A few weeks back, Jason Botchford mentioned that the Canucks have their eye on Brandon Carlo, a 6’5 defensemen currently playing for the WHL’s Tri-City Americans. This innocuous line buried at the bottom of the Provies resulted in a somewhat predictable response from many of us at Canucks Army given our general aversion to picking defensemen who are unable to demonstrate offensive proficiency at the Junior level, especially given that the Canucks would more than likely need to use their first round pick to get him.
On my noble but deluded quest to try to save management from themselves, I thought I’d dig a bit deeper into some of the highly rated defensemen who will likely be on the board when the Canucks select first in June, employing the same methodology I used a couple weeks back when looking at a few CHL draft eligible forwards. As always, I have to thank Josh Weissbock for his immensely useful site, CHLstats.com, as well his assistance in helping me gather data from EliteProspects.
Without further ado, here are the players I looked at:
Brandon Carlo (6’5/196 CM, Tri-City Americans, ISS rank #20, CSS NA rank #16)
Top NHLers in Carlo’s height/age adjusted Pts/GP cohort are as follows:
When Jim Benning talks about meat and potatoes, think Brandon Carlo. He’s a big defensive d-man, who skates relatively well for his size. It’s a shame we aren’t able to gather shot attempt stats at the CHL level, as Carlo is one of the players thought to be able to control the puck well and make smart plays throughout all three zones. Obviously with his frame and size, it’s thought that he’ll be ready to make the next step sooner rather than later. That said, his offensive game leaves a lot to be desired, scoring 3 goals and 23 points in 55 games so far this year.
It’s definitely a positive to see the strides he’s made from his 16 year old year, where his 10% cohort success rate screams do not pick. In terms of comparable 17 year olds, 1 in 3 players his size that scored similarly to him ended up playing a minimum of 200 games in the NHL, which is actually a relatively high percentage pick, all things considered. Still, in this draft do you really want to spend a first round pick on a guy who may turn into Bryan Allen or Braydon Coburn at best?
Ryan Pilon (6’2/188 CM, Brandon Wheat Kings, ISS rank NR, CSS NA rank #31)
Top NHLers in Pilon’s height/age adjusted Pts/GP cohort are as follows:
One of Rhys’ favorites, Ryan Pilon is having a great year in Brandon alongside future top 10 pick Ivan Provorov. He’s known as a hard working, two-way defenceman, and at 6’2/212lbs, he definitely checks the meat and potatoes box nicely. He’s known to have a hard, accurate shot, and his 10 goals this year is currently ranks for 3rd in 17 year old defense scoring.
Pilon has 50 points in 60 games so far this season, and players of a comparable size who scored at a similar rate to him had a very high probability of success at the NHL level. My only concern with him is that it’s possible that his point totals are somewhat inflated given he’s playing for a powerhouse Brandon Wheat Kings team who lead the WHL with 4.65 goals a game. This may be the reason Pilon isn’t getting the love so far from scouting agencies, and it looks like he could very will slip farther in the draft than he should. After all, Pilon is still a top-pairing D on one of the CHL’s top ranked teams.
Nicolas Meloche (6’2/188 CM, Baie-Comeau Drakkar, ISS rank NR, CSS NA rank #45)
Top NHLers in Meloche’s height/age adjusted Pts/GP cohort are as follows:
Size? Check. Skates well? Check. Hard shot? Check? Does murders? Check.
Not only can Meloche score (10 goals and 34 points in 44 games), but he’s got a nasty side as well, accumulating 99 penalty minutes so far this year. That combination of size, offensive ability, and high-percentage, two-way play is a package, makes him a pretty him pretty hard to play against for the opposition.
Moreover, both his 16 and 17 year old height/aaPPG cohort have very high success rates, at 53% and 43%, respectively. This will be a high percentage pick for the team that selects him in June.
Mitchell Vande Sompel D (5’10/179 CM, Oshawa Generals, ISS rank NR, CSS NA rank #33)
Top NHLers in Vande Sompel’s height/age adjusted Pts/GP cohort are as follows:
Similar to Pilon, Vande Sompel is another player who may be enjoying the benefit of playing with a high octane offense in Oshawa. Oshawa is scoring at a 4.3 goals per game clip, powered by last year’s top five pick, Michael Dal Colle, and Canucks prospect Cole Cassels.
While Vande Sompel’s point totals are impressive (11 goals and 55 points in 58 games), he’s undersized at 5’10, which is reflected his cohort having the lowest success rates of the players I’ve profiled here today. Still, it’s quite possible that Vande Sompel becomes a very effective top-4 NHL D like Tyson Barrie or Ryan Ellis.
Jakub Zboril (6’2/188 CM, Saint John Sea Dogs, ISS rank 19, CSS NA rank #11)
Top NHLers in Zboril’s height/age adjusted Pts/GP cohort are as follows:
This is Zboril’s first season in the QMJHL, having played last year in the Czech junior program. He’s adjusted nicely to the North American game, scoring 9 goals and 27 points in his first 37 games. He known as a highly talented, but somewhat raw puck moving defensemen, who skates well and has an accurate shot.
His 16 year old comparables are based on 16 year old Czech junior players from 1993-94 to 2008-09. This isn’t exactly the golden age of Czech hockey, with only 7 of 183 16 year old Czech junior defensemen playing over 200 NHL games, so its possible his 16 cohort success rate at 21.4% is somewhat understated. That said, given the success of his 17 year-old cohort, its a bit surprising to see him ranked as high as he is by CSS and ISS.
Rasmus Andersson D (6’0/182 CM, Barrie Colts, ISS rank NR, CSS NA rank #84)
Top NHLers in Andersson’s height/age adjusted Pts/GP cohort are as follows:
Andersson is the son of former NHL defensemen, Peter Andersson, who played over 500 games in the SHL over the course of his career.
The cohort numbers for Andersson surprised me, so I thought I’d reach out to Todd Cordell, OHL Scout at HockeyProspect.com, to get his take on Andersson:
Rasmus Andersson is an excellent puck mover on the backend,
as he consistently makes an accurate first pass, and is capable of rushing the
puck up ice if given space. He doesn’t have the most fluid looking stride, but
he gets around the ice pretty well. He’s an excellent power play QB, and excels
in getting pucks through. His defensive game could use a bit of work, but
there’s nothing coaching can’t fix.
Like Jakub Zboril, this is Andersson’s first year in the CHL, and he’s adjusted seamlessly, scoring at a point per game pace for the Barrie Colts. Andersson’s resume is far more impressive, as unlike Zboril, he didn’t play in the junior progam, but rather played both his his 15 year old and 16 year old season in Sweden’s second highest men’s league, the Allsvenskan.
Andersson first crossed my radar when I was researching the high success rates of junior aged players playing against men in the SHL and Allsvenskan, after noting how David Pastrnak absolutely tore up Allsvenkan in his draft year.
Generally speaking, if you’re good enough as a 17 year old to play in one of Europe’s top men’s leagues, you generally have a pretty good shot of being successful at the NHL level. Playing in a top men’s league at 15 or 16 is practically unheard of. To put Andersson’s 15 and 16 year old seasons in context, between 1992-93 and 2014-15, there is a list of only 8 defensemen to play over 9 games as a U17. Andersson is on that list… Twice.
If his under 17 experience we’re enough, Andersson ranks highest amongst the defensemen I’ve profiled here today in terms of cohort success rate, at 46.2%, and the pedigree of top end defenders he compares to is simply unparalleled. The fact that he isn’t currently a consensus 1st round pick is somewhat mind boggling, but it also represents a significant opportunity for the team lucky enough to grab him.
So, should the Canucks use their first round pick on Brandon Carlo? Based on what we’ve looked at here, very probably not.
The Canucks have done a reasonably good job restocking forward prospect depth through the draft in recent years with the likes of Jake Virtanen, Jared McCann, Bo Horvat, and Hunter Shinkaruk. However, on the defensive side, they really don’t have a grade A prospect in the pipeline at this time, so it’s likely management will target a defensemen at the draft, either with their current first round pick, or potentially with a later pick they acquire via trade. I’m very much hoping for the later, partially because of the quality of forwards which will likely be available when they pick (I’m looking at you Mathew Barzal).
If the current rankings are any indication, there’s a high probability that players like Ryan Pilon and Rasmus Andersson will be on the board later than they should, so there’s a very good possibility that Jim Benning will able to work some pre-draft trade magic to acquire some late first or second round picks to jump start the Canucks depth of defensive prospects.