August 09 2013 08:31PM
The Edmonton Oilers drafted Travis Ewanyk in the third round of the 2011 Entry Draft. Math suggests he's a marginal prospect, but the Oilers signed him and have not wavered in their conviction about his potential. Will Travis Ewanyk become an NHL regular?
This tweet from last December gives us a nice starting point about Ewanyk's value to the Oilers (and possibly beyond). Ewanyk's offense is subpar--there aren't many players with his offense who go on to long NHL careers--but his draft number (and ranking) suggest a player of some note.
Many Oiler fans regard Ewanyk as a 'reach pick' (he was selected #74 overall) but the truth he is was in the range. Bob McKenzie's list in 2011 included a top 50 and then 25 'honourable mentions' including Ewanyk--he was among the top 75 prospects based on McKenzie's legendary discussions with scouts entering the draft.
HOW DOES HE COMPARE TO THOSE LA KINGS?
Not well. I assume that McKenzie's note above relates to Jordan Nolan and Kyle Clifford, two Kings forwards who have become well known in recent years as heavy forwards with attitude.
- Age 17: 72, 16-11-27 .375
- Age 18: 11, 1-3-4 .364
- Age 19: 58, 8-15-23 .397
I think we have Ewanyk as an offensive player surrounded at this point, his NHL equivalency (using the Vollman) would be between 8 and 9 points in an 82 game season--that's about what Anton Lander posted during his rookie season in 2011-12. A player would have to be a ridiculous defensive forward to make those numbers work--whatever hockey's Mendoza line is, the Ewanyk number is below it.
- Age 17: 60, 16-12-28 .467
- Age 18: 58, 28-29-57 .983
- Age 19: he was in the NHL (76, 7-7-14)
Clifford and Ewanyk were not similar at any time during their 17-to-19 year old seasons, in fact Clifford arrived in the NHL before his 20th birthday. If we're claiming Ewanyk is a Clifford comparable, we're making a bad bet.
- Age 17: 60, 11-16-27 .450
- Age 18: 62, 13-14-27 .435
- Age 19: 64, 16-27-43 .672
Nolan was ahead of Ewanyk in all three seasons, and he stepped forward significantly as a 19-year old. I think you could make a case for Nolan being a 'fringe' comparable but it's not an ideal one. Nolan is 6.03, 227 and that's about 45 pounds heavier than Ewanyk. They are not similar player-types.
WHO IS TRAVIS EWANYK?
Ewanyk is not without charm as a hockey player. He's a good checking center on a very good junior hockey club, effective against the other team's best and a tough, physcial player. Ewanyk talked to Cult of Hockey awhile back and described his play this way:
I’ve played in the same [checking line centre] role since I was 17, obviously as a 16-year-old we don’t play as much, but as a 17-year-old right from my second year in the league [Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal] trusted me in those roles. I was playing against 19-year-olds like Brayden Schenn, Emerson Etem, Linden Vey, guys like that. It’s a role I’ve developed into and it’s something I really embrace. Going forward being a good checker will really help me out. Throughout my career on this team I’ve always been on that third line, there haven’t been a lot of powerplay or top-two line minutes. I’ve embraced that, you look at last year and you know the role I played in the playoffs. As long as the team is winning I know that I’m doing my job.
That kind of player--checking the other team's best--has value in any era. However, there has to be some offense if there's to be a career of some consequence.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
Because we don't have access to TOI and because we know (believe me, we know) Ewanyk did indeed play a shutdown role with a severe lack of an offensive push, I'm inclined to believe there may be some good news in pro hockey for Ewanyk's offense.
Is it enough? There's no way to know, beyond watching things roll out this fall and winter.