If this trade had of happened in the summer there would have been some serious outrage.
Trading away Vitali Abramov, fresh off of a 104 point season in the QMJHL and the undisputed top prospect in the system, would have been blasphemous. Including Jonathan Davidsson in the trade as well, that would have been crazy. Davidsson was the high riser of the summer; a player who many thought had an excellent chance to make the team in the fall.
So what happened? How did both of these seemingly top prospects get shipped out, along with a first round pick (potentially two if he re-signs) for a rental in Matt Duchene?
We will start first with Davidsson. He didn’t take a step forward this season. After not making the Blue Jackets he elected to go back to Sweden for his second full season in the SHL. He got a more substantial role on his team, and it was expected that he would take a step forward. He has not, as Jeremy Crowe explains in this short thread.
Davidsson's even strength pts/60 dropped from 2.74 last year (29 in 52gms) to 1.67 this year (13 in 35), and he has just one powerplay goal in about 75 minutes of total PP icetime. His individual points% has also dropped from 88% (29pts, 33 goals for) to 62% (13/21).— Jeremy Crowe (@307x) February 22, 2019
With Davidsson, the blame is placed more on himself. He wasn’t able to take that next step. With Abramov, the finger can be pointed right at the team and their development.
Abramov is a skilled player he needs to be playing in a top-six type of offensive role. With the Cleveland Monsters, he was used lower in the line-up and didn’t get much special teams time. He was misused. In 52 games he had 22 points. Solid production but more was expected.
I've only tracked seven Monsters games this year but Abramov was underwhelming in them.— Jeremy Crowe (@307x) February 22, 2019
He graded well in my tracking categories, but I never got the sense that he was above the league. He looked out of place physically, avoiding contact, slow to react defensively, etc.
Making things worse for Abramov the Monsters are not a very good team. Their overall skill level as a team is low. Outside of a couple of players on the roster, not many have the skill that Abramov does. This is something I have harped on for a long while, especially with defensemen. Having one or two big shutdown defensemen is fine, but a team of them affects everyone around them. They keep it simple chip it in, off the glass and out. They are not able to get the puck into the hands of Abramov easily, forcing him to either win races or a puck battle along the boards. Two areas he doesn’t excel in currently.
At the offensive blueline, Cleveland enters with control just 33.6% of the time. Of their 151 total shot attempts at 5v5, 89 (59%) have been generated through possessions begun with a controlled entry.— Jeremy Crowe (@307x) February 13, 2019
Only 32 attempts have been generated with their 180 uncontrolled entries.
Jeremy has been tracking the Monsters and putting his thoughts and his data on Twitter. It’s only a small sample of games, but that trend is there. With the hot start the Monsters they didn’t change this strategy. Abramov wasn’t playing a style that suits his game. You shouldn’t cater to one player, but at the same time, you should be doing everything you can to make sure your top prospect is in a situation to succeed.
After being the Blue Jackets top prospect in our summer rankings, and one of the better prospects in the game, Abramov failed to make Corey Pronman’s list of the mid-season top 57 prospects. He then ended up getting passed by fellow prospect Liam Foudy in the process.
There is still hope for Abramov, and he may even reach his full potential in Ottawa. With the Blue Jackets, however, it looked like it wasn’t going to work. Abramov went from someone who you could dream on becoming the next Artemi Panarin or more realistically Panarin lite, and he’s fallen to someone who needs more time and looks like maybe a top six winger.
The Blue Jackets were fortunate they were able to get value out of Abramov when they did. Any longer and they might have sunk his value further.
Some notes on Julius Bergman... He was a second-round pick by the San Jose Sharks in 2014. He was acquired by Ottawa in the Mike Hoffman trade. He flashed some offensive potential as an amateur in 2014 playing in the SuperElit and in 2015 playing for the London Knights, but as a professional that hasn’t been the case. He had a fine season in the AHL in 2016-17 where he had 30 points in 64 games, but regressed to 20 points the next season in 65 games, to this season where he has just six assists in 33 games.
He has flashed some puck moving ability which is something the Monsters desperately need. He’s more offensive than say a Ryan Collins or a Dillon Simpson, two regulars on the back-end. He adds some depth; he is indeed an upgrade on Blake Siebenaler who the team recently traded away. Overall however his NHL future is bleak. Best case scenario, he gets back to being a 30 point defenseman in the AHL and ends up as a Dean Kukan type. A depth defensemen who can chip in a couple of games here and there.
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