Assessing NHL Draft Guides

With all the major hockey draft guides out it’s time to compare them.  I’m not examining every draft guide available, just the ones I consider the pick of the litter.  Each guide (Red Line Report, International Scouting Service, Future Considerations, and Hockey Prospect) has two common elements: players listed numerically along with player profiles (sometimes comprehensive, sometimes selective); for last year’s review go here.  Some of the guides have mock drafts, organisational comments, and/or a look at eligible overage players and European free agents.  Other elements often included are a look at top players for future drafts, but personally I don’t see the value in that (unless you manage a fantasy junior team).  Interestingly, Elite Prospects now includes listings from ISS, CS, and FC for prospects, but only the top-30 are organised in list, making the data impractical unless you are targeting an individual player.

The four publications that cover the entire draft have 132 players in common–that’s close to two-thirds (62%) of the entire draft (a 5% increase over last year).  ISS has the most unique selections (33), followed by RLR (28), HP (27), and FC (17).  This is a decrease from last year (when RLR had the most at 40).  Most of these one-publication players are late round picks (5th to 7th rounds), with 15 listed in the 4th round and 2 in the 3rd.  Traditional these kinds of players are either European or from the American junior system–this time around the proportion of Europeans amongst the unique’s is 23 of 105 being from across the pond (21%; less than last year); while 36 of the players (34%) are from the various US systems (including the NCAA).  A final note: there were another 29 players to appear in 3 of the 4 sources, which is yet another indication that, despite some variance, the scouts from these disparate sources have fairly similar ideas of how to assess talent.

A universal trait from the guides is the disdain they have towards Central Scouting’s (CS) European rankings.  A huge number of European players (49 of the top-100) have been left out, while including those with just one appearance pushes the number to 72–that’s an enormous percentage and indicates a massive disconnect between how CS assesses Europeans versus the various guides (this disparity is not echoed in their NA choices, interestingly enough).

There are a few odd choices (or non-choices) from the publications that are worth noting:

Cameron Hughes (#71 RLR): the center plays for the University of Wisconsin in the NCAA; RLR notes he’s been underscouted and might not be drafted (which seems on-point given his absence elsewhere)

Dmitri Yudin (#86 ISS): passed over in last year’s draft; he spent this season playing with St. Petersburg in the KHL; as both a Russian player and one not cited elsewhere, he seems unlikely to be picked

Tristen Pfeifer (#94 HP): right-handed blueliner is an overage player who put up unremarkable numbers with Everett in the WHL; he’s an odd choice for HP

Dante Salituro (not listed by HP): this is an interesting choice by HP to leave the Ottawa 67s center out–he receives decently high marks from most guides, but in HP’s report they include multiple quotes from NHL scouts saying he’s not an NHL talent

The highest ranked CS European player not selected in any guide is Jan Dufek (#28), a Czech player participating in the local junior scene.  This is slightly better than last year when the #16, #22, and #26 players weren’t listed (nor were they drafted, although the high-ranked CS goaltenders who were ignored were all picked–Jonas Johansson (#2, Buffalo), Linus Soderstrom (#3, Islanders), and Ilya Sorokin (#5, Islanders)).  Speaking of CS goaltenders, this time it’s just three in the back-half who are ignored (#7, #9, and #10).

So, at last, the comparison:

ISS $99.99
Players listed: 220 (divided between skaters and goaltenders)
Player profiles: all
Organisational assessment: no
Mock draft: yes
Overage eligible/European free agents: no

RLR $50.00
Players listed: 316
Player profiles: top-115 (with a single line on another 63)
Organisational assessment: yes
Mock draft: yes (two of them)
Overage eligible/European free agents: yes

Hockey Prospects $39.99
Players listed: 398
Player profiles: all
Organisational assessment: no
Mock draft: no
Overage eligible/European free agents: no
Other: includes game reports on players

Future Considerations $19.99
Players listed: 211
Player profiles: all
Organisational assessment: no
Mock draft: yes (including the second round)
Overage eligible/European free agents: no

As has been the case the last couple of years, the best is Future Considerations–for the cost and the content, it’s the best available.  Hockey Prospect‘s would be my second choice; not only is it the next cheapest, it has by far the most scouting reports available.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Reviewing the ISS (International Scounting Service’s) 2015 NHL Draft Guide

ISS

The most expensive guide on the market (by far), it (like Red Line Report) is an independent scouting service whose goal is not predicting where players are selected in the draft, but simply offering assessments of their talent (although their guide expresses none of this–in fact, there’s no mission statement or declaration of criteria in it at all).  For previous reviews go here, here and here.  Inexplicably they still segregate goaltenders in their own list (despite this not being how the draft works and the fact that no other guide does this).  In terms of accuracy here are their last three years (compared to Future Considerations, RLR, and Hockey Prospects, all of whom also predict the entire draft): 2014: 62% (4th), 2013: 65% (4th), 2012: 70% (4th), and 2011: 60% (2nd).  I used to include top-30 lists, but given their availability everywhere (eg here), I’ve omitted it.

ISS includes profiles of all 220 listed prospects (20 goalies plus 200 other players).  This is roughly equivalent to what FC offers.  Previous to this year the goalies were at least assigned an expected round (first, second, third, etc), but for some reason this year they are simply ranked against each other without any sentiment on when they will be selected.

In their mock draft they have Ottawa selecting Evgeny Svechnikov, which seems ludicrous as under Bryan Murray the Sens have drafted zero Russians since 2008.  There’s no organisational assessment or statement of team needs, although ISS claims the org likes what they see in the Russian.

The guide includes an irrelevant graph of draft success by team (I say irrelevant because it not only crosses over eras–cap and no-cap–but because it doesn’t account for changes in management and scouting staffs).  The “historical” charts by team are a bit more useful, but as they start in 2010 and (again) don’t account for the above factors, don’t really mean much.  There’s also a list of “sleepers” and “wild cards”.

There’s no reason to purchase this $99 USD guide–at nearly twice the cost of it’s nearest competitor (RLR) it needs to offer a lot more value to even be considered.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Reviewing Hockey Prospect’s 2015 NHL Draft Guide

HP

The most accurate draft guide for the past two years (for previous reviews go here, here and here).  Like Future Considerations (but unlike Red Line Report or ISS), Hockey Prospect‘s is a guide made for fans.  Here is their accuracy since I started tracking it (compared to RLR, ISS, and FC, all of whom also predict the entire draft): 2014: 71% (1st), 2013: 69% (1st), 2012: 72% (3rd), and 2011: 47% (3rd).   I used to include their top-30 list in my preview, but given that the information is publicly available everywhere (eg here), it’s pointless to do so and I’ve omitted it.

The guide provides not just scouting assessments for all 211-players listed, but reports for many prospects not included in their overall rankings (187 by my count, and given that, they have more scouting reports and players listed than any other guide).  One quirk is that the players are listed alphabetically rather than by ranking–it’s not horrible, but it would be more convenient if they followed the conventional format.  Another unique aspect of the guide is that it includes actual scouting reports from games; I don’t see much value in that, but it might be interesting for draft fans who want insight on how the scouts for the publication do their work.

There’s no organisational assessments or mock draft, which isn’t the biggest of deals other than it’s something offered everywhere else.  At a reasonable price ($39) it’s cheaper than the “pro” guides, but costs more than FC (the only other fan guide to cover the entire draft).  One final quibble: HP is published later than any other guide and I’m uncertain why that is (I presume the reason isn’t arbitrary [the lovely folks at HP tell me it’s so they can attend the combine before publishing]).  For those who don’t pay attention to these things, Central Scouting (CS) puts out their final rankings first, with ISS and FC following not long after, then RLR, and finally HP.  It’s an oddity, but all-in-all not the biggest of deals.

For fans who want the most scouting reports for the draft, HP is the place to go; for those who want the best deal, it ranks second behind FC.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Reviewing Future Consideration’s 2015 NHL Draft Guide

FC

The guide I consider the best value for draft fans (for previous reviews go herehere and here).  Unlike Red Line Report or ISS, Future Considerations‘ is a guide made for fans.  In terms of their accuracy over the last four years (compared to Red Line Report, ISS, and Hockey Prospects, all of whom also predict the entire draft): 2014: 69% (2nd), 2013: 68% (2nd), 2012: 71% (3rd), and 2011: 44% (4th).  I used to include their top-30 list in my preview, but given that the information is publicly available anywhere (eg here), it’s pointless so I’ve omitted it.

FC includes their criteria for assessment (ie, what they are looking for when they assess a prospect), with scouting reports on all 211 listed players.  They also list an assortment of “sleepers” picks, who are all included in their list (so less players outside the bounds of who you expect to be picked, and more players who are later picks who could turn out to be very good).

In the guide’s mock draft (which actually goes two rounds deep) they have Ottawa selecting Swedish defenseman Oliver Kylington with their first-round pick; the two second-rounders are thought to be goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood and center Nicolas Roy.  The belief is that the Sens organisation needs: “depth at all forward positions, a skilled defender or two and a blue chipper in the crease.”  I’d take that assessment with a grain of salt, other than the comments about their defense.  Given Ottawa’s investment into Matt O’Connor, along with two goaltending prospects behind him, I’d be very surprised if they picked a goaltender in this draft.

There’s no further organisational assessments provided, but at the reasonable cost of $19.99 USD it’s the least expensive of the comprehensive guides and well worth buying.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Why Trading Robin Lehner Is a Bad Idea

We know for a fact that the organisation is going to trade one of Robin Lehner or Craig Anderson, with virtually all the speculation focussing on the young Swedish goaltender.  The reasons for Lehner to be the target is he’s much more marketable–he’s cheap, young (23), and accomplished (see below).  While Anderson has better numbers (and NHL track record), he’s older (34), injury-prone, and expensive.  From an organisational standpoint, if you have to move a goaltender, you’ll get more for Lehner, so why do I think this is a bad idea?

A starting goaltender, especially a good or elite one, has more impact on team performance than any other player.  Sens fans don’t have to be convinced of this as Ottawa’s best seasons since the 2007 Cup run have been founded off remarkable (sometimes record-setting) performances by goaltenders.  While it’s possible for a team to win a Cup without an elite goaltender (Chris Osgood always comes to mind), it’s rare and requires an elite team in front of him to do so, so in general it’s a requirement for any team to have an elite goaltender to win it all.

Is Lehner an elite (or good) starting goaltender?  The truth is we don’t know yet.  He’s played in 81 NHL games and never more than 36 in a single season–it’s simply not enough evidence for what he can or can’t do.  He’s also extremely young for a goaltender–it’s a cliché that ‘tenders develop later, but it’s absolutely true (see the link).  Lehner‘s pedigree is very good–he was considered the second best goalie in his draft year (2009), and won a Calder Cup as a teenager (2011), so why have the Sens thrown all their eggs into the Matt O’Connor basket?  (Anyone who thinks they are depending on Hammond needs to read Pierre Dorion‘s comments on him and look at his record outside the NHL.)

My guess is that Lehner‘s declining save percentage and his perceived ‘failure’ to grab the reins the few times he’s been given them have soured Murray on him.  While the GM has infinite patience for floundering veterans long past their prime, he expects young players to be excellent immediately (thus they waived Mike Hoffman before the season started and tried to trade away Patrick Wiercioch before truly giving him an opportunity–oh, and how has trading Jakob Silverberg worked out for them?).  It seems like Murray is tired of waiting and his staff likes O’Connor well enough to move on (the undrafted NCAA player participated in their development camp back in 2011).  Why, beyond what I’ve mentioned here, do I think trading him will fail?

If, as I expect, Lehner is a good or elite goaltender, it’s not possible for the Sens to get value for him.  The asking price is a top-six forward or top-four defenseman, so let’s make it clear the kind of player this organisation thinks that would be: Chris Phillips was a top-four blueliner for half this season (only injury and a coaching change altered that); they thought Bobby Butler was a top-six forward (as they did with Cory Conacher when they traded Ben Bishop for him).  Let’s say the pro scouts do a better job this time and we get a legitimate player in that category–perhaps a Benoit Pouliot, Teddy Purcell, or a Jeff Petry–are any of them really worth a starting goaltender?  Pick any half-decent starter, Jimmy Howard for example, or pick an elite ‘tender like Tuukka Rask (let’s never forget Toronto gave up on him early for a flash-in-the-pan)–what’s a couple of seasons out of Pouliot for one of those players long-term?  It’s a joke when you think about it.

When the trade happens Sens fans are going to have to pray long and hard that O’Connor really is the real deal, because we’ve seen highly touted NCAA stars crash and burn (the aforementioned Butler and Stephane Da Costa to name just two).  Other than Marcus Hogberg (assuming he’s signed) there’s nothing in the pipeline behind O’Connor if he fails, which means Anderson‘s wonky health and Hammond‘s tiny sample size is all that stands between an awful 2015-16.  Food for thought going into next season, although ultimately the trade will have to be judged in the long-term.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News (June 3rd)

BryanMurray_1986_medium

It has been a couple of weeks since my last post, enough time for the slow trickle of Sens news to accumulate.  Among the various organisational bits and pieces has come Bryan Murray’s announcement that this upcoming season will be his last.  It will be interesting to see how he wants it to go.  Does he push hard and go crazy aiming for an unexpected playoff run, or does he attempt to grow and build the organisation for it to be good in the long-term?  Time will tell.  He’s certainly in a position to make unpopular moves, although the fear has to be what kind of unpopular moves he could make.

lehner

Amongst a lot of bitterness Nichols notes that Murray has indicated he’ll try to package a bad contract with whatever goaltender he moves.  The notion makes it even more likely that Robin Lehner is the goalie to be moved, as it’s unlikely that the aging and more expensive Craig Anderson could have a Colin Greening attached to him.  I’m not sure it’s worth beating a dead horse over how badly trading Lehner could turn out, so I’ll just say I’m not a fan of the move if that’s what happens.

Ottawa Senators Official NHL Headshots

I was happy to hear Pierre Dorion acknowledge that Andrew Hammond could implode (comparing him to Steve Penny).  You’d think the organisation would be a bit more cautious with the term of his contract if that’s a possibility they acknowledge; if Hammond implodes next season he’s going to be impossible to trade with two more years on his contract.

2015_NHL_Draft

Speaking of Dorion, he seems confident that the team will get a top-six forward or top-four defenseman with the 18th overall pick.  It’s entirely possible, although that’s the stage of the first-round where prospects get dicey (in terms of recent draft numbers, the top-ten are 89.7% reliable, whereas the rest of the first round is at 35%).

Binghamton_Senators_svg

Binghamton signed a bunch of spare parts recently: failed Atlanta draft pick Daultan Leveille (who was dithering around in France), Guilaume Lepine (pressed into service from Evansville this past season–much like Daniel New the past three seasons), Matthew Zay (who played a few games this past season after leaving Mercyhurst in the NCAA), and Alex Wideman (Chris‘ brother).  All of these players signed AHL contracts, so barring injuries or a major turnover in Binghamton’s roster, they’re likely headed to Evansville.  Regardless, here’s a snapshot of each:

Daultan Leveille (1-29/08 Atlanta; C, 6’0, DOB 90)
2013-14 Evansville (ECHL) 66-22-25-47
2014-15 Rouen (France) 26-9-8-17
Drafting a player like this is one of the many reasons Atlanta GM Don Waddell was fired (his draft status is enough to get Jeff Ulmer excited about him); while it’s not unusual for first-round picks to fail to become NHL players, it’s almost unheard of for them to fail to become AHL players.  The fact that Leveille is coming off a bad season in France makes me think there’s some personal connection with the Sens organisation to give him a break to return to Evansville (the place he’s had the most success in his professional career).

Guillaume Lepine (undrafted; D, 6’4, DOB 87)
2013-14 Evansvile (ECHL) 48-2-11-13
2014-15 Evansville (ECHL) 35-0-12-12, Binghamton (AHL) 38-1-3-4
An unremarkable blueliner who came out of the QMJHL, he’s bounced between the ECHL, the EIHL (England), and now had his longest look in the AHL this past season.  He has no offensive tools at any level, so all he can provide is minimal minutes of safe, physical play–something useful for the ECHL, but I hope he’s not a regular in Binghamton again.

Matthew Zay (undrafted; F, 6’1, DOB 91)
2013-14 Mercyhurst (NCAA) 35-17-26-43
2014-15 Mercyhurst (NCAA) 39-12-20-32
Played for the Pembroke Lumber Kings (10-11) before going to the NCAA; he put up consistent numbers in college, although looking at how some of his teammates have performed in the minors he looks to be an ECHL talent.

Alex Wideman (undrafted; LW, 5’8, DOB 91)
2013-14 Miami (NCAA) 36-7-9-16
2014-15 Miami (NCAA) 39-7-11-18
Signed perhaps as a favour to his more talented older brother, Alex‘s college numbers are not impressive and I expect he’ll need to make his mark in Evansville if he’s going to see ice time in Binghamton.

These players are literally the flotsam and jetsam of the minor leagues, but perhaps they can raise some excitement in Evansville if (as hoped) that’s where they will be plying their trade.

memorial cup

Tobias Lindberg, the last Sens prospect who was still in action, won the Memorial Cup.  The unsigned Swede finished tied for third in team scoring during Oshawa’s OHL run (behind Cole Cassels and Michael Dal Colle), but was tied for first with the latter during the Memorial Cup itself.  His performance this year was enough to wake up the moribund (and star to the blogosphere) Corey Pronman to the fact that he’s a decent prospect.  I’d give Corey a Taeja-clap, but none of you would get the reference, so moving on.

antti neimi cup

A final note: as regular readers know, I like to keep my eye on undrafted players who sign NHL contracts, so here’s those thus far who were not from my list from April.  From Europe: Dean Kukan (Columbus), Sergei Kalinin (NJ), Matthias Plachta (Arizona), Joonas Kemppainen (Boston), Yvgeni Medvedev (Philadelphia), Jakub Nakladal (Calgary), Christian Marti (Philadelphia); from the NCAA: Noel Acciari (Boston), Evan Rodrigues (Buffalo).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News (May 20th)

It’s desperate times for news in hockey land so things like a potential new assistant coach and predictions are all the blogosphere has to talk about.  It’s been awhile since I posted however, so there are a few things to cover from earlier in the month.

matt o'connor

The Sens signed Matt O’Connor to an ELC, having already promised him they will move a goaltender to make room for him.  It’s an odd way to set up a trade, as now other GMs know Murray is under the gun to move someone.  While I’ve advocated moving Andrew Hammond (something echoed by Nichols at the 6th Sens), it seems like the organisation is more likely to move Robin Lehner (I mean, why sign a guy his age O’Connor as the goaltender of the future unless you are going to move the other guy who was anointed as that already?).  By himself, I don’t think there’s a lot of value to be had for Lehner as he’s not already established as a #1 goaltender (think of the Ben Bishop trade, albeit Lehner is under contract and the former was not).  How many assets do they want to move for O’Connor?  There are red flags all over this move (which seems unnecessary in the first place as goaltending has not been Ottawa’s problem), but Murray has an itchy trigger finger with younger players (he was going to move Patrick Wiercioch because he wasn’t tough in the corners), so my only hope is that it’s not a complete disaster.  Elliotte Friedman, insider that he is, has no clue what the Sens are planning (other than not speculating about Hammond–perhaps the desire to keep him is due to cost–he was just re-signed).  Trevor Shackles worries about Murray’s NCAA free agent track record (making a few errors as he goes), but it’s worth keeping in mind how hit and miss such players are.  I still don’t understand why the organisation doesn’t sign prospect Marcus Hogberg, incidentally.

wikstrand

Speaking of Sens prospects, Mikael Wikstrand signed a deal with Frolunda not long ago, but his agent recently implied he may be coming to North America anyway.  If that’s the case he must have an opt-out with the team, but I have to wonder if it’s the same as last year where he either makes the NHL roster or he goes back to Sweden.

corey pronman

Speaking of draft picks, one of these days I’m going to have to find out why Sens bloggers have all drank the Corey Pronman Koolaid–based on what, exactly?  No one ever says, so perhaps its mere accessibility (if ESPN pays him to do it, he must do it well, and certainly almost no one checks his results–although I have, and let’s not forget he liked Ben Blood).  Granted, nkb from The Silver Seven (linked above) doesn’t seem that familiar with prospects, so that’s worth keeping in mind.

lindberg

Tobias Lindberg (still unsigned) and the Oshawa Generals won the OHL title; Vincent Dunn‘s Rimouski team won in the QMJHL, but the prospect was let go by the team prior to the playoffs after repeated suspensions, so I have to wonder what the Sens have saddled themselves with.

Close-up of a fortune teller looking into a crystal ball --- Image by © SuperStock/Corbis

More players from my list have been signed, as the Oilers picked up Finnish goaltender Eetu Laurikainen and San Jose signed Joonas Donskoi (the former Panther draft pick).  Another player, Andreas Martinsen, was on my list back in 2012 and has been signed by Colorado (out of the DEL, which is quite unusual).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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