Vancouver Sun

Ex­pec­ta­tions great for Sur­rey prospect Sour­dif

Gi­ants for­ward likely to be first B.C.-born player taken in this week's NHL Draft

- STEVE EWEN sewen@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/ SteveEwen Sports · College Sports · NHL Hockey · Ice Hockey · Surrey · Vancouver · Vancouver Giants · Anaheim Ducks · National Hockey League · British Columbia · Bob McKenzie

Van­cou­ver Gi­ants for­ward Justin Sour­dif would cer­tainly en­joy prov­ing Steve Kour­ni­anos right.

Kour­ni­anos, who has been track­ing prospects since 2015 for the Draft An­a­lyst web­site, is pre­dict­ing Sour­dif will be se­lected 27th over­all by the Ana­heim Ducks in the first round of the NHL Draft on Tues­day (4 p.m., Sport­snet).

Other pun­dits are sug­gest­ing that Sour­dif, an 18-year-old from Sur­rey, will have to wait to hear his name un­til the draft re­sumes again on Wed­nes­day (8:30 a.m., Sport­snet) with rounds two through seven.

TSN's Craig But­ton has Sour­dif go­ing 39th, while col­league Bob McKenzie pegs him at 48th and Elite Prospects fig­ures on 52nd.

Re­gard­less, Sour­dif is ex­pected to be the first B.C.-born player taken in this year's draft, which will be con­ducted via video con­fer­enc­ing due to COVID-19 pan­demic pre­cau­tions.

“It's ob­vi­ously nice to be a first-round pick. That's your team. You're their No. 1 pri­or­ity,” ex­plained Sour­dif, a 5-foot11, 180-pound right-handed shot who grew up play­ing cen­tre but has lined up mainly at right wing the past two sea­sons with the Gi­ants.

“They'll give you two or three chances to make it. They'll in­vest a lot of time and en­ergy into you. As a sec­ond or a third-round pick, you don't get as many chances. That's OK, too. I'm go­ing to be ready for that if it hap­pens.

“If I don't go in the first round, I'm not go­ing to let it drag me down. I look at a guy like Bray­den Point. I look at a guy like Brendan Gal­lagher. Those guys weren't picked in the first round and look at how they've done in the NHL. I know I can be a good player.”

Sour­dif came into the 2019-20 sea­son with am­ple first-round buzz. McKenzie, for ex­am­ple, had him at No. 17 in his pre-sea­son draft rat­ings last Septem­ber.

The Gi­ants, as a team, had grand ex­pec­ta­tions of their own to be­gin the year, too, thanks to hav­ing so many key play­ers back from the squad that had gone to the WHL cham­pi­onship se­ries the spring pre­vi­ous.

It took Van­cou­ver awhile to fig­ure it out as a group. They were a pedes­trian, run-of-the-mill squad in the first half, with far too few nights when their best play­ers were in sync.

The Gi­ants perked up in Jan­uary, and Sour­dif was among those who led the charge. He had 26 goals and 54 points in 57 games when the WHL shut down in March due to the COVID-19 pan­demic. Ten goals and 19 points came in a 10game stretch from Jan. 26-Feb. 21.

Van­cou­ver was on a 13-4-1-0 run when the sea­son shut down. With how they were go­ing as a group and how Sour­dif was do­ing in­di­vid­u­ally, it's easy to won­der what an ex­tended Gi­ants' play­off run would have done for Sour­dif's draft stock.

To his credit, he says he's re­fuses to get caught up in what could have been.

“It might have changed a few spots, but that's all,” Sour­dif ex­plained. “I need to im­prove on my con­sis­tency. That's the knock against me and I know that.

“I have the tools to play pro hockey. It's about im­prov­ing on those skills. It's about be­com­ing stronger and faster. And it's about im­prov­ing my con­sis­tency. I'm hop­ing that some of that comes with age.”

Sour­dif seems equal parts scorer and setup man. He wins puck bat­tles and he's stronger than he gets credit for.

Op­po­nents rarely get a good piece of him. He's that kind of eva­sive. On the flip side, he rou­tinely gets a body on an op­pos­ing de­fence­man and turn pucks over.

There are a va­ri­ety of ap­ti­tudes there with Sour­dif, es­pe­cially if he can dial in the con­sis­tency.

“I think that no mat­ter where Justin goes in the draft that team is go­ing to look back and say, `Wow. Great pick,” ex­plained Gi­ants gen­eral man­ager Bar­clay Par­neta. “His hockey in­stincts are in­her­ent. He knows how to get pucks on the net and he knows how to get pucks back from the op­po­si­tion. That will serve him well.”

With so much un­cer­tainty due to the pan­demic, it's hard to guess when the WHL might start up. It's hard to guess, too, whether Gi­ants coach Michael Dyck will uti­lize Sour­dif on the wing or at cen­tre when Van­cou­ver does re­sume ac­tion. Dyck rou­tinely paired Sour­dif with pivot Mi­los Ro­man dur­ing the past two sea­sons, but Ro­man grad­u­ated at the end of the cam­paign.

Van­cou­ver's de­ci­sions on their three 20-year-old play­ers will be a fac­tor in where Dyck slots Sour­dif. Chal­lengers for the trio of over­age spots with the Gi­ants in­clude for­wards Tris­ten Nielsen and Eric Florchuk and de­fence­men Seth Ba­faro, Trevor Longo and Alex Kan­nok Leipert. Nielsen was used mainly at wing and Florchuk at cen­tre for Van­cou­ver last sea­son but they both main­tain they can play ei­ther spot.

Sour­dif has 49 goals and 100 points in 125 ca­reer reg­u­lar sea­son games with the Gi­ants.

 ?? GERRY KaHRMANN ?? Pun­dits peg Van­cou­ver Gi­ants for­ward Justin Sour­dif as a po­ten­tial first- or sec­ond-round pick in this week's NHL Draft.
GERRY KaHRMANN Pun­dits peg Van­cou­ver Gi­ants for­ward Justin Sour­dif as a po­ten­tial first- or sec­ond-round pick in this week's NHL Draft.

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