Reviewing Ottawa’s 2018 Draft

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

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

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

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

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

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

And

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

And

Weakness: overall quickness; consistency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And

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

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

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

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

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

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

And

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This sounds like Chris Driedger‘s career. And

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

And

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Reviewing the 2018 NHL Draft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Biggest Surprises

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

Central Scouting Misses

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

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

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

Trends via Unlisted Players

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

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

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

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

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

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)