Age is absolutely a factor when it comes to looking at prospects and developing players. While players grow in their own way, a younger player who accomplishes the same amount as an older player in their league is going to be regarded as a better prospect. It means that player is not only good at their own level, but they have the time and more opportunity to become that much better. In some cases, it's enough to move up a player earlier than expected. This doesn't mean a team should draft the youngest players possible; projectable talent is still the what scouts evaluate among other factors. The point is that age at least partially explains how we view and rank prospects on lists like this one. It is also partially why Kelowna Rocket defenseman and 2012 second round draft pick Damon Severson is ranked #13 on our Top 25 Devils Under 25 list. He's the second youngest prospect in the system (Alex Kerfoot has him beat by four days) and he's already heading into his third full season in the WHL with evidence of improvement.
#13 - Damon Severson - D - Height: 6'2" - Weight: 201 lbs. - Age: 18 - 2012-13 Team: Kelowna (WHL)
I cannot stress enough how impressive Severson's junior career has gone. He got his first taste of the WHL at age 15, became a rookie at 16, and become more productive and more involved at age 17. Severson finished second only to Myles Bell among Kelowna defenseman in scoring in 2011-12, and Bell's an offensive defenseman. Severson is more regarded as a two-way defender, but he's been involved in Kelowna's power play in addition to playing significant minutes. He's still quite young as a player, yet he already has proven himself to be a quality defender at the junior level. He's been good enough not only to break into the WHL at such an early age, but also to represent Canada at the U-17 and U-18 levels. I'd like to think someone at Hockey Canada is keeping an eye on him for the World Junior Championships, but I wouldn't get my hopes up for this year. Canada's returning half of last year's blueline and that was a group that didn't include Ryan Murphy. The point is that he's done so much even prior to getting drafted.
When Severson was picked, I was pleasantly surprised by all of the good things other writers had to say about them. From the viewpoints I quoted in my post about the pick back in June, Severson had good mobility, good vision, good size, good with the puck, and has a good shot. There's a lot of "good" in there. There's even some mentions of "flashes of brilliance." One could say he could turn out to be a solid defender. But unlike someone like Brandon Burlon, he could be a top four defenseman. Severson has produced, he's shown improvement both in production and in responsiblity in Kelowna, he can skate well, and he has held his own in a variety of situations. These are all desirable qualities and when you consider he was 17 when most of this was written, it's tantalizing to think about what he could be as he gets older. Again, age partially explains why he's so regarded.
The big question about Severson settles on what he could become. As complimentary as those reports on Severson were, they were also in agreement on what he could become. While they noted he's got a good shot, he isn't likely to be an offensive defenseman. They note that he's a well-rounded defender, who can be quite good in his own end though he sometimes makes mistakes. I'm not surprised at the latter; everyone makes mistakes, I think that'll pass over time. Most of all, the projection of a top-four defenseman seems to be exactly that. Pronman's more recent rankings of the Devils' prospects has him as future #4 guy. There's nothing at all wrong with that; he could turn out to be a useful player at the highest level even with a lack of an elite skill or tool. Just as importantly, it means we shouldn't think the the sky is the limit for Severson - even considering all he's done so far.
In terms of how he was ranked, most of us liked him. Karen didn't, but everyone else had him around #13; I actually put him in my top ten. We mostly like Severson's good traits and what he's done so far at such a young age. While his ceiling may not be as high, he's done quite a bit as a prospect already and he's got loads of time to reach that ceiling. If he can show improvement or even dominate at Kelowna, which I think is possible given his experience and talent, then he'll be on the right path. And that path could absolutely lead to a good look from New Jersey. One last point regarding his age, I think it'll help him in the long term in terms of getting a spot in the pros. While the Devils have a current glut of defensemen in the system, that may not be the case in two years when Severson can go pro (I doubt he jumps directly to the NHL). Some of them will pan out or not, so presuming those players are cleared out, he'll have more of a chance of getting minutes at the minor pro level right away. Until then, like his age, time is on his side.
So while we're mostly positive on Severson, we'd like to know what you think. Do you think #13 is about right for Severson? If not, do you think he's too high or too low? What do you expect Severson to do at Kelowna this season? Can he improve on what he's done at the WHL level? If so, how? What do you think his upside is as a player? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on Damon Severson in the comments. Thank you for reading.