Every NHL Entry Draft, there is a list of players considered “reaches” because of where they rank on the various public lists prepared by the league’s Central Scouting Service and other independent scouting services whose lists see the light of day, unlike those of the 30 NHL teams. It’s a subjective term, reach, and one fan’s reach is the team that drafted him’s value selection. However, it is a subjective call and every year, someone has to be that first “reach”, and in 2015 it was Zachary Senyshyn, whom the Boston Bruins took with the 15th overall selection, their third consecutive pick in the first round.
Senyshyn’s spot immediately made him a polarizing figure, as most public lists had him projected in the second round and not in the top-15. What ensued was at times the unfortunate by-product of the modern internet age, as pundits, analysts, scouts and would-be scouts alike took to traditional and social media to (mostly) blast the pick. Whether you believe the Bruins screwed up by taking him that early or are more in line with the team’s point of view is a debate that nobody is going to settle some 50 days after the last pick was made at the BB&T Center.
However, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to take a deeper dive on Senyshyn and generate an informed debate about him with my friend and colleague Dominic Tiano, who extensively scouts and evaluates the Ontario Hockey League and other leagues in that major geographical vein of past, current and future NHL talent.
Dom has graciously agreed to engage in taking up the B’s point of view and make the case for his selection at 15 when other more celebrated (at least on the public lists, mind you) players were available. I will debate him on the more conventional wisdom (at least as of today) that he could have been had lower than 15 and that taking him there was not only unnecessary, but cost the team some additional assets. In the end, we will leave it to you, dear reader, to determine whether your existing opinion remains unchanged, or if one of us has managed to turn you the other way.
Zach Senyshyn scouting report:
Senyshyn plays a north/south game with very good size and still room to fill out. He has a very powerful skating stride with quick acceleration in his first few strides and top end speed. He has the ability to beat defenders with that speed one-on- one and the tenacity to drive to the net with the puck.
Senyshyn can throw a big hit but it’s not something he goes out looking for. He will battle along the boards for pucks and wins more of those battles than he loses. He possesses that same work ethic in his own zone. He plays the game in high gear from the drop of the puck to the final buzzer.
At times, Senyshyn has shown to make an excellent pass. His playmaking abilities weren’t really noticeable in his first year, but as he enters year two in the OHL, and playing with more talented players, it’ll be his time to shine.– Dominic Tiano
Point 1 against: Zach Senyshyn is not worthy of a top-15 selection in a talented and deep 2015 draft class.
Kirk: When you look at the various lists that were out there leading up to June 26, Senyshyn was nowhere near 15 on any of them. Does everyone else have it wrong and Don Sweeney and Co. the ones who have it right? I’m not sure who else would have taken Senyshyn in the same spot, but I do know that as soon as Boston made the pick, the NY Islanders boldly and decisively traded up and into the 16th overall spot to take WHL center Mathew Barzal, a player most public rankings had inside the top-10. Right after he went off the board, the other “consensus” player ranked inside the top-15, USHL scoring champ Kyle Connor, was snapped up by the Winnipeg Jets. It would be one thing if those two had continued to slide down the board, but the fact that one team traded a former top-5 selection (Griffin Reinhart) to Edmonton to get Barzal after not initially having a pick until the 3rd round just looks bad for Boston.
At least if they had traded the 15th pick to move back into the late 1st or early 2nd rounds, you could have a debate on the assets the team received in return had they taken Senyshyn at a lower spot. Instead, it appears as of right now that the Bruins were bidding against themselves in drafting a player who may or may not possess the game-breaking ability that others on the table did and it’s a fair criticism to point that out.
Dom: I challenge anyone to tell me Senyshyn was on their list to start the season. He wasn’t even on Central Scouting’s list of players to watch. That said, I readily admit he wasn’t on my list to start the season.
What Senyshyn did do is climb each and every month from start to finish and I dare say had there been another month in the season, he would have cracked the first round on some of those lists. Senyshyn was, without a shadow of a doubt, the player that climbed the highest from the start – and that would also be true if he went in the early second round.
Dean Malkoc is the Bruins scout based in the WHL, and a scout the Bruins put a lot of faith in. But he chose to select Jake DeBrusk over him as well. They are both players Malkoc has watched extensively, In my opinion, there was something about Barzal they weren’t sold on.
As you said, it is a subjective list, and we will never know individual team lists. The Isles moved up and grabbed their guy. It’s been reported that the Leafs were trying to move up to select Senyshyn and once the Bruins selected him they traded down. There is also one other team that would have selected him had the Bruins passed on him. Senyshyn would never have made it out of the teens.
So while it may have been a “reach” according to some of the public rankings, It wasn’t a far reach from where at least two other teams had him pegged.
Point 2 for: Senyshyn scored 26 goals on a stacked, veteran team that was one of the best regular season clubs in the entire CHL. He did this despite a lack of power play time and on the lower lines without benefit of playing with some of the Soo Greyhounds’ top offensive players- what more evidence that he’s top-15 worthy do you need?
Dom: If you take a serious look at his stats and what he was able to accomplish, it is almost jaw dropping. There are very few CHL players in this draft that were able to break double digit goals scored and played the miniscule minutes Senyshyn did.
The argument from fans I get on twitter and other social media the last to weeks is “well he wasn’t even invited to the Team Canada Camp” (World Junior Camp), or has never represented his country. It’s an unfair knock on him when trying to assess the player. He had just turned 18 when Hockey Canada was starting to select players to invite. Making Team Canada as an 18 year old is not a rule, it’s an exception that even the best of the best can’t crack sometimes.
Tyler Seguin never played for Canada at the World Juniors (he was cut before the 2010 tournament). He never played in the Under 18’s (he was playing for the Plymouth Whalers in the OHL playoffs). By no means am I comparing Senyshyn to Seguin. Just proof that it is not the be all, end all when judging a player.
Only time will tell if he can take the next step in the upcoming season. I’m willing to bet on a player that has steadily and continuously climbed and it seems the Bruins are as well. Is there a risk? Absolutely there is. But a risk I would take.
Kirk: 26 goals is impressive given those circumstances, no doubt. And the assumption naturally is that he’d score 35, maybe 40 or more goals this year in an increased role with the departure of some of those veterans. What happens if he’s not up to the challenge or takes a step back offensively? The justification for his upside is mostly predicated on his admittedly impressive production with a smaller sample size of offense. His even strength points per 60 min is hard to argue against- 3.42, which is nearly .50 higher than teammate Gabe Guertler (27 goals, 57 points) who posted an average time on the ice of 17.24 minutes versus Senyshyn’s 11.97 at even strength. Unlike many of his other CHL peers who had two years to develop a body of work, we have just the one season to go on here, and without more of an established pattern to analyze the statistical trends in his game, you’re making a leap of faith that he’ll take a big jump forward in production and not back.
Additionally, the Bruins need scoring help now. Even those in favor of Senyshyn’s promise readily admit he’s a project player who will in all probability need two more seasons of junior and possibly AHL time before we will see him in the NHL lineup. 26 goals or not, that seems like a lot of time to have to wait.
Point 3 against: He played just one OHL season- his draft year- and was in Tier 2 hockey the year before with Smith’s Falls, putting up solid if pretty unspectacular numbers. What makes anyone think that he will blossom into a top-six scoring threat at the NHL level?
Kirk: I look at film of Senyshyn and I wonder about the creativity with him. He’s more of a north-south, straight-line player who takes pucks to the net but doesn’t have much in the way of lateral agility or high-end hockey sense to make everyone else around him better. It’s a subjective call, and maybe he’s one of those late-bloomers that do come around every so often, but even Patrice Bergeron put up big numbers in midget AAA before he moved up to the QMJHL in 2002-03, his only full major junior campaign before the NHL draft. Bergeron’s hockey IQ is one of his best attributes, so what does Senyshyn bring to the table that will allow him to be that top-six forward at the NHL level the Bruins are counting on?
Dom: It’s hard to argue with anything you’ve said here. But you and I have always agreed there is nothing like the eye test.
There have been glimpses of his playmaking abilities throughout the season, and maybe those times it was lacking may have had something to do with his linemates. Does he have high end hockey sense? Of course not. I’d put it at slightly above average. Senyshyn had 19 assists last season. The vast majority, 14 of them, were primary assists. That has to say something. Again, we’ll have to wait and see. More ice time, experience, top end talent: It’s up to him to take the ball and run with it.
Point 4 for: Senyshyn’s heart, will, determination are exactly what the Boston Bruins look for in a player- when you factor in his size and offensive potential, he’s worthy of the 15th selection.
Dom: Talent will only get you so far in this game. If you lack the heart, the will, and the determination, you won’t get far at all. Senyshyn has this in spades. The Senyshyn situation reminds me a little of Torey Krug. The latter has always had to prove people wrong when they said he couldn’t play at the NHL level – and he continues to have to work at it. Krug uses it as motivation. Senyshyn I’m sure knows some of the things that have been said surrounding his draft slot. He, like Krug has the will, heart and determination, and the work ethic I might add, to use it as motivation. As I said earlier, he plays the game in high gear and he plays it the right way. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and has the sheer will to take that puck to the net at whatever cost. He also has the determination to play the game in his own zone as well. Add that to his talent, and I see future success.
Kirk: Heart and character are important, but you can’t measure those attributes with a radar gun or with analytics and advanced statistics. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important, but with the pretty regular hockey sense/creativity is the drive and passion going to be enough for Senyshyn to be an impact offensive performer at the NHL level? The Krug comparison is interesting…unfortunately for Senyshyn, he’s bigger and was drafted a lot higher than people expected, so he’s going to face an entirely different kind of pressure.
Point 5 against: Bruins GM Don Sweeney said the team fielded offers to trade the 15th pick, but that his scouts pushed to take Senyshyn there. He should have overruled them and exercised his decision-making as general manager to get more assets over netting a riskier player so early.
Kirk: With all due respect to Boston’s scouts, what if they’re wrong here? The safer strategy, barring staying pat to take Barzal or Connor or even someone like a Colin White (if you aren’t sold on those two) at 15, would have been to trade the pick and move down a bit while adding an extra second- and maybe even a fourth-round picks in the process. In 2003, the Bruins moved down from 16 to 21 in exchange for San Jose’s 1st, 2nd and 4th selections, so you figure Sweeney was going to get similar value this time around. By moving down, there was still a pretty good chance they could grab Senyshyn later in the 1st and then would have had a few more kicks at the can either to leverage this deep draft or perhaps move a pick or several of those extra selections they acquired part of a package for a deal involving a roster player, solid prospect, or more futures in the 2016 or 2017 drafts.
Dom: While an argument can be made about the Senyshyn selection, I’m not so sure that one could be made to trade down and add picks. The Collective Bargaining agreement allows teams to own the rights to 90 players – signed or unsigned. With the extra picks the Bruins just had, and the extra picks next season (and any more they may acquire in potential trades) they have to keep a keen eye at where they stand.
The CBA also limits the number of signed players at 50 (with some Canadian Major Junior exceptions). The problem with “too many draft picks” is that at some point, you’re going to have to sign them or lose them.
With the trade you suggest, the Bruins would have had 12 picks this year. Add that to the 9 picks next year and the 5 last year and half your contract limit is going to be used to sign those players within a 3 year span or lose them.
I don’t think that played a role in their decision, but I’m sure they were cognizant of it. I for one am happy his scouts pushed Sweeney to select Senyshyn.
In closing, I’d like to say thanks Kirk for involving me in this. It was fun. The good thing is that this debate will go on for a few more years before we truly know where it stands. I think I speak for both of us when I say fans should wish Senyshyn all the best and enjoy watching him develop into an NHL player.
Kirk’s note- I hope the readers enjoyed the debate. Just because I played the role of devil’s advocate does not mean I am personally against the Senyshyn selection. I think the main point that Dom has effectively made here is that he’s a talented enough player with character that despite going against the grain, the Bruins went with their own feelings here and they might have it exactly right. If they don’t, well, Senyshyn will unfortunately be linked to another Zach who didn’t turn out so well for the team- Zach Hamill. Because the pick used on him was one of the three acquired for Dougie Hamilton, it will continue to be message board and Twitter fodder for hardcore fans who pay attention to the draft for years. Thanks again, Dom- for providing your perspectives on this exercise.
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First off coming clean I didn’t like Senyshyn as a 1st round pick (Kyle Connor, Colin White and Nick Meckley my picks). I think Senyshyn lack of production (especially assists) in lower levels makes it more likely that he just didn’t belong on top lines instead of being pushed off them by older players.
Secondly points per 60 is a little questionably argument because points rarely increase linearly with ice time. Usually increased fatigue and better quality of opponents you face with more ice time make any increases pretty limited.
Thirdly where did you find the data for points per 60 for CHL teams. I’ve been looking for this data for years.
Right now he looks like a player but won’t ever get past the third line. It’s a given that players draft before him won’t play in NHL but still think you have to take that risk in the first round. Especially since he’s as likely to bust as any other player.
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