CHL Update - The Best Player Available Is...

TORONTO CANADA - JANUARY 19: Sean Couturier #7 of Team Cherry fires a backhand shot on Liam Liston #33 of Team Orr in the 2011 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Prospects game on January 19 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

It is somewhat sad that for the second year running, Edmonton Oilers' fans are in a debating who to pick 1st overall in the upcoming draft. Last season it was Taylor Hall versus Tyler Seguin, but this season things are not as clearcut. There are four prospects who are legitimate contenders for the first overall selection and a few others who are solid contenders for picks 3-5.  I think by now almost all Oiler fans are familiar with Sean Couturier, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson, and Gabriel Landeskog. What we are not sure about is which player is the right one to pick 1st overall.

One point that often comes up in almost any discussion with respect to the draft is the 'pick the best player available' argument. It is nearly universally accepted that a team must always choose the best available prospect in the draft. However, what decides who really is the best available prospect? Is he the big center who has been dominating his junior league for a couple of seasons, or is it the center who has taken big strides in his development every year? What about that defenseman who is logging upwards of 24 minutes a game in playoff series in the SEL? Many times, it is not easy to ascertain who the best player is and this is definitely one of those drafts. Let us then try to make some headway in this regard.

After the jump, I will compare these prospects: we have the regular season and playoff totals of the top CHL prospects for this year's draft and can compare those to the seasons put up by Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin one year ago.

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One thing I want to say before we talk about the draft eligible players is that had I done this last season, I would probably have been in team Hall rather than team Seguin - primarily due to him having very low zero point games, which shows his consistency.

Analysis:

  • The first thing that jumps at you is the high number of OHL players on that list.  This was initially considered a weak draft for the OHL, but much like the last few seasons, the OHL should be dominant in the top 10 once again. Furthermore, to refute all the talk about this being a weak draft in general, all the players on that table have accomplished a very good scoring rate in their repsective leagues. All of Huberdeau, Strome and Nugent-Hopkins ended up scoring more than 100 points. At one time, it looked like Sean Couturier might hit that mark, but he ended up four points short thanks to a slow end to the season. That said, we can see from table 3 that he leads all of the draft-eligible players in points per game and had he not played in the World Juniors, he would have crossed the 100-point mark as well.  But it doesn't seem like there is anyone who is of the same caliber as the players who went 1-2 last season.
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has received a lot of rave reviews for his play this season. Recently, Dean Millard and Guy Flaming pointed out that he has scored 17 goals in the last 20 games of his season. However, I have the same concern with him as before, his ratio of PP points to ES points.  His PP points per game compares favorably with Taylor Hall, but his ES production is way off.  Taylor Hall scored at ES at a rate 50% higher than Nugent-Hopkins. However, his ES production has improved from earlier in the season.
  • I think it is time that we take out Gabriel Landeskog from the conversation for the 1st overall pick.  He just hasn't put enough points up as compared to his competitors.  He has all of the tools to be a very good player, but the ankle injury really set him back.  His production tailed off and now that Kitchener is out of the playoffs, his stock will take a hit considering the others have gone on to the second round with impressive performances. Ten points in seven games is good of course, but it just does not compare with the nine in four and eight in four put up by Couturier and Nugent-Hopkins.
  • Doug Hamilton has been a horse for the Ice Dogs and it seems like he is locked in as the second best defenseman in the draft. He has 58 points in the regular season, which establishes a new club record for points by a defenseman. His great play has carried into the playoffs where he has out-performed his team-mate Ryan Strome, doubling his point total. 
  • Since this is the first year I have done the percentage contribution, I really dont know what to think of it. It makes sense that a player on a strong team will have a lower percentage than one on a weak club. So it boils down to whether its better to be on a strong club in your draft year or a weaker one? While Hall is a good example of the former, Stamkos definitely was on a a weak club.  I am really not sure and will leave the interpretation up to the readers. 
  • For a more in depth look into Adam Larsson, there are quality articles from Lowetide here and Derek has raised the issue here.  Quoting Kirk Luedeke from his Bruins Draft Watch blog:

Larsson had some up-and-down performances in international tournaments, but saved some of his best for the World Jr. Championship. He showed off his powerful stride and ability to move well laterally, and was especially good at moving the puck and making outlet passes. Larsson is a smart guy who sees the ice well and has a high panic point, meaning he'll hold onto the puck until the last possible second for his teammates to get open, meaning he often takes a good amount of hits over the course of a game and season. He also has a booming shot and can score his share of them from the point.

Finally, my rankings with strengths and cons:

1.  Adam Larsson: Big defenseman playing big minutes against men; injury and lack of production

2.  Sean Couturier: Big center; skating and Dustin Penner-like in using his size

3.  Doug Hamilton: Big all situation defenseman; basically came out of nowhere and still raw

4.  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins:  Small crafty center with great hockey sense; smallish and lack of production at ES

5.  Gabriel Landeskog: Big gritty winger and a leader; lack of production

6.  Jonathan Huberdeau: Crafty center; slightly built and came out of nowhere

7.  Ryan Strome: Another slick playmaking center; again production was a big surprise

8.  Ryan Murphy: smooth skating defenseman and a very good PP quarterback; small 

 

Tomorrow we will focus on the rest of the players and and try to get a better ranking of the defensemen in the draft.

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