Analysis and Predictions for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft

The 2019 NHL draft is hours away so it’s time to put on my prediction hat and look at who will be selected. What follows is a long preamble, so for those simply interested in the list just scroll down. I am not a scout, simply someone who enjoys the draft.

My approach is to collate the best publicly available sources on the draft to provide insight into who will be picked. This is my tenth year following this strategy (beginning with the now defunct Hockey Herald back in 2010). That year I picked 72% of the draft class which, as it happens, is very good. When I talk about successful predictions, I don’t mean player X was picked in X round at X position (ie, John Smith was #43 as predicted)–that kind of precision simply isn’t practical (it’s never much higher than 25% and when you subtract the first round it bottoms out completely). These numbers and percentages reflect which players were selected in the draft, period. Here are the numbers from 2011 onwards (in brackets are the total number of correct players selected; until 2017 ISS listed 220 players as being selected in the draft, then only listed 200 that year, and went back to 220 in 2018, so they are divided by that number or the total draft number, whichever is higher)):
Hockey Prospects (HP): 72.8 (154) 72.0 (152), 69.2 (146), 70.9 (149), 75.8 (160), 74.8 (154), 70.9 (154), 74.6 (162)
Eye on the Sens (EOTS): 72.1 (153) 75.8 (160), 69.2 (146), 70.9 (149), 78.5 (165), 72.5 (153), 68.2 (148), 71.4 (155)
Future Considerations (FC): 68.6 (145) 71.1 (150), 68.7 (145), 69.0 (145), 69.2 (146), 70.1 (148), 61.3 (133), 65.4 (142)
Red Line Report (RLR): 68.3 (145) 73.9 (156), 67.7 (143), 64.7 (136), 73.0 (154), 66.8 (141), 63.1 (137), 64.0 (139)
International Scouting Service (ISS): 64.4 (139) 66.3 (146), 62.7 (138), 60.0 (132), 68.6 (151), 63.6 (140), 66.5 (131), 59.9 (130)

The differences are telling, with Hockey Prospect‘s consistently more accurate than anyone else (ISS has never been very good, but RLR fell off a cliff post-2015–FC possibly following suit a year later). Let me point out that it isn’t the guide’s prerogative to say which player will be selected, but rather which player they think is best–I’m simply using their data for the former purpose.

This year ISS did not put out a draft guide, indirectly doing me a favour since their lists have been dragging me down. RLR, while still publishing, raised its price by 80% and given that it’s a weaker product I’ve simply cut it out. This leaves me with just HP and FC for what I’ve been tracking all this time, so to round things out I’m incorporating McKeen’s (last used in 2013). HP, however, has changed how they rank players, capping the number at 108 (with 6 goaltenders in their own, separate list–shades of ISS). While HP has a logic for their change, as an aggregator it makes my life much more difficult–we shall, however, persevere. To help out the numbers I’ve folded Bob McKenzie‘s list back into the aggregate (he’d only been excluded previously because he doesn’t cover the entire draft).

My ranking methodology is as follows: I take the sum of the sources and produce an aggregate number (for example, player X is ranked 15, 24, and 32, those numbers are then averaged to create the aggregate number, eg 23.66). This gives me something I can use for comparison and that creates my initial list. Typically I then engage in comparative analysis, but I’ve cut back on that because concerns over the specific pick isn’t my primary purpose here. Given the change in source material, I’ve had to adjust this approach, although I still give preference to those players picked by more sources; both Bob McKenzie and HP are given greater weight due to their track records.

Notes

The area most guides struggle with is European scouting (presumably due to cost), leaving them overly dependent on international tournaments for their assessment (a limitation worth keeping in mind).  I’ll give one specific example to make the point: last year ISS actually listed how many times their scouts filed a report on a player–they saw Czech leaguer Martin Kaut 14 times; the two CHL players he’s sandwiched between were seen 33 and 43 times respectively–that’s a massive difference.

Speaking of scouts, all three publications list their scouts (HP only on their website): 12 for Mckeen’s (4 in Europe), 22 for FC (9 in Europe), and 29 for HP (just 3 in Europe). HP’s coverage is heavily rooted in Eastern Canada; FC’s much broader European coverage means they have more European players scattered throughout their list. It’s also worth noting that HP has more faith in smaller players than most.

-Acronyms: CS (Central Scouting), HP (Hockey Prospect), FC (Future Considerations), McK (McKeen’s)
-For convenience I’ve identified goaltenders (G) and defensemen (D)
-I’ve noted size where I feel it’s important (the NHL preference for size remains a factor); in general I’ve used HP’s sizes, as Mark Edwards’ waits until after the NHL combine to finalize those numbers

Draft Rankings

First Round

1. Hughes (1) – there’s no dissenting views among the top-three and they all appear in this order
2. Kakko (2)
3. Bowen (D) (3)
4. Turcotte (5)
5. Dach (6)
6. Zegras (6.5)
7. Krebs (7.5)
8. Podkolzin (7.5) – the Russian factor could always push him down
9. Cozens (8.75)
10. Boldy (10.25)
11. Caufield (11.25) – at just 5’7 I think he could very easily slip (I’m suspicious of his numbers as well, as he wouldn’t be the first player to benefit from excellent teammates and then crash without them)
12. Soderstrom (D) (12)
13. Seider (D) (14.25)
14. Newhook (15.25)
15. C. York (D) (15.5)
16. Broberg (D) (15.5) – in the top-ten for McKeen’s
17. Harley (D) (19.5)
18. Tomasino (20.5)
19. Suzuki (20.5)
20. Lavoie (20.75)
21. Poulin (23.5)
22. Heinola (D) (24.25) – the first player not universally slotted in the first round
23. Knight (G) (25.33) – keep in mind HP doesn’t give him a number in the draft, so being their top ‘tender is difficult to parse for aggregation
24. Kaliyev (26.5) – has a second-round pick
25. M. Robertson (D) (27) – ibid
26. Brink (27.75) – 5’8; his size is probably why he’s evenly split between first and second rounds
27. Bjornfort (D) (28) – has a second-round pick
28. McMichael (28.75) – ibid
29. Holmstrom (29) – split 1st/2nd
30. Johnson (D) (30) – ibid
31. Hoglander (32) – 5’9; ibid–size could see him tumble

Other first round selections: Dorofeyev (3), Pelletier (2), Leason, Thomson, Vlasic, Rees, Kolyachonok, Helleson, Johansson, Mastrosimone, and Puistola.

Second Round

32. Pelletier (33.25) – 5’9; split 1st/2nd (again, size could sink him)
33. Leason (34.25) – gets a first-round pick
34. Thomson (D) (37.75) – split
35. Beecher (38)
36. Vlasic (D) (38.5) – 6’5; gets a 1st-round nod from Bob
37. Rees (38.75) – gets a first-round pick
38. Kolyachonok (D) (39) – ibid
39. N. Robertson (41.25) – at 5’8 he could fall far
40. Dorofeyev (41.5) – Bob wrecks his number (third round); everyone else has him first (Russian factor to be considered)
41. Tracey (45.5)
42. Afanasyev (46.5)
43. Helleson (D) (47.75) – gets a first-round pick
44. Johansson (D) (48.25) – ibid
45. Korczak (D) (53.5) – split 2nd/3rd
46. Foote (54.25)
47. Mastrosimone (54.5) – 5’9; gets a first and third-round pick
48. LaCombe (D) (54.5)
49. Nikolaev/Nikolayev (57.25)
50. Grewe (58)
51. Puistola (58.75) – gets a first-round pick
52. Legare (58.75)
53. Norlinder (D) (59.25)
54. Spiridonov (60.33) – no HP (so sub-108 for them)
55. Farinacci (62.75) – one fourth-round pick
56. Henriksson (65.75) – 5’9
57. Teply (66.75)
58. Firstov (67)
59. Tuomisto (D) (67.75) – one fourth-round pick
60. Misyul (D) (68)
61. Honka (D) (68)
62. Sogaard (G) (68) – 6’6

Third Round

63. Z. Jones (D) (71.33) – surprisingly FC, despite listing 300 players, doesn’t list him
64. Fagemo (71.75) – gets a pair of second picks
65. Kniazev/Knyazev (D) (73) – ibid; on the small side for Dmen (plus, Russian)
66. Kokkonen (D) (73.5) – on the smaller side
67. Pinto (75) – two seconds and two fourths
68. Attard (D) (75.5) – not listed by either HP/FC, but Bob has him mid-second
69. Clarke (76.5)
70. Huglen (76.5) – all over the place–not listed by FC and McKeen’s just gives him an Honourable Mention (HM henceforth)
71. Thrun (D) (78.75)
72. Donovan (80) – not listed by HP/FC
73. Caufield (82) – not listed by HP
74. Gritsyuk (82.75) – FC puts him in the fifth, which sinks his number
75. Spence (D) (83) – at 5’9 he could slide all the way out of the draft
76. Warren (D) (83.75) – also undersized
77. Phillips (84) – 5’9; a fifth sinks his number (size a concern here)
78. Cajkovic (85.25)
79. Chystyakov/Chistyakov (D) (88)
80. Struble (D) (88.5) – has a second-round nod
81. Guskov (88.5)
82. Bolduc (D) (89) – just an HM for McKeen’s
83. Kochetkov (G) (89.66) – has a second-round nod
84. Beckman (91.75) – number thrown off by a sixth
85. Vukojevic (D) (92.33) – not listed by HP
86. Campbell (94.75) – two second-round picks
87. H. Jones (G) (98.33)
88. Beaucage (98.5)
89. Hamaliuk (99) – McKeen’s drags down his number
90. Alexandrov (100.5)
91. Lundmark (D) (101.75) – second-round nod from Bob
92. Ahac (D) (102.5)
93. Okhotyk (D) (103) – gets two seconds; this is Bob’s last pick on my list
94. Gutik (86.33) – two thirds and a fourth

At this point we’ve run out of Bob McKenzie’s picks; we’ll shortly lose HP as well, which means the list leans hard on FC and McKeen’s (not necessarily the strongest foundation, but it’s the foundation we have).

Fourth Round

95. Moynihan (88.66)
96. Keppen (93.66)
97. Bychkov (D) (94) – undersized Russian
98. Aaltonen (98) – at 5’8 I could see teams passing on him (either later or entirely)
99. Protas (98.33)
100. Lindmark (99.5) – not listed by FC
101. Rybinski (101.5) – gets a second-round pick; HR from McKeen’s
102. Blaisdell (102.33) – gets a second-round nod
103. Tieksola (104) – 5’9
104. Wolf (G) (112.5) – undersized goaltenders (he’s just under 6’0) are almost never picked
105. Janicke (116.33)
106. Nikkanen (119.33)
107. Abramov (119.33) – gets a second-round pick
108. Ciccolini (125)
109. Guenette (D) (129) – doesn’t appear in McKeen’s
110. Hanus (D) (132) – ibid
111. Krannila (137.5) – ibid
112. Pitlick (139.33) – 5’8; an early second to HP, FC has him out of the draft
113. Rizzo (141.66) – 5’9; rankings all over the place
114. Del Gaizo (D) (150) – 5’9; FC doesn’t list him and as a blueliner that small he could fall out of the draft
115. Slepets (155.33) – FC has him out of the draft
116. Berger (D) (191.33) – ibid; this is the end of HP supported picks
117. Saville (G) (64) – gets a second; beginning of pure FC/McK aggregates
118. Pasic (65) – ibid
119. Constantinou (D (70.5) – ibid
120. Fairbrother (D) (78)
121. Miner (G) (81.5) – at 6’0 he’s undersized for a ‘tender, so could tumble out of the draft
122. Saarela (88)
123. McCarthy (D) (98.5)
124. Porco (100.5)

While there are a couple of solo HP picks to come, we’ve hit the end of them contributing to aggregate.

Fifth Round

125. Alnefelt (G) (102.5)
126. Blumel (103.5)
127. Mutala (104.5)
128. Portillo (G) (107.5) – 6’6 (according to FC; HP doesn’t list him)
129. MacKay (111.5)
130. Kallionkieli (113.5)
131. Mironov (113.5)
132. Ellis (G) (119.5)
133. Toporowski (119.5)
134. Lychasen (D) (120.5)
135. Murray (122)
136. Fensore (D) (122) – 5’6; I’ll eat my hat if a blueliner this short gets picked
137. Sundsvik (123.5)
138. Zaitsev/Zaytsev (124)
139. Antropov (128)
140. Simoneau (129) – at 5’6 I don’t think he gets drafted
141. Washkurak (134)
142. Strondala (135) – 5’7; at his size he could drop out entirely
143. Brewer (D) (137)
144. Rowe (G) (139)
145. Nussbaumer (139)
146. Newkirk (140)
147. J. Lee (D) (144)
148. Romano (147)
149. Has (D) (150)
150. Parssinen (150.5)
151. D’Amico (153) – at 5’9 he could slide out of the draft
152. Caroll (154)
153. Maccelli (158.5)
154. Raty (159.5)
155. Loponen (D) (159.5) – at 5’9 he could fall out of the draft

Sixth Round

156. Hatakka (D) (160)
157. Costmar (167.5)
158 Schwindt (170)
159. Gauthier (G) (170)
160. Alistrov (179.5)
161. Soderblom (181) – 6’6; size will help the big Swede
162. Gylander (G) (183) – 6’5 according to FC (HP doesn’t list him)
163. Williams (185.5)
164. Brinkman (D) (191)
165. Muzik (196.5)
166. Barlage (200)
167. Eggenberger (202.5)
168. Maier (G) (205) – at just 6’0 he could easily fall out of the draft
169. Bertuzzi (206.5)
170. Moser (D) (211) – the last of the shared FC/McK picks
171. Najman – McKeen’s has him early in the third round (CS likes him too)
172. Gildon – McKeen’s has him mid-third round
173. Koster (D) – 5’9; late third-rounder for McKeen’s, but at that size he’s more likely to fall out of the draft
174. Malone – mid-fourth-rounder for McKeen’s
175. Stevenson – late fourth-rounder for McKeen’s
176. Psenicka – 6’5 (HP doesn’t list him, so trusting McKeen’s); big Czech is a mid-fifth-rounder
177. Nodler – late fifth for McKeen’s
178. Brodzinski – late fifth for McKeen’s
179. Sheshin – 5’8; late fifth-rounder for FC; McKeen’s mentions him in their preamble as possibly going in the first half of the draft, but oddly doesn’t list him–being Russian and 5’8 isn’t going to help
180. J. York – marginal fifth for McKeen’s
181. McKenna – early sixth for FC; HM for McKeen’s
182. Leyh – as above on both counts
183. Topping – early sixth for McKeen’s; listed out of the draft by FC
184. Sjolund (D) – early sixth for FC; HM McKeen’s
185. Wahlgren – ibid
186. Allensen (D) – mid-sixth for FC; HM McKeen’s

Our aggregate possibilities ended this round, as we run out of shared players between FC/McKeen’s. My approach from this point was using the highest ranked players.

Seventh Round

187. Taponen (G) – undersized; mid-sixth for FC, HM for McKeen’s; at just under 6’0 he’s likely to slide out of the draft
188. Uba – late sixth for FC; HM McKeen’s
189. Siedem (D) – ibid
190. Burzan – ibid
191. Olson – ibid
192. Hirvonen – ibid
193. Intonen – ibid
194. Myllyla – early seventh for McKeen’s; FC lists him out of the draft
195. Cajka – ibid
196. Giroday – ibid
197. Pedersen – mid-seventh for McKeen’s; FC lists him out of the draft
198. Likhachyov – ibid
199. Darin – HP has him in the second round, but he’s not listed elsewhere (besides CS)
200. Bergeron (D) – FC has him as a mid-third rounder
201. Ford – 5’8; HP has him in the third, but size will hurt him
202. Serdyuk – a late third for FC
203. Moberg (D) – early fourth for FC
204. Rousek – fourth for FC
205. Doyle (D) – ibid
206. A. Lee – fourth for McKeen’s
207. Feulk – fourth for FC
208. Orekhov (D) – fourth for McKeen’s
209. Sedlak – ibid
210. Gordon – fourth for FC
211. Yakovenko – fourth for McKeen’s
212. Bruschweiler – ibid
213. Rtischev – late fourth for FC
214. Konovalov – late fourth for McKeen’s
215. Francis (D) – early fifth for McKeen’s
216. Gnyp (D) – ibid
217. Basse (G) – 6’5; final HP slotted player (unlisted elsewhere)

We don’t have a pile of double-selected players as we normally would. What’s left on the board are eight fifths from FC and six from McKeen’s (along with a pile of sixths and sevenths). There are always highly touted EU players from the CS list ignored by the draft guides and that continues: Chinakhov (#30), Tesanov (#40), Denezhkin (#41), Svoboda (#42), Komissarov (#48), and Voronkov (#50). Inexplicably McKeen’s discusses Chinakhov without including him in their lists.

For those keeping score I said the following smaller players might fall out of the draft entirely: Spence, Aaltonen, Pitlick, Rizzo, Del Gaizo, Fensore, Simoneau, Strondala, Loponen, Sheshin, Koster, Ford, Wolf, Miner, Maier, Taponen, and Konovalov. The undersized goaltenders and blueliners in particular are at risk. Who might fill in these slots? Likely a lot of players not listed, but of those who are, here are the most probable: all CS EU players above along with McCartney, Chizhikov, Silovs (G), Bakanin, Hedlund (G), Tsyplakov, Burenov (D), Rasanen (D), Parik (G), Silianoff, Kope, Schiemann, Sergeev, LeGuerrier, Uens (D), Popovic (D), and Garayev.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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Ottawa Senators Mock Draft

It’s time to make predictions for who the Sens will pick in the 2019 draft (you can see last year’s mock draft here). I do this for fun–it’s difficult to know who will be available when the Sens pick and they have their own eclectic tendencies. Speaking of which, let’s go over which way the Sens picks tend to blow:
-No picks from Europe (the last two seasons)
-Stay safe (not taking chances) the last two seasons
-Size size size (the Sens have only picked two’s player under 6’0 since 2011–Dahlen and Crookshank, both of whom are 5’11–while Dorion has signed or traded for players who are undersized, he doesn’t seem to want to draft them)
-Grit/character/good-in-the-room–they consistently pick at least one player with no discernible skill that has ‘intangibles’
-Goaltenders late (since Lehner (09) no ‘tender has been picked earlier than the third round)
-At least 1 French-Canadian/QMJHL player since 2008

With that established, let’s take a look at who they might land. I’ve listed five players around the pick based on my list with some added thoughts.

1-19 (listed 17-21)
Harley OHL (D)
Tomasino OHL
Suzuki OHL
Lavoie QMJHL
Poulin QMJHL

I feel like one of the Q-players, if available, are likely to go (in that order) rather than Suzuki, largely due to organizational preferences.

2-32 (30-34)
Johnson USHL
Hoglander SHL
Pelletier QMJHL 5’9
Leason WHL
Thomson WHL (D)

With all the blueliners taken last year I think Leason gets the nod over the undersized Pelletier.

2-44 (42-46)
Afanasyev USHL
Helleson USDP (D)
Johansson SuperElit (D)
Korczak WHL (D)
Foote WHL

The Sens like their bloodlines, so I think Adam Foote’s son gets the nod.

3-83 (81-85)
Guskov OHL
Bolduc QMJHL (D)
Kochetkov VHL (G)
Beckman WHL
Vukojevic OHL (D)

We won’t see a Russian (particularly from Russia), so I suspect Beckman would be the target.

4-94 (92-96)
Ahac BCHL (D)
Okhotyk OHL (D)
Gutik MHL
Moynihan USDP
Keppen OHL

If he’s around they’d lean into Ahac (who can take his time developing in the NCAA), but if not Keppen is bigger (Moynihan is under 6’0) so he’d be the choice.

5-125 (123-127)
McCarthy USDP (D)
Porco OHL
Alnefelt SuperElit (G)
Blumel USHL
Mutala WHL

It wouldn’t surprise me if they take a flyer on a goaltender (especially one who can sit in Sweden for years before they have to sign him), but Blumel is another guy to stash in the NCAA, so I’d lean that way.

7-187
Wahlgren
Allensen (D)
Taponen (G)
Uba
Siedem (D)

Adding a defenseman to the tally makes sense.

I’m not expecting much of this to occur since, especially as the draft grinds on, all sorts of players slip unexpectedly or get taken early, but given what we know this is what I think the org would do.

My big draft article is upcoming–the rough version is done and I’ll have it up before the first round picks this evening.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

NHL Draft Guides

Image result for dumpster fire

Over the last few years I’ve noticed a frantic retreat by the major draft guides–varied attempts to prevent what’s clearly a slide in (paid) interest (I’ve gone over hockey’s declining popularity, along with most other major sports, previously). Let’s go over the last seven years (2013 onward), since that’s how long I’ve broken down the guides in a way that includes price. We’ll look at the changes and assess:

  • International Scouting Service (ISS): 2013 ($59.95–pre-ordered); 2017 ($10); 2019 (cancelled guide)
  • Red Line Report (RLR): 2013 ($50.00); 2019 ($90.00)
  • Hockey Prospect‘s (HP): 2013 ($39.99); 2018 ($49.99)
  • Future Considerations (FC): 2013 ($19.99); 2016 ($22.99); 2017 ($24.99); 2019 (no more direct download; guide hosted by them online)
  • (bonus) McKeen’s: 2013 ($30); 2019 (only accessible with a minimum 3-month subscription)

I haven’t tracked McKeen’s throughout the years, so I’m including them to make a broader point (given that they, like ISS, have abandoned selling a guide).

You could argue, rightly, that price increases are normal–there’s inflation to deal with. However, we aren’t seeing gradual changes like that generally. What did ISS do? For a long time they overpriced their guide to push pre-orders, but that model stopped being sustainable so they switched to become the cheapest guide out there (2017-18), hoping volume would make up for the revenue and now, just three years later, they’ve completely cancelled it. RLR’s change is even more drastic–the first price change they’ve made in at least a decade, suggesting declining volume (not a surprise given RLR hasn’t changed their coverage in forever). McKeen’s seems to be going the ISS route (although they still have their guide). HP’s hike is pretty high (25%), but given how long they kept it at $40 it’s not as clear it’s a sign of panic. FC decided to prevent direct downloads of the pdf, suggesting they’re worried about private sharing and, thus, every sale matters to them in a way it didn’t before.

Conclusions? Three of the five most popular draft guide publishers are in full retreat–ISS has given up, McKeen’s only sells it to boost subscriptions, and RLR has pushed out an absurd 80% price hike. There’s less obvious panic in HP and FC, although with FC hosting the content online you are at their mercy in terms of how long it remains available to you (I’m not a fan of that) [this has been corrected, see below]. To me this screams that there is less overall interest in the guides, therefore in the draft, and therefore in the NHL generally. Draft guides were always a niche part of the market anyway, so are only sustainable en masse when there’s significant demand. What survives, for now, is either the best or most accessible content, but for the draft in particular it’s the best content which remains with the least amount of change.

[Update: Aaron Vickers, of Future Considerations, got in touch with me after this with a couple of clarifications: you can download the guide–it’s simply not directly from the sales link (you do it via Adobe), and as such he’s not concerned with people having their copy directly; he also says sales are excellent. As I told him in response, my opinion here isn’t about the specifics of his guide (which has always been the best buy for casual fans), but about the overall trend without the guide-publishing industry.]

For those asking about my own draft dissection, it’s currently up in the air. It’s a tremendous amount of work and the interest is waning, so we’ll see what happens. If enough people ask I’ll make sure to do it, although it’s disappointing that I’ll have to switch some things up in the absence of both ISS and RLR (despite neither being very good for predictive purposes).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Sens Sign Olle Alsing

The Sens have notoriously avoided signing free agents out of Europe going back to the days of Bryan Murray. Instead we had an endless stream of NCAA and CHL players, none of whom have ever panned out. Pierre Dorion finally took a shot in the dark and signed Swedish defenseman Ollie Alsing, so let’s take a look at him.

Olle Alsing, DOB 96, DL
2016-17 SHL 45-1-7-8 (0.17, 6th)
2017-18 SHL 51-7-14-21 (0.41, 2nd)
2018-19 SHL 49-4-11-15 (0.30, 3rd)

These aren’t overwhelming offensive numbers, but as a young player he’s been near the top of his team’s defensive production the last two seasons. So what did scouts think when he was available for the draft? Among the scouting sources I track only Hockey Prospects included a scouting profile for him in 2015 when he was eligible. Here’s what they said:

… a slight defenseman with quick feet that effectively starts up plays from the back end, often before the opponents have the time to shut down his best option or put pressure on him. He has decent puck skills, his head up and he immediately recognizes the best passing lane available. When no good one is available straight away, he has the notable capability of waiting an extra split second for a lane to open up. He takes some risks, but overall his passing game is excellent and certainly his main strength. He doesn’t mind joining the play in the offensive zone, but doesn’t possess great acceleration to make up for it when he gets caught.

… Olle doesn’t look intimidated by bigger opponents, but inevitably his size [5’11] somewhat limits his defensive efficiency. How he would fare against the most talented forwards in the top Swedish league is a question mark, and he certainly will have to bulk up to increase his chances to succeed at the next level.

We can boil this 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 (you can find plenty of people who do, but the averages tend to fail miserably when applied to individuals), 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 fans will want to know about the next level. I think the ceiling is pretty limited here–he’d be a very safe, depth defenseman, although there’s no harm in hoping for more. Nichols has an article looking at the signing as well (paywall), as does Ross A, whose prediction that lumbering dud Andreas Englund will be resigned is, I hope, some sort of fever dream.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens

Prospect Signings and Overview of Current Prospects

Image result for joey daccord

Since signing Max Veronneau the Sens have added two more players–one expected, the other a surprise. We’ll start with the former.

Joey Daccord (G, DOB 96)
2016-17 .892
2017-18 .909
2018-19 .926
The Arizona State ‘tender spent his first couple of seasons getting his head kicked in with an awful team in front of him, but everything turned around this year. He wasn’t ranked by anyone other than Central Scouting when drafted, but his father is a well-known goalie coach who played in Europe and the org loves bloodlines (as well as Joey’s smarts and hands). So why sign him? After Marcus Hogberg‘s strong sophomore season (and Filip Gustavsson‘s rookie struggles), there’s room in Belleville for another prospect. I expect Daccord to push the young Swede for playing time and, if necessary, mind the net in Brampton.

Johnny Gruden (LW, DOB 00)
2017-18 25-15-19-34
2018-19 38-3-12-15
He was picked slightly after projections, but digging into the scouting material there were a lot of red flags for me. I have no idea what the urgency in signing him now was, as his numbers in the NCAA are unremarkable. I hope Colin’s idea that this is a way for him to jump to the OHL is right, rather than seeing him getting his head kicked in as a pro.

Prospects in the System

This only lists players who have not played a season in the NHL/AHL (those in green are signed; scoring rank is via points-per-game, with defensemen compared to defensemen); they are listed by draft date/FA sign date.

Miles Gendron DL (3-70/14) NCAA 30-3-4-7 (0.23; 2nd) signed AHL-deal
Filip Ahl W (4-109/15) Allsvenskan 42-11-9-20 (0.47; 5th)
Joey Daccord G (7-199/15) NCAA .926 2.35 signed ELC
Todd Burgess C/RW (4-103/16) NCAA 36-7-9-16 (0.44; 6th)
Markus Nurmi W (6-163/16) Liiga 60-1-11-12 (0.20; 23rd)
Alex Formenton LW (2-47/17) OHL 31-13-21-34 (1.09; t-4th) signed ELC
Jordan Hollett G (6-183/17) WHL .895 3.50
Parker Kelly C/RW (FA 17) WHL 64-35-32-67 (1.04; 5th) signed ELC
Jacob Bernard-Docker DR (1-26/18) NCAA 36-5-12-17 (0.47; 2nd)
Jonny Tychonick DL (2-48/18) NCAA 28-0-4-4 (0.14; 6th)
Johnny Gruden LW (4-95/18) NCAA 38-3-12-15 (0.39; 7th) signed ELC
Angus Crookshank LW (5-126/18) NCAA 36-10-13-23 (0.64; 5th)
Kevin Mandolese G (6-157/18) QMJHL .895 2.87
Jakov Novak C/LW (7-188/18) NCAA 37-7-8-15 (0.40; 8th)
Luke Loheit RW (7-194/18) BCHL 43-8-16-24 (0.55; 9th)
Josh Norris C (T-SJ 1-19/17) NCAA 17-10-9-19 (1.11; 1st)
Jonathan Davidsson RW (T-CLB 6-170/17) SHL 37-10-11-21 (0.57; 6th) ELC via CLB
Max Veronneau RW (FA 19) NCAA 31-13-24-37 (1.19; 2nd) signed ELC

The Clock is Ticking

Filip Ahl is the last man standing from the 2015 draft, but after yet another disappointing season in the Allsvenskan I expect the power forward to be let go
Jordan Hollett the WHL ‘tender has flatlined, unable to reach the middling numbers of his draft year–he too will be let go

Image result for cody ceci

One of the least surprising things in the off-season has been the org’s stated desire to bring back perennial dud Cody Ceci–the guy they could have traded straight up for Taylor Hall (something which continues to boggle the mind). I want to go through Chris Stevenson’s article (link with a paywall) just to point out how silly the defense of him is which Stevenson offers:
1. He eats up tough minutes
All this requires is the coach to say “get out there champ,” meaning you, me, or your grandfather could also skate around during those tough minutes. That aside, what the org means is they feel like he’s effective playing these minutes, but we know from analytics that he’s not
2. An unnamed director of player personnel said he’s a 4-6 “with a good partner”
If I were Stevenson, I’d want to know what they thought he was with an average partner–Tom Preissing looked good when protected by a good partner, so that qualifying tag isn’t saying Ceci is good even as a bottom-end blueliner without assistance
3. He’s never had gifted partners
I think this reflects Stevenson’s lack of comfort with analytics, because Ceci‘s horrendous reputation takes into account the performance of his partners–this isn’t a deliberate obfuscation on Stevenson’s part, it’s simply ignorance (not in the pejorative sense, I mean he literally doesn’t know)
4. He needs to be re-signed to meet the cap floor
Actually, the team could sign a good player to meet the floor, so retaining Ceci is irrelevant in this respect

None of these are actually arguments that show Ceci is a good player. The org says he is, but just saying something doesn’t make it so. I’m not picking on Stevenson here–most reporters his age (and older) aren’t comfortable with analytics and lean on opinions from NHL people and the various cliches about hockey they grew up with, but that doesn’t excuse the laughable reasoning he includes here.

Image result for odds word

I don’t typically write about the odds, but I know people get excited about them (The Hockey News etc do this sort of thing before every season). SBD gives the Sens 33% chance of climbing out of the bottom five of the NHL next season (which seems oddly generous to me, barring further roster changes and without knowing who the next head coach is).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens

Belleville Senators: Reviewing Predictions

It’s time to look back at my predictions for the 2018-19 BSens and see what I got right, what I got wrong, and give some thoughts on the season that was.

Coaching

As with every coach the org has ever hired, Troy Mann was going to come in and provide structure, teach the kids, and put a competitive team on ice. Since the rhetoric never changes we can ignore it and simply look at what he accomplished (the crunchy stats below are compared to the BSens last year, while the overall record is compared to Mann’s previous season as a coach).

Troy Mann (17-18) 30-37-9 .454 -> (18-19) 37-31-3 .539
228 GF (+34) 228 GA (-38) PP 18.3 (+3.3%) PK 75.7 (-2.2%)

These are almost across the board improvements, granting that it’s hard to imagine worse results than the last three years (two under Kleinendorst and one under Richardson). My biggest concern was how much Mann would play younger players, since his predecessors leaned heavily on veterans. Mann showed the same tendencies, but without equal rigidity. This tendency clearly reflects a preference from the org because they continually hire coaches who follow that program.

As for the nuts and bolts, while goals for/against saw a positive swing of seventy-two, this was largely due to a better roster (for the first time in at least three years the BSens didn’t have the worst blueline in the AHL). Why am I giving the roster most of the credit? Because the PK, the area that coaching impacts the most, somehow got worse. The PK was last in the league–actually worse than the Kleinendorst era, which I thought was impossible. They gave up seventy-five PP goals, basically one a game. We can’t blame this on the team being poor defensively because 5-on-5, they weren’t that bad (150 GA, or just under 2 goals per game); we also can’t blame the goaltending since, in general, it was fine; the final knock is that acquired players tended to do worse or no better under Mann (particularly elite talent).

So what can I say for Mann? He was fine–not awful, but not great. I don’t think he’s the kind of coach who can fix the technical issues of younger players, he’s just an adequate, but uninspiring AHL coach (Chris Stevenson thinks highly of him, but Stevenson has barely seen the BSens play this season, so is relying on the org’s narrative).

Player Predictions

Link above (I considered anything within 0.03 of my points-per-game number within the margin for error), with blue meaning the result was higher than expected and red lower (players traded away are in italics):

Defense
Christian Wolanin 0.58 -> 0.78
I was conservative with him and he blew away my expectations; I think he would have been better served by 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), with the latter two segments showing Mann had stopped fussing about with his usage
Christian Jaros 0.50 -> NHL (0.16)
I wasn’t expecting the Sens to pull the trigger on him so quickly, but given their struggles on the blueline and his physicality it’s not a complete surprise
Stuart Percy 0.40 -> 0.46 traded (0.35)
Because Lajoie and Jaros were in the NHL, he received more special teams time than expected; traded away to Providence for absolutely nothing (Fyten), which was by far the worst AHL-deal of the season (meant to help the playoff push–oh-uh!)
Max Lajoie 0.38 -> NHL (0.26)
Not sure keeping him in Ottawa for a full season was the right move–time will tell
Julius Bergman 0.30 -> 0.18 traded (0.20)
Completely crashed and burned away from the Sharks system; wasn’t given much of a chance by Mann, but didn’t improve in Hartford (he was dumped in the Matt Duchene trade, with the Blue Jackets promptly sending him to the Rangers)
Erik Burgdoerfer 0.25 -> 0.28
Not a fan, but he put up his expected numbers (when the games mattered he was 19-0-3-3, his worst numbers of the year, which tells you something)
Jordan Murray 0.19 -> 0.48
I thought his production last season (0.40) was inflated by usage, but clearly at this level he can produce when given the opportunity; he is a nightmare defensively and why he winds up on the PK at times I have no idea
Patrick Sieloff 0.17 -> 0.20 traded (0.07)
A wholly unremarkable player who, outside the PK, offers nothing–completely bottomed out once dumped on the Ducks in the Gibbons trade
Andreas Englund 0.14 -> 0.21
The mild uptick in his numbers 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); for those hoping he’s good on the PK, he’s not
Macoy Erkamps ECHL -> traded (0.16)
Yet another CHL FA boondoggle; he was dumped on Pittsburgh in the Ben Sexton trade

Forwards
Logan Brown 0.75 -> 0.75
I hit this prediction out of the park–it’s a solid rookie season for him (despite a lot of coaching goofiness early in the year)–I can only imagine how eager the org is to rush him into the NHL
Rudolfs Balcers 0.71 -> 0.72
I wasn’t a fan of keeping him in Ottawa for such a long time
Filip Chlapik 0.71 -> 0.60
I’m fond of Chlapik and was hoping for a nice jump in production, but he essentially matched his rookie numbers (part of the reason was his production dropped the final 27 games (27-5-7-12)
Ben Sexton 0.62 -> 0.53 traded (0.38)
The oft-injured forward went on a slump that dragged through his trade to Pittsburgh (the org acquiring some much needed blueline help at the time in the form of Elliott)
Paul Carey 0.60 -> 0.93 traded (1.10)
It turns out his 16-17 season wasn’t a fluke, nor is Carey beginning to decline, as the veteran had a career year; he was another sacrifice to shore up the blueline (Goloubef)
Drake Batherson 0.55 -> 1.05
I was very conservative in my prediction here (it was feasible that Mann could have buried him on the third line, ala prior coaches and players like Francis Perron); while I think I picked a solid comparable for him (Tanner Pearson), I would have been better off simply using his rookie number (0.73) as-is; he’s such a great player to watch, I hope BSens fans soaked it in because I don’t imagine he’ll be back; btw, lest we forget, Dorion has said he doesn’t want to take risks on skilled players in later rounds anymore (yikes!)
Gabriel Gagne 0.50 -> 0.27 traded (0.31)
The big question coming into the season was whether last year was a fluke or not–turns out, it was, as Gagne couldn’t match his modest production (0.36) and is a draft gamble that didn’t pay off (he was dumped for former first-rounder Morgan Klimchuk)
Chase Balisy 0.49 -> 0.29
I wasn’t a fan of the signing, but assumed he’d follow his career norm–instead, he completely bombed out despite many early opportunities
Andrew Sturtz 0.48 -> 0.40
NCAA FA had an injury-plagued season compounded by bizarre usage, but I wasn’t that far off his production (as I warned in the prediction post, TOI would be a major factor)
Nick Paul 0.47 -> 0.91
This was very unexpected, as for three years the one consistency with Paul was his inconsistency; the question is, how much of this is a result of him versus the talent around him? I’m hesitant to jump on the bandwagon; he only played 43 games and went ice cold when they mattered most (11-0-3-3)
Jim O’Brien 0.45 -> 0.27
Missed most of the season so I think you can throw out his totals–I don’t want him resigned, however
Adam Tambellini 0.43 -> 0.44
You know what you’re getting with Tambellini–is that worth keeping?
Aaron Luchuk 0.33 -> 0.33
I’m quite pleased with this prediction–he’s a work-in-progress and its possible he’ll crash and burn, but I like the org throwing the dice on talented players
Jack Rodewald 0.32 -> 0.80
Speaking of unexpected, these are his best numbers since junior four years ago; always a streaky player, I feel like this is an outlier and he’ll regress to the mean (he disappeared down the stretch, 18-4-4-8, which is very close to his usual production)
Boston Leier 0.28 -> 0.18
It’s always tough predicting numbers for low-end players; Leier played less than I expected and the more I saw him the less I liked him
Joseph LaBate 0.25 -> 0.19
This signing bothered me quite a bit and LaBate delivered even less than expected–yet another ‘gritty’ player who failed to deliver
Ryan Scarfo 0.22 -> traded (0.28)
Included in the Sexton trade, where he was unremarkable, but better than his brief time with the BSens
Francois Beauchemin ECHL -> 0.15
Played far more than made any sense (40 games!)–for whatever reason Mann is a fan (grit, again)

Marcus Hogberg .899 improved -> .917
Last year I talked about how he was a victim of bad luck with his numbers and that he’d be better this year, as indeed he was, wrestling the starting position from a struggling Gustavsson; he had no sustained poor streaks throughout the season (only once did he have subpar back-to-back games), which is an excellent sign
Mike McKenna .909 decline -> .914 traded (.896)
Didn’t actually play in Belleville for long and was flipped to Vancouver in one of Dorion’s better deals (as he bombed out in Philadelphia, where the Canucks sent him)
Filip Gustavsson .918 decline -> .887
An ugly season, even more so than imagined, but I did warn that he was beginning to regress to the mean last year; for those jumping off the bandwagon, remember that many did so with Hogberg and he’s rebounded–there’s no reason to give up on Gustavsson yet
Jake Paterson ECHL -> ECHL
Road the pine occasionally, as expected

Acquisitions
Erik Brannstrom 0.68 -> 0.44
The main piece of the Mark Stone trade, his numbers dropped, albeit bouncing back and forth between Ottawa and Belleville didn’t help
Cody Goloubef 0.75 -> 0.40
Acquired in the Carey trade, he did not maintain the same level of production and while he wasn’t terrible, this was not good value for what was surrendered
Stefan Elliott 0.40 -> 0.45
A solid acquisition via the Sexton trade–doesn’t blow your socks off, but added some stability to what was an awful blueline
Justin Falk 0.25 -> 0.28
I hated this signing–he was awful in the NHL and didn’t do anything in the AHL
Darren Archibald 0.70 -> 0.61
Part of the McKenna trade; his production dropped, but not precipitously
Vitaly Abramov 0.42 -> 0.39
The rookie is clearly still trying to find his footing–far too soon to pass judgement on him
Morgan Klimchuk 0.47 -> 0.15 -> 0.63
A great pick-up for Gagne, as in limited action he put up more typical numbers (8 games isn’t enough to say he needs to come back, however)
Jean-Christophe Beaudin 0.31 -> 0.15
Why did he play so much (20 games!)?
Austin Fyten 0.20 -> 0.17
This was a classic Dorion move–get a tough guy to help with the playoff run…by acquiring a player who can’t actually help you get to the playoffs
Tobias Lindberg 0.40 -> 0.20 -> 0.23
Bombed out completely–I don’t know what the issue is with Lindberg–so much talent, but his game lacks structure and limits his production

And that, as they say, is that. I’m quite happy with my prognostication. As for the season that was, the BSens were a better team and the org was willing to make difficult decisions (difficult for the org I mean) by jettisoning some of the regressive players they get so attached too (RIP Max McCormick, who put up career worst numbers after he was traded–no longer protected by favourable usage). The Fyten trade, however, brings us back to earth and its clear that even after all this time Dorion still has bad tendencies and struggles to accept the reality of how hockey has changed.

What do I want to see in the upcoming season? Letting go of any player labelled ‘gritty’ and focusing on talent. I don’t expect them to do that wholesale, but we did see some positive signs. The BSens have an atrocious record of signing AHL vets and that needs to change (especially on the blueline). The trades weren’t as bad as at the NHL-level, but even where Dorion won a trade none of his acquisitions were better than the prospects (who carried the team). Essentially the org has to evolve, so that’s where fans have to put their hope. As for the Sens, given the ownership and GM I’m not optimistic, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be positives next season.

I have a couple of more articles in the hopper–I’ll be taking a look at prospects and at some point looking at the possible 2019-20 BSen roster.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Max Veronneau (and other recent FA Signings)

There was a time, years ago, where I would have been excited about the Sens signing a college free agent, but given the org’s long history of failure with NCAA (from John Muckler through Byran Murray to Pierre Dorion) it’s hard to get excited. There was a time when these players were at least top AHL-talent, but even that assessment has become iffy under Dorion’s regime. With that said, let’s take a look at Max Veronneau.

Max Veronneau (RW, DOB 95)
15-16 30-11-6-17 (0.56) 2nd team scoring
16-17 33-11-24-35 (1.06) 1st
17-18 36-17-38-55 (1.52) 1st
18-19 31-13-24-37 (1.19) 2nd

The local boy (Dorion’s favourite) spent his entire career playing with Ryan Kuffner (signed by Detroit) and their numbers are extremely close, with the younger Kuffner being ever so slightly better (1.15 over his career vs 1.11). This means we have to ask the question of 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 historical record to go by which (for NCAA free agents) is not particularly encouraging. The odds of him being a significant contributor are very small, so the optimistic appraisal is that he becomes a useful bottom-six forward.

There were two other BSens related signings I wanted to quickly go through.

Miles Gendron (3-70/14, DL, DOB 96)
17-18 33-1-8-9 (0.27)
18-19 30-3-4-7 (0.23)

The career 0.26 NCAA performer was picked a bit early at the time and his production and performance since has not changed (keeping in mind he was selected to be an offensive defenseman)–he was an unremarkable player in the BCHL and just as unremarkable in the NCAA. He’s been signed to an AHL contract and barring a miracle will disappear into the ECHL next season.

Chris Clapperton (5-122/13 Flo, LW, DOB 94)
17-18 23-16-17-33 (1.43) 1st
18-19 30-14-33-47 (1.56) 1st

Another player from the Canadian University system and another smaller player (5’9); signed to an ATO he’s a safe risk and I’m happy with this kind of signing. Unlike Veronneau there are scouting reports on him from 2012 and 2013. Here’s what Hockey Prospects said in his draft year:

He’s a hard worker and doesn’t shy away from the physical game and will go in the tough areas of the ice. Solid in all three zones and he’s a smart player that doesn’t put his team in trouble. His smarts help him get open for goals as he follows the play really well and finds soft ice easily. Like last season, his skating will hurt him come draft day, he has quick feet but lacks high end speed, something you like to see from a small player. His offensive game would be limited at the next level as he doesn’t have big strengths: his skill set is pretty average, lacking size and high end speed, he doesn’t possess a particularly lethal shot, his passing game is simple and effective but again just average.

At the University level Clapperton had no problem producing, but whether he can carry that over in the AHL remains to be seen.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)