Dominic Tiano: Mason Lohrei and the Evolution of the NHL Draft

Dominic Tiano is back with a new piece on Boston Bruins prospect Mason Lohrei and how he represents a trend for NHL clubs who are investing more and more entry draft selections on second- and third-year eligible players. Dom has watched a lot of the criticisms of Boston’s selection of Lohrei center around the misconception that he’s older- and somehow inferior- to the 2002 and late 2001-born players who were eligible for the first time this past October. This is food for thought- if you learn something new in the piece and it changes your perspective, then we’ll consider it mission accomplished. If not, that’s okay too.- KL

Before I begin my deep dive, let me preface things with this: When the Boston Bruins selected Mason Lohrei in the second round with the 58th overall pick in the 2020 National Hockey League Draft, I readily admit, he wasn’t my first choice. However, he is now, a member of the Bruins organization and I wish him nothing but the best. There will be no comparing him to what could have been, no sulking, and no excuses. Just a simple eye test on what he is and might be when he is ready to turn pro after junior and college hockey at Ohio State University.

I’m surprised yet I shouldn’t be, by some of the comments being made on social media, especially now that Lohrei has gotten off to such a good start with the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League. At the time of this article, Lohrei, a forward turned defenceman, has 5 goals and 10 assists in just 10 games.

But comments such as: “he’s an ‘overager’ so he’s just going up against younger players” or “he was picked in his second draft year so there must be something wrong”, or “how many players picked in their second drafts make it to the NHL?” and the one that really gets under my skin “comparing him to a CHL player” (I can say that because I cover the OHL exclusively), should be kept to one’s self unless you are prepared to provide some context and willing to accept some criticism.

In reality, and I am trying to be polite here, what it shows is a lack of knowledge of the changing methodology NHL teams employ, differences and nuances in the demographics of the various junior leagues or even a lack of effort to obtain the knowledge to know what that really means. I hope to bring you some context and maybe, just maybe shed some light on things and you can change your opinion (or not).

Let me begin with the term that gets thrown around a lot these days: ‘overager’. Many fans think Lohrei is an older player in the USHL and should be piling up points because he has a significant advantage in terms of physical maturity and experience. The fact is, Lohrei is 19 years of age (turns 20 on January 17, 2021). Considering that 16 and 17-year old players are a minority in the USHL and teams are limited to just 4 twenty-year old players (2000 birth year) on the roster for the current season, Lohrei isn’t much older than the majority of players he faces every single night on the ice. The USHL does require each member club to keep a minimum of three 16- or 17-year-old players on every roster to ensure that there is a developmental path for the youngest players on the junior spectrum, but the majority of the average ages of each USHL club is 18+. Lohrei is on the higher side of that average this season, but it isn’t like he is a 2000 birth year competing against a league full of 2003 and 2004-born players. In fact, the 2001 and 2002 birth years comprise the bulk of USHL rosters this season.

The mistake some casual observers make is in asserting that the demographics between the CHL, which comprises the three major junior leagues in Canada, and the USHL plus other Tier 2 junior leagues like the North American (NAHL) and Canadian British Columbia (BCHL), Alberta (AJHL), Manitoba (MJHL), Ontario (OJHL) and Quebec (QJHL) and other regional T2 subset leagues are the same, when in fact, they are not. Because the NCAA track tends to develop players over a longer timeline, whereas CHL-drafted players must be signed within two years/before June 1 of the season they turn 20 (and one year to receive a bona fide offer), those Tier 2 feeder leagues tend to have older rosters on average than CHL clubs.

I ask you to replace the word overager with experience for some context. Lohrei was playing high school/prep hockey at Culver Military Academy until the age of 18, and is now in his second full season in the USHL. That compares to a 17 or mostly 18-year old players in the CHL, their first year of draft eligibility. Let’s take it a step further. In 2017, the Bruins selected a QMJHL rookie in the name of Cedric Pare (an 18-year-old in his draft year) with not even a full season of Major Junior experience. It wasn’t until Pare’s fourth season that he broke out with 37 goals and 51 assists in 64 contests. The Bruins didn’t sign Pare and he is now playing in the East Coast Hockey League without an NHL contract.

To be fair, Pare was a seventh-round pick, and as I mentioned, didn’t have a season worthy of being drafted until his fourth season. I suggest you ask yourself this question: If Pare had been skipped over in his first draft, would he have been selected in his second draft? And you could ask yourself the same question about any player selected in rounds two through seven. Obviously, the Bruins (and maybe others) saw something in his first year to think he was worthy of selection his second time around.

Because Lohrei was passed over in 2019 does not mean he should not have been selected in 2020. You might be surprised to find out that in fact, statistics show he should have been selected the second time around, and that second-year players being selected in the NHL draft is becoming more and more prevalent going back a decade.

I looked at the six NHL Drafts from 2010 to 2015 to measure NHL success. I didn’t use 2016 or later as a lot of those players are still at the developmental stage. To measure success, I used 100 NHL games or more as the benchmark and included all players, even goaltenders. I think you’ll be surprised by what you find.

In the chart below, you’ll see I’ve broken down each draft by round. In each round you will see the number of picks used to select first time draft eligible players and those picked in their second or third drafts as well as how many went on to play 100+ games in the NHL. At the bottom, you’ll see the total number of players selected as well as the total number that went on to play 100+ games in the NHL and the success rate by percentage. At the far right, you will notice the total picks by draft year and those that went on to play 100+ games in the NHL and the success rate by percentage.

The numbers are a bit skewed because only one player from 2010 to 2016, who was a draft re-entry, was selected in the first round when the Los Angeles Kings selected Tanner Pearson with the 30th pick in 2012. Still, only 76% of first round picks selected have played in 100 or more contests. Do I need to remind everybody that 3 of those first round picks not to play 100 games all belong to the Bruins? Malcolm Subban in 2012, Jakub Zboril and Zachary Senyshyn in 2015.

Beyond the first round however, statistically speaking, there is a greater chance for success at the NHL level if you are a draft re-entry player, and in some cases a drastically better chance. And there are a greater number of draft re-entry players approaching the 100-game plateau then first-time eligible players. But we had to draw the line somewhere.

That said, in the second round where Lohrei was selected, there have only been seven players selected that have re-entered the draft. Still, they’ve shown to have a 42.9% success rate as opposed to 38.4% of first timers. Although 177 first timers were selected in those 6 years, 61.6% did not have the success. So, I ask you, which gives you the better chance of finding a successful player?

These are just statistics and are no indication of success. Maybe it suggests a trend. More radically, maybe it suggests the NHL change the draft and allow 18-year-old players be selected in only the first round, maybe the second round.

But to me, it suggests that we as fans, are too quick to jump to conclusions. We do after all, have a fast-food mentality when it comes to our beloved Bruins. Everything has to be served up on a black and gold platter- hot, fresh and now. There is for lack of a better term, no patience. No patience to wait and see how a player who isn”t on a public list around where the Bruins were supposed to select him actually plays and develops.

As I said in the opening, Lohrei is a member of the Bruins organization. The only comparisons we should be making is to Mason Lohrei from a season ago and asking ourselves how far has he come in regards to his development? Shouldn’t we be asking what his strengths are and what areas does he need to improve on more than what other player who is one year younger the Bruins could have chosen instead?

There is a very small group out there that wants to see a player fail just so they can say “I told you so.” That’s sad, yet but true. I know because some people have actually come out and say it to me. While its just noise on the internet, it is a reflection of where some are as fans- the new class of self-appointed pundits who think they know far more than they actually do and find it more important to be validated on social media by other low-information people. Rather than educate themselves on the evolving nature of the NHL draft and how the changing CBA has caused teams do things differently than were done in the past when a hard salary cap did not exist, some are stuck relying on inaccurate perceptions about junior league demographics to justify their own disappointment that the player(s) of choice based on public lists that bear no resemblance to those generated by the NHL teams themselves, were not drafted by the B’s.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I will only cheer for a prospect in the organization and hope they find success. No harping on who could have been, as that ship has sailed. Time will tell on Lohrei, but given that his two-way game has taken positive strides in one of the top junior leagues in the world, things are setting up for him to be an impact player in the Big-10 conference and beyond when the time comes for him to turn pro.

Dominic Tiano: What Does the Expansion Draft Mean for the Bruins?

It’s been a while, but Dominic Tiano is back with a timely piece on the next expansion draft as it applies to the newest NHL franchise, the Seattle Kraken and how that eventuality will impact the Boston Bruins. Settle in and read what Dom has to say on the matter- KL

As the NHL and the NHLPA move closer and closer to reaching an agreement on the 2020-21 season (from this moment forward we will refer to it as the 2021 season), NHL General Mangers will certainly move forward looking to clear cap space, while others will look to add to their roster in the form of free agent signings and bailing out those teams that need to move out dollars.

But every move they make will be done with one eye kept on the expansion draft as the Seattle Kraken are set to join the NHL for the 2021-22 season.

Thirty of the thirty-one current NHL teams (Vegas is exempt) have the option of protecting 7 forwards, 3 defencemen and 1 goaltender or 8 skaters and 1 goaltender. Bruins GM Don Sweeney will no doubt be looking to add whether it’s prior to the season beginning or a trade deadline.

We take a look here at where the Bruins stand, some of the rules and how the Bruins roster sits.

UNSIGNED DRAFTED PROSPECTS ARE EXEMPT This Is pretty straight forward. Prospects that have yet to sign an NHL entry level contract are exempt from the draft. For the Bruins, that means Linus Arnesson, Jack Becker, John Beecher, Roman Bychkov, Riley Duran, Curtis Hall, Trevor Kuntar, Mason Langenbrunner, Mason Lohrei, Matias Mantykivi, Dustyn McFaul, Quinn Olson, and Jake Schmaltz are untouchable.

FIRST- AND SECOND-YEAR PLAYERS ARE EXEMPT For players just completing their first or second year of professional hockey (this includes the American Hockey League – which is the only other professional league in this situation) it’s the same situation – they are exempt from the draft. For the Bruins this includes Matt Filipe, Oskar Steen, Pavel Shen, Jack Studnicka, Jakub Lauko, Robert Lantosi, Jack Ahcan, Urho Vaakanainen, Victor Berglund, Nick Wolff, Jeremy Swayman and Kyle Keyser.

PLAYERS WITH NO MOVEMENT CLAUSES MUST BE PROTECTED Unless a player waives his no movement clause, he must be protected by his squad. For the Bruins that means Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Charlie Coyle will be protected. It must be noted that players that are about to become unrestricted free agents with no movement clauses do not have to be protected. The Bruins have no player under those circumstances at the moment. But let’s say Zdeno Chara signs a one-year deal with the Bruins, likely with a no movement clause, the Bruins would not be required to protect him.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS Technically, in a non-COVID 19 year, a player is still under contract when the expansion draft takes place. Should a team leave a pending unrestricted free agent unprotected from the expansion draft, the Kraken would have a 3-day window of exclusivity to sign the player. Should the Kraken sign such a player, that pick will count as the player selected from the team. For the Bruins, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, Jaroslav Halak, Sean Kuraly, Par Lindholm, Gregg McKegg, Kevan Miller and Steven Kampfer fall into this category.

WHAT THE BRUINS MUST MAKE AVAILABLE TO THE KRAKEN

GOALTENDING

The Bruins must make available one goaltender who is under contract for 2021-22 or, if they choose to expose a restricted free agent, that goaltender must receive his qualifying offer. And they can only protect 1 goaltender. As mentioned earlier, Swayman and Keyser are exempt so they are out of the picture. Rask and Halak are pending unrestricted free agents. If they choose to protect Rask and re-sign him, they would need to make a qualifying offer to Dan Vladar and Callum Booth, but both would be left for the Kraken to choose from. However, the Bruins could protect Vladar and gamble that Rask would not sign with Seattle and try to sign him once free agency opens up.

DEFENCEMEN

The Bruins must make available to Seattle one defenceman who has played in at least 40 games in the 2021 season or, 70 games combined in the 2019-20 and the 2021 season and is under contract for the 2021-22 season. Currently, the Bruins only have 3 defencemen that meet those requirements: Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk. Others that are close to reaching the minimum requirement (games required in brackets) are: Connor Clifton (31), Jeremy Lauzon (40), John Moore (40), Kevan Miller (40), Jakub Zboril (40) and Steven Kampfer (40). It must be noted that Seattle does not have to pick a player who meets minimum requirements, but can choose any player left unprotected. It must also be noted that just being on the active roster does not equal a game played. The player must actually play in the game. In a season that is expected to have 52 to 56 games, with many back-to-backs and the chance of injuries or, heaven forbid, a positive COVID-19 test, are the Bruins willing to risk the chance at any of those players playing in 40 games?

FORWARDS

The Bruins must make available to Seattle two forwards who has played in at least 40 games in the 2021 season or, 70 games combined in the 2019-20 and the 2021 season and is under contract for 2021-22. With Bergeron, Marchand and Coyle protected because of no movement clauses, the Bruins appear to be in excellent shape here as David Krejci, Chris Wagner, Sean Kuraly, David Pastrnak, Craig Smith and Jake DeBrusk meet the minimum requirements. Ondrej Kase (4), Anders Bjork (2), Nick Ritchie (14), Greg McKegg (14) and Par Lindholm (24) are close. The remaining forwards will require 40 games to be played to meet minimum exposure requirements and they include: Karson Kuhlman, Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic and Zach Senyshyn. As with the defencemen, Seattle does not have to pick a player that meets minimum requirements and can choose any player exposed.

Now that all of that is out of the way, you would have to figure that, with a reduced schedule, there are going to be changes made to the 40/70 rule right? That is going to require some negotiations between the NHL, the NHLPA and the Seattle Kraken. But if you’re Seattle, how open are you going to be to change considering you paid $650 million in franchise fees and were promised the same opportunity as Vegas? Is it even negotiable since it is written into the expansion agreement between the league and the Kraken?

As I said in the opening, I don’t believe Don Sweeney is finished adding at some point in the offseason or during the season. But with the roster as it stands today, what options are there for the Bruins in the expansion draft? I believe the Bruins will protect 7 forwards, 3 defencemen and 1 goaltender. This is my stab at it.

GOALTENDING

Protect: Dan Vladar

Expose: Tuukka Rask, Jaroslav Halak and Callum Booth

I never in a million years would have suggested protecting Vladar over Rask. But considering the season Vladar had a year ago in the AHL and his more than impressive start in Europe this season, you would think he’d be intriguing to both the Kraken and the Bruins. It’s a huge gamble doing this with hopes on being able to re-sign Rask once free agency comes. It’s a gamble I’d be willing to take. To meet minimum exposure requirements all Sweeney would have to do is give Booth his qualifying offer as an RFA.

DEFENCEMEN

Protect: Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk

Expose: John Moore, Kevan Miller, Connor Clifton, Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril and Steven Kampfer

Only Kampfer and Miller don’t meet the contractual status to meet the minimum requirements for exposure and all of them have a long way to go to meet the games played requirements.  

FORWARDS

Protect: Patrice Bergeron (NMC), Brad Marchand (NMC), Charlie Coyle (NMC), David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, Trent Frederic and Craig Smith.

Expose: David Krejci, Ondrej Kase, Anders Bjork, Nick Ritchie, Sean Kuraly, Par Lindholm, Cameron Hughes, Karson Kuhlman, Anton Blidh, Zach Senyshyn, Paul Carey, Peter Cehlarik and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson

I take the same path here with Krejci as I do with Rask. Again, a huge gamble, but we know how much Krejci likes it in Boston and I have no fear that he would go finish his career in Seattle.

On this exposure list Wagner and Bjork are the only two on my unprotected list that meet the minimum contractual requirements. Wagner also meets the minimum games required and Bjork would have to play just two games and Kase 4 to meet them. It appears the exposure requirements will be met easily by the Bruins.

Once Sweeney makes a move on the roster, most of this still stands, but the names will be different.

Dominic Tiano: Bruins Playoff Scenarios

Amigo Dom Tiano is back with another great post about the playoffs and how the play-in and round robins affect the Boston Bruins. – KL

Pastrnak

With just one game remaining for the Boston Bruins before the real games begin, they find themselves in a position fans, and probably the Bruins themselves, didn’t expect after dominating the regular season standings before action was paused due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

After losing it’s first two games, the Bruins sit in fourth spot before hitting the ice in Sunday’s matchup with the Washington Capitals. Here’s a look at the standings:

Tampa Bay 4 points

Philadelphia 4 points

Washington 1 point

Boston 0 points.

Carolina .596 pts% (advances)

Islanders .588 pts% (advances)

Toronto .579 pts%

Columbus .579 pts%

Montreal .500 pts% (advances)

So, what are the possible scenarios facing the Bruins and what does the outcome of Sunday’s contest mean?

Scenario 1: Boston beats Washington in any manner:

Winning in overtime or a shootout will leave the teams tied with 2 points a piece and the tie breaker is regular season points percentage, which favors the Bruins, so they would end up third. Winning in regulation would give the Bruins 2 points versus the Caps 1 point, so any type of win gives the Bruins third place.

Win and they face the Islanders.

The outcome of the Leafs and Blue Jackets play in round has no affect on who the Bruins opponent will be.

Scenario 2: Washington wins in any matter:

Lose in any fashion and face Carolina.

So, the Bruins possible opponents come down to New York Islanders or Carolina. Pick your poison. We’ll know Sunday.

Some quick thoughts:

  • Fans are looking for excuses for the Bruins and there are many out there on social media. The fact of the matter is the Bruins were the hardest hit team in phase 3 with players going in and out as “unfit to play” and thus taking longer to find chemistry and gel. But is there enough time before round 1 begins?
  • I wonder about Tuukka Rask’s While he was mostly solid against the Lightning, I counted four times the puck went in and out of his glove. You have to wonder if there is some pain there.
  • Torey Krug. There is no questioning his heart and drive. He wants to win and it was never more evident when he dropped the mitts with Blake Coleman not only to come to the defence of a teammate, but provide the spark his team needed.
  • Matt Grzelcyk and the power play. If David Pastrnak’s blast that trickled through Andrei Vasilevskiy hadn’t been pulled from the goal line, this conversation would be mute. That was the powerplay with Krug serving his fighting major. With Gryz running the powerplay, he went down behind the goal line and tried to feed a pass through three Lightning penalty killers and it ended up going the other way. He just doesn’t see the ice as well as Krug and doesn’t posses the shot and passing skills as Krug.
  • The third line of Anders Bjork, Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk looked good for the most part. They were very good at puck possession and had some very good offensive zone time. If there is any change I would make there it is to put DeBrusk on the left side and Bjork on the right.
  • The second line continues to frustrate. As the game went on, Nick Ritchie got better and began to find some chemistry with David Krejci in his first game of the post season. Jack Studnicka looked good in his time there but it wasn’t a legitimate second line. Let’s not put any unnecessary pressure on the kid. Ondrej Kase is expected to make his debut Sunday and the Bruins and their fans better hope he finds instant chemistry because, with all due respect, Karson Kuhlman is not the answer.
  • Zdeno Chara looked slow even by his standards. He was susceptible to the speed game and on Wednesday Victor Hedman gave him lessons on how to use that enormous reach.
  • I’m a big fan of Jeremy Lauzon, but I wonder if it’s time for him to sit and give John Moore a chance. Lauzon lost positioning very early in the game and had to take a penalty and it prevented the Bruins from getting everyone into the game right away. He also lost coverage that resulted in a Tampa goal. Right now, Moore would be a better option at puck retrieval and moving up ice by skating or passing.
  • Brandon Carlo has been anything but the Brandon Carlo we’ve been accustomed to. He seems to have lost the confidence in his ability to skate with the puck and he isn’t the consistent shut down guy we’ve been use to seeing. He will need to find that and quickly.

 

 

Dominic Tiano: Evan Gold- the Man Behind the Bruins Cap Wizardry

Here’s an insightful post from Dom Tiano about Evan Gold, who is instrumental in Boston’s ability to manage the ever-complex salary cap management reality of the modern NHL. Enjoy!-KL

Most of the credit when it comes to the Boston Bruins and their ability to sign players to cap friendly deals and the way they manage the cap goes to General Manager Don Sweeney. It is the GM’s responsibility to bring in the best possible minds to put a management team together, so in that sense, Sweeney has done his job.

But let’s give credit where credit is due: Evan Gold is a master when it comes to the cap.

Continue reading

Dominic Tiano: Lyle, Messner, Voyer- Why AHL Contracts vs NHL?

Dom is back with a follow-up to his post yesterday announcing the signing of two 20-year-olds to AHL contracts, and to clarify what these signings mean. Major point 1- these players are NOT on NHL deals, so none of the trio are eligible to play games for the Boston Bruins this season without a NHL contract in place. However- as he explains below, there are specific benefits to having these players in the fold under AHL agreements. It’s well worth reading all the way to the end. -KL

When Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced that they had signed Alex-Olivier Voyer and Brady Lyle to two-year American Hockey League contracts and extended Joel Messner to a one-year AHL deal, Bruins fans took to social media asking why AHL deals?

The obvious answer is that the Bruins have traded away draft picks over the past couple of seasons and are trying to keep the prospect pool filled. But the truth of the matter is this is more of a balancing act then anything.

Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, NHL teams are only allowed to have 50 individual player contracts signed at any one time, with the exception of junior eligible players returned to Canadian Major Junior, those contracts can “slide” and not count against the 50-contract limit.

After signing Nick Wolff, Jack Ahcan and Jeremy Swayman last month, the Bruins sat at 31 contracts for next season.

The Bruins have two unrestricted free agent netminders in Jaroslav Halak and Maxime Lagace, and unless they intend on giving Daniel Vladar (RFA) the full-time backup role in Boston, one of them could be back or maybe a different goaltender that has more experience then Vladar. But Vladar needs a contract as well.

That could bring the number of contracts to 33.

Then the Bruins have six unrestricted free agent skaters: Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Joakim Nordstrom, Alex Petrovic and Ryan Fitzgerald (who is a group 6 UFA). It’s reasonable to assume from that group the Bruins are likely to make offers to Chara, Krug and Miller to retain their services and even more likely that just two of them will be back. But if they truly want to bring three of them back, they need a contract spot.

That could bring the number to 36 contracts.

The list of restricted free agents is even longer. Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Matt Grzelcyk, Brett Ritchie, Zach Senyshyn, Karson Kuhlman, Brendan Gaunce, Peter Cehlarik, Jakub Zboril, Wiley Sherman and Vladar all become RFA. It’s likely that all of them will receive their qualifying offers if only to retain their rights. We are sure DeBrusk, Bjork and Grzelcyk will be back. The rest are likely to get two-way contracts.

That could bring us to 46 contracts.

Then the Bruins will have to make a decision on Cameron Clarke who they must sign before August 15 or he becomes an unrestricted free agent. That could bring the Bruins to 47 contracts. They also have Cooper Zech on an AHL contract and may want to lock him up before another NHL team swoops in and signs him. That could push the total to 48 contracts.

What these three deals do is two-fold. 1) It locks players up and takes them out of the hands of other NHL teams while providing you three players who at least have a shot of playing in the NHL. 2) By signing them to AHL deals, it allows them the maneuverability to make other roster moves while staying under the 50-contract limit.

 

Dom Tiano analysis & interview with Clarkson Associate Coach Josh Hauge: Dustyn McFaul

This is a guest post by TSP Amigo Dominic Tiano on former OJHL and current Clarkson University defenseman Dustyn McFaul, drafted by the Boston Bruins in 2018. Dom watched McFaul in junior hockey during his draft season and subsequent 2018-19 campaign with the Pickering Panthers before he headed to Potsdam.

Dom also tracked down Clarkson Associate Head Coach Josh Hauge, who runs the defense for the Golden Knights for Head Coach Casey Jones, and we’re pleased to provide you the audio from that interview.

This is a quality deep-dive on a Bruins prospect who is not a household name when it comes to discussing the team’s futures, so thanks for reading/listening, and stay safe and healthy.

Thanks again to Dom for putting this together

Dustin McFaul then:

Looking back prior to the 2018 National Hockey League Draft, there was one player that intrigued me more then any other in the sixth round prior to teams and potential picks departed for the American Airlines Center in Dallas: Dustyn McFaul.

Not many sixth-round picks make a career for themselves in the NHL. In McFaul’s case, it wasn’t the ability to play hockey that saw him being selected with the 181st pick. McFaul still had a year of hockey before he would begin his NCAA career with Clarkson University for the 2019-2020 season. It was going to require a team with a lot of depth and the patience to wait out that one year of junior, along with potentially four years in the NCAA and probably a year in the American Hockey League.

The Boston Bruins had just that, and selected McFaul. (as a Bruins fan, I was all smiles).

Flashback to the 2017-2018 season and my thoughts on McFaul prior to the draft:

What McFaul accomplished as a rookie in the OJHL came as quite a surprise. He quickly became a player who could eat up large minutes, averaging 28 minutes per game when I saw him. As a youngster, he was thrown into every situation, be it penalty killing, powerplay and 5v5 against the top players the opposition could throw out there.

 

Not only was McFaul a leader on the blue line, but he showed excellent leadership qualities on a young Panthers squad. He is very coachable and seems to absorb what the coaches are telling him. He’s also very humble and puts aside any personal achievements and goals for those of his teammates.

 

At 6’2”, McFaul has good size, but will need to put in some work to add much needed bulk to his frame, something that he is aware of. It can only help him in the defensive zone when it comes to battling in those hard areas. He has an above average wing span for a player of his size and he uses it effectively. His mobility is very good and in combination with his stick skills and size, keeps players from getting to the danger areas.

 

Offensively, McFaul is very good at joining the rush, making very good first passes and has shown he can quarterback a powerplay. He needs to improve his shot, but it can also come along when he adds some muscle.

 

Above all else, the thing that stood out to me most, and talking to those around his game, it is his work ethic. It may have been a blessing in disguise for McFaul not to make the Frontenacs and the OHL at the time, and he realized that he needed to put some work in and he did. And his attitude tells him just making it isn’t good enough, he’ll continue to put that work in to improve throughout his career.

 

McFaul isn’t one of those guys that you draft hoping he can make your squad in a couple of years. He’s a project that you will need to put in some time with and realistically, if he develops into his full potential, you’re looking at 5 or 6 years away. If you are a team with a deep prospect pool, he’s the type of player you look for in the late rounds.

 

McFaul had to make a decision on where to play for the 2018-2019 season. The Ontario Hockey League wasn’t an option so that he could keep his NCAA eligibility. He could return to the Pickering Panthers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League or join the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders of the United States Hockey League, where he was a third-round pick, 37th overall, at the 2018 USHL Draft.

McFaul chose to return to the Panthers. It was a tough season for them but we were able to see McFaul take on an even bigger role on and off the ice. He took on an expanded leadership role and there were improvements all around on the ice for him personally. But he is so humble that any questions about personal achievements quickly turn to talking about the team.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Clarkson Assistant Coach Josh Hauge who works with Clarkson’s blueliners about the season that was and what we can expect moving forward. Have a listen:

McFaul

Clarkson University Athletics photo

 

 

Dominic Tiano: A Look Back at the Man They Call ‘Studs’

 

Jack Studnicka of the Oshawa Generals. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

(Photo credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

Guest post by Dominic Tiano:

As most of you know, my priority is the Ontario Hockey League and the NHL Draft because that’s where my eyes are mostly focused. And when my fellow Amigos suggested that I compare what I said back in 2017 about Jack Studnicka to where he is now, I couldn’t resist even though I could have been way off the mark.

So, lets go back to March 5, 2017 when I first wrote this:

I don’t believe Studnicka is an offense first player, which I see tagged to him plenty. He puts as much attention to detail on the defensive side as he does on the offense. He plays in all situations and takes key faceoffs for the Generals. He’s quietly become the Generals’ top face off man at 53%. It’s his extremely high compete level that makes him pay attention at both ends.

Studnicka has good size – although adding bulk will be key for him. He is an excellent skater who has an explosive first step and decent top end speed who can change direction with ease. He possesses very good vision with high quality playmaking skills with an ability to set up his teammates. His shot is underrated in my opinion. His release is deceptive and accurate and he puts every shot on goal with a purpose.

Studnicka can be elusive in the offensive zone. He can break away from coverage almost undetected and put himself into scoring positions. He has very good puck skills and strong possession skills. Although he needs to add some muscle, he will not shy away from the hard areas. Once he gets stronger, it will become an area where he wins more often than he loses because of it – and his work ethic.

If anything has changed in three years its that he has improved even on the skills he was already good at. Yes, he was deemed as just an offensive player in many circles back then, but not to these eyes. What has impressed me most is that he continues to put the work in, even in areas he excels at. And that continued work defensively has only made him stronger in that area. He was one of the best penalty killers in the AHL and while he took care of his own zone, he was a threat to score while down a man each and every time.

While he was already a “polished” skater in the faceoff circle, that wasn’t enough for Captain Jack. Much like Patrice Bergeron – he has similar traits to the Bruins Alternate Captain – he continues to work at it to become even better. For Studnicka, like Bergeron, good is just never good enough.

All that hard work has paid off for Studnicka as he quickly moved up to the top of the Bruins prospect rankings, something I am sure even Jack didn’t think would happen this quickly.

If there is one area that I would have liked to see accelerated in this process, it’s adding bulk to his frame. While every part of his game – the IQ, vision, skating, 200-foot game, faceoff success, offense, penalty killing – are NHL ready, adding some extra bulk to his frame this offseason will prepare him for the long grind of the NHL season.

With the extra long offseason for Studnicka, the opportunity is there to put in the work. What we do know 100%, is that he will put in that work.

2019 NHL Draft: B’s go with Beecher in 1st round

VANCOUVER–The Boston Bruins selected U.S. National Team Development Program forward John Beecher with the 30th overall selection in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

As highlighted in the Bruins draft preview piece at this blog, Beecher made sense for the organization on several levels: he’s a big-bodied, versatile forward who can fly (given his big 6-foot-3 frame) and while his skills/overall NHL ceiling as a scoring forward is still up in the air, he’s someone who is going to play in the league because of his pure physical tools.

Here’s more on Beecher from Dom and Kirk:

Dominic Tiano:

Don’t look at the stat sheet and assume John Beecher can’t put up points since he didn’t get the quality ice time to produce with the USDP. That question will be answered as he progresses.  He’s a big body at 6’3” and 209 pounds who possesses superb skating abilities and great top-notch speed. His first steps could use some improvement, but when he hits full speed its excellent.

Beecher is accomplished defensively, knowing his positioning, with good anticipation, good at getting in lanes and willing to battle. If you need a key defensive faceoff win, then he is usually the guy his coaches send over the boards for the puck drop.

I think Beecher’s compete level and his vision is average. For a guy his size, I’d like to see him get in on the forecheck and bang bodies and get more involved in the cycle game. However, what he does do in the offensive zone well is find lanes and soft spots that allow his teammates to find him. He’s an average passer and playmaker so his mentality is to score. Obviously with his size, when he is planted in front of the goal, he’s hard to move, and he can take away a goaltender’s eyes. He protects the puck extremely well and drives possession. Also, very good at gaining the blueline.

I think he projects as a third line center who can kill penalties and you can trust to be defensively responsible. If he can develop more offense with the University of Michigan, that’ll be a bonus. But he and the team might be better served if he transitioned to the wing and with a playmaker, might surprise and could be a second liner.

Can’t expect more from the 30th overall pick.

Kirk Luedeke:

I had Sioux City RW Bobby Brink rated higher here, but Beecher is a Boston-type player for his size/skating combo and it isn’t like he doesn’t have the skill set to evolve into a scoring forward at the NHL level- we have to remember that playing behind major league talents like Jack Hughes and Trevor Zegras meant that Beecher was going to see less playing time and very little PP opportunities on a loaded USA team.

When he gets going, he’s a load to contain, and there is an impressive high floor with Beecher in terms of a late-1st rounder who is going to play upwards of 500 or more games in the NHL because he brings the size/skating combination that will allow him to play up or down the Boston roster eventually. Brink, for all of his guts, skills and playmaking ability, represents more risk for the team that selects him in terms of long-term NHL viability because of his lack of size, but let’s face it- he’s going to be off the board very early on Day 2, and the team that gets him is going to have themselves a steal.

Beecher is a very good player- he makes sense for the modern NHL as a big-bodied forward who can really move and might be a little undersold on this end in terms of his scoring ability. Against Omaha as a 16-year-old in the 2017-18, he went end-to-end and scored one of the prettier goals you’ll ever see, so he has it in him to make plays at the highest level.

All told, Beecher to the Bruins at 30 was not a surprise. How good a selection it will end up being when all is said and done will be debated because it’s not a high-upside kind of pick, but is still likely to make some hay for the B’s.

Editor’s note- Mea culpa on Beecher’s NCAA commitment- he is going to University of Michigan not Ohio State- sloppy on my part for not verifying. Wolverines are getting a good one.

The Bruins & the Cap- Where do they Stand?

by Dominic Tiano

For the vast majority of hockey fans, the National Hockey League’s Collective Bargaining Agreement and the salary cap can be a nightmare to understand unless you have a law degree from Harvard. Now, I don’t have such a degree, but I do talk to people who work with the CBA and Cap daily and have a good understanding in what the Boston Bruins are facing this upcoming season and beyond.

So here is my take on what General Manager Don Sweeney and cap guru Evan Gold face:

With the announcement by the Bruins yesterday that they have reached a contract agreement with Colby Cave, the Bruins have all their restricted and unrestricted players signed for the 2018-2019 season (at the very least, those they wanted to retain). Unless of course you want to count Rick Nash, who is still undecided if he wants to continue playing because of health issues.

Using CapFriendly as a source, we find the Bruins with $2.95 million in cap space with a 23-man roster. That money can be banked to use throughout the season to add to their current roster, including Nash if he wishes to return to playing hockey and with the Bruins.

Their cap space was reduced for 2018-2019 because of performance bonuses paid out to Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen that could not have fit under last season and are carried over. Under the CBA, a team can exceed the cap by 7% because of performance bonuses and have it charged to the following season. For 2018-2019, that charge to the cap is $774,000.

Further reducing their cap space is what is often called “dead money” – money paid to players no longer on the roster because they were bought out or the team retained salary in a trade. For 2018-2019, the Bruins are still paying Dennis Seidenberg ($1,166,167 for two more seasons) and Jimmy Hayes (866,667 for one more season) after buying them out. They are also paying Matt Beleskey in a salary retained deal with the New York Rangers $1.9 million for two more seasons, although the numbers could change if the Rangers choose to buyout Beleskey during the second buyout period. That’s just shy of $4 million in “dead money”.

At the end of the 2018-2019 season, the Bruins could be tagged with a bonus overage of just over $3.7 million. Potential bonuses that could be paid out are Zdeno Chara ($1.75 million) McAvoy ($500,000), DeBrusk ($425,000) Heinen ($212,500) and Ryan Donato ($800,000). Based on where the cap is today and barring no roster changes (although there are sure to be callups from Providence when injuries occur further reducing the cap) and that most, if not all those bonuses will be attained, fans and the Bruins can look forward to a bonus overage carried over to the 2019-2020 season. Just how much depends on how much of their current $2.9 million in space is used.

The cap is almost certainly going to rise, either by increased revenue or by the NHLPA invoking the escalator (artificially increasing the cap by 5%). But there is always the possibility that the NHLPA does not invoke the escalator (they’ve done that once in the salary cap era and other times increasing it by less then 5%). Hayes will come off the books, but it still leaves a tad more then $3 million in dead money from the Seidenberg buyout and Beleskey trade.

According to CapFriendly, the Bruins have $16.5 million in cap space for 2019-2020 (if the cap remains stagnant) with 16 players on the roster. Some of those spots could be filled with prospects making the jump from Providence.

But the Bruins have to dish out new contracts to McAvoy, Carlo, Heinen and Donato. And if Big Z decides he wants to play another season, well, that pretty much eats up that $16.5 million with two roster spots left to fill. The problem still lies with how much bonus overage there is going forward and that $16.5 million is directly influenced by that figure.

But, the cap will rise. Whether it rises enough is anyone’s guess.

In the end, there are a lot of “ifs” when looking beyond the upcoming season. The only definitive answer I can give you now is that Sweeney and Gold will get it done.

Dominic Tiano: Does the Loser Point Really Create Parity?

Editor’s note- Dominc Tiano is back with another piece for TSP. This time, he takes a look at the NHL’s current point system and how a modification might better reflect in the league standings. If any general managers are reading, we absolutely would welcome this idea being introduced at the summer GM meetings…just saying!

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I have long been an opponent of the current point system used in hockey leagues around North America and have been a proponent of the 3-2-1-point system throughout that period. (3 points for a regulation win, 2 points for an overtime or shootout win, and 1 point for an overtime or shootout loss).

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