After three weeks of breaking down the forwards for the 2015 NHL entry draft, it is finally time to give the defenseman a turn. In an earlier post, I found that junior scoring in defenseman has a weak correlation with their NHL scoring. Due to this, I do not have a formula for projecting offensive ability for defenseman as I do with forwards. Instead, the most useful information gleamed from my sample of defenseman is that their even strength production is roughly twice as important as their power play scoring. Therefore, for evaluating d-men, I have decided to take the sample and use the ratio of the average point per game in juniors versus that in the NHL. By doing this, it will help adjust for the power play specialists and put more emphasis on the more important skill of creating offense at even strength. The rates I will be using to adjust each CHL d-men are:
|Non-PP Points||PP Points|
In another post, I used these ratios to see if I could find what makes a good top 100 pick. I discovered that it is best to divide defenseman between those who are average height or taller for a defenseman (6’2+) and those who are below average height (<6’2). I also discovered some rules of thumb which are:
- If a defenseman is less than 6’2”, they should project to be a 30+ point player over an 82 game season to warrant a top 100 selection.
- If a defenseman is 6’2” or taller, they should project to be a 12+ point player over an 82 game season to warrant a top 100 selection.
For those 6’2+ defensemen that project to be between a 12-30 point player, size definitely matters. The average height and weight, of the 38 d-men that fall within this range and go on to have 100+ NHL game careers, is 6’4 and 210 lbs. Of those 38 players, only 5 (13%) of them were less than 200 lbs (Ellerby, Fischer, Postma, Parent and Mikkelson). Postma went 205th and was a longshot to make 100 games which he just did this year. Parent and Mikkelson both could skate, but neither played with a physical edge and lacked offensive upside (17 points in 237 games combined). Meanwhile, Fischer and Ellerby are both tall and lanky d-men who were considered raw projects with a physical edge (87 points in 517 games combined). Therefore, if a defenseman is less than 200 lbs and lacks offensive upside, the best bet is to take a tall, lanky raw physical d-man and hope for the best. The new rules of thumb for 6’2 or taller d-men are:
- If they project to be a 30+ point player over an 82 game season they warrant consideration as a top 100 pick
- If they are at least 200 lbs and project in the 12-30 point range, they warrant consideration as a top 100 pick.
- If they are under 200 lbs and project in the 12-30 point range, they warrant consideration as a top 100 pick if they are tall (6’4+) and have a physical edge.
With defenseman it is tough to find comparable players using offensive totals, as there is so much more to their game than just being able to produce numbers. However, by looking at other players, that were of similar height and offensive scoring, we may be able to see a trend as to where they may be drafted and gain insights into what skills made a player either successful or not. The d-men 6’1 and under will be compared against others d-men that are 6’1 and under. The d-men 6’2 and over will be compared against d-men that are also 6’2 and over. I have picked the 7 players above and the 7 players below them from my list of comparables. When viewing the list of comparable player, the WHL defenseman from the 2015 draft is in bold in the centre of the list.
THE TOP WHL D-MEN
Based on height and adjusted scoring production, the following 10 players satisfied my rules of thumb of what makes a good top 100 pick for a d-men.
|MICHAEL DEL ZOTTO||6.00||188||2008||20||15.25||41.20||56.45|
|CALVIN DE HAAN||6.01||189||2009||12||8.15||48.25||56.41|
Typically a player of Provorov’s size and scoring will go in the first two rounds of the draft (12/14). He is likely to join Kulikov, Hamhuis, Rielly, Dumba, Honka and De Haan as a top 15 pick. While Provorov is on many top 10 rankings, history suggests there is no guarantee he will be as only Rielly and Dumba did that in a weak 2012 draft year.
For Pilon, 11 of the comparable players were first round choices with only Fournier, Lynch and Byfuglien being taken outside of it. In most years if you were 6’2 and put up the numbers Pilon did you would be a slam-dunk as a top 30 pick. While this year may not be one of those years, Pilon at least deserves a look in your top 30.
With 11 of the 14 comparables being top 75 picks, it appears Juulsen is worth taking in that range. Of those 11 players, the ones who went in the third round were all 5’10 and with Juulsen being 6’1”, it is likely he goes before them. If that turns out to be the case than Juulsen will be hearing his name sometime in the first two rounds of the draft.
Seven of the comparable players were taken in the top 33; meanwhile six players were taken between 62 and 95. It seems players that are comparable to Wotherspoon are either taken early in the draft or passed on until the third round. In Wotherspoon’s case, it is more likely to be the latter than a 1st round pick.
With 13 of 14 comparable players taken in the top 100, Perillat should be in the running as a top 100 pick but you never hear his name mentioned. When looking at the comparable players, Hickey and Katic are in the same range, in terms of size and scoring, but were both much more hyped prospects. There may be a diamond in the rough with Perillat or he is being overlooked for a reason, which is what we need the draft guides to help with.
|MARC EDOUARD VLASIC||6.01||194||2005||35||5.69||25.89||31.58|
With only half of his comparable being top 100 picks, Bear is on the bubble in terms of being worth a top 100 pick. While there are a couple good players under 6’ (Wisniewski and Cumiskey), typically a top 100 pick is not used on a player of Bear’s size and scoring.
Guhle has a range of comparable players that are anywhere from a top five pick to a late fourth round pick. Since Guhle is not a player that you see in the top 30 rankings, he is more likely to go in the range of the second tier of players that were picked between 46th and 94th.
Five top 10 picks are comparable players with Nielsen, which would make you think it would be a wise choice to consider a high pick on him. The other thought would be that this highlights how teams have overvalued big shutdown defenseman throughout the years. I fall on the latter side of the spectrum and do not believe high picks should be used on defensive d-men unless they are a special case, like Cowen.
Carlo is a name that has started to appear on many top 30 rankings meaning he may join Mezei, Staal, Zadorov and Teubert as a 1st round choice. While Staal has been a very good d-man for years and Zadorov is on his way, the comparable players in his range do not scream use a first round pick but Carlo could be an exception to the rule.
Reddekopp is the only player to project to less than 20 points but from looking at his comparable there can be some very good players found in this range (Fischer, Quincey, Methot and Regher) and even one superstar (Weber). While I am not suggesting a team uses a 1st round pick, Reddekopp at least deserves consideration for the top 100 as only 3 of the 14 comparables fell outside this range.
While 10 players make my rules of thumb for what constitutes a good selection, it is unlikely all 10 will be picked. What we can gleam from the stats and height for one is that Provorov is worth using a 1st round pick but a top 10 choice is questionable. Meanwhile, Pilon and Juulsen are both players worth consideration for the first two rounds. Wotherspoon is a notch below those three players and is more likely in the 2nd or 3rd round range. As for skilled d-men under 6′ tall there is Bear and Perillat, but neither are sure-fire top 100 picks and could be later round steals. Guhle and Nielsen both have comparables players that suggest they could be taken in the 1st round, however, I feel they both fall more in the 2nd or 3rd round category of the draft. Carlo who is getting a lot of buzz as a 1st round choice does not have many comparable players to warrant such a high pick and may be overvalued due to his height. The last player to round out the list is Reddekopp who has the size and enough offensive scoring to warrant being at least a bubble player as a top 100 pick. In the end, I would suggest there are seven players likely to be top 100 selections (Provorov, Pilon, Juulsen, Carlo, Nielsen, Guhle, Wotherspoon) and there are 3 bubble players (Bear, Perillat, Reddekopp) whose fates will be more determined based on the draft guides.