Ranking the Sens Prospects

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

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

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

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

Goaltenders (5)

Potential Starter (3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Backups (2)

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

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

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

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

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

Defense (8)

Top-Four (5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom-Pair (1)

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

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

Marginal NHLer (1)

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

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

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

Bust (1)

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

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

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

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

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

Forwards (21)

Top-Six (3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top-Nine (4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom-Six (4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marginal NHLer (6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bust (4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Outside Looking In (Players Excluded)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

4 Comments

  1. You are going to be roasted for this but I tend to agree. This system has a decent number of players who have a chance to play in the NHL – on 3rd and 4th lines. That’s it about it and guys getting excited about the NHL potential of guys like Davidson and Chlapik are kidding themselves in my opinion. Our “rebuild” is close to complete and our farm system elite – yet in Pronman’s most recent prospect rankings, Ottawa doesn’t have a player appear until Batherson at 29, while multiple other teams who have not sucked as long or as badly as Ottawa have multiple players ranked higher.

    Imo this fanbase is smelling its own farts and I’d love to be wrong but I don’t know. There’s just not enough talent.

    • I welcome the criticism if it’s backed up–maybe I missed something (it happens). We’re pretty much on the same page–the org hypes up its young players quite a bit (& some of the fan sites echo that). I have my issues with Pronman (Ben Blood, lest we forget), but I think he’s largely on target with the org and my fear is that things are just going to get worse–Trent Mann is a terrible guy to have in charge of the draft.

  2. I tend to be not quite so pessimistic but in a general philopsophical sense I agree completely: at one of the most pivotal and critical moments in Sens history, when scouting, talent analysis and draft strategy will determine the success or lack thereof for the next decade, the ship is being piloted by a group who value safety and mediocrity above all else. I think our only hope at this point is that the underperformance of so many of Mann’s picks in Belleville and other lesser leagues, coupled with the harshly evident lack of elite talent in Ottawa, will lead to an epiffany for Dorion. 2020 is shaping up to be the best draft in 15+ years; wasting any more of our accumulated picks on players who top out as 3rd line pluggers or AHL tweeners simply cannot be allowed to happen.

    • Thanks for the feedback! For the players I’ve never seen I lean heavily on scouting/numbers/comparables–when I have seen them my opinions are stronger. We definitely agree on the broader point. The team absolutely needs a giant injection of high end talent, but I don’t share your hope that Dorion will figure it out–he’s stubbornly myopic and leads an org that accepts no responsibility for its failures. If you can’t be wrong, you can never learn and by never learning you can never change. I think the org still has some good scouting minds on the amateur side, but at this stage I think luck is the only way forward until there’s a new owner/management.


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