Wednesday Chat: Re-assessing potential draft choices based on Bob McKenzie’s rankings

Yesterday, Bob McKenzie released his final rankings for the 2022 NHL draft. Katya already covered it a bit here. I want to take the opportunity to update some of my profiles I’ve already written, and add some extra commentary as well.

First, let’s look at the prospects I’ve already profiled and how I grouped them:

Pipe dreams that I just hoped would fall to Toronto:

  • Brad Lambert — Bob ranked him 16th, which is a bit lower than before but not as much as I thought might happen. So he’s still probably not likely to fall to the Leafs at 25th overall, but I do see a possibility that he falls more on draft day.
  • Liam Öhgren — Bob ranked him 21st, which is not as high as I thought he would be. That’s within Toronto’s range, even if he’s ranked a bit before we pick. He’s in a general tier of guys who could go anywhere as high as 15th or into the second round, honestly.
  • Pavel Mintyukov — Bob had him ranked 12th, which is very outside of Toronto’s range.
  • Kevin Korchinski — Bob had him ranked 11th, so same thing here.

Then there were the guys I thought would be more likely to be available where the Leafs pick in the first round:

  • Gleb Trikozov — Bob had him ranked 57th, which is higher than I was expecting to be honest. That’s taking him a bit outside Toronto’s range for the third round pick, but if they trade down or acquire a second round pick by trading Justin Holl or something, that would be the ideal range to take Gleb. I’d still take him outright with the first round pick, though.
  • Jiri Kulich — Bob had him ranked 18th, which is a HUGE jump from the mid-season rankings. It takes him a bit outside Toronto’s range, but I mentioned before the tier that’s in is pretty same-y from the middle of the first round to the end of it. So he’s not likely to be available, but it shouldn’t be a huge shock if he is.
  • Owen Pickering — Bob had him ranked 23rd, which puts him solidly in Toronto’s range. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him taken higher than this on draft day, however.
  • Denton Mateychuk — Bob had him ranked 24th, which is solidly in Toronto’s range and I WOULD be shocked if he gets taken any higher than this.
  • Sam Rinzel — Bob had him ranked 31st, which is very much in Toronto’s range even if he does get taken a bit higher than that, by Toronto for example.

And finally, this week we are in the middle of releasing profiles on guys I thought would be interesting as third round picks. Now, it’s worth noting that even when I was choosing some of these I assumed some of them were not likely to be ranked or available when the Leafs’ pick comes up at 79th. But there’s always the possibility of trading down from their first round pick, or trading a roster player, where they wind up getting an extra pick between their first and third round pick. So I still wanted to choose some who would make sense in that range, such as…

  • Adam Sýkora — Bob had him ranked 63rd, which seems far from Toronto’s 79th overall pick but at that point in the draft even Bob’s rankings can start getting thrown out and it becomes a wild west.
  • Jagger Firkus — Bob had him ranked 34th, so you can bump him into the group of guys you’d take with their first round pick instead of their third.
  • Isaiah George (out later this morning) — Bob had him ranked 69th (nice), which is solidly in their range.
  • Christian Kyrou (out Thursday) — Bob had him ranked 78th, which is almost as solid as you can be in Toronto’s range.
  • Lane Hutson (out Friday) — Bob had him ranked 40th, a big bump from his mid-season rankings and also puts him closer to the range of their first round pick than their third. Like Gleb, Hutson would be an ideal candidate to take with a second round pick if they acquire one. Just due to his size, I’d say he’s more likely to wind up being taken later than 40th — smaller defensemen like him, from the same program, almost always get taken later than where McKenzie had them ranked.

I also wound up making some adjustments to the lists of potential seventh rounders I was working on, since some of them wound up in Bob’s top 90 or honourable mentions. That would make them very unlikely to fall all the way into the 200’s on draft day.

All of this said, there’s a few things I want to mention when it comes to reading McKenzie’s rankings. His draft rankings are one of the best resources to use for me when it comes to picking prospects to write about. That’s not because he provides the best analysis of prospects, or he has the best “success” rate in identifying the best prospects to ultimately succeed in the NHL.

What Bob does is form his rankings as a consensus after he talks with NHL team scouts. He doesn’t talk to every team, it’s more using his insider connections to talk with people he trusts to get an idea of the lay of the land. That’s why his rankings are good — they are typically the most accurate prediction of how the draft will shake out.

But there’s some issues with assuming he will be 100% accurate, because even he isn’t with stuff like this. Because he doesn’t talk with every team, his rankings will more reflect the opinions of those teams he does talk with. If he talks with a scout of one team has someone ranked really high or really low, relative to the others, that will skew the rankings. If he doesn’t talk with them, that would also skew it the other way.

I have heard from some professional (but public) scouts, who also talk with NHL team scouts, that this year it seems there is far less consensus among teams than usual. Some teams have guys like Lian Bichsel or Owen Pickering in the top 10, but in Bob’s rankings they’re ranked 26th and 23rd respectively. Bob’s rankings may best illustrate the general feeling among NHL teams, but it only takes one team to make a “surprise” pick higher in the draft. Whenever there’s a shocking pick, that’s why. See Ottawa’s choice of Tyler Boucher at 10th overall last year, as an example.

The other thing is that, as I mentioned above, his rankings get far less accurate the later the draft goes. This is because there are always clear tiers of prospects at the top of the draft. We almost always know who the first overall will be, and the list of names who are in the top 5, top 10, and top 15 — roughly speaking. The order might change slightly, but not by much. After that point, every year you’ll start seeing the tiers of prospects get bigger and the lines between each tier more blurred.

This is where the consensus among teams breaks down more and more, and you start getting team scouts advocating for their personal favourites. Who their personal favourites are, and what scouts the GMs ultimately trust, will depend on their own philosophy about what is the best kind of prospect to draft. Does the team prefer bigger guys? More skilled guys? Better skaters? Better shooters? Smarter players? Do they have stronger connections or pipelines with prospects playing for a particular team, or in a particular league? Starting somewhere in the second round is usually where you start to see this more and more.

That’s why I still say that Sýkora and George, who Bob ranked 10+ spots before Toronto’s second round pick, are still within Toronto’s range. But it’s also why I say Kulich, who is only seven spots away from their first round pick, is probably more beyond the range.

LINKS FROM THE BRANCHES

Jam-packed July in the NHL — A reminder of the weird July schedule this year | by Katya

Recently, Gary Bettman announced that next season will begin in mid-October with a standard schedule of preseason in September. That will set the stage for (we all fervently hope) the rest of the schedule to return to familiar dates.

For this offseason, everything is compressed into the first two weeks of July, as the Stanley Cup Final ran almost two weeks later than usual. A reminder of the July key dates is in order.

Risk vs. Reward: The Ville Husso question | by TLN

What we can glean from this, in my opinion, is that Husso is an inconsistent presence. St. Louis’ defence hasn’t seen much change throughout his time as a mainstay on the roster, and at the end of the day, it’s a goaltenders job to stop pucks. That’s something he does either to near-perfection, or not at all.

Given what what said off the top about the short memory of GMs, it’s very likely that should Husso become a free agent, he will be receiving offers in the $4-or-$5 million range, at minimum, given his results in the regular season last year.

Analysis: Maple Leafs lock up Timothy Liljegren to two-year contract after promising rookie season | by MLHS

The right side of the Leafs’ defense corps is currently comprised of TJ Brodie, Justin Holl, and Liljegren among those under contract. We will see if the Leafs make anything more than some depth moves on the blue line this season — it’s worth noting Lyubushkin finished the season as Rielly’s partner and is currently a pending UFA — but especially with Holl taking a step back in 2021-22, there could be more opportunity for Liljegren to grow into this upcoming season.

15 possible NHL off-season trade candidates to keep an eye on | by Sportsnet

With the off-season comes the renewed outlook for trades to occur, and next week’s draft is usually a great incubator for swaps, this year especially since everyone will be back under the same roof and on the same floor in Montreal.

But trades can really start happening any time now and we know there are a number of teams unhappy with how their seasons went or finished, who now are motivated to shake things up and try a new approach.

There is more fallout from the Hockey Canada lawsuit scandal. After being grilled by the Federal government, Hockey Canada is now facing major sponsorships pulling their deals. Scotiabank, Canadian Tire, Esso and Telus have all announced they’re at least partially restricting funds to Hockey Canada.

Want to know just how hurt all of the Lightning players were? Because there was a lot of them!

Ending the FTB with something more funny, and then something more wholesome.

Have a great Wednesday everyone!

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