2018 NHL Draft November Top 50

It’s November, and I’ve updated, and added to, my draft rankings.  The list is now 50 players long, with a brief description for the top 15.  

There weren’t many huge changes, with the biggest probably being Ryan Merkley dropping to 10th.  Merkley has shown that his defense is just as bad as ever with his -12 start to the OHL season.  If he doesn’t pick it up, he may fall even more.

1. Rasmus Dahlin, D

Dominant offensively, and isn’t bad on defence either.

2. Andrei Svechnikov, RW

Got off to a hot start in the OHL before being sidelined with a broken hand.  Two way force, great on offense.

3. Adam Boqvist, D

NHL style defenseman that makes smart plays and decisions.  Great puckmover, PP QB and shooter.

4. Filip Zadina, LW

Elusive force on the wing, has all the skills to put up a ton of points.

5. Joe Veleno, C

Smart two way centre off to a tough start in the QMJHL.

6. Quinn Hughes, D

Fast puck mover, great offensively and pretty good defensively.

7. Akil Thomas, C/RW

Plays a very energetic game, always moving.  Puts himself in good spots to make plays.

8. Ty Smith, D

Dynamic two-way D makes smart plays and moves the puck up ice well.

9. Bode Wilde, D

Big defenseman plays an offensive game.

10. Ryan Merkley

Electric offensively, but poor defensively.  High risk, high reward.

11. Brady Tkachuk, C

Plays physical two-way game, could possibly be better than brother Matthew.

12. Rasmus Kupari, C

Dynamic centre uses speed, hands to make plays.

13. Jett Woo, D

Smart two way defwnseman, uses speed and puck moving skill to generate oppurtunities for his team.

14. Oliver Wahlstrom, C

Skilled player, creates a lot of oppurtunities

15. Jack McBain, C

Two way centre, good defensively.  Some concern about offense from others, but I don’t really see it.  Kind of like 2017 prospect Ryan Poehling.

16. Jared McIsaac

17. Jesper Kotkaniemi 

18. Calen Addison

19. Anderson MacDonald

20. Noah Dobson

21. Ty Dellandrea

22. Gleb Babintsev

23. Evan Bouchard

24. David Levin

25. Nicolas Beaudin

26. Ryan McLeod

27. Alexander Alexeyev

28. Xavier Bouchard

29. Joel Farabee

30. Giovanni Vallati

31. Benoit-Oliver Groulx

32. Jakub Lauko

33. Allan McShane

34. Simon Appelquist 

35. Jacob Olofsson

36. Luka Burzan

37. Isac Lundeström

38. Mattias Samuelsson

39. Jesse Ylönen

40. Barrett Hayton

41. Lukas Wernblom

42. Vitali Kravstov

43. Alexander Khovanov

44. Dennis Busby

45. Samuel Bitten

46. Ty Emberson

47. Grigori Denisenko

48. Axel Andersson

49. Filip Hallander

50. Kevin Bahl

Advertisements

Oilers start is an important reminder that statistics don’t tell the full story

Statistics are a mainstay in sports. After first being used to analyze players in baseball, statistical analysis has also found its way into many sports, most notably hockey, football and basketball.  In fact, #fancystats are now so common in the hockey world that you will rarely read a hockey article that neglects to mention them.

Analyzing hockey players without statistics is like only using one eye.  You can still see, but you don’t get the full picture.  

This can go both ways.  Analyzing a player just with statistics is like only using your other eye.

However, I don’t weight traditional and statistical analysis equally.  I believe that statistics should be used to formulate about 60-70% of one’s opinion of a certain player, leaving 30-40% for traditional analysis.

Not all people share this view with me, which has led to a quite unfortunate view that some people hold, where statistics are weighted at 100%, and are used independently.  Statistics can be an incredible resource, but the should not be used without the company of the “eye test”, or traditional analysis.  Only looking at the statistical aspect can lead to misleading conclusions, such as the conclusion that the Matthews is not the best player on the Toronto Maple Leafs team, which I wrote about in a previous post, which can be found here, or that the Oilers are playing well so far in the 2017-18 season, the subject of this post.

Shot based statistics such as Corsi and Fenwick show that the Oilers are dominating, as they have 59% of all Corsi events and 60% of Fenwick events.  

These statistics tell a completely different story than anybody that has watched the games will tell.  The Oilers have looked disorganized and just plain bad so far, a view that many others share.

Jason Gregor, Oilersnation: “The Oilers aren’t losing due to a lack of talent.  They have enough skill to compete, but not enoug talent to overcome the hideous mistakes they’ve been making.

Bad reads
Ill-advised pinching
A porous penalty kill
Sub-par goaltending
Inability to score from in close.”
(Article)

Jason Gregor is a smart man, and this excerpt sums things up well.  There is a simple message in the pair of paragraphs; the Oilers are making too many costly mistakes. It’s as simple as that.  It doesn’t matter if they are vastly out shooting their opponents, if they can’t cut down on these mistakes, they will not even come close to making the playoffs.

There is no statistic that measures costly mistakes, which is exactly why statistics should not be the only factor taken into account when analyzing a player.  

If statistics cannot account for something that can have such a huge impact on a game as a mistake that leads to a goal, statistics should not be used exclusively to analyze a player.

A common and perfectly valid belief in the #fancystats community is that it is foolish to judge a player solely based on what you see.  This would be perfectly fine, but many statistical analysts exclusively use statistics to evaluate performance, which, in my opinion, is just as bad.

Both allow you to formulate valid opinions about a player’s skill and performance, but when combined, that opinion becomes more informed and more powerful than before.

You would never use just one eye to view something.  Do the same with this.

Remember:

Statistical Analysis = valid opinion

Traditional Analysis = valid opinion

Statistical Analysis + Traditional Analysis = Powerful, informed opinion

Don’t limit yourself to just one eye.

Use both.

Stop Complaining About WAR

A month or two ago, both DTM About Heart and MannyElk, two exceptionally talented hockey analytic experts, released their Wins Above Replacement (WAR) data. The two analysts calculate their statistic differently, but both use smart formulas that make a lot of sense, and show relatively similar results. For this post, we’ll be using MannyElk’s data, but simply because Sean Tierney was kind enough to put it in an easy to read graph, not because it is in any way better than DTM About Heart’s.  To put this simply, WAR is a statistic that measures a players contributions on both offence and defence in goals, somewhat like plus-minus, except using advanced statistics to measure offensive and defensive contributions, instead of just goals scored and against. These advanced statistics are a better representation of skill than goals scored and against while the player is on the ice, like in traditional plus-minus. The contributions of the player are then measured against those of a replacement level player, which is the player that would replace said player if that player was unable to play in any way. Essentially, a replacement level player is the 13th forward, the 7th defender, or the 3rd goalie. The goals are then translated to wins, to find how many wins a player is worth over a replacement level player.WAR is a complicated statistic that the average person will have difficulty calculating, including me, so I’m not going to go too far into depth on it here. 
After the data was released, there was a lot of anger and general dislike directed towards this statistic, largely in part due to how it put certain players ahead of others. As the following graph shows, this statistic places Ron Hainsey, a good defenceman, but by no means a top pairing player, ahead of Auston Matthews, who won the Calder, and looks like he will be the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs for quite some time.
Hockey fans didn’t like this very much, with plenty of Maple Leafs fans going on Twitter tirades defending their star forward. I, and most other people with an understanding of analytics that is above the level of “beginner”, didn’t see any issue with this.
Why?
Yes, Auston Matthews is better than Ron Hainsey, there is no question about that. But what is the point of statistical analysis of all that it tells us is what we already know? If that’s what we are looking to get out of it, why even use it all? Statistical analysis in hockey is in no way perfect, but neither is the “eye test”. Traditional and statistical analysis tell us two different things. The “eye test”, or traditional scouting, measures a player’s skill, and stats tell us the player’s contributions, and when the two are used together, they can tell us if a player is using his skill to it’s full extent, and if the situation the player is in is working out.  
A great example of the usefulness of statistics is Oilers defenceman Kris Russell, who is the subject of what is perhaps the biggest disagreement of traditional and statistical analysis in NHL history. On the surface, Russell appears to be a hardworking, shot-blocking blue liner that can be counted on in the defensive end. When you dive deeper, the statistics tell us that Russell has a negative impact on possession, and the production of his teammates, as well as being poor when defending leads, which is what a player considered to be a defensive defenceman like him is expected to be good at. For me, it’s the fact that he plays poorly when ahead in games that makes me believe that he isn’t a top 4 defenceman, as in my opinion, a top 4 defenceman shouldn’t need to be protected, and only be played in certain situations. A bottom pairing blueliner however, can be protected, making it the optimal role for Kris Russell to play in.
Using the eye test, I would say that Russell appears to be a middle pairing defenceman. When we dive into the stats, he looks like more of a bottom pairing defender. If we take both conclusions, and weight them equally, we can conclude that Kris Russell is a 4th or 5th defenceman, probably on the lower end of the scale for 4th defencemen, and the higher end for 5th defencemen. However, I’m more stats oriented, and I believe that stats tell us more than our eyes, but not to a huge margin. When I am making conclusions about a player, I weight statistics at about 65-70 percent, and traditional scouting at 30-35 percent. With statistics weighted higher, we can conclude that Russell is a bottom pairing defenceman, which is what I believe.
When only using statistics, the general opinion is usually nearly identical. However, statistics are not everything, and the eye test is also important while making conclusions, although in my opinion, not equally. However, others may believe that the eye test is equally, or more important that statistics when judging a player, and that’s okay, because at the end of the day, you are entitled to your opinion, and as long as you include both statistics and traditional scouting in your conclusion, your opinion will likely be an informed one, and therefore a legitimate one. It’s when one ignores one component, either stats or scouting, that that opinion is no longer an educated one, and in most cases, is no longer a fair one. Information is key to an opinion, so why limit yourself to only one kind of information, when you can have two? It doesn’t make sense.
WAR is an innovative and great statistic created by smart people, but the issue with it is not that it puts Ron Hainsey ahead of Auston Matthews, it is because it does not use traditional scouting. The fact that it does not use traditional scouting is actually why it puts Hainsey ahead of Matthews, as it only utilizes the stats, which don’t nearly tell the full story, especially in this situation. So please, stop criticizing WAR because it puts one player ahead of another. The real issue lies somewhere else, but that isn’t WAR’s fault, or the fault of the smart people that created it. The issue is the issue that lies in all statistics, that they don’t use scouting in their conclusions, but the reality is that that is impossible, because scouting is all opinions, and everyone has a different opinion, and opinion cannot be defined in a concrete number.  
You can use numbers in making a conclusion, but your conclusion should not be measured in numbers, as opinion cannot be defined in a number. In a perfect world, a conclusion should be defined in a paragraph, or multiple paragraphs that include numbers, but are still mostly words. All that I ask is that you don’t use just numbers, because that isn’t as accurate as it could be, and why not make it as accurate as possible? Please, use a mix of words and numbers. Do it for me.
Just to set things straight, I support the use of statistics. In fact, I encourage it. As I mentioned earlier, I weight statistics over scouting when judging players. If you follow my NHL draft coverage, you know that I use my spreadsheet a lot. It’s my main source of information on prospects, but that being said, it is not my sole source. I also watch games and highlights, as well as reading scouting reports from other scouts. I do all that, because I don’t see why I should share my opinion if I’m not going to do my best to make sure that it is as well informed as possible. Ryan Merkley, a top prospect for the 2018 NHL Draft, is number one on my draft spreadsheet. If I only used stats, Ryan Merkley would be #1 on my draft rankings, and guys like Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov, number 1 and 2 on my, and many other, draft lists, wouldn’t even be top 5. Anybody that follows the draft knows that Dahlin and Svechnikov are better prospects than Ryan Merkley, but if we only looked at stats, we wouldn’t know that. When we do mix in scouting, we realize that Dahlin and Svechnikov truly are better, and that Merkley, despite being incredibly talented, has far too many red flags to be #1.  
This can also go the other way, as Calen Addison, another 2018 prospect, is ranked late first, early second by many, but due to his statistics, I have him in the mid first round.
Statistics don’t mean much without scouting, and scouting doesn’t mean much without statistics. They go hand in hand, so use them hand in hand. Please.

2018 NHL Draft Preliminary Rankings

 The 2018 NHL Draft will be one of the deepest ones ever for blue liners, as 15 defenders could possibly be selected in the first round in June 2018.  Leading the group of defencemen is future superstar Rasmus Dahlin, a dynamic two way defenceman.  Andrei Svechnikov, a big winger, will challenge him for the honour of being picked first overall.  Dark horses Adam Boqvist and Filip Zadina could also try for first overall.  All that being said, it’s still early, and a lot can change between now and June.

    1. Rasmus Dahlin

LD, 6’2, 181 lbs

Dahlin, who is projected to go 1st overall, is a two way defenceman with enormous offensive upside. A fantastic skater, Dahlin has drawn comparisons to Erik Karlsson. Dahlin uses his exceptional vision and passing skill to make plays and move the puck up ice. He can singlehandedly create opportunities, using his skating and hands to get past defenders. Doesn’t have a cannon, but is shot is hard and accurate. Great hitter, punishes forwards in open ice. He’s pretty good in his own end, he will improve in the corners and in front of the net as he gets bigger. Needs to make the simpler play more often, as he often makes very risky plays that will not work in the NHL, but he has shown coachability, so I have no doubts that he will address that. A generational talent, looks like a future Norris winner.

    2. Andrei Svechnikov

LHD RW, 6’2, 187 lbs

Svechnikov is a big skilled power forward. He primarily creates opportunities by driving to the net, where he uses his hands to finish. A natural scorer, Svechnikov skates well and has a good shot. His combination of skills will likely lead to extreme NHL success. Svechnikov will look to add on to a wildly successful USHL season with an equally good year in the OHL.

    3. Adam Boqvist

RD, 5’11, 170 lbs

Adam Boqvist is a highly skilled offensive defenceman. He skates well and has good vision and passing. He scores a lot of goals from the top of the circle after walking in from the blue line. Boqvist is active in the offensive zone, he’s always moving around trying to get open to unleash his shot. The majority of his points come from his shooting and passing, which stands out in a draft class full of dangling defencemen. His style of play should translate well to the NHL.

    4. Filip Zadina

RHD LW, 6’0, 170 lbs

A scorer-playmaker combo, Zadina does a lot of things well. He skates well, has nice hands and a hard, accurate shot. Nice vision, makes good decisions while under pressure. Great passer, passes are hard and on the tape. Overall he’s a great player with no real flaws. He and Svechnikov are on another level compared to the other forwards in this draft. Really talented player, could be a surprise #1 on draft day.

    5. Quinn Hughes

LD, 5’11, 170 lbs

Quinn Hughes is a two way defenceman that can rush the puck very well. Good skater, he’s fast and good on his edges. Pass first mentality, doesn’t really take a lot of shots, likely because his shot isn’t too good. Slapshot is below average, low power on it. Wrist shot is okay. Can make some nice passes. Good on both sides of the puck. Safe with the puck, doesn’t make high risk plays but still generates offence at a high rate. Impressive player.

    6. Ryan Merkley

RD, 5’11, 179 lbs

An offensive defenceman capable of putting up a lot of points. Good skater, nice shot. Smart player, very patient, waits for space to open up. Good hands, has scored some highlight reel, end to end goals. Good PP QB. Most impressive part of his game for me is his vision, he always knows where everybody is on the ice. Good at disguising his passes. Has struggled with turnovers, largely due to poor decision making. Sometimes takes poor penalties when frustrated. Defence is an issue, needs to improve there. Struggles with consistency. Some concern about how well his game will translate to the NHL, as his end to end attempts won’t work as often in the NHL. Will likely become more of a playmaker, utilizing his vision. A talented player, Merkley has the offensive skill to go high in the draft, but he’ll need to improve his defence, consistency and attitude.

    7. Joe Veleno

C, 6’1, 190 lbs

A skilled two way centre, Veleno has elite skill. A playmaker, he uses his IQ and passing ability to create oppurtunities. Great skater, has a smooth skating stride, agile. Good puck skills, can get by players with ease. Needs to improve his shot, not very powerful at this point. Game changing skill, 1C potential.

    8. Akil Thomas

RC/W, 5’11, 170 lbs

An offensive centre (that can play some wing) with the skills to take over a game, Akil Thomas has impressed on a terrible Niagara IceDogs team. He does everything well in the offensive zone. He skates well, he has a great first step and impressive lateral movement. He’s an elite playmaker, utilizing his top end vision and hockey IQ. Good hands and shot. Needs to improve away from the puck and add strength. Lots of offensive potential, could be a future top line forward.

    9. Bode Wilde

RD, 6’2, 170 lbs

A big two way defenceman, difference maker on the blue line. Skates well, transitions are smooth. Good puck mover. Big slap shot from the point, a lot of power on it. Calm with the puck, rarely panics. Shuts opponents down physically. Solid two way defenceman with offensive upside, top pairing potential.

    10. Ty Smith

LD, 5’11, 174 lbs

Smart defenceman with skill. Great skater, great hockey sense, great puck mover. Drawn comparisons to Duncan Keith. Very sound defensively, smart in his own end, good positionally and one on one. Solid two way defenceman with offensive upside.

11. Brady Tkachuk

C/LW, 6’3, 196 lbs

12. Rasmus Kupari

C, 5’11, 163 lbs

13. Jett Woo

D, 6’0, 202 lbs

14. Oliver Wahlstrom

C, 6’1, 198 lbs

15. Jack McBain

C, 6’3, 183 lbs

16. Jared McIsaac

D, 6’3, 209 lbs

17. Simon Appelquist

LW, 6’0, 172 lbs

18. Jesper Kotkaniemi

RW, 6’1, 186 lbs

19. Calen Addison

D, 5’9, 180 lbs

20. Anderson MacDonald

LW, 6’2, 203 lbs

21. Ty Dellandrea

C, 6’1, 186 lbs

22. Gleb Babintsev

D, 6’0, 198 lbs

23. Evan Bouchard

D, 6’2, 178 lbs

24. David Levin

LW, 5’10, 170 lbs

25. Nicolas Beaudin

D, 5’10, 161 lbs

26. Alexander Alexeyev

D, 6’3, 190

27. Ryan McLeod

C, 6’1, 183 lbs

28. Xavier Bouchard

D, 6’2, 175 lbs

29. Joel Farabee

LW, 5’11, 160 lbs

30. Giovanni Vallati

D, 6’1, 179 lbs

31. Benoit-Oliver Groulx

C, 6’1, 176 lbs

2018 NHL Draft: 10 Players To Watch

The 2018 NHL Draft will be a deep one, and is full of impact talent, especially on the blue line.  More than 15 defencemen could hear their names called in the first round at the 2018 draft, compared to 8 in both 2016 and 2015, and just 5 in 2014, which saw a defenceman, Aaron Ekblad go 1st overall.

The consensus top 2 draft eligible prospects are Rasmus Dahlin, a two way defenceman, and Andrei Svechnikov, a big power winger.  After those two, it’s quite close when it comes to the 3rd overall pick, with at least 5 overall picks with a fair chance at being selected there.  All that being said, it’s still very early, and things will change a lot.  At this point last year, Timothy Liljegren was projected to go top 5 at the 2017 draft.  He ended up being selected 17th overall to the Leafs, after mono kept him out for the majority of his draft year.  A prospect’s draft year is what will ultimately decide his final draft decision.  A good draft year can lead to a dramatic rise in draft rankings, while a poor draft year can lead to a large drop.  These 10 players will hope for a good 2017-18 season as they fight to go as high as possible in the draft.

    1. Rasmus Dahlin

LD, 6’2, 181 lbs

Dahlin, who is projected to go 1st overall, is a two way defenceman with enormous offensive upside.  A fantastic skater, Dahlin has drawn comparisons to Erik Karlsson.  Dahlin uses his exceptional vision and passing skill to make plays and move the puck up ice.  He can singlehandedly create opportunities, using his skating and hands to get past defenders.  Doesn’t have a cannon, but is shot is hard and accurate.  Great hitter, punishes forwards in open ice.  He’s pretty good in his own end, he will improve in the corners and in front of the net as he gets bigger.  Needs to make the simpler play more often, as he often makes very risky plays that will not work in the NHL, but he has shown coachability, so I have no doubts that he will address that.  A generational talent, looks like a future Norris winner.

    2. Andrei Svechnikov

LHD RW, 6’2, 187 lbs

Svechnikov is a big skilled power forward. He primarily creates opportunities by driving to the net, where he uses his hands to finish. A natural scorer, Svechnikov skates well and has a good shot. His combination of skills will likely lead to extreme NHL success.  Svechnikov will look to add on to a wildly successful USHL season with an equally good year in the OHL.

    3. Adam Boqvist

RD, 5’11, 170 lbs

Adam Boqvist is a highly skilled offensive defenceman. He skates well and has good vision and passing. He scores a lot of goals from the top of the circle after walking in from the blue line. Boqvist is active in the offensive zone, he’s always moving around trying to get open to unleash his shot. The majority of his points come from his shooting and passing, which stands out in a draft class full of dangling defencemen. His style of play should translate well to the NHL.

    4. Filip Zadina

RHD LW, 6’0, 170 lbs

A scorer-playmaker combo, Zadina does a lot of things well. He skates well, has nice hands and a hard, accurate shot. Nice vision, makes good decisions while under pressure. Great passer, passes are hard and on the tape. Overall he’s a great player with no real flaws.  He and Svechnikov are on another level compared to the other forwards in this draft. Really talented player, could be a surprise #1 on draft day.

    5. Quinn Hughes

LD, 5’11, 170 lbs

Quinn Hughes is a two way defenceman that can rush the puck very well. Good skater, he’s fast and good on his edges. Pass first mentality, doesn’t really take a lot of shots, likely because his shot isn’t too good. Slapshot is below average, low power on it. Wrist shot is okay. Can make some nice passes. Good on both sides of the puck. Safe with the puck, doesn’t make high risk plays but still generates offence at a high rate. Impressive player.

    6. Ryan Merkley

RD, 5’11, 179 lbs

An offensive defenceman capable of putting up a lot of points. Good skater, nice shot. Smart player, very patient, waits for space to open up. Good hands, has scored some highlight reel, end to end goals. Good PP QB. Most impressive part of his game for me is his vision, he always knows where everybody is on the ice. Good at disguising his passes. Has struggled with turnovers, largely due to poor decision making. Sometimes takes poor penalties when frustrated. Defence is an issue, needs to improve there. Struggles with consistency. Some concern about how well his game will translate to the NHL, as his end to end attempts won’t work as often in the NHL. Will likely become more of a playmaker, utilizing his vision. A talented player, Merkley has the offensive skill to go high in the draft, but he’ll need to improve his defence, consistency and attitude.

    7.  Joe Veleno

A skilled two way centre, Veleno has elite skill.  A playmaker, he uses his IQ and passing ability to create oppurtunities.  Great skater,  has a smooth skating stride, agile. Good puck skills, can get by players with ease.  Needs to improve his shot, not very powerful at this point.  Game changing skill, 1C potential.

    8. Akil Thomas

RC/W, 5’11, 170 lbs

An offensive centre (that can play some wing) with the skills to take over a game, Akil Thomas has impressed on a terrible Niagara IceDogs team.  He does everything well in the offensive zone.  He skates well, he has a great first step and impressive lateral movement.  He’s an elite playmaker, utilizing his top end vision and hockey IQ.  Good hands and shot.  Needs to improve away from the puck and add strength.  Lots of offensive potential, could be a future top line forward.

    9. Bode Wilde

RD, 6’2, 170 lbs

A big two way defenceman, difference maker on the blue line.  Skates well, transitions are smooth.  Good puck mover.  Big slap shot from the point, a lot of power on it.  Calm with the puck, rarely panics.  Shuts opponents down physically.  Solid two way defenceman with offensive upside, top pairing potential.

    10. Ty Smith

LD, 5’11, 174 lbs

Smart defenceman with skill. Great skater, great hockey sense, great puck mover. Drawn comparisons to Duncan Keith. Very sound defensively, smart in his own end, good positionally and one on one. Solid two way defenceman.