Drafting Power Forwards

Since writing the Crouse piece I have had a few people ask
me really interesting questions about the potential of these young players.
First and foremost I should say this: I don’t presume to know the future. I
can’t say for certain that Crouse will not be the next great power forward in
the NHL. All I have to go on is history. So when I was asked if power forwards
develop slowly I thought it was an interesting question.

Thinking about things logically, power forwards should
develop slowly since we’re talking about 18 year olds playing against grown men
as professional athletes. Even big strong kids like Leon Draisaitl who stand
over 6 feet tall and weigh 200+ pounds talk about not having “Man-Strength”
when they are in their teenage years and playing against men in their 30’s with
families and years of working out under professional guidance.

Just naturally, it makes sense that an NHL draftee who plays
a physical style would take time to develop into an effective player at the NHL
level.

However, we aren’t more interested in their development
AFTER they get drafted so much as we are interested in what they looked like at
the time of their draft. It might take some players a few years to the point
where their bodies become as physically developed as their peers in the NHL,
but in junior these kids are much closer at daft age to the rest of their peers
than they would be when they graduate to the next level.

Put another way: by the time these kids are old enough to be
drafted from the CHL (or wherever) they are likely not playing men and we
should expect them to be performing at high levels already. We shouldn’t have
to project what kind of player they might be based on some fantasy. We should
be seeing what kind of player they might be already. Or at least that’s my
working theory.

If we want to project a scoring winger who plays a physical
game we should be seeing a scoring winger who plays a physical game at the CHL
level. So does that hold water?

I asked who people considered to be power forwards to get a few
names, then I decided to punch some criteria into Hockey-Reference.com to come up with a bigger list.
My criteria was pretty simple: any player who recorded at least .75
points per game and at least 75 penalty minutes from 1990 onwards. After that I
just had to use my discretion to pull out names who didn’t fit the bill “power
forward”. No offense to Theo Fleury, he was fantastic, but he wasn’t a power
forward. Also, since we are talking about a high draft pick, we do expect a fair
amount of scoring.

But there are other forwards who play a heavy game who didn’t
score overly well in their draft year. Wayne Simmonds, for example, is a solid
player who plays a heavy game. He is establishing himself as both an offensive
threat and physical force. Would you have taken Wayne Simmonds in the top five of
his Draft? I’m not convinced that would have been wise.

Obviously it isn’t a Master List of Power Forwards, but I
think it’s a solid place to start. These are the power forwards who you might conceivably
want to spend a top five pick on. There are others, like Simmonds, who you may
consider a power forward, but ask yourself whether you would spend a top five pick
on them.

How Did They Look On Draft Day?

Shanny already looks 35 here

Cam Neely

Drafted 9th overall in 1983. Played his draft
year for the Portland Winter Hawks.

72GP, 56-64-120, 130 PIMs, 1.67 p/g

Kevin Stevens

Drafted 108th overall in 1983. Played his draft
year for the Silver Lake Lakers in MA High School

18GP, 24-27-51, Unknown PIMs, 2.83 p/g

Brendan Shanahan

Drafted 2nd overall in 1987. Played in his draft
year for the London Knights.

56GP, 39-53-92, 128 PIMs, 1.64 p/g

John LeClair

Drafted 33rd overall in 1987. Played his draft
year for Bellows Free Academy High of Vermont.

23GP, 44-40-84, 14 PIMs, 3.65 p/g

Rod Brind’Amour

Drafted 9th overall in 1988. Played his draft
year for the Notre Dame Hounds of the SJHL.

56GP, 46-61-107, 136 PIMs, 2.33 p/g

Bill Guerin

Drafted 5th overall in 1989. Played his draft
year for the Springfield Olympics of the NEJHL (New England Junior Hockey
League).

31GP, 32-35-67, 90 PIMs, 2.16 p/g

Owen Nolan

Drafted 1st overall in 1990. Played his draft
year for the Cornwall Royals.

58GP, 51-59-110, 240 PIMs, 1.90 p/g

Keith Primeau

Drafted 3rd overall in 1990. Played his draft
year for the Niagara Falls Thunder.

65GP, 57-70-127, 97 PIMs, 1.95 p/g

Great photo or Greatest photo?

Jaromir Jagr

Drafted 5th overall in 1990. Played his draft
year for Kladno of the Czech League.

51GP, 22-28-50, 0 PIMs, 0.98 p/g (in a Professional League)

Keith Tkachuk

Drafted 19th overall in 1990. Played his draft
year for the Malden Catholic Lancers High School of Massachusetts.

6GP, 12-14-26, Unknown PIMs, 4.33 p/g

Jason Arnott

Drafted 7th overall in 1993. Played his draft
year for the Oshawa Generals.

56GP, 41-57-98, 74 PIMs

Todd Bertuzzi

Drafted 23rd overall in 1993. Played his draft
year for the Guelph Storm.

60GP, 27-31-58, 168 PIMs, 0.97 p/g

Shane Doan

Drafted 7th overall in 1995. Played his draft
year for the Kamloops Blazers.

71GP, 37-57-94, 106 PIMs, 1.32 p/g

Jarome Iginla

Drafted 11th overall in 1995. Played his draft
Year for the Kamloops Blazers.

72GP, 33-38-71, 111 PIMs, 0.99 p/g

Joe Thornton

Drafted 1st overall in 1997. Played his draft
year for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

59GP, 41-81-122, 123 PIMs, 2.39 p/g

Marian Hossa

Drafted 12th overall in 1997. Played his draft
year for Dukla Trencin of the Slovakian League.

46GP, 12-19-44, 33 PIMs, 0.96 p/g (in a Professional League)

Brenden Morrow

Drafted 25th overall in 1997. Played his draft
year for the Portland Winter Hawks.

71GP, 39-49-88, 178 PIMs, 1.24 p/g

Eric Staal

Drafted 2nd overall in 2003. Played his draft
year for the Peterborough Petes.

66GP, 39-59-98, 36 PIMs, 1.48 p/g

So much hair

Ryan Getzlaf

Drafted 19th overall in 2003. Played his draft
year for the Calgary Hitmen.

70GP, 29-39-68, 121 PIMs, 0.97 p/g

Ryan Kesler

Drafted 23rd overall in 2003. Played his draft
year for Ohio State University.

40GP, 11-20-31, 44 PIMs, 0.78 p/g (in University)

Mike Richards

Drafted 24th overall in 2003. Played his draft
year for the Kitchener Rangers.

67GP, 37-50-87, 99 PIMs, 1.30 p/g

Corey Perry

Drafted 28th overall in 2003. Played his daft
year for the London Knights.

67GP, 25-53-78, 145 PIMs, 1.16 p/g

David Backes

Drafted 62nd overall in 2003. Played his draft
year for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL.

57GP, 28-41-69, 126 PIMs, 1.21 p/g

Milan Lucic

Drafted 50th overall in 2006. Played his draft
year for the Vancouver Giants.

62GP, 9-10-19, 149 PIMs, 0.31 p/g

Lawson Crouse

Ranked Top 5 in 2015. Plays for the Kingston Frontenacs

30GP, 16-7-23, 55 PIMs, 0.77 p/g

Thoughts

We see from our pseudo Master List of Elite Power Forwards
that when they were drafted almost all of them were offensively productive in
their respective leagues at the time of their draft. This is important because
there will be those who will take the concept that it takes time for these
players to become good NHLers and confuse it with the notion that they weren’t
necessarily great junior players. In fact, we see quite the opposite.

To try to keep things apples to apples let’s look at
offensive production from these effective power forwards who played in the CHL from
1995 onwards. These guys have an average of 1.24 points per game in their draft
year. Even if we take away the really low of Milan Lucic and the really high of
Joe Thornton we still end up with 1.21 points per game.

The Oilers are drafting in the top 10, most likely the top
5. The player they take, if he’s going to be a power forward who can score and
be dominant in the NHL, has to be able to score. It is absolutely not good
enough to spend a top five pick on a guy who only plays a physical game. Just looking
back at the players we identify today as power forwards we can see they all
scored in junior at draft age except for one.

We should be very suspect of players who aren’t scoring at
that age. There has to be an extreme amount of circumstantial evidence that
points to other issues if we are to completely ignore a lack of scoring from a
top five pick.

I think it is terrible for scouts to rank a player in this
draft ahead of others who are significantly more effective offensively based on
physicality alone. I think it’s worse when they make weird excuses for it that don’t
hold any water. For Crouse the excuse is that he doesn’t play big minutes, but,
as the bright RomulusNotNuma points out, estimations are in fact the opposite of that.

So do elite power forwards take time to develop? Maybe to
get to the NHL, but the ones that do get there tend to have dominated in their
junior leagues first.

I dont have a problem with Lawson Crouse. I have a problem with a scouting community that is giving me reason to doubt them by valuing a player extremely high without enough evidence to support their claims.

  • S0DAP0PS

    My hope is that if we’re not drafting #1 or #2 we are trading away the pick for immediate help. No offence to Crouse but I don’t have the patience for someone who may be years away from dominating.

  • ubermiguel

    Despite the lack of data, I too feel safe assuming Kevin Stevens had a lot of PIMs in junior. Two ex-Oilers on there, and one we actually drafted, that’s not too bad.

  • Very well thought out article. More of these and less BM/JS/Wanye please.

    That said, to me size and weight would be a better filter than PIMS for a power forward when looking back to make your list. But it sounds like you did that indirectly by omitting guys like Fleury.

  • Lyxdeslic

    The thing that sticks out with Crouse for me is his goals per game. He plays on a .500 Kingston team who is having troubles scoring. Their top point getter is 20 year old Robert Polesello who has 36 points in 38 games. To put that in perspective, the London Knights have Mitch Marner (90 points), Christian Dvorak (78 points), Max Domi (62 points) and Matt Rupert (47 points). Despite playing on a poor team with no top end talent, Crouse has managed 16 goals in 30 games (0.53 gpg).

    Now I don’t know the quality of teammates the other power forwards had on this list, but I think its fair to say that they had more quality teammates points wise. After all if your top point getter isn’t even in the top 50 scorers for the entire league, your team is weak when it comes to offense. Now im not saying Crouse is a sure fire power forward prospect, but given the quality of his teammates and how he has faired with goal scoring compared to the rest of that power forward list, he doesn’t appear to be in over his head.

    Crouse (0.53 gpg)
    Lucic (0.14 gpg)
    Backes (0.49 gpg)
    Perry (0.55 gpg)
    Richards (0.55)
    Getzlaf (0.41)
    Keslar (0.28)
    Staal (0.59)
    Morrow (0.54)

    Again i’m not saying that Crouse is the next great prospect, but I will say I am impressed with his ability to put the puck in the net despite lacking high quality teammates. As far as goals go in their draft year, he is in pretty good company amongst other power forwards. And at 6’3 200lbs as a 17 year old (according to hockeydb) he already has size advantages over some players on this list.

    • ubermiguel

      If the Oilers end up picking 3 or lower Crouse would be the worst choice only because he’s a winger. There are still some big centres and d-men on the board at that point. Build down the middle and from the back. We tried wingers first, and we have a pile of them already.

      • Lyxdeslic

        I don’t disagree with you in the slightest. If we are picking three or later I too prefer choosing a centerman or someone on defense. Id take players like Hanifin and Strome before I ever took Crouse. Even if we drafted a winger I wouldn’t take Crouse as my first choice, I’d pick Marner ahead of him (listed as a C but plays wing on London). I was just stating that Crouse has some scoring ability that should not be over looked

      • toprightcorner

        Sorry, but because he is a winger is not the only reason the Oilers should not take Crouse with their first pick. He could be one of the riskier players to take in the first round as he offensively hasn’t proven he can even be a top 6 forward.

    • toprightcorner

      Totally understand what you are saying, but If you look at the Raiders last year when Draisaitl had 105 points, the next highest scoring forward was Dakota Conroy with 61 pts in 66 games and was 2 years older than Leo.

      An offensively gifted player should still be able to put up points in the WHL even if he is on a terrible team or at least separate himself from the other players on his team.

  • toprightcorner

    Any forward taken in the 1st round of any draft has to be a proven offensive threat.

    I would think Crouse is probably the biggest risk pick in the top 10 of this years draft. Risk is something the Oilers need to stay away from.

  • Tikkanese

    I’m not completely disagreeing as he is impossible to knock off the puck and will usually win the puck battle in the corners… but he doesn’t exactly blow guys up with hits ever and certainly never fights. I’d say including Jagr is being a little liberal with the definition of a power forward.

  • In my world drafting and player development are inextricably linked……..you cannot have one without the other.

    Unless your name is Gretzky, ( very few others) you need development to harness the potential in being a top pick and it only becomes more important in later rounds.

    I think for the most part we are picking good players ( although this is debatable for Yaks) we just are not doing a good job in developing them. Now that we have a developmental league in the AHL we have to create conditions that allows for players to properly develop and not rush them. I say we pack the farm team with as much talent as we can draft……..and let the cream rise to the top.

    No more rushing the development of our draft picks!

  • Tikkanese

    @MH How about the coke machines drafted in the later rounds? Is Lucic the only example to pan out? Do the Oilers lead the league in failed coke machine picks?

    • There are actually countless coke machine picks that never pan out for almost every team. I think Lucic just panned out so well that he made everybody lose their minds. Everybody says “Oh he could be the next Lucic” instead of saying “He could be the next Moroz, Paukovich, Botterill.”

      I am extremely concerned about scouts playing to the exception instead of to the rule

      • Tikkanese

        Yeah for sure. Especially in Round One.

        With the low odds of the later round picks ever panning out anyways is probably why teams take chances on the coke machines. If they ever do hit that “Lucic” home run, it’s even sweeter than an Omark panning out.

  • Kevrock

    Equally offensive is ranking players strictly on offensive production. The Oilers play in recent years has proven this. Guess that’s why there is a combine before the draft. Bottom line Oiler scouts have sucked pretty hard for a good long time now.

  • bwar

    I really doubt Crouse goes in the top 3 at the draft. I don’t think he’s a stretch for the top 10 though and if someone grabs him 8-12th they will be very happy. I have a hard time ranking Crouse above guys like Hanafin and Strome. He has some great attributes but doesn’t really look like a player I would build a franchise around. On draft day I’d be happy to see him put on an Oiler’s jersey but not with the 3rd overall pick.

  • toprightcorner

    Power forwards putting up less than a point per game have a bigger chance at under performing in the NHL.

    Its not like Crouse is on track to score 40 goals, if he can’t put the puck in the net in the NHL he will be 4th liner.

    Here are some players in the top 50 in PIMS this year and how they scored in their draft year and the round they were picked.

    Downie (1.20) 179 pims – 1st rd

    Prust (.81) 269 pims – 3rd rd

    Chipchura (.75) 118 pims – 1st rd

    Tootoo (.80) 172 pims – 4th rd

    Neil (.93) 231 pims – 6th rd

    Crombeen (.73) 133 pims – 2nd rd

    Thorburn (.83) 112 pims – 2nd rd

    Stewart (1.4) 118 pims – 1st rd

    The odds are that Crouse ends up being a 4th line player in the NHL, maybe a 3rd liner. Definitely not worth a 1st round pick with that amount of risk

  • toprightcorner

    If the Oilers draft a winger no matter who it is they would be crucified for that decision.This draft has many really good big centerman available and I really hope that is the focus. Strome sounds like a dandy if we drop in the draft, a big nasty kid who can score and excels at face-offs. That is the type of player this team needs not a maybe power forward with limited scoring who is years from developing and we all know how good we are at developing. I would like to know more about this Big Czech kid too.

  • toprightcorner

    Who would you rather the Oilers draft:

    Lawson Crouse 6’3″, 212 lbs and 30GP-16G-7A-23pts (52 pts in a 68 game season)

    or

    Mitch Marner 5’11”, 164 lbs and 42GP-34G-56A-90pts (145 pts in a 68 game season)

    Fun Fact: Marner 1st in OHL scoring, Crouse 121st in OHL scoring.

    Funner Fact: Patrick Kane was 5″10 162 lbs when he was drafted

    Funnest Fact: 12 months ago Marner was 5″7″ 135 lbs

  • Lyxdeslic

    BM I am good with what you wrote but think you missed some very relevant Stats that would be interesting in the conversation. 1)What was their weight when drafted and what was it during their peak year of production. 2)Some players whom may be smaller but have large legs have such a low center of gravity that moving them is very tough. Does your criteria eliminate those power forwards? If so i think you may be missing some. They would have greater risk at the draft for sure however.

  • bwar

    I would like some feedback on a proposed scenario. Assuming that Buffalo ends the season in 29th spot and the Oilers end up in 30th spot, would it be a good move to trade Taylor Hall to the Sabres for their first overall pick in the 2015 draft?

    Buffalo would receive a mature and proven marquee winger in Taylor Hall. This could guarantee shortening up their re-build and they would know with certainty what they were getting. The key is knowing what you are getting in Hall whereas any person drafted after the first two would be a bit less of a sure thing.

    On the other hand this would give the Oilers the possibility of landing both McDavid and Eichel, two potentially generational talents. The worst case scenario is that the Oilers ge say Eichel and Strome.

    Thoughts please.

  • Rdubb

    Sorry to say this, but if Crouse continues @ his current ppt pace and the Oilers end up taking him with their 3rd, 4th, or 5th pick, then as far as I am concerned, the scouting staff will have to be fired right there and then, leave the rest of the picking to a coin toss, follow Bob Mckenzie’s draft rankings. something, because that’d be a terrible top 5 pick, heck, the kid shouldn’t even be taken in the top 20. You can pick a guy in the 5th round who plays physical and can throw in a few points here and there. & not only should the scouting staff be canned, but so should MacT, and that pains me as i am a fairly big MacT fan, and if someone above MacT steps in and makes them pick this kid with their top 5 pick, then that person to should be axed, and if Katz over steps his boundary AGAIN, then something will NEED to be done on that front too. Should Katz say “Let’s take this Crouse kid with our 3rd”, then MacT, Nicolson or Lowe should stand up and say NO, and tell him to keep his nose out of the draft and to keep his kid off of the stage, he isn’t 6yrs old any more…
    In my humble opinion, if Edmonton picks out of the top 2, they should be smart to notice Strome, a big (6’2″ 190lb) kid who plays C, scores a ton of points, has a good imagination, makes plays, scores goals, and perhaps even more importantly, can play big in the big games, just as he did in the world juniors this past yr. I thought that he played great, he was definitely one of Canada’s top players, i’d go as far as saying he was probably Canada’s 2nd best un-drafted player.
    Give this kid another yr to work out under top people, and his strength will get much better, he should be able to add a good 8-12lbs of muscle, his hand and wrist strength will increase, and his foot speed should also get much better.
    I could definitely see this kid as Edmonton’s 2nd line C in 2yrs, thus pushing LD to the 3rd line C, and thus perhaps making him expendable, allowing Edmonton to make a deal for a stud d-man…
    Just a thought