NHL Draft Review: Central Division

Introduction

Welcome to Part 2 of my four-part NHL Draft Reviews where I’ll be reviewing and grading every team at the 2020 Draft. Up today in Part 2 is the Central Division teams!

I started this series by just writing my opinion on each pick in the draft but figured half-way in I should add some sort of quantifiable element to better understand each team’s draft pick value heading into the draft as well as how they fared compared to my rankings. So, this piece should read mostly as an opinionated write-up mixed in with some numbers.

Methodology

Evaluating Each Pick

For these reviews and grades, I tried to be mindful of value and based my assesments on what teams got versus the value of the picks they had. Obviously I can’t be too hard on a team like the Coyotes who didn’t pick until 111– nobody expected them to bring in a good haul with their little draft value. So, I decided to do my analysis on a pick-by-pick basis, and when analyzing a draft class as a whole, more weight was attributed to higher draft slots as the importance of those selections is much higher, often making or breaking a teams prospect pool.

GSVA

To quantify draft pick value for each pick and the total value of each team’s picks, I used numbers from Dom Luszczyszyn of the Athletic in the article “By the numbers: Revisiting the true value of a draft pick“. Using his GSVA (game score value added) model, the draft values he derived measure the average number of wins a draft pick at that spot will provide his team over the first 7 seasons (how long the player is on team control). So, when you see GSVA commonly used in the article, it’s just to give you an idea of what that draft pick is worth as well as contextualizing it into actual NHL value. The value of a draft pick starts off at 17.5 GSVA for the first overall pick and diminishes to 0.1 by the last pick of the draft.

My Rankings in GSVA

I took GSVA a step further and assigned each of my top 62 ranked players (Ben’s Top 62 + Thoughts and Predictions!) the draft spot GSVA value that corresponds with that ranking. So, if I had a player ranked #32 on my list, they’d get a GSVA value of 2.7, which is the valuation for the 32nd overall pick. If a team took that player at spot #52, which has a GSVA of 1.5, then they’d be getting a surplus of +1.2 GSVA relative to my rankings. It’s not the be-all, end-all of rating systems but it does show how teams performed relative to my rankings. Since I only ranked 62 players, I could only evaluate a certain number of draft picks in this regard. I also evaluated all of the top 62 picks even if a team didn’t select one of my top 62. For these selections, I took the GSVA of the 63rd spot and assumed the player they took would have been ranked #63 on my list, since trying to rank these players after the fact would be biased and inaccurate.

Total Draft Pick Value

When we look and see that every team has an almost even number of picks, it appears as if the draft is somewhat even in terms of draft value. The reality couldn’t be further from that. In fact, the difference between the top and bottom teams in total draft value can be ten-fold. Ottawa led the way with 28.6 GSVA (after trades) while Vancouver, New York (Islanders), and Arizona all sat below the 2.0 mark.

Without further ado, here’s my draft review and grades for the seven Central Division teams!

Chicago Blackhawks

from eliteprospects.com

Draft Pick Value

8.6 GSVA, 15th highest

Pick-By-Pick Breakdown

#17- Lukas Reichel (4.5 GSVA)

My rank: 14th (5.1 GSVA)

Diff: +0.6

I’m a huge Lukas Reichel fan and by effect a huge fan of this pick for Chicago. Reichel is an incredibly skilled player who has high upside written all over him. He skates really well, handles the puck well and shoots well. The best part? He had the professional production to match the skill last season in the DEL. I was more than happy to rank him #14 on my list, higher than pretty much anyone’s list I saw.

#46- Drew Commesso (1.7 GSVA)

My rank: Unranked (1.1 GSVA)

Diff: -0.6

I figured Commesso would be the 2nd goalie off the board. I didn’t think he should go as high as 46 but you know teams aren’t going to let just one goalie get selected in the top 62. Commesso’s numbers improved rapidly from 2018-19 to 2019-20, going from a .886 SV% to a .920 SV%.

#79- Landon Slaggert (0.7 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

I’m not high on the USNTDP forwards in this draft class and the same goes for Slaggert. He just doesn’t have anything elite about his game that stands out. There were better, more high-upside players available in round three for Chicago.

#81- Wyatt Kaiser (0.7 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

I’m really suprised Kaiser fell to Chicago at 81. In 2019, teams jumped on high school defensemen early in the 2nd and I thought Kaiser might be destined for the same. He scored at an impressive rate for his school and has excellent mobility.

#110- Michael Krutil (0.4 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

Boasting production numbers that would normally have a player nowhere near draft consideration, Krutil has always been a player who far outperforms his numbers. He’s a big defenseman who stood out in international play last season. Not a lot of upside but could be a great defensive defenseman.

#141- Isaak Phillips (0.2 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

Phillips is a prototypical “safe” defenseman and one that provided fair value at pick 141. I was impressed with his ability to make accurate passes consistently and being able to effectively transition the puck. Won’t be an offensive player but you don’t need scoring out of every defenseman on your roster.

#172- Chad Yetman (0.2 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

Yetman was in his D+2 season for Erie but his 43 goals in 61 GP was too much to pass up for Chicago at 172. I’m actually surprised Yetman got drafted at all but I was impressed with his play for Erie along with his rapid progression over the past three years.

#188- Louis Crevier (0.2 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

A classic NHL pick– a late round flyer on a gigantic player. Crevier is not a useless player by any means at the QMJHL level and he may also be better than the average 6’8 player going in the sixth round.

Conclusion

Favourite Selection: Lukas Reichel

Based on his consensus ranking of late 1st/early 2nd, Reichel may have been seen as a reach by the Blackhawks but I actualy thought it was a fantastic pick and great decision by the team. Reichel has the repertoire, production, and skill of a top 20 prospect so I was very glad a team stepped up and took him there.

Value vs. My Rankings: +0.0 GSVA, 18th highest

After losing a bit of value with the Comesso pick, the Blackhawks checked out at 0.0 GSVA for value. Reichel was for sure a good pick but they didn’t do anything spectacular outside of that.

Grade: C+

Overall, the Blachawks had a fairly average draft. They got a player in Reichel that I really liked but also used a pretty high draft pick to select him. Looking past the Riechel pick, I wasn’t overly enthused with their selections save for the Kaiser pick, which was a good one for the third round.

Colorado Avalanche

from eliteprospects.com

Draft Pick Value

5.0 GSVA, 23rd highest

Pick-By-Pick Breakdown

#25- Justin Barron (3.4 GSVA)

My rank: #48 (1.7 GSVA)

Diff: -1.7

I thought for sure Justin Barron would fall to the second round after even more bad news of his injuries. With the defensive depth they already have in the system, I don’t like the fit or the value with Barron at 25. I did like the idea of Colorado going for a risky pick here, but Barron wasn’t it.

#75- Jean-Luc Foudy (0.8 GSVA)

My rank: #41 (2.0 GSVA

Diff: +1.2

Colorado got the best player of their draft 50 picks after their first selection. Foudy is the best skater in the draft and a capable playmaker. He plays with amazing pace, something that Colorado loves in its young players. At 75 there’s little risk with Foudy and he could become one of the biggest steals of the draft. You can’t let a guy who’s that good at skating go 75th.

#118- Colby Ambrosio (0.3 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

I really like this pick for Colorado. Ambrosio always struck me as a really fluid skater and he produced over a point per game in the USHL last season. He’s one of the those players you’d be shocked to find out had more than 1.00 P/GP given the lack of attention he receives.

#139- Ryder Rolston (0.3 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

I like Rolston’s level of skill but the fact that his numbers haven’t improved in two years is a concern for me. He had more goals in the USHL two years ago than he did last season.

#167- Nils Aman (0.2 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

A very high-scoring D+2 player, Nils Aman burst onto the scene this year after having very poor DY and D+1 seasons. Aman was a dominant force in the SuperElit but the big question for the 6’2″ centre is whether or not his 47 points in 30 games last season will translate to the pro leagues.

Conclusion

Favourite Selection: Jean-Luc Foudy

I loved this pick for Colorado. One of my favourite selections of any team in round 3. Will immediately slot ahead of Barron in Colorado’s prospect rankings. I’m confident a development staff can turn him into a strong bottom six player if he isn’t able to score 40+ points in the NHL.

Value Vs. My Rankings: -0.5 GSVA, 25rd highest

The Barron selection really killed Colorado’s value to the point where not even Foudy could bring them back up. No other draft pick was reflected in this valuation.

Grade: C+

Foudy, Aman, and Ambrosio were great value selections for the Avs and are players who bring in a high degree of skill. On the other hand, Barron and Rolston are players I am not sold on for Colorado given their less-than-linear development curves to this point. The Avs picked a lot of high upside players which I really like since a lot of teams with a roster as good as the Avs will resort to taking 6’3″, D+2 defenders in round 4 for some reason.

Dallas Stars

from eliteprospects.com

Draft Pick Value

3.8 GSVA, 26th highest

Pick-By-Pick Breakdown

#30- Mavrik Bourque (2.9 GSVA)

My rank: #17 (4.5 GSVA)

Diff: +1.6

The Stars were probably laughing at the end of day one having scooped up Bourque at pick 30. He was my clear BPA for Dallas at 17th overall on my list. The best way to describe Bourque is as top 5 player in the class when he has the puck in the offensive zone. Other areas of his game like defense, transition and off-puck play are lacking but Bourque is simply a magician when he has possession of the puck in the opponent’s zone.

#123- Antonio Stranges (0.3 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

Stranges is such a fun player with his 10 to 2 (mohawk, opening up hips) skating style. I’ll admit I may have overhyped him at the beginning of the year due to his ridiculous combination of hands and skating. He didn’t have enough elements to his game to keep up with the other top prospects in this draft but his skill and unique skating makes him a good pick at #123.

#154-Daniel Ljungman (0.2 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

Ljungman put up strong P/60 numbers in the SuperElit last season and with more ice time this season so far, he has flourished. This was a nice pick by Dallas especially once considering early season results. Ljungman should be able to secure a spot on Sweden’s World Junior roster in December.

#162- Yevgeni Oksentyuk (0.2 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

As a 5’8″ D+1 player I thought there was a decent chance NHL teams would disappoint and leave Oksentyuk undrafted. I’m very glad Dallas made the right decision to step up and select him at pick 162. Very talented offensive player with elite upside.

#182- Remi Poirier (0.2 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

Another goalie pick and another player I know little about. Poirier had a .900 sv% in the QMJHL last year which at first glance doesn’t seem optimal for a 2001-born prospect.

Conclusion

Favourite Selection: Mavrik Bourque

I really like this pick for Dallas and it was the easy selection for them at 30. Bourque was the last player left from a clear tier of players in the mid-to-late 1st round.

Value vs. My Rankings: +1.6 GSVA, 8th highest

Dallas got a ton of value with the Bourque selection with +1.6 GSVA and did not have any other players register. They finished eight in total value vs. my rankings.

Grade: B+

The first pick Dallas made (Bourque) was a home run. The three forwards they took in the middle rounds were “B+” level picks. Poirier I have no idea about. Overall, I think the Stars came in with very little draft capital and left making the most value out of it.

Minnesota Wild

from eliteprospects.com

Draft Pick Value

12.0 GSVA, 7th highest

Pick-By-Pick Breakdown

#9- Marco Rossi (6.3 GSVA)

My rank: #8 (6.7 GSVA)

Diff: +0.4

I thought the Wild should have taken Cole Perfetti, who I believe to have more offensive upside, but they still got an amazing player at #8. Rossi could play in the NHL right now and I have no doubts about it. His hockey IQ is off-the-charts good and his lower body strength will allow him to battle with NHLers on day one.

#37- Marat Khusnutdinov (2.3 GSVA)

My rank: #35 (2.4 GSVA)

Diff: +0.1

Without a doubt one of the best skaters in the draft, Khusnutdinov deserved to be picked in this range. His production doesn’t pop off the page but that explosiveness is something to behold while his motor and overall two-way game make him more than just an undersized scorer.

#39- Ryan O’Rourke (2.2 GSVA)

My rank: #28 (3.1 GSVA)

Diff: +0.9

I’m a huge O’Rourke fan. In order to be a succesful defenseman in the NHL you NEED to make the right plays with consistency. O’Rourke does just that– he rarely misses a pass and seemingly knows his next move before he gets the puck. His overall off-the-puck play is also incredible. O’Rourke is going to be an NHL defender in some capacity, I’m just not sure how high in the lineup he’ll be.

#65- Daemon Hunt (1.0 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

Hunt was seen as a potential first rounder coming into the season when injuries and a somewhat underwhelming season pushed him to the late 2nd/3rd round. I thought at 65 he was a fair pick– not a steal but not one to complain about either. Hunt is a do-everything defenseman who can play bottom pairing if his high-end potential doesn’t flourish.

#146- Pavel Novak (0.2 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

The Kelowna Rocket forward is a marvelous goal scorer and all-round offensive dynamo who really lacks size and skating. At 146 he presents Minnesota with great value but he has a long ways to go for his scoring to translate to the NHL. Novak was by far the best offensive player on the Rockets with Nolan Foote missing most of the season. It’s very hard to find team-leading draft eligibles in the fifth round so kudos to Judd Brackett for this selection.

Conclusion

Favourite Selection: Ryan O’Rourke

O’Rourke is the epitome of what makes an analytically underrated defenseman– consistent, accurate passes, rare turnovers, heads up plays, strong defense. I guarantee that when O’Rourke plays in the NHL he will be an analytics machine and slowly but surely become known as a reliable, underrated defenseman.

Value vs. My Rankings: +1.4 GSVA, 9th highest

The Wild’s first three picks were all positive in value relative to my rankings for a combined +1.4. It’s nothing spectacular but it’s very encouraging to see from a team with only 5 draft picks in the whole draft. The 9th overall pick alone was most of their total value coming in.

Overall Grade: A+

The Wild really made the most of their 5 draft picks and I was a fan of every single one. They extracted excellent value, re-stocked their prospect pool in different positions and blended upside with “safe” players. As a Canucks fan, I was very upset to see Judd Bracket leave to Minnesota and even moreso now after he killed his first draft for the Wild.

Nashville Predators

from eliteprospects.com

Draft Pick Value

9.5 GSVA, 12th highest

Pick-By-Pick Breakdown

#11- Yaroslav Askarov (5.7 GSVA)

My rank: #9 (6.3 GSVA)

Diff: +0.6

The Predators walked away with a huge need fulfilled at the goaltending position. Askarov has been described by many as the best goalie in the draft since Carey Price in 2005. If Askarov turns out anything like Price or fellow countryman Andrei Vasilevsky who was picked in the first round back in 2012, then this is a HUGE win for Nashville. Askarov might be the best goalie in the NHL one day.

#42- Luke Evangelista (2.0 GSVA)

My rank: #49 (1.6 GSVA)

Diff: -0.4

A total riser, Evangelista continued to work hard all year to have his name called in the 2nd round. The Knights have a great reputation for developing forward prospects and he looks to be next in line of the likes of McMichael, Foudy, Formenton and Thomas who were all drafted in the top 62 since 2017. Evangelista is a talented complementary winger who might be able to score 90 points in the OHL next season.

#73- Luke Prokop (0.8 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

The Prokop selection is not one I would endorse for Nashville. I feel like there were a lot of great, tall defensemen in this draft that it was wildly unnecassary to take one who lacks a puck-moving/offensive game like Prokop. I would be interested in Prokop in the 7th not the 3rd , but Nashville has a pretty solid track record with developing defensemen, so I’m interested to see what they do with Luke Prokop.

#101- Adam Wilsby (0.5 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

One look at his numbers and you’ll see Adam Wilsby as an entruiging overage option in the mid-rounds. Over a point-per-game in the SuperElit and 30 points in 41 Allsvenskan games is impressive for a previously undrafted defenseman. I really hope Wilsby can carry his offense to the SHL and beyond.

#166- Luke Reid (0.2 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

Yet another player selected from the Chicacgo Steel, Reid’s greatest strength is his skating. Needs to work on other parts of his game to succeed at the next level but at 166, Nashville gets their third defenseman of the draft and a good one at 166.

#202- Gunnarwolfe Fontaine (0.2 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

Gunnarwolfe Fontaine has one of the top names in the draft though I’m not sure that’s the reason he was picked. Fontaine had 57 points in 45 games last year on the stacked Chicago Steel. He’s a 2000-born player who was one of the best players in the USHL last year.

#209- Chase McLane (0.1 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

Reaching back into the USHL pool for their last selection and searching for size, the Predators took 6’2″ D+2 forward Chase McLane. As a D+2 player with under a point-per-game I don’t like the selection for Nashville. There were much better scorers to take a flyer on in the 7th round.

Conclusion

Favourite Selection: Yaroslav Askarov

Askarov was a major win for Nashville at 11. With Rinne getting older and Saros not quite good enough to be an elite starter going forward, Askarov makes a lot of sense for Nashville and they didn’t have to reach to get him.

Value vs. My Rankings: +0.2 GSVA, 14th

The Predators followed my rankings very closely with their first two selections and got fair value for the players they selected.

Grade: C+

Overall, I like how the Predaotrs structured their draft– they drafted for a superstar with their 11th overall pick, took a quality offensive forward in the 2nd and then three defensemen in the middle rounds. Although I disagree with the Prokop selection and perhaps would have taken different players with the other picks, the strategy Nashville selected with sets their prospect pool up really well.

St. Louis Blues

from eliteprospects.com

Draft Pick Value

5.4 GSVA, 20th highest

Pick-By-Pick Breakdown

#26- Jake Neighbours (3.3 GSVA)

My rank: #60 (1.2 GSVA)

Diff: -2.2

I don’t like this pick at all for St. Louis. I’ve always liked Neighbours play style in the WHL where he’s a fantastic all-round contributor but I’m not sold on his abilities translating to the NHL. His skating will need to improve a lot in order to play his style.

#86– Dylan Peterson (0.6 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

I thought Peterson would have went much higher so the Blues did make it out pretty well here with Peterson at 86. He’s tall and incredibly skilled but lacks hockey IQ and can be wildly inconsistent. Still, I like the chance on Peterson near the end of round 3. Nice value there.

#88- Leo Loof (0.6 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

Loof didn’t have any eye-opping offensive season in the SuperElit last season but has long been heralded as one of the top 2002 defensemn out of Sweden. I personally wouldn’t take him so high but he seems like solid, modern defensive defenseman.

#119- Tanner Dickinson (0.3 GSVA)

The Soo Greyhounds frward

My rank: N/A

Dickinson is a skinny forward who didn’t have a huge role for Greyhounds and his scoring suffered because of it. I really like Dickinson’s upside– fourth round may have been a little high but Dickinson is a prime candidate to have a succesful D+1 season and make St. Louis look very smart for this pick.

#150- Matt Kessel (0.2 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

A D+2 college defenseman with not very many points seems like a weird pick for St. Louis. I don’t know much about Kessel, but unless his defensive game is top 10 in the draft, I don’t really understand the pick.

#163- Will Cranley (0.2 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

A sub 900 sv.% backup goalie in the OHL? Shows how much teams really want size in the crease. Hopefully Cranley takes off once he gets the starting role in Ottawa.

#194- Noah Beck (0.2 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

The Blues really showed they were going for size with thr Noah Beck selection. It’s the seventh round so the pick isn’t bad but I’m always a skill over size guy when it comes to the draft so I can’t give the Blues much props for this pick.

Conclusion

Favourite Selection: Dylan Peterson

Peterson was expected to go in the 2nd round, so St. Louis getting him at 86 has to be my favourite selection but that isn’t saying much considering the draft they had. I didn’t even have Peterson ranked in my first two rounds which is why it’s hard to call him my favourite pick.

Value vs. My Rankings: -2.1 GSVA, 29th highest

Versus my rankings, they lost a LOT of value on the Neighbours selection. It clocks out as one of the biggest reaches in the draft. They didn’t have any other players register on my value ratings but they also didn’t draft anyone outside of Neighbours that makes up for that selection.

Grade: D

I don’t understand why St. Louis chose to go with Neighbours at 26. The Peterson selection was good value but outside of that, they didn’t do anything for me to call this a succesful draft for St. Louis. A “D: grade is fair for them.

Winnipeg Jets

from eiteprospects.com

Draft Pick Value

8.6 GSVA, 14th highest

Pick-By-Pick Breakdown

#10- Cole Perfetti (6.0 GSVA)

My rank: #4 (9.0 GSVA)

Diff: +3.0

The Jets probably never expected to get Perfetti at 10 and how fortunate for them because Perfetti is an incredible player who should have gone much higher. I was convinced Detroit was taking him with pick #4 and that’s where I had him ranked. Perfetti could be in the NHL after one more year of dominating junior and he has 80+ point potential once he gets there.

#40- Daniel Torgersson (2.1 GSVA)

My rank: #44 (1.9 GSVA)

Diff: -0.2

I grew to be a big fan of Torgersson throughout the season and was glad to see him picked at 40 when draft day came. He was ranked right around on my list there so you’re not going to hear any complaints from me. I think they got fair value and Torgersson could become a 30 goal scorer for the Jets down the road.

#133- Anton Johanesson (0.3 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

I totally forgot about Anton Johanesson at this point in the draft but what an incredibe pick for Winnipeg. I had him ranked just outside the top 62 so his value doesn’t register but this was a steal. Johanesson is tiny at 146 pounds but he is a top 5 defenseman with the puck in this draft class.

#164- Tyrel Bauer (0.2 GSVA)

My rank: N/A

I thought Thunderbird teammate Simon Kubicek would get picked and not Bauer, but here we are. Doesn’t get a lot of points. Plays a great two-way game. 6’3″. Not much more about him than that.

Conclusion

Favourite Selection: Anton Johanesson

I was going to give this to the Cole Perfetti selection but that was way too easy for it to be my favourite pick. They weren’t going to take Askarov, obviously, and if they took Jarvis or Lundell I think that would have been a huge mistake with Perfetti on the board.

Anyways, Johanesson is getting my nod as the favourite selection. I just wish he was 4 inches taller and 40 pounds heavier because he’d be a top-15 selection no doubt. He’s an incredible skater and is dominant with the puck on his stick. I’ll take that at pick 133.

Value vs. My Rankings: +2.8 GSVA, 3rd highest

Perfetti alone gave the Jets +3.0 in value vs. my rankings. Torgersson was negligble and nobody else registered. Perfetti was tied with Lukas Cormier for the highest difference in GSVA for the entire draft. What a steal at #10.

Grade: A

The Jets came in with very very little draft capital outside of the 10th overall pick. That pick alone was worth more than twice as much as the other picks combined. They made the absolute most of that selection with Perfetti, picked up a quality goal scorer in Torgersson, and landed Johanesson with pick 133. I don’t know about Bauer but those first three make it a very succesful draft for the Jets.

Conclusion

Here’s the final order of the seven Central Division teams based on my grades:

  1. Minnesota Wild, A+
  2. Winnipeg Jets, A
  3. Dallas Stars, B+
  4. Chicago Blackhawks, C+
  5. Colorado Avalanche, C+
  6. Nashville Predators, C+
  7. St. Louis Blues, D

And here’s the teams ranked by GSVA versus my rankings:

  1. Winnipeg Jets, +2.8
  2. Dallas Stars, +1.6
  3. Minnesota Wild, +1.4
  4. Nashville Predators, +0.2
  5. Chicago Blackhawks, +0.0
  6. Colorado Avalanche, -0.5
  7. St. Louis Blues, -2.1

Thanks for following along. Let me know what you think of the grades in the comments or on Twitter! Part 3 will be covering the Atlantic Division and will be out shortly!

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