57 Landon Ferraro
Pluses: Where do I start? Ferraro is the most talented prospect in the Red Wings’ system not named Brendan Smith. He’s an absolutely fantastic skater with NHL acceleration, a powerful, confident and wide-legged stride, supreme maneuverability, the ability to lug the puck up the ice without losing a step, and while he’s not Brendan Smith fast, once he gets up to speed, he’s hard to stop. For a player listed at 6’ and 171 lbs (that’s accurate), he’s got Fedorov-level thigh strength.
That skating ability allows him to play as a two-way center who’s equally adept at generating offense on the rush, sustaining possession and control of the puck in the offensive zone, co-running a team’s power play unit with a savvy offensive defenseman or two, or coming back into his own end to break up scoring chances against, grind the puck out along the boards, or serve as a fine penalty-killing forward. Ferraro gobbled up ice time during scrimmages for a reason. He could hack it.
Ferraro’s skating, hockey sense and especially his vision combine with an innate ability to launch hard, accurate passes and yield a playmaker of the first order, though he might very well be more effective lugging the puck up the ice himself. Ferraro finds players sneaking through holes in coverage on the fly, he finds players lurking in scoring areas while cycling the puck, he finds players period, and puts the puck on their stick in the proper position for them to fire that puck at the net. He’s also very adept at the give-and-go game, and when he’s paired with a similarly talented playmaker, he can absolutely dazzle…
Because, stick issues included—Ferraro has yet to find a stick with the low kick-point and performance of the original Reebok O-Stick, and was using a circa 2006 Easton Stealth CNT stick taped up (in an 85 flex and a modified Iginla curve) because his team could only use Reebok-brand equipment—Ferraro’s hard, low and extremely accurate wrist shot or snap shot (Ferraro himself admits that he almost never uses slap shots) can find the back of the net in a hurry, and in some instances, power itself past goaltenders because his shot is naturally “heavy.”
Add it all up and Ferrraro’s talents are elite, and when you combine that with the fact that he works his tail off at all times, listens to his coaches, and genuinely understands that he’s got to carve out his own niche, and you’ve got a star in the making....
Minuses: In theory. Ferraro had a terrible season in Red Deer after attempting to rush back from a left knee injury that involved MCL and meniscus damage, essentially, as he stated, playing on one leg for the vast majority of the season (even after consulting with the Wings’ doctors), and he lost the confidence of his coach, Jesse Wallin, and found himself sitting on the bench as the Rebels were ousted from the WHL playoffs. When Ferraro came to camp, he was making mistakes all the time during drills, skating a step or two behind his teammates, flubbing passes and letting shots flitter and flutter off his stick, and in general, he looked like he was skating with a big, black cloud over his head. When Ferraro’s confidence is lacking, he’s a fantastic skater and an average player otherwise, and he desperately needs to get a new start with another WHL team, earn his confidence back, and re-establish his self-belief that he can and will become a high-scoring forward whose skills and work ethic will carve out a pedigree that allows him to be known as “Landon” instead of “Ray Ferraro’s kid.”
Ferraro’s also still “too small.” He’s certainly well-conditioned, but at 19 years of age and with only one WHL season’s worth of eligibility left, he needs to put more muscle on his very narrow frame and must make sure that, as a slightly smaller forward, he has the upper-body strength to not get overpowered in battles for the puck. He needs to become Pavel Datsyuk-strong up top if he wants to be able to stickhandle, dangle and dazzle on a regular basis as a professional hockey player.
The other concern I have with Landon is that, because he’s Ray Ferraro’s son and Cammi Granato’s stepson, he can register high on the, “I’m going to tell you what you want to hear and throw ten clichés your way until you go away” meter when talking to the media, and I hope that doesn’t extend to his self-assessments or the ways in which he addresses his coaches. Ferraro can be refreshingly frank, honest, insightful, and illustrate his tremendous level of intelligence on a regular basis, or he can tell you what you want to hear because he’s grown up with microphones, sound recorders and cameras in his face because of both his heritage and his own talent.
In the end, when I could get him to talk about his stick because, put simply, I’m a hockey nerd and he’s a hockey nerd when it comes to equipment, too, I was very happy to find and am very happy to report that Ferraro’s just as polite, glib and down-to-earth as his learnedly polished media appearance would indicate, and he’s also a regular young man who loves playing hockey and finds it really annoying when he has to bum sticks off friends and look for stuff online because an equipment company stopped making a stick that was perfect for him.
But he’s got to keep being himself, and especially if he gets traded to a big market like Vancouver, his de-facto hometown, he’s got a task in front of him in keeping his head on straight.
Potential “upside”: At the very least, Ferraro will be signed by the Red Wings sometime this season and might have a few difficult years in Grand Rapids, adjusting to the physicality of “playing alongside men” in the AHL while slowly and surely finding his identity and reestablishing himself as a scoring forward, encountering Jimmy Howard-like ups and downs before coming up to the NHL three to five years from now and at least becoming a solid two-way forward with some offensive upside, kind of like Dan Cleary, except as a center. At the upper end of the spectrum, Ferraro’s a 20-goal-scorer and 50-60 point-producing two-way center, if not a 30-goal-scorer if he’s utilized in a strictly offensive role on the wing. He really is that good. He just has to keep getting stronger, find his self-confidence again, and not let it go to his head as he sticks it out, literally and figuratively, at the WHL level.