Belleville Senators Roster Speculation

With summer lumbering along I felt like speculating on the BSens lineup for this upcoming season. I wanted to being with some positives:

  • Randy Lee’s suspension – it took longer than it should have, but the absence of the hockey dinosaur is reaping rewards in the AHL hockey ops–a lot of the foibles surrounding Lee’s tenure as GM have been avoided
  • No roster spot has been wasted on an enforcer – the team has played at least two enforcers every AHL campaign with Lee in charge (Darren Kramer/Guillaume Lepine; Zack Stortini/Lepine; Stortini/Lepine; Tyler Randell/Eric Selleck)–these players have used up valuable ice time and done nothing to improve the team’s performance or protect the org’s assets
  • Avoided signing obviously declining/terrible players (ala Brad Mills; Stortini/Mark Fraser/Nick Tuzzolini; Mike Blunden/Chad Nehring; Randell/Max Reinhart)
  • Let Nick Moutrey walk – big guy with decent wheels, he’s the kind of raw material the org fawns over regardless of numbers (or lack thereof)
  • Hired a coach with a winning AHL track record – while I have some concerns about Troy Mann, he’s the first coach with these kinds of credentials hired since the Murray regime arrived back in 2007

Making/avoiding these choices is not how the org has operated in the past and I applaud them dodging their usual pitfalls.

What about the moves I’m not fond of–what’s happened in the off-season that we can concretely critique? There’s not much (yet):

  • Re-signing Patrick Sieloff–he has his uses, but they are extremely limited (32-game pointless streaks require a special kind of talent) and create artery-clogging congestion on the left side (he’s better than Andreas Englund, I’ll grant you, but that’s not saying much)
  • I’ve talked about the org’s risk-averse approach before and this is what’s behind the signing of Mike McKenna (see below)–he’s a half-measure that illustrates their fear of going with two prospects while not wanting to invest in an actual starting goaltender (I would much rather the org make a decision one way or another)

Prospects Not Signed

There were a number of players–NCAA graduates and those playing in Europe–that the Sens could have signed to join the squad in Belleville and chose not too. It was a foregone conclusion that NCAA dud Shane Eiserman would walk (yet another “energy player“), but local kid Kelly Summers was more surprisingly allowed to walk (probably not an NHL talent, but potentially useful at the AHL-level). Swede Filip Ahl didn’t have a good season in the Allsvenskan, so has one final chance to impress, while Finn Markus Nurmi (who did have a good year) will be allowed more time to develop.

Rookies

I’ve been assuming Christian Wolanin and Logan Brown will be in Ottawa this upcoming season (along with BSen eligibles Colin White and Thomas Chabot) and if that assumption is correct the most exciting rookie in Belleville is Filip Gustavsson. The Pittsburgh pick is yet another in a long line of ‘saviours’ for the BSens and it will be interesting to see how well he adjusts given Marcus Hogberg‘s struggles last year (Gustavsson had a hot start before he began to regress to the mean, but he wasn’t here long enough to show if he would share the Jekyll & Hyde element that plagued Hogberg‘s rookie year).

Besides the Swedish goaltender there’s a plethora of rookie forwards: 2017 pick Drake Batherson, CHL FA Aaron Luchuk, NCAA FA’s Andrew Sturtz and Ryan Scarfo (the latter on an AHL-deal), and CIS FA Boston Leier (also on an AHL-deal). I’m a well-known fan of players with offensive acumen/potential, so I’m chuffed by the Luchuk signing (you can read scouting sentiments here and here) as well as seeing Batherson at the pro level (scouting thoughts here). I wasn’t impressed with Scarfo (about whom I have no scouting material to work with), but with an AHL-contract he’s not someone the team needs to rely on; I was happier with Leier, but the sample-size was very small (while never ranked for the draft Hockey Prospects did write a profile of him in 2012 which I’ll include below).

Non-Rookie Prospects

Hogberg arrived highly touted due to fantastic numbers in Sweden, but struggled in his rookie year (which wasn’t great, but not as bad as his numbers suggest). His performance played a role in the signing of McKenna. On the defensive side two disappointing players return: Englund, who despite org praise was a disaster this past season (see also here), and Macoy Erkamps, whom I’m sure the team will try to package in any future deal they make (as they did by dumping Cody Donaghey on San Jose, for example, or Vincent Dunn on Pittsburgh during the season, or Ludwig Karlsson on Dallas long ago). More positively, Max Lajoie returns and we can expect more growth from him; Christian Jaros (who was fantastic as a rookie) will hopefully stay healthy and give us a full season of play. Jordan Murray also returns–he played entirely too much this past season, but I’d expect him to ride the pine barring injuries (how much he plays is one of the litmus tests for Troy Mann).

At forward it’s a make-or-break year for Francis Perron, who missed almost half the season due to injury; Filip Chlapik, who is unlikely to spend an entire season in Belleville, is less likely to be jerked around by the coaching staff and it will be interesting seeing him given proper ice time/opportunities (despite bizzare usage he outperformed every other forward on the team besides oft-injured Ben Sexton); Gabriel Gagne is coming off a very strange sophomore season–scoring 20-goals on an offensively awful team is impressive, but producing only 25 points leaves the question open about his NHL-potential. Jack Rodewald is on an ELC I think the Sens wish they could rip up already–they had him on a safe, AHL-contract, but a hot start got Randy Lee excited and they gave him a true ELC–it’s clear the 24-year old is what he is at this point–I suspect he won’t play as much, at least.

The Rest

In an effort to shore up their goaltending the Sens brought back 35-year old McKenna (who played for the BSens in 2011-12). He’s coming off a poor regular season, but a hot playoff; clearly the vet’s best days are behind him. There’s no upside here–nothing unexpected–you just hope he won’t decline much more.

Julius Bergman arrives from San Jose via the Mike Hoffman trade–he’s coming off a down year (fueled in part by the Barracudas’ 20% drop in total offence)–he provides stability for the right side on defense which was dominated last season by turnover machine Erik Burgdoerfer. The aforementioned veteran remains, but we can hope Troy Mann will cut down on his TOI (he had him in Hershey in 2015-16). On the left side failed first-rounder Stuart Percy means the team won’t be forced to play Murray or Englund as much. That said, with Patrick Sieloff retained it’s difficult to see any room for Lajoie (mentioned above)–a move is necessary I think (were it up to me I’d dump Englund).

At forward Nick Paul returns, coming off a bizarre third-year where he was either hot or ice cold (as I go over here)–there’s plenty of talent there, so is he held back by linemates or is inconsistency what he is at this stage? The oft-injured but excellent Sexton remains, as does Jim O’Brien–the #1 center for much of last season for no particular reason. Jimmy is a solid penalty killer, but he’s offensively limited and I hope we see much less of him (Mann had him in Hershey, 2014-15, where he played a lot). Added this season are Adam Tambellini and Chase Balisy (profile below), along with potential #1 scorer Paul Carey (who couldn’t convert AHL-success into NHL-success with the Rangers).

Here’s a list of all these players by position organized from youngest to oldest (rookies are green, prospects are blue, veterans-status players are bold; junior/European/ECHL stats are in italics; players with 4+ seasons in the AHL have their career PPG in brackets):

Goaltenders (3)
Filip Gustavsson DOB 1998 (t-Pit) SHL/AHL .918 2.07/.912 3.01
Marcus Hogberg DOB 1994 (3-78/13) AHL/ECHL .899 3.27/.915 3.10
Mike McKenna DOB 1983 (FA) AHL .909 2.64

Defense (9)
Maxime Lajoie (L) DOB 1997 (5-133/16) AHL 56-1-14-15 0.26
Christian Jaros (R) DOB 1996 (5-139/15) AHL 44-3-13-16 0.36
Andreas Englund (L) DOB 1996 (2-40/14) AHL 69-1-9-10 0.14
Julius Bergman (R) DOB 1995 (t-SJ) AHL 65-10-10-20 0.30
Macoy Erkamps (R) DOB 1995 (CHL FA) AHL 46-1-3-4 0.08
Patrick Sieloff (L) DOB 1994 (t-Cal) AHL 58-1-9-10 0.17
Stuart Percy (L) DOB 1993 (FA) AHL 67-7-27-34 0.51 (0.38)
Jordan Murray (L) DOB 1992 (CIS FA) AHL 58-8-15-23 0.39
Erik Burgdoerfer (R) DOB 1988 (FA) AHL 66-5-12-17 0.25 (0.25)

Forwards (15)
Drake Batherson CR DOB 1998 (4-121/17) QMJHL 51-29-48-77 1.51
Filip Chlapik CL DOB 1997 (2-48/15) AHL 52-11-21-32 0.61
Aaron Luchuk CL DOB 1997 (CHL FA) OHL 68-50-65-115 1.69
Gabriel Gagne RW DOB 1996 (2-36/15) AHL 68-20-5-25 0.36
Francis Perron C/LW DOB 1996 (7-190/14) AHL 44-4-11-15 0.34
Nick Paul C/LW DOB 1995 (t-Dal) AHL 54-14-13-27 0.50
Adam Tambellini CL DOB 1994 (FA) AHL 69-16-16-32 0.46
Andrew Sturtz RW DOB 1994 (NCAA FA) NCAA 37-14-26-40 1.08
Ryan Scarfo CL DOB 1994 (NCAA FA) NCAA 38-20-16-36 0.94
Jack Rodewald
 RW DOB 1994 (t-Tor) AHL 62-14-11-25 0.40
Boston Leier RW DOB 1993 (CIS FA) CIS 27-15-24-39 1.44
Chase Balisy C/RW DOB 1992 (FA) AHL 67-14-21-35 0.52 (0.53)
Ben Sexton C/RW DOB 1991 (FA) AHL 30-10-11-21 0.70 (0.45)*
Jim O’Brien CR DOB 1989 (FA) AHL 60-13-16-29 0.48 (0.54)
Paul Carey CL DOB 1988 (FA) NHL 60-7-7-14 0.23 (0.63)

*I have no idea if Sexton has recovered from the injury that ended his season at the end of March (which I think is a concussion), but I’m pre-supposing he will have by the time Belleville begins playing or at least early in the season

My Lineup Expectations

The season will start with a McKennaGustavsson rotation–Hogberg might go to Brampton to begin with (as he did last year). For the latter I think he’ll have to wait for injuries to get his opportunity (which is also what happened last year when he was buried behind Danny Taylor and Andrew Hammond).

On defense it should be Jaros and Bergman as the top two on the right side with Burgdoerfer as the third–this is another test for Troy Mann, because Kurt Kleinendorst would have given the latter the top spot. On the left side Percy gets the nod followed by Sieloff and Englund (that’s not my preference, but what I think will happen given the above–I’d have Lajoie as my second with Sieloff in the bottom pair to take care of Burgdoerfer). Listing it out, what follows is what I expect:

Percy-Bergman
Sieloff-Jaros
Englund-Burgdoerfer
Extras: Lajoie, Murray (Erkamps to the ECHL)

Forwards are a much more difficult puzzle box. I’m assuming that Troy Mann is like all previous BSens coaches in giving preference to veterans/experienced players, thus I’ve buried talented newcomers on the fourth-line. I’ve also slipped Chlapik down to the second line because he’s generally played center, but he could easily be flipped with Paul (who also generally plays center). I don’t think Tambellini is a true top-six forward, but I think he begins there and that Gagne will at least get the opportunity to start there as well because the org is high on him (it’s certainly possible Balisy is here instead, or even Luchuk, but we’re following a conservative trend with prospects). The third line is composed of various veterans/experienced prospects. As for my personal preference, the top line is fine (with the aforementioned swap also working), but I’d try out one of the offensively gifted rookies on the second line, shifting Tambellini down. I’ve kept Rodewald out of the lineup because when healthy I just don’t see where he’d fit-in. Perron is more effective at center, but that means playing on the fourth line–the decisions aren’t easy. One of the weird things Ottawa has done is signed/drafted shooters almost exclusively–Gagne, Rodewald, Leier, Luchuk, Batherson, Sturtz, Paul, Tambellini, Sexton, Carey, O’Brien–shooters–only Chlapik and Perron are true playmakers (Batherson and Balisy’s numbers are a little less slanted than the others). So what I expect:

Paul-Carey-Sexton
Tambellini-Chlapik-Gagne
Perron-O’Brien-Balisy
Luchuk-Batherson-Sturtz
Extras: Rodewald, Leier, Scarfo

A look at Chase Balisy: C/RW; 6-170/11 Nsh
2015-16 69-9-17-26 0.37 10th
2016-17 76-17-28-45 0.59 3rd
2017-18 67-14-21-35 0.52 6th

This is another player who is what he is–his most productive AHL-season was his first (2014-15)–he adds a certain amount of offense (marginal top-six production or good top-nine) and functions as insurance for injuries. When I saw that he’d been signed I wondered what that meant given the general crowding of the BSens lineup, but I think this is a sign that the org is moving on from Rodewald (Gagne, Batherson, and Sturtz’s are prospects on that side who will be given a chance, while Sexton was the most productive players on the team last year, so where really can he play?). If I’m right I think this is the correct move. He might also be insurance if Sexton is still injured.

As promised here’s the Boston Leier 2012 profile:

A two way forward who drives to the net hard and picks up a majority of his points around the dirty areas. Leier is not a great offensive player, but will provide good secondary support. He creates good chances by keeping plays simple. Leier is an average skater, and must improve that aspect of his game. He is of average stature, so he needs to be faster to have more impact during the course of a game. Offensively, Leier is at his best around the net. He seems to get pushed around often around the boards, but around the net, he has shown some good hands to finish and a good ability to find loose pucks and bang them home. He has below average vision and will not be a great playmaker by any means, and nor does he have a wicked shot that commands respect from his opponents. Defensively, Leier plays a tough game and is a good contributor in his own end. He sacrifices his body to block shots, and reads the play at an above average level. Leier can get caught puck watching at times and lose his position. He can recover by sliding to block a point shot, but smart opponents will fake a shot, go around him and have a better chance to score. He needs to stay patient, wait for the puck to come to his area and ensure that he takes away the option to his check with an active stick.

The description of his playing style fits my limited exposure, with the caveat that his speed seemed fine.

Where Former BSens Have Landed

For the sake of curiosity, here’s where roster players who finished with the team last season have wound up (excluded those who were traded):

  • Danny Taylor – Sibir Novosibirsk (KHL); he returns to the Russian team he played for prior to signing with Ottawa
  • Chris Driedger – Springfield (AHL); Florida’s affiliate where he’ll compete for the backup position
  • Ville Pokka – Avangard Omsk (KHL); after almost 300 AHL games he presumably wants to cash in while he’s still young
  • Mike Blunden – HC Bolzano (EBEL); this is the same team where another failed BSen (Chris Carlisle) landed after his contract finished
  • Tyler Randell – Rochester (AHL); Buffalo’s affiliate; presumably coach Chris Taylor thinks the team needs “toughness” or “veteran savvy” after going 0-3 in the first round of the playoffs
  • Ethan Werek , Max Reinhart , Daniel Ciampini, Kyle Flanagan , Nick Moutrey, Eric Selleck – all remain free agents

So that’s my very early BSen speculation. I’m sure things will change over the next month and a half before Belleville’s training camp opens, but I don’t think we’ll see the large number of PTO’s that hit the roster as they did last season. There’s more talent on this roster and fewer obvious problems (the blueline remains weak and goaltending remains a questionmark), but coaching is going to play a large role in the results.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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Exploring the BSens Veteran FA Signings

I’ve been curious how the BSens would spend their limited free agent budget–as I’ve previously gone over, since Tim Murray’s departure those decisions have been particularly awful, so would we get a repeat this off-season? Before we take a look at the latest signees (I’ve profiled Adam Tambellini and Stuart Percy below), it’s worth noting that my Kelly Summers profile was presumptuous because he remains unsigned (so the org appears to have decided against signing him–there’s nothing preventing him from getting an AHL-deal, of course).

Randy Lee (charges pending) likes his grizzled veterans when it comes to FA’s–older players on the downside of their careers who bring the intangibles that have helped the BSens miss the playoffs every season he’s been in charge. Let’s briefly go over his track record (this excludes re-signings or players acquired through trade):
2014-15: Aaron Johnson (31), Brad Mills (31), Carter Camper (26)
2015-16: Zack Stortini (30), Mike Kostka (30), Mark Fraser (29), Nick Tuzzolini (29), Guillaume Lepine (28), Eric O’Dell (25)
2016-17: Mike Blunden (30), Chad Nehring (29), Kyle Flanagan (28)
2017-18: Danny Taylor (31), Erik Burgdoerfer (29), Ben Sexton (26), Tyler Randell (26), Max Reinhart (25)

There’s a little restraint in Lee’s first year, as other than PED-user Mills these are reasonable additions, but afterwards it’s dominated by mostly useless players (a significant percentage have subsequently retired or gone on to lesser European leagues, giving you an idea of how the rest of the AHL regarded their abilities). Lee’s inability to recognize or understand talent is painfully obvious.

So what about this off-season? Ignoring re-signings, this is what we have: Mike McKenna (35!), Paul Carey (30), Stuart Percy (25), and Adam Tambellini (23). I’m on record as not a fan of adding McKenna (Nichols found criticism of this signing amusing for reasons I don’t think even he knows–my advice to him: 1) if you don’t watch/follow the minors, best not comment on it, 2) if you are going to criticize you’re better off explaining why). Fortunately, it doesn’t matter if the old ‘tender bombs out because there are two prospects to fill in. Carey and Stuart are better signings because both have a solid track record in the minors. Tambellini I have mixed feelings about because his numbers seem more a product of teammates than his own abilities.

Adam Tambellini
C/LW DOB 1994 6’4; 3-65/13 NYR
2015-16 74-17-15-32 0.43 6th
2016-17 68-13-22-35 0.51 5th
2017-18 69-16-16-32 0.46 7th

His goal to assist ratio reminds me of Jim O’Brien (and yes, this is Steve’s son and Jeff’s brother). The Sens haven’t had much luck plucking players out of the Ranger system, but the expectations for him wont be too high. His numbers suggest a shoot-first mentality and it’ll be interesting to see if there are enough playmakers to compliment him.

Stuart Percy
DL DOB 1993 6’1; 1-25/11 Tor
2015-16 58-4-20-24 0.41 2nd
2016-17 37-1-7-8 0.21 8th
2017-18 67-7-27-34 0.51 3rd

The failed former first-rounder has had stable AHL-production outside of one quirky season with Wilkes-Barre. As I mentioned on Twitter he’s not a true #1 defenseman and that means on paper the team is (again) without someone in that role (Bergman isn’t that guy, so unless Wolanin is in the minors it’s offense by committee).

Is this better than previously? I think it’s the best Lee’s done since his first year (assuming he’s had much say given his legal issues), although the proof is in the pudding. Throughout Lee’s tenure, regardless of coaching, his teams have been awful defensively (despite adding innumerable “defensive defensemen”) and struggled to score in all but his first year.  Adding Percy (along with the addition of Bergman) will help the blueline move the puck and Carey can add offense from the front. This doesn’t mean poor coaching couldn’t erase the potential benefits–O’Brien isn’t a #1 center and Burgdoerfer shouldn’t receive #1-#2 D-TOI, but decisions like that would mean yet another season of misery in Belleville.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Prospect Profile: Kelly Summers

I haven’t written a profile since Pius Suter was in Ottawa’s camp last August, so we’re overdue. Summers isn’t signed yet, but I’m assuming he will be. He was drafted way back in 2014 and that was a very different time–Jason Spezza and Robin Lehner were still part of the team; Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch were still part of the future; Matt Kassian and a returning Joe Corvo were providing…laughter? Bryan Murray was the GM, Paul MacLean the coach, and trades were being made for a non-existent playoff run (alas Rob Vollman picked the team to win the President’s Trophy). When the season was over we were assured next season would be different. On my end of things I was making prescient analysis of prospects in Binghamton; Nichols wanted more two-way players; Jeremy Milks was still writing about the team; and Travis Yost was still at Hockeybuzz.

Kelly Summers DOB 1996 DR 6’2 7-189/14
CCHL Carleton Place 56-17-43-60 1.07 1st/5th in scoring (played with Andrew Sturtz)
NCAA Clarkson 33-6-4-10 0.30 2nd/10th
NCAA Clarkson 37-3-11-14 0.37 3rd/8th
NCAA Clarkson 39-3-14-17 0.43 2nd/9th (played with Nico Sturm)
NCAA Clarkson 40-6-24-30 0.75 1st/4th (ibid)

Local boy when drafted was projected as either a bottom or second-pairing two-way defenseman. While at Clarkson he was behind Detroit pick James de Haas (6-170/12, see below) and, sometimes, Flyer pick Terrance Amorosa (5-132/13), both of whom are left-hand shots. Summers‘ numbers aren’t overwhelming and he only lead the blueline in scoring his senior year, but they did steadily improve.

When looking at projections, who can we compare him too? Not many players drafted from tier-2 Canadian junior spend four years in college with steadily improving numbers (his senior year he was tied for 22nd in blueline scoring in the NCAA). In going through players drafted the five years before him (2009-2013) virtually no one has that exact trajectory:
2009: Kyle Bigos, Curtis Gedig, Jeremy Price
2010: Julian Melchiori, Benjamin Gallacher, Isaac Macleod
2011: Michael Paliotta, Josh Manson, Sam Jardine, Brennan Serville
2012: Reece Wilcox, Rhett Holland, James de Haas, Matthew Benning, Ben Hutton
2013: Carson Soucy, Dane Birks, Mike Williamson, Nolan De Jong
One free agent college player (Brady Lamb) also fit the same general profile

Virtually all of these players can easily be dismissed with just these two exceptions: Ben Hutton and teammate James de Haas. Why these two? Hutton is the simplest, as he was also drafted from the CCHL; his college numbers don’t track out the same way, but we’ll get back to that. De Haas was a BCHL grad and had the same four full years in college with steadily increasing numbers (including a final high as a senior). Let’s look at their numbers from the year they were drafted until they turned pro:

Ben Hutton: CCHL 0.75 NCAA 0.44 0.82 0.53
James de Haas: BCHL 0.45 NCAA 0.34 0.41 0.44 0.78

In both cases Summers had better junior numbers–indeed, his CCHL totals are generally better than all the above players listed–but his college numbers are lower then our two comparables (if ever so slightly from de Haas). Hutton‘s NCAA totals are very different–he was at Maine for three years where he lead the blueline in scoring every time (the team’s leading scorer was Dallas draft pick Devin Shore–no relation to the Sens draft pick Quentin). De Haas, on the other hand, spent four years at Clarkson (playing with Summers for two, as well as current BSen Ben Sexton as a freshman). Other than his first year he was the top scoring blueliner each season.

Hutton, whose comparison isn’t as apt, went straight to the NHL, so there are no AHL numbers to look at. De Haas, on the other hand, who is a much better match, spent half a season with Lehigh Valley this year (33-1-10-11, or 0.33), and I think those numbers–projecting to 25 points–are reasonable to expect for Summers (if a little lower, with variation depending on how he’s deployed). As an NHL prospect those scouting impressions when he was drafted haven’t changed, albeit he’s likely going to fit the lower projections, so a bottom-pairing player.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News & Notes

Image result for dodgeball cotton

The Sens initial dip into the free agency pool echoed their usual tendencies. They went back to the well with an familiar face, signing 35-year old goaltender Mike McKenna. They followed that up with a more impactful signing–one with another org connection as they picked up former Troy Mann player Paul Carey. The latter move I’m okay with–it could be a good one–but I’m concerned about the former.

Mike McKenna, GR, DOB 1983
2015-16 Portland .921 2.45
2016-17 Springfield/Syracuse .905 2.84
2017-18 Texas .909 2.64

The trend in his numbers is clear–he’s in decline–but a strong playoff run and org familiarity (he was with the Binghamton Senators in 2011-12) were enough for the Sens to sign the veteran. The worry, besides simply having three goaltenders on the roster, is that his save percentage (27th in the league this season and 33rd the year before) is not going to magically improve. The glass half full opinion would say he’s insurance for Filip Gustavsson/Marcus Hogberg without obviously needing the starter mantel. My issue with this idea is he’s not an elite goaltender so he represents mediocrity at best while taking development time away from one of the Swedes. If the BSens were going to be a top-AHL team I think you could make the argument about riding a veteran ‘tender for playoff success, but that’s not the case and with two talented prospects I’m not a fan of the three-headed monster in goal. How Troy Mann uses him will be interesting to watch, but if we were in the Kleinendorst era it would be McKenna-McKenna-McKenna all season.

Paul Carey, CL, DOB 1988
2015-16 Hershey 44-13-18-31 (0.70)
2016-17 Hershey 55-24-31-55 (1.00)
2017-18 NYR 60-7-7-14 (0.23)

Undrafted NCAA grad earned an NHL shot with the Rangers this past season which didn’t pan out for the 29-year old; that said, his AHL-numbers are solid (career 0.63) and adding a scoring veteran to a roster that’s struggled to score in four of the last five seasons is a good thing. A big plus for me is he’s not an agitator/goon (ala Tyler Randell/Eric Selleck/Zack Stortini etc) or a “good in the corners guy” (ala Mike Blunden), so he can genuinely play the game and (hopefully) produce. Troy Mann clearly trusts him so I’d expect him to get top minutes.

Eligible Players Not at Development Camp

I thought I’d briefly go over the five players who could have attended camp and did not:

  • Thomas Chabot – presumably the org told him he needn’t attend (a tendency for high-end, graduated prospects)
  • Francis Perron – presumably still recovering from injury (he last played January 27th)
  • Andreas Englund – could be injury-related, although he did play in Belleville’s final game
  • Macoy Erkamps – as above, although I’m sure the org wants to divest themselves of him at this stage
  • Filip Ahl – I assume he’s absent due to health reasons

Thoughts on the Development Camp Scrimmage

I don’t put much stock in development camp performances (I can vividly remember Eric Gryba skating through guys back in the day), but I thought I’d go over the scrimmage from a few days ago (which you can watch here; team white winning 6-3)–it was much more entertaining than last year’s. Incidentally, when the Sens began having a 5-on-5 scrimmage in camp they initially held it the first full day, which never made sense to me, so I’m glad this was further into it. It’s of note that the play-by-play guys (Steve Lloyd and A. J. Jakubec) spent air-time defending the Brady Tkachuk pick from fan-criticisms–something that would not have been the case even six-seven years ago.
First Period
-Chalpik’s zone entries remain the same–the wide swing around the boards going from one side to the other looking to dish the puck off at the half boards (very effective if his linemates know what he’s doing)
-Wolanin with a lazy turnover
-D’Astous threw a hit on Tralmaks and just bounced off
-Loheit goes for the knee on Lyle
1. (White) Jaros breaks up a pass, but three players converge on Burgess who makes a great pass to a wide open Crookshank who scores stick-side on Gustavsson
-Hogberg makes a nice save on White
-Formenton just misses receiving a nice pass through traffic from Chlapik for a breakaway
-Burzan wins a battle against Leier which leads to a scoring chance by Lynch (erased by a stick-check from Kuffner)
-White with a nice pass to Loheit who deflects it wide
-Jaros fires a bullet wide in the slot
-Kaldis takes away a scoring chance
2. (Red) Lyle deflects in Burzan’s pass
-Lillibridge flubs an open chance on the PP
3. (White) Great pass by Chlapik to Nurmi who puts it off the post and in on the PP
-Gustavsson with a great stop off Wolanin in the slot
4. (White) Batherson turns it over and Tralmaks beats Gustavsson with a deke
-Tychonick throws it up the middle to the wrong team (Tralmaks) and Gustavsson makes a nice save on Leier
5. (Red) Off the same play White deflects in Batherson’s centering pass
-Great stop by Hogberg off Stewart
-Stewart runs Kelly
-Gustavsson with a nice stop off Chlapik
-Jaros with a big hit on Jordan
-Gendron throws a blind backhander up the middle from his own goal and is very lucky it isn’t intercepted inside the blueline
Second Period
-Stewart runs Leier
-Lynch stopped by Hollett on a breakaway
-Novak hits the post
-Jordan out muscles and out skates D’Astous and gets a weak backhander on Gustavsson
-Scarfo stoned by Hollett on a mini-breakaway
-Novak misses the net with a one-timer in the slot
-Hollett stones Gruden
-Hollett stops Gruden on a penalty shot
6. (Red) Lajoie fans on a rebound into the open net, but the puck goes to Sturm who puts it in
-Scheid prevents a goal (wrap-around into an empty net as Daccord over commits)
-Chlapik stopped on an odd-man rush SH by Daccord
7. (White) Burgess with a one-timer off a pass by Crookshank
Third Period
-Mandolese with a nice save off Sturtz
-MacLeod knees Lajoie
-Mandolese stops Sturtz
-Daccord with a stop on Chlapik
-Kaldis makes a good defensively play on Jaros
8. (White) Tkachuk with an errant pass in his own zone which results in Jordan beating Daccord on a bad angle shot
-Mandolese stops an awkward Brown shot in close
9. (White) Nurmi beats Daccord with a bad angle shot
-Stewart blocks Gagne’s shot
-Stewart hurts White with a shot from the point

Scouting Reports on FA Signings

I dug up a couple of scouting reports on a pair of free agent players the Sens signed this past season (neither was ever ranked for the draft):

Aaron Luchuk 2015 report from HP (you can read an interview by Colin with him here):

He has good speed and will challenge defenders one on one. He has good puck handling ability…able to create offense with a deceptive shot. He works hard on the backcheck, keeping up with opposing forwards and was usually a key part of the Spitfires penalty kill. … His offensive upside is somewhat untapped playing behind several veterans, so as he moves up the depth chart he will be able to show more of the offense he displayed in minor midget.

Parker Kelly 2017 report from HP:

…relies on his exceptional skating skills and work ethic to create space. His agility and explosiveness are impressive and this allows him to win the majority of his puck races. He is elusive in the cycle game and can evade defenders with his stops and starts. …[able] to keep his feet moving and create turnovers. He is a consistent pest, and he can both strip pucks from defenders and breakup passes with his smart defensive positioning. … When he does have the puck, he continues to keep his feet moving and strives in the cycle game. …not…overly creative but he has above average on-ice vision and has shown that he can make plays through traffic. In addition, he likes to shoot the puck in stride, utilizing a high leg kick, and these shots are a heavy and accurate, forcing goalies to make tough saves. …may not develop into a dominant offensive player, but we expect him to continue to progress

Ottawa’s European Drafting

Random thought: I wonder if the absence of Swedes the last two drafts is in response to the Mikael Wikstrand situation (from the fall of 2015). This is around the time Ary M gave the org the tagline risk-averse, which remains just as true today. I’ve often thought the Alexei Kaigorodov situation from 2006 was a catalyst for the org to avoid drafting Russians and while it’s hard to imagine them going for a complete Swedish ban they do shy away from risk, so it’s food for thought.

Free Agent Signings

I’ve been tracking FA signings (specifically those who haven’t played in the NHL from Europe, the NCAA, etc) and while there are many yet to come I thought it was reasonable to offer an update. We’ll start with Europe since that’s what I cover regularly (my most recent list of likely signings is here). From that list eleven players have been taken (highlighted below), with four others from prior lists (Vincent Praplan and Par Lindholm from my 2017 list; Juuso Ikonen from my 2016 list, and Yasin Ehliz from my 2015 list).

Europe (33): Vincent Praplan (SJ), Niclas Westerholm (Nsh), Lukas Radil (SJ), Yannick Rathgeb (NYI), Miroslav Svoboda (Nsh–originally drafted by Edm), Dominik Kahun (Chi), Michael Lindqvist (NYR), Juuso Ikonen (Wsh), Ville Meskanen (NYR), Filip Pyrochta (Nsh), Maximilian Kammerer (Wsh), Carl Persson (Nsh – attended Ott’s development camp in 2018), Lawrence Pilut (Buf), Igor Ozhiganov (Tor), Par Lindholm (Tor), Joel Persson (Edm), Saku Maenalanen (Car–originally drafted by Nsh), Juuso Riikola (Pit), Yegor Yakovlev (NJ), Kevin Lankinen (Chi), Patrik Rybar (Det), Ilya Lyubushkin (Ari), Michal Moravcik (Mtl), David Sklenicka (Mtl), Jacob Nilsson (Chi), Bogdan Kiselevich (Flo), Antti Suomela (SJ), Marcus Hogstrom (Cal), Yasin Ehliz (Cal), Brooks Macek (LVK), Martin Bakos (Bos), Michael Fora (Car), Veini Vehvilainen (Clb; drafted rather than signed)
NCAA (16): Zach Frye (SJ), Zach Whitecloud (VGK), Merrick Madsen (Ari–originally drafted by Phil), Cooper Marody (Edm–originally drafted by Phi), Cam Johnson (NJ), Mitch Reinke (Stl), Eric Robinson (Clb), Andrew Sturtz (Ott), Daniel Brickley (LA), Sheldon Rempal (LA), Josh Dickinson (Col), Tony Calderone (Dal), Karson Kuhlman (Bos), Andrew Oglevie (Buf), Jordan Gross (Ari), Ross Colton (TB)
CHL (6): Patrick Bajkov (Flo), Hayden Verbeek (Mtl), Tanner Jeannot (Nsh), Alexandre Alain (Mtl), Brad Morrison (LA–originally drafted by NYR), Aaron Luchuk (Ott)

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators Development Camp Invitees

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The Sens are always in a rush to have their development camp right after the draft–perhaps it saves them money in some fashion, but for fans its a great opportunity to see new (and old) prospects play prior to summer vacations (for those who actually get vacations). I used to attend these all the time and if you get the chance they are a lot of fun. What I wanted to look at here are the free agent invitee’s on the Development Camp Roster (keeping in mind the majority of these players will never see the light of day again with the Sens):

Defense
Jonathan Aspirot DL DOB 99 QMJHL (Moncton) 67-7-19-26
Established a career high in PIMs this season (a theme as we’ll see), he finished third on the team in ppg with a fairly unremarkable numbers; I have absolutely no idea what he provides other than a warm body

Charles-Edouard D’Astous DL DOB 98 QMJHL (Rimouski) 59-18-38-56
The leading scorer among d-men for Rimouski (a team the Sens have drafted from before), he is tied for eighth in the league in D-ppg and fourth amongst those who are not drafted. It was a career year for the overager, but not without precedent (he had 40 points the previous season); like Stewart below he also accumulated far more PIMs than he normally has

Yanni Kaldis DR DOB 95 NCAA (Cornell) 33-4-15-19
Finished his sophomore season at Cornell (yet another team the Sens have drafted from) after a couple of years in the BCHL (where he put up good numbers that didn’t garner him draft attention); he’s the top scoring pure defensemen on his team (Alex Rauther is listed as a winger and blueliner, otherwise he’d be first by a nose)–I’m always happy to see skill so he’ll be an interesting one to watch

Graham Lillibridge DL DOB 99 USHL (Chicago) 56-4-41-45
At 5’9 he’s not at all the norm for the Sens; he finished well ahead of the other blueliners on his team and was second in ppg in the USHL. Committed to Yale, I applaud the Sens for giving someone like this a look (although I doubt they’d sign him)

Brady Lyle DR DOB 99 OHL (Owen Sound) 63-11-23-34
Steadily improving blueliner finished second in ppg on his team; he was universally picked for the 2017 draft (I had him pegged at #114), but wasn’t even discussed this year so presumably his stock has fallen

Ian Scheid DR DOB 95 NCAA (Mankato) 40-9-17-26
Didn’t show any ability in the USHL while putting up good numbers in both USHS and the NAHL; the last two years he’s been productive at Mankato; he finished second in ppg well behind LA draft pick Daniel Brickley; as a righthand shot he has extra appeal

Chase Stewart DR DOB 97 QMJHL (Rimouski) 53-5-35-29
After failing out of the OHL he wound up in the Q playing with Thomas Chabot the previous season; beyond a career year in his final stint in junior (not much of a feat) he also increased how much he fought (going from 4-5 fights a year up to 7). He was second on his team in scoring, well behind fellow invitee D’Astous. Since there’s no fighting at the camp I have no idea what he’s going to do, but the Sens love their tough guys

Forwards
Luka Burzan
CL DOB 2000 WHL (Brandon) 72-15-25-40
Passed over in the draft (I had him at #80), his anemic production with Moose Jaw was enough to taint his success with Brandon (both teams that the Sens have drafted from in the past). Brandon had an enormously talented roster so there are reasons to question his sudden offensive production

Zach Jordan RW DOB 96 NCAA (Nebraska) 34-16-12-28
Big winger had an adequate USHL final season and then jumped from 2 points with Nebraska to 28 this season; it’s clear he’s riding the coattails of Detroit pick David Pope and Edmonton pick Tyler Vesel, but his size is going to tempt teams

Ryan Kuffner LW DOB 96 NCAA (Princeton) 36-29-23-52
Local boy who played with Gloucester finished up his junior season at Princeton (another org the Sens have picked from); he’s had a monster season where he lead the team in goals and was second in points (behind undrafted Max Veronneau–another local boy). His production, particularly as he’s always produced, may tempt the Sens

Robert Lynch CR DOB 98 QMJHL (Drummondville) 67-28-39-67
Enjoyed a career year with Drummondville (finished just behind first-round pick Nicolas Beaudin); first-rounder Joseph Veleno and undrafted Connor Bramwell contributed to his production, so it’s hard to say just where he is when it comes to skill

Gregor MacLeod LW DOB 98 QMJHL (Quebec) 54-19-26-45
QMJHLer had a modest career year playing for both Charlottetown and Quebec, his numbers spiking while playing with undrafted Matthew Boucher and Chicago pick Philipp Kurashev

Nico Sturm LW DOB 95 NCAA (Clarkson) 40-14-23-37
Not related to the former NHLer, the German national had middling seasons in the NAHL and USHL before heading into the NCAA where he’s had good numbers; his career year at Clarkson (playing with Sens prospect Kelly Summers) are given a boost by LA FA Sheldon Rempal, but as a big body there will always be interest

Eduards Tralmaks LW DOB 97 NCAA (Maine) 37-11-14-25
Lavian national has spent most of his career in various US systems; his only USHL season was unremarkable, but he put up better numbers in his freshmen year at Maine (tied for fourth in scoring and ppg); as a big body he’s going to be given an opportunity to impress

In all we have six NCAA players, five from the Q, and one each from the OHL, WHL, and USHL. In general invitees are never heard from again, but occasionally something comes out of it–Matt O’Connor attended long before the Sens signed him as a free agent and Parker Kelly attended before being signed this past season.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Reviewing Ottawa’s 2018 Draft

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In the midst of Ottawa’s ridiculous off-season the NHL entry draft has come and gone and the Sens had a eight picks as they attempt to…rebuild? Who really knows at this point. Trent Mann ran the board for the second straight year and some Mann-ish trends are now apparent: no Europeans (two years in a row through 12 picks), and staying safe–Mann doesn’t like taking chances so he’s content to pick players with limited upside if that limits the risk (you can read my review of last year’s draft here).

[I completely neglected to review my predictions for the Sens, so briefly: I nailed the Tkachuk pick; the following two selections were via draft deal deals so I wasn’t able to predict them, but I doubt I would have selected Bernard-Docker–who was much further down my list–nor Tychonick, who was much earlier; Gruden was supposed to be gone by their next pick so wasn’t included; Crookshank was ranked much, much later; Mandolese was much, much earlier; Novak wasn’t ranked by anyone; and Loheit didn’t make my list. This isn’t as on-target as last season, but as Mann moves away from the trends previously established adjusting takes some time.]

1-4 Brady Tkachuk (C/LW) DOB 99 6’3 NCAA (Boston U) 40-8-23-31 4th ppg
Son of the former NHLer, his numbers look a little better when you realize he’s second in ppg for players his age on his team (Shane Bowers is slightly ahead). This is a pick many Sens fans are not excited about, largely because of the talented players left available who were ignored for Tkachuk‘s perceived “intangibles” (shades of Curtis Lazar, although Tkachuk isn’t nearly that bad). For fans of actual numbers he does seem to make other players around him better, but this summarizes the general concerns about him:

there isn’t a meaningful (offensive) statistical category where Tkachuk has separated himself from the pack. When viewed through the lens of draft analytics, Tkachuk ranks in the bottom half of the first round or lower in expected likelihood of success; expected production; expected value; and situation, era, age, and league adjusted scoring

Scouts are effusive about him, but it’s all about old-time hockey stuff–they wax poetic about his intangibles, but there’s not a lot of substance. Since all the fluff is positive, let’s look at the concerns from scouts:

The biggest knock on his game at this time is his first-step

And

His burst could still be improved, but his advanced strength makes up for a lack of quickness in tight areas … He does have a habit of overplaying the puck at times, trying an extra move at the offensive blue line and losing possession, instead of dumping the puck deep and forechecking … defensively he could use his strength better. In his own zone, he’s not engaged every shift.

And

Weakness: overall quickness; consistency

My concern with Tkachuk me is that he’s someone useful in supporting talented players, but fourth overall picks are supposed to be the talented player. Over time this concern may go away, but I’m very leery about a player whose primary hype is over things like physicality and “meanness” because they so rarely yield results

1-26 Jacob Bernard-Docker (RD) DOB 2000 6’0 AJHL (Okotoks) 49-20-21-41 2nd ppg for D
I’m not sure what the hurry was for the Sens to pick him (reminds me of the wheeling and dealing to land Matt Puempel in ’11)–while he might not have been available at #48, he’s not first-round material either. Via Nichols we have:

a very solid two-way defenseman…but he’s not a real upside pick. He’s a good kid, plays a reliable game, can move the puck, but I don’t think he’s going to be an impact guy

That’s what a late-round pick is for. Of course, that’s just Pronman’s opinion, what about other scouts?

[one of the best at supporting] his partner … He’s quick to recognize his missed assignment…able to communicate effectively to his defensive partners during odd-man situations. … His wrist-shot is one of the better shots from the backend … he’s good at changing the angle…while laterally shifting positions or shooting. His first pass allows him to make accurate outlet passes but he’s also a capable puck distributor who can thread passes through high-traffic areas. His puck skills are a plus…though he’s a safer player in this aspect compared to some of the more dynamic offensive-minded defenseman … He’s not the most offensively gifted defender…but he’s versatile, smart, and well-rounded

They added that Tychnoick (below) has more upside. And

Positioning in his own zone is sound, although sometimes he appears to be guessing out there. Another drawback, according to scouts, is that he’s not very dynamic

They also thought his ability to get his shot off needed work. And

Good offensive player. Moves the puck well. Has great hands. Needs to improve strength to excel at the next level. Will need to improve defensive positioning and physicality to round out game.

Which sounds like a completely different player. The final guide see’s him as a second-pairing player who eats up minutes. I don’t hate this pick abstractly, but I’m concerned about where they picked this kind of player–one who could be a marginal pro that doesn’t offer anything that couldn’t be found by lower picks or inexpensive free agency.

2-48 Jonny Tychonick (DL) DOB 2000 6’0 BCHL (Penticton) 48-9-38-47 1st ppg for D
This is the kind of pick I can get behind–players with excellent numbers. What do the scouts say?

exceptional passing ability and impressive four-way mobility. His first-pass is one of the better passes in this class … impressive east-west movement … he does have a tendency to over-handle the puck in the neutral zone … [and] to shoot without traffic at times … he doesn’t control the tempo of a game at the rate he theoretically should considering his skills

And

His skating is remarkable … One of the most dynamic defenders in his draft class … his shot could stand to be crisper and more accurately utilized.

Otherwise there’s agreement on his offensive dynamism and concerns about his defensive play. Defense can be taught, so while scouts tend to fret over it like mother hens it’s not something I’m concerned with–it’s hard to score in the NHL, not defend.

4-95 Johnny Gruden (LW) DOB 2000 USHL (USNTDP Jr) 25-15-19-34 4th ppg
Not the son of NFL coach John Gruden, nothing at all stands out about him to me as he’s yet another “intangibles” player. Here are some scouting opinions.

he plays like a…power-forward despite his frame. He’s got a good first-step and is relentless on the forecheck … The big concern with Gruden’s game is if it’s translatable to the pro levels

And that’s my big concern. I mentioned at the time that he reminds me of Max McCormick and that’s not a player who helps you win–he just takes time away from players who do. And

has a nice stride that allows him to cover the ice with great energy … Occasionally,
he gets caught trying to do too much

And

Despite having solid all-around tools, lacks ultimate assets, which limits his potential a bit among smaller size.

The more you read about him the more he sounds like many other Sens draft picks (Shane EisermanVincent Dunn, etc), although his production makes the McCormick comparison seem the most apt. Max is a good player, but he’s a top-six AHL winger who can’t play on the powerplay and that’s not someone you ever need to draft–they are abundantly available all the time.

5-126 Angus Crookshank (LW) DOB 1999 5’11 BCHL (Langley) 42-22-23-45 2nd ppg
Wasn’t listed by many leaving me with just one scouting report to work with:

His speed ranges in a wide variety of gears that he can utilize with or without the puck … He owns a high level of skill. His puck control is super.

The above criticizes his strength, but that’s easily remedied. It’s hard to make much out of this–we can hope the scoring translates, but it will be a long time before he reaches even the minor leagues.

6-157 Kevin Mandolese (GL) DOB 2000 6’4 QMJHL (Cape Breton) .884 3.46 (best on his team)
Big Montrealer’s numbers are down from last year in the Q, but he plays on a team that’s poor defensively and beat his goaltending partner, so that’s a positive at least.

he’s not aggressive enough in his crease and stays too deep

A common issue for BSens goalie this past season, incidentally. And

Since his midget days, he has had the capacity to win games by himself, only to struggle in the next one. His rebound-control is associated with his consistency

This sounds like Chris Driedger‘s career. And

[has] a great blend of athleticism and aggressive play … can get himself into
trouble when he over-commits to the shot or challenges the shooter too much … must learn to focus better when the shooting pace is low.

And

Plays deeper in his crease and relies on his size to make saves. Positioning and tracking are good and consistent.

The final report is positive, but also comments on him staying too deep in his net. There’s clearly some disagreement on him (particularly his consistency), but he sounds like a shot in the dark–maybe he’ll pan out, maybe not, and that’s what late round picks are for. Whether the Sens needed another goaltender in the pipeline I’m not sure–I think it depends on how much faith you have in either Jordan Hollett (’17) or Joel Daccord (’15)–although frankly if the Sens would ever scout in Europe there are quality free agent goaltenders to pilfer without bothering to draft them.

7-188 Jakov Novak (C/LW) DOB 1998 6’3 NAHL (Janesville) 56-32-41-73 1st ppg
A local boy, it’s worth pointing out that Novak had a ridiculous amount of PIM’s relative to his teammates this season (something that wasn’t previously the case) and that’s an endearing quality to the Sens. He’s another player with just one scouting report to work with (in part, I think, because of how rarely scouts bother with the NAHL).

can play both wing and center due to explosive skating and agility … [gets] too involved after the whistle and can get to focused on trying to be that agitating presence instead of just playing his game

I like both the speed and offensive upside, although it’s harder to project from lesser leagues. The Sens went this route before with Todd Burgess (’16), whose ultimate fate we still don’t know (signs aren’t great, but there’s time left).

7-194 Luke Loheit (RW) DOB 2000 USHS (Minnetonka) 24-12-18-30 6th ppg
It’s not at all encouraging to see how far down the list he is when it comes to scoring on his own team and there’s only one scouting report on him.

played on a very deep roster … was called upon to play against other teams
top lines in a very tough conference … He has a long powerful skating stride … good instincts in his positioning and ability to read the play

Skating and defensive play are not in short supply so this doesn’t inspire much confidence. This is the biggest throwaway pick of the draft–I think he’ll disappear into the NCAA and like many Sens picks before him fade away without a thought afterwards.

This draft is heavily tier-2 (2 BCHL, AJHL, USHS, and NAHL), with a pick from the Q, NCAA, and USHL mixed in. Most of these players are going the college route and other than Tkachuk (who is probably a year away) are long-term picks. This is not what I expected at all, but given the metric ton of free agents signed (Parker KellyBoston Leier, Aaron Luchuk, Ryan Scarfo, and Andrew Sturtz) and trades made (Filip Gustavsson and Julius Bergman) for Belleville it seems like they want to sow the seeds for the future rather than worry about the present.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Reviewing the 2018 NHL Draft

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Another draft is in the books so it’s time to look at the prognostication and see how I (and the sources I use) did this year–you can read last year’s recap here. General Numbers: 92 Europeans, 73 Canadians, and 52 Americans were picked, which is on the low side for Canucks and high for Euro’s. As for the predictions, first let’s look at the numbers by round (not player X at position X, simply the correct player by round–I go into the why of this assessment here).
Acronyms: EOTS (Eye on the Sens), FC (Future Considerations), HP (Hockey Prospects), RLR (Red Line Report), ISS (International Scouting Service), and CS (Central Scouting).

First Round
HP: 26
EOTS: 24
FC: 23
RLR: 22
ISS: 21

This is similar to 2016‘s results. In terms of my misses: Noel, Wilde, Thomas, McLeod,  McIsaac, Samuelsson, and Woo (all picked the next round). In terms of surprises Filip Johansson’s pick stands out as no one had him pegged that early (I had him in the second). Every other player had at least one advocate for a first round selection.

Second Round
HP: 18
EOTS: 15
FC: 11
RLR: 10
ISS: 9

These are good numbers for HP and typical for me (a bit low for everyone else). The biggest surprise pick was Perunovich, who I excluded from my list because of his size (clearly not an issue for the Blues); while he was the biggest high riser (picked by just two sources, one of which had him as a seventh-rounder), other surprise picks include Romanov (#133), Lindbom (whom I also excluded due to size–also via two sources who had him in the fourth and fifth), and Iskhakov (#106). I had my first two complete misses, as both goaltender Rodrigue (#55) and big defenseman Kotkov (#61) fell out of the draft.

Third Round
EOTS: 12
HP: 8
FC/RLR: 7
ISS: 6

My number is on the high side for the round while the rest are average. This is where teams started swinging for the fences, as three players not on anyone’s radar were picked: Karlberg (not even CS ranked him), Eliasson (#11 CS), and Semykin (#25 CS). High risers included Dewar (I excluded him as he was a one-source overager), Karlsson (#193), Hutsko (#148), and Der-Arguchintsev (#146).

Fourth Round
HP: 8
EOTS/RLR: 7
ISS: 6
FC: 3

Numbers are in the normal range. Surprisingly there was just one off-the-board selection with overager Weatherby (#198 CS). High risers were Gibson (I left him out as he had just a sixth and seventh round nod), Hollowell (I excluded him because of size; two sources picked him), Gorniak (#210), Koumontzis (#164), Perbix (#161), and O’Reilly (#154).

Fifth Round
FC: 7
EOTS/HP/RLR: 4
ISS: 3

Again the normal range of numbers. Lot’s of off-the-wall picks: Kukkonen (picked by no one), Pajuniemi (overager that no one had), Kruse (ibid), McGing (ibid), Hakkarainen (#179 CS), Durny (#9 CS), S. Johansson (#88 CS), and Chrona (no one had him). Along with the unexpected, the high risers were: Ersson (#214), Saigeon (received one seventh-round pick), Houde (ibid), and Busby (I excluded him due to size and injury; picked by two sources who had him in the fifth and seventh).

Sixth Round
HP/FC/ISS: 2
EOTS/RLR: 0

Predictions crashed and burned here. Off-the-board: Holmberg (McKeen‘s had the overager, but no one else), Brattstrom (no one had the 21-year old), Kannok-Leipert (ibid), Kjellberg (ibid; son of former NHLer), Vehvilainen (highly touted by CS two drafts ago), Gorman (no one), Drew (ibid), Leonard (ibid), and Manukyan (ibid). High risers: Koepke (one seventh-round nod), , Boudrias (ibid), McFaul (ibid), Schutz (ibid), and Diliberatore (two seventh-round nods).

Seventh Round
HP: 6
FC/RLR: 4
EOTS/ISS: 1

Good numbers in general for the round. Swings for the fences: Kreu (no one had the huge blueliner), Novak (#214 CS), Kivenmaki (#102 CS), Slavin (no one had him), Siikanen (#70 CS), Shmakov (no one had the big ‘tender), Pakkila (#123 CS), Kinnunen (no one), Hentges (ibid), Kloucek (ibid), and Taylor (#25 CS). High risers: Kooy (two seventh-round nods), Wong (a sixth and seventh), Kucharski (ibid), Loheit (a seventh), Loewen (I excluded him because his numbers prior to this season were negligible; a fifth and seventh), Shen (also a fifth and seventh; he was highly touted by CS last year and was still #32 CS this time around), the Krygiers (#168 and #169), and Salda (#170).

Sum of Rounds (changes from last year noted)
HP: 72 (33.1%) (+6)
EOTS: 63 (29%) (-1)
FC: 57 (26.2%) (+7)
RLR: 54 (24.8%) (n/c)
ISS: 48 (22.1%) (-5)

As fun as the above is, the following is what I take seriously as the best assessment of who has their finger on the pulse of the draft.

Total Picks Taken in the Draft
HP: 162 (74.6%) (+3.7%)
EOTS: 155 (71.4%) (+3.2%)*
FC: 142 (65.4%) (+4.1%)
RLR: 139 (64.0%) (+0.9%)
ISS: 130 (59.9%) (-6.6%)**
* My “raw” list was at 150 (69.1%)
** 7 of their 10 goaltenders were picked, but as they weren’t included in their draft rankings I’ve excluded them

This is the third straight year HP finished ahead of me (the last time I had better numbers was 2015). Over the same period ISS has been the basement dweller and FC and RLR have alternated at third. The primary change, at least in terms of my performance, is ISS didn’t used to be this bad and using them is starting to hurt more than help. RLR has also experienced a significant drop and this is the second year FC has struggled. Why the change? It seems like HP has done a better job keeping up with NHL drafting trends while the others have not; it’s also possible HP simply has better scouts–until I really dig into their individual trends though I’m making educated guesses. That my own numbers haven’t drifted down further is due to my own efforts to keep up with what the NHL is actually doing at the draft (the last two drafts in particular I’ve done much better than the “raw” list). I was more skeptical about team’s taking smaller players than HP and that’s at least one reason for the differences (I excluded Lindbom, Perunovich, Vehvilainen, Hollowell, and Busby for that reason, for instance).

This draft represents the high water mark for HP in terms of total number of correct picks (but not their best percentage–this is their second best behind 2015–I still have the overall high with 78% from that year). In terms of my own picks moving forward clearly I need a weighted system to give HP’s selections more umph–I may also comb through McKeen’s numbers to see if adding them again is useful (I last used them in 2013).

The Biggest Surprises

So who was left high and dry at the end of the draft? Olivier Rodrigue (#55), the highest ranked goaltender going into the draft, was left on the board (the best for ISS and CS, a second-rounder for two others, and a fourth for the other)–given how many goaltenders were taken I’m not sure why he fell so hard. Also of note are monster blueliner Vladislav Kotkov (#61, who received two second-round picks), Danila Galenyuk (#76, another Russian who got a second), Luka Burzan (#80, also a second), Chase Wouters (#81, ibid), Nando Eggenberger (#91, Swiss was a first-round pick for one), and Egor Sokolov (#96, with a third-round selection). Of note is that most of these players were in North America, meaning there were plenty of scouting opportunities (Galenyuk and Eggenberger are the exceptions and the guide highest on the Swiss forward mentioned that few had seen him play outside of international tournaments).

Central Scouting Misses

As is typical for as long as I’ve covered this a number of CS-touted Europeans were ignored by NHL teams. The only notable change is that most had at least one guide along for the ride (albeit not ranked as high): Mikhail Bitsadze (#26, solitary sixth), Ivan Muranov (#34, solitary third), tiny Kristian Tanus (#35, fifth and a seventh), Michal Kvasnica (#40, solitary fourth), Ondrej Buchtela (#43), Bogdan Zhilyakov (#45, two sixths), and Fredrik Granberg (#49). As for goaltenders, Alexei Melnichuk (#8), Daniil Isayev (#9), and Daniel Dvorak (#10, solitary fifth) were left on the outside looking in.

As is the norm this CS-variation is not the case with the NA rankings, as it’s only later that players start falling off. From the top-100 only Linus Nyman (#89) and Maxim Golod (#97, solitary fifth) were not selected–both of whom are European, ironically enough. NA goaltending is similar as the first not selected was Christian Propp at #11.

A few highly ranked players from previous drafts who weren’t picked at the time did get picked this draft:
2016: Veini Vehvilainen (#3 CS at the time)
2017: Pavel Shen (#21 CS at the time) and Shawn Boudrias (#139 on my list at the time)

Trends via Unlisted Players

I thought I’d take a look at the various unlisted players to see if we can spot any trends beyond the usual eccentricities of 31 different organizations picking.

Marcus Karlberg (3-80/Clb; NR)
5’8 with good numbers in Swedish junior
Jesper Eliasson (3-84/Det; #11 CSEG)
6’3 ‘tender had limited international exposure while playing in Swedish junior
Dmitri Semykin (3-90/TB; #25 CSE)
6’3 righthanded blueliner with okay numbers in the MHL
Jasper Weatherby (4-102/SJ; #198 CSNA)
20-year old, 6’4 center headed to the NCAA after a big year in the BCHL
Miska Kukkonen (5-125/Buf; NR)
6’0 righthanded d-man who didn’t play much in Finnish junior (injuries at a guess)
Lauri Pajuniemi (5-132/NYR; NR)
6’0 winger passed through last year’s draft–spent most of the year playing in the men’s league as an 18-year old
Brandon Kruse (5-135/LVK; NR)
5’9 winger had a good year in the NCAA
Hugh McGing (5-138/STL; NR)
5’8 center has had two solid seasons in the NCAA
Michael Hakkarainen (5-139/Chi; #179 CSNA)
20-year old, 6’1 center had a career year in the USHL (et tu Nargo Nagtzaam?)
Roman Durny (5-147/Ana; #9 CSEG)
20-year old, 6’1 Slovak ‘tender had a solid year in the USHL
Simon Johansson (5-148/Min; #88 CSE)
6’2 righthanded blueliner had a good year in Swedish junior with some international exposure
Magnus Chrona (5-152/TB; NR)
6’4 Swede had good numbers in Swedish junior (no international exposure)
Pontus Holmberg (6-156/Tor; #154 McKeen’s)
5’10 Swede spent most of his time in Division I; drawing attention, presumably, through limited international action
Victor Brattstrom (6-160/Det; NR)
21-year old, 6’5 Swedish ‘tender had good numbers in the Allsvenskan
Alex Kannok-Leipert (6-161/Wsh; NR)
5’11 righthanded d-man had unremarkable number in the WHL
Simon Kjellberg (6-163/NYR; NR)
6’3 blueliner had unremarkable numbers in Swedish junior; son of the former NHLer who is a scout for the Rangers (seems like a Brad Peltz situation, ie, the team doing someone, in this case his dad, a favour)
Veini Vehvilainen (6-173/Clb; NR)
21-year old, 6’0 Finnish ‘tender is coming off a good year in the Liiga
Liam Gorman (6-177/Pit; NR)
6’3 center with decent numbers in US Prep
Hunter Drew (6-178/Ana; NR)
6’1 righthanded D put up a lot of PIMs in the Q
John Leonard (6-182/SJ; NR)
5’11 forward had good numbers in the NCAA
Artyom Manukyan (6-186/Van; NR)
20-year old 5’7 winger spent about half a season in the KHL with plenty of international exposure
William Worge Kreu (7-187/Buf; NR)
6’6 blueliner
Jakov Novak (7-188/Ott; #214 CSNA)
6’3 forward in the NAHL (which is not a great US junior league)
Otto Kivenmaki (7-191/Det; #102 CSE)
5’8 center had good junior numbers with some international exposure
Josiah Slavin (7-193/Chi; NR)
6’0 winger had middling USHL numbers
Patrik Siikanen (7-195/Edm; #70 CSE)
6’1 winger had okay numbers in Finnish junior
Shamil Shmakov (7-202/Col; NR)
6’6 goaltender had good numbers in the MHL
Eetu Pakkila (7-203/NJ; #123 CSE)
6’0 winger had solid numbers in Finnish junior with some international exposure
Santuu Kinnunen (7-207/Flo; NR)
6’2 righthanded blueliner had solid numbers in Finnish junior with limited international exposure
Sam Hentges (7-210/Min; NR)
6’0 center had decent numbers in an abbreviated USHL season
Milan Kloucek (7-213/Nsh; NR)
20-year old, 6’3 ‘tender had mostly good numbers in various Czech leagues
Ty Taylor (7-214/TB; #25 CSNAG)
6’3 ‘tender had good numbers in the BCHL

We have 16 forwards, 8 defensemen, and 8 goaltenders, so a high emphasis on position. Six of the eight defensemen are righthanded–a clear preference. Six of the sixteen forwards are smaller (versus one blueliner and one goaltender). Eighteen of the thirty-two players are overage, and twenty of them are in European leagues and I think it’s the latter factor that’s the larger one keeping them off lists. As for teams, Detroit and Tampa had the most of these picks (three each), with ten teams not taking any. On the undersized front, Columbus had the most (both of their players being smaller).

On the whole I was pretty happy with how things went. The goal remains to get ahead of HP (as I was in 2012 and 2015–we were tied 2013-14). A bit more research time would help so if I’m able to do that I will next year–while understanding the old school ‘character’ picks is a difficult exercise, the GMs who favour them are a dying breed so I think that’s less important than understanding the other elements.

My upcoming article will be Sens specific–we’ll go through who was picked and what scouts think of them (along with recent team trends)–I’ll also take a look at the Development Camp invitees (the roster was just announced). If you enjoy this content consider donating or supporting me on patreon–it all makes a big difference in me being able to invest the time in creating it.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)