Expectations great for Surrey prospect Sourdif
Giants forward likely to be first B.C.-born player taken in this week's NHL Draft
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.