NHL Draft 2018: Learn a Lesson from the Past, And Don’t Shy Away from the First-Round Slider

By Paul Berthelot on June 22, 2018 at 8:07 am
Looking at players who might fall in Dallas

In my most recent post, I wrote about prospects that had broken out and were outperforming their draft stock. The first player mentioned in that piece was Maxime Comtois, who entered the 2016-17 season as a projected as a top five pick. He had a down season which led to him getting selected in the second round, but bounced back nicely and looks like the player everyone thought he was.

The big reason for Comtois’ down season was that he shot just 13.1%. This past season, that number rebounded and he was up to 23.78%. This got me thinking about why players fall in the draft; a lot of times it’s for reasons outside of their control. We saw a similar thing happen with Travis Konecny in 2015. He had an incredible 16-year-old season in the OHL, putting up over a point per game. He was expected to build upon that and be a top-5 pick for the 2015 draft. His production didn’t get better and he fell to the Flyers at pick No. 24. 

The OHL doesn’t have shot data for that 2015 season, but this was a situation where you knew he was a better player than his stats indicated. The next season he rebounded, put up 101 points and is now a regular in Philadelphia.

The other major reason players fall is injuries. Last season Timothy Liljegren was expected to be a top pick, but came down with mononucleosis, which caused him to miss a significant length of time. He fell to the Leafs at No. 17, and at just 18 years old he spent a full season in the AHL and was a key player for the Calder Cup-winning Toronto Marlies.

Colin White is another player who had mono and dropped lower than expected. He went 21st to Ottawa after a down season with the USNTDP. He rebounded at Boston College where he was a point per game player and is now one of the top prospects for the Senators.  

These are merely a few cherry-picked examples, but it looks like it could be an area for teams to exploit (and something worth looking into further).

We saw the Blue Jackets take a chance on a player like this last year in Daniil Tarasov. He missed all season with a leg injury, so teams could only go off of what they had seen from him as a 16-year-old the year prior. The Jackets took the risk and so far, it looks to be working out.

This season, there are a couple players who are falling in rankings that could provide some nice value to a team like Columbus at pick No. 18, and even into the second round.

The big one right now for me is Adam Boqvist. He entered the season as the second-ranked defenseman behind Rasmus Dahlin and was projected to be a top-five pick. He wavered a bit throughout the season, bouncing around between teams in Sweden, and was passed in the rankings. He then suffered a concussion at the Under-18 tournament, which has some NHL teams worried.

On Bob McKenzie’s final draft list (which is more a collection of scout’s opinions, than a personal mock draft), he has Boqvist at No. 10, but McKenzie mentions that votes for Boqvist ranged from five to 14. If he falls to 14, the Jackets should seriously consider moving up to get him.

Martin Kaut had a big injury scare at the combine where it was thought he had a heart condition. He was unable to participate in any testing at the combine, which no doubt had some teams concerned. McKenize informs us that Kaut is in fact healthy and underwent a procedure in Prague to correct what was wrong, but the specialists there weren’t sure he even had the condition that was diagnosed. Kaut is a highly-skilled player who made a name for himself at the World Juniors, where he put up seven points in seven games for the Czechs. Before the combine he was projected to be an early teens pick, and now he might just fall far enough where he is comfortably in the Jackets range.

The biggest injury slider has to be Alexander Khovanov of the QMJHL's Monton Wildcats. He entered the season ranked by HockeyProspect.com just outside of the first round. Khovanov was playing in Russia and came over to the CHL for his draft season. He went second overall in the CHL import draft behind Andrei Svechnikov, and big things were expected for the skilled center; he was diagnosed with Hepatitis A and missed nine months. He came back in the second half of the season and played 29 games for the Wildcats. Considering what he went through, it was quite impressive that he was right near a point per game with 28 points. He then had a solid seven points in 12 playoff games.

His stock has fallen considerably and is ranked as a mid to late second rounder. With a full-healthy off-season he could return to being that top prospect that he was and could provide big value for a team in the second round.

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