The Sens Farm System

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This isn’t intended as a deep dive from me on the Sens system, but rather a reflection on Pronman‘s (paywall) look at it about a week ago. Let me preface this by saying I take Pronman with a grain of salt–his track record is mixed, but not bad. As I mentioned on Twitter when this came out, there are a lot of warning signs throughout and I wanted to go through what I meant by that. I’m only looking at potential issues to make a broader point about the system (yes I do like some of the prospects). The rankings indicated are Pronman’s own, not mine. I’ll also remind you, Trent Mann took over the drafting reins in 2017 (only one of Tim Murray’s picks, Hogberg, remains).

3. Alex Formenton (2-47/17)

“Formenton didn’t post giant numbers for London…. His offensive ceiling will be a point of debate…. I don’t think it’s top-level skill….”

These are selective quotes (echoing, exactly, the scouting reports prior to the draft) because like most hockey people Pronman can’t help himself but drink the industry Koolaid about things he thinks matters (size and intangibles–“intangible” in this context means cannot be measured–think about that). I happen to agree with Pronman’s final word about his ceiling “[He will] be a quality penalty killer in the NHL.” Do I want to use a mid-2nd round pick on a PKer? No I don’t (think about when Erik Condra was picked). Keep in mind, he’s third on the entire list–a 3rd-line penalty killer is the 3rd best prospect in the org according to Pronman–wrap your head around that.

5. Josh Norris (1-19/17 SJ)

“Norris isn’t an overly flashy player….”

I’m picking out this innocuous comment because Pronman has very much changed his tune about Norris. When I profiled him last fall scouts fell over themselves talking about his limitations–I don’t believe a partial year in the NCAA has suddenly changed all those warning signs. Once again, however, I agree with Pronman’s conclusion, “[He] can penalty kill and will be a competent defensive center in the pros.” Why use a first-round pick (or trade for one) if ‘competent’ is his end game? He’s ranked lower than Formenton above, after all–why trade for a guy who does the same thing, but slightly worse?

8. Jacob Bernard-Docker (1-26/18)

“He’s a well-rounded player without a real wow factor. … He has quick hands, but I wouldn’t call his skill a selling point. … There is an upside question with him that continues to concern me….”

This echoes what scouts said when he was drafted and I’ll reiterate what I said at the time: I don’t mind the pick abstractly (second-pairing guy), but why make it in the first round?

11. Filip Chlapik (2-48/15)

“I’d like to see more consistency from him. For his talent level he’s underwhelmed me too much over the years.”

As regular readers will know, I’m quite fond of Chlapik and I’m including this just to bring up something I’ve said before: I firmly believe Pronman rarely watches AHL-games (he simply doesn’t have the time), so his first-hand opinions are based on junior and NHL scouting. One of the things that’s hurt Chlapik (whose ceiling is up in the air and was when he was drafted–I’ll briefly mention that Pronman face-planted on his defensive abilities), is that he plays hurt. Both pro seasons he’s laboured under various injuries that have limited what he can do–making his middling sophomore season hard to judge.

12. Parker Kelly (FA/18)

“Kelly’s numbers don’t immediately jump out to you….”

Pronman is generally effusive describing him and we have, again, that old NHL bias where he’s ‘good in the corners’–Pronman imagines future offensive skill that’s literally never manifested itself. I think having ‘hustle’ as your benchmark for a prospect is putting expectations far too low. Parker wasn’t drafted (my old profile is here–where a hoped-for offensive jump never happened), but he is sitting on a full ELC–why? I don’t believe in drafting for future fourth-liners (or sixth defensemen)–there is no shortage of players like that in the free agent pool.

13. Max Veronneau (FA/19)

“I don’t see top-end in either department to be a true scorer at the top level.”

While Pronman has excuses aplenty for rough & tumble prospects, skilled guys have to show him more. While I think that’s ridiculous, it does make him more prudent in his assessments. What he doesn’t point out, but I went over, is how it seems like Veronneau’s career has been boosted by playing with Detroit prospect Ryan Kuffner his entire career (some similarities to Chlapik and Daniel Spong). If that’s at all true there’s a good chance he burns out like a roman candle and gets Aaron Luchuk’d in a deal a year from now. While I’m concerned about the signing, I’ll reiterate that I’m supportive of taking chances on skill.

14. Jonathan Davidsson (6-170/17 Clb)

“[H]is skill level doesn’t wow you. It did when I saw him as an amateur but it hasn’t translated versus men. And for a player his age in the SHL, he’s been quite good but not dominant.”

This kind of player was a good risk for Columbus, but as I went over when the Sens acquired him, he’s a long shot to make it to the NHL and his progress since being drafted hasn’t changed that.

16. Shane Pinto (2-32/19)

“There will be stretches where you question Pinto’s skill level. He looks average with the puck, makes basic plays and doesn’t show the ability to create. … I’m skeptical of calling him a natural offensive player and a power play guy in the NHL, but I could see him become a bottom-six forward with his skill.”

Not a ringing endorsement for the highest 2nd-round pick you can have. Scouts disagreed over him prior to the draft and what I wondered at the time is why the Sens picked him that high–given their proclivities I think his size tempted them (not just his height, but his girth)–the Sens have (ever since Murray arrived) overvalued size and the worry is they were blinded by the surface details.

17. Filip Gustavsson (2-55/16 Pit)

“It wasn’t Gustavsson’s best season. That may even be write off territory”

I’m including this only to contrast it against the ridiculous stuff I was seeing written about him at the end of the 2018 season. At the time I was happily defending Hogberg’s rookie season because there was a lot of context most were unaware of, but Gustavsson was just bad last year. Overplayed? Sure, but he struggled–and that’s fine. He’s young and goaltenders take awhile, but Pronman’s comment above could be true–he might just be a bust–food for thought (and let’s remember, he’s 14 slots down from a 3rd line center on this list).

18. Kevin Mandolese (6-157/17)

“[A] tough player for me to get a read on…. The performance hasn’t been there…. It felt like a lot of pucks got by him that shouldn’t or he would lose track of a puck that he shouldn’t have.”

I’m including this largely to illustrate Pronman’s struggles here–he doesn’t know what’s going on with him–more food for thought. As for picking goalies late? It’s fine, but the Sens have struggled mightily in their goaltending scouting over the years.

19. Jon Gruden (4-95/18)

“He’s not a natural playmaker, as he forces plays at times…. I wouldn’t call his offensive or defensive play anything really significant, which makes me wonder what role he fills in the NHL.”

That second comment says it all–why pick the guy and why in the fourth round? This is exactly what I said when he was drafted. He’s not a player you draft if you look at his scouting reports, but not only did they pick him, they signed him to an ELC (!). He’s going to join Max McCormick, Vincent Dunn, and Shane Eiserman in the hall of fame I’m sure.

21. Luke Loheit (7-194/18)

“He just doesn’t score. He had mediocre BCHL numbers and didn’t do much better in high school. Scouts are concerned he never will have enough offense.”

Scouts thought so little of him that almost no one had a report on him (certainly no one ranked him)–why draft this player? Sign him as an FA after college, assuming he warrants it. He’s exactly in the same mold as Gruden, just with worse amateur numbers.

Depth. Markus Nurmi (6-163/16)

“I’m not sure there’s a lot of offensive upside in his game.”

This was the concern from scouts when he was drafted and despite enthusiasm from Ary last year he’s completely vanished from the Sens blogosphere after an unimpressive year with TPS. Why did the Sens draft him? He was a big, north-south player who was good defensively. Again, how many prospects like that do you need?

So who did he mention that isn’t on this list? Briefly:
1. Drake Batherson (4-121/17)
2. Erik Brannstrom (1-15/17 LVG)
4. Logan Brown (1-11/16)
6. Lassi Thomson (1-19/19)
7. Mads Sogaard (2-37/19)
9. Vitaly Abramov (3-65/16 Clb)
10. Joey Daccord (7-199/15)
15. Marcus Hogberg (3-78/13)
Depth. Nick Ebert (who I left out because he’s 25 and been through an ELC, so is he really a prospect?)

These are all either good goaltending prospects or very talented prospects–they have no guarantees, but taking a risk on them makes perfect sense.

Not making the cut for Pronman: Todd Burgess (4-103/16), Jakov Novak (7-188/18), Angus Crookshank (5-126/18), Maxence Guenette (7-187/19), Mark Kastelic (5-125/19), and Viktor Lodin (4-94/19). With the exception of Burgess and Crookshank these are all projected pluggers who max out as depth players.

To wrap this up: what’s difficult to do in the NHL is score. Defending requires less talent and therefore the pool available to perform it is much larger. The most lauded defenders are typically those who can also score, which is indicative. Filling out the fourth line is easy, adding 5th-7th defensemen is easy, and both groups are cheap. Drafting them is an enormous waste of time and money and yet the Sens, especially under Trent Mann, are jamming their prospect cupboards full of them. Looking just at the players I’ve highlighted above (14) none can reasonably expect to be top-six forwards and just one (Bernard-Docker) is a top-four (a four) defender. The highest potential among them is Gustavsson, but not many are going to see him as a definitive blue chip starter anymore. What I would like the org to do (and it won’t under Dorion), is to take more risks in the draft looking for talent. They won’t fail anymore than they already have, but their successes will matter more. What would you rather have, Drake Batherson in the fourth round or Tim Boyle? Take a chance on Mike Hoffman in the fifth or pick Jeff Costello? Mark Stone in the sixth or Max McCormick? When you look at the absolute best case scenario of their approach it’s Zack Smith–but that was 2008, it’s never happened again, and he isn’t remotely as important a player as the talented guys picked long after he was in the third round. Unless the game regresses to the clutch-and-grab era I’d never draft a ‘character’ player if that was his defining characteristic–they are a dime a dozen–lower leagues are filled with them. There’s this strange disconnect for many fans that when a talented player flames out the pick was wasted, but if a grinder plays a handful of games and throws a body check, it was worth it. Both scenarios are wasted picks, but the bang for your buck if the former pans out is enormous.

Those are the thoughts brought about by Pronman’s column. Upcoming I have a long reflective piece on the general coverage of the team, but it’s a behemoth so I have no idea when that will appear. I will, at some point, put out my own prospect list (no real time table for that, but probably before the season starts).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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Reviewing Ottawa’s 2019 Draft

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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)

Analysis and Predictions for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

Draft Rankings

First Round

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

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

Second Round

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

Third Round

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

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

Fourth Round

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

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

Fifth Round

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

Sixth Round

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

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

Seventh Round

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

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

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

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Ottawa Senators Mock Draft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adding a defenseman to the tally makes sense.

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

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

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

NHL Draft Guides

Image result for dumpster fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Ranking the Sens Prospects

prospects

I don’t think I’ve ever formally made a prospect list before–I’ve commented on them, but never put out my own. The lists can generate some interesting discussion, although there rarely seems to be a strong framework for why player X is higher (or lower) than player Y (one would assume higher is better, but that’s often difficult to discern especially the lower you go on the list–it comes across as a mishmash of ‘best potential’ to ‘best right now’ or even ‘most likely to be signed’). I also think comparing across positions is problematic–is a starting goaltender better than a top forward? The question isn’t asked. I prefer an apples-to-apples approach, so for my purposes I’ll be looking at players by position and potential.

Projected potential isn’t comprehensively covered in these kinds of lists–to my mind the guy who tops out as a #6 blueliner should not place ahead of someone who might be top-four regardless of relative performance at the time. To determine that potential I’m using the scouting consensus (when available) and performance (stats), tweaked by my own observations when possible.

I’ve removed players who have 50+ games of NHL experience because at that point there’s access to much better statistical breakdowns, leaving less room for speculation; I’ve also cut out those with four or more AHL seasons (by which time they are no longer truly prospects). Given those parameters I won’t be discussing Thomas Chabot, Ben Harpur, Patrick Sieloff, Chase Balisy or Ben Sexton (you can find breakdowns via The Silver Seven or my own). I’ve also excluded players on AHL-contracts (Boston Leier, Ryan Scarfo, Joseph LaBate, and Jordan Murray–I’ve detailed them in various places previously–for example)–until they sign ELC’s they aren’t true prospects. Despite all these cuts it still leaves us with thirty-four players to look at and I will detail them all below.

Some general comments about scouting: while the prejudice against size is slowly eroding away, there’s 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 seen in skilled players (Tkachuk is an obvious example of this, but there are many more). This is why we see an avalanche of ‘character’ players drafted despite most bombing out as prospects. There’s an impression many scouts have that a player who hits people is providing something a player who scores is not. In addition to this, scouts continue to 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, CP: Corey Pronman (via his Athletic article from this summer [paywall])–I use CP selectively because some of his breakdowns don’t contain enough specifics to be useful.

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.

Goaltenders (5)

Potential Starter (4) [None project as elite starters]
1. Filip Gustavsson 2-55/16 Pit
2016-17 SHL .911 2.70 4-10-0 4-10-0
2017-18 SHL/AHL .918 2.07 9-11-0/.912 3.01 2-4-0
2018-19 AHL
Draft: HP thought he was the best ‘tender in a weak class, having good fundamentals, but they had some concern 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 enjoyed a career year in Sweden last season (playing backup to Joel Lassinantti–someone who appeared on my European FA list a couple of times, but has been passed over due to size), so why did the Penguins let him go? They have a young starter in Matt Murray (only 24) and two young prospects (Tristan Jarry and Alex D’Orio) on the way up, making him an option for the Derick Brassard trade. When he came over to play with Belleville for the final stretch of the season he looked good, although as I pointed out he was beginning to regress to the mean (his last two starts he was .865 and .867; with three of his six starts in that range). This means I can’t be sure he’s better than the other goaltenders who played for the BSens last season, but as a 20-year old there’s breathing room for him to grow and he’s expected to get more opportunity than Hogberg did last year.
While his Swedish numbers have never been as good as Hogberg’s, projections for him are better and he’s only 20 years old (Hogberg posted .917 when he was that age). This and the latter’s struggles in Belleville are what land him in the top spot.

2. Marcus Hogberg 3-78/13
2016-17 SHL/AHL 19-14-0 .932 1.89/.865 4.34 0-3-0
2017-18 AHL/ECHL 6-12-0 .899 3.27/.915 3.10 8-7-1
2018-19 AHL
Draft: 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 Belleville); he was not ranked by HP/ISS. In general he was seen as great raw material that needed work.
The Sens left Hogberg in Sweden for four full seasons and after a bit of a wonky start in the first he posted solid numbers with Linkoping: .917, .911, and .932; good for 8th, 10th, and 4th in the league (splitting duties with David Rautio initially before earning the starting role his final season). There was nothing left for him to achieve in the SHL and he came over with considerable hype. His rookie AHL season didn’t meet expectations, but wasn’t as bad as the raw numbers make it appear (bad enough that CP simply ignored him in his list this summer). When you compare him to the other goaltenders in Belleville, his numbers are virtually identical (both Andrew Hammond and Danny Taylor were at .900, while Chris Driedger was down at .885)–only Filip Gustavsson, who barely played, is well above him (.912), but as I discuss above he could have benefited from the small sample size. The BSens were an awful team defensively and while that doesn’t mean Hogberg couldn’t do better, it does mean his numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt. I really wonder how much he was affected by being part of the ridiculous four-goalie rotation for months until the Sens finally moved Hammond and demoted Driedger. The biggest criticism from me about Hogberg is his consistency–in both the AHL and ECHL he was all over the place. He has plenty of talent, but his technique needs work and there may be confidence issues (not helped, I think, by starting this upcoming year as part of a three-headed monster in goal).

3. Kevin Mandolese 6-157/18
2017-18 QMJHL .884 3.46 15-13-0
2018-19 QMJHL
Draft: RLR thought he had starter potential, but thinks he stays 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 repeats 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, so he skates by Hollett because he hasn’t had a down season after being drafted.

4. Jordan Hollett 6-183/17
2016-17 WHL .901 2.83 15-2-0
2017-18 WHL .896 3.43 16-13-0
Draft: FC liked his potential, but noted he struggled to follow the puck on broken plays; RLR thought he had huge upside, but was a boom or bust prospect; ISS/HP didn’t rank him (HP didn’t even discuss him, despite having comments on many players they don’t rank).
His season after being drafted wasn’t impressive, although he was (marginally) better than his goaltending partner (Michael Bullion); finishing 24th in the league in save percentage is worrisome. He needs to be much better this upcoming season if he wants the Sens to sign him (his struggles are undoubtedly part of the reason Mandolese was picked).

Backups (1)
5. Joel Daccord 7-199/15
2016-17 NCAA .892 4.03 3-8-1
2017-18 NCAA .909 3.51 8-19-5
2018-19 NCAA
Draft: no one ranked him, but HP had one game report which was positive but pretty generic.
Since he was picked he’s played for a very poor Arizona team where his underlying metrics are improving, but what is his ceiling? I have to think the best hope for him is as a backup in the NHL, as there’s nothing that I’ve seen or read that suggests he has more potential than that. I’d expect further improvement this year and he’ll need to do so in order to get signed when his college career is over (which won’t be this year but next).

As a group the goaltenders aren’t particularly impressive. There’s no elite talent–no one flashy like Robin Lehner–and while having either Gustavsson or Hogberg achieve their potential is fantastic neither goaltender projects as the kind that can put a team on his back. Since the Murray regime took over in 2007 the org has struggled to either draft or sign goaltending prospects who reach their potential (Lehner remains the best in either category and he never did fully evolve as expected–being bipolar and having addiction issues being a huge reason for that).

Defense (8)

Top-Four [None are projected in the top-pairing]
1. Jonny Tychonick 2-48/18
2017-18 BCHL 48-9-38-47 (0.97)
2018-19 NCAA
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.
In the absence of him having played since there’s not much we can add to this (the offensive potential is certainly exciting–I’d take a Gostisbehere if that’s what he really is).

2. Christian Wolanin 4-107/15
2016-17 NCAA 37-6-16-22 (0.59)
2017-18 NCAA/NHL 40-12-23-35 (0.87)/10-1-2-3 (0.30)
2018-19 NHL/AHL
Draft: no one ranked him, but HP had one game report that’s positive but vague (McKeen’s profiled him, but it’s vague suggesting that he needed to improve his defensive play). CP doesn’t think much of him–his hands aren’t high end and he’s not a great defender–this opinion isn’t shared by The Silver Seven (sadly their profile includes zero analytics from his NHL games). Brad Phillips thinks he’s a deep sleeper for fantasy hockey folks.
In his final (third) season in college he was second on his team in points-per-game (just behind forward Nicholas Jones) and tenth in the NCAA among defensemen. It’s difficult to parse his numbers because someone like Patrick Wiercioch also had very good college numbers (with much more scout-hype) and never established himself as an NHLer. Clearly the expectation for Wolanin is as a top-four defender who produces points.

3. Christian Jaros 5-139/15
2016-17 SHL 36-5-8-13 (0.36)
2017-18 AHL/NHL 44-3-13-16 (0.36)/2-0-0-0 (0.00)
2017-18 AHL/NHL
Draft: FC was effusive–their only criticism being he was sometimes overly physical, projecting him as a top-six, two-way defender; ISS put his potential as a top-four, shutdown defender, believing his primary weakness was offensive consistency; HP noted he’d improved his skating since his initial draft year (2014), but would never be an offensive defenseman despite a powerful shot; RLR’s only comment was they didn’t think he could skate and that criticism seems rooted in his 2014 impression.
Arriving in the AHL Jaros was fantastic–his production didn’t drop in transition and despite injury issues he was among the best defensemen in Belleville (the team was much better when he played); he was strong on the powerplay and spent most of his time carrying around the dead weight known as Andreas Englund. CP’s comments about him illustrate that he didn’t to watch him very often (“there was an adjustment period to the AHL in terms of pace and knowing when to try and make a certain offensive play”)–the only adjustment for Jaros was getting used to some of his useless partners whose failings meant his play varied considerably depending on who he was paired with. My concern coming into last season was that Jaros would waste time running around looking for big hits, but by and large he was careful and picked his spots. The guy is built like a truck so requires no adjustment to the physicality of the next level.

4. Jacob Bernard-Docker 1-26/18
2017-18 AJHL 49-20-21-41 (0.83)
2018-19 NCAA
Draft: RLR saw him as a top-four blueliner; ISS has him as a top-pairing, two-way defender, but questioned his consistency; FC/HP liked him, but questioned his creativity. Much like Tychonick until we see more of his play we are reliant on the scouting opinions and his numbers, but certainly his ceiling seems lower than those above (since defense-first blueliners are a dime a dozen). The question for Bernard-Docker going forward is how well he distributes and moves the puck (since we can presume he’s solid defensively already).

5. Maxime Lajoie 5-133/16
2016-17 WHL 68-7-35-42 (0.61)
2017-18 AHL 56-1-14-15 (0.27)
2018-19 AHL
Draft: RLR saw him as a top-four, two-way defender or bust; ISS put his potential as a 4-5 two-way defender (with concerns about his defensive consistency); FC was effusive and had him as a top-four, two-way; HP was very positive and liked his hockey-IQ. The org was also excited about him, signing him far earlier than necessary.
His rookie pro season was disjointed and hampered by Kurt Kleinendorst’s coaching (his usage was bizarre). His excellent puckmoving was often hampered by incompetent partners and with limits to his TOI it wasn’t easy for him to truly get into the flow of the game. It wasn’t a wasted season entirely, but it skewed his numbers. How much opportunity he’ll get to play in an overstuffed BSen lineup I don’t know, but hopefully it will be more.

Marginal Pros/AHLers
6. Julius Bergman 2-46/14 SJ
2016-17 AHL 64-3-27-30 (0.46)
2017-18 AHL 65-10-10-20 (0.30)
2018-19 AHL
Draft: ISS thought he could be a top-four player, but needed to work on his shot and physicality; FC saw his potential as a top-six blueliner with a pretty generic description of his abilities; RLR didn’t rank him; HP didn’t rank him because they thought he was too soft for the next level.
Three years in the San Jose system have shown he has solid AHL-talent, but not enough to move beyond that. Last season the Sharks’ AHL-team saw a 20% drop in total offence, meaning his drop in production (30%) has some context. While it’s not impossible for Bergman to show NHL talent at this stage, it’s getting very late in the game for that to happen and it’s certainly not what I expect.

7. Andreas Englund 2-40/14
2016-17 AHL 69-3-7-10 (0.14)
2017-18 AHL 69-1-9-10 (0.14)
2018-19 AHL
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).
Needless to say most of these estimations are 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 can’t make a pass; his supposed defensive acumen is overblown (this was most apparent on the penalty kill), so other than his physical play he doesn’t excel at anything. He’s shown no sign of improvement since turning pro and the org would do well to shuffle him along at the first opportunity.

8. Macoy Erkamps CHL FA 16
2016-17 AHL/ECHL 11-0-2-2 (0.18)/58-6-19-25 (0.43)
2017-18 AHL/ECHL 46-1-3-4 (0.08)/2-0-0-0 (0.00)
2018-19 ECHL/AHL
Draft: FC said he was an efficient puck-mover who isn’t consistent; HP liked his physicality, but questioned his vision and hockey IQ; RLR thought he was underrated; ISS and McKeen’s didn’t rank him.
When the Sens signed him I pointed out that a lot of his production was likely due to his partner (Flyer first-round pick Ivan Provorov), who would make any partner look good. This thought proved entirely accurate as Erkamps is at best an adequate ECHL defenseman and his lengthy tour with Belleville last season was comically bad; he doesn’t do anything well at the AHL-level. The org needs to move on from him.

Because I removed Chabot from the equation this list doesn’t jump out with elite talent; what it has is a lot of useful potential, but all capped at a relatively low ceiling. The org is going to need a couple of guys to push beyond expectations to truly flesh out their future blueline.

Forwards (21)

Top-Six [None are projected as first-line players]
1. Logan Brown 1-11/16
2016-17 OHL 35-14-26-40 (1.14)
2017-18 OHL/NHL 32-22-26-48 (1.50)/4-0-1-1 (0.25)
2018-19 NHL/AHL
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 puts him in the top-six.
CP questions his conditioning and ability to keep up with the pro pace.
One thing the Sens do routinely is shove top picks into the NHL and use them as part of their marketing (Curtis Lazar, Jared Cowen, Mika Zibanejad, Cody Ceci, etc), so I think regardless of whether Brown is ready or not he’ll be on the roster. He was a very good junior player (with improving metrics) and would produce in the AHL, but how well will he do in prime time? The concern here is the long haul and at least thus far fears over ‘assertiveness’ and physicality haven’t mattered, just his overall durability. If he actually has a conditioning issue that can absolutely hurt his ability to perform, but otherwise even if his skating is average as a puck distributor there’s no reason to doubt his ability to achieve his potential.

2. Brady Tkachuk 1-4/18
2017-18 NCAA 40-8-23-31 (0.77)
2018-19 NCAA/NHL/OHL
Draft: RLR has him as a top-six, physical winger; ISS has him as a second-liner with questions about his quickness and consistency; FC also wonders about his speed, defensive play, and him overhandling the puck; HP brings up his skating, but likes his defensive play; CP bends over backwards to make his own caveats come across as acceptable: “His skill isn’t dynamic … I saw the occasional [my emphasis] high-end flash of vision … he’s never going to wow you with his speed”–this is all okay because of his physicality.
One of the painfully obvious things about the scouting reports is how enamored they are by his physical play, something we’ve long known has little impact on the game, but this appreciation clearly colours their view of him. What I need to see is him dominant offensively in whatever league he’s playing in–he’s a top-five pick and there shouldn’t be these kinds of questionmarks about his ability. There’s a very real fear that Tkachuk won’t live up to expectations and if he doesn’t no guarantee the Sens will get the chance to roll the dice on another top-five pick for quite some time. There’s also the question: why use the #4 pick for someone who tops out as a second-liner? It’s a rare opportunity to truly swing for the fences and the Sens decided to bunt instead–as fans we can only hope it all works out.

Middle-Six (second or third line)
3. Filip Chlapik 2-48/15
2016-17 QMJHL 57-34-57-91 (1.59)
2017-18 AHL/NHL 52-11-21-32 (0.62)/20-1-3-4 (0.25)
2018-19 AHL/NHL
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 (their only issues were his physicality); HP was concerned with his skating. CP continues to be concerned about his skating and his defensive play.
I don’t share the latter concern, but certainly some of his AHL tendencies offensively will have change at the NHL-level (he tends to hang on to the puck longer than you can get away with at that level). With that said, his AHL-achievements are remarkable when you move beyond the raw numbers–no one was jerked around the lineup more than he was and despite spending nearly half the season in the bottom six he was second on the team in production (points-per-game). I really like Chlapik’s game and I hope he can translate his skills at the next level.

4. Drake Batherson 4-121/17
2016-17 QMJHL 61-22-36-58 (0.95)
2017-18 QMJHL 51-29-48-77 (1.51)
2018-19 AHL
Draft: HP praised him and called him a legit prospect, liking his hockey IQ and offensive instincts; FC/ISS/RLR didn’t rank him.
Batherson eluded most scouts because he’d sailed through one draft already and it was a strong second half that put him on the radar (there’s only so many times he’s going to be seen by scouts–HP seems to get more reps than most, which is why they almost always have scouting feedback on prospects who are drafted or otherwise).
Needless to say his final junior year was a monster one where he dominated (fourth highest points-per-game in the league, which dropped somewhat when he was traded mid-season). How do we project him? His background puts him in Tanner Pearson-territory–maybe a poor man’s Pearson (Pearson was another player skipped over in his initial draft year who put up monster numbers subsequently and enjoyed a strong WJC). I expect him to be a productive AHL-player and the question is simply how far beyond that he can go.

5. Gabriel Gagne 2-36/15
2016-17 AHL/ECHL 41-2-4-6 (0.14)/19-6-5-11 (0.58)
2017-18 AHL 68-20-5-25 (0.36)
2018-19 AHL
Draft: FC put his potential as a top-six scoring winger, with their major concern being him filling out his lanky frame; ISS saw his potential as a scoring third or fourth-line winger, questioning his desire/competitiveness; HP said he needed more consistency and ‘jam’ in his game, but that the tools were all there; RLR didn’t like his character or work ethic, making him highly overrated (the character issues seem tied him being benched by his coach (Bruce Richardson) for a January, 2015 game). CP’s comments (“He gets a lot of goals hanging around the net”) are another indication he simply wasn’t able to see him play much, as Gagne is not a crash & bang rebound guy–he generally just beats goaltenders with his shot.
It was a strange sophomore campaign for Gagne, but one thing he established is that he can score at the AHL-level. He’s young, still hasn’t filled out, and the BSens were awful offensively, which makes judging his performance difficult (he spent much of the season playing with other shooters, meaning the usual formula of pairing a playmaker with a shooter wasn’t happening). He was horrifically bad his rookie season, but made a big jump from that last year, so it’s within reason that he could take another big step forward this year–it’s all very much in flux (he is a great example of a boom or bust prospect).

Top-Nine
6. Colin White 1-21/15
2016-17 NCAA 35-16-17-33 (0.94)
2017-18 AHL/NHL 47-11-16-27 (0.57)/21-2-4-6 (0.28)
2018-19 NHL/AHL
Draft: FC projected him as a top-nine, two-way forward, whose only weakness was his offensive upside; RLR saw him as a third-line character center with concerns about his size; ISS was effusive, but noted a lack of offensive consistency; HP’s sentiments are very similar (third liner with offensive limitations). CP offers “his puck skills for me are very average. I’ve come down a bit on his offensive expectations as he seems to project out now as more of a good third-line forward.”
I agree wholeheartedly about White’s offensive potential, which is echoed by B_T‘s breakdown of his NHL numbers. White was better in the AHL, but his production is still lower than it should be (and, unlike Chlapik, he wasn’t jerked around as much in terms of TOI/usage). Don’t take his ranking here as me being down on White, he’s a very good player, but until we see otherwise it doesn’t appear he has the offensive chops to contribute any better than at a third-line level.

7. Alex Formenton 2-47/17
2016-17 OHL 65-16-18-34 (0.52)
2017-18 OHL 48-29-19-48 (1.00)
2018-19 OHL
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. CP’s analysis also slots him as a third-line checker.
So why hasn’t Formenton’s jump in scoring impressed the inestimable Pronman? For the draft guides he was buried on a talented London team, but not last year. Certainly older players in the CHL see their numbers boosted (he finished fourth on his team in points-per-game), but the knock is his creativity. We won’t know how well that will translate until he turns pro, but his post-draft season was excellent and everything remains on track for him to at least meet projections (I haven’t linked his brief AHL foray last year because he was hurt early in his second game, so there just wasn’t enough to glean from it).

8. Andrew Sturtz NCAA FA 18
2017-18 NCAA 37-22-15-37 (1.00)
2017-18 NCAA 37-14-26-40 (1.08)
2018-19 AHL
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.
The org, after years of drafting NCAA free agents (Bryan Murray’s notion I’d wager), has started to shy away from them as they’ve had virtually no success (one good year out of Andrew Hammond being the exception). This makes Sturtz signing somewhat unusual (as does his size for the org–he’s listed at 5’8). Good numbers in college (far and away the leader his final year at Penn State) tend to translate to good numbers at the AHL-level, but what about beyond that? As a smaller player it’s possible he was overlooked based on size and that has to be what the org hopes for–his offensive production has always been good, so there’s no question about where his talent lies. I didn’t see enough of him last year to make much of an assessment. Usually what keeps high scoring players out of the NHL (besides size) is speed, so that’s something to keep an eye on, but like Luchuk below his potential has to be as a scoring player (he earns the nod over the OHL star because of his more consistent production over his career and because I didn’t find the same level of criticism about his skating).

9. Aaron Luchuk CHL FA 18
2017-18 OHL 68-50-65-115 (1.69)
2018-19 AHL
Draft: While never ranked, HP profiled him in 2015 along with a vague game report in 2016–in the former they felt like his offensive potential was being stymied by the bodies ahead of him.
As a smaller player prejudice against size still exists (despite undrafted examples like Tyler Johnson and Jonathan Marchessault). With that said, big numbers in the CHL don’t always equate to success (Tyler Donati is a favourite example of this). CP indicates his issue is a lack of speed (echoed here, although I suspect CP is the source of that comment) and that indeed can kill a smaller player’s chances (since they can’t make up for slowness with strong board work or overpowering checkers). His production didn’t slip when traded mid-season, but the offensive explosion was in his final year of junior which rings the Tyler Donati warning bell. I’m not sure what to expect from him, but he wasn’t signed to check so the expectation is that he projects as someone who can chip in.

10. Francis Perron 7-190/14
2016-17 68-6-20-26 (0.38)
2017-18 44-4-11-15 (0.34)
2018-19 AHL
Draft: RLR projected him as a third-line winger with a good head for the game; ISS didn’t like his compete-level and saw him as a top-six or bust; HP liked his skill set but questioned his strength; FC had his potential as a top-nine forward, but shared the concerns about his strength.
The clock is definitely ticking for Perron who struggled last season (above and beyond Kleinendorst’s erratic coaching). He’s still very young and in neither season given the kind of opportunity he needs, so hope remains he can translate his talent to meet projections. He’s a smart player, but (judging from this past season) can’t translate that into PK-acumen–he needs to start putting up points this year or his time with the org will be over (how he’ll do that in an overcrowded lineup I have no idea).

11. Todd Burgess 4-103/16
2016-17 Injured
2017-18 NCAA 34-1-11-12 (0.35)
2018-19 NCAA
Draft: HP didn’t think his 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’s hard to assess because injury lost him an entire season (when the Sens drafted him he was the NAHL’s top scorer and put up a ton of penalty minutes). When he returned he put up solid numbers (only one player younger than him had better points-per-game, Jacob Hayhurst). His totals aren’t earth shattering, but for a team that didn’t score much they are fine for a guy who missed an entire year. It will be interesting to see what he’s able to do this upcoming season. Since no one projected him out I’d say that he tops out as a scoring third-liner (he certainly wasn’t drafted to check).

Bottom-Six
12. Markus Nurmi 6-163/16
2016-17 Finn Jr/Mestis 27-12-16-28 (1.03)/11-0-2-2 (0.18)
2017-18 Liiga 51-10-11-21 (0.41)
2018-19 Liiga
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.
He finished tenth in scoring for players 20 and under this past season, which is impressive given that he spent more than half the season on the bottom six. Projected as a checker (almost a default for bigger players who don’t put up monster numbers), it’ll be interesting to see how he does as he gets more opportunities to score in Finland. As it stands he continues to progress and remains on target to achieve his potential (he showed soft hands at the development camp, but that’s a poor place to judge anything).

13. Parker Kelly CHL FA 17
2016-17 WHL 72-21-22-43 (0.59)
2017-18 WHL/AHL 69-29-30-59 (0.85)/5-1-0-1 (0.20)
2018-19 WHL
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.
He has good speed, but the question about his hands remain. His numbers don’t blow you away so he seems to slot into the bottom-six as a checker (barring some change). If he puts up even bigger numbers this season it could mean revising expectations for him.

14. Jakov Novak 7-188/18
2017-18 NAHL 56-32-41-73 (1.30)
2018-19 NCAA
Draft: No one ranked him, but HP does have a profile, calling him a power forward with good offensive tools who struggles with discipline.
There are a lot of similarities between the Novak pick and Burgess above–both are from the little regarded/scouted NAHL, both led the league in scoring and put up a ton of penalty minutes. He’s the epitome of a boom or bust player, even if we’re unsure of his range. He was drafted for his offense so that’s what he needs to produce.

Marginal Pro/AHLer
15. Nick Paul 4-101/13 Dal
2016-17 AHL 72-15-22-37 (0.51)
2017-18 AHL/NHL 54-14-13-27 (0.50)/11-1-0-1 (0.09)
2017-18 AHL
Draft: HP said he was physical with good hands, but a poor skater; ISS called him a shutdown forward with poor skating; RLR liked his skating; FC thought he was an inconsistent producer; McKeen’s didn’t rank him.
There’s little evidence to support those early ideas of him being a shutdown forward (often a default option for bigger players), but offensively he isn’t as the org hyped him to be either. Despite a wealth of opportunity he remains a very average producer at the AHL level who doesn’t particularly effect his team one way or another. He has decent hands, but every season he’s had enormous slumps and at this stage that lack of consistency seems systemic. I think we’ve hit the point where he’s simply a marginal pro, although he’s still young enough to have faint hope for more (at this stage he needs a monster season to shake off doubts).

16. Adam Tambellini 3-65/13 NYR
2016-17 AHL 68-13-22-35 0.51
2017-18 AHL 69-16-16-32 0.46
2018-19 AHL
Draft: HP great speed, not physical, questionable work ethic; ISS liked his overall game; RLR projected him as a second-line forward, but didn’t like his work ethic defensively; McKeen’s echoes these sentiments; FC noted he needs the puck distributed to him to be effective and that has been the case in his pro career.
Going through his numbers he’s reliant on teammates to produce and his usage doesn’t impact production much regardless (I compared him to Jim O’Brien in that respect and it continues to seem apt). This is not someone who is NHL-bound and is simply a regular, if unspectacular, AHLer.

17. Johnny Gruden 4-95/18
2017-18 USHL 61-28-32-60 (0.98)
2018-19 NCAA
Draft: ISS projects 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 calls him an intelligent, complimentary player; HP’s concern is whether his game translates at the next level; CP says his skill level isn’t that high.
That’s a lot of conflicting scouting opinion, something not uncommon with obscure players, but Gruden actually had a great deal of exposure because he played for the US development team, so it suggests true uncertainty. How he projects out isn’t that exciting, but Colin Cudmore slightly mollified my fears by citing positive underlying offensive numbers (although no one can say how dependent he was on talented teammates). My question is: do you need to roll the dice on a guy who projects this low?

18. Angus Crookshank 5-126/18
2017-18 BCHL 42-22-23-45 (1.07)
2018-19 NCAA
Draft: RLR calls 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.
His BCHL totals were good for his team (2nd), and I like his speed, but we’re at a deficit of information so we’ll have to wait and see what he is. It’s a little unfair to him to place him so low, but with so little to work with it’s a safe estimation.

19. Filip Ahl 4-109/15
2016-17 WHL 54-28-20-48 (0.88)
2017-18 Allsvenskan/SHL 29-11-4-15 (0.51)/15-0-1-1 (0.06)
2018-19 Allsvenskan/SHL
Draft: FC put his potential as a top-nine power winger, but questioned his consistency; RLR questioned his character and work-ethic, despite liking his tools; ISS put his potential as a top-six power forward with concerns about his defensive play and agility; HP had worries about his conditioning and agility.
While he had an adequate season in the WHL after being drafted (7th in scoring), things came back to earth in Sweden where he was unable to stick in the SHL and wasn’t that great in the Allsvenskan (tier-2) either. Despite the tools he possesses you really have to wonder if he can put it altogether at the pro level (the upcoming season is his last chance for Ottawa and he’ll need strong numbers to intrigue them).

20. Jack Rodewald AHL FA 17
2016-17 AHL 66-18-9-27 (0.41)
2017-18 AHL/NHL 62-14-11-25 (0.40)/4-0-0-0 (0.00)
2017-18 AHL
Draft: While never ranked for the draft HP had a profile on him in 2012 where they praised his hustle and aggression, but didn’t think his offensive skills would translate at any level.
The Leafs signed him to an AHL-deal and then lumped him into the Dion Phaneuf trade. He pushed his way onto a very bad Binghamton team and that earned him another AHL-deal. A hot start this last season excited Randy Lee and he was signed to an ELC which resulted in absolutely no change in his performance. Despite being given every opportunity (with favourable usage) he produced at the exact same rate as the year before. He’s an incredibly inconsistent producer, which is something I suspect the org has finally realized (given the myriad of free agent forwards they’ve signed). At this stage whatever faint NHL hopes the org are gone–he’s just an okay AHLer (big, fast, but not much else).

21. Luke Loheit 7-194/18
2017-18 USHS 40-15-22-37 (0.92)
2018-19 NCAA
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 something that suggests pro potential. He’s going to have to show a lot more for me to think he’s anything other than yet another Vincent Dunn/Shane Eiserman (a modestly productive pest who is useless at the pro level).

This is a large group of forwards, but none of them project as first-liners and that’s very concerning. The org has struggled immensely to draft elite forwards with top picks and the best they’ve produced have been traded away (Jakob Silfverberg and Mika Zibanejad). What the Sens do consistently is target character players–hard-nosed guys you need to win (not that any actually help them win)–the Curtis Lazar’s of the world. While the team stills struggles to draft skill they’ve started signing skill, as most of their free agents are players known for scoring rather than punching. Despite that I’ve had to slot guys like Sturtz/Luchuk in the top-nine category due to lack of information that suggests otherwise.

What the org has had is good luck with is late picks–skilled guys who fell through the cracks (Mike Hoffman, Ryan Dzingel, etc). There’s not much of that represented here, although Perron is a similar sort of hail mary. Despite that, there is talent–guys who might push beyond expectations–but the team needs a good success rate (both hitting targets and exceeding them) to fill out the org’s future in the years ahead.

Summary

What should our reasonable expectations be in terms of how many players turn out to be NHL regulars? My research (which needs updating) has an average of 1.5 players per draft playing at least 200 games, so between 6 and 9 should make it (I’m smooshing the 2013-14 drafts together since only a few prospects from those years remain). As for free agents, the Sens have never had much success on that end (with apologies to Jesse Winchester and Andrew Hammond), so if even one turns out that’s fantastic.

Clearly some of the players above (regardless of rank) are greater certainties than others. I have no doubt that Colin White will be a regular NHLer regardless of his numbers, but he’s a complimentary player not a dominant one–he is, in many ways, the defining characteristic of the prospect pool–a lot of solid pieces missing the high end parts they are meant to compliment.

There are many interesting storylines to watch for this season–how do Gustavsson and Hogberg perform in Belleville? What’s a full season of Wolanin like? Do we see growth from Jaros/Lajoie? Is Logan Brown the real deal? What’s Batherson like as a pro? Where does Chlapik wind up? Does Gagne take another step forward? How do the FA’s perform in the AHL? There’s a lot to watch for and without a doubt some of the estimations above (pro or con) will turn out to be incorrect. What I think this exercise accomplishes is placing each prospect in their proper context with the best comparable information available (avoiding, as much as possible, personal bias).

List Format

Goaltenders
1. Filip Gustavsson
2. Marcus Hogberg
3. Kevin Mandolese
4. Jordan Hollett
5. Joel Daccord

Defense
1. Jonny Tychonick
2. Christian Wolanin
3. Christian Jaros
4. Jacob Bernard-Docker
5. Maxime Lajoie
6. Julius Bergman
7. Andreas Englund
8. Macoy Erkamps

Forwards
1. Logan Brown
2. Brady Tkachuk
3. Filip Chlapik
4. Drake Batherson
5. Gabriel Gagne
6. Colin White
7. Alex Formenton
8. Andrew Sturtz
9. Aaron Luchuk
10. Francis Perron
11. Todd Burgess
12. Markus Nurmi
13. Parker Kelly
14. Jakov Novak
15. Nick Paul
16. Adam Tambellini
17. Johnny Gruden
18. Angus Crookshank
19. Filip Ahl
20. Jack Rodewald
21. Luke Loheit

All mistakes and errors are mine (please let me know and I will correct them) and if anyone out there has additional scouting information or data to share that will help revise these opinions I will happily incorporate them.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens

Reviewing the 2018 NHL Draft

Image result for assessment

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)