Earlier this week, I brought back the ‘Benning Eye for the Stats Guy’ series, where I profiled some of the players who made an impact at games that Canucks GM Jim Benning was personally scouting.
Benning is but one man, though, so there are plenty of games he won’t be able to attend in person. Many of which will see their name called in Chicago at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Some by the Canucks, even.
With the Vancouver Giants moving to the Langley Events Centre this summer, I’ve been able to catch more than my fair share of games this season. Using the privilege afforded by my credentials, I figured I would put that to good use, in a new article series called ‘Scouting the WHL’.
For this series, it will only be games that I attend in person, some of which are likely to include all of the top 2017 draft prospects including Nolan Patrick and Kailer Yamamoto.
On Friday night, I attended the game at the LEC between the Kelowna Rockets and Vancouver Giants. The Rockets have a possible top 15 pick in Cal Foote, while the Giants have a couple of players who might hear their names called.
The Rockets left the LEC with a 6-4 victory.
For this edition, when we use pGPS, it is based on last season productions due to the smaller sample sizes available for this season. Later in the season, we will convert to the current season.
Callan Foote (Kelowna – #25)
The son of long-time NHL defenceman Adam Foote, Callan is trying to make a name for himself. Not known as a tough defenceman like his father, Cal is more of a big, rangy puck-mover. Corey Pronman at ESPN has him ranked as the 9th best prospect in this year’s upcoming draft, and provides a scouting report: (Paywall – which I highly recommend subscribing to)
Adam Foote’s kid put up significant scoring totals last season in the WHL, and should do so again this season. He’s a tall, bulky defenseman with good stick skills, and makes plays at both ends of the rink. His skating isn’t the best, but it’s decent for a 6-foot-3 player, and he can make plays because of his good overall hockey sense and work ethic. Foote will be a candidate for Canada’s WJC team this season.
When watching Foote, it appears he lacks that first burst of acceleration when trying to get around the ice. If he has some space and time to get going, he can keep up, but if you catch him flat-footed, there appears to be some ability to exploit him. This is something he will need to work on to take that next step, but as Pronman says above, he is decent in this area.
On Friday night, Foote misread a 3-on-2 situation, which allowed a pass to Benson, thus creating 2 on 1 down low. The Rockets goalie, Michael Herringer, misread the play and dove to poke it, missed, allowing Alec Baer to tap it into the yawning cage. Obviously, that part of the play wasn’t Foote’s fault, but being the direct cause of a more dangerous man advantage situation for the Giants is the concern.
He did have an assist on Friday night, but it was a pass for a one-timer that missed the net. Nick Merkley then grabbed the loose puck and scored a softy on Ryan Kubic. It was the exact definition of ‘noise’ when people talk about secondary assists.
Foote finished the night with one assist, +1 and 2 PIM.
The American-born defenceman, who wants to represent Canada at the international level, is currently tied for 13th in WHL defenceman scoring despite still not having lit the lamp yet this season. He does, however, lead all first-time draft eligible defenceman in points.
Using pGPS to look at Cal Foote, an extremely impressive 57.9% went onto becoming NHL regulars – that is in line with what you would hope for a player that is hovering the 10th overall area.
Kole Lind (Kelowna – #16)
Ranked as the 76th best prospect in the 2017 NHL Entry draft by Future Considerations, Lind ended the night with the game-winning goal. I reached out to Aynsley Scott, who is the producer of Hockey Prospect Radio on Sirius XM for a scouting report on Lind:
Right shooting right winger’s play is much bigger than his 61 180 pound frame would suggest. He came out hitting everything in sight, causing disruption and pressure on Giants defenders right from puck drop. Though not a speedster, Lind is very strong on his skates and has a powerful, agile skating stride with very strong lateral edge work. What set Lind apart as a draft eligible player in this game though was his ability to read the play and work off of his linemates effectively. He displayed a hard release on his wrist shot and got his stick on a couple of tipped shots that didn’t result in goals Showed the hockey sense to engage in a no-look pass that created a give and go in the offensive zone, Lind went hard to the net all night and scored the eventual GWG by picking up his own rebound 5 feet in front of the net. If he can consistently produce games of this quality he will be in the conversation as an early pick in 2017 for teams seeking a solid scoring winger.
The goal is below:
When using pGPS to look at Lind’s D-1 season, 15.3% of his matches went onto becoming NHL regulars. That is based on his 41 points in 70 games last season for the Rockets. At the moment, he at a point per game rate with eight goals and eleven assists in 19 games. If he can just hover around the PPG mark for the remainder in the season, he will see an increase in his draft stock and those prospect rating systems.
Regardless, he is a player to keep an eye on. He could very creep up into the late second round based on his hockey sense and the ability to be in the right place at the right time.
Dawson Holt (Vancouver – #10)
Dawson Holt was held off the score-sheet on Friday night, but he appears to be the Giants best 2017 draft eligible forward. In previous games that I have attended, Holt seems to have a knack for being in the right spot to make a play. He doesn’t always pull of the play, but the puck seems to find him.
Selected 8th in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, Holt has already equaled his point total from last season and looks to build off that going forward. With that being said, he likely won’t push himself into the earlier rounds of the draft, but I won’t be surprised to see a team take a flyer on him in the later rounds.
Using pGPS for Holt, only 4.6% went onto becoming NHL regulars. That is due his lacklustre production in the WHL during his D-1 season. Given that he has already matched his point totals, that number may see an increase as his draft season progresses.
James Malm (Vancouver – #14)
James Malm is another player who could hear his name called in the later rounds of the NHL Entry draft. He had a notable evening on Friday, posting two assists. The first was on the aforementioned play where Cal Foote was aggressive resulting in a 2 on 1 situation.
Not a particularly notable play on Malm’s part, but it’s still a positive to see him get the puck to his teammates – even though Benson couldn’t handle it. His second assist was:
It was a lucky bounce going in off the Kelowna defender, but still Malm has the vision to see the pinching Skeoch, and then saucers the pass to him.
Malm currently has 3 goals and 5 assists this season, which is a new WHL career high as he had 2 points in his rookie campaign.
There is some concern with Malm’s size, as he is measured at 5’9″ and 178 lbs, so he will need to continue to pile points and make plays to buck the size narrative.
For Malm, the same applies as Holt in terms of pGPS – due to an extremely low production during his D-1 season, only 2.9% of his comparable players went onto becoming NHL regulars.
Other 2017 Eligible players:
- Bailey Dhaliwal (Van – #4) – 1 assist, +2 (D-1 pGPS = 10.1%)
- Dylan Plouffe (Van – #6) – 0 points. (D-1 pGPS = 1.9%)
- Brendan Semchuk (Van – #27) – -2
- Trysten DeRoose (Van – #29) – 1 assist and 5 PIM
- Jon Smart (Kel – #6) – 1 assist and +3
New York Rangers 7th round pick Ty Ronning was held off the scoresheet on this night – but he displayed his tireless work ethic and wheels throughout the entire evening. Like Malm, he is always going to have battle uphill to overcome his small stature.
Nick Merkley has had a bit of a slow start to the season after recovering from an ACL tear that he suffered last season. He wasn’t as dominant as I’ve seen him in the past, but you can see that he is slowly rounding back to form. He looked very good for Team WHL on Monday night in the CHL/Russia series.
Lucas Johansen had a bit of a struggle on Friday night, getting beat in puck battles and not making the crisp breakouts that he is known for. Likely just an off night for the 2016 Washington Capitals first round pick.