I have been holding off on doing this article because I was waiting for him to get sent back down to Grand Rapids, however, after the Ottawa game, and the Wings general inability to stay healthy, I figured I should write this article before he loses his prospect tag. So without further delay, let’s talk about Tomas Jurco.
Jurco is listed at 6’1″ and 200 pounds. Honestly, this surprised me, he plays like he is much bigger than this and whenever I see him on the rink he looks to be 2 or 3 inches taller. A very likely reason for this is because most prospects(and that’s about all I deal with these days) have their heights fudged a little bit by an inch or two. With Jurco’s recent promotion his listing may have been legitimized and might be the reason that I feel this way. Or maybe I just don’t judge height well. Either way this is guy who plays bigger than he is. He was drafted 35th overall in the 2011 draft. The Wings traded their first round pick that year and ended up having three 2nd round selections, Jurco, Sproul, and Oullet. The 2011 draft looks really strong right now boasting Mattias Backman as well.
Whenever I write one of these articles, the first thing I do is watch some film. I try to watch each player as if I know nothing about them and as I watch, I take notes and assess their strengths and weaknesses. Then I watch again and try to figure out how well they project into the NHL. Essentially I try to figure out whether or not what they are doing is repeatable against more talented opposition. I discussed this a lot with Andreas Athanasiou(link here) and how his success may not be repeatable at a higher level.
The good news about Jurco is that we can see him at the highest level and we can look at his goals and figure out whether or not he is causing goals or if he is the beneficiary of randomness or of a defensive gaffe. Although randomness and defensive gaffes are things that all teams have to deal with, they aren’t projectable and are therefore unreliable when figuring out a player’s value. All players are beneficiaries at some point of this kind of stuff and as a result it devalues those things. You try to look at whether the goals they score could be scored against a more talented opposition with any kind of consistency. This is why things like passing and shooting ability, ice vision, and speed, are so valuable. They generally stay with a player as they go into the NHL.
Jurco gets hyped for his hands more than anything else, and with good reason, he is a wizard with the puck and is extremely creative, however this leads to the unfortunate incorrect categorization of his play style. Junco is a power forward. He plays a big, strong game, he goes to the net, and he plays well in the corners. A misconception with Jurco is that his goals are all highlight reel beauties. That’s just not true. Jurco doesn’t have the finishing ability to do that kind of stuff. He scores some nice goals yes, but generally he isn’t the kind of player who can make a move around a defender then roof it and call it a day. He is more like the player who is going to make the really nice move and pass it off to a teammate for an open net. Jurco’s goals come generally because he has a nose for the net and the strength to stand in front and throw in loose rebounds and pucks. It is for this reason that Jurco is more of a finesse power forward than a big finesse player.
Tomas Jurco’s biggest asset is the diversity of his skill set. He can carry the puck into the offensive zone and create space with his hands or he can get right up close to the goalie and get a few tip-ins or throw in some rebounds. He can win puck battles in the corner, he back checks well, and he is someone who, due to his dynamism does command attention when he grabs open ice, whether he has the puck or not.
Something unusual about Jurco is that he has great hands, but he lacks the ability to finish all that well. These two skills generally compliment each other, but Jurco’s shot isn’t really where you expect it to be. If Jurco can improve his ability to score then it would really cement his ceiling as a top 6 forward.
There is a large contrast between Jurco with the puck and Jurco without the puck. With the puck he looks for space and tries to find open ice, but when he doesn’t have the puck, he goes right to the front of the net. He plants himself right upfront and tries to create a little havoc. He doesn’t really screen but he tries to put himself in the position to throw in a rebound or something along that line. This is pretty unique and it is what makes Jurco a difference maker. His spectrum of skills is so large that it allows him to do so many different things when his team has possession of the puck.
Tomas Jurco should be in Grand Rapids right now. I know this is a pretty bold statement seeing as his line is so dynamic and he is averaging around half a point per game, which is rather impressive. However, I think that the way his development is going and for him to really refine his game that he would be better served spending more time in Grand Rapids, improving his finishing ability, getting stronger on defense(note that he isn’t a weak defensive player but he just isn’t a strong one yet) and maybe learning to use his skills a little bit better. I think he is doing good work with the Wings, I think he is being productive, but I also think that he has been the least impressive Grand Rapids forward we have seen so far with the exception of Samuelsson, Tootoo, and Emmerton. However, Jurco is still raw, this is just his second professional season. He is prone to being invisible for long periods of time. It seems like often times he makes a significantly smaller impact than both of his line mates from game to game. I understand that these guys have built a real nice effective chemistry and this line is being productive, and it is for that reason that I think they should stay together for as long as possible. But, when the time does come for them to get broken up, he should be the first one back to Grand Rapids. He has the skills to be as productive as Nyquist was last year, the difference was that Nyquist spent over 2 years in Grand Rapids, two of those years were spent as the team leader and a true difference maker. Jurco was largely ineffective for the first 2/3 of the season, before catching his stride in the stretch and in the playoffs. The more time a player spends in Grand Rapids the more they are able to refine their game and this is what Nyquist did. He was the most talented player on the ice and he was able to mature and develop his game so he would be able to step in for the Wings and play an NHL style game. Nyquist was a game changer, he made dynamic plays and was always noticeable on the ice. I am not sure you can say the same about Jurco at this point in his development. Jurco’s challenge will be to mature and develop his game while playing in the NHL.
With all the being said though, I think Jurco’s done with the AHL. He will stay up here until the end of the season and with so many expected veteran departures Jurco should earn himself a spot on the team next year. He will have to continue to play his game and he will have to improve and continue to grow, but I think that Jurco shouldn’t have too many problems doing that.
I am trying to throw together a prospect mail bag, so if you have any questions about any prospects or anything Red Wing related throw me an email at [email protected] Check me out on twitter as well @ProspectGuy. I live tweet Griffins games and give general information on prospects. Check it out!