36
Photo Credit: Rich Lam/Getty Images

NHL Draft One Month Away…

The 2020 NHL Entry Draft will occur a few days earlier than originally planned (October 9th and 10th) and now it will be held virtually on October 6th and 7th. The NFL had a virtual draft on April 23rd-25th and it went fairly smoothly. Two sources have told me the NHL model will be similar (likely including pre-taped booing for Gary Bettman), and the NHL might have a few more pre-taped interviews/segments.

But the goal for every team of improving their organizational foundation remains the same. The challenge, which happens every year, is that teams are basing their future on 17-19 year olds, and a few players in their twenties. It is not easy, and without rehashing it too much, the NHL needs to realize pushing the draft age back a year will help teams and the players.

There is no negative to moving the draft age back one year.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The draft age won’t ensure teams make the best pick. It is impossible. There is no perfect model, but scouting has improved in the past decade. You don’t see as many major misses in the first round. In the 2000 draft, 10 of the 30 picks didn’t play 100 NHL games.

In 2010, seven of the 30 picks played fewer than 100 NHL games, but 16 of the top-30 scorers came from the first round and 18 of the top-30 in games played came from the first round. The scouts get it correctly more often than never.

Of course, there are always some misses. And for me a late round pick who becomes a star, but wasn’t a big producer at the time of their draft year, isn’t a miss. Some players are late developers and it is difficult to project what they’ll do.

However, one of the biggest misses in recent memory is Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brayden Point.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Point was taken 79th in the 2014 draft.

He played for Moose Jaw in the WHL. The Warriors were not a good team, winning only 21 of 72 games. They scored 202 goals, fourth fewest in the WHL, yet Point scored 91 points. Nineteen year old Jack Rodewald and 20 year-old Sam Fioretti were tied for second on the team with 55 points. Point had 36 more points than any teammate and he was only 17 years old.

Yet somehow, Point was the 12th forward drafted from the WHL, and the 46th forward overall. Here is a look at the WHL forwards drafted before Point.

Player Draft # TEAM G-A-PTS PP PTS
Sam Reinhart 2nd BUFF 36-69-105 40
Leon Draisaitl 3rd EDM 38-67-105 40
Jake Virtanen 6th VAN 45-26-71 17
Connor Bleakley 23rd COL 29-34-68 23
Nikita Scherbak 26th MTL 28-50-78 30
John Quenneville 30th NJ 25-33-58 18
Jayce Hawryluk 37th FLO 24-40-64 17
Brett Pollock 45th DAL 25-30-55 18
Justin Kirkland 62nd NSH 17-31-48 17
Dominic Turgeon 63rd DET 10–21-31 3
Alex Schoenborn 72nd SJ 18-18-36 3
Brayden Point 79th TB 36-55-91 37
RELATED ARTICLE:
Is there still space for Patrick Russell on the Edmonton Oilers roster?

The knock on Point was his skating. But he wasn’t a bad skater, he just wasn’t a dominant skater. But neither was Reinhart and he went second overall. Point wasn’t very big, standing 5’9 and 160 pounds, but Point’s tenacity and aggressiveness that he plays with now were the exact same in junior. He was one of the rare elite skilled players who would fight. He might have been smaller, but he played big. Plus we saw many smaller players drafted earlier than him.

I can see the argument for Reinhart and Draisaitl going where they did. Draisaitl has become an elite NHL player, while Reinhart is a solid top-six forward.

Virtanen was big, strong and he scored 45 goals. His hockey sense was the biggest question, but he had stats and size to make an argument why he was taken ahead of Point.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Nikita Scherbak could fly. He also was on a very bad Saskatoon team and led them in scoring. He had less talent around him than Point, and still managed 78 points. He wasn’t as aggressive as Point, and not as gifted offensively, but it was his first year in North America and he showed promise.

I will give the scouts the benefit of the doubt on those picks, but the other forwards taken ahead of Point weren’t remotely as skilled.

Bleakley was 5’11. Like Point, he led his team in scoring, but only by two points.

Quenneville and Hawryluk were teammates in Brandon. Hawryluk led the team with 64 points, while Quenneville was fourth with 58. They had seven players with 52+ points. They had a solid group, but neither had the offensive acumen of Point.

Pollock played on the Memorial Cup Champion Edmonton Oil Kings. He was 6’3 and 190 pounds, but he did not play nearly as aggressive as Point.

Kirkland was on a very good Kelowna Rockets team, and had much better players around him, but also he got less PP time. He was 6’3 and 190 pounds.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Turgeon was on a very good and deep Portland team. He mainly played on the third line and was 6’2 and 190 pounds.

Schoehorn was a year older than Point (late 1995 birthday) and was a WHL rookie. He was 6’2″ and 195 pounds.

I agree with the notion that size matters, but only when the skill set is even. Drafting bigger bodies who are less skilled over a clearly more skilled player is ridiculous, and it still happens too often in the NHL.

It is understandable why teams selected forwards Michael Dal Colle, William Nylander, Nikolaj Ehlers, Nick Ritchie, Kevin Fiala, Jakub Vrana, Dylan Larkin, Alex Tuch, Nick Schmultz, Robbi Fabbri, Kasperi Kapanen and David Pastrnak in the first 25 picks. Most have become solid to elite NHL forwards. But a quick glance at the forwards taken between Pastrnak (25th) and Point (79th), it was clear then and still is now, than none of them had the offensive ability of Point. Not even close.

RELATED ARTICLE:
Oilersnation Radio Episode 104 – Goaltending, Stanley Cup Predictions, and the NHL Draft

Point was one of my favourite players to watch in junior. I loved his tenacity and competitiveness as much as his skill. And the other factor he had was he was a great leader. When he became the captain he made all the younger players feel comfortable. He treated them with respect and dignity.

I doubt we will see a player as skilled as Point fall that far in the 2020 draft.

DRAFT PROJECTIONS…at #14

We can guarantee Alesix Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield, Tim Stutzle, Cole Perfetti and Jamie Drysdale won’t be available at #14.

But there are many players who intrigue me and could be available at #14.

Seth Jarvis… Skilled, smart, right shot centre/right wing. He had 42 goals and 98 points for the Portland Winterhawks. He had 28 more points than his next closest teammate. I’d want him to play two more years in junior and get stronger, but high skill and hockey IQ are a great mix. And he is a very tenacious. I like him a lot.

Dylan Holloway…He can play centre and left wing, and I see him as a left winger in the NHL. He is a late 2001 birthday, and he turns 19 later this month. He lit up the AJHL in his 17 year old year scoring 40 goals and 88 points in 53 games before moving to Wisconsin in NCAA and produced 8-9-17 in 35 games. He will play much more as a few of the Badgers top forwards graduated. He is already very responsible defensively, and I like that aspect if he is going to play with Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl.

Connor Zary…Like Holloway, he turns 19 later this month. He scored 67 points in 63 games when he was 17, and this past year he tallied 38 goals and 86 points in 57 with Kamloops of the WHL. I see him as a responsible second line centre in the NHL. His hockey smarts are his best asset. He can play another season in junior and then turn pro at 20. Being one year ahead in his development is a positive for the Oilers, who will need some cheap, competent forwards in the near future.

Who do you like at #14?

Recently by Jason Gregor: