Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sunday Top 10 - 2011 NHL Draft Re-Entries

This is definitely a mainstay on this blog. My annual (2010, 2009) list of the top draft re-entries that the Ontario Hockey League has to offer for the NHL Entry Draft.

Just to clarify yet again, for those with limited understanding of the NHL draft system; North American players have either two or three years to get drafted, depending on their birth date. For those born from January 1 to September 15, they will go through three NHL drafts. For those born from September 16 to December 31, they will go through two NHL drafts. The players on this list are a mix of those having been passed over once or twice already.

Also, do not confuse this list with players drafted in 2009 who will re-enter the draft should they fail to come to a contractual agreement with their NHL team by June 1 (and whose birth date still allows them to be eligible). Quite often those too are referred to as draft re-entries. But this list does not contain them because it is not yet known who those players will be.

Over the past two NHL drafts, 36 draft re-entries (in the way I've defined them above) have been selected by NHL clubs. And that's just CHL players.

Let's breakdown the options of it all and prove, essentially, why the strategy of drafting second and third year eligible players from the Canadian Hockey League is a smart idea.

If an NHL team drafts a second year eligible player, they have the following options:

1. Sign the player and play them in the NHL.

2. Send the player back to the CHL for two more seasons (including an overage year).

3. Send the player back to the CHL for one more season, sign them and play them in the AHL/ECHL the next season.

4. Send the player back to the CHL for one more season, allow them to sign an ATO with an AHL team the next season to test their pro potential.

If an NHL team drafts a third year eligible player, they have the following options:

1. Sign the player and play them in the NHL.

2. Sign the player and play them in the AHL/ECHL.

3. Send the player back to the CHL for their overage season, Sign them and play them in the AHL/ECHL the next season.

4. Send the player back to the CHL for their overage season, allow them to sign an ATO with an AHL team the next season to test their pro potential.

5. Allow them to play two seasons in the AHL/ECHL on an ATO to see what pro potential they may have.

As an NHL General Manager, using this strategy allows you to effectively cheat the drafting system. You can test the pro ability of your draft picks without having to actually sign them to an NHL deal (and wasting a 50 contact spot). Best of all you'd still keep their rights and have the exclusive opportunity to sign them if they do well. And if the struggle with the transition, as most CHL players do, you can release them without wasting a contract. Contrast this with drafting a first year eligible (born January 1-September 15) player from the CHL. You'll have to make a decision about signing them BEFORE they're professionally maybe a handful of AHL playoff games following the conclusion of their CHL season.

Of the players appearing on the 2010 list (see above), only two were drafted but 2 others have since gone on to sign NHL contracts after their overage season. Of the players appearing on the 2009 list (see above), 4 ended up getting drafted, but 9 of 10 have NHL contracts now.

So let's look at this year's list.

10. Steven Beyers - Barrie Colts
Beyers was ranked 199th by Central Scouting for last years draft after playing an injury plagued season with Orangeville of the CCHL. But the 18 year old joined Barrie this year (following former Crusher coach Hawerchuk) and showcased a very strong offensive ability in his rookie season. He's not the biggest forward, but he's a very strong skater and is very elusive around the net. He's got good puck skill and finished third in scoring for the Colts with 65 points. He's definitely one of those waterbug kind of guys who looks to create offense off the rush and tries to create space for himself with his good hands. While his OHL worst -50 (no joke) may point to serious concerns about his ability to play without the puck, this area of his game actually made great strides this year. While there is obviously still room for improvement, by the end of the season, he had become active in puck pursuit, was working in the corners, paying the price in front of the net and actually played a pretty significant role on the team's penalty kill. He'll be an offensive centerpiece for the Colts moving forward and I wouldn't be surprised if he hit the 70-80 point mark next year.

9. Mitchell Heard - Plymouth Whalers
Heard made great strides over the course of the season for the Whalers and became a pretty integral part of the team's offense. After failing to crack Plymouth full time last year, Heard definitely put on size (and height) this offseason. He's now 6'2, 180lbs and does a lot of things well down the middle. He's a good playmaker who can control the pace of play in the offensive end, and is aggressive in taking the puck to the net and into the slot. He's got very good hands and can finish plays off too. Heard is also very strong on faceoffs, a quality many NHL teams do not overlook. At times, he can be prone to turnovers in the offensive end, but his great improvement this season should not go unnoticed. With Robbie Czarnik moving to the pro ranks next year, Heard has a chance to start next year as the team's first line center.

8. Adrian Robertson - Windsor Spitfires
A real revelation this year for the Spitfires. While he was on his way to a career year offensively in Peterborough, it was the trade to Windsor which really allowed Robertson to blossom. Pairing with Ryan Ellis, Robertson looked great as a physical two way blueliner. He was fantastic in the playoffs and I think gave us a glimpse of what might be to come next year (his overage season), where he'll have a chance of being one of the league's top defenseman. Robertson has the size you look for in an NHL blueliner and has an intriguing blend of physicality and skill. I was definitely surprised by his offensive production in this year's playoffs, but he looked very comfortable moving the puck and might have some offensive potential at the next level. In the past, NHL teams have taken chances on re-entry defenseman like Robertson (Andrew Campbell, Dalton Prout). If he doesn't get drafted, he'll likely have a very good year next year and could be a candidate for an NHL signing (ala Marc Cantin).

7. Andrew Shaw - Owen Sound Attack
A fan favourite in Niagara, Shaw was a quality checking line player who could do pretty much everything. While he showed glimpses of breaking out offensively, he could never really get over the hump. The trade to Owen Sound really allowed him to blossom. Pairing with the hard hitting Mike Halmo (and an assortment of wingers), Shaw's secondary scoring was a main reason why the Attack had such a strong season. He's also been absolutely fantastic in the playoffs thus far, with 8 goals and a point per game. Shaw may not be an overly big player (pushing 6'0), but he's absolutely fearless on the ice. He can skate, he drops the mitts, and he plays both ends of the ice. Shaw led the Attack with 4 shorthanded goals and definitely has some offensive potential for the next level. As an energy guy with skill, NHL teams could do a lot worse in potential prospects for their checking line.

6. Taylor Carnevale - Windsor Spitfires
I had Carnevale at number 5 on this list last year and I was actually pretty surprised nobody picked him up. He's definitely a finesse player, but he's pretty well rounded. He has good offensive instincts and finds himself in good scoring positions, but he's also a good set up man and can work the cycle behind the net. He also kills penalties and is good on faceoffs. Ultimately, I wonder if NHL teams are confused as to what type of role he'd play at the next level. Is he good enough offensively to play on the top two lines? Probably not. So can he increase his intensity and improve his play away from the puck enough to be a more skilled 3rd line guy? I think he'll have a big offensive season next year as an OA (where ever he ends up playing) and is definitely a potential professional prospect.

5. Ramis Sadikov - Erie Otters
Sadikov had a heck of a second season in the OHL after struggling through last year as a back up. He was the workhorse of the OHL, leading the league in games played and minutes played. He also finished second in wins with 36 and 4th in save percentage at .912. While his performance was definitely impressive, perhaps more appealing to NHL scouts would be his size at 6'4. He covers a lot of the net in a hybrid style and does well to make himself bigger by challenging shooters at the top of the crease. Sadikov uses his stick very effectively in net too. He uses the pokecheck more than any goaltender I've seen. While he could stand to improve his rebound control and lateral quickness, both areas did improve this year and I think he's got a lot of potential for the next level.

4. Josh Shalla - Saginaw Spirit
After scoring 32 goals last year in his inaugural draft year (late birth date 1991), many expected Shalla to be a mid round pick in 2010. But he went through the draft unselected, probably due to concerns over his skating and play without the puck. This year, he came back with conviction and scored 47 goals (5th in the OHL). I'm really not sure he's done a lot to improve the areas that kept him undrafted last year. But as a pure goal scorer, there aren't many better in the OHL. He's got a deceptively fast release on his shot and doesn't need a lot of room to put the puck in the net. He's also got great scoring instincts. Shalla is one of those guys who always seems to find the garbage in front of the net. While the skating might hamper his ability to find space at the NHL level, his size (at 6'2) definitely helps to counter that. He's really not afraid to take punishment in front of the net and has the strength to have success in that area. Most promising was probably Shalla's playoff performance this year. He had a very disappointing playoffs last year, but was easily Saginaw's best forward this time around and showed a lot of leadership in trying to guide the Spirit deep into the playoffs. Bottom line; you can't teach goal scoring.

3. Matt Petgrave - Owen Sound Attack
I thought someone might take a chance on Petgrave last year, but I will admit he was quite raw as an OHL rookie. He had a penchant for turning the puck over in his own end and trying to force the play up ice. He also got caught running around, trying to play the body. I know one scout who just wasn't sure he had a heck of a lot of hockey sense to match his potential ability. But the trade to Owen Sound really helped him to blossom. While still prone to the occasional turnover, Petgrave did a great job of trying to keep things simple this season. While he didn't stop rushing the puck (using his strong straight ahead skating ability), he did pick his spots better. He also refined his physical game and focused more attention in being intense in the crease area, as opposed to running around looking for the big hit in the open ice or along the boards. He definitely became a solid two way defenseman this season and he's carried that into the playoffs with a strong performance (including a hat trick the other night). Here's hoping NHL scouts have taken notice of his progression.

2. Michael Houser - London Knights
Houser missed the cut off for the 2011 NHL draft by two days last year, making him one of the youngest players available in 2010. Despite being ranked 11th by Central Scouting, he went through the draft unselected. Taking over the starting role in London this year, Houser was absolutely fantastic from start to finish. While the numbers don't jump out at you (3.32 GAA, .904 SV%), you'd have to watch him to understand his importance to London and just how well he played. He kept his team in nearly every game he played and showed a lot of improvement in his rebound control and ability to read and react to the play around him. His athleticism really allowed him to steal some games for the Knights this year and without him, they probably wouldn't have made the playoffs.And even though the Knights lost in six games to Owen Sound, Houser was fantastic and the reason the series even went that far.

1. Andy Andreoff - Oshawa Generals
Andreoff really exploded this year, taking on a huge offensive role on a young Generals team. Others definitely took notice. Andreoff was named the East's most underrated player and the third most improved player in this year's Coaches Poll. He's a very complete player who can play any forward position (but had most of his success down the middle this year). He's 6'1, 205lbs and plays like it. He drives hard to the net with and without the puck and is a load to handle down low and in the corners. He's got a very heavy shot, but also has soft hands and in many situations will look to pass before shooting. Andreoff is also a very physical player who's involved without the puck and plays both ends. He's a factor on the penalty kill (2nd in the OHL in shorthanded points with 7). In a lot of ways, Andreoff is a very similar player to Mississauga's Rob Flick who was a draft re-entry selection last year. He could definitely be a quality 3rd line center at the NHL level and a guy who could be very valuable to an NHL roster.

Honorable Mention

There will absolutely be some other draft re-entries who get a look through the draft or through a free agent signing (following the draft or after next season). Here are some other names to consider.

Luke Judson of the Belleville Bulls is a hard working, physical winger who can also put the puck in the net. He wears the "C" for the Bulls, and plays in all situations, but he was also passed over last year after I had him ranked number 2 on my list.

Colin Behenna and Brett Thompson are two undersized scorers. Thompson has posted back to back 40 goal seasons, while Behenna exploded offensively to finish in the top 10 of scoring this year.

Marc Zanetti and Jake Cardwell are defenseman for the Ottawa 67's. Zanetti made some great strides this year at both ends of the ice. Cardwell was excellent after coming over from Sudbury, and like Zanetti is capable at both ends.

Owen Sound forward Mike Halmo was excellent when paired with Andrew Shaw this season. He's one of the hardest hitters and hardest workers in the OHL and showed he can put the puck in the net this year too.

Also from the Attack, stay at home defenseman Jay Gilbert has been a rock this season for Owen Sound (and previously Plymouth). He has the size NHL scouts covet and actually saw some time on the powerplay this year too.

Beau Schmitz is someone who always generates interest on these types of lists, but the captain of the Whalers has been passed over the past two seasons and isn't any different of a player now than he was then.

Saginaw's undersized defenseman Ryan O'Connor had an excellent offensive season this year and also improved his defensive play. But scouts shied away from him last year after an equally solid season.

Lastly, two Sudbury Wolves. Defenseman Josh McFadden is an interesting case. He's a tremendous offensive defenseman who's skill with the puck and shot from the point is matched by few in the league. But he's such a high risk player and a liability in his own end, could he survive as a defenseman at the next level? Also, forward Andrey Kuchin was fantastic to close out the season. He's undersized but really improved his play without the puck as the season went on. If he stays as an overager next year and the team keeps the Kuchin, Sgarbossa, Leivo line together, he could be among the leaders in scoring.


Thomas said...

Poor Colin MacDonald. Can't ever get any respect.

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Sunday Top 10 - 2011 NHL Draft Re-Entries are very useful for all. Quite often those too are referred to as draft re-entries. But this list does not contain them because it is not yet known who those players will be.

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