Mark Stone was the Senators 6th rd pick in 2010, and when he was drafted he was coming off an injury filled year, playing only 39 games. The Senators saw something in him and took Stone with the 178th selection. Their foresight seems to have been rewarded as he had a stellar 2010-11 season, putting up 37 goals and 106 points in 71 games for the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Stone also made some noise this past week at the National Junior Team development camp, where in the second Red & White game he netted 2 goals and 2 assists while playing on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Ryan Johansen.
This week as part of the series of prospect profiles, I had the opportunity to pick the brain of Rob Henderson, who covers junior hockey for the Brandon Sun. My questions are in red while Rob’s answers are in black.
How would you describe Mark Stone’s game?
Stone plays a smart game, he has good offensive instincts and uses his size well defensively to create turnovers. Although not overly aggressive, he plays with intensity and grit and can get under opponents’ skin.
How has he progressed in his 3 years in the WHL?
His physical growth has contributed to his improvement as a WHL player, but probably the key area of improvement has come in his skating. While still not a smooth skater, he has improved his foot speed. He has also developed more confidence, allowing to go from being capable of playing with the top players on the Wheat Kings to actually being one of the team’s central figures.
Definitely his hockey IQ is his chief strength. He reads and anticipates well which allows him to compensate for his skating and get to spots deceptively quickly. His instincts make him a strong passer and the aforementioned size helps him in both ends of the rink.
Any weaknesses in his game?
Stone is still working on his skating, which will be a key to getting to the next level where he will have to contend with more players his size and larger.
What else does he need to work on to get to the NHL Level?
In addition to his skating, he will need to continue to improve his strength and fill out his frame. Like most young players, particularly those in offensive roles, his defensive game still has room to improve.
Do you think he can be a scorer at the NHL level?
I certainly think the potential is there. He has meshed well with a number of high-end linemates in Brandon and excelled on a line with Ryan Johansen and Jonathan Huberdeau at the Canadian junior team’s summer camp. His ability to move the puck and read the play could at some point land him a top-six role in the NHL, perhaps providing complementary offence moreso than as an elite scorer.
When do you think he will he be NHL ready?
He’ll play in the WHL as a 19-year-old this season, and I expect him to play at least one year in the American Hockey League. After some seasoning there, he could be ready to compete for an NHL spot 2-3 seasons from now.
Do you think he will crack the World Junior roster this winter?
I like his chances a lot better now after the summer camp. I expect Stone will get invited to the (Decenber) selection camp and the key there will likely be his performance in the exhibition games. He doesn’t skate as well as Hockey Canada normally likes to see from its international players, but if he continues to produce there and especially if he shows good chemistry again with some of Canada’s top players, I think he has a legitimate chance.
I wouldn’t be concerned about Stone’s injury history. The bulk of the time he missed two seasons ago was from relatively freak injuries — a concussion from a fight and a broken thumb he suffered after jamming it in an awkward fall. He stayed relatively healthy last season, missing only one game.
Is he a good guy in the room? What about his leadership abilities?
Smart on the ice and well-spoken off of it, I believe Stone will be a good player in the dressing room who has the potential to grow into a leadership role as he has done in Brandon.
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So again, it looks like the Senators have hit another home run, as Stone appears to have been a steal in the 6th round. This season will be a very important one for Stone, to not have a drop-off in production and to make the Canadian Junior team this December.
As I said earlier this week, there are a number of star players that attended the development camp that could be playing in the NHL this season, such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jonathan Huberdeau and Ryan Johansen. If this happens, Stone has the opportunity to be an integral part of Team Canada in Edmonton and Calgary.
Thanks again to Rob Henderson for his insights into Mark Stone and his potential to be a future Senator.
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