USHL Monthly Report: Sean Behrens deep dive

Hadi Kalakeche

2021-06-15

Welcome back to another edition of the USHL monthly report.

This time around, we will take a look at a polarizing defenseman from the U.S. National Team Development Program, Sean Behrens. The 5-10, 175-pound left-handed blueliner has put up 18 points in 23 USHL games, showing decent distribution and puck-moving abilities. His size and point totals indicate that he might be more of an offensive-leaning defenseman, but he has spent an almost equal amount of time on the penalty kill, breaking down opposing five-man units with his multi-layered defensive game. He currently holds the 53rd position in our 2021 NHL Draft rankings.

There are some conflicting reports regarding Behrens’ play – some scouts have written him off as a Samuel Girard-type with no discernable physical element to his game, whereas others have lauded his physical presence and have come away surprised by how efficient he was with his body along the boards and on the rush. This case study will serve to break down exactly what kind of player Behrens could turn out to be.

Video Report

Before proceeding with Behrens’ written analysis, please watch this short analysis video describing Behrens’ strengths and weaknesses:

 

Written Analysis

Immeasurables

Here we evaluate Behrens’ skating, IQ, mentality, and stickhandling, which cannot be quantified appropriately and require in-depth eye-test analysis:

Skating: B

Behrens’ skating is decent enough to allow him to get around forecheckers with little to no effort – he can push off his inside edge quickly to cut across approaching forecheckers, and is very adept at blending fakes into his skating stride. His crossovers seem under-utilized and do not have as much dynamism to them as most defenders his size, but Behrens’ skating is not a deficiency by any means. In-depth work with pro-level skating coaches should rectify the kinks in Behrens’ skating as he grows into his final product.

IQ: B+

Not often does a defender manage pressure and solve problems as consistently as Behrens does. His ability to make the right read and put the puck out of the forechecker’s reach for his teammate to pick up is impressive, and he seems as comfortable with two players closing in on him as he is when retrieving a puck in his zone without pressure. His brain might well be his sharpest tool, as he rarely zones out or gets lost in coverage. His habits are sound – he scans the ice constantly, communicates with his teammates, and overall makes his teammates’ lives easier on the ice.

Mentality: B

Behrens’ aggression is a tool that allows him to stay in the game mentally at all times, without necessarily turning him dirty; he seldom loses his cool and seems to know instinctively what the limit is. He can be spotted cross-checking forwards out of the way in front of the net, but never seems to overdo it and draw a penalty. He is also very driven, competitive, and resilient, not faltering at the first sign of a mistake. He gets back up and tries again because he knows his own game very well.

Stickhandling: B+

When Behrens carries the puck out of his zone, there is very little opponents can do to disrupt him. He carried the puck end-to-end six times in the four games tracked and very rarely does he shy away from incoming forecheckers. A quick head, shoulder, or leg fake and he’s on the other side of the forechecker with open ice to skate into. As he develops, the transition game should become his bread-and-butter.

Statistical Profile

Stats are hand-collected and even-strength only, unless indicated otherwise. Collected using approx. 60 minutes of ice-time at 5v5 over four games. 

Passing: A

  • Success rate: 88/116 – 75.8%
  •  High-danger pass attempts: 5/9 – 55.6%
  • Shot assists: 8
  • Breakout passes: 20

Analysis: Behrens’ passing is pinpoint, he zips passes tape-to-tape and has outstanding vision when looking for passing lanes. Especially on the powerplay, Behrens is able to adjust his posture and hands to free up a lane between defenders and needs no time at all to execute a crisp pass to an open teammate. He loves the breakout pass, finding teammates in full stride with relative ease. He also puts up his fair share of shot assists for a defenseman, contributing to scoring chances with regularity and pinching often to keep plays alive and outnumber the opponent down low.

Retrievals: B+

  • Loose: 36
  • Contested: 22/36 – 61.1%

Analysis: I expected Behrens to do much worse than he did in this category; he can get outmuscled, but it is rarer than anticipated. He boasts solid leg and core strength, and has a good understanding of weight transfer and balance, leading him to compete physically with opponents much larger than him. He wins the majority of his puck battles and is often well-placed to retrieve loose pucks on dump-ins and turnovers.

Line carries and transition: B+

  • Defensive blue line: 14
  • Red line: 13
  • Offensive blue line: 14
  • Three-line carries: 6
  • Dump-outs: 1
  • Dump-ins: 5

Analysis: Behrens’ tendency to work aggressively in the neutral zone leads him to carry the puck through the offensive zone as much as he exits the defensive zone. His ability to beat the first forechecker and accelerate into open ice makes him a threat on the rush, and he seldom gets knocked off the puck when skating it out himself. He only dumped the puck out of his zone once, almost always preferring the pass or carry. His poise, when faced with pressure, allows him to retain possession much more efficiently than a defender who clears it off the glass at the first opportunity.

Play-driving: B

(on-ice team stats)

  • Passes to slot for vs. against: 13-8 – 61.9%
  • Zone entries for vs against: 42-29 – 59.1%
  • Shot attempts for vs. against: 48-34 – 58.5%
  • High-danger chances for vs. against: 17-15 – 53.1%
  • Goal share relative to team (via Pick224, season stats): -3.06% – Goal share is 3% worse with Behrens on the ice compared to the team’s average.
  • Goal share (via Pick224, season stats):  50% 

Analysis: Behrens’ play-driving stems from his ability to lead the rush, as well as his good first pass out of the defensive zone. His team holds a majority in all play-driving metrics with him on the ice, but the actual results do not reflect this. This usually points to lower quality of teammates, specifically a lack of finishing in the attackers he plays with. It is difficult to not see Behrens drive play positively at higher levels.

Defense (5v5 + Penalty Kill stats): B+

  • Dump-ins against vs. Line carries against: 23-18 – 56.1%
  • Individual zone entry denials: 5  
  • Puck checks (with stick or skate): 17  
  • Body checks: 15     
  • Blocked passes: 18 
  • Blocked shots:  2 

Analysis: Behrens’ defensive metrics are impressive – he tallies over 15 body checks, stick or skate checks, and blocked passes per 60 minutes, and he forces many dump-ins on his half of the defensive zone with timely step-ups and an active stick. The only issue with Behrens’ play in his own end is his inability to properly get in the way of opposing shots, which is a result of both his underwhelming size and his poor technique when bracing for impact.

Shooting: D+

  • On vs off net: 4-7 – 36.3%
  • Slap vs other: 0-11
  • One-timers: 0
  • Outside vs. slot: 6-5
  • Shooting % (Pick224, season stats): 15.38%
  • Goals: 0

Analysis: Behrens took zero slap shots and zero one-timers in the four games that were tracked for this case study. This does not bode well for a power-play quarterback who will attempt to find his game as a defenseman with offensive capabilities as he develops. He will need to diversify his shooting arsenal, on top of adding strength to his release, if he wishes to score goals with consistency at higher levels and see more power-play time.

Conclusion

Although Behrens’ size does act as a small detriment when it comes to his shot-blocking ability and shooting, it does not seem to hold him back from throwing hits, outmuscling opponents along the boards, and overall playing an aggressive, in-your-face brand of defense. On top of his strong defensive prowess, Behrens can pass it like few can in this draft and has the brains to make quick, smart decisions under pressure. He should absolutely earn a top-50 pick, and could even sneak into the first round if teams are looking for an offensive blueliner capable of holding his own physically and defensively.

Follow me on Twitter @HadiK_Scouting for more prospect-related content!

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