2015 NHL Draft: NHLe Ratings of Top Defensemen
NHL Equivalent scoring leaders among defensemen of the 2015 NHL Draft.
Part II is here. Hooray. This post will cover NHLe of defensemen in the draft. You can find part one by clicking this link.
All prospects have more to their game to consider than just offensive ability, but quality defensemen are often hard to identify because of the difficulty of differentiating between the defensive ability of players of similar skill. It's important to consider the whole package, but these are the top offensive defensemen in the class.
There are numerous players on this list who could provide value for their respective teams. Let's meet three of them.
Mitchell Vande Sompel
You already know why he's ranked so low. He's 5'10. Check out the offensive description McKeen's gives:
"finished fourth in OHL defence scoring (59-12-51-63) and a model of consistency after concerns about his size and staying healthy entering the season .. a calculated, heads up puck mover with great puck rushing ability and poise to make a play .. takes an extra step and holds onto the puck an extra second to secure the best possible option .. an elite skater whose strength is carrying the puck .. possesses impressive lateral quickness and crisp edges .. actively joins in the attack and spearheads the rush due to his deft footwork and ability to explode out of the zone .. utilizes a hard low shot often on the power play .. great recovery due to his uncanny first step quickness .. an outstanding backwards skater who uses his stick almost like an anchor to give him even more power and leverage .. his speed is generated through a series of rapid-fire crossovers .. very agile and quick off the mark in spite of a shorter stride .. powered by a well-balanced and strong lower body"
They mention two negatives. One, he needs to add more upper body strength. Well, sure. He's small. He also needs to improve in his own end. But, like with some of the forwards, this is a ton of skill to rate so low. There is reason to believe his defense is improving. Dan Stewart of Future Considerations:
"Vande Sompel really impressed me this season with his play in his own zone as someone who coach Smith could use in a multitude of situations while also taking advantage of his strong puck skills and vision with the puck. His versatility and work ethic are very promising.
Mike Morreale of NHL.com:
"As dynamic a defenseman as there is in this draft class. He can rule the point on the power play, but also serve as a tenacious forward on the penalty kill. He has great competitiveness and hockey sense.
There are risks with any prospect, but Vande Sompel offers an enticing package. He could be available at the Stars second round pick should they be interested. They already have several smallish players on the backend, but the draft should come down to taking the best player available as much as possible. Jim Nill loves skill, skating, and hockey IQ. There's a bunch of it in that 5'10 package.
Andersson, however, isn't in the tiny category. At 6'0 and 210 pounds he isn't going to get pushed around. He has the offensive and defensive tools to be successful.
Once again, from McKeen's:
Swedish import ranked third in scoring among OHL blueliners - and second in overall rookie scoring .. nominated for the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the league's top defenceman .. packs a potent shot and is a confident puckmover with good skill and vision .. his skating is flat, however, and misses some jump and elusiveness which contribute to defensive shortcomings along with a casual approach.
His head coach with the Barrie Colts, Dale Hawerchuk:
"He's got poise and you can see it," Hawerchuk said. "He's going to be key for us back there, but it will take a bit of time, especially with the Europeans coming over here and the smaller ice. He didn't seem to have too much difficulty when I watched him."
Two problems come up when you research Andersson a bit. Certain aspects of his skating draw questions, and his decision making has been questioned in his first season in the OHL. There is high boom potential here, but when IQ starts to get questioned the situation isn't so cut and dry.
Are you going to take a skilled productive player with these questions over someone universally praised for their IQ, praised for their skills, but at a lower level of production? The player in question here is Noah Hanifin. You're going to take his profile 999 times out of 1000 over Andersson because of fewer obstacles keeping him from NHL success, but how far does that mean Andersson should slide?
Right now he seems like a late 2nd rounder or early 3rd rounder. Any team that doesn't share these concerns could take him before that, including the Stars if they think the IQ questions are overblown.
Noah Hanifin has been considered a top three to five pick for a long time, but his offensive production raises more questions than it answers. He has a slightly lower NHLe than Ekblad and Honka did last year, but how the points were scored is important. Between Honka and Ekblad 39 goals were scored. Hanifin had five this past season with assists the main source of points, and we know how easily those can be handed out.
Six different defensemen rated out better in NHLe than Hanifin for this draft. Four of those are expected to go in the first round. Is Hanifin so much better defensively to justify taking him over, at the very least, Provorov?
McKeen's ranked the top 5 defensive defensemen in the draft. Hanifin came in second. They had this to say about him:
Hanifin's reach, sense and high-end mobility make him a tough defender to beat one-on-one anywhere on the ice
But, they had this to say about Provorov, the top defensive defenseman in the class:
Ivan Provorov is the consummate all-around defenceman. "He can do it all," noted one scout, "and that includes defensively. He's so smart and poised." Provorov turns the puck over on occasion, but no blueliner in recent drafts is any better at recovering from those mistakes with his guile, skill and determination.
Maybe he's being ranked lower because he's Russian, but from my view that's the top defenseman in this draft. Hanifin should end up being a fine player, but given the other options I'd be more inclined to find the rarer top notch offensive player with a premium pick. This draft is just too deep.
Then there's Jakub Zboril. From McKeen's again:
excellent skater - activates instantly into a long, crisp stride .. flows naturally forward as he receives pucks - initiates and kickstarts counters and fast breaks, stepping into attack and making the lead pass or carrying it up himself .. skating allows him to jump up into the play and still get back if need be .. biggest strength is a heavy, accurate shot from the point..a versatile option, playing the opposite side (right) .. plays a physical game with some jam, but question whether his size will allow him to duplicate it at the pro-level
The shot is his saving grace. He did score 13 goals in his initial junior campaign, but that's a really low NHLe for a prospect projected to go in the first round. He would have to be incredible defensively to be worth taking over the guys at the top of this list. He isn't getting that kind of praise for his defense though. Again he could work out, but this is a red flag to keep in mind.
And there you have it. Two posts longer than any human wants to read about potential bargain prospects who the Stars may not even like.