When the Boston Bruins selected Plymouth Whalers’ forward Cody Payne in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, many knew this was a selection based on potential and development. Some even uttered under their breath “oh no, the Bruins get another one”, meaning a 6’2” 200 pound power forward.
Bruins fans are enamoured with the likes of Dougie Hamilton (now with Boston), Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight (now with the Bruins AHL affiliate in Providence), Anthony Camara, still skating up and down the wing for the Barrie Colts, Seth Griffith currently leading the Ontario Hockey League in scoring, and goaltender Malcolm Subban of the Belleville Bulls, who was the Bruins first round pick in 2012. And of course there’s Alex Khokhlachev who recently returned to the Windsor Spitfires from the KHL.
While fans don’t know as much or don’t hear as much about Payne, the stat sheet is what gives them most of their information. But stats are sometimes, and more often than not, misleading. To date Payne has 13 goals and 16 assists in 43 games. At first glance that may not seem “lights out” by any stretch of the imagination. But let’s for a minute set aside how many points he’s tallied and look at why.
Plymouth is a squad that’s deep at the forward position with most having more experience than Payne on the top two lines: Stephan Noesen, Garrett Meurs, Mitchell Heard, Vincent Trocheck, Tom Wilson and Rickard Rakell to name a few. Throw in potential 2013 NHL first rounder Ryan Hartman and its crowded.
Of Payne’s 43 games played, he has points in 23 of them. Again, not lights out. But consider this: of the 23 games in which he has registered a point, at least one of those players above missed the game on 20 occasions. And of the 20 games he didn’t register a point; those players were in each of those games except three (trades have been taken into consideration here). Can we consider this as evidence that given the opportunity to move up and with more quality minutes that Payne can produce offensively? Certainly it does.
We spoke with several people who cover and scout the OHL and here’s what some had to say:
Brian Huddle scouts the OHL for FC Hockey: “I like Payne because along with the size and skill mix, he’s also got that edge and “mean-ness” to his game that so many other big players don’t in today’s game. He’s shown that he can play up and down the lineup, but produces when put in the position to do so.”
Brock Otten who covers mostly draft eligible players on his blog with a keen eye had this to say about Payne: "I think you definitely have to consider mentioning Cody Payne if you're talking about the most improved players in the league this year. His transformation and progression has been terrific in 2012/2013. Last year, he was basically just a physical, energy guy who was thrown on the ice to make a few hits and tries to force a turnover (think along the lines of the role Remi Elie plays for London this year). His game was highly simplified. This year, he's been given more opportunity to explore the offensive side of his game and he's flourished because of it. His confidence with the puck is the one thing I've really noticed as being the main reason for his improved numbers. He no longer just dumps the puck in, looking to chase (although he still does that effectively). He now has the confidence to use his size to try and take the puck hard to the net and that's generating offensive opportunities for his line mates. I think he's also improved in his ability to see the ice and to jump into scoring lanes. That aspect comes from the fact that he's learning to balance his physical game, with his offensive responsibilities. As much as he's grown this year, there's still more room to do so. He's had some lulls this year and needs to provide a more consistent offensive focus. In order to take that next step as a goal scorer (a great idea considering his size and skill set), he'll need to continue to work on his shot and release. If he continues on the development path he's on, I don't see any reason as to why we can't look at him as a possible 3rd line candidate at the next level."
Brendan Ross who covers draft prospects for Dobber Hockey and OHL Writers added this: “Bruins' prospect Cody Payne has been one of the most progressive major junior players over the past calendar year from a development standpoint. Blessed with great pro-size (6-2, 200+ lbs), Payne has always been an effective physical contributor on the ice but has recently added an offensive element to his game.”
Brendan went on to say “After an offseason of working on his shot and puck handling skills to improve his versatility as a player the hard work has paid off, as evident by his improved offensive output. The former 2012 5th round selection likely projects as a third line energy guy at the professional level and with his competitive work ethic and team first approach, he is a player that stands a good chance of securing that future role. Pardon the pun but Payne certainly looks like a player who aims to be a pain to play against.”
Sean LaFortune is a much respected scout with McKeen’s Hockey and Director of Scouting for thescout.ca. Sean says; "Payne is a hardnosed forward who possesses developing offensive skills. Sneaky snap shot and high work ethic, a player who sticks up for his teammates. His footwork and agility continues to be areas of development, but it doesn't limit him. Projects as a bottom 6 forward at the NHL level"
From Todd Cordell, editor of The Hockey Guys and covers the New Jersey Devils along with their prospects as well as the OHL says: “Cody Payne has progressed a lot since last season, in my opinion. He's become much more consistent and has been much bigger contributor offensively this season than last, even though the Whalers lineup is filled with high end offensive talent. He still brings the same physical presence but he's really gotten better in terms of not taking bad penalties and knowing when and when not to cross the line.”
We asked Plymouth Whalers GM Mike Vellucci about the difference he sees in Payne from last season and since the Whalers acquired him from the Oshawa Generals. “Cody has played great for us this year. His offensive numbers are up because he is playing more and has lots of confidence. He has matured both mentally and physically since he has played for us” said Vellucci.
Payne was a former third round pick – 58th overall – in the 2010 OHL Priority Draft by the Oshawa Generals. He brought with him some offensive ability having scored 39 goals and adding 26 assists in 64 games for the Mississauga Reps Minor Midget AAA. He was acquired by the Whalers in a deal that sent a third round pick to the Generals. He was considered a project even in his OHL Draft year but his development curve has been heading in the right direction.
Bruins Director of Amateur Scouting Wayne Smith had this to say about Payne: “We were fortunate enough to catch him when his teammates were gone to the World Juniors, We saw him play in a top two-line role, and he’s as tough as they come. There’s no question he can fight and he showed us that there’s potential for him to be a National Hockey League player.”
The general consensus is that Payne will one day play in the NHL as a very good 3rd liner. But, he will bring with him the ability to move up and fill in on the top six when necessary. Just how far he takes it is totally up to him. One thing’s for certain, there isn’t too many that will outwork him and stand in his way.
A typical Bruin that fans will come to enjoy.