This season, we're ahead of the power curve for those of you who like your guys tough and who can really throw 'em in making our first mention of 6-3, 190-pound Medicine Hat Tigers center Kale Kessy.
One NHL scout I talked to called him a "poor man's Milan Lucic" which won't have anyone lining up to spend a top-10 pick on him, but Kessy has some good hands and now that he's back in action after missing the first few weeks of the WHL season with an injury.
"This is a kid who's legitimately tough," the scout said. "Last year, he'd blast people and then turn around, looking for someone to take him on. And, he fought some guys older than him and more than held his own. He can go."
Last year, Kessy tallied 11 goals and 29 points in 71 games, adding 123 penalty minutes. This season, he's got two goals in six games, and has racked up another 18 minutes in the sin bin. As mentioned, he's a big open-ice hitter and one of those players who can alter the tempo of a game on a shift when he gets the physical, aggressive forecheck going.
Here's what Red Line Report said recently about the Dec. '92 left-shooting pivot: Another late-bloomer, this undrafted kid from Saskatchewan with a huge and athletic frame was a brilliant find by The Hat. Has some hands and a lot of toughness.
On the downside, the skating isn't great, but I'm told that he doesn't need huge improvement either-- just needs to pick up a step and keep working on his agility.
It's hard to say right now where Kessy might end up in the draft, but if past trends tell us anything, if he can show the kind of offensive upside scouts think he has in him, then that nasty quotient will take him far. Don't get wrapped around the axle about the Lucic comparison-- the bottom line is this: hockey players who can fight are always far more valuable to NHL teams than fighters who can play a little hockey.
Kessy appears to be on the verge of establishing himself in the former category.