everything to prove his critics wrong. McNeill finished first in the OHL in scoring by a defenseman with 77 points (21 goals, 56 assists), and helped propel Saginaw to its first postseason appearance in team history. McNeill’s numbers were a far cry from last season’s 33 points (7 goals, 26 assists), and he also rebounded from last season’s woeful plus/minus (-29) by finishing the 2005-06 campaign at +24 defensively.
Saginaw faced a formidable opponent this postseason, as the Guelph Storm swept the series in four games. McNeill did manage to score four points (1 goal, 3 assists), and finished the four-game series with a –1 defensive rating.
McNeill is a solid player and has very few holes in his overall game. Although he does excel at the offensive aspects of the game, his willingness to join the rush does lead to some defensive lapses on his part. However, since defensemen usually take longer to develop than forwards, he still has time to refine the defensive aspects of his game before turning pro.
Although he is only 6’0 tall, he does weigh in at around 200 lbs and is solidly built. He is not known for being an overly physical player, but he does play the body well, and his speed also assists him with his positional play. He has a great outlet pass and a great shot from the point, and displays clever playmaking abilities as well.
McNeill is still several years away from becoming a consistent NHL contributor. However, Washington can’t ignore the pure talent in this young man and will likely be keeping a very close eye on his overall development. Look for McNeill to become a solid, power-play quarterback in the NHL if he can reach his full potential. He will remain in junior next season as he is too young to play in the AHL.