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
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
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
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

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

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)


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