After considerable analysis of the 2004-2007 drafts (post lockout) it appears that on average, six elite fantasy prospects across all positions eventually emerge from each draft. ELITE is defined as a forward that can likely flirt with a point per game over a few seasons, defensemen that reach 45-50 points over a few seasons and goalies that are considered Top five to Top 10 for at least four to five seasons.
Interestingly there are roughly the same amounts of MODERATE players (six on average) that put up decent production. Moderate forwards consistently hit 50-65 points, defenseman hit 35-42 points while goalies at this level are usually average to mediocre No. 1 goalies.
By co-incidence it seems about six AVERAGE fantasy players also emerge from each draft. These are players that are streaky and can help in rotisserie pools or serve as depth players in regular fantasy pools.
The numbers are surprisingly consistent and numbers are usually an important adjunct to live scouting. There are always statistical
anomalies, but for the most part, predictions combined with careful scouting can determine who will succeed and who will fail. With the stats out of the way, it's time for scouting to enter the equation and this week we'll look at players who are headed for relatively
MODERATE Prospect - Nazem Kadri, Toronto.
On the cusp of becoming an elite player at the 2009 draft, a recent examination of the top nine players in this draft eliminated Kadri
completely from elite player status. Kadri's elite puck skills and his "Doug Gilmour like" determination and aggressiveness for a
relatively small player has been evident in the minors, but has not been evident in his NHL play. Sure he's only 21, but he really looks a lot more comfortable playing with good prospects and against minorleague opposition. His few attempts to prove himself at the NHL levelhave been disappointing although there has been some moderate improvementin his defensive game. Bear in mind that Brian Burke develops his prospects very slowly and keeps them in the minors forever. This has been taken into consideration in Kadri's assessment and his development is still relatively unimpressive.
Leafs Coach Ron Wilson's contention that Kadri looked faster and stronger at the beginning of the season earned him three NHL games before he was sent packing to the Marlies. What is the problem? There was considerable speculation among Leafs brass that Kadri would make a better winger than a centre. That indicates that he doesn't pass enough, a frequent Wilson complaint. Unless he learns to pass more, or worse, he doesn't have the vision to pass at the NHL level, his upside will be limited. Although he has been repeatedly asked by the organization to come to camp bulked up from his Gretzky-like 186 pounds, Kadri has yet to do so.
As much as he's improved his defensive play, it's still not NHL caliber and there is no way he's going to play centre in the NHL until he improves his passing, his weight and his defensive play. He also lacks explosiveness which prevents him from having elite NHL speed. His vertical leap and bench press at the 2009 scouting combine were poor. He's had two years to work on his deficiencies which would go a long way to help him offensively. He's got a lot of work ahead of him to consistently crack the top six and he's not likely to do so at centre.
His upside is as a top-six winger and it won't likely be in Toronto at least as long as Wilson is there.
AVERAGE Prospect - Zach Boychuk, Carolina.
One of the latest first line pseudo-busts, Boychuk has never been able to live up to his 91 point WHL season in 2006-07. He was drafted 14th overall the following year in 2008. Boychuk has two strikes against him that prevents him from becoming a good second line winger. First, he's only 5'10, 185 pounds and he's frequently outmuscled along the boards despite his incredible determination and quickness. Second, he plays decently in a defensive role (especially in open ice) because his speed covers a lot of passing lanes and his tenacity fits well on the third line.
Why Paul Maurice hasn't used him on Carolina's horrendous penalty kill is puzzling, but Maurice won't be coaching in Carolina much longer as the team appears to have quit on him. Maurice has been keeping Boychuk on a short leash, giving him mostly four to seven minutes of ice-time with the occasional 15 minute reward. The trust doesn't seem to be there and a coaching change can do nothing but help the young winger.
Boychuk's speed and grit gives him a definite NHL future as a third-line winger with the occasional stint in the top-six, although his time as an elite or even a moderate NHL player is over.
AVERAGE Prospect - Chris Kreider NYR
Colton Gillies was 6'4 and 200 pounds (later 220 pounds) when he was drafted 16th overall in 2007 by the Minnesota Wild. Gillies was billed as a two-way speedster with size, although his hands were a bit of a question mark. Seven years later, Gillies has three goals in 71 NHL games to date. The season after his draft year he notched 24 goals in 58 WHL games which along with his size and speed made him look like power forward material.
Colton Gillies' similarities to Kreider are loose but they bear some consideration. Kreider drafted 19th overall was largely considered by some to be the best skater in the 2009 draft but lacked hockey sense. He's currently listed at 6'3, 220 pounds with Gillies type speed and power game. The big difference is that Kreider is considered a sniper. Unfortunately, the snipes seem to somewhat limited to this point. In his first two college seasons he scored an extremely moderate 26 goals in 70 games. He's finally started to pot some goals in his junior year, as he's eighth in NCAA goal scoring.
As so many college goal scorers have found, (Hello, Matt Frattin), it's not always easy to translate college goals into NHL goals. As with Gillies before him, Kreider has been setup to fail if he's unable to score at the NHL level. As with Gillies, he's got to show that he's more than a big guy who can skate. His lack of hockey sense, passing skills and all around game have put a lot of pressure on Kreider. Until he proves he can score NHL goals, he's only an average prospect at best.