Talk about addition by subtraction! San Jose Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson traded 32-year-old Justin Braun to Philadelphia for a second-round pick this year and a third-round pick in next year’s draft. The transaction suddenly leaves the Sharks with a high-leverage pick in the draft that began last night.
To isolate players who the Sharks should draft, we will use a few resources. First, Colin Cudmore has aggregated rankings from 60 different sources. Because Central Scouting separates North American from European skaters, we’ll instead draw from the wisdom of the crowds for one unified ranking system.
From there, we’ll follow a few rules to maximize the value of the pick. Namita Nandakumar’s paper about “perfect drafting” tells us the optimal time to draft a player is at the last possible second. If we think someone will be available at pick 44 but will no longer be available at pick 91, then we should take him with pick 41. This gives us an initial range to choose from.
Here are the prospects whose average rank is 41st or lower. You can see their highest and lowest ranks in the respective columns.
If you read our Pick No. 91 article, you’ll notice a few crossover names. We used a different source for approximating draft position, which is why Karl Henriksson, Yegor Spiridonov and Ethan Keppen appear here. We’ll ignore them for now, but you can read more about what they offer at the link above.
To help hone down our group of prospects a bit more, we’ll turn to this paper about beating the NHL draft. This paper shows that, “when teams differentiate from the CSS ordering they are, on average, gaining some value in terms of [career time on ice], [career games played] or GVT.” (GVT stands for goals versus threshold, a precursor to modern wins above replacement (WAR) metrics). Another conclusion the paper reaches is that a sign of good scouting is when players taken earlier than expected via draft rank outperform those expectations. That means we’re going to reach a bit, taking guys who are more likely to be picked later than 41.
We’ll identify the best players to pick by using a model that separates prospects into six buckets and highlights parts of their profile that may make them an exceptional player. Finally, we’ll use some of the examples of positive scouting report traits that can help predict success in the American Hockey League (AHL).
Ranked anywhere from 36 to 93, Beaucage’s draft value is somewhere around the 66th pick. That satisfies our reach requirement. He also falls into the small bucket of players who, despite being ranked 12 or lower, have historically made the NHL about 92 percent of the time and have played more games than other groups of skaters ranked outside the top half of the first round.
Beaucage’s coach in Rouyn-Noranda mentioned his size and physicality, while alluding to his poor skating, not traits we’d like to see out of scouting reports. However, the winger also “handles the puck well” and can shoot, a skill that translates well to the NHL.
Despite his lack of flashy skill and poor skating, Beaucage scored estimated primary 5-on-5 points at the fourth-highest rate among all QMJHL first-time draft-eligible forwards this season. He also produced the fifth-highest rate of expected goals among the same group of forwards.
According to Emmanuel Perry’s draft model, Beaucage has a 63 percent chance of making the NHL, with a projected WAR/82 NHL games of 0.44, both excellent marks. Beaucage’s statistical profile is top-notch, and he fits most of the criteria laid out above. The biggest knock on the forward is that he doesn’t skate well and isn’t one of those uber-skilled small forwards whose upside is clear.
Still, if I’m at the San Jose Sharks table on Saturday, I’m banging the table/clipboard for Beaucage.
Beckman falls into the bucket of skaters that have just a 28.5 percent success rate. But, his goal-scoring and draft rank suggest he may be among that 28.5 percent. Beckman’s coaches mentioned his quick decision making and “scorer’s touch” along with his offensive instincts.
Beckman was also known for being a smaller, weaker player during his midget career, but has persevered nonetheless. He seems to be a player who doesn’t do any one thing extraordinarily well but understands the game and does most things solidly.
I started to notice Beckman’s unreal forecheck and his ability to make small important plays with little space in the offensive zone. He understands systems so well and jumps on loose pucks. Love him.— Joel Henderson (@dathockeydoe) June 20, 2019
Perry’s prospect model believes Beckman has a 69 percent chance of making the NHL (nice!) with a 0.38 WAR/82 projection, an impressive figure for someone ranked this low.
Beckman had the fifth-highest impact on his team’s even-strength primary scoring network as of December, and his individual numbers were fantastic. His estimated 5-on-5 primary point scoring rate ranks fourth of all first-time draft-eligible WHL forwards who played at least 10 games this season.
Beckman’s chances of making the NHL range from 28 to 69 percent, depending on the model. There are few publicly available scouting reports to consume, so it’s difficult to tell what precisely makes him tick. It sounds like he may be a better pick for the Sharks’ third-round selection, but it wouldn’t be terribly upsetting to see them reach for him here.
Fagemo is a tough prospect to figure out, ranking-wise. Based on average rankings, he should be available at 41, but whether he’d be a steal or reach there is up for debate. We’ll take the crowd’s word for it and assume his most representative spot is 47 to consider him a slightly early pick here.
Fagemo’s statistical profile puts him in the 28-percent bucket according to the decision tree model but a whopping 88 percent chance according to Perry’s model. It’s worth noting that last year, Fagemo’s first eligible season, he would’ve fallen into the bucket with a 61 percent chance of NHL success. In addition to his potentially high likelihood of success, Perry’s model gives him a 0.7 WAR/82 upside, the second-best mark in this draft class after Kaapo Kakko.
As a teenager, Fagemo had the fifth-best impact on his SHL team’s primary point scoring network through December of this past season, a number that was 53rd in the entire league.
While there is a wide range of outcomes for Fagemo’s success, he possesses the scouting traits and statistical profile to meet his more exciting projections.
Tieksola again falls into the 28 percent bucket of the decision tree model. His goal-scoring and relatively low rank suggest he should be one of the few to find NHL success.
The data for Finnish league impact on scoring networks isn’t available, so we’ll turn to a few other sources for help with his game.
Finland’s forward shot contributions from the U18 Worlds.— Lassi Alanen (@lassialanen) April 28, 2019
Leevi Aaltonen was clearly the most frequent shooter, but most of his shots were low-danger. Kärpät trio Aatu Räty, Aku Räty and Tuukka Tieksola had the most primary shot assists per 60. #U18Worlds #U18fi pic.twitter.com/5CJbIAh7u2
International tournaments are small sample size affairs, but they can give us a snapshot of how a player stacks up against others from his home country. Tieksola didn’t shoot a ton, but he contributed to his teammates shots quite frequently.
The winger has “good puck skills,” “great offensive tools,” and is a great skater despite being considered undersized, traits that point in the direction of top-six AHL forward. To go along with his playmaking ability, Tieksola also possesses a “quick and effective wrist shot,” suggesting that he may be more than just a one-dimensional passer.
Perry’s model believes Tieksola has a 37.4 percent chance to make the NHL with a solid 0.30 WAR/82 projection.
Find you someone who loves you as much as Johansson loves dangling forwards in the offensive zone.
Johansson is a reach here, ranked somewhere between the very early second and late third round. Perry’s model only gives him a 23.7 percent chance of making the NHL with a projected WAR/82 of -0.04. Those number don’t sound too appealing, but this model believes forwards are worth substantially more than defensemen, so an upside anywhere near zero is a solid figure for a 17-year-old player.
Johansson is also an unlikely NHL candidate, per the decision tree model. We’re going to go against our better judgement with this pick and select someone for his between-the-goal-creases play.
Johansson played very well in transition this season, putting up zone entry and exit data along with some of the best in the SuperElit. That strong neutral zone play didn’t go to waste, either, as Johansson’s impact on his team’s even-strength scoring was in the 90th percentile among all skaters in Sweden’s U20 league this past season.
You can see Johansson’s transition prowess up along side other European defensemen with first- or second-round grades, below.
He has a very high percentage of successful exits, something that suggests confidence and ability in his own end. Not surprising, then, is the fact scouting reports focus on Johansson’s strong skating ability and stickhandling to go along with good vision and passing.
While this scouting report doesn’t contain any of the phrases we want to zero in on, it certainly paints a vivid picture of the defenseman’s abilities: “His decision making after zone entries varies from safe to audacious. In fact, Johansson spends a significant amount of time below the circles and can look like a finesse forward when he plays catch or operates in the cycle.”
He also has “soft hands” and an “excellent hard wrister” to make him especially dangerous when he starts getting frisky in the offensive zone.
There are a few concerns with the smooth-skating rearguard’s game, however. For starters, he wasn’t on the right side of the shot share ledger during his U20 season.
Corsi Data.— Finlay Sherratt (@FinlaySherratt) March 2, 2019
Broberg, Seider and Honka all look good here. Zone entry data tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/a2y3pqOYjr
While it’s never a great sign to be on the receiving end of tilted ice, we also know that raw shot share information is very much a team statistic. Johansson’s team finished near the bottom of the SuperElit this past season, so it’s not unreasonable to assume at least part of that poor shot differential was related to his team’s overall uninspiring performance.
Despite playing against lower competition during the second half of the season, Johansson’s play and scoring trailed off as the season wore on, something that shows up in the scouting report trait categories we don’t want to see.
Who of the 5 should go?
Whether it’s because we have more information available for Johansson than we do most of these other prospects or not, his profile sure looks appealing. However, Alex Beaucage’s statistical and scouting profiles reflect those that a number of research papers point to as signals of future success. It would be hard to pass on a player like Fagemo falling to 41, but if he is picked sooner than that, there is no reason why the Sharks shouldn’t reach down a bit and grab the QMJHL winger who’s already rounding into an NHL-sized player with the statistics to back up his frame.