February Roundtable

After we released our January draft rankings just over a week ago, we asked for some questions on the rankings or about the draft in general. Thanks to everyone who submitted a question.

Particpants:

Ben (@BBMHockey)

Sam (@DraftLook)

Tobbe (@ManUtdTobbe)

 

Questions from Twitter

Ben: Benning doesn’t have anywhere near the offensive potential Makar had in his draft year. I feel Benning is being undervalued by NHL scouts but he is not comparable to Makar IMO and trying to compare d-men like Makar and Benning by their numbers can be a risky business. Benning is a 2nd rounder in my opinion, so he’s probably not going to be an elite defenseman at the NHL level, just a guy who’s solid in transition and can play some PP time.

Sam: Michael Benning is one of my personal favourites in the draft, and a player that I feel is drastically underrated by the vast majority of sources. His all-situations numbers are eerily similar to Makar’s in his draft year and draft-minus-one season. Of course, Benning is not Cale Makar— he won’t be a stud #1 d-man for an NHL team— and the difference really begins to show when you split those numbers by game state. Michael Benning is heavily reliant on the powerplay for a lot of his production, whereas Makar was much more capable at even-strength. In terms of play style, Makar has attracted tons of attention this season for his dynamic, game-breaking style of hockey. Benning, on the other hand, is a hyperintelligent blueliner that is almost always a step ahead of the play, but he’s unlikely to ever make headlines for his dynamism like Makar has. His effectiveness on the powerplay is exceptional, but he isn’t going to catch a lot of eyes at even-strength. The majority of his 5v5 impact comes from his transitional ability— he’s able to use his brain to anticipate the forecheck and get the breakout started with consistency. Benning isn’t close to the caliber of player Makar is, but he projects as a dependable second-pairing defender that can quarterback a top powerplay unit and is entirely worthy of a first round pick in my eyes.

 

Ben: My opinion is that teams to rank and draft players based on positional need, and that these defenseman are being ranked that high solely because they are some of the best d-men in the class, not because they are the best players in the class. Sanderson I can understand because of his elite skating and defensive play but I don’t see how Guhle and Schneider are top 15 players. I’ve never been overly impressed by their offensive abilities. Both are in my early-mid 2nd round.

Sam: I’m not a fan at all. If my team used any first-rounder at all on Kaiden Guhle or Braden Schneider, I’d be very disappointed (Jake Sanderson would be stomachable, but I believe there would be better options in the top 31 than him as well). If they used a top 15 pick on any of the three, based on how their draft seasons have gone so far, I would be outraged. Guhle and Schneider are low-upside selections: I won’t deny that their effective defensive play could be valuable to an extent at the NHL level, but their limited ability offensively and in transition means they’ll be forced to use those defensive skills more frequently than you want them to. I don’t like lumping Sanderson in with those two since he actually possesses some real offensive ability, but his lack of an exceptional ability in any area should limit his overall upside as well.

Tobbe: My feelings about this is that I don’t agree with it at all, meaning there will likely be a lot of value later in the draft if this is how NHL scouts see this draft. I would be upset if my team picked Sanderson inside the top 20, Schneider inside the top 31, or Guhle inside the top 62.

 

Ben: While Lundell is strong on his skates and has decent straight line speed, he is not a brilliant skater overall. Not having elite skating in his arsenal means he’ll have to rely on other attributes for success at the NHL level, meaning a lot of developing in certain areas. This is why he’s my 9th ranked prospect an I’m not as high on him as some of the others on the site. Either way, I see him as being a safe bet to be at least a solid NHLer. 65-70 points would be on the upper end of his offensive ceiling.

Sam: This notion that Lundell projects as a below-average NHL skater is crazy to me. His speed isn’t going to be a driver of his offensive game, but Lundell is absolutely an above-average skater for a prospect of his age in my eyes. His mobility didn’t stop him from comfortably belonging in the fourth or fifth best league in the world as a 17 year old last season, and the noticeable improvement in his skating and dynamism is behind what has made him more effective in his 18 year old season.

Tobbe: No, I don’t think his skating is an issue at all. He is an above average skater in my eyes. I think his offensive upside is that of a top line C, whatever number that is once he’s established.

 

Is Lundell a drop in NHL player next year?

Ben: Given how some recent players who went straight ftom the Liiga to NHL (Koktaniemi and Kakko) have struggled lately, I think it’s best if Lundell has one more season in the Liiga or a full season down in the AHL. He could play next year, but it’s better he doesn’t.

Sam: I think Lundell could already be a serviceable NHL player today, but another year of development in the Liiga or AHL could be more beneficial than a year in a bottom-six role for a bad-to-mediocre NHL team. He’s a more NHL-ready player than Jesperi Kotkaniem was coming out of his draft season– Lundell is older, the better two-way player, and is in the midst of a better draft season– and Kotkaniemi did very well as a rookie (that success hasn’t carried over into his sophomore year, with Kotkaniemi’s recent demotion to the AHL). But another year for Lundell to refine his skills, grow into a role as one of the Liiga’s best players, and dominate at the WJC for Finland could be better for his career in the long run.

Tobbe: He could be for sure, but if I was the GM of the team that drafted him, I would keep him in Europe for another year.

 

Some words on Jarvis would be great.

Ben: I have really started to become a huge fan of Jarvis’ game this season. He has improved so much over the past year and continues to display high-end skill every game. Although, he is fast, has good hands, and has a nice shot, he still doesn’t have any groundbreaking NHL skill in his toolbox. With that being said, he is ranked #18 on my personal list, and I can only see him moving up.

Sam: Jarvis’ recent hot streak has made him one of the most talked about players in the draft. Jarvis has 28 points over his last 10 games, an incredible 2.8 points-per-game, compared to 36 in the 33 games before that. He has 47 shots on goal over that 10 game stretch, shooting a clearly unsustainable 28%, compared to a very reasonable 13% up to that point. He won’t keep this level of play going for much longer, and should return to earth shortly. Jarvis was already a borderline first rounder before his recent offensive explosion, and his absolute dominance lately is definitely worth something, but I’m not sure he’s much more than a late first rounder in this draft at this point.

 

Marat Khusnutdinov a first rounder?

Ben: Marat Khusnutdinov is one player I may be sleeping on. I’m not extremly well-versed on him, but I have seen a bit of him. Right now, he just hasn’t produced enough to have him in my first round, but with the skill level I have seen from him, I would not be outraged or even surprised if a team took him in the 1st round.

Sam: I know some of the others (Tobbe!) here are big fans of Khusnutdinov, but I’m not quite as sold. Historically, MHL forwards with less than a point-per-game in their draft years have not had strong shots at NHL success. Khusnutdinov’s 33 points in 36 games isn’t far off from that benchmark, but it’s a far cry from Pavel Dorofeyev’s 1.63 points/game last season that only got him drafted in the third round (in fairness, he was fully deserving of a top 20 selection). In the second round, Marat would be a fine selection, but there’s too much uncertainty around him for the top 31 in my eyes.

Tobbe: For me he is, yes. Love his high-pace, high-skill style. He is fantastic at creating space both for himself and his linemates.

 

Simontaival still seems to be floating around everywhere in rankings. Some words on him would be great.

Ben: Simontaival is an interesting player for me. He’s very skilled but his lack of size and elite skating might prevent him from being an impactful player at the next level. Also, I’m not overly enthused by his progression over the last 3 years. It hasn’t been very good. For these reasons, he finds himself in the bottom of my 2nd round.

Sam: I liked Simontaival a lot coming out of his draft-minus-one year, but he hasn’t done much to build upon that here in 2019-20. He’s only slightly improved his production in the Jr. A SM-Liiga from last season and has only gotten into 6 games in the Liiga. His stagnation so far this season is super disappointing– I thought he could potentially have a chance at challenging for the end of the top 10 had he continued to grow on what was an excellent D-1 season, but there’s been very little growth and I’m not sure his current draft year profile warrants anything more than a second round selection.

Tobbe: Simontaival is very skilled and has a great release but he disappears from games too much. He needs to work on his overall game and has to get stronger on the puck. Purely on skill he’d be well inside the 1st round.

 

Questions from HFBoards

Do you see any of these prospects rising up between now and the draft?

Ben: Seth Jarvis, Tyson Foerster, and Jack Quinn have all been scoring like crazy across the CHL and will rise accordingly. After heading to the OHL, Mysak might rise on some mainstream lists, though he always deserved to be near the top. Other underrated players who I could see rising by June include Peterka, Reichel, Farrell, Villeneuve, Evangelista and Hardie.

Sam: Some prospects with potential to rise are Jack Quinn, Tyson Foerster, Seth Jarvis, Veeti Miettinen, and Alexander Nikishin. Quinn, Foerster, and Jarvis are in similar boats where all three are CHL forwards enjoying excellent draft seasons, but there’s still some uncertainty around the sustainability of their production thus far and the level of reliance they’ve had on outside factors like linemates or age that pushes them downwards a bit. Miettinen is destroying the Jr. A SM-Liiga, but his NCAA commitment prevents him from proving himself against professional competition in the Liiga. Nikishin’s 22 games played in the KHL as an 18 year old is quite impressive, but it’s very difficult to get a read on a player’s overall upside when they’re playing limited minutes against very high level competition. All five players have clear talent, but also a degree of uncertainty around them. If they can convince me that they’re worth the risk, all five could easily rise significantly on my board.

Tobbe: Seth Jarvis and Tyson Foerster are two guys who I need to watch more, but based on their numbers, they should rise. A personal favorite (missed our January rankings not by a lot) is Anton Johannesson, who is very talented, maybe the most talented Swedish D-man in this draft class but he has had extreme injury issues the last two years. If he stays healthy, he should rise quite a bit. He could be this year’s Simon Holmström if you will.

 

Is there a specific reason you have Jack Quinn at 31? That seems pretty low. Do you think his stats are a result of his team?

Ben: Every time I watch Jack Quinn play  I’m never overly impressed by his abilities compared to what I would expect based on his production. What I have gathered though, is that he is a smart player and good finisher who has improved immensely over the past few seasons. I will have a really tough time moving up from his 26 spot on my rankings given that he plays with a lot of talent in Ottawa and has an unsustainably high SH%.

Sam: Quinn is enjoying an exceptional draft season, there’s no doubt about that, but there are a few contextual factors putting in him an optimal situation to put up those kinds of numbers. First of all, Quinn’s Ottawa 67’s lead the entire OHL in goals scored. He centres the second line, so he isn’t reaping the benefits of playing with Marco Rossi at evens, but he does play up on the top powerplay unit and still has the benefit of Ottawa’s other talented players at 5v5. Quinn is also the second oldest player eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft in the entire Canadian Hockey League, missing the cutoff for 2019 by only four days. Well over a point-per-game is still an excellent stat line, but the factors on Quinn’s side diminish that accomplishment to an extent. I personally have him higher than 31, but I don’t think he’s a top 20 talent and believe he belongs in the group of players closer to the end of the first round.

 

Just wondering how close some of the top re-entries like Alex Cotton, Xavier Simoneau, or Yevgeni Oksentyuk were to making the top 62. Both are having greats D+1 seasons and look to be worthy of consideration in the top 45 picks.

Ben: These three players were very close to making our top 62. They are definitely three of the best overagers available. Cotton is an interesting one since I haven’t heard much hype about him but he’s producing like a 1st rounder. Not sure how high Oksentyuk and Simoneau will get picked due to their size, but all three of these players deserve to be 4th round picks or higher.

Sam: Of those three, Xavier Simoneau would be the first player I would draft. He was firmly inside my top 62 last season after going a point-per-game for Drummondville last season as a 17 year old, and he’s taken another step forward this season as captain and leading scorer of that squad. It still baffles me that he went undrafted last year, even considering his 5’7” stature, and I think he continues to be deserving of a top 62 pick in this draft just as he was last year. Yevgeni Oksentyuk is a much more difficult player to read, coming from anonymity in the Belarusian league last season to putting up excellent numbers on the Flint Firebirds in his second shot at the draft. There’s more of a risk element than Simoneau– who is quite obviously an exceptional hockey player– but I still think he’d be worthy of a selection in the first two rounds. Alex Cotton however, I’m not too sure about. His numbers are exceptional for an 18 year old defenceman, there’s no doubt about that, but the jump in production from last season to now is absolutely massive. I wouldn’t object to selecting him in the first two rounds, but I think there might be more certain options.

 

They’re ranked right near each other, can you compare & contrast the two germans of Peterka and Reichel? I’ve only seen like 1 game of theirs at the WJC

Ben: Overall, there isn’t a huge gap between the two. Peterka is a safer bet to be an NHLer IMO but Reichel might have inkling higher upside due to his taller frame and more raw skillset. Reichel is also producing more points at the DEL level, for what it’s worth.

Sam: Peterka is the more toolsy player, with quick feet and soft hands. His straight-line speed is exceptional, making him dangerous through the neutral zone and off the rush. Reichel plays a less skillful game, but handles himself significantly better physically. He involves himself along the boards and in front of the net and fares well in the cycle game. Both players are complementary assets, and have shown their proficiency in that role in the professional DEL this season. Peterka will aid a line by being able to carry the bulk of the transitional load with his speed, while Reichel can act as a puck retriever and play a more physical role.

Tobbe: Peterka is the better skater and I think his overall game is better as he’s fantastic in transition. Reichel is the better scorer and he handles the physical part of the game better. Reichel’s scoring in DEL this season, when you account for usage, has been quite insane.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

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