Player Profile: Scott Sabourin

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I can’t remember the last time I did a player profile, but apparently no one else has one on the guy (with apologies to Colin Cudmore)–at minimum Chirp is excited about him (someone has to be, right?).

Scott Sabourin (DOB 92, RW, 6’3, FA LA 13)
2016-17 AHL 54-8-7-15 0.27 13th in scoring 9 fights
2017-18 AHL 44-4-3-7 0.16 25th in scoring 6 fights
2018-19 AHL 43-4-4-8 0.18 19th in scoring 7 fights

Another local boy who was such a beast of a prospect that there are no scouting reports on him (2010 was his year, btb, which meant digging through physical archives). He made his way from tier-2 locally to Oshawa in the OHL (where he played for D. J. Smith), then on to the AHL as a fighter (you can see his fights here). Dean Lombardi (LAK) signed him to an ELC in 2013 and after he bombed out there he was involved in a three-way trade that included Ottawa (the Sens acquired Finnish flameout Michael Keranen), getting dumped on Minnesota (2016). Anaheim (Bob Murray) signed him the following season (along with pugilist Mike Liambas), where coach Dallas Eakins used him as a part-time forward. When he was dropped from that org he then turned a PTO with Stockton into a contract, but coach Cail MacLean also kept him on a short leash, restricting him to about half a season.

What can we take away from his numbers and his history? His competitiveness is such that he can walk into multiple training camps and earn himself a job–that speaks to his hustle and enthusiasm. After getting signed, Sabourin drops down the lineup, plays irregularly and when he does play can only provide (AHL) fourth-line output. He can fight, but that’s not very important even at the AHL-level anymore (the fight leaders didn’t crack double digits last season and no one has had more than eleven since 2015-16). So he can fight, but can’t score–is he good defensively? The answer has to be no, because if he was a useful PKer he’d play more (current BSen Joseph LaBate is a good comparison there). His only full season in the AHL was his rookie year (also his most productive)–since then he’s been a frequent scratch and used purely as an energy player.

Is this a bad signing? Abstractly, yes–I don’t think that’s debatable–but is it for Ottawa? If you want to fail this season, and the Sens certainly do, then no. They should want Sabourin playing key minutes. What I don’t want to see is this guy in Belleville. The BSens have more than enough low-talent FA’s on the roster that the last thing they need is another one, especially a guy who is 27 and already peaked.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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Ranking the Sens Prospects

For the first time last year I put out my own prospect rankings. I think most lists, if not all of the ones I’ve seen, are flawed, lacking a proper framework for why player X is higher (or lower) than player Y; there’s difficulties in comparing across positions (is a starting goaltender better than a top forward?), and it’s rare that the players projected growth is used as part of the analysis (instead it tends to be who is better now). I prefer an apples-to-apples approach, so for my purposes I’ll be looking at players by position and potential.

To determine that potential I’m using the scouting consensus (when available) and performance (stats), tweaked by my own observations. I’ve removed players who have 50+ games of NHL experience–at that point there’s access to much better statistical breakdowns (and a flood of analysis); I’ve also cut out prospects with four or more pro seasons (ECHL/AHL), by which time I think they are no longer truly prospects. I’ve also excluded players on AHL-contracts. Despite these cuts we still have a very long list.

General comments about scouting: the prejudice against size is slowly eroding away (less so for Ottawa when drafting), with an overabundant affection for physical play that colours perception (the weaknesses of physical players aren’t seen as debilitating as a lack of physicality is in skilled players); defense is also given much more weight than offense, even though the former can be learned and the latter is based on talent. There’s an impression many scouts have that a player who hits people is providing something a player who scores is not. In addition, scouts struggle to project goaltenders and this means much of their material is difficult to parse (Ary talks about that here).

The scouting material included below focuses on potential and flaws (generally speaking we’re aware of what each player is supposed to be). Acronyms: HP: Hockey Prospects, FC: Future Considerations, ISS: International Scouting Service, RLR: Red Line Report, Pronman: Corey Pronman (via The Athletic). I’ve included changes in my ranking from last year in brackets. A final note: there’s less to say about players who have just been drafted–there’s no new information to discuss, so we’re completely dependent on scouting and their statistical output. Most of the players listed here were drafted under Trent Mann’s tenure (2017 and on), with Bob Lowes running the board in 2014-16 after the departure of Tim Murray; those acquired via trade are all courtesy of Pierre Dorion (who became the GM for the 2016-17 season). Mann’s tenure has been a disaster, as he’s flooded the org with bottom-feeding pluggers–most of the serious talent insertions have come from trades made by Dorion.

Goaltenders (5)

Potential Starter (3)

1 (+1). Marcus Hogberg (DOB 94, 3-78/13)
2017-18 AHL/ECHL .899 .327 6-12-0/.915 3.10 8-7-1
2018-19 AHL/NHL 2.32 .917 21-5-6/.884 4.08 0-2-1

Let’s revisit scouting expectations when he was drafted (he is the only prospect remaining who was picked by Tim Murray): RLR liked his size, but thought he lacked mobility and confidence; FC said he needed to improve his lateral quickness and confidence; McKeen’s profile is effusive, but they note excessive movement (something I noticed in his rookie season); he was not ranked by HP or ISS. In general he was seen as great raw material that needed work.

His rookie AHL season didn’t meet expectations, but as I argued at the time wasn’t as bad as the raw numbers made it appear and last season validated that assessment. The BSens were an awful team defensively in his rookie season, and while they weren’t that much better last year Hogberg was by far the best goaltender between the pipes. Among AHL goaltenders who played at least 20 games he was tied for 9th in the league in save percentage (on a terrible, terrible team), so at this level he’s certainly found his groove.

With that said, there’s nothing in Hogberg’s performance or pedigree to suggest he’ll ever be an elite starting goaltender. What he might be is a starter, although we need more than two seasons in the AHL to be sure of that.

2 (-1). Filip Gustavsson (DOB 98, 2-55/16 Pit)
2017-18 SHL/AHL .918 2.07 9-11-0/.912 3.01 2-4-0
2018-19 AHL .887 3.38 12-14-2

Draft: HP thought he was the best goaltender in a weak (2016) class, having good fundamentals, but they had concerns over his rebound control; FC saw his potential as an NHL-starter; ISS mostly echoed the above, but expressed concerns about his blocker play; RLR gave him the same potential, but added the caveat that this applied if he were on ‘an upper echelon team’ (ie, with good defensive support)–they also questioned his play with the puck; there was a general consensus that he played too much on his knees.

Gustavsson arrived on the team with a great deal of fanfare–you can still find fan articles proclaiming him the second-coming–but his rookie season was a disaster. The were signs during his short stint in the AHL in 2018 that he might struggle, but it was far worse than imagined. There are caveats to his performance–due to injuries he was forced to play far more than originally intended and the team in front of him was awful, but the blueline he has this year isn’t much better, so he’ll have to be better on his own this season.

One pro season, especially for a young goaltender, doesn’t mean all is lost. Gustavsson could easily rebound, but he’s never projected out as an elite start–like Hogberg, his threshold is as a starter.

3 (new). Mads Sogaard (DOB 00, 2-37/19)
2017-18 NAHL .909 2.64
2018-19 WHL .921 2.64

As a freshly drafted player we only have the scouts analysis to work from: he was picked ahead of most projections (HP said he’s a late first to early second-rounder, but that range is only found in their profile of him as they cut goaltenders from their basic rankings). HP’s profile is huge, but on their 3-9 scale he’s a 7 for hockey sense, 8 for compete, 7 for skill, and 7 for skating; McKeen’s thinks he has to work on his rebound control and five-hole coverage; FC thinks he struggles to track pucks through traffic and his ability to move the puck once he has it (they like his glove hand more than HP). To maintain his save percentage transitioning from a tier-two American junior league in the WHL is quite a feat, so there’s no questioning his talent. Just like his compatriots above, he’s not projected as an elite starter. He slots below the pair above largely because he doesn’t have a track record in pro circumstances yet.

Backups (2)

4 (+1). Joey Daccord (DOB 96, 7-199/15)
2017-18 NCAA .909 3.51
2018-19 NCAA .926 2.35

Draft: no one ranked him, but HP had a game report on him which was positive if pretty generic. His underlying metrics with Arizona were good and that paid off in his final NCAA season (Pronman worries about his positioning and decision-making). It’s a limited supply of information to work with, so what’s his threshold? What sticks out to me is that on a bad NCAA team he had bad numbers (despite the aforementioned metrics), while on a good team, he had good numbers. What this says to me is he can’t carry a team on his back. Nothing I’ve seen or read suggests he has more potential than as a backup, which is perfectly fine for a seventh round pick. As it stands he’ll be the third goaltender in Belleville, but if there are injuries (as undoubtedly there will be) or a trade, he’ll become the backup and get a chance to truly test himself.

5 (-2). Kevin Mandolese (DOB 00, 6-157/18)
2017-18 QMJHL .884 3.46
2018-19 QMJHL .895 2.87

Draft: RLR thought he had starter potential, but stayed too deep in his net; ISS was more effusive (offering the same potential); FC liked him, but said sometimes he over commits and can lose focus if he’s not facing a lot of shots; HP repeated that he stays too deep in his net and isn’t aggressive enough, but has pro potential. His numbers in the Q aren’t particularly impressive, but did improve last year (although that only put him 22nd in the league). In Pronman‘s recent review of the Sens system he sounded frustrated by him and to me there’s a very good chance he’s a bust. Best case scenario for him, barring a fantastic QMJHL season this year, is as a backup.

Overall Assessment: In terms of the depth of the pool it’s slightly better than last year, as they now have three players with starter potential, but there’s still no elite goaltender available (in the Sens draft history they’ve only ever picked one, Robin Lehner, way back in 2009). The org continues to pick tall prospects in later rounds and cross their fingers, but it’s difficult to find any rhyme or reason behind their methodology. While I like the Sogaard pick, it seems as random as the Hollett or Mandolese or Driedger and on and on–it comes across as throwing darts at a board and hoping.

Defense (8)

Top-Four (5)

1 (new). Erik Brannstrom (DOB 99, 1-15/17 VGK)
2017-18 SHL 44-2-13-15 0.34
2018-19 AHL 50-7-25-32 0.64

Draft: highly touted going into his draft, but concerns about his size pinned him to the middle of the first round. The question that is yet unanswered is what his offensive potential will be at the NHL-level. Pronman saw him as an all-around top-four blueliner, although there are scouts who have him pegged higher than that. I tend to aim more conservatively with my expectations, so top-four is where I’d project him until we see something more. Ary points out that he wasn’t given top minutes while in AHL Chicago, but when he was in his brief tenure with Belleville, we didn’t see an offensive explosion (granting that the blueline there wasn’t very good).

2 (+1). Christian Wolanin (DOB 95, 4-107/15)
2017-18 NCAA 40-12-23-35
2018-19 AHL/NHL 40-7-24-31/30-4-8-12 0.77/0.40

Draft: no one ranked him, but HP had one game report that’s positive if vague (McKeen’s profiled him, but it’s also vague, suggesting that he needed to improve his defensive play). Pronman didn’t think much of him at the time–believing his hands weren’t high end and that he’s not a great defender (this might give you an idea of why I’m very cautious in using Pronman’s analysis, particularly with skilled players). Brad Phillips thought he was a deep sleeper for fantasy hockey folks.

Wolanin had a fantastic rookie season–I was conservative with my projections and he blew them away. I think he would have been better served seeing him play a full season in Belleville, but you can’t complain about his production; his AHL season can be divided into three chunks between call-ups (26-5-13-18; 9-1-7-8; 5-1-4-5), the latter two segments being when coach Troy Mann had stopped fussing about with his usage (Mann likes his muckers and grinders, of which he has another plethora to play this season).

My projection for him hasn’t changed–he’s a top-four guy who can play on the powerplay and move the puck–and I’m not at all surprised he’s still in Ottawa.

3 (new). Lassi Thomson (DOB 00, 1-19/19)
2017-18 Liiga-Jr 49-12-15-27 0.55
2018-19 WHL 63-17-24-41 0.65

Another fresh face from the draft: he was picked early (Hockey Prospect had him highest at #28). There’s lot’s of scouting material on him, with HP scoring him this way on their 3-9 scale: a 6 for hockey sense and 7 for compete, skill, and skating. McKeen’s, much more briefly, echoes the above, saying the limiting factor is that he doesn’t have any particular high end skill that stands out; FC is concerned about his defensive play without the puck and believes he lacks urgency; Pronman thinks his only path forward is offensively, but that his offensive potential is high enough for that to work. This is mixed praise, despite his (relatively) high ranking among scouts.

He projects in the top-four, but it’s not clear what kind of 3-4 he is–his upcoming season playing with men in the Liiga should help give us a clearer picture of the kind of player he is, as scouts clearly have conflicting ideas.

4 (-3). Jonny Tychonick (DOB 00, 2-48/18)
2017-18 BCHL 48-9-38-47 0.98
2018-19 NCAA 28-0-4-4 0.14

Draft: RLR thinks he’s purely offensive (comparing him to Shayne Gostisbehere); ISS has him as a top-four blueliner with a need to get stronger; FC is effusive, but does reference defensive inconsistency; HP saw him as both offensively gifted and tenacious/aggressive, but agreed his defensive play is average.

His rookie numbers in college aren’t impressive, but he’s playing behind a lot of players and most coaches are reserved when it comes to offensive prospects. We can, however, drop RLR’s Gostisbehere comparison, as he had 22 points his rookie season in the NCAA. Until Tychonick has put in another season projections for him remain the same: a top-four blueliner who can log PP minutes.

5 (-1). Jacob Bernard-Docker (DOB 00, 1-26/18)
2017-18 AJHL 49-20-21-41 0.83
2018-19 NCAA 36-5-12-17 0.47

Draft: RLR saw him as a top-four blueliner; ISS as a top-pairing, two-way defender, questioning his consistency; FC/HP liked him, but questioned his creativity. The question for Bernard-Docker was how well he distributes and moves the puck (since we can presume he’s solid defensively already).

His rookie season was a pleasant surprise in terms of his numbers, although it’s unclear how much of that production was due to undrafted teammates Matt Kiersted and Colton Poolman. He wasn’t picked to put up points however, so in terms of his projections we have to see him as a safe, penalty killing top-four blueliner (Pronman continues to express concerns about his upside).

Bottom-Pair (1)

6 (new). Olle Alsing (DOB 96 FA 19)
2017-18 SHL 51-7-14-21 0.41
2018-19 SHL 49-4-11-15 0.30

Draft: undrafted, HP had a profile on him which can be boiled down to: decent puck skills, a good passer, solid defensively, but concerns about his board/body play. It’s notoriously difficult to project European production to North America, but nothing screams out at me to say he’s going to be particularly productive–his numbers are similar to Christian Jaros, but they are very different players so I’m not sure how far you can take that. He’s almost certainly going to be an effective AHL player, but I think his ceiling is pretty limited–he’d be a safe, depth defenseman, although there’s no harm in hoping for more (after being signed he was loaned back to Djurgardens).

Marginal NHLer (1)

7 (new). Maxence Guenette (DOB 01, 7-187/19)
2017-18 61-1-11-12 0.19
2018-19 68-8-24-32 0.47

Draft: while not ranked by McKeen’s (or making Bob McKenzie’s truncated list), he was picked after other projections (a fourth for HP and a fifth for FC). On HP’s 3-9 scale he’s a 6 across the board (hockey sense, compete, skill, and skating), which seems like the HP equivalent of ‘mediocre’ for a prospect. FC thinks his skating is just average, that he’s not fully engaged defensively, and struggles to get his shot through.

He projects as a safe, two-way defender, but one without enough talent to be an NHL-regular. At best he’s a seventh defenseman who can rotate in on the PK, but why do you need to draft a player like that? Trent Mann’s obsession with pluggers remains frustrating.

Bust (1)

8 (unchanged). Andreas Englund (DOB 96, 2-40/14)
2017-18 AHL 69-1-9-10 0.14
2018-19 AHL 68-3-11-14 0.20

Draft: RLR liked his mean, physical play and compared him to Alexei Emelin; ISS questioned his skills with the puck, but projected him as a top-four shutdown blueliner; FC saw him as a top-six shutdown blueliner and liked his outlet passing; HP questioned his hockey sense (as do I). Looking back over time, HP had the best assessment (followed by FC), which also suits which publications have the most accurate selections for who will be drafted.

Needless to say most of these estimations were overly optimistic, as Englund struggles to be an effective AHL defensemen, much less an NHL blueliner. The org still likes him, but that’s purely because of his physicality. His zone exists are either lobbing grenades up the ice or pounding the puck off the boards–in both cases forwards are forced to adjust to prevent turnovers because he simply can’t make a pass; his supposed defensive acumen is overblown, so other than his physical play he doesn’t excel at anything (including the PK).

His mild uptick in his numbers this past season doesn’t undercut the fact that he has hands of stone (down the stretch, when it mattered, he was 14-0-0-0, his worst stretch of the season). He’s shown no sign of improvement since turning pro and re-signing him was a dumb decision–he’ll be back in Sweden next year.

Overall Assessment: the blueline depth is largely unchanged from last year–the org still lacks bonafide elite talent at the position and they are quite short on organizational depth (three of these players will come off the list next year). The org has been desperate for blueliners who move the puck for years and there’s simply been no push to fill that need under Dorion’s regime.

Forwards (21)

Top-Six (3)

1 (+3). Drake Batherson (DOB 98 4-121/17)
2017-18 QMJHL 51-29-48-77 (1.51)
2018-19 AHL/NHL 59-22-40-62/20-3-6-9 (1.05/0.45)

Draft: HP praised him and called him a legit prospect, liking his hockey IQ and offensive instincts; FC/ISS/RLR didn’t rank him, as Batherson eluded most scouts because he’d sailed through one draft already and it was his strong second half that put him on the radar. I was quite conservative about what to expect from him last year and he blew away projections. Given his pathway to being drafted Tanner Pearson seemed like a good comparable, but he was a far better AHL player than Pearson was as a rookie, suggesting he’ll be a much better NHL-player as well. Pronman, who initially wasn’t much of a fan, has come around and (other than his speed) accepted that he’s a great player.

Of all the prospects who appear on this list, he’s the one who has the best chance of breaking through and becoming a top-line player–the odds aren’t high, but overachieving and defying expectations is what elite talent does. If there’s a parallel for him as a prospect it might be Mike Hoffman, but it’s too early to tell yet.

2 (-1). Logan Brown (DOB 98 1-11/16)
2017-18 OHL/NHL 32-22-26-48 (1.50)/4-0-1-1 (0.25)
2018-19 AHL 56-14-28-42 0.75

Draft: RLR had him as a second-line playmaker, wanting him to be more assertive; ISS/FC also saw him as a top-six player who needed to shoot more; HP put him in the top-six. Pronman questioned his conditioning and ability to keep up with the pro pace. While his speed remains a concern, many of the worries dropped away as the AHL-season went on and Troy Mann stopped jerking him around in the lineup.

While his rookie performance doesn’t blow you away (although his impact on his team does), it’s good enough that he remains on track for his potential, although I hope they let him develop most or all of this upcoming season rather than getting his head kicked in at the NHL-level (he’s still in Ottawa as I write this).

3 (new). Vitali Abramov (DOB 98 3-65/16 Clb)
2017-18 QMJHL 56-45-59-104 (1.85)
2018-19 AHL 70-16-13-29 (0.41)

Draft: highly touted in his draft year, with the emphasis on his offensive production. The concerns were the usual ones for offensive and smaller players: he needed to work on his defensive play and to bulk up. So what about the context of his rookie season? He played on the offensively challenged Cleveland Monsters (lead by former NHLer Nathan Gerbe), where he was eighth among forwards in scoring. The Monsters are a bad team that struggles offensively under coach John Madden (who hasn’t made the playoffs in three seasons). I doubt Abramov was receiving a ton of ice time, but with that said his numbers are simply average for a player of his pedigree as a rookie and that didn’t really change in his short time in Belleville.

I expect more from Abramov–he should produce more at the AHL-level, but some players are slow burners (Mike Hoffman comes to mind) so the rookie season doesn’t shipwreck projections yet.

Top-Nine (4)

4 (new). Rudolfs Balcers (DOB 97 5-142/15 SJ)
2017-18 AHL 67-23-25-48 (0.71)
2018-19 AHL/NHL 43-17-14-31/36-5-9-14 (0.72/0.39)

Draft: scouting reports praised his speed, shot, and elusiveness; suggesting his primary need is strength. HP echoed that, but worried about his competitiveness (a sentiment that’s about as relevant as peanut butter). Pronman’s would echo this, except caution that his footspeed was not great and seeing him as a top-nine forward (while admitting others saw him in the top-six).

I think he would have been better served spending all of last year in Belleville, but when he was there his production was unchanged from his rookie season in San Jose. It’s not clear to me if that’s his offensive cap or if the lengthy stay in the NHL impacted an expected increase. There remains a chance that the optimistic scouts will be right–that he’s more than a top-nine player who can score–but we didn’t see enough last year to push his ceiling to that point (this seems echoed by Ary in his assessment of him).

5 (-2). Filip Chlapik (DOB 97 2-48/15)
2017-18 AHL/NHL 52-11-21-32 (0.62)/20-1-3-4 (0.25)
2018-19 AHL 57-16-18-34 (0.60)

Draft: FC had his potential as a top-nine, two-way forward, liking his hockey sense, playmaking, and defensive ability; RLR saw him as a dynamic third-line forward whose only concern was his skating; ISS saw him as a third-liner who can do spot-duty on the second PP (their only issues were his physicality); HP was concerned with his skating. Pronman is concerned about his skating and his defensive play.

I’m a big fan of Chlapik’s, but he does have limitations and the projections for him are about right. What’s unclear is how much offense he brings to the table at the next-level, because I think he needs to chip in to be effective. He’s played hurt for significant stretches in both his prior seasons, so if he can stay healthy it’ll be interesting to see how he does.

6 (+1). Alex Formenton (DOB 99 2-47/17)
2017-18 OHL 48-29-19-48 (1.00)
2018-19 OHL 31-13-21-34 (1.10)

Draft: RLR didn’t think he could score, projecting him as a third-line checker; ISS saw him as a bottom-six energy forward with upside whose weakness was puck skills; FC saw him as a third-line winger with questions about his shot and creativity; HP had him within the third/second line category. Last year Pronman also slotted him as a third-line checker and that hasn’t changed as he continues to worry about his ability to produce at the top level.

Nothing Formenton did last season changed perceptions about him. He didn’t see a significant increase in performance in the OHL and that suggests concerns over his offensive limitations are legit. A third-line checking center seems to be where he tops out.

7 (new). Josh Norris (DOB 99 1-19/17 SJ)
2017-18 NCAA 37-8-15-23 (0.62)
2018-19 NCAA 17-10-9-19 (1.11)

Draft: The theme from scouts was he plays a hard, safe game. Norris has the sort of ‘truculence’ Brian Burke used to yammer about. This isn’t to say he’s a one-dimensional prospect, but concerns about his abilities remain–that he lacks talent and doesn’t have the puck skills to provide more than third-line output (when he was acquired I went over how similar his junior numbers were to uninspired prospect Johnny Gruden below).

His college numbers represent a nice improvement (small sample size, admittedly), and Pronman’s assessment this summer is more positive, but he still ranks him below Formenton, which puts him in top-nine territory. It’ll be interesting to see how much offense he brings to the table with Belleville.

Bottom-Six (4)

8 (new). Max Veronneau (DOB 95 NCAA FA 19)
2017-18 NCAA 36-17-38-55 (1.52)
2018-19 NCAA/NHL 31-13-24-37/12-2-2-4 (1.19/0.33)

Draft: a local boy (Dorion’s favourite) who spent his entire career playing with Ryan Kuffner (who was consistently slightly better, meaning we have to ask how much Veronneau benefited from his teammate). Unlike most college FA’s there are no scouting reports from when he was draft-eligible, so we only have the numbers to go by. The odds of him being a significant contributor are very small (given the history of NCAA free agents), so the optimistic appraisal is that he becomes a useful bottom-six forward (Pronman doubts his offensive talent will translate at the top level, which is ominous if true–he wasn’t signed to be a checker).

9 (new). Michael Carcone (DOB 96 CHL FA Van 16)
2017-18 AHL 68-15-12-27 0.39
2018-19 AHL 62-20-24-44 0.71

Draft: undrafted, but we do have a thorough scouting report from HP in 2016 that can be summarized this way: a good skater with great agility; a good, quick release on his shot and he can score from different locations; he’s not big and his size could be a problem at the next level, as he will need to add some strength; a bit of one-dimensional player, as he will need to score at the next level to achieve success. Vancouver signed him, eventually trading him to Toronto where he finally started to produce.

I’ve said many times before I like drafting (or acquiring) skill. It doesn’t always work, but the value added is much higher than any other asset. Carcone showed last season there’s a chance he could blossom into a genuine scorer–at least at the AHL-level. I think he tops out as a bottom-sixer who can skate and chip-in.

10 (new). Shane Pinto (DOB 00 2-32/19)
2018-19 USHL 56-28-31-59 (1.05)

Draft: picked ahead of projections. HP’s breakdown on their 3-9 scale gives him a 6 for hockey sense, compete, and skill, with a 7 for skating. FC says his skating is average, doesn’t like his faceoff ability or his hustle after it (the opposite of HP), and that defensively he’s a mixed bag (largely based on his positional play); McKeen’s two-sentence profile doesn’t add anything new. Pronman‘s opinion of him is very low–at best topping out in the bottom-six. Because he’s an early second-round pick I’m putting him above Sturtz below, but the tea leaves on him are not at all favourable, so we’ll have to hope the scouts are wrong.

11 (-3). Andrew Sturtz (DOB 94 NCAA FA 18)
2017-18 NCAA 37-14-26-40 (1.08)
2018-19 AHL 15-2-4-6 (0.40)

Draft: He was never ranked or discussed while draft-eligible (playing in the GOJHL and CCHL at the time). He attended Pittsburgh’s development camp in 2017 and there’s a profile of him as a free agent from Ben Kerr that describes him as aggressive and having discipline problems–otherwise there’s not much material on him. His rookie season with Belleville was injury-filled and his usage was incredibly bizarre (virtually no PP time, which is odd for a scorer). I’d basically ignore his rookie season, but it’s difficult to see him as ever being anything more than a bottom-six forward (given his NCAA production and the history of NCAA FA’s as pros), assuming he doesn’t simply bomb out entirely.

Marginal NHLer (6)

12 (+6). Angus Crookshank (DOB 99 5-126/18)
2017-18 BCHL 42-22-23-45 (1.07)
2018-19 NCAA 36-10-13-23 (0.64)

Draft: RLR called him a great skating energy winger; FC is effusive, but questions his strength and defensive play; ISS ranks him, but doesn’t offer a profile; HP didn’t rank him or profile him, but have a few game logs that simply echo similar sentiments. I’m somewhat surprised by the muted response by the scouts, as scoring is the hardest thing to do at any level and he finished tied for second on his team as a freshman last season. If he can keep that up then he has a legitimate shot to play.

13 (new). Jonathan Davidsson (DOB 97 6-170/17 Clb)
2017-18 SHL 52-10-21-31 (0.60)
2018-19 SHL 37-10-11-21 (0.57)

Draft: I only have one scouting report on Davidsson (from HP), who landed on their radar after a good rookie season in the SHL and participating in the U20 camp that year. They thought he was a pass-first, offensively focused player who makes good decisions, but who needed work on his defensive play, was weak in one-on-one battles, and whose production was a bit lower than expected for the kind of player he is. Davidsson was signed by Columbus, but loaned back to Djurgardens where he essentially mirrored his previous season (while playing more on a weaker team). There’s nothing currently that suggests Davidsson has outgrown the general scouting sentiment when he was picked and he’s a long shot to develop into a productive NHL-player. For him to pan out, he needs to be a safe, reliable player who can move the puck and chip in some offense.

14 (-3). Todd Burgess (DOB 96 4-103/16)
2017-18 NCAA 34-1-11-12 (0.35)
2018-19 NCAA 36-7-9-16 (0.44)

Draft: HP didn’t think his tier-two NAHL scoring would translate at the NHL-level, but that his playmaking could; they also thought his skating and defensive consistency needed work; RLR listed him as a sleeper; ISS/FC didn’t rank him. He missed an entire year due to injury and while his numbers may not seem remarkable, RPI doesn’t score very much so he was their fourth-leading scorer. His only path to the big leagues is production, so he needs to score a bunch this year to be signed and progress as a pro.

15 (-1). Jakov Novak (DOB 98 7-188/18)
2017-18 NAHL 56-32-41-73 (1.30)
2018-19 NCAA 37-7-8-15 (0.40)

Draft: No one ranked him, but HP does have a profile, calling him a power forward with good offensive tools who struggles with discipline. He is, in many ways, the mirror-image of Burgess above, simply having slightly worse numbers in tier-two. His college numbers seem good for a rookie, but it’s worth noting Bentley scored quite a bit such that he was just eighth on the team.

16 (-3). Parker Kelly (DOB 99 CHL FA 17)
2017-18 WHL/AHL 69-29-30-59 (0.85)/5-1-0-1 (0.20)
2018-19 WHL 64-35-32-67 1.04

Draft: HP liked his all-around game and while they weren’t sure his offensive skills would translate they thought he had enough intangibles to make him worth drafting; ISS/RLR/FC didn’t rank him. While his production modestly improved last season (fourth on his team), Pronman doesn’t think much of it and that’s the real problem for him–if he can’t score, he immediately slams into a low NHL-ceiling.

The hope for Kelly (and the org) is that he can fill an energy/PK-role while not being completely anemic offensively. The latter is the real problem, as we have yet to see enough to believe he can do that.

17 (-5). Markus Nurmi (DOB 98 6-163/16)
2017-18 Liiga 51-10-11-21 (0.41)
2018-19 Liiga 60-1-11-12 (0.20)

Draft: FC saw him as a top-nine, two-way player; HP thought he topped out as a checker; RLR didn’t like his skating; he wasn’t ranked high enough for ISS to profile him. While there were some positives to take away from his 17-18 season, everything crashed and burned for him last year and Pronman has written him off.

At this stage if Nurmi has any potential at all it’s as a fourth-line grinder. Unlike Burgess, who has the possibility of scoring his way into the league, Nurmi just doesn’t seem to have that in him and grinders are a dime a dozen.

Bust (4)

18 (-1). Johnny Gruden (DOB 00 4-95/18)
2017-18 USHL 61-28-32-60 (0.98)
2018-19 NCAA 38-3-12-15 (0.39)

Draft: ISS projected him as a third/fourth-liner with concerns over his defensive play; FC is effusive with their only concern being that he overhandles the puck sometimes; RLR called him an intelligent, complimentary player; HP’s concern is whether his game translates at the next level; Pronman said his skill level isn’t that high last year and this year questions whether there’s any role in the NHL that he can fill.

When he was drafted I seriously questioned why the org picked him and that opinion hasn’t changed. It’s hard not to read his jump from the NCAA to the OHL as a sign that he was struggling to at the college level and if that isn’t working what hope does he have as a pro? And worse, the team signed him to an ELC (!). Reading through reports scouts struggle to point out what exactly he does well and that’s the real problem as its clear to me his teammates have been producing the offense for him. There’s no niche for him to inhabit and without one he’s simply doomed as a prospect.

19 (new). Mark Kastelic (DOB 99 5-125/19)
2018-19 WHL 66-47-30-77 1.16

Draft: Only McKeen’s listed him in the draft, and for them he was a mid-seventh rounder. While McKeen’s doesn’t include a scouting report, HP does, talking about his lack of agility, high end senses, and hockey IQ (all things that seem like basic necessities for a pro player). Because he’s a tough guy he’ll linger with the org for awhile, but the odds of him becoming a regular pro are basically negligible. I could tell the hope from the org was that he’d be another Zack Smith, but the chances of that are so remote that it’s a waste of a fifth-round pick (when you compare their stats and scouting reports you can see the difference in talent between the two).

20 (+1). Luke Loheit (DOB 00 7-194/18)
2017-18 USHS 40-15-22-37 (0.92)
2018-19 BCHL 43-8-16-24 (0.56)

Draft: Only HP ranked him, calling him a two-way player, but one of the scouts they quote didn’t care for his hockey sense. There’s very little written about him and what I have seen bends over backwards to try to find anything that suggests pro potential. This summer Pronman basically waived the white flag that he just doesn’t have enough talent as a prospect–his BCHL numbers are atrocious.

21 (new). Viktor Lodin (DOB 99 4-94/19)
2018-19 SHL 41-1-4-5 (0.12)

He wasn’t ranked anywhere by anyone for the draft (not only this year, but in all his other draft-eligible years–not even by Central Scouting). It’s exceedingly rare (if not unprecedented in the modern era) for a region as well scouted as Sweden to miss a quality prospect and since Lodin doesn’t have puck skills I don’t know what the org expects him to do for them. My guess is they think he’s another plugger with intangibles, but there’s never a need to draft players like that.

Overall Assessment: the org has added a potential top-six forward, lost all middle-six projections, and have one fewer top-nine forward. Some of these changes are due to me being a bit more discerning about prospects. With that said, Trent Mann keeps shoving terrible prospects into the pool and this is especially true at forward. The above list is filled with Vincent Dunn’s, Shane Eiserman’s, and Chris LeBlanc’s; it’s hard to see how this will improve as long as Mann is in charge.

On the Outside Looking In (Players Excluded)

Because of how I define my list we’re missing a few org players that fans are interested in. None of these quality as prospects as I see it, but I want to address those that I think there are questions about. Let’s start with the pro players, those with four seasons in the minors that might be thought of as having NHL-potential.

Nick Paul (4-101/13 Dal)
2017-18 AHL/NHL 54-14-13-27/11-1-0-1 0.50/0.09
2018-19 AHL/NHL 43-16-23-39/20-1-1-2 0.90/0.10

Last year I called Paul a marginal pro–someone perhaps worthy of a call-up, but who will never fill-in for regular NHL duty. During his ELC he was frustratingly inconsistent at the AHL level while showing nothing whatsoever with Ottawa (he’s played 56 NHL games to this point). Suddenly, Paul put up tremendous numbers in Belleville–is this his breakthrough, is this his Mike Hoffman moment? No, and I’ll explain why: those numbers are due to one thing and one thing only, Drake Batherson. I’ve mentioned in assessments of Paul in the past that he does not make players around him better–you can go through his history and it doesn’t happen–but Batherson does. That’s the only reason why we saw an uptick in his numbers.

Jack Rodewald (AHL FA 17)
2017-18 AHL/NHL 62-14-11-25/4-0-0-0 0.40/0.00
2018-19 AHL/NHL 59-23-24-47/6-0-0-0 0.79/0.00

My favourite redhead–okay, the only redhead, but I have to reference my fellow gingers. Rodewald was an undrafted CHLer originally picked up by Toronto on an AHL-contract. He has blazing speed–loves those corners–but is an immensely inconsistent performer who isn’t a good PKer (putting him in a very odd place in terms of his role). So, what about this past season with career highs? Did he break through? No, he got Batherson’d (well, actually Paul Carey’d, but you get the idea). Just like Paul above, Rodewald doesn’t make players around him better, but he can support a better player and that’s what happened here. More so than Paul, however, Rodewald simply can’t maintain a high pace all season and regressed to the mean (shoutout to Travis Yost) a lot harder at the end of the season. Like Paul he was cut from Ottawa and he is what he is–a maddeningly inconsistent player who should probably play on an energy line in the AHL–that’s it.

As for the prospect graduates (ie, those ELC players over the 50+ game threshold), I just posted my concerns about Brady Tkachuk, so won’t repeat them here (other than to say I have concerns); I’m a fan of Max Lajoie and happy to see him given more time to marinate in Belleville (last year’s assessment said potential top-four D and that hasn’t changed); I also like Christian Jaros, but think spending the year in Ottawa didn’t do him any favours (I’d previously said top-four potential, but Dom comparing him to Mark Borowiecki is a kick-in-the-balls and would match what Ary said about him a couple of years ago).

AHL-contracts
Specifically those of young players where there is hope for some evolution. The vast majority of players like this amount to nothing–the best case scenarios are the Rodewald‘s or Jordan Murray‘s of the world who become effective (if not elite) AHL-players. Here’s our list for this season:
Alex Dubeau (G) – one of many QMJHL/CIS grads the org has signed, he had exactly one good season at University to earn the contract–he’ll patrol the crease in Brampton
Jonathan Aspirot (D/LW) – unremarkable QMJHLer attended two development camps–he’s such a nonentity no one has a scouting report on him–what he offers is ‘truculence’
Miles Gendron (D; 3-70/14 Ott) – failed Sens pick inexplicably given a contract–unable to produce at any level, we can hope he vanishes into the Brampton ether
Francois Beauchemin (RW) – it’s difficult to express just how bad this QMJHL-grad was in Belleville last year, but the org loves him, so we’ll likely see him at that level for at least part of the year
Jean-Christophe Beaudin (C/RW; 3-71/15 Col) – acquiring him was the price to be paid to get rid of Max McCormick and his contract–he’s terrible, but it was the only way to move a bad asset
Christopher Clapperton (LW; 5-122/13 Flo) – I assessed him here; yet another CIS signing; a smaller, offensive player who will try his luck at carrying that production into the AHL (there should be no expectation of NHL-talent from him; his past is similar to the departed Boston Leier’s)

Summary

I didn’t highlight a single elite talent–this is a sentiment shared by Pronman and the majority of the scouting community. We could be wrong–it would be great for fans if we were–but the org lacks a game-breaker (they currently have one: Thomas Chabot). The overall talent pool is about the same as last year, but I’ve been more rigorous in how I assess projections. The one player who could overachieve is Batherson. What we have on our list is an overabundance of players with offensive limitations–Ottawa could supply most of the league with depth players, which is the least useful asset to have. The org desperately needs top end talent, but given their current draft philosophy that’s just not going to happen. I don’t like Pierre Dorion at all–he’s a terrible GM–but most of the higher end talent added has come from trades, not the draft. That’s faint praise however, as he’s traded away elite talent in return for simply good talent.

As I pointed out last time, on average (per NHL team) 1.5 players per draft play at least 200 games in the NHL. The above list comprises players from seven different drafts, but going through the individual drafts year-by-year I think the following players are most likely to achieve that requisite game number: possibly Hogberg (13), either Chlapik or Wolanin (15), Brown and possibly Lajoie (16), Batherson and possibly Formenton (17), either Bernard-Docker or Tychonick (18), and then Thomson and possibly Sogaard (19). The remaining players are statistically almost certain to finish as failed picks in some respect, although one exception among the other 22 prospects is likely.

The question most fans are going to have is: are there diamonds in the rough? Is there another Mark Stone lurking in the later rounds who will emerge for the Sens? The answer to that right now is simple: no. Trent Mann doesn’t want to draft talent in the later rounds and he’s a man of his word–each year he’s picked less and less talented players late in the draft (none after the second round most recently). This approach is going to asphyxiate the prospect pool and Dorion simply isn’t savvy enough to either address that problem or fix it with trades. Ottawa is becoming the Edmonton Oilers pre-Ken Holland, but without the superabundance of first overall picks.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Looking Ahead to the Sens Upcoming Season

Image result for 2019-20 ottawa senators

My eclectic article looking at Sens coverage is currently an unwieldy behemoth showing no signs of completion, so while that unfolds I wanted to get out thoughts on the Sens upcoming season. Dom Luszczyszyn‘s preview of the Senators for The Athletic is what I’ll work with and let’s open it with a quote:

Last season was an embarrassment for the Senators. Due to a penny-pinching owner and an organization in complete disarray, the team was forced to trade away its three best players, who were all pending unrestricted free agents.

That’s succinct and accurate. But Dom isn’t done:

Ottawa has, by my math, exactly three good players. That’s a joke I made in last year’s season preview and though all three have moved on to greener pastures, the sentiment remains in the form of the team’s new core, a younger and less-skilled version of what the Senators were previously building around.

He cites Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, and Thomas Chabot as the new core and I have faith in exactly one of those players (the latter). Let’s look at the org’s golden boy (our lad Brady) from Dom’s perspective:

[H]e didn’t create many chances for his teammates nor was he entering the zone with control very often. … Without Stone (before he was traded), that dropped to 6.4 per 60, which is significantly lower. That’s a bit of a red flag, especially considering those 14 tracked games suggest he may not be as strong elsewhere. … Tkachuk’s personal shot rate isn’t the only thing that dropped without Stone. His point rate went from 2.33 to 1.27 and that sterling expected goals share dropped from 58 percent with Stone to 50 percent without.

The litany of players buoyed by a talented linemate is nearly endless (most of you won’t know who Warren Young is, but he always comes to mind when thinking of phantom production). That doesn’t mean I think Tkachuk is that bad–when he was drafted I was sure he was a useful NHL player, but there were many reasons to worry he won’t be a star and that’s what fans think he is now. Dom is sounding that warning bell.

As for White, less needs to be said as I think the worries about him are better understood and accepted, but Dom inexplicably doesn’t do a deep dive on him, simply parroting baseline stats and calling him a second-line player–fortunately Nichols performed the autopsy back in June and his analysis isn’t a condemnation, but I do want to cite where my concerns are:

“[White’s] drop [away from Mark Stone] is more precipitous across the metrics [and] the sample size is larger. … Stone’s play has inevitably insulated and propped up White’s production to some degree as it has to players like Zack Smith and Pageau.”

Nichols’ point in the article is more about White‘s various intangibles and how he makes his teammates better, while mine is more about his production (something he echoed today). The org (and Dom echoes their expectation) believes he’s a solution to offensive woes, while my fear is that he’s a better version of Erik Condra/Pageau. There’s a big difference in what he brings to the team depending on how his development goes and the flags on his offensive capabilities were right there when he was drafted.

I want to include a few more choice quotes from Dom before summing up:

[Ottawa’s free agent signings] “None of the four move the needle much”

Max Veronneau and Jonathan Davidsson earning a spot in this initial look. Neither player’s numbers outside the NHL look all that special, though.”

“There’s a clear dearth of defenders with puck skills available to the Senators and watching that will be a frustrating experience as they try to get the puck out. The weak forward group likely won’t help much, either.”

[T]he team’s biggest weakness is likely goaltending. That’s especially true if Craig Anderson remains the team’s starter.

Dom concludes that the team is likely headed to a 70-71 point season (last year he projected 77 points), which would represent modest improvement, but I have a hard time believing a team that can’t score, can’t defend, and can’t stop the puck will improve (if we take the drop from last year as a guide, chop 10 or more points off the tally). Dom is the number cruncher so he has real analysis behind his guess, but just on the bare bones of reasoning even the modest, awful season he’s projecting seems optimistic.

Training camp hasn’t even started so there isn’t a plethora of other breakdowns, but most of what we’ll get is generic media coverage based on ougia boards and tarot cards rather than actual analysis, so I’m not expecting too many adjustments to this.

Bold in Thoughts

Nichols has graced us with his first column since July and there are two things to highlight as Pierre Dorion spoke (something I highly suggest Dorion refrain from doing, otherwise he’ll continue to embarrass himself):

[Nichols] What I find interesting is that the general manager is passing the buck and putting the onus on the coaching staff and players for the possibility of poor performance.

This is the norm for the organization. Since Dorion took over he has been responsible for nothing other than successes–Randy Lee echoed this even earlier, going back through the Murray regime, always having excuses for how the AHL-team did. Nothing is ever management’s fault and this idea is something the owner clings to as well–nothing is his fault.

Nichols goes through some roster speculation, but the org has never been very rationale when it comes to adding young players, so basing it purely on talent or position is a risky business. Given how bad the team will be it’s far better to send the talent to Belleville, but the org has always preferred to let players get their heads kicked in at the NHL-level in the hopes of eeking out a few more ticket sales–I think whoever has a high profile is the most likely to start in Ottawa.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

The Sens Farm System

Image result for prognosis

This isn’t intended as a deep dive from me on the Sens system, but rather a reflection on Pronman‘s (paywall) look at it about a week ago. Let me preface this by saying I take Pronman with a grain of salt–his track record is mixed, but not bad. As I mentioned on Twitter when this came out, there are a lot of warning signs throughout and I wanted to go through what I meant by that. I’m only looking at potential issues to make a broader point about the system (yes I do like some of the prospects). The rankings indicated are Pronman’s own, not mine. I’ll also remind you, Trent Mann took over the drafting reins in 2017 (only one of Tim Murray’s picks, Hogberg, remains).

3. Alex Formenton (2-47/17)

“Formenton didn’t post giant numbers for London…. His offensive ceiling will be a point of debate…. I don’t think it’s top-level skill….”

These are selective quotes (echoing, exactly, the scouting reports prior to the draft) because like most hockey people Pronman can’t help himself but drink the industry Koolaid about things he thinks matters (size and intangibles–“intangible” in this context means cannot be measured–think about that). I happen to agree with Pronman’s final word about his ceiling “[He will] be a quality penalty killer in the NHL.” Do I want to use a mid-2nd round pick on a PKer? No I don’t (think about when Erik Condra was picked). Keep in mind, he’s third on the entire list–a 3rd-line penalty killer is the 3rd best prospect in the org according to Pronman–wrap your head around that.

5. Josh Norris (1-19/17 SJ)

“Norris isn’t an overly flashy player….”

I’m picking out this innocuous comment because Pronman has very much changed his tune about Norris. When I profiled him last fall scouts fell over themselves talking about his limitations–I don’t believe a partial year in the NCAA has suddenly changed all those warning signs. Once again, however, I agree with Pronman’s conclusion, “[He] can penalty kill and will be a competent defensive center in the pros.” Why use a first-round pick (or trade for one) if ‘competent’ is his end game? He’s ranked lower than Formenton above, after all–why trade for a guy who does the same thing, but slightly worse?

8. Jacob Bernard-Docker (1-26/18)

“He’s a well-rounded player without a real wow factor. … He has quick hands, but I wouldn’t call his skill a selling point. … There is an upside question with him that continues to concern me….”

This echoes what scouts said when he was drafted and I’ll reiterate what I said at the time: I don’t mind the pick abstractly (second-pairing guy), but why make it in the first round?

11. Filip Chlapik (2-48/15)

“I’d like to see more consistency from him. For his talent level he’s underwhelmed me too much over the years.”

As regular readers will know, I’m quite fond of Chlapik and I’m including this just to bring up something I’ve said before: I firmly believe Pronman rarely watches AHL-games (he simply doesn’t have the time), so his first-hand opinions are based on junior and NHL scouting. One of the things that’s hurt Chlapik (whose ceiling is up in the air and was when he was drafted–I’ll briefly mention that Pronman face-planted on his defensive abilities), is that he plays hurt. Both pro seasons he’s laboured under various injuries that have limited what he can do–making his middling sophomore season hard to judge.

12. Parker Kelly (FA/18)

“Kelly’s numbers don’t immediately jump out to you….”

Pronman is generally effusive describing him and we have, again, that old NHL bias where he’s ‘good in the corners’–Pronman imagines future offensive skill that’s literally never manifested itself. I think having ‘hustle’ as your benchmark for a prospect is putting expectations far too low. Parker wasn’t drafted (my old profile is here–where a hoped-for offensive jump never happened), but he is sitting on a full ELC–why? I don’t believe in drafting for future fourth-liners (or sixth defensemen)–there is no shortage of players like that in the free agent pool.

13. Max Veronneau (FA/19)

“I don’t see top-end in either department to be a true scorer at the top level.”

While Pronman has excuses aplenty for rough & tumble prospects, skilled guys have to show him more. While I think that’s ridiculous, it does make him more prudent in his assessments. What he doesn’t point out, but I went over, is how it seems like Veronneau’s career has been boosted by playing with Detroit prospect Ryan Kuffner his entire career (some similarities to Chlapik and Daniel Spong). If that’s at all true there’s a good chance he burns out like a roman candle and gets Aaron Luchuk’d in a deal a year from now. While I’m concerned about the signing, I’ll reiterate that I’m supportive of taking chances on skill.

14. Jonathan Davidsson (6-170/17 Clb)

“[H]is skill level doesn’t wow you. It did when I saw him as an amateur but it hasn’t translated versus men. And for a player his age in the SHL, he’s been quite good but not dominant.”

This kind of player was a good risk for Columbus, but as I went over when the Sens acquired him, he’s a long shot to make it to the NHL and his progress since being drafted hasn’t changed that.

16. Shane Pinto (2-32/19)

“There will be stretches where you question Pinto’s skill level. He looks average with the puck, makes basic plays and doesn’t show the ability to create. … I’m skeptical of calling him a natural offensive player and a power play guy in the NHL, but I could see him become a bottom-six forward with his skill.”

Not a ringing endorsement for the highest 2nd-round pick you can have. Scouts disagreed over him prior to the draft and what I wondered at the time is why the Sens picked him that high–given their proclivities I think his size tempted them (not just his height, but his girth)–the Sens have (ever since Murray arrived) overvalued size and the worry is they were blinded by the surface details.

17. Filip Gustavsson (2-55/16 Pit)

“It wasn’t Gustavsson’s best season. That may even be write off territory”

I’m including this only to contrast it against the ridiculous stuff I was seeing written about him at the end of the 2018 season. At the time I was happily defending Hogberg’s rookie season because there was a lot of context most were unaware of, but Gustavsson was just bad last year. Overplayed? Sure, but he struggled–and that’s fine. He’s young and goaltenders take awhile, but Pronman’s comment above could be true–he might just be a bust–food for thought (and let’s remember, he’s 14 slots down from a 3rd line center on this list).

18. Kevin Mandolese (6-157/17)

“[A] tough player for me to get a read on…. The performance hasn’t been there…. It felt like a lot of pucks got by him that shouldn’t or he would lose track of a puck that he shouldn’t have.”

I’m including this largely to illustrate Pronman’s struggles here–he doesn’t know what’s going on with him–more food for thought. As for picking goalies late? It’s fine, but the Sens have struggled mightily in their goaltending scouting over the years.

19. Jon Gruden (4-95/18)

“He’s not a natural playmaker, as he forces plays at times…. I wouldn’t call his offensive or defensive play anything really significant, which makes me wonder what role he fills in the NHL.”

That second comment says it all–why pick the guy and why in the fourth round? This is exactly what I said when he was drafted. He’s not a player you draft if you look at his scouting reports, but not only did they pick him, they signed him to an ELC (!). He’s going to join Max McCormick, Vincent Dunn, and Shane Eiserman in the hall of fame I’m sure.

21. Luke Loheit (7-194/18)

“He just doesn’t score. He had mediocre BCHL numbers and didn’t do much better in high school. Scouts are concerned he never will have enough offense.”

Scouts thought so little of him that almost no one had a report on him (certainly no one ranked him)–why draft this player? Sign him as an FA after college, assuming he warrants it. He’s exactly in the same mold as Gruden, just with worse amateur numbers.

Depth. Markus Nurmi (6-163/16)

“I’m not sure there’s a lot of offensive upside in his game.”

This was the concern from scouts when he was drafted and despite enthusiasm from Ary last year he’s completely vanished from the Sens blogosphere after an unimpressive year with TPS. Why did the Sens draft him? He was a big, north-south player who was good defensively. Again, how many prospects like that do you need?

So who did he mention that isn’t on this list? Briefly:
1. Drake Batherson (4-121/17)
2. Erik Brannstrom (1-15/17 LVG)
4. Logan Brown (1-11/16)
6. Lassi Thomson (1-19/19)
7. Mads Sogaard (2-37/19)
9. Vitaly Abramov (3-65/16 Clb)
10. Joey Daccord (7-199/15)
15. Marcus Hogberg (3-78/13)
Depth. Nick Ebert (who I left out because he’s 25 and been through an ELC, so is he really a prospect?)

These are all either good goaltending prospects or very talented prospects–they have no guarantees, but taking a risk on them makes perfect sense.

Not making the cut for Pronman: Todd Burgess (4-103/16), Jakov Novak (7-188/18), Angus Crookshank (5-126/18), Maxence Guenette (7-187/19), Mark Kastelic (5-125/19), and Viktor Lodin (4-94/19). With the exception of Burgess and Crookshank these are all projected pluggers who max out as depth players.

To wrap this up: what’s difficult to do in the NHL is score. Defending requires less talent and therefore the pool available to perform it is much larger. The most lauded defenders are typically those who can also score, which is indicative. Filling out the fourth line is easy, adding 5th-7th defensemen is easy, and both groups are cheap. Drafting them is an enormous waste of time and money and yet the Sens, especially under Trent Mann, are jamming their prospect cupboards full of them. Looking just at the players I’ve highlighted above (14) none can reasonably expect to be top-six forwards and just one (Bernard-Docker) is a top-four (a four) defender. The highest potential among them is Gustavsson, but not many are going to see him as a definitive blue chip starter anymore. What I would like the org to do (and it won’t under Dorion), is to take more risks in the draft looking for talent. They won’t fail anymore than they already have, but their successes will matter more. What would you rather have, Drake Batherson in the fourth round or Tim Boyle? Take a chance on Mike Hoffman in the fifth or pick Jeff Costello? Mark Stone in the sixth or Max McCormick? When you look at the absolute best case scenario of their approach it’s Zack Smith–but that was 2008, it’s never happened again, and he isn’t remotely as important a player as the talented guys picked long after he was in the third round. Unless the game regresses to the clutch-and-grab era I’d never draft a ‘character’ player if that was his defining characteristic–they are a dime a dozen–lower leagues are filled with them. There’s this strange disconnect for many fans that when a talented player flames out the pick was wasted, but if a grinder plays a handful of games and throws a body check, it was worth it. Both scenarios are wasted picks, but the bang for your buck if the former pans out is enormous.

Those are the thoughts brought about by Pronman’s column. Upcoming I have a long reflective piece on the general coverage of the team, but it’s a behemoth so I have no idea when that will appear. I will, at some point, put out my own prospect list (no real time table for that, but probably before the season starts).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

The Sens Off-Season (continued)

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We are nearing the end of dead time in the hockey world so I want to continue my previous article looking at the Sens off-season. Here are their moves since then:

July 8 – Sign Hubert Labrie to a  1-year, AHL-deal
July 10 – Sign Jack Dougherty to a 1-year, AHL-deal
July 15 – Re-sign Michael Carcone to a  2-year, 2-way contract (his rights acquired in the Cody Ceci trade); sign first-rounder Lassi Thomson to an ELC
July 16 – Trade Zack Smith for Artyom Anisimov (Chicago)
July 23 – Sign Trent Bourque to a 1-year, AHL-deal
July 24 – Sign Alex Dubeau to a 1-year, AHL-deal
July 25 – Sign Michael Brodzinski to a 1-year, AHL-deal
July 30 – Trade Mike Condon for Ryan Callanhan‘s contract

The Anisimov trade has been covered in detail and we all know the main reason the deal was made was to save money (all hail the Melnykian budget). I was never a big Smith fan, but whether Anisimov is actually an upgrade is debatable–in a way it doesn’t matter, since winning isn’t the point of the upcoming season. The Condon deal is another that clears paid salary, as well as rationalizing the crowded crease throughout the org.

I like the Carcone signing (as I went over last time) and putting him on a two-way makes him a safe investment. Dubeau is yet another CIS, University of New Brunswick alum, this time in the net (how much scouting time does the org dump into this league?)–he had a few games in the ECHL last season. As signings go, this seems like a fairly safe risk since he’ll largely be in Brampton.

Signing Labrie, Dougherty, and Bourque is a bad joke–there’s no justification for any of them. Here are their career numbers: 411-12-51-63 0.15, 197-5-33-38 0.19, and 272-4-45-49 0.18. These are terrible, terrible numbers–Andreas Englund numbers–this is the kind of production available from virtually any ECHL call-up if you play them enough. None of these players can produce or move the puck–by default they fit the headache-inducing “good-in-the-corners/room” guys who fail the organization over and over again. You can go through the BSens history ever since Bryan Murray arrived (as I have done) and these players hurt the team every single time. The only hope fans can have is that at least one of them can kill penalties (ala LaBate, who is a slightly better version of them), but they are a waste of money and roster spots. All they accomplish for the org is filling out a thin blueline.

An unrelated sports note: I’m bamboozled how many hockey people are baseball fans (especially given its long decline). As a sport, baseball is less intense than chess, but there are sitll people who love watching guys pumped full of HGH swinging their bat a few times over five hours.

In light of the revelations about Postmedia I wanted to reference my article from 2018 in terms of Paul Godfrey’s political leanings and their inevitable impact on the corporation. The leak isn’t surprising, but it’s good to know that Godfrey is pushing to have a Fox News of the north (for those who don’t know Postmedia owns all the local Ottawa papers).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Thoughts on the Sens Off-Season

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One of these days I’ll update my full look at Pierre Dorion’s trade history, but that’s not my focus here. I’m interested in exploring what’s occurred in the off-season. I’ve always preferred a chronological approach in my explorations, so we’ll start there (the regular season ended April 6th):

[Max Veronneau, Joey Daccord, Johnny Gruden, Chris Clappterton (AHL), and Miles Gendron (AHL) all signed ELC’s prior to this period]
May 7 – Nicolas Ruszkowski steps down as COO of the team
May 10 – Sign Swedish free agent Olle Alsing to a 2-year ELC
May 23 – Toronto assistant coach D. J. Smith is hired as the new head coach (responsible for the worst parts of Toronto’s system–defense and PK)–he reminds me a little of Cory Clouston
May 27 – Sign Josh Norris (late first-rounder acquired in the Erik Karlsson deal) to an ELC
May 29 – Re-sign Anders Nilsson to a 2-year deal
June 6 – Former Islander head coach Jack Capuano is brought in as an assistant coach
June 10 – Sign free agent defenseman (and former failed LA pick) Nick Ebert out of the SHL (1 year, 2-way deal)
June 13 – Re-sign Morgan Klimchuk (acquired in the Gabriel Gagne deal) to a 1-year, 2-way deal
June 17 – Re-sign Anthony Duclair (acquired in the Matt Duchene trade) to a 1-year deal
June 18 – Re-sign Andreas Englund to a 1-year, 2-way contract
June 19 – Re-sign Marcus Hogberg to a 2-year deal (the first year is 2-way)
June 21/22 – A subpar draft performance
June 25 – Re-sign Cody Goloubef (acquired in the Paul Carey deal) to a 1-year, 2-way contract
June 27 – Re-sign Jack Rodewald to a 1-year, 2-way deal; re-sign Joseph LaBate to a 1-year, AHL-deal
June 29 – Re-sign Jordan Murray to a 1-year, AHL-deal
June 30 – David Payne is brought in as an assistant coach
July 1 – Sign free agent forward (and former Phoenix pick) Jordan Szwarz to a 1-year, 2-way deal
July 1 – Trade Cody Ceci, Ben Harpur, Aaron Luchuk, and the 3rd-round pick they received from Columbus in the Duchene trade to Toronto for Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown, and Michael Carcone; signed free agents Ron Hainsey (!) and Tyler Ennis
July 2 – Re-sign Nick Paul to a 1-year, 2-way contract
July 4 – Re-sign Christian Wolanin to a 2-year deal (the first 2-way)

Despite removing the loathed Ceci/Harpur (along with yet another failed CHL signee in Luchuk–the org continues to bat .000 with FA CHLers, cf), the response to the deal was massively negative. Even Varada, who just a few months ago was happily defending the org, attacked their decision. The reason for the backlash? Pretty simple: Zaitsev is one of the few players as bad as Ceci and he’s on a bad deal, but the response is less about Zaitsev himself and more what he represents: that the org isn’t learning. For the most part I agree with the backlash–finally dumping the player you thought was better than Taylor Hall (!) for someone poorly regarded isn’t a win–it suggests the theory that trading Ceci was mostly about staying within the Melnykian budget is true. The org’s unwillingness to progressively evolve is apparent in its frequent sneers at analytics and incessant talk about the ‘good-in-the-corners’ guys who last mattered in the clutch-and-grab era. With that said, there have been changes in their approach that I’ve noticed.

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Within an org where the leader (Dorion) believes he’s a genius and both rejects and resents being questioned (with excuses for all his various disasters–it’s never his fault), what could possibly change?
1. Moving away from skilled players in later rounds of the draft (the focus being on defense and intangibles); not only did Dorion mention this back in September, but it’s readily apparent in their last two drafts (2019 and 2018)–this change is the one most in line with Pierre’s philosophy, so it’s not surprising (just disappointing)
2. A willingness to roll the dice on smaller, skilled players in free agency and trades (Aaron Luchuk, Andrew Sturtz, Erik Brannstrom, Vitali Abramov, etc); this despite an absolute refusal to pick smaller players in the draft–it’s not easy to parse this approach, but the commonality is by doing this they are committed to fewer years of development, so they can assess and move on more quickly than if they’d drafted the player themselves (the problem with this approach is that you can never get the best small players without a cost in assets)
3. More conservatism in their contracts with unproven low to mid-tier prospects; this is a bit less absolute in its application, but the deal given by the org to favourite Jack Rodewald is reasonable, nor did they immediately assume Nick Paul‘s AHL-numbers meant he was NHL-ready; some of this can be attributed to the almighty Melnykian budget, but it’s certainly a change from even last year when Randy Lee was handing out two-year contracts to dundering pylon Patrick Sieloff (or the previous deal with fumbling mighty mouse Erik Burgdoerfer)
4. Greater willingness to cut bait with players who aren’t working out; while Dorion might not admit mistakes publicly, he has dumped favourites when it became painfully apparent they didn’t make the grade (this doesn’t absolve his belief in them in the first place)–getting rid of spare tire Max McCormick, lumbering Ben Harpur, highly touted Gabriel Gagne (who they gave up two second rounders to pick), the aforementioned Sieloff (who helped end Clarke MacArthur’s career), OHL-star Luchuk, etc

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There’s not much I can add to Nichols’ breakdown of Zaitsev, so let me pick a key quote:

It is incredible how eerily similar the on-ice results [of Ceci and Zaitsev] are

Albeit Zaitsev is 27, won’t get better, and is signed long term. This signing, as many others have pointed out, may be a sop to the new head coach. Dorion has shown a tendency to placate his coaches with roster moves (eg Tom Pyatt) and this certainly fits that pattern.

As for Connor Brown:

a decent forward in his prime years who should be able to play up in Ottawa’s lineup and hopefully benefit and pad his offensive numbers with more ice time and power play opportunities. … There is some decent value there, but as an impending restricted free agent next summer, it’s hard to envision Brown as the kind of long-term fit for the rebuilding effort. He could be an ideal pump-and-dump candidate that sees the organization flip him for future assets down the road.

With the NHL-side out of the way, what about the minor league acquisitions? I’ll echo what scouts said about Olle Alsing when he was draft-eligible:

decent puck skills, a good passer, solid defensively, but concerns about his board/body play

He’s not a blueliner whose numbers stand out (they actually fell considerably this season over last); on paper he looks like a depth-project, although he may be useful at the AHL-level.

What about Michael Carcone? He’s an undrafted QMJHLer (a Dorion specialty) who was signed as a free agent by Vancouver and then acquired by the Leafs for Josh Leivo. An offensive player, here’s his ELC arc (keeping in mind I have no idea how coaching staffs used him): 0.29, 0.39, 0.70. That’s a good trend, although we have no assurance what his ceiling is. Much like Alsing above, the only scouting report I have for him when he was draft-eligible (2016) comes from Hockey Prospect (who didn’t rank him, but said this):

good skater with a good burst of speed and great agility, making him tough to contain for opposing defenders with his ability to make quick turns to avoid opponents. He’s a shooter first and has a good wrist shot that is very accurate, and he knows how to pick his corners. There’s a good, quick release on his shot and he can score from different locations in the offensive zone. On the power play, he can score in front or at the side of the net, even from the half-wall. His vision is underrated, as you always think goal scorer with Carcone but he sees the ice well enough to make quick decisions with the puck. He has good puck skills and is good in one-on-one confrontations; his quick agile hands handle the puck well. He’s not big and his size could be a problem at the next level, as he will need to add some strength. He struggled at the end of the season and lost his goal scoring title following a scoring drought in the last stretch of the year. He’s a bit of one-dimensional player, as he will need to score at the next level to achieve success.

This fits the above idea of another org taking the risk on a smaller player before the Sens grab him; I like picking him up–I like skill–so if (when?) the team re-signs him, it will be interesting to watch his progress in Belleville.

I have no idea why the team signed Hainsey–cap floor? Regardless, it’s a one-year deal in a season where the team isn’t going to win, so the complaint would be ice-time for a younger player (assuming that D. J. Smith would play kids extensively–something Sens coaches are generally reluctant to do). The signing might be another sop to the new coach.

As for Tyler Ennis, he’s cheap, but has been a shadow of himself since the 2015-16 season and I have no idea what to expect from him. Both he and Hainsey above are meant to provide the “veteran savvy” the org thinks is so much of–a bit like a rabbit’s foot ensuring good luck….

As for the two veteran AHL acquisitions, Nick Ebert‘s AHL-numbers aren’t that great, although he was decent in the SHL (something that makes sense given his limitations–scouts had issues with his decision-making and hockey sense and there’s more time to make decisions on the larger ice surface). I’ve long bemoaned the org’s decisions with veteran blueliners, favouring talentless pluggers (cf Sieloff above), but at least the idea is for Ebert to move the puck.

As for Jordan Szwarz, at 28 there’s nothing new to learn about him with over 400 AHL games under his belt. He seems to just be starting to decline (his last three seasons 0.83, 0.92, 0.67), but even so he’ll add some stability to a young Belleville squad; what he’s not is a top-tier add like Paul Carey was last off-season.

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What can we make of those re-signed? I suspect the three-headed rotation in the NHL is related to a lack of confidence that either Condon or Anderson can stay healthy (why they didn’t buyout Condon is a mystery to us all, unless they plan to trade him or want Hogberg to spend most of his time in the AHL); Joey Daccord looks destined for the ECHL, which isn’t inherently a bad thing. Nilsson seems like a good bridge for when Anderson departs and adds some insurance if Hogberg isn’t ready for prime time next season.

Anthony Duclair is the kind of risk you can take in a rebuild. Is he likely to change from his years in Columbus? No, but winning isn’t what’s important this season, so giving him that opportunity is an acceptable risk.

Both the Hogberg and Wolanin deals are conservative–they seem designed to protect against risk (the Sens are risk-averse). These deals mean both players can play in Belleville this season and develop (my preference for both), but it also means the team will pay much more next contract if they develop as expected.

Unlike much of the fanbase, I’m quite conservative in my feelings about the big seasons from Rodewald and Paul, particularly with both fading down the stretch (the latter completely while the former regressed to the mean). That said, if you aren’t going to trade them while their value is high, re-signing them to these kinds of contracts makes sense.

I have concerns about AHL-vet Goloubef, whose production immediately regressed to the mean with Belleville and he’s never been an outstanding AHL-player. He’s still seems better than most veteran d-men the org has signed historically, however.

I’m fine with them rolling the dice on Klimchuk–his AHL numbers aren’t outstanding (0.65, 0.64, 0.39), but he has produced and isn’t taking up a veteran contract.

Then we have a signing that has the org’s stubborn fingerprints all over it: Andreas Englund. I’ve watched him bumble around most of his AHL career and he does nothing well, he’s just big. He’s supposed to be a good defender, but he’s not, and his decision-making and hands are terrible. The only positive you can squeeze out of this is that it’s just a one-year (two-way) deal–but really, there’s no reason to keep him.

Bringing back Jordan Murray on an AHL-deal is fine (I thought he’d crash and burn this past season, but he didn’t, even though he remains a defensive nightmare), but I wasn’t happy with re-signing LaBate–he’s not usefully gritty (as in, he doesn’t protect his teammates, nor does his mucking result in offence), but he is a good PKer (or, at least, he was this season). So, unlike Englund, he does at least something well.

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Generally speaking, debating strangers on social media is a waste of time–it’s a poor platform for discussion and most people aren’t interested in good faith arguments (it’s either about “winning” the debate or its an argument based on emotion and neither gets you anywhere). I got drawn into one of these via my review of Ottawa’s 2019 draft because I wasn’t aware (at first) that’s what I was in for. My article couldn’t be more innocuous (it summarizes the views of scouts, the org’s trends, with some opinion from me), so how did this result in an argument?

The initial argument:
1. Claimed a THN (The Hockey News) article said the Sens are the second best in the league at finding NHL players after the second round (he didn’t link it and I can’t find it, but let’s accept it exists); when asked for context he said the article was based on the Sens draft history from 2000-18. In the absence of the article I had no idea what criteria they were using to define “NHL player”–just playing games (Ben Harpur?), impactful players, or what (I’ve tackled draft success previously)? I pointed out to him that the timeframe used goes through multiple changes of GMs and scouts, as well as ownership, and he admitted this mattered without changing his argument. I pointed out that Pierre Dorion’s comments in September echoed my conclusion about the draft (less skill, more character), but this (to him) was Dorion engaging in some kind of 48-D, underwater backgammon strategy to fool other NHL teams by doing… exactly what he said? The argument then became:
2. The Sens have a successful scouting track record, therefore they should not be questioned. He never justified the former with comparative analysis, or specified why (even if true) they shouldn’t be questioned, but he then said that the opinions of anonymous scouts and media personalities aren’t as good as the team’s (no justification for that idea either). I pointed out to him that the scouts aren’t anonymous, nor had I used media personalities (he’s referring to the Bob McKenzie draft article, but as I explained to him, Bob’s list comes from a group of NHL scouts). He then said scouts not employed by an NHL team don’t have opinions as worthy as those who are–putting aside the terrible logic, he’s actually refuting his own argument since Bob’s information is from current NHL scouts. At this point I stopped talking to him, because it was clear he was simply going to reject anything I said that didn’t fit his narrative.

I’ve gone through all of this thoroughly because this kind of thinking comes up all the time. I can’t figure out if people arrive at this place mentally through absorbing team propaganda or if they think liking a team means uncritical enthusiasm. Maybe it’s like politics where, for many, there’s not a choice, just a tradition to follow. Regardless, I’m not sure what one can do to elucidate ones views to someone like this, but I hate to think it’s impossible to get through to some intransigent fans.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators Development Camp Invitees

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It’s always fun looking at which free agents the Sens invited to their development camp, as occasionally these players are signed (Parker Kelly is the most recent example; more commonly players will get invited to the AHL-camp in the fall):

Defense

Jonathan Aspirot DL DOB 1999 QMJHL 57-12-23-35 0.61
Returns from his invite to the camp last year; the most distinguishing thing about him are his penalty minutes and we know the org loves that stat.

Alexis Binner DL DOB 1998 NCAA 32-2-9-11 0.34
Left the NCAA early (Maine) to sign with Vasterviks in the Allsvenskan. Back in 2018 HP described him as offensively limited with poor hockey sense, but good defensively (as we know, the org believes the latter is what’s important).

Trenton Bourque DL DOB 1998 OHL 57-4-8-12 0.21
Inexplicably drafted by St. Louis (6-175/17)–strikes me as a warm body to fill out the dev camp roster.

Clay Hanus DL DOB 2001 WHL 68-8-19-27 0.39
HP was very high on him for this year’s draft (fourth-round), with FC putting him in the sixth and McKeen’s not listing him. As someone still draft-eligible there’s not much to explore here.

Connor McDonald DR DOB 1999 WHL 68-19-31-50 0.73
Back in 2017 HP profiled him, calling him a good defensive player who was adequate offensively.

Jordan Power DL DOB 2001 USHL 58-3-15-18 0.31
Committed to St. Lawrence; these are very weak USHL numbers, but he did put up career high PIMs (he also played for Rockland the previous season, so fits the local boy niche).

Cade Townend DL DOB 1999 CCHL 56-13-25-38 0.67
Committed to Mercyhurst; another local boy (playing for Carleton Place)–these are unexciting, tier-2 numbers.

Nicholas Walsh DR DOB 1997 Cdn U 29-6-23-29 1.00
5’10 former QMJHLer had a good season in the Canadian University system (for context a top University season is in the 1.4+ PPG range). Over the last few years the org has dug deep into the USports scene looking for prospects for the AHL (Jordan Murray etc), so where he’s playing won’t hurt his prospects.

Forwards

Stephen Anderson RWDOB 1994 Cdn U 30-12-21-33 1.10
Another former QMJHLer in the University system (his numbers aren’t overwhelming, see above).

Jean-Christophe Beaudin C/RW DOB 1997 AHL 62-7-9-16 0.25
Inexplicably played 20 games with Belleville this past season (after doing the same for Colorado); he’s a failed Avalanche draft pick (3-71/15); he could be useful in Brampton, but the org seems to like him quite a bit, so it’s possible he’ll get an AHL-deal. [I was reminded he had a year left on his ELC when the Sens picked him up when they dumped Max McCormick, explaining both the games played and, presumably, the invite.]

Zachary Okabe RW DOB 2001 AJHL 60-31-27-58 0.96
5’9; he’s committed to St. Cloud and was draft-eligible this season (no one had him selected or provided a profile).

Mark Simpson C/LW DOB 1995 Cdn U 30-10-12-22 0.73
Yet another former QMJHLer playing in the USport ecosystem; he’s 6’6, which I think is the primary reason he’s here (no draft guide discussed or listed him when eligible).

What are our patterns? A lot of defensemen (a need in the minors); most of these players are offensively limited, but defensively sound; there’s very strong representation from the QMJHL (4) and local boys (2). The major change from last year is a reduction in the number of college players.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)