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Photo Credit: Matthew Henderson

2018 NHL Draft Preliminary Rankings: 6 to 10

Yesterday we kicked off the 2018 preliminary ranking with my top 5 picks for next year’s draft. Today, we’ll explore the next handful of prospects: this article covers sixth through tenth. This section of the list continues a few patterns that presented themselves in the first group, namely that we’ll see a few puck-rushing offensive defencemen, as well as a few younger brothers of recent high draft picks.

One of the reasons that I’ve gone so in-depth on these prospects is that is gives me the opportunity to dig deep on some statistical and league-specific anomalies that I come across in my research, such as the increase in NHL equivalency for Czech league production that I talked about in the Filip Zadina section yesterday. Today’s article will include, among copious amounts of prospect coverage, an exploration into the inherent extremes of relative on-ice stats for the U18 and U17 US National Team Development Program rosters.

A Rundown of the Stats Used In These Articles

If you’ve already read this in the previous article, you can go ahead and skip this section.

You can get draft lists from a myriad of sources, but since you came to Canucks Army, you can expect somewhat of a statistical lean. There will be video and some scouting reports as well, but much ink will be spilled on stats, as we have metrics here that you won’t find anywhere else. What follows is a brief description of each of the stats referenced in the tables below.

  • Age: Exact age to two decimal points, calculated as of September 15th, 2016. That date is used for draft purposes – anyone with an exact age greater than or equal to 16.00 and less than 17.00 as of that date will be eligible for the first time at the 2018 draft.
  • Box Cars: GP, G, A, P stand for the standard Games Played, Goals, Assists, and Points, during the 2016-17 regular season.
  • Sh/GP: Shots on goal per games played.
  • GF%: Percentage of 5-on-5 on-ice goals scored in favour of the player’s team.
  • GF%rel: The difference between the player’s on-ice GF% relative to the team’s GF% when the player is off the ice.
  • pGPS:
    • xSucc is Expected Success Rate for the player, based on how many similar players reached a 200 NHL game threshold, weighted by similarity.
    • xPro/82 is the Expected Production of the player over 82 games, based on how similar players produced in the NHL, weighted by similarity.
    • xVal is Expected Value, the product of xSucc and xPro/82. Check this article to see an Expected Value curve from last year’s draft to get an idea of what constitutes a “good” xVal. Last year the expected values in the first round ranged from about 35 to 15.
  • SEAL: The SEAL adjusted scoring value. SEAL stands for Situational, Era, Age, and League. Here’s a rundown of the current iteration of SEAL, which evolved from a technique that Garret Hohl pioneered for the 2015 draft.

Certain metrics are only available for certain leagues, depending on how easily available the data is to the public, and in some cases whether or not Dylan Kirkby (our resident programmer) and I have had the time to set up the necessary data scrapers. Here’s a run down on which metrics are available in which leagues.

  • pGPS: I can run pGPS data on about 20 leagues right now, so at the top of the draft, it’s easier just to say which leagues it doesn’t do. For the purposes of this list, the missing leagues are: the MHL (Russian Junior), SM-Liiga Nuorten (Finnish Junior).
  • SEAL: SEAL adjustments are currently available for all CHL leagues (WHL, OHL, QMJHL), USHL, NCAA, SHL, and Czech Extraliga. Dependent on availability of situational scoring data.
  • GF% and GF%rel: Currently available for all CHL leagues (WHL, OHL, QMJHL), USHL, SHL, and Czech Extraliga.

#6 – Brady Tkachuk (C – NCAA)

Age Height Nat. Season League GP G A P Sh/GP GF% GF%rel pGPS xSucc xPro/ 82 pGPS xVal SEAL
17.00 6.02 USA 2016-17 USHL 22 11 10 21 3.50 57.6% +14.5% 38% 44 16.8 0.870

Our third younger brother on this list, Brady Tkachuk is the younger brother of Matthew Tkachuk, picked sixth overall by the Flames in 2016. That of course also makes him the son of Keith Tkachuk, and there is every bit of mean in Brady as there was in his father. Like the other members of his family, Brady Tkachuk makes a living storming through the rough areas of the ice, thriving on battles and creating havoc. Also like his brother at this point, his skating is only slightly above average. He does however have an excellent shot and terrific hockey sense, playing a highly intelligent game predicated on turning pucks over and creating chances either by making smart plays to teammates in dangerous areas, or by getting his shot off from a variety of angles.

With 21 points in 22 games, Tkachuk had a good, if not great season. His SEAL adjusted scoring rate of 0.87 ranked 11th among his draft class, falling back a little because of his age – Tkachuk was just one day away from being a member of the 2017 draft class. Statistical matches via pGPS include Kyle Okposo and USNTDP alumni R.J. Umberger and Adam Hall.

His on-ice metrics were fantastic, with a 57.6% goals-for percentage, and a +14.5% mark relative to his teammates. The one caveat here is this: pretty much all the USNTDP players have wild swings in relative ratios, because of how their USHL season plays out. The U18 and U17 National Development programs share one USHL team called Team USA, with each squad playing a portion of the team’s USHL schedule. The squad not playing against USHL teams with play international tournaments or college teams, switching out with one another. Frequently the U18 team will perform better at the USHL level than the U17, and as a result, this is creates stellar off-ice percentages for U17 players and terrible off-ice percentages for U18 players, creating relative detriments and benefits respectively. Back to Brady Tkachuk, his 57% goals-for ratio should still garner an appropriate amount of respect, but his relative percentage should be taken with a grain of salt.

If there is one area of concern to be had from a statistical point of view, it is with his teammate splits. A large part of the reason that his GF%rel is so high is that he spent so much time with the NTDP’s better players. His most frequent linemate at 5-on-5 (by percentage of shared events) was Josh Norris, who was selected 19th overall by San Jose at this past draft. Away from Norris, Tkachuk’s GF% dropped below 50% (in this situation he’d be primarily with Evan Barratt, who otherwise had a strong goal ratio).

Of bigger concern is the drop in production. Tkachuk spent an estimated 33% of his 5-on-5 ice time away from Norris, but produced only 14% percent of his 5-on-5 points in that situation, leading to a dramatic drop in his estimated P60 (follow the black arrow in the top section of the chart):

Plenty of stats-inclined folk wondered how much Matthew Tkachuk benefited from playing with Mitch Marner and Christian Dvorak, and he did just fine in his rookie season with the Calgary Flames (in fact, he was excellent), so I’ll be extra hesitant in bumping Brady down the list because of teammate-related concerns. Luckily, we have another full season to evaluate him. After aging out of the National Development Program, Tkachuk will be joining Boston University next season instead.

#7 – Quinton Hughes (D – USNTDP)

Age Height Nat. Season League GP G A P Sh/GP GF% GF%rel pGPS xSucc xPro/ 82 pGPS xVal SEAL
16.92 5.09 USA 2016-17 USHL 24 4 20 24 1.65 52.1% +8.8% 1.165

Quinn Hughes is one of many dynamic offensive defenders at this top of this draft class. His skating is his best asset, and combined with excellent puck handling and good on-ice vision, he is an adept puck rusher. His agility and lateral movement make him dangerous along the blueline in the offensive zone as well.

Hughes possesses plenty of offensive weapons, including a very impressive shot. But even though he didn’t score, it’s hard to beat the game he played on November 23rd of last season, when he piled up five assists against the Muskegan Lumberjacks.

As an undersized defencemen producing at a point per game in the USHL, Quinton Hughes had no pGPS matches. What he did have, however, was a stellar SEAL adjusted scoring rate. His 1.17 rate was the best among defencemen and second only to Andrei Svechnikov in the whole draft class.

Like Brady Tkachuk, Hughes’ GF%rel numbers’ benefited from him being on the U18 squad as opposed to the U17 squad. His unadjusted goals-for percentage of 52% isn’t quite as impressive as Tkachuk’s is, but it’s certainly still in the black. However, WOWY’s suggest that many of his teammate’s on-ice numbers improved when away from him, though in some cases (such as with Grant Mismash and Evan Barratt), the shared ice time was a detriment to all parties.

Too old to return to the USNTDP, Hughes is committed to the University of Michigan for the 2017-18 season. Too old to play in the U18 tournaments this year, he also has a shot to make the U20 World Junior team, having played for the United States at the World Junior Showcase a couple of weeks ago.

#8 – Anderson MacDonald (LW – QMJHL)

Age Height Nat. Season League GP G A P Sh/GP GF% GF%rel pGPS xSucc xPro/ 82 pGPS xVal SEAL
16.33 6.02 CAN 2016-17 QMJHL 50 29 12 41 3.00 40.0% -1.2% 48% 47 22.4 0.971

Anderson MacDonald is a goal-scorer developing a power forward game for the Sherbrooke Phoenix in the QMJHL. In his rookie season in major-junior, he tallied 29 goals, while adding 12 assists, in 50 games. Among his strengths are his shot and his willingness to grind out plays in the offensive zone. He has a powerful shot that follows from a short windup and a quick release. On the flipside, his skating lacks explosiveness and some scouting reports have questioned his conditioning. His work ethic away from the puck is not nearly as voracious as when he has possession. These are, however, detriments, that can sometimes be hammered out with maturity.

MacDonald’s SEAL adjusted scoring rate of 0.97 was the 5th highest of the sample, and his 27 5-on-5 primary points were the second most (behind Andrei Svechnikov, of course). He led all draft-minus-one players in power play goals with 11, but before you assume that his totals were lopsided, he still managed the second most 5-on-5 goals (18). He was the only draft-minus-one player in the entire CHL to reach the 3.0 shots per game threshold, a feat achieved by very few players in other leagues either (Svechnikov, Brady Tkachuk, and Rasmus Dahlin highlight a very small list of these elite shot generators).

His point rate and other statistical and biological factors led pGPS to assign to him an Expected Success Rate of nearly 50%, with successful matches including Steve Bernier, Sylvain Turgeon, and Alex Tanguay.

His on-ice numbers do leave plenty to be desired. MacDonald played on an exceptionally poor Sherbrooke team that finished the QMJHL season with a minus-55 goal differential at 5-on-5. MacDonald didn’t exactly help the situation, posting a goals-for percentage of 40%. With or without him, very few teammates were able to post GF%’s at or near 50%.

MacDonald will look to improve his prospects going into his draft season and should be one of the top prospects available in the QMJHL this coming season. He should also get some reps in international play. After just participating in the Ivan Hlinka tournament, he figures to represent Canada again at the World Under-18’s in the Spring.

#9 – Adam Boqvist (D – SHL)

Age Height Nat. Season League GP G A P Sh/GP GF% GF%rel pGPS xSucc xPro/ 82 pGPS xVal SEAL
16.09 5.10 SWE 2016-17 Superelit 18 4 12 16 2.28 74% 78 57.6

The top end of this draft is chock full of highly skilled offensive defencemen. After Dahlin, Merkley, and Hughes, Sweden’s Adam Boqvist (younger brother of Jesper Boqvist) is already the third such rushing defender on this list, and we haven’t even gotten out of the top ten yet. Boqvist bears a fair amount of resemblance to his countryman Rasmus Dahlin, though as a bit of a tuned-down version: he has many of the same attributes, but prefers the safe, high percentage plays over Dahlin’s creativity and dazzle – though he does have some flair and showcases it on select occasions. He possesses high end skating, passing, and shooting, and sees the ice tremendously well.

At 5-foot-10, size is a drawback, but he is still considered a very good defender because of his positioning and quick directional changes that allows him to inhibit rushes and box out skaters in his own zone. Physicality could be a challenge for him, but isn’t one that he’s had to deal with at this juncture.

Boqvist split last season between the U20 Superelit league and Sweden’s top U18 league, as well as some international play, but seeing no professional games. It would have been preferable if he’d gotten some SHL experience, but in addition to his lack of physical robustness, Boqvist very young for his draft class – he doesn’t turn 17 until next week.

Boqvist was dominant during his time in the U18 league, and produced at nearly a point per game in the U20 league. He had but two statistical matches for his Superelit season, with one of them (the one with the higher degree of similarity) being Erik Karlsson, accounting for a sky high Expected Value of 57.6. Boqvist put 41 shots on net in his 18 games, for a shots per game rate of 2.28, which was the third best in the league among draft-minus-one players.

Ideally, Boqvist will get some time in the SHL next season (like with his parent-club Brynas, where his brother has seen spot duty the last couple of seasons, or at least in the Allsvenskan – the only Boqvist spent 19 games on loan to Timra IK last year.

#10 – Isac Lundestrom (C/LW – SHL)

Age Height Nat. Season League GP G A P Sh/GP GF% GF%rel pGPS xSucc xPro/ 82 pGPS xVal SEAL
16.86 6.00 SWE 2016-17 SHL 45 3 3 6 0.31  38.1% -12.2% 73% 56 40.9 0.571
Superelit 10 3 4 7 3.60 12% 35 4.1

While Adam Boqvist didn’t see any games in the SHL last year, this next Swede spent nearly his entire season there. Isac Lundestrom, who turned 17 shortly into the campaign, played 45 games with Lulea HF, scoring three goals and six points. His point rate is largely inconsequential – as we often say, the fact that he was there at all at his age is a positive factor.

Lundestrom also had a four game cameo in the SHL in 2015-16, his draft-minus-two season. The prevailing wisdom is that his high level of hockey intelligence and his compete level are what has afforded him that opportunity, with the scouts in HockeyProspect.com’s Black Book stating that he “does a lot of the little things on the ice that coaches appreciate”. We are still very much living in the world where doing “the little things” can have greater success at winning over coaches than pure talent, but the ideal situation arises when a player can do both. He is given the chance to show that talent because certain small habits have endeared him to a coaching staff.

Lundestrom is an all situations type player, knowing both how to run a power play and how to be valuable on a penalty kill. With the puck, he tends to be more of a playmaker, but he also has a quick wrist shot and can score goals all on his own as well.

Lundestrom’s 2016-17 stint in the SuperElit league was short lived, participating in 10 games and putting up seven points. He averaged 3.6 shots on net per game, and garnered an Expected Success Rate of 12%, counting Jakob Silfverberg and Alex Steen among his comparables there.

In the SHL, his production rate translated to 0.571 after SEAL adjustments, 22nd among draft-minus-one players in that database. Despite a lack of raw production, his SHL season gave an Expected Success Rate of 73% (I told you it’s good just to be there), with the d-1 seasons of Nicklas Backstrom and both Sedin twins being on the list of matches.

The major negative from a statistical standpoint is his 38.1% Goals-for percentage, made worse by the fact that Lulea was roughly a 50/50 team when he was off the ice. Of course, he was a 17-year old playing in a men’s league – I’m not sure how much we should expect him to dominate two-way play. It’ll be something to keep an eye on next season.

  • Burnabybob

    The Canucks should probably aim for defensemen in 2018 given that 1) they have only one defenseman (Juolevi) among their top ten prospects 2) they lost Tryamkin 3) they have a shortage of offensive defensemen in their system, and 4) there are several promising young offensive d-men available.

    Given their luck, they will probably fall a couple of spots in the draft, but Merkley, Hughes, and Boqvist all look good.

  • apr

    I don’t know….but there is something awfully enticing with Gaudette centering Gadjovich and Brady Tkachuk on a second line in 3 years. Doesn’t sound like much fin to play against.