Twitter was abuzz with some good old fashioned prospecting this morning, as The Godfather himself Bob McKenzie unveiled his consensus top-75 draft rankings for this month’s upcoming entry draft (you can click here to view McKenzie’s top-75 as well as player profiles from Craig Button). McKenzie’s rankings carry a lot of weight because they’re not actually his rankings per se, but rather an industry survey of a variety of scouts that work for NHL teams.
McKenzie’s rankings are also generally the most accurate prognosticator of the first round, meaning he’s usually bang-on in terms of the range of picks a guy will be selected in. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five players who surround Vancouver’s 23rd overall selection to see what should be on the board.
A note before we begin: I’ve included PCS information for this season for the players outlined below, and you can read all about what PCS is and what it works here. PCS is still a work in progress though, and we still have a lot of work to do in refining and tweaking the model. With that out of the way, let’s get to business:
21st Overall: Denis Gurianov
- Team: Togilatti 2 (Russia, MHL)
- Position: Centre, Left Wing, Right Wing
- Frame: 6’2, 183 lbs
- PCS Comparables: N/A
Playing in the Russian MHL, we don’t have a whole lot to go on in terms of historical comparables for Gurianov. What we do know is that he was the most prolific U18 player in the MHL this past season, and the 4th most productive all-time on a per-game basis behind Nikita Kucherov, Nikita Gusev (a Tampa Bay prospect), and Anatoli Golyshev. While Kucherov’s production was head and shoulders better than every other U18 MHLer ever, Gurianov possesses a toolkit that Gusev and Golyshev simply did not.
Per Craig Button, Gurianov is a dynamic skater with great hands and a high-end shot. EliteProspects also praises his explosive offensive abilities and mentions a tantalizingly high ceiling given his physical abilities. ESPN’s Corey Pronman has Gurianov ranked a bit lower at 35th, but he too makes mention of Gurianov’s raw skating ability to go along with a competitive streak and plus-level finishing ability.
Defense and hockey sense are a consensus minor concern with Gurianov, as is the ever-present “Russian factor,” which in practice is less xenophobia and more lower expected value on players due to KHL risk. All in all, it sounds like Gurianov is a high-octane energy winger that could be best suited for a middle-6 role in the NHL with possible second-line offensive upside – a fine prospect around 23rd overall.
22nd Overall: Brandon Carlo
- Team: Tri-City Americans (WHL)
- Position: Defence
- Frame: 6’4, 198 lbs
- PCS Comparables: 28.6% success rate, 12.0 Pts per 82 NHL GP
If you’re looking for just a warm body to play defense one day, Brandon Carlo is your guy. The towering defender is still filling out his 6’4 frame, and has a reputation for a abrasive brand of stay-at-home defense. He moves around the ice well, however there are some hitches in his skating that can be improved, per Corey Pronman. His puck skills are good enough to not be listed as an area of concern, but probably aren’t good enough to make him a significant contributor at the NHL level, should he get there. Craig Button describes him as “steady,” however he’s also lower on Carlo than many in the industry, ranking the big defender 52nd on his personal rankings.
We’ve written about Carlo in the past here at Canucks Army, concluding that while he was a reasonably good bet to play some NHL games, his ceiling was probably extremely low as most guys we can fairly compare him to become little more than replacement-level journeymen. PCS agrees with this, comparing Carlo to Cale Hulse and Brayden McNabb on the high end, and a whole bunch of non-NHL talent on the low end.
It’s definitely possible that Carlo develops into a low-end second-pairing defender, however I would rather take my chances with another of the plethora of talented CHL D that will surely be available at this time. In my eyes, Nicholas Meloche, Rasmus Andersson, Ryan Pilon, Noah Juulsen, Thomas Chabot, Vince Dunn, Mitchell Vande Sompel, and Jeremy Roy all represent a better chance of finding a more effective future NHLer.
23rd Overall: Joel Eriksson Ek
- Team: Farjestad (SHL), Farjestad J20 (SuperElit)
- Position: Centre
- Frame: 6’1, 180 lbs
- PCS: SHL – 16.7% success rate, 35.5 Pts/82 NHL GP, SuperElit – 5.6% success rate, 23.3 Pts/82 NHL GP
While not a mock draft, (and it sounds like the Canucks are leaning towards a puck-moving defenseman anyways) McKenzie’s list has Swedish two-way forward Joel Eriksson Ek in the Canucks draft slot at 23rd overall. Based on admittedly not much, Eriksson Ek reminds me of Swedish Habs prospect Jacob De La Rose in the sense that he’s lauded for his hockey IQ and 200-foot game, while some question his offensive ceiling. Corey Pronman calls Eriksson Ek “very versatile” and a “low-risk prospect” while Craig Button adds that he’s “an intelligent player who reads the play quickly”.
Despite a glowing report from EliteProspects, it doesn’t sound as if Eriksson Ek’s offensive ceiling is that high, and PCS doesn’t exactly like him either. In terms of comparables, Alex Steen and former Florida Panther/Calgary Flame Marcus Nilson are there, but there’s really no one else. A lot of the buzz around Eriksson Ek seems to stem from a very strong World U-18 tournament in which he led the disappointing Swedes with 5G 1A in 5G, and we all know that evaluating a player on a 5-game sample is foolish at best, so he seems like a bit of a reach at 23rd especially given the other players that should be on the board at the time.
This isn’t to say that Eriksson Ek isn’t a good prospect, but based on the guys that have done what he has in Sweden at his age, you’re reasonably looking for a player that can contribute quality third line minutes on a good team if you draft him.
24th Overall: Oliver Kylington
- Team: Farjestad (SHL), Farjestad J20 (SuperElit), AIK (Allsvenskan)
- Position: Defence
- Frame: 6’0, 180 lbs
- PCS: SHL – 16.7% success rate, 17.5 Pts/82 NHL GP, SuperElit – 10.0% success rate, 38.2 Pts/82 NHL GP, Allsvenskan – N/A
After looking like he could be a near generational defenseman last season, Kylington’s miserable and injury-filled draft year has him sliding down towards the lower half of the first round on many draft boards. Of course, “miserable” is relative here, as Kylington still led all U-18 SHLers that suited up for more than 10 games in Pts/GP (forwards included), and was only one of two U-18 players to register a point in the Allsvenskan this season, per EliteProspects. In Sweden’s second best professional league, Kylington was essentially his team’s most prolific offensive defenseman, and had basically no legitimate historical comparables.
Looking at Kylington’s body of work in Sweden going back to the start of 2013-14, his best SuperElit comparable is Erik Karlsson, and he is without a peer in the SHL, though Karlsson, Nicklas Hjalmarsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson each make a couple of appearances in his comparables this year. A guy playing in one of the top professional leagues in the world at 16 years of age just doesn’t happen, and that shouldn’t be discounted when discussing Kylington’s perceived “stagnation.” His PCS for this year isn’t fantastic, but his PCS since the start of his professional career is phenomenal.
While it’s unfair to compare any prospect to the most dominant offensive defensemen since Paul Coffey, Denis Potvin, or Bobby Orr, Kylington’s scouting report reads a whole hell of a lot like Karlsson’s. “He’s a brilliant skater who gains speed easily, and has the four-way movements to stay with quick forwards,” writes Corey Pronman, who also praises Kylington’s creativity, IQ, and puck skills, calling him the “total package offensively.” Craig Button is lower on Kylington citing confidence issues, but could also see him turning into one of the best defensemen in the draft. Both note concerns about Kylington’s competitiveness and physical game in his own end of the rink, but I don’t think either of those as being a large enough reason to have him slide this far down in the first round, especially if his defense is already solid at Sweden’s highest pro level, as Pronman suggests.
For what it’s worth, watchers-of-the-games in Sweden also tell me that Kylington’s possession numbers are very good already, however we don’t really have enough context to judge how meaningful this nugget of information is. Still, if Oliver Kylington is on the board at 23rd and the Canucks select him, I will hardly be able to contain my excitement. I just can’t see 22 teams passing on him though.
25th Overall: Thomas Chabot
- Team: Saint John Sea Dogs
- Position: Defence
- Frame: 6’1, 181 lbs
- PCS: 14.8% success rate, 23.3 Pts/82 NHL GP
One of two highly-touted draft-eligible defenders on an up and coming Saint John Sea Dogs team, Thomas Chabot grew into an effective two-way defenseman in his sophomore QMJHL season. Scoring 12 goals and adding 29 assists, Chabot finished 5th on his team in scoring and led all Sea Dogs defenders in total points, while fellow draft-eligible Jakub Zboril out-produced him on a per-game basis. Chabot was also one of the highest scoring 17-year old defenders in the Q, as only Alexandre Carrier, Loik Leveille, and Jeremy Roy scored more total points among first time draft eligible defenders.
Currently, Chabot is a better offensive defenseman than defensive defenesman, however he could still hold two-way value at the next level. His skating is a definite strength, as he’s able to join the rush to create opportunities, as well as move around the rink with ease. Craig Button made mention how his toolkit showed glimpses of putting Chabot in the same conversation with Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov, and Zach Werenski, but this seems a bit presumptuous to me, especially since I haven’t seen anyone else hold this opinion.
Chabot also possesses good instincts and puck skills, and is able to see the ice well and stretch defenses with pinpoint passing. His 6’1-6’2 frame and competitiveness also allow him to have a fairly solid physical game, giving him good in-zone defensive potential too. Chabot may not project to fill a first-pairing role in the NHL, but he could be a very valuable top-4 defender, and would likely be considered Vancouver’s best defensive prospect should they snag him at 23rd.