Scouting report: Kris Russell

My Scouting Report series continues today, and once again we are focusing on the blue line.

You can read the Jason Demers report here.
Justin Faulk
Tyson Barrie

Today we look at the 67th pick from the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kris Russell. Russell was an undersized offensive D-man coming out of junior, but he’s worked on his defensive game in the NHL and become an elite shot blocker. He’s poised to be a UFA on July 1st. 

After six seasons  with Columbus and St.Louis, Russell moved to Calgary and became a regular top-four defender with the Flames. Outside of his shot-blocking prowess, Russell had two solid seasons of offensive production totaling 11-52-63 in those two years.

He was moved to Dallas this March, and played a lot in the regular season playing 24 minutes a night. Dallas experimented with a few different combos in the playoffs, and Lindy Ruff never looked satisfied with many of his defenders. I expect Russell to test free agency.

The Basics:

Defence

29 years old.

5’10” and 180 pounds.

Shoots left.

UFA this summer.

Current salary: $2.6 million (same cap hit)

CAREER STATS

SEASON TEAM GP G A PTS +/- PIM PPG PPP SHG SHP GWG OTG S S%
2007-08 CBJ 67 2 8 10 -12 14 1 4 0 0 1 0 90 2.2
2008-09 CBJ 66 2 19 21 -10 28 1 11 0 0 1 0 86 2.3
2009-10 CBJ 70 7 15 22 3 32 0 7 0 0 1 1 108 6.5
2010-11 CBJ 73 5 18 23 -9 37 1 6 0 1 0 0 88 5.7
2011-12 CBJ 12 2 1 3 -1 13 0 1 0 0 0 0 20 10
2011-12 STL 43 4 5 9 13 12 0 0 0 0 1 0 36 11.1
2012-13 STL 33 1 6 7 6 9 1 2 0 0 0 0 41 2.4
2013-14 CGY 68 7 22 29 -11 15 4 12 0 1 1 1 109 6.4
2014-15 CGY 79 4 30 34 18 17 1 14 0 0 0 0 111 3.6
2015-16 CGY 51 4 11 15 -4 8 2 2 0 0 1 1 56 7.1
2015-16 DAL 11 0 4 4 -1 2 0 2 0 0 0 0 14 0
Career 573 38 139 177 -8 187 11 61 0 2 6 3 759 5

Icetime over his NHL career.

Year
  GP
TOI/game
EVTOI/G
SHTOI/G
PPTOI/G


2016
  51
    22:52    
19:43        1:50       1:18

(Calgary)
           11     24:01     19:11        2:18       2:31 (Dallas)
2015   79     23:56
    21:12        1:18       2:25

2014
  68     23:08    
19:17        0:53       2:57

2013   33     16:02     14:52        0:34       0:36

2012   55     16:59    
14:51        0:19       1:49
2011   73     17:31      14:24       0:20       2:45
2010   70     18:35      15:39       0:26       2:29
2009   66     16:07      12:45       0:03       3:18
2008   67     14:47      11:29       0:08       3:09      

Russell was drafted as an offensive defenceman, and he worked hard to improve his defensive game despite his lack of size. He’s fearless at shot blocking, although some feel he relies on it too much at times.

He is a great example of a player who has evolved his game to find something he excels at to stay in the NHL. Very few players are willing to change from their forte, like being a puck moving offensive defender, and take on a less desirable role, but Russell has successfully done that. The one concern is he relies on it too much and gives up space at the blueline instead of standing up attacking forwards.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS

David Johnson (hockeyanalysis on twitter) the man in charge of stats.hockeyanalysis.com took a look at Russell’s stat lines.

When I analyze players I generally like to
look at several seasons and situations and look for trends. I also like to look
at score situations differently as players can play different roles based on
the score. While I look at corsi stats to get a grounding on the player I
generally put more weight on goals data, especially if there are consistent
trends over multiple seasons and score situations. I also look at RelTM (or
straight Rel) stats to factor out QoT.

Here are Kris Russell’s relevant stats over
the last several seasons.

5v5

CF60
RelTM

CA60
RelTM

CF%
RelTM

GF60
RelTM

GA60
RelTM

GF%
RelTM

2013-14

-1.34

7.54

-3.8

0.36

0.06

3.6

2014-15

0.96

4.93

-1.4

0.94

-0.19

11.5

2015-16

-4.78

5.9

-4.7

0.31

0.42

-0.8

5v5 Leading

CF60
RelTM

CA60
RelTM

CF%
RelTM

GF60
RelTM

GA60
RelTM

GF%
RelTM

2013-14

2.47

7.14

-1.2

0.28

-0.16

4.5

2014-15

4.2

3.49

1

0.37

-0.75

12.3

2015-16

-0.02

3.3

-1.3

1.07

-0.59

16.8

5v5 Trailing

CF60
RelTM

CA60
RelTM

CF%
RelTM

GF60
RelTM

GA60
RelTM

GF%
RelTM

2013-14

1.17

5.36

-2.1

0.35

-0.94

14.6

2014-15

-1.83

5

-2.9

0.85

0.35

3.5

2015-16

-8.58

8.45

-7.7

-0.9

1.21

-20.6

5v5 Tied

CF60
RelTM

CA60
RelTM

CF%
RelTM

GF60
RelTM

GA60
RelTM

GF%
RelTM

2013-14

-4.86

8.37

-5.6

0.47

1.01

-3

2014-15

0.08

7.42

-2.8

1.43

-0.01

14.9

2015-16

-5.44

5.68

-4.9

0.85

0.59

2.1

Kris Russell is one of those players who is
not suited for a Corsi evaluation. In nearly every situation he has a negative
impact on his teammates CF%, but in nearly every situation he has a positive
impact on his teammates GF%. He achieves this by fairly consistently being a
positive contributor to offensive production, however his individual offensive
statistics are mediocre among defensemen, so his offensive numbers could be
driven more by the forwards he has played the most with (Gaudreau, Monahan,
Hudler) rather than driving the offense himself.

When he plays a more defensive role such as
when he is defending a lead, he seems to be able to suppress goals against. He
does this not by limiting shots against but suppressing shot quality against,
resulting in higher save percentages for his goalies. This would indicate that
maybe he might be more suited to take on a more defensive role.

Russell hasn’t typically played against the
opponents’ best players (in Calgary that task was assigned to Brodie and
Giordano), but he hasn’t been sheltered either. Overall I’d say he is well suited for
a second pairing: a good all-round guy capable of playing in many situations
and may be suited to taking on a more defensive role. At the right price he
could be a good fit for the Oilers, but with his limited offensive ability that
price would have to be under $5M/year, if not closer to $4M/year.

SCOUTING REPORT

Microscope

This week’s scouting report on Russell comes from an active NHL
player, two current NHL scouts and Craig Button from TSN.

Here is the player’s assessment of Russell:

  • Skates
    really well, very agile.
  • Really
    good sneaky stick.
  • Shot-blocking
    machine. He will be top-three, if not lead the league, every year in this category. Relies on that too much sometimes though instead of closing the gap.
  • Doesn’t
    play the right side very well if he has to.
  • He can struggle defending against big strong forwards.
  • Good team guy.

Scout #1:

I have watched him on on other teams and had
an opinion of him, but watching him closely during the playoffs my opinion
was confirmed. The Canadian media and possibly Brian Burke built this
player up at the trade deadline. Our analytics people were scratching their
heads.

If you are known for shot blocking I’ve always felt there is a
reason you are always shot blocking — because you are always having to defend. He is
a first pass guy, able to get up ice and join the attack. He is under sized and
spent a lot of time defending. Not as good a puck possessor as people probably
thought. Secondary pp guy.

To me the the hype at the deadline did not pan out, but maybe that’s just
me.

He is a serviceable Dman who does not have a
defining quality other than shot blocking.

Scout #2:

He’s a smaller d-man that skates well going back for
pucks or coming up ice with more of an offensive skill set, yet is thought to
be more of a defensive guy because of his shot blocking totals. When given time he
has the ability to wheel and evade pressure bringing the puck up with speed and
finding a first pass, but I wouldn’t call him a great puck mover. Skating is his
best attribute.

Defensively he is lauded as a shot blocker and you have
to commend his willingness to do this, but it’s often because he plays deep
defending the rush. This opens up shooting lanes off entries which he then
tries to use his body to block. With his skating ability I’m not really sure
why he does this.

In the defensive zone he lacks size and strength and has
trouble moving bodies in traffic. Down low he competes for a smaller guy, but
will also sit back and give players too much time just trying to contain and
get in the shooting lane because he lacks the size to pin and shut down a cycle
leading to extended zone time.

Craig Button:


A highly competitive hybrid type who can
contribute offense.
                                                                                                                                             

·      
Good hands

·      
Good passer

·      
Can be a secondary guy on the PP

·      
Decent shot      

Solid sense

·      
Reads play well and understands his limitations.

·      
He knows he can’t take ice or overpower opponents so he finds
himself being a positional, territorial
        type.

Competitior

·      
Big time competitor.

·       Will
sacrifice himself to block shots and he battles physically although he can’t
overwhelm you with
         physical play.

Playing vs. him

·      
Defensively he can be over matched vs. size and power.

·      
Forcing him to play below the circles in the defensive zone forces
him to battle physically.

Contract

·      
This will be a significant factor for the team. ($$’s and term)

·      
He could be this off season’s Cody Franson.

·      
If you find the right dollars and know that he’s a number 5 and
can slide up if necessary in the short
        term, he can be valuable.

WRAP UP

I don’t see Russell as a fit for the Oilers, simply because he plays the left side. The Oilers have Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera, Brandon Davidson, Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart. If Peter Chiarelli traded one or two to bolster his right defence, then maybe the Oilers would look at Russell as a free agent, but I’d be surprised.

I thought Johnson did a great analytical breakdown of Russell, but I disagree with his comment about Russell having limited offence. Over the past three seasons Russell has produced the 56th most points among defenceman. He isn’t among the elite point-producers, but in today’s game if he can score 25 points he’d be top-60 every year.

I wonder if a team asked him to focus more on his natural offensive skills, used him on the second PP and played him against lower quality of competition (QofC) at 5-on-5, if he’d be a more valuable player. I could see him having great value in that role as a “#5 at EV”, but overall his minutes would be among the top four on your team. He is a great skater and I’d encourage him to use his speed more. I still believe he is more of an offensive player, and if a team used him that way and protected his EV matchups he’d be a good addition.

He’s proven he can be versatile and he’s shown a great willingness to alter his game, where people talk more about his shot blocking than shots taken, and that will make him valuable in the eyes of some GMs on July 1st. I see him landing a contract in the range of $3 to $3.5 million/year. 

QUICK HITS…

  • The World Cup of Hockey rosters will be finalized tomorrow. Here is why I think Taylor Hall should be one of the four forwards named. I don’t see much justification to suggest Brad Marchand is a better overall player.
  • Anton Stralman will try to become the fourth player in NHL history to win eight game 7s tonight when Tampa Bay plays Pittsburgh. He is 7-0 in game 7s. Brad Richards is 8-0, Glenn Anderson (8-4) and Ray Bourque (8-2).
    KING OR QUEEN FINAL

Get your tickets for tomorrow night’s Karoake party/fundraiser. They are only $35, but you receive $45 in GCs from Oodle Noodle and On The Rocks at the door and one beverage ticket. It will
be a great time. Some excellent talent on stage, yours truly excluded, but I will give it a good effort.

Recently by Jason Gregor:  

    • Burnward

      Russell got the Kessel treatment in Calgary by the Corsi brigade.

      Guy will die on the ice for a win. Dallas and that idiot Lindy Ruff sure played him quite a bit.

      You could do much worse.

      • flamesburn89

        He also got burned by STL countless times in the second round. Flopped to the ice everytime a puck got near his net, and it cost his team dearly.

        He’s okay as a 5-6 guy, but he gives up too much ice on zone entries and resorts to blocking shots too often as his primary form of defence to justify top 4 minutes.

    • Am I right?

      If you ever read the Flames site you’ll know they couldn’t get rid of him fast enough and were shocked to receive what was a pretty decent package for him.
      Stay far away please, not better than what we have already.

    • Christian Roatis

      FlamesNation writer here to summarize Kris Russell for you:

      Possession blackhole. Large human starfish. Future cap killer.

      He’s just not that good of a hockey player. Plain and simple. Great person, though.

    • Derzie

      Good to hear an analysis that acknowledges there are more than black & white ways to look at a player. Corsi-bigots hate Russell, old school eye-testers love him. The reality is somewhere in the middle. With a proper partner and deployment, Russell brings leadership to a 2nd or 3rd pairing. As for shot blocking, some of the top defenders block a lot of shots. There are also lots of guys with bad Corsi who don’t block any of those shots. Giving up the shot is part of it and what you do about it is another (let it fly by or throw a body in front of it.)

    • OilCan2

      Thanks but No Thanks. Too many lefties already. UFA; too much $$$.

      We need a top 4 RHD like Faulk and maybe re sign Gryba on the cheap for another year.

    • LibrarianMike

      “Elite shot blocker” = “Can’t get the puck out of own zone”

      I mean, good on him for being willing to get in front if an NHL slap shot – he’s braver than me. However, if he’s what the Oilers are settling for then I really worry about where the team is going.

    • McRaj

      No Please No. Stay far far away from this guy. Even if we traded a couple of our lefties I would stay away from him, much rather have a lefty like Yandle instead.

      Living in Calgary I know how low the entire fan base thought of him. PC should not even consider him an option.

      • KACaribou

        That’s a bit unfair. FN generally felt as you say, but the general fan base in Calgary liked Russell for his grit and skill set.

        If some people set down the spreadsheet and watched him play, it’s pretty obvious there are reasons why teams do like him. Analytics don’t see him that way, and that is what most FN people use to grade player. Very little eyeballing.

        The Flames in general gave up a lot of quality scoring chances compared to other teams, though they also create more than most. This is a team issue and not just a Russell issue.

        On the other hand, I think this write up is quite fair. Russell is a guy with intangibles that don’t show up in analytics, but he is not a top 4 D-man on a contending team.

        • If some people set down the spreadsheet and watched him play, it’s pretty obvious there are reasons why teams do like him. Analytics don’t see him that way, and that is what most FN people use to grade player. Very little eyeballing.

          Kris Russell is a lousy defensive player by eye. He leaves huge gaps at the blueline. He ceaselessly ices the puck under pressure. He gets beat out down low all the time.

          He has some tools – like the scouts say here, he’s a good skater. And he certainly tries hard. He’s just completely over his head above the third pairing.

          • KACaribou

            You are clearly a fool, if you believe what you are saying. Bet you wouldn’t say that to his face.

            Flames actual hockey experts the team hires disagrees with you and used Russell a lot for a long time. If he was as you say, they wouldn’t have.

            Also Loubo likes him, and he knows way more about hockey than you Kent… well that’s not fair. He know more than just about anyone.

    • madjam

      With our overload of Left side defenseman already , I could not fathom them going after Russell unless he comes in below 3M . Questionable he even makes us better than what we have on left side now . Are we giving up on Reinhart , Davidson or Nurse ? Oilers contemplating trading Klefbom and or Sekara ? Just does not seem likely Oilers would even consider Russell .

    • Morgo_82

      Russell would only be intriguing if they needed to fill a newly created hole on the left side due to trade(s) and only if they could get him for a reasonable price.

    • Pizzy

      Are all NHL defenseman left shooting defenseman? Seems like every draft prospect, UFA or potential trade is a lefty. Is there any particular reason for this?

      • Craig1981

        The majority of hockey players shoot left. It’s not typical what you would think since most people are right handed. But left handed people are more likely to shot right…and right handed people more likely to should left.

        • kelvjn

          I had the same question a while ago.

          According to Google, young Canadian hockey players are taught to hold a hockey stick with the stronger hand on top so right handed playet will shoot left. Supposedly this results in a longer reach when defending with one hand on the stick (Julzing), and better control with the less proficient as the fulcrum.

          US borned players are the opposite because they are “more likely played baseball before they learn to play hockey, so they will most likely keep the baseball bat grasp”.

          If this theory holds, most US born and trained players in the NHL would shoot right, and most Canadian players shoots left. It could be a bias, but the top prospects list seem to support this theory.

          If proven, shooting direction can further broken down to handiness and there should be a difference between a lefty that shoots right vs a rightly that shoots right(Julzing vs Julzing with the stronger hand).

          • KACaribou

            Your theory makes a lot of sense, quite honestly. I have never understood why hockey players don’t use their dominant hand low on the stick? That’s the hand you use for more intricate stickhandling, why wouldn’t you want to use your dominant hand for those moves?

        • @Hallsy4

          Is there a stat on this somewhere? Or just assumed because it seems like there’s more lefties in the NHL and more right handed people in general. Not challenging you just curious. I’ve played hockey for a lot of years and never noticed a correlation. I also shot right and am right handed. I think it’s just however you first learn. It would be interesting to know the stats though, cause it does seem like more players shoot L than R