Prospect Ramblings: Draft Prospect A or B?
Welcome back to my weekly ramblings. We’re back this week with another edition of Player A or B! It was well-received last time so this week I’ll be expanding on some of the answers to the question I asked the Twitterverse. You guys gave me two players from the 2020 NHL Draft class and I chose between them and I’m giving reasons as to why I would choose that player if the draft were today. Without further ado, let’s get at it!
Wallinder or Grans?
— Tobias Pettersson (@ManUtdTobbe) January 30, 2020
This was one that I was hoping to get because it’s such a fluid situation with these two. I like that both defenders are strong skaters, have big frames and loads of potential. Both blueliners have the ability to move the puck up ice in transition and start the rush for their team but both achieve that goal with different means to the same ends. Wallinder is a puck possession transition player who likes to move up the ice with the puck on his stick. He utilizes his skating and weaves through traffic. Grans, on the other hand, uses his strong passing ability and puck skills to create space and then move the puck quickly onto the tape of his teammates. A negative aspect that both players share is that they seem to make mistakes positionally in their own end. They have been able to make up for it at times with long reach and excellent skating but the decision making defensively is questionable at times.
Where we can start to separate these two players is how they create their offense. Grans is a superior skilled offensive player but having that high-end skillset comes with making high-risk plays too often. Grans’ decision making with the puck is always rooted in offensive interests but at times he can be a bit over anxious to make a play. Above you can see Grans’ offensive ability on the powerplay. He threads the needle through traffic and then rings the return pass of the post. His willingness to try things is a testament to his creativity, which should be praised, but he needs to learn to make better decisions. He is at his best on the powerplay, with more space and time to thread passes through the offensive zone. His flaws have been picked on a bit more because the exposure to Grans has been greater for a longer time as he was identified early as one of the players to watch for the 2020 Draft as early as 2018.
Wallinder’s strength is that he has impressive tools and the puck carrying ability is intriguing but he lacks the offensive flair of Grans. His offensive game is more of a facilitator than a playmaker but he does flash big-play ability. The video above shows a long stretch pass by Wallinder that leads to a goal. He generally opts for the safer plays, using his skating to get to loose pucks and putting it back deep into the offensive zone. He seems to navigate the play rather than create, allowing his skilled forwards to do the work offensively while providing a shooting option at the blueline. He is far from inept offensively, he just doesn’t possess the flashy playmaking that a Grans does, albeit with a greater deal of certainty to his game. He has excellent physical tools, a decent IQ and works wonders in transition. He has been rising on draft rankings on the strength of those tools.
My Pick: Wallinder today, Grans tomorrow.
Tyler Tullio vs Oliver Suni
— Generals Live (@GeneralsUpdates) January 31, 2020
Tyler Tullio and Oliver Suni are two of the Oshawa Generals key offensive contributors and both happen to be available for the 2020 draft. There’s been debate all season as to which forward will get taken first because both bring different skill sets and both have been productive players this season with the Gens.
Oliver Suni came over to North America from Finland this summer and has seemed to acclimate himself quite quickly. He plays a very sturdy game. He uses his strong frame to drive the net and likes to get in on the forecheck. He gets to the dirty areas, can work the cycle and fights through contact around the net front. His playmaking is efficient and simple. He identifies passing lanes and puts the puck on teammates’ tape. He doesn’t have a ton of creativity to his game and his skating is fairly average but the young Finnish import has been producing.
Tullio doesn’t have the NHL-ready frame that Suni has but the 5’9″ Tullio plays just as hard on the forecheck. He plays a high-motor game with a fun and creative skillset. He has a very underrated shot, particularly dangerous as a one-time option from the faceoff dot. The clip above shows off Tullio’s ability to create as a playmaker. He isn’t the fastest skater but he is very agile and quick in tight areas. He has good hands and solid vision all over the offensive zone. Tullio does an excellent job of turning nothing into something. The upside is what intrigues me, especially in a league that is getting smaller.
My Pick: Tyler Tullio is my pick here based on upside and creativity.
Bourque vs Mercer vs Zary – the triple breakdown!
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) January 30, 2020
This is an intriguing trio of players in that I wouldn’t be shocked if any of the three were the best of the group five years from now. They all bring different skillsets and tools to the table. Mavrik Bourque is the flashy, silky offensive star who comes with some risk. Connor Zary is the safe, reliable two-way center who looks like a sure bet. Dawson Mercer is somewhere in the middle.
When Bourque is on, he is a treat to watch. You can marvel at his puck skills and command of the offensive game. He is shifty and highly skilled. He is a smooth skater who can gain speed in an instant. He is a fun player to watch and has you on the edge of your seat at times. Consistency is an issue at times as there are stretches where he leaves you wanting more. Below you can see an absolutely ridiculous goal Bourque scored in a seven-point effort recently against Halifax.
The safest and most easily projectable of the group is Connor Zary. The WHL star has been producing at a high rate offensively as expected for one of the older players in the draft class. Zary plays a very meat and potatoes kind of game. He is a smart player who knows where to be in the offensive zone and makes his opportunities count. His wrist shot is among the best of the draft class. He isn’t likely to be an NHL star but he should fit in as the second-line center on a good team.
The player who seems to find the balance between high-end upside and safe projectability is Dawson Mercer. He has been having a very good year and has fit in with Chicoutimi after being traded from Drummondville. He has a solid two-way game, playing a responsible defensive game. His puck skills are very high end which allows him to create space to attack with speed. Mercer has done everything expected of him and more this season. He was a surprise member of the Canadian World Junior just over a month ago as well.
My Pick: I’ll take the balance of the upside and projectability in Dawson Mercer but Zary isn’t far behind.
Two of the OHL’s premier goal scorers in the draft class. Jacob Perreault scored 30 goals last year as a rookie in the OHL and he’s surpassed that already in two-thirds of the games played. Jack Quinn has exploded onto the scene with 43 goals thus far, 31 goals more than his total last season. Goal scoring of this quantity is impressive at this stage of their junior careers. The clip below is of a sequence at the CHL Top Prospects Game where Perreault puts a perfect slap pass on the stick of Jack Quinn who makes no mistake.
Jack Quinn’s rise has been unexpected. He was expected to greatly improve upon his 12 goal output last year but scoring at a 0.895 G/GP clip was never expected. Quinn seems like a near-lock to score 50 goals this year and he has an outside shot at reaching 60. That kind of goal production can’t be ignored. While goal-scoring is his forte, the lack of playmaking is a concern when it comes to looking at what his overall upside could be. Quinn is a good skater but he isn’t going to blow anyone out of the water. Quinn is a bit one-dimensional which is always a bit of concern but if he can round out the rest of his game a bit, he should be an effective goal-scorer at the next level.
While not producing at the same rate, Perreault is almost as lethal of a goal scorer. He has shown the year-over-year consistency as well which speaks to his ability. He should break 40 goals this year and may eclipse the 80-point plateau. What’s been most impressive about Perreault’s development this year has been the massive step he’s taken in the skating department. He went from being a slightly above average skater to a very good one. He has improved his top speed with and without the puck and his stride seems much more efficient this year. This has allowed him to round out his game a bit more and has furthered his development as a two-way center. His game has diversified, adding speed to the outstanding shot and puck skills.
My Pick: Jacob Perreault wins out here for me because he has so much more than goal-scoring at this point.
Rami Määttä vs Luka Nyman.
I'm expecting a 1,000-word response to this, thank you very much.
— Jokke Nevalainen (@JokkeNevalainen) January 31, 2020
Leave it to Jokke to ask about late-round Finnish prospects. I did a little extra research to give a legitimate answer but after watching some video, reading a bit about each player and reviewing any notes I’ve had from viewings, here is what I’ve got for you.
Luka Nyman is a shifty little blueliner who skates well and has good offensive instincts. He has good hands and can make a move or two at the blue line to create space for himself to open up a passing or shooting lane. He is lacking strength and has quite a small frame (5’8″, 157lbs) and struggles in his own zone at times. He will need to put himself into better position with his skating in order to become a good enough defender to get to the next level. He can’t ride his flashy offensive game forever.
— Lassi Alanen (@lassialanen) September 28, 2019
Rami Määttä is a decent two-way defender to lacks pop in his game but has sneaky good puck skills. He is plagued by inconsistency but he is a capable puck mover and has a decent shot. He has a bit more size at 5’10” but is still on the smaller end of the scale for a defender. Like Nyman, he will have to get stronger to be successful at the next level. He doesn’t have the same top-speed that Nyman has but he isn’t far behind.
My Pick: Rami Määttä is a bit more projectable but Nyman has a bit more ‘fun’ to his game from my brief viewings but I think both players need some work overall to make it to the next level.
Thanks for joining me for my mid-week Ramblings! This week I had a bit of fun with an assist from all of you on Twitter! Feel free to comment below or reach out to me on Twitter @theTonyFerrari, my DMs are always open! Be sure to check out my Mid-Season Draft Rankings Breakdown for insight into my Top-100 and information on 60+ draft eligibles. The latest edition of ‘Shift Work‘ is out as well where I take a look at Swedish defender Helge Grans’ game!
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