Martin Gernat has been rising steadily since he was drafted in July of 2011. In his first edition of the Top 25, we knew almost nothing about the big blueliner who spent his draft year playing in Slovakia, and he was ranked 34th. That fall, Gernat came to the WHL and after just half a season with the Oil Kings, he shot up to 25th. After his North American debut and the 2012 draft were finished, Gernat moved all the way up to 16th. He missed most of the start of the 2012-13 season with a shoulder injury, but still managed to move up three spots to 13th in February, and after a strong playoff run with Oil Kings, he moves up to 10th this summer, passing David Musil, Dillon Simpson, and Teemu Hartikainen in the process.
What's driving his three-spot jump this time? Mostly what looks like a very strong playoff run with the Edmonton Oil Kings. Because of that, I decided to take a closer look at how the Oil Kings used their defensemen during the playoffs:
Some explanation is needed here. QC is a measure I use for quality of competition; it's the average points per game of the defenseman's forward opponents, and you can see by the QC of the two players Gernat played with the most (Ashton Sautner and Dysin Mayo) that something wonky is going on here. That wonkiness is the presence of Griffin Reinhart in the first two series and his absence in the last two.
Reinhart has the worst QC score among the regulars, but that's because he only played against the two weaker teams. After the first two series, Reinhart was among the leaders in QC alongside his regular partner, Cody Corbett, and the pair of Keegan Lowe and David Musil. That group was well clear of Gernat and his partners.
Sautner himself was suffering from an injury early in the playoffs, but was around for the entirety of the Portland series when he and Gernat were forced to play tougher minutes, which pushed him all the way to the top of the list. With Reinhart available, the coach didn't have the luxury of sheltering them to take advantage of offensive situations, probably one of the major reasons the Oil Kings lost that series.
The rest of Gernat's numbers look excellent. He is far and away the leading scorer on defense at five-on-five, and the Oil Kings outscored the opposition by a significant margin when Gernat was on the ice. I've used events per game as a proxy for time on ice in the past, and Gernat shows very well here too, though to be honest, I doubt he led the team during the playoffs, and if he did, I certainly don't think it was by such a wide margin. Of course, if that's the case, it means he was extremely efficient in driving offense from the blueline, something that's suggested by his higher than average IPP (individual point percentage = points / team goals for while the player is on the ice).
Overall, I'd say that Gernat's playoffs stand up well to scrutiny. He struggled a little when pressed into tougher minutes against Portland (he was +3 -5 in those six games), but his offensive results more generally are fantastic. Next season, Gernat will be moving to the pros, and it will be interesting to see how he plays when he's regularly seeing a higher level of competition. He clearly has some work to do on his defensive game, but the general feeling of the panel seems to be that Gernat's raw skill gives him a good chance to make it to the NHL if he can continue to improve on his ability to read the game defensively.
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