The New Jersey Devils selected Artur Gavrus with their sixth (and final) round pick, 180th overall, in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. According to his prospect card at NHL.com, Gavrus is officially listed at 5'10" and 168 pounds, he turned 18 in January, he's a left wing and a center, he shoots left, and he just finished his first full season with the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League. Here are his stats according to Elite Prospects:
Gavrus had to deal with some injuries last season, but he did play a majority of the OHL season as a rookie while representing Belarus in Division 1B of the World Junior Championships. His 37 points in the regular season were good enough to have him finish fifth on his team in scoring and eighth in the OHL among rookies. Still, there's a lot to like about the player. Believe it or not, there's actually quite a lot of information out there for this player. I don't think many anticipated him dropping all the way to the sixth round of the NHL Draft. That in of itself may mean the Devils may have found a steal. Let's learn why that may be after the jump. (Note: This post was originally done at 12:34 PM, it has since been updated.)
A Few Outside Opinions about Artur Gavrus
What first surprised me about Gavrus was that Corey Pronman had him in his top 100. In fact, he had him as high as 44th. The Hockey Prospectus prospect guru definitely thought well enough of the forward. Here's what he had written about Gavrus:
Gavrus is yet another case of a relatively obscure prospect transferring to the CHL establishing a more legitimate stock for himself. Playing on a team with potential top-50 picks who are bigger names in the likes of Jarrod Maidens and Gemel Smith, Gavrus has looked equally impressive. Gavrus is a high-end skater with a pretty smooth technique and gets up to a tremendous top speed. He gets up to top speed very quickly, and also is very good at rapidly changing gears. He's a pretty skilled puck-handler whose main puck possession skill comes from his individual ability. He can make plays to others, but aside from his skating, the bulk of his offense will come from his puck abilities. Gavrus is a small forward with a pretty slight frame, but he still works hard on the forecheck and has some grit to his game. He doesn't necessarily carry that over to the other end, though, but considering his intangible base, I could see that improving during the course of his development.
Gavrus apparently has wheels, good skills with the puck, and upside. While he's not strong or big, he continues to work hard, which is a plus. Getting someone with that skillset in the sixth round is a very good pick. That he looked good alongside other prospects on Owen Sound speaks well to his performance beyond his production. The end of this description implies he needs to work on his defense, but I think that's something that may come over time.
Over at OHL Prospects, Brock Otten wasn't quite so bullish about Gavrus. However, he did rank him 27th among his top 50 OHL Prospects. Here's his description of the player. By the way, Otten references a video that I'll include a little later in the post.
Based on pure skill alone, he's one of the most talented forwards on this list (anywhere in the Top 50). Gavrus has insane puck skill and can make moves at top speed. He scored one of the prettier goals in the league this year against Windsor, showcasing just what I was talking about. He keeps plays alive in the offensive end by putting the puck on a string. Just a very dynamic player; one who is very fun to watch. He's also fearless on the ice and despite being undersized, will do just about anything to make a play. In a way, that's the big concern with Gavrus. His durability has to come into question after receiving two concussions this year, one pretty bad one. He has a habit of skating around with his head down and can get too cute with the puck at times. He's a pretty one dimensional player at this point too, and we'll need to round out his game to be an effective NHL'er. Tons of offensive potential if he find a way to survive the physical rigors of the North American game.
Otten gets to the heart of the matter as to why the Gavrus wasn't touted as a higher pick. While he's great with the puck and he can skate well, that's the extent of his skills so far. He's got to work on his defense and he has to get stronger to handle physical play. That he's suffered two concussions last season along with having wrist surgery - as noted in this article in the Owen Sound Sun Times by Bill Walker - would definitely scare off teams from taking him early. A late pick in the draft isn't as valuable, so it's worth the risk. However, as Otten says, he's got to get stronger while keeping his head up. That's how he got lit up by Max Domi (Tie's kid) if I'm not mistaken. (Aside: Some better luck with opponents would help since he did nothing wrong when Tyler Randell head-shotted him in March.)
Lastly, Sean Lafortune wrote the following blurb about Gavrus over The Prospect Blog back in April:
Garvus is a skilled forward who is at his best with the puck around the net. He shows good finishing skills around the net. He is a good skater who has above average acceleration and mobility. He skates well and displays above average footwork and mobility. He struggles at times with holding onto the puck a bit long and putting himself into either a dangerous situation or causing a turnover. He projects out as a top 9 forward, and should be a mid round draft selection for the 2012 NHL Draft.
While it is a short summary, I think hits the main points as to why this is a good selection, especially in conjunction with what else has been written . While he struggles with the puck at times in addition to physical play and defense, he does have good enough offensive talents to say that he has a future. He's another forward in the system and he's a skilled guy at best. Throw in the fact that he went later than even when Lafortune figured and it's a solid value pick.
A Little Video
First, here's the video that Brock Otten referenced in his ranking of Gavrus. It really shows off how slick he can be:
That's just two moves that were just too sweet. Garvus almost looked as good when he scored these two goals against Brampton:
The first goal shows he can stay with a play so he put back his own rebound. The second goal shows he's not afraid to put an attempt on net to catch the opposition unaware. It worked for a power play goal, too.
A Final Opinion & Your Take
Strangely, out of all of the picks the Devils made on the second day of the draft, I'm actually the most excited about this one. This is a player who otherwise would have been taken in the third round or so, and possibly higher if he wasn't so unfortunate with injuries. I understand that he's small and he needs to work on his defense. However, despite two concussions and wrist surgery among his other issues, he managed to be a productive player and show off that he has desirable skills in a prospect. The defense can be learned, Gavrus will have to add some muscle, and he'll get more experience which will help him with awareness. I'm not saying he's going to a NHL player for sure. He's got a long way to go before we can say the first ever Belarussian draft pick by the Devils is a success. However, based on what I've read so far, I'm more confident in his chances than I would otherwise be for most sixth round draft picks. I think the Devils got a better prospect than one could reasonably expect at the end of the sixth round. I hope Garvus enjoys better health next season and can be a top scorer for Owen Sound.
That's my take on Artur Gavrus, now I want to know your take. What do you think of Gavrus as a prospect? How much do you like his offensive skills? Are you concerned about his recent injury history more so than the flaws in his game? Are you happy that the Devils took Gavrus in the sixth round? What do you expect out of Gavrus now that he's a Devils prospect? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on the pick and the player in the comments. Thank you for reading.