I like stats, to the point that Josh Weissbock and I developed the Prospect Cohort Success method to put a value on the potential of upcoming prospects, and to track their development over time. However, Jim Benning does not rely on stats at all. He relies on his eyes, and amazingly, it’s getting harder and harder to critique his draft record. He is a scout at heart, and his eyes aren’t all that bad.
We’ve become accustomed to Benning’s long mid-season scouting trips, and we’ve seen players who have shined in games where Benning was in attendance have their name called by the Canucks in June.
In the Sun last week, we read about Benning’s latest scouting road show, where Saturday night’s Windsor Spitfires/Erie Otters game was mentioned specifically. This is a game that makes a lot of sense for Benning to watch as both teams are loaded with high end 2016 draft eligible talent, and both are among the top teams in the OHL.
The game was a typical high scoring junior affair, with both teams trading goals until halfway through the third period where Windsor pulled ahead with two unanswered goals on route to a 6-4 victory.
Let’s take a look at how some of the top 2016 draft prospects looked on Saturday through Benning’s eyes.
Taylor Raddysh – RW – Erie Otters (GP 16, G: 6, A: 19, Pts: 25, PCS pace: 42% PCS)
The first prospect to register a point was Taylor Raddysh. Raddysh hasn’t managed to crack any of the top 30 lists so far, but that may change given his early play this season. The 6’2, 200lb winger is undoubtedly benefiting from playing with some excellent offensive linemates in Erie, but he’s more than holding his own, and the tools look to be there. Here is Raddysh using his frame to protect the puck along the boards before dishing to Dylan Strome, who in turn flipped it to Eric Cernak for the Otter’s first goal of the game. Second assists aren’t something we tend to get too excited about, but this goal was very much the result of solid work from Raddysh:
Alex Debrincat – C – Erie Otters (GP: 15, G: 22, A: 10, Pts: 32, 2015-16 PCS pace: 41%)
The second goal for the Otters came from Alex Debrincat, the 5’7 spark plug powering the Otters offense in the early part of this season. Debrincat has been superb so far this year and was coming off a 5 point effort the night before. Given his size, there are legitimate concerns that his game may not translate to the pro level, although his closest historical peers have converted at a pretty respectable rate (on pace for 41% PCS so far this season).
Here is his first goal of the game, where Debrincat is the beneficiary of exceptional passing from Raddysh and Strome. Again, note Raddysh’s exceptional work through the neutral zone here, and impressive passing skills to set up this Debrincat goal:
Debrincat’s second goal of the night is similar to his first, in that he found himself in a position to fill the net because of the exceptional playmaking of his teammates. Note the passing between Dylan Strome and Kyle Maksimovich (2016 draft eligible, PCS pace 8%), enabling Debrincat to net the easy one:
Logan Brown – C – Windsor Spitfires (GP: 10, G: 2, A: 12, Pts: 14, PCS pace: 58%)
Of the prospect in this game, the most highly touted by far is Logan Brown of the Spitfires, currently ranked #8 by ISS, which is consistent with his scorching hot 58% PCS pace. Brown was relatively quiet in this game, but did show excellent hands and passing skills when he set up Cole Carter for in the game-winning goal for Windsor:
Takeaways From Benning’s Eyes
So what will Benning likely take away from this one game sample? Debrincat scored two goals tonight, but in both instances he was really capitalizing on the exceptional playmaking of his teammates, unlike the 5 point effort he had the game before.
When I look at Debrincat’s performance through Benning’s eyes, I see an undersized forward with great hands, that scored a pair of opportunistic goals from real estate he’s unlikely to get at the NHL level. Based on this one game sample, this may lead Benning to conclude that Debrincat’s offensive totals aren’t as impressive as they look on paper.
Logan Brown was quiet most of the night, but had a gorgeous assist on the game-winning goal, which is likely something that would have impressed Benning considerably. The Spitfires other highly touted prospect, Russian defender Mikhail Sergachyov, didn’t do much of anything, which may have been enough for Benning to cross him off the list.
The guy who may have benefited the most tonight was Taylor Raddysh, who looked good all game long. If he continues to play the way he has early this year, he could very well turn out to be a late first rounder, however if he doesn’t, I could see this being a guy Benning would look long and hard at later in the draft based on his first impression in this game.
Benning Eye for the Stats Guy Prospect of the Game: Taylor Raddysh