The theme to a lot of these picks seems to be "He'd be a great second round pick, if the Habs had one..." ; does Eric Cornel continue that theme?
Eric Cornel is a 6'2" 184-pound Canadian-born centre playing for the Peterborough Petes. He was born in Peterborough, but raised in Kemptville. Confusing them would be worse than confusing Port Hood and Inverness, so I'll skip the "hometown boy makes good with the hometown team" narrative.
Cornel was highly touted coming into the OHL in his rookie season (2012-13) as the number-3 pick in the 2012 OHL draft. Cornel didn't exactly light the league on fire, potting four goals and notching 12 assists in 63 games. The Petes were a particularly awful team before Jody Hull took the helm in December of 2012. Cornel's second half was much stronger and he ended the season with 6 points in 7 games.
Cornel had a much more impressive sophomore season with the Petes. When undrafted 19-year-old centre Hunter Garlent was acquired from Guelph, Cornel switched to right wing. The move galvanized the Petes' offensive attack and led them into the playoffs. Cornel had two five-point nights and a four-point night in the second half, along with a modest six-game point streak that saw him rack up 15 points. In 11 playoff games with the Petes, Cornel put up seven points.
A strong, fast skater, the major knocks on Cornel have been his lack of physical strength and defensive play, both of which took steps forward in his second season with the Petes. He has been cited for hard work, positioning, and good hockey smarts which make up for his lack of pure top flight talent.
Trent Klatt, Islanders Player Development:
"A skilled, right-handed pivot that sees the ice extremely well. Cornel has shown the ability to be a playmaker, which allows him to make players around him better. He’s fast, agile and well balanced on his skates. His game grew throughout the year as he became more comfortable."
Brock Otten, OHLProspects.blogspot.ca: "He has good size and is a terrific playmaker. He sees the ice well and is a very smart player in the offensive zone. He moves very well without the puck and is able to consistently find holes in the defense. His play without the puck greatly improved over the course of the year and we even saw a bit of sandpaper to his game by season's end. Adding size, strength and a consistent intensity level without the puck will be the key to his development going forward."
Mike Oke, Petes GM: "The one thing with Eric is he is a student. He's intelligent. He's committed at school. Academically, he's strong. When he comes to the rink, he's not afraid to ask questions and look at some video because he wants to get better.
Craig Button: 48
NHL Central Scouting: 25 (North American Skaters only)
The Hockey News: 41
Average Ranking: 49.
Eric Cornel comes with his caveats for sure and the word "project" has been circled around his head like some kinda cartoon vultures, but there's a lot to like about Eric Cornel, not the least of which is the fact that he rebounded from a tough rookie season to become a point-per-game player in the OHL.
Is Eric Cornel the type of player you ideally draft in the second round?
Like I mentioned in the Ryan MacInnis profile, the Habs are thin organizationally on the wings, so does a project player like Eric Cornel who can play the wing and centre merit some consideration? I'd have to say yes. Cornel isn't a hulk like MacInnis and certainly won't be a shutdown guy, but he could be a potential top-six forward with offensive smarts who can help out on the power play. If I were the Habs (and I'm not), I'd take the gamble.
Cornel seems to have the right makeup for a project player; decent size, smarts, ability to elevate teammates' play and, most of all, a willingness to work on his shortcomings. Cornel has shown he can elevate his game and recognize his own deficiencies. It's not that I don't believe Ryan MacInnis can't, it's just that the sample size is much smaller (one year of junior vs two).
I believe both would be great second-round picks, but I believe Cornel is the safer first-round gamble.