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
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
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
How Did They Look On Draft Day?
Shanny already looks 35 here
Drafted 9th overall in 1983. Played his draft
year for the Portland Winter Hawks.
72GP, 56-64-120, 130 PIMs, 1.67 p/g
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
Drafted 2nd overall in 1987. Played in his draft
year for the London Knights.
56GP, 39-53-92, 128 PIMs, 1.64 p/g
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
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
Drafted 5th overall in 1989. Played his draft
year for the Springfield Olympics of the NEJHL (New England Junior Hockey
31GP, 32-35-67, 90 PIMs, 2.16 p/g
Drafted 1st overall in 1990. Played his draft
year for the Cornwall Royals.
58GP, 51-59-110, 240 PIMs, 1.90 p/g
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?
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)
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
Drafted 7th overall in 1993. Played his draft
year for the Oshawa Generals.
56GP, 41-57-98, 74 PIMs
Drafted 23rd overall in 1993. Played his draft
year for the Guelph Storm.
60GP, 27-31-58, 168 PIMs, 0.97 p/g
Drafted 7th overall in 1995. Played his draft
year for the Kamloops Blazers.
71GP, 37-57-94, 106 PIMs, 1.32 p/g
Drafted 11th overall in 1995. Played his draft
Year for the Kamloops Blazers.
72GP, 33-38-71, 111 PIMs, 0.99 p/g
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
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)
Drafted 25th overall in 1997. Played his draft
year for the Portland Winter Hawks.
71GP, 39-49-88, 178 PIMs, 1.24 p/g
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
Drafted 19th overall in 2003. Played his draft
year for the Calgary Hitmen.
70GP, 29-39-68, 121 PIMs, 0.97 p/g
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)
Drafted 24th overall in 2003. Played his draft
year for the Kitchener Rangers.
67GP, 37-50-87, 99 PIMs, 1.30 p/g
Drafted 28th overall in 2003. Played his daft
year for the London Knights.
67GP, 25-53-78, 145 PIMs, 1.16 p/g
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
Drafted 50th overall in 2006. Played his draft
year for the Vancouver Giants.
62GP, 9-10-19, 149 PIMs, 0.31 p/g
Ranked Top 5 in 2015. Plays for the Kingston Frontenacs
30GP, 16-7-23, 55 PIMs, 0.77 p/g
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.