Part six has arrived, and it is the final part of my mock National Hockey League entry draft series.
26th Overall Pick: Calgary Flames select Albin Grewe, Right/Left Winger, Djurgardens IF J20, SuperElit
Grewe, a Marsta, Sweden native, stands at 6’0, 187 pounds. He is thought highly by some, and not so much by others. I am one who really likes his game, whereas he has been ranked as low as 88th and as high as 25th, with the average ranking of 50.8.
Playing on a junior league in Sweden (U20), while other first round Swedish talent played in the SHL (top league), is a hit on his value. But, he played well against the U20 competition, with 13 goals and 21 assists (34 points) in 25 games. This play earned him a call up to the SHL for the main Djurgardens IF squad for 15 games, but he failed to produce a single point there, another hit on his value.
However, he has some really intriguing values, which is why someone like myself might have him in as first round talent. He makes himself be seen. His skating isn’t pretty, but it is effective, as he is quick and can keep up with the pace of the game. Once his stride can be developed more smoothly, he can be a real good skater in the future.
Grewe is a monster in the offensive zone, in a sense that he is constantly moving and getting to the dirty areas. He welcomes board battles as well. He has a really good shooting ability, as well as fine passing ability. Here’s the downside to his offensive skills; he doesn’t read the play well, and often turns the puck over for passing into traffic or shooting into a lane that was closing in, and got blocked.
He is a fantastic forechecker and backchecker, all over his opponents. However, he does get into penalty trouble, which is reflected in his penalty minutes last season (102 in total in SuperElit, 16 in SHL).
Defensively, he plays physical along the boards, and steps up to block shots as well. Next season, he will likely play against men in the SHL, and his physical game will likely be stunted due to his fairly light weight. But this is good news for Grewe, as he will learn quickly that, at just 187 pounds, you can’t play that style of play, and you must bulk up.
Future Role: A lot depends on next season, and how he adjusts his game, as well as working to bulk up. All-in-all he is a generally safe pick, as his style safely projects as a bottom-six winger at the very worst. But he has the potential to be a special player, with his good shot and physical style. He needs to work on his mental game for that to happen, and study hard for a better hockey IQ, and that is very possible.
27th Overall Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning select Samuel Poulin, Right/Left Wing, Sherbrooke Phoenix, QMJHL
Before I break down Poulin, what don’t the Lightning need? A small forward, as their forward core is small already. A defenseman, as they have a lot of young guys already in their system or at the NHL level. A goaltender, as they have Andrei Vasilevskiy. So, what do they need?
A big forward, with high upside, because a lack of size for the forward core led to Josh Anderson of the Columbus Blue Jackets to just bully Tampa in the playoffs. So, who’s available?
6’2, 208 pound Samuel Poulin is. He has the best frame for a player at this stage of the draft that would not be considered an egregious reach. Wearing the “A” on his sweater for Sherbrooke last season, Poulin registered 29 goals and 47 assists (76 points) in 67 games. He has been ranked as early as 23rd and as late as 33rd, with his average ranking at 26.3. Poulin is a fast skater, but doesn’t have great edgework. There are times he over skates the puck or puck carrier, and doesn’t stop or turn in time to get a second whack at it. Those are things that could be fixed, as the Lightning have a great skating coach in Barb Underhill.
In the offensive zone, Poulin is always supporting the puck, and has great vision, finding open areas to get a pass from a teammate. He is also creative, with solid stickhandling skills, though he tends to play a simpler game. He loves parking himself in front of the opposing goalie, looking for tips and rebounds. He has a great pass, with lots of power behind it, as well as real good accuracy, making them difficult to break up.
He has a hard shot, but tends to shoot into the goalie at times, and must work on his accuracy. He struggles at times reading the play and trying to make the right decision, finding himself forcing passes or shots. He is dangerous on the forecheck, as he causes a lot of havoc and forces plenty of turnovers. He backchecks like a mad man, as he is a fast skater, despite his big frame.
In the defensive zone, he supports the defense down low, and is constantly pressuring the forwards. However, he very easily gets caught up in hounding the puck, and can go from his area of the ice (the right side) all the way across to the far side and back, and if there’s a lack of communication, can really mess with the opposite winger on his team. That’s something that can be coached however, but it is still a glaring problem in his game. He doesn’t back away from board battles, and does have a gritty side to his game, though he is much more disciplined than Grewe.
The problem is, he isn’t as safe of a pick as Grewe. He would get eaten alive at the NHL level if he doesn’t work on his stops and starts, as well as his tight turns. That alone could set him back far enough where he doesn’t make the NHL roster.
Future Role: A boom or bust prospect, with less bust and more boom, has a very raw skillset, but does a lot of things right for a prospect. If he works out the minor details and puts a ton of skating work in, he could thrive in the Lightning system, who are in desperate need of a big forward, and be a future elite winger. He is more likely going to be a middle-six winger, but the ceiling is still high for him at the moment.
28th Overall Pick: Carolina Hurricanes select Jakob Pelletier, Left Wing, Moncton Wildcats, QMJHL
Pelletier is an undersized skater, standing at just 5’9, and 160 pounds. The Quebec City native has been ranked as early as 20 and as late as 43, with his average ranking at 32.6. Due to his smaller stature, he has blazing speed. He’s able to change speeds on the go, making it difficult for defenseman to match him and defend him on the rush. He has the edgework to make quick cuts, which is even more difficult for defenseman to defend against, which makes him such a special skater. He is also very strong on his skates and can hold his own in board battles, and fight for position in front of the net.
Going back to his dynamic skating ability, defenders tend to give him more space, so they don’t get burned wide, but he is a great passer, and takes advantage of that space. He has good stickhandling to pair with his skating, and he has the ability to make a quick move to fool a defender at full speed to open up a passing lane, which he then sends the puck through to an open teammate for a scoring chance. He has great vision and a high hockey IQ to read the play quickly and find ways to beat a defense with his deceptive foot work and high end passing abilities.
He has a decent shot, and has a knack for beating defenders to an open spot and letting the puck fly, though it is far from being NHL ready. One thing that stands out is the fact that he is always in the play. He is usually involved in board battles, and he forechecks hard, really wanting the puck on his stick. He can frustrate defenders and cause them to make mistakes with that style, but again, he is too small at the moment for that style to work, as a guy like Dustin Byfuglien will send a message to him with a huge hit if he tries that style in the NHL. So he must bulk up for his aggressive style to translate.
His defensive game is weak. He plays a style similar to Poulin, where he races around the defensive zone for the puck, which leads him out of position. But he is smaller than Poulin, which means he has a smaller reach and can’t break up as many passes. He also struggles helping his defense down low, as he is smaller than most and cannot contain his opponents. The effort is there, but he needs size and more awareness for it to truly work. He was compared to Brad Marchand in his style of play, by Ben Kerr of LastWordOnHockey, which I truly agree with. He is a great offensive winger (had 39 goals and 50 assists for 89 points in 65 games with Moncton) but lacks the necessary size, currently.
Future Role: Has the offensive tools, just needs to smooth out his game a bit there. His defensive game is lacking, but if he bulks up, most things will work out naturally, as well as with good coaching. He will likely slot in as a second line winger at the next level, but is a few years away.
29th Overall Pick: Anaheim Ducks select Pavel Dorofeyev, Left/Right Wing, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, KHL
Dorofeyev is a tall winger, standing at 6’0, but is very light, and must bulk up, at 163 pounds. The Nizhny Tagil, Russia native has been ranked as early as 16th and as late as 82nd (thanks Bob McKenzie) with his average ranking at 37.
Dorofeyev doesn’t have the speed to beat defenders wide, but he can keep up with the pace of the game. He has great edgework however, which allows him to be shifty with the puck, and hard to contain in an area by a single defenseman. Despite his lankiness, he has good balance, but it isn’t nearly good enough to translate at the NHL level and he must bulk up.
He pairs his edgework with his outstanding hands, very difficult for defenders to hold off in one-on-one situations. His stickhandling also allows him to make a move to create space for himself and for teammates. He is not afraid to battle along the boards, in the corners, or in front of the net. His quick hands help him to score in tight to the goaltender. He has a very accurate shot, but he doesn’t have enough power behind those shots just yet to translate to the NHL. Without the puck, he looks for an opening in the defense to go, in order to get a pass from a teammate.
He is very good at breaking up passes, and does not shy away from board battles defensively either. He has decent positioning, but must be fine tuned down the road. Has trouble against bigger opponents. So, again, he must bulk up.
Dorofeyev did outstanding in the second tier Russian league, the MHL, with Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk, as he put up 17 goals and 14 assists (31 points) in 19 games played. He was granted a shot at the KHL, where he played 14 games with a goal and an assist in 23 games. His offensive production in the KHL was underwhelming, but that was his first taste of playing against men, so it was not out of the blue that he struggled to score. His MHL production was stellar, and is more of a “what’s to come” look into his future once he develops and is able to produce against men.
Future Role: Doesn’t necessarily stand out offensively, but finds success nonetheless, which is a good sign moving forward. Once his shooting becomes more powerful, he could certainly project as a second line sniper. His balanced play will allow him to currently project as a middle-six winger with two-way capabilities. Must bulk up for those projections to be realized.
30th Overall Pick: Boston Bruins select Matthew Robertson, Left-Handed Defenseman, Edmonton Oil Kings, WHL
Robertson is a defenseman that is on the bigger side of things among his peers in the draft. He stands at 6’4 and 201 pounds, and with an aging core in Boston outside of Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk, that have proved themselves, a defenseman could be just what they need. Not to mention, “Big Z” Zdeno Chara will likely be retired when Robertson is NHL ready, thus making size at the blueline a much bigger need in the future, something their D prospect Urho Vaakanainen can’t give them. Plus, at this stage in the draft, he’s arguably the best player available.
Despite his size, he is a very smooth skater. He is fast going both forwards and backwards, which is a great base for development of a defenseman. His edges are not the best however, and if he needs to change direction, he is a bit slow pivoting, which can lead to him struggling against forwards who have tight turns and blazing speed. He has great balance, which is understandably expected at his size, winning battles along the boards and in front of his own net.
Robertson has a fantastic pass, and when paired with his skating, makes him a very effective puck moving defenseman. When in the offensive zone, he finds ways to take advantage of his passing skills, and that helps him be a quarterback on the powerplay. Robertson is very mobile along the blueline, and that helps him “walk” the line to open up passing and shooting lanes. He isn’t the best shooter, but he does find ways to at least get the puck on net.
He has a great feel for the game, knowing when to go in deep and help the forwards and when to stay back, as well as knowing if a passing lane is there or not. He uses that feel to pick apart defenses offensively.
When the opposing team is carrying the puck up ice, he does a nice job matching their speed and keeping them on the outside. He also does step up and deliver big hits at times, though he usually just stays back in his gap, not wanting to get caught out of position. He is almost always in position, and loves getting to the dirty areas in the corners and in front of the net, battling with a man for the puck, or for positioning. He also isn’t afraid to block shots, showing a willingness to do what it takes to keep the opposing team from scoring. While he isn’t the most offensively minded defender in this draft, he did manage to produce seven goals and 26 assists (33 points) in 52 games for Edmonton.
Future Role: He is another safe pick in this draft, as he will likely, at the worst, crack a bottom-two pairing role. If he can improve upon his shooting and creativity in the offensive zone, as well as continue developing his already advanced defensive zone play, he could easily be a number two or number three defenseman for the Bruins, with penalty kill time.
31st Overall Pick: Buffalo Sabres select Brett Leason, Center, Prince Albert Raiders, WHL
Now this is a story. Brett Leason is a 20-year-old player in the CHL, and went undrafted and unsigned through the last two NHL drafts. Two drafts people. Now, he has been ranked inside the first round, and if those rankings ring true, could be just the second CHL player ever to be passed up in two drafts before being selected in the first round in the third draft (Tanner Pearson is the other). At his age, however, you are two years older than guys who are arguably ahead of you in their development. That alone is a big hit on his value, and might knock him outside the first.
He has been ranked as early as 28th and as late as 44th, with his average ranking at 34.9. So why have people suddenly fallen in love with a player who was told twice he wasn’t good enough to even be drafted? Because his glaring weaknesses are no more, and it begins with his skating. He has improved his skating to the point where he is no longer falling behind the play. He isn’t very fast, and still needs to improve on the fluidity of his strides, but he has taken a leap forward in improvements.
He has good balance, partly due to his 6’4, 201-pound frame, but also because he has solid edgework. That edgework was once missing in his game, but now that he has found it, he’s able to do so much more in all three zones, with tighter turns and cleaner stops and starts. He welcomes board battles, and fights mightily for net-front position. He is good at getting deflections and goals off rebounds. He has good hands to finish in tight and beat the goaltender.
While he has always had good stickhandling, he is now able to pair it with much better skating, which gives him a whole new set of plays to create space to pass or shoot. He has a decent shot, but he needs to work on it much more before it is NHL ready. He has a knack for finding open teammates, and the passing abilities to get the puck to them. He has good patience, taking as long as necessary for his teammates to get open, all the while looking over all options and keeping the play alive.
He is excellent at protecting the puck, so that helps. He works hard on both the forecheck and backcheck, which is always a welcome sign for NHL teams. Defensively, he is good positionally, as well as using his long reach to effectively break up passes and force turnovers. He helps support the defense down low, as well as being unafraid of blocking shots.
To put in perspective just how much Leason improved, here were his stats combined through his first two seasons in the CHL: 24 goals and 27 assists for 51 points in 135 games. Last season, Leason recorded 36 goals and 53 assists for 89 points in 55 games. In 80 less games, Leason had 12 more goals and 26 more assists for 38 more points. That is absolutely insane. That’s why he has been able to, almost suddenly, become a first round prospect, three years in the making. That goes to show how much work and dedication he puts into this game, as well as his ability to shut out the noise of all the detractors and doubters from years prior. His dream will soon be realised, and the way he gets here is nothing short of inspirational.
Future Role: If he continues to improve on his skating as well as his offensive skills, while building upon an already reliable defensive prowess, he could find himself in a second-line role. However, he doesn’t “wow” you with his performance, and simply does what he is told, and has a no-nonsense attitude on the ice, which leans me more towards a very reliable third-line winger, with penalty kill minutes.
Stats via eliteprospects
Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals