Reviewing Ottawa’s 2019 Draft

Image result for pierre dorion laughing

Time to take a look at the draft that was (my predictions, based largely on the outside scouting consensus, crashed and burned). The org did, however, stick to its tendencies: they drafted no one under 6’0; they picked a French-Canadian; they picked from the American development leagues; and the only European from Europe was from Sweden. Dorion also stuck to his idiotic comment back in September that the org wouldn’t aim for skill in the later rounds because it was too risky–so for those of you who raised your eyebrows at pluggers like Kastelic, it is at least consistent with what we were told–who wants to take a shot at a Mark Stone or Mike Hoffman when you can get a steady performer like Vincent DunnJeff Costello, or Max McCormick?

1-19 Lassi Thomson (DR) WHL 63-17-24-41 0.65

The Sens gave up the 4th overall pick (Bowen Byram) to Colorado to win big with Matt Duchene–when that blew-up in their face they sent Duchene to Columbus and this pick was part of the return. There’s no question that, at least in terms of the publicly available scouting consensus, he was picked early (Hockey Prospect had him highest at #28 among the sources I use). There’s lot’s of scouting material on him, with HP’s the most thorough:

A versatile two-way defenseman whose best attribute is his ability to excel in transition, where he is a threat both as a skater and using the full width and length of the ice as a passer. His skating is characterized by a fluid stride and impressive edges which allowed him to routinely peel-off pressure in his own-end of the ice, as well as cut aggressively down the wings which led to him generating consistent scoring chances off the rush. His straight-line speed and agility allow him to knife through the neutral zone once he gets going, but he could use extra power so that he can further increase his straight-line speed. His passing ability features sharp-outlet passes that he’s capable of generating under-pressure and when in motion, but there were games where he had some inconsistencies which led to unforced icing’s and turnovers as well. As a result, we wouldn’t label Lassi as a high-end playmaker but a good one. He does have tools that allow him to compensate when his passing isn’t consistent, including a set of hands and skill level that are above-average, which gives him the ability to beat the first forechecker. Another important aspect to Lassi’s game is his confidence when handling the puck under-pressure, he likes becoming the primary option when driving play through the neutral-zone and isn’t afraid to challenge the defense. Lastly, Thomson processes the play at a good level, this extends to when he is carrying the puck while going at top-speeds, where he showed the ability to react to closed and open skating lanes quickly. In the offensive-end and when quarterbacking the powerplay, Lassi showed several impressive tools that allowed him to finish second in rookie scoring for WHL defenseman. His confidence and skating extend to the offensive-line, where he showed poise, patience, and lateral mobility that allows him to re-open and readjust both his passing and shooting lanes while under pressure at a high-rate. When Lassi was given or created openings, he rarely showed high-end vision but still made calculated one-touch passes and was an efficient distributor. However, it’s his slapshot that stood out the most in our viewings. His slapshot features a reduced wind-up, fluid mechanics, and a good amount of velocity given his build. Lastly, his shots were accurate, specifically for the amount of power he can generate behind them. Defensively, Thomson showed a good combination of defensive awareness and physicality. He can be prone to shifts where things don’t go his way, which leads to multiple clumsy and careless plays but he also displayed a good compete level and was willing to attempt to recover on defensive errors for the most part. He had further inconsistencies at tracking players without the puck as he sometimes lost his man on plays out of the corner and was occasionally late getting into shooting lanes. Furthermore, although aspects of his defense need work, he did show determination, grit, and the willingness to play larger than his size along the boards when the play called for it. Lastly, he was capable of making quick-decisions below the goal-line during forechecking sequences, both with and without the puck. Overall, [he] had a solid first year in North-America, projecting to be a potential top-four, puck-rushing defenseman who could slot in as a 2nd-powerplay option if his development goes well. For him to make it at the pro-levels, he will need to continue to develop his defensive-reads and become more consistent with his puck-management.

On their 3-9 scale they gave him 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.

2-32 Shane Pinto (CR) USHL 56-28-31-59 1.05

The Sens like drafting from the USHL and that’s where they went for this pick (he’s committed to North Dakota). Just like Thomson, he was picked ahead of projections (mine had him split between a second or fourth-round pick; HP again had him highest at #44). Here’s HP’s breakdown of Pinto:

Strong, adaptable offensive forward. Pinto is one of the top players in the USHL not playing for the USNTDP. With his slick hands, wrist shot and heady playmaking ability, he shows good offensive potential. He consistently turned in a strong effort whether on first place Tri-City or last place Lincoln. He posted points in 75% of the games he played this season and despite leaving Lincoln 30 games into the 62-game docket, even at season’s end, he’s still the team leader in points – no one passed him. He acclimated into the robust Tri-City lineup very well midway through the season. His role on the power play was altered though. With Ronnie Attard [3-72 Phi] as the triggerman, Pinto was forced into a net-front and puck retriever role which he seemed to embrace despite it limiting his puck touches in open space. One thing it did show off is Pinto’s phenomenal hand-eye coordination. Between deflections and pass acceptances, he seems to never fail to get a stick on the puck. Shane’s a thick player who can be tough to move from the front of the net or the slot. He wins a lot of puck battles with his timing and body positioning. Despite only being an average skater with a long stride, Pinto does have good closing speed which might be enough to bump him up a half point. He is carried primarily by his ability to anticipate plays. He finds some sneaky passing lanes to unleash crisp passes through. He can finish with authority from in-close or mid-range with his powerful wrist shot and snappy release. Despite his size, he doesn’t seem like a naturally physical player but he will make a hit to help out defensively. His defensive play is inconsistent overall, some nights he seems more attentive to it than others. On the plus side, he is an expert in the dot and does a good job communicating to teammates what he wants to have happen off the draw. He was mostly used at center this year, but has shown the ability to play the wing. Pinto didn’t look out of place no matter what team or situation he was put in or on. Going from being a one-man show on a desolate Lincoln team, to having to fit into the best team in the league thereafter: he really looked the part all season. He was in on half of all of Tri-City’s playoff goals. Between his balanced attacking tools, size and hockey IQ, this player has all the makings of being very useful to a pro organization.

On their 3-9 scale he’s 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 above), and that defensively he’s a mixed bag (largely based on his positional play); McKeen’s two-sentence profile doesn’t add anything new.

2-37 Mads Sogaard (G) WHL .921 2.64

This is the New York Rangers’ pick acquired from Carolina in exchange for 2-44 (via Florida by way of San Jose in the Erik Karlsson deal; Jamieson Rees) and 3-83 (Pittsburgh via the Derick Brassard trade; Anttoni Honka). The big Dane shared goaltending duties with failed Sens pick Jordan Hollett (6-183/17), meaning he received far more exposure than would be usual. Like the above players, 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 these are the key points:

It’s rare to find a goalie that’s been gifted with the reflexes and subsequent reaction-time he possesses at his size. … When dropping into his butterfly, he’s adept at reversing out of the movement, giving him the necessary ingredients to make back-to-back saves while transitioning into and out of the technique. … Mads does have the tendency on some sequences to shrink into himself, specifically by not keeping his core activated which doesn’t allow him to maintain his posture. … his butterfly doesn’t contain many seams for shots to leak through; it’s tightly-sealed off in most games which allowed him to absorb rebounds at a plus rate when we viewed him. Usually when Sogaard let’s in a goal from his butterfly, it’s a by-product of over-committing on a shot which gives him less opportunity to react when transitioning into it. Another important aspect when discussing Mads butterfly is in relation to his hockey-sense. … Sogaard has demonstrated a good sense for when a shot is getting blocked in a lane. This allows him to stay more upright, which prevents him from overusing the technique. … Sogaard’s hockey-sense [is] not as high-end as [Spencer] Knight’s [1-13 Flo] but it’s still well above-average. He’s good at recognizing the intent of shooters in-tight to the net which allowed him to make several point-blank saves and stop breakaway scoring chances in our viewings. Furthermore, his height gives him a distinct advantage when analyzing the trajectory of point-shots, and he rarely loses track of the puck as a result of being able to look around screens in a half-crouch when he can’t afford to stand-tall. Where he tends to lose-track the most, is … behind the goal-line. … His blocker-side has more refined mechanics than his glove-side… His stance is still not as narrow at it needs to be in order for him to take advantage of his edges to the degree he theoretically should be able to later in his development; but for such a large kid, he shows impressive rapid-adjustments when misinterpreting initial play-types or when broken plays occur. … An area of significant difference between Sogaard and Knight is in regards to their willingness to break their own form in order to make recovery saves. …Sogaard shows a higher comfort level when extending himself as a result of not anticipating certain play-types as well. … Our main takeaway, is that Sogaard … does have fascinating physical and mental tools with a remarkably large and projectable frame. We expect his development to take longer than Knight’s but the finished product could be an exciting one….

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).

4-94 Viktor Lodin (C/LW) SHL 41-1-4-5 0.12

Swedish overager who played on FA signee Nick Ebert’s team (Orebro); he wasn’t ranked anywhere by anyone (not only this year, but 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. Lodin hasn’t played in major international tournaments and while his SuperElit numbers are okay (0.78) they don’t blow you out of the water. Whatever skills he has, he’s not offensively gifted, which means at best you’re looking at yet another grinder in the system.

5-125 Mark Kastelic (CR) WHL 66-47-30-77 1.16

Another overager; the org is clearly looking for a Zack Smith clone (an overage pick best known for his intangibles), he’s also picked well ahead of projections (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 (I’ve highlighted concerns):

A big power winger who plays a physical style. Offensively Kastelic’s game revolves around a heavy wrist [shot] that he was adept at using after muscling his way in to a dangerous area, beating multiple [goalies] with his shot. Kastelic was an excellent goalscorer this season as well in part due to his willingness to get to the dirty areas around the net. Kastelic has enough speed for the WHL level but his lack of agility will make it harder to make an impact as he moves up a level. Kastelic also lacks high end senses and hockey IQ, getting tunnel vision while barreling in to the zone on occasion. Kastelic brings a major physical element to his game, playing a tough in your face style of game and using his big body to deliver punishing checks. Next season Kastelic will be dominant as an overager if he is back in the WHL

On a 3-9 scale they list his hockey sense as a 5, compete a 6, skill a 5, and skating a 5.

7-187 Maxence Guenette (DR) QMJHL 68-8-24-32 0.47

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). Here’s the HP profile:

A two-way defender with good skating abilities, good footwork and who has the ability to skate the puck out of his zone. His game still has inconsistencies to it; with his toolset, you would expect him to have more of an impact offensively. Instead, he opts to play a smart, safe, simple game and doesn’t take many risks on the ice. … in the offensive zone, he’s usually not very noticeable. … Another thing would be for him to get more pucks on net, as he only had 106 shots this year. He doesn’t have a powerful shot on net. While his accuracy is good, in order for him to be considered as more of a threat from the point, his shot’s velocity should be improved. Offensively, he was never the number one option on the power play this season. … He remains a good defender with above average footwork and a good active stick in his own zone. He’s good at defending one-on-one, but can struggle down low against bigger players; Guenette is not overly physical and could stand to be stronger. … He does have some decent skating abilities and is a smart two-way defender, but we do question if there are enough skills in him to make it as a regular NHLer.

On their 3-9 scale he’s a 6 across the board (hockey sense, compete, skill, and skating). FC thinks his skating is just average, that he’s not fully engaged defensively, and struggles to get his shot through.

So what do I think of this year’s draft? It’s yet another year where the Sens were risk-averse in terms of who they picked. If all goes well, other than Sogaard, these are support players (Thomson a top-four, Pinto a top-nine, Lodin, Kastelic, and Guenette support players). There’s a very good chance that the bottom three picks will crash out completely (although I’d guess Kastelic will get an ELC to bash around in the AHL for awhile regardless). You can argue that most late picks don’t turn out, and that’s true, but I don’t see the logic in ensuring they are (at best) bottom feeders in the NHL–you can fill those slots with free agents–it’s pointless to waste draft picks on them.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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