Name: Joel Farabee
Team: U.S. National U18 Team (USDP)
Stats: 33 goals, 43 assists, 76 points
Position: Left wing
NHL Central Scouting Ranking: 12th (North American Skaters)
NHL Comparable Player: Adam Henrique
Let’s talk about intangibles. We use all kinds of buzzwords for them. Whether it’s the old school sports scout who calls them “heart/GRIT/determination” — or the young writer with a math degree and an ironic Twitter handle who considers them “latent variables.”
I think of intangibles as nothing more than cues. It’s the same way chess masters literally see the game differently by drawing from a recognition palette akin to a synesthete. People who experience senses that tripwire other senses to produce an instant cobweb of sensory perception — something Matthew McConaughey actually explained really well in True Detective.
Some players simply experience the game differently, and their personal cues motivate them to see more angles in the offensive zone; or anticipate their defensive gaps more intelligently; or just play that much harder than everyone else. I mention all of this because it wasn’t Jack Hughes (next year’s first overall pick), or Oliver Wahlstrom (a winger with top-five potential) who ended up captain of the US National U18 team — it was Farabee.
Whatever we think of “character”, whether we overstate it or understate it, we know it exists. We know it’s a cue for some players to lead by example, to excel when it matters most, and to move with just a little more purpose. This is what makes Farabee a hot commodity in this year’s draft (and the source of some hot debate).
Farabee plays the game with incredible pace. With his above average speed, focused more in edgework and agility, Farabee can drive the play and thus his line north-south in quick succession.
While Farabee isn’t dynamic on his own, the above clip is a good example of the tempo he’s able to create with drive. I agree with scouts who say Farabee doesn’t have “separation speed”, but Farabee is not the kind of player you give up ice to either.
Joel Farabee can turn on the jets pic.twitter.com/3xkxUtLOze— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) May 17, 2018
The other factor is what Farabee provides as a two-way threat. The phrase “two-way” has become a buzzword for a player who’s sound defensively, but in the modern NHL, it’s not enough to be good defensively. You have to counterpunch. Farabee is not just a two-way player, but a two-way threat.
That’s Farabee on the PK scoring a rather violent shorthanded goal.
While you never want to draw too much from one tournament, small sample sizes occasionally indicate patterns, similar to what happened to Miro Heiskanen, whose offense exploded at the World Juniors. Over the course of two World Juniors, Farabee has turned in a point per game performance, putting to rest any notion that he’s merely the product of a stacked junior team.
Is Farabee good enough for pick No. 13?
He might not even be there by the time Dallas picks. Scott Wheeler has him at No. 10, Steve Kournianos has him at No. 5 (!), Corey Pronman has him at No. 27 (?), and Jeremy Davis’ exhaustive numbers based approach has him at No. 14. What’s the catch?
Here’s Pronman on why he has Farabee (while talking about another draft-eligible player, Mattias Samuelsson) so low:
Farabee’s numbers have been fantastic this season. I’ve seen probably one-third of the USA U18 games this season between live and video views (and that number might be low) and I’ve never left a game loving either of them. That’s not to say I think they are bad players; both are quite good and are on my draft board. There are fierce advocates of both in the scouting community, for the draft slots I mentioned if not higher, as well as some skeptics. Farabee is a very intelligent two-way forward who sees the ice well and competes hard. Samuelsson is a 6-foot-4 defenseman with solid mobility, good intelligence and shuts guys down so well. However, on a skills level, I don’t see Farabee showing consistent top-six level ability.
It’s important to understand that Pronman tends to evaluate in tiers, and focuses more on raw talent, which might explain why Farabee’s defensive abilities are understated in his estimation.
My estimation is a little similar. At 6’0” and 168 pounds, Farabee’s frame is concerning not because size matters, but because part of his success comes from winning board battles, and hustling. Will these intangibles translate at the NHL level? I’m a little skeptical. Small successful players like Johnny Gaudreau or Alex DeBrincat offset their size with dynamic skill sets in other areas, like shooting or playmaking. Farabee can do both, but not at their level. Can he generate passes, shots, and space from winning battles against NHL bodies? To me that is the big question mark.
It’s something I saw watching Cole Ully in the AHL (who still belongs there in my opinion) — a very talented shooter, and player, but who seemed to play too much of a big man’s game in a small man’s body to let the rest of his skills flourish.
Obviously, Farabee is not Cole Ully. Nor is Farabee even that small (just slight). And Farabee is guaranteed to be an quality NHL player. But will he be the best player available if a better skater/playmaker is there, like Joe Veleno? Or a better finisher with better offensive instincts, like Jesperi Kotkaniemi? Or someone with better raw tools, like Vitali Kravtsov (whose KHL playoff totals were better than Valeri Nichushkin and Eeli Tolvanen as a U19)? Or players like Isac Lundestrom and Jonatan Berggren, who have shown comparable skill sets in tougher minutes?
It’s here where the idea of need vs. BPA breaks down. I don’t pretend to ask those questions rhetorically. From the footage I’ve watched, and opinions I’ve read, I don’t believe Farabee is better than the players who could potentially fall, let alone players in Farabee’s range. But I also didn’t believe Miro Heiskanen was the correct pick at No. 3 last year (don’t @ me).
Whatever the case, Farabee is what some would call a high floor, low ceiling pick. I prefer just looking at the player — he’s a quick, hardworking forward you can trust in all three zones (imagine Remi Elie, but with actual playmaking and finishing skills). That’s value no matter where you’re picking.