Yesterday I profiled some of the lower ranked forwards in the North American ranks that caught my eye and the favour of pGPS alike. Those players weren’t so ignominiously ranked without reason. Each player comes with their own set of warts that serve to raise red flags within the scouting community. Some of those players have just enough skill though to warrant consideration from the middle rounds of the draft and beyond.
There’s a similarly imperfect but intriguing lot from Europe, where things get especially interesting. Though they haven’t the name recognition in NHL markets as some of their North American peers, this year’s crop of Europeans can offer similar returns on the draft picks spent on them. Canucks fans should know this all too well based on last year’s draft, when they snagged Dmitry Zhukenov and Lukas Jasek at the very tail end of the draft.
Let’s leap across the pond to look at some forwards who could be deemed as ‘under the radar’ in the later rounds.
Mathias From (Ranked: 26th EU Skaters)
- Age: 18, 1997-12-16
- Birthplace: Frederikshavn, Denmark
- Frame: 6’1″, 187 lbs.
- Position: RW/LW
- Handedness: R
- Draft Year Team: Rogle BK & Rogle BK U20
- Accomplishments/Awards: U18 WJC (D1A) Best Forward (14/15), U18 WJC (D1A) Most Goals (14/15), U18 WJC (D1A) Gold Medal Forward (14/15)
A strong transitional forward with solid offensive and defensive upside. Defensively, always active and keeps himself mobile to make sure he’s in a good spot to keep the opposition on their toes. Sees lanes well and is excellent at taking pucks away and moving them up the ice for scoring chances. Offensively, he drives to the net and has a great shot. Definitely not afraid of the physical side of the game, and can play that all-important power role. Mathias From is a multidimensional buzzsaw that has the drive and skill to net wins and contribute in multiple areas of the game.
From, who can play both wings, made his mark in the World Junior Hockey Championships playing for Denmark. That performance was sandwiched on either side by prolonged stays in the SHL and U20 SHL to bookend his year.
As far as raw physical talent goes, From possesses a full toolkit with playmaking abilities, good skating and puckhandling alike. My only critique is that From shows himself as a jack of all trades and master of none to this point in his career, but with a little refinement that could easily change and springboard him into the NHL. As his stay in the SHL would indicate, From is already physically mature enough to handle playing against men.
When we use pGPS to look at From, he is the highest rated for our ‘under the radar’ European skaters with 30.2% going on to become NHL regulars. That percentage is also the third highest for SHL players behind consensus first round pick Carl Grundstrom and another player on our list.
From is on the older side of the draft class, but given that he has already seen some action in the SHL against men, it isn’t something to be overly concerned about.
From feels like a player that will get taken in the mid to late rounds that will quietly develop into a serviceable NHL player, and maybe more.
Tim Wahlgren (Ranked: 87th EU Skaters)
- Age: 18, 1998-03-08
- Birthplace: Karmfors, Sweden
- Frame: 6’0″, 181 lbs.
- Position: C
- Handedness: R
- Draft Year Team: Modo Hockey, Modo U20 & Modo U18
- Accomplishments/Awards: U18 WJC Silver Medal (15/16), Hlinka Memorial Silver Medal (15/16), U17 WHC Bronze Medal (14/15)
Last month, Shawn Reis over at Leafs Nation wrote about the 51% Rule in regards to SHL players. It was something uncovered by former Canucksarmy Josh Weissbock and Moneypuck. Rather than trying to re-write it, I will let Shawn explain it:
Basically, they found out that since the inception of the Swedish Hockey League back in the mid-70s, 51% of all players that played in that league under the age of 18 that also had a points per game of at least .09, ended up playing 200 NHL games or more*. That even included players that played as little as a handful of games in the league.
Tim Wahlgren is one such player to meet the thresholds for the 51% rule — a group highlighted by likely first-round picks in Grundstrom and Rasmus Asplund. That’s impressive company to keep, especially as the 87th ranked European skater. Then again, one could reasonably quibble with that ranking based on his showing at the U18 tournament, where Wahlgren posted six goals in seven games.
There isn’t any one part of Wahlgren’s game that jumps out at you. His is a more understated game, marked by all the little things he does well. Wahlgren has a good shot, skating ability and defensive chops. Overall he has a strong base to build from and with further time and development that could translate into an NHL career. Corey Pronman from ESPN has Wahlgren ranked as the 87th player in the draft and glows about the young Swedes game.
Wahlgren was one of the top scorers in the top Sweden junior league and was impressive as well for Sweden’s under-18 team. He’s a very good skater who plays with a real intensity and constantly pressures opponents. He can be a handful to take the puck away from and kills penalties effectively due to his speed, work ethic and IQ. He’s not an insignificant puck handler by any means, as Wahlgren can show the occasional flash of skill, but he won’t be a primary puck carrier on a scoring line, by any means. Overall though, he shows pretty good anticipation and decision-making, rarely working plays that create a negative for his team. He has a shot to be an effective two-way forward as a pro.
Viewed through the lens of pGPS, an impressive 21.3% of Wahlgren’s statistical and stature based comparable players went on to have successful NHL careers. Relative to where Wahlgren is expected to fall in the draft, his value way exceeds the pick a team will likely spend on him.
Taking all of these factors in and my own viewings, I am a little shocked that Wahlgren was ranked so low by NHL CSS, and won’t be surprised to see him go to a team in Buffalo.
Kristian Reichel (Ranked: 119th EU Skaters)
- Age: 18, 1998-06-11
- Birthplace: Czech Republic
- Frame: 6’0″, 168 lbs.
- Position: C
- Handedness: R
- Draft Year Team: HC Litvinov
- Accomplishments/Awards: N/A
Kristian Reichel, the son of former NHL’er Robert Reichel, is looking a likely candidate to hear his name called late in the draft proceedings. He probably shouldn’t though and as such represents value added on the second day of the draft. Pronman ranks Reichel 86th overall, one spot above the aforementioned Wahlgren.
The son of longtime NHL player Robert Reichel (who was also his coach this season at the under-18 level), he was solid in international play and was a regular in the top Czech league this season. There are a fair amount of tools to like from Reichel. He is a 6-foot-1 center with above-average speed and can make skilled plays with the puck. He’s not a dynamic highlight reel, but versus his age group, he has usually found ways to stand out. Reichel can show good vision with the puck and has some creativity too. His off-the-puck play isn’t horrible, and while he’ll make the odd good defensive play and win some battles, there is a lot of room for improvement there — particularly if he wants to stay down the middle.
Seeing Reichel ranked so lowly was a bit of a surprise considering he’s already played against men in the Czech Republic’s Extraliiga. Playing against men in your draft year is seen a hugely positive sign. Canucks 2016 sixth-round pick, Lukas Jasek, played 27 games in Extraliiga in the 2014-15 and had two points to show for it. Reichel appeared in 15 games this season and finished with four points. Reichel was also relatively productive on an undermanned Czech side at the U18 tournament, with three assists in five games.
One of the major concerns for Reichel is his slight frame. He’ll need to add to the either 170 or 150 lbs (depending on which resource you use) he currently has on his 6’0″ frame to survive in the NHL.
Kristian is a very good skater, particularly on his edges and switching directions quickly. He has a very good shot and should get better as he gets stronger. He has good offensive instincts and reads the play well and is regarded as a shoot first player. He does have trouble with battling in the defensive zone, but again that is likely attributed to his slight frame. His shot is on display on the goal below:
When looking at pGPS for Reichel, a very impressive 26.3% went onto becoming NHL regulars. Luckily there were 80 matches, so it isn’t a small sample size to work with. Obviously a player like Reichel is a long term project, but he has the skill-set to build on that taking him in the later rounds isn’t crazy despite his low ranking by NHL CSS.
Filip Lestan (Ranked: 74th EU Skaters)
- Age: 18, 1997-11-26
- Birthplace: Zilina, Slovakia
- Frame: 6’5″, 192 lbs.
- Position: RW/LW
- Handedness: L
- Draft Year Team: HV71 & HV71 U20
- Accomplishments/Awards: N/A
Filip Lestan is a big-bodied winger that doesn’t mess around. Nor does he take prisoners, as the video I’ve posted will attest.
Though the rough stuff is what sticks out in Lestan’s game, he’s not the singular minded goon his 111 penalty minutes in 22 U20 games would suggest. The Slovakian winger has good hands and can skate well for his size. He represented Slovakia at the World Juniors and took regular shifts on their second, scoring the one goal in five games.
pGPS shines a favourable light on Lestan’s long-term prospects, as 40% of him comparable players going on to enjoy successful NHL careers. I’d suggest those numbers might overstate his chances though, as the sample size is only five players in his cohort.
If a team is looking for a big-bodied player with some skill – than Lestan is a pretty good bet.
Players of the late-round distinction aren’t elite or overly impressive with any one aspect of their game. It’s about finding skill sets then that offer enough to imagine development into an NHL contributor. With the possible exception of Lestan, all the players have a good base to build from.
They likely all won’t become NHL players, but when you are entering the latter rounds, the key is to try and limit your risk and secure value. All of these players appear to have a chance reap rewards.
Tomorrow, we jump back to the North America and bring the search to defenceman.