On the Road series (Part 3): Player Evaluation- the Body of Work

Welcome back for another installment of the “On the Road” series, where we break down hockey scouting in more detail for those who might not be aware of the things that go into the process of player evaluations at the amateur and professional level. If you haven’t already, you can read parts 1 and 2 of the series or jump right into this one.

After touching on the kinds of things that go into basic player evaluation, and we do mean basic- the second part of the blog series was 4,000 words and by no means even came close to hitting everything- it is important to next discuss an aspect of scouting that some would argue is just about as important as a player’s ability to perform- the body of work.

What do we mean by this? Well, body of work is a catch-all for the individual’s character, work ethic, personality, injury history and other behind the scenes factors that teams can research and investigate to develop a more comprehensive read on the individual they are considering drafting. Some fans sit in a bubble and honestly think that drafting and developing players at any level is only about talent and skill. While they’re certainly entitled to their views, real life begs to differ.

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3 Amigos Supplemental Podcast (Ep. 9): Ask the Amigos

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As promised, Dom, Reed and I are back with a 45-minute Q & A from questions we got from listeners and readers on Twitter.

We’re giving you our best shot, because we wanna be your dogs. It’s true- just like Iggy Pop does for our podcast music.

This will be the last Amigos podcast for a while- we enjoy bringing these to you, but we all have full-time gigs and don’t have the ability or resources to produce regular offerings. Appreciate the support as always.

Enjoy.

 

 

On the Road- Perspectives on hockey scouting Pt. 2: Player evaluation 101

Welcome back to another segment of “On the Road” where we talk about hockey scouting and the process for lack of a better term to describe evaluating talent, whether it be for the NHL or lower levels. We actually thought about breaking this up into two parts, but the reality is- what goes into evaluating hockey players doesn’t fit neatly into a small box, so here’s about 4k of words worth of material to chew on. If you see that and say, no thanks- we understand. But for those with a genuine interest in some of the things that go into assessments of future NHL talent, we’re glad you’re here.

Truth in lending- your TSP founder is not an NHL scout, but has years of experience as a hockey evaluator with the Chicago Steel (USHL), Red Line Report (independent service) and the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL beyond 17 years as the New England Hockey Journal’s senior NHL draft and prospects analyst. What is discussed in these posts is just one person’s view based on knowledge and experiences- this is not meant to be the first and last word, and is designed to share a POV as opposed to providing a definitive “how-to” or roadmap. Everyone has their own methods and if there was any definitive one way to do it, we would see the NHL draft play out the way everyone else predicted it year after year.

Today’s post addresses the nuts and bolts of player evaluation from the perspective of several scouts including the writer’s. By no means will we touch on every critical element or subject, but this is designed to provide food for thought and for those who have no background in it, provide a baseline of information that we hope will be helpful in your own efforts, whether you’re watching the Boston Bruins or your favorite NHL club, or the AHL, junior or even your favorite high school or child’s minor hockey. Obviously, there is a huge gulf between the various levels, but when it comes to evaluating players and identifying potential, there are some key elements scouts are looking for, and those elements tend to evolve over the years.

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Dominic Tiano: Recapping the Sherwin-Williams NHL/CHL Top Prospects Game

Editor’s note- Dominic Tiano traveled to Quebec City for the 2017 CHL Top Prospects Game and filed this report on some of the top players for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in Chicago this coming June. Thanks to Dom for putting his thoughts down and let us echo the support for the people of Quebec and everyone affected by the tragedy there.- KL

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Let me start off by saying that I am deeply saddened by the shootings late Sunday evening at a Quebec City Mosque. There was a division among the ranks whether the game should proceed. After increased security and assurances from Quebec City Police, and meeting with the players and their families Monday morning, Canadian Hockey League Commissioner David Branch said the game would be a go.
Our thoughts remain with the families that lost loved ones and those still battling in hospital.
Before we get to the game, let’s look at some of the testing that took place on Sunday (From the CHL press release).

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Turning the attention to the 2017 NHL draft

The Scouting Post has relocated to the heart of USHL territory in the past 30 days and in light of the completion of the recent World Jr. Championship, we figured it’s about time to start shining some light on some of the players who might be of interest not just to Bruins fans, but anyone who has an interest in the annual NHL draft.

(Editor’s note- because of my work as a scout with the Red Line Report and Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL, there are some limitations to what I can put out on this blog. Those who remember my 2010 and 2011 Bruins Draft Watch projects probably remember the level of detail and the wide breadth of coverage. Sorry about that, folks- but the hope is that this can point you in a solid direction to go out and do some research on your own.)

2017 NHL draft summary

In talking to multiple scouts and NHL front office members and insiders, the June draft being held in Chicago, is not particularly strong or deep when compared to recent years. At the top of this year’s class are a couple of forwards- Nolan Patrick (recently returned from injury) and Swiss assassin Nico Hischier, who dazzled at the WJC after being this blog’s favorite forward at last April’s U18 championship in Grand Forks. A pair of Scandinavian defensemen in Sweden’s Timothy Liljegren and Finnish all-around guy Juuso Välimäki could be the class of the blue line in 2017. However, the goaltending position is among the deepest and most promising in years, particularly among American puck stoppers- BU’s Jake Oettinger (by way of Lakeland, Minn.) Keith Petruzzelli (Wilbraham, Mass.) and Cayden Primeau (Voorhees, N.J.) are all big, athletic and have high-end NHL potential.

All in all, even if the projections for this draft class aren’t great- there will be eventual  NHL stars to be had, so teams have a chance to accomplish their due diligence and find those values and bargains- they’re out there.

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Bruins prospect update 12/27/2016: 2017 WJC- McAvoy leads the way

The 2017 World Junior (Under-20) Championship started on Dec. 26 in Toronto and Montreal for Groups A & B in the round robin portion of the annual NHL prospect extravaganza that will run into the first week of January.

The Boston Bruins have five players (four defensemen and one goaltender) currently competing in the tourney: USA’s Charlie McAvoy and Ryan Lindgren; Jeremy Lauzon on Team Canada, Czech Republic D Jakub Zboril and goaltender Daniel Vladar round out the group. Guys who did not make the cut for their respective countries: Zach Senyshyn (Canada) and Oskar Steen (Sweden). Trent Frederic was not invited to the USA evaluation camp portion, but he was coming off of a hand injury that might have influenced USA Hockey’s decision to have him return to school. We don’t know for sure, but watch for Frederic to be solidly in the mix for the 2018 USA WJC squad. Canada did not even invite Jesse Gabrielle to the eval camp, which is probably more of a reflection of his not being part of the Canada Program of Excellence than anything else- you would think that a gritty power forward who can score and affect game flow with his physicality would be of value, but apparently not enough in Canada’s eyes. With both Canada and USA winning their opening games, the rosters look fine for now.

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Bruins prospect update #2: On Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson

Boston’s second of three second-round picks in 2015 (Brandon Carlo and Jeremy Lauzon were the others) is who we thought he is.

Much like Danton Heinen, if you go to a game Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, or ‘JFK’ is playing in expecting to be dazzled or entertained by a dynamic skater who makes flashy plays all over the ice, you’re likely going to be left wanting more. However, if you understand hockey and are able to look closely at the very same things that a young 18-year-old Patrice Bergeron (he and JFK were both drafted with the 45th overall selection in their respective draft years, as was Ryan Spooner in 2010) was doing right away in the NHL after making the Boston Bruins, you can understand why so many analysts are keen on the Boston University center.

JFK and his fellow Terriers are fresh off of a nice shutout win over Quinnipiac over the weekend in a game where the B’s prospect figured in all three BU goals- notching two helpers and then adding an empty-netter to complete a points trifecta. 2017-eligible goaltender Jake Oettinger notched back-to-back blankings and has carved out first-round status for himself in the early going after impressing last April at the U18s in Grand Forks. McAvoy was pretty good on the BU blue line as well- he hasn’t taken control like he did at the USA National Evaluation Camp in August, but the talent and NHL potential have both been clearly on display in film study thus far.

The weekend belonged to JFK as far as Bruins prospects go, however.

He’s such a slick, intelligent player- he was knocked in the past for lacking pace and a sense of urgency in his game, but in looking at JFK live and on film over the past two seasons, it’s not that he’s indifferent to tempo- he just thinks the game at such a high level- his anticipation is off the charts. As a result, he’s an economy of motion kind of player in that he’s not one who needs to move his feet like the Roadrunner to get where he’s going or make plays at speed.

It also speaks volumes that JFK earned an alternate/assistant captain’s ‘A’ in just his second NCAA season. After spending a weekend in Omaha in September, there are still quite a few Lancers fans who still wear his jersey to USHL games, and they remember his high-end two-way game fondly. Given how rapidly he’s developing, it’s hard to envision him spending much more time on Comm. Ave. but we’ll see how things go. We’re sure that head coach David Quinn and his BU coaching staff would love that not to be the case, but they are also realists- they figure JFK is probably not long for the NCAA and will soon turn pro with the B’s, so they’re pulling in some pretty impressive talent to fill the void his departure will create.

For now, Forsbacka-Karlsson is doing all of the little things that coaches at all levels love and value: production, smart three-zone play, effectiveness in the faceoff circle, and a mature, quiet style of leadership.

He has the look of a winner, and while the Bergeron comparisons are a tad premature, if you’re looking hard at similarities in the way JFK applies himself in action, it doesn’t take long to find them.

We began this post with the assertion that JFK is who we thought he is, and that is someone who has the look of a future NHLer who could evolve into a key contributor in Boston once he gets several pro campaigns under his belt.

The kid’s a keeper.

And now- here’s the updated scoring numbers for Boston’s amateur and pro prospects:

Amateur Prospects as of 10/24/16

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Jesse Gabrielle, Prince George WHL 8 6 6 12 8
Anders Bjork, Notre Dame HE-NCAA 6 5 6 11 2
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, BU HE- NCAA 5 2 5 7 2
Trent Frederic, Wisconsin Big10- NCAA 4 2 4 6 2
Jakub Zboril, Saint John QMJHL 6 2 3 5 2
Zach Senyshyn, SSM OHL 7 4 1 5 10
Cameron Hughes, Wisconsin Big10- NCAA 4 1 3 4 4
Ryan Fitzgerald, BC HE-NCAA 6 1 3 4 4
Charlie McAvoy, BU HE-NCAA 5 0 4 4 4
Jeremy Lauzon, Rouyn-Noranda* QMJHL 2 1 2 3 0
Jack Becker, Sioux Falls USHL 9 2 1 3 8
Cameron Clarke, Ferris St. WCHA- NCAA 6 0 1 1 4
Ryan Lindgren, Minnesota Big10- NCAA 4 0 0 0 2
Ryan Donato, Harvard** ECAC- NCAA 0 0 0 0 0
Wiley Sherman, Harvard** ECAC-NCAA 0 0 0 0 0

* Jeremy Lauzon out indefinitely (UBI/concussion)

** ECAC regular season begins November 4, 2016

 

Pro and European Prospects

Name/Team League GP G A PTS PIM
Joona Koppanen, Ilves Jr. U20- Finland 11 7 9 16 2
Austin Czarnik, Providence AHL 2 2 1 3 0
Peter Cehlarik, Providence AHL 2 1 1 2 2
Emil Johansson, Djurgarden IF Sweden- Elite 8 0 2 2 6
Colton Hargrove, Providence AHL 4 1 0 1 0
Colby Cave, Providence AHL 5 1 0 1 4
Matt Grzelcyk, Providence AHL 5 0 1 1 2
Linus Arnesson, Providence AHL 5 0 1 1 0
Anton Blidh, Providence AHL 5 0 1 1 2
Jake DeBrusk, Providence AHL 5 0 1 1 2
Oskar Steen, Farjestad BK Sweden- Elite 11 1 0 1 4
Justin Hickman, Providence AHL 3 0 0 0 5
Sean Kuraly, Providence AHL 5 0 0 0 7
Chris Casto, Providence AHL 5 0 0 0 2
Zane McIntyre, Providence AHL 3 1 0 0.44 .977
Malcolm Subban, Providence AHL 4 0 3 4.50 .846
Dan Vladar, Providence AHL 2 1 0 2.88 .909
Brian Ferlin, Providence* AHL 0 0 0 0 0

*Brian Ferlin- injured

** Tyler Randell, Tommy Cross, Alex Grant > age 25- not listed

Post-Labor Day let’s start feeling it…hockey’s about here entry

With Labor Day in the rearview mirror, we had a great opening weekend of College Football (the Texas-Notre Dame contest was a hell of a game) and the NFL begins the 2016 season in two days.

That means that the NHL is right around the corner, especially true given that the World Cup of Hockey is about to start and the various international teams have assembled.

The Scouting Post will soon kick off the Boston Bruins position by position preview, but later this week, founder Kirk Luedeke will be in Omaha, Nebraska to take in the USHL West Fall Classic, which will feature numerous 2017 NHL draft prospects in action for the first signature amateur tournament in North America for the new season.

To get the juices flowing, we’ve put together some links that might be of interest:

Bruins Reddit AMA (Ask me Anything)- Fielded questions from Thursday-Monday from fans on the Bruins subreddit page and there’s a lot of stuff in here- your burning question might have been asked and answered. Follow the link to find out…

 

In case you missed it, Zach Senyshyn had an emergency appendectomy over the weekend. The Bruins issued a press release saying he’s recovering and expected to miss the rookie tournament in Buffalo, but will report to main camp, though his participation timetable is TBD. It’s another disappointing setback for Senyshyn- a bout with mononucleosis forced him out of B’s development camp in July. However, in some ways, this is probably a blessing in disguise, as in all likelihood- he wasn’t going to make this Bruins team out camp and because he’s a ’97-born player, he would have to go back to the OHL- he’s not eligible for the AHL and Providence until next season. Of course- there are those who were hoping for a 9-game NHL audition, but who is to say he would have even put himself in position for that? He still has a shot at seeing some exhibition action, but you can bet that the Bruins will take it slow and make sure he’s fully healed from his procedure- there’s simply no reason to rush him back. I’m of the opinion that he isn’t ready for primetime and another year in the OHL will do him a world of good in his development.

https://www.sootoday.com/local-sports/exhibition-importance-is-more-than-scores-for-greyhounds-380938

 

A top unit of Brad Marchand-Sidney Crosby-Patrice Bergeron (the Cromag-eron Line?) is generating early buzz for Canada at the World Cup of Hockey. Yep- the Canadians look like a juggernaut.

http://www.tsn.ca/crosby-marchand-bergeron-paired-at-camp-1.561251

 

PODCAST: Lauzon & DeBrusk Memorial Cup update and 2016 NHL Draft observations

It’s a nice Sunday afternoon…USA fell to Russia for the bronze medal (but Frankie Vatrano netted both USA goals in a 7-2 loss, so there’s that) and Canada captured goal with a rousing win over Finland, denying the Finns the international hockey sweep of World Jr., Under-18 and Men’s World championship in 2016. But, as Meatloaf used to say- “Two outta three ain’t bad!”

I did an audio podcast on the Memorial Cup, which has two Bruins prospects competing for Jr. hockey’s ultimate prize.

In it, I discuss Jeremy Lauzon’s triumphant return to action with the Quebec League champ Rouyn-Noranda Huskies after taking a skate to the neck during the QMJHL playoffs. I also talk about Jake DeBrusk and go on a bit of a rant defending him to the critics. I’m probably doing a little Bill “Thou Doth Protest Too Much” Shakespeare here, but some things just need to be said. With Boston’s goal-scoring woes, it’s surprising the level of criticism he gets from the team’s own fans, many of whom haven’t seen him much outside the occasional highlight. Well, with the Memorial Cup games on NHL Network, you can get an idea. Right, wrong or indifferent- just calling it like I see it.

I touched on how dominant the London Knights have been, even making a Hrkac Circus reference. One thing I didn’t mention in the context of Tyler Parsons’ play this year (he’s a 2016 NHL draft eligible btw) is that even if you get the puck and transition it the other way, without icing it, you have to face him. Fighting Sioux opponents had to go up against none other than Eddie Belfour in net during that magical championship season.

If you manage to make it through my self-indulgence with DeBrusk, I do a Jakob Chychrun-Dante Fabbro analysis of their performance as a D pairing at the World Under-18 tourney last month. Windsor Spitfires star D Mikhail Sergachev also gets a mention, and I share one example of his sublime skill set and hockey IQ for your listening pleasure. I also talk about 2017 draft eligible Eeli Tolvanen (and yes- he played for Sioux City of the USHL this year).

With the bulk of my draft work done for Red Line Report and New England Hockey Journal, I can now devote more time to the blog. Thanks for hanging in there…

Here’s the 30-minute audio file: