Colorado Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche Draft Recap and Analysis

The Colorado Avalanche were able to come away from the draft weekend as the big winners. Thanks to a complete lack of self realization and foresight by Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion, the Avalanche were armed with the fourth overall pick as well as their own pick at 16.

The Picks

Bowen Byram, LHD, Vancouver Giants (WHL), Round 1, 4th Overall

The Colorado Avalanche were able to land themselves the consensus top-ranked defender in the 2019 NHL Draft. A silky, smooth skater who led the WHL playoffs in scoring from the back end, Byram was an offensive catalyst. The Vancouver Giants blue liner was able to affect that game in every facet.

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The young Canadian showed outstanding potential offensively. Byram proved able to make any pass he’s asked whether it be transitioning out of the defensive zone with a long pass through the neutral zone or a short pass to alleviate pressure along the boards. In the offensive zone he is a facilitator from the point. He threads passes through the zone finding open lanes through the slot to create high danger scoring chances. He also skates extremely well with the puck on his stick, understanding when the opportunity arises to make a move and get himself into scoring position.

Defensively, Byram was consistently improving throughout the year. His gal control was excellent due to his outstanding skating and edge work. He was able to pivot and keep oncoming attackers to the outside preventing dangerous chances. His board play was impressive as he was able to win battles in the corners and along the side walls with consistency. The future Avs defender was a presence in the net front, clearing the crease with proficiency. Overall, the top defender I the draft will be a luxury for a team who’s defensive pipeline already includes Connor Timmins, Sam Girard and Cale Makar which could lead to the Colorado Avalanche having once of the best blue lines in hockey within a few short seasons.

Alex Newhook, C, Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL), Round 1, 16th Overall

Despite playing a level below major junior, the BCHL star proved that he was a first round talent. Alex Newhook battled through a slow start and not making the Canadian Hlinka-Gretzky squad. Often times players are unable to perform at their top speed but the young Grizzlies star has speed to burn and can play the game at full speed. His skating is elite among NHL talent already and his hockey IQ is top level. Often ranked among the top-10 prior to the draft, Colorado’s ability to land a top flight center to pair with the best defender in the draft class helps solidify the Avalanche as the big winners of the draft.

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Using his high-level burst and edge work, he does an excellent job of tracking opposing players into the defensive zone. He uses a quick, high-skill stick work to separate player from puck. Once the puck is turned over, Newhook is able to take a couple of strides pulling away from his adversaries with ease. The east coast native is a neutral zone wizard when it comes to the translation game. Whether it be using his crisp, accurate passing or his high-octane speed, Newhook gets through the zone efficiently and at a high rate of speed.

Once into the offensive zone, he creates space with his ability to drive defenders back with his speed before stopping on a dime. His edge work and quick first step allow him to create separation in tight spaces and get into tight areas with the puck. Newhook has a solid frame, able to handle being leaned on in the corners and still coming out with the puck more often than not. His vision and hockey sense are constantly on display as he finds and sets up his teammates. His shot is NHL ready, especially off the rush or on a one time opportunity. He is able to change the angle on his shot with excellent stick handling off the rush, which becomes nearly unstoppable at times when you combine it with his exceptional speed.

Drew Helleson, RHD, USNTDP (USHL), Round 2, 47th Overall

Helleson is a solid defensive blue liner who is a very fluid skater. He makes efficient plays with the puck on his stick and he is able to skate confidently with the puck when needed. Offensively he has a decent shot from the point that relies on accuracy to get it through more than power. He makes simple passes to the forwards, allowing the high skilled players to make plays and facilitating when needed.

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He is patient and poised with the puck in his own zone, rarely making a mistake. He moves well forwards and backwards, able to gain speed and keep pace with attacking forwards. He could stand to improve his lateral quickness as he can be turned around at times when being driven back with high-level speed. He provides a physical presence but doesn’t rely on the bone crushing hit that can often take a player out of the play. He uses his large frame with a purpose and engages at the appropriate time. He is with attend Boston College in the fall, along with fellow Avs draft choice Alex Newhook, where he is likely to continue his development for at least two seasons before making the jump to the professional ranks.

Matthew Stienburg, C/RW, St. Andrews College (CAHS), Round 3, 63rd Overall

This was the first pick that Joe Sakic and the Avalanche management team may have reached on. Due to being diagnosed with Osteomyelitis, an infection in the shoulder that was eating away at the muscle tissue and bone, the CHL route was taken away because he only played in 15 games in his CHL draft eligible year. Electing to go through multiple surgeries in an attempt to return his a to fill mobility, he dealt with adversity at a young age. He opened up to the prep school-NCAA route and is committed to Cornell next year.

While Stienburg showed skills, his physical presence is his calling card. Often compared to Tom Wilson, the young Canadian is a bit of a throwback type player. He fought in a call up to Sioux City of the USHL, racking up 15 PIM. He possesses pro-ready size at 6’1″, 185lbs. His offensive game is well rounded as he was able to produce 33 goals and 42 assists in just 56 games proving that he isn’t just a goon despite in 98 PIMs on the season. Certainly a project, Stienburg will attend Cornell for at least a couple of years and continue to develop and hone his raw skill set. With his plus hockey IQ, he may be able to turn himself into a solid middle-six forward at the professional level.

Alex Beaucage, RW/LW, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL), Round 3, 78th Overall

The 2019 Memorial Cup champion was the Avalanche’s second pick in the third round. Alex Beaucage is one of the youngest players in the draft and he put up impressive offensive numbers as the fifth highest scoring first year draft eligible players in the QMJHL. Beaucage was an offensive producer with 79 points in just 68 games, he played with older, more experienced players and was often the beneficiary of their solid play.

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He wasn’t strictly as passenger as he possesses solid traits such as a good shot and vision. He is able to get the puck off his stick quickly and efficiently whether it be a shot or a pass. Next season will provide a lot of answers for Beaucage as he will likely be asked to lead a line of his own rather than ride shotgun with some veteran players. It was a puck worth taking the risk on as he could grow into a lead-dog role with the Huskies next season.

Lottery Tickets: Round 4 and Beyond

Sasha Mutala, RW, Tri-City Americans (WHL), Round 5, 140th Overall

Mutala is a good skater with quick acceleration. He is a high-motor player who is an active forechecker creating chances from the dirty areas of the ice. Mutala has a heavy shot and decent vision. Projects as a third-line winger.

Luka Burzan, C, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL), Round 6, 171st Overall

Originally eligible for the draft last year, Burzan thrust himself in the scene with a 40 goal, 78 point campaign following a year where he had 9 goals and 21 points. Burzan is a project player who could continue to grow offensively.

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Trent Minor, G, Vancouver Giants (WHL), Round 7, 202nd Overall

Trent Minor led the Vancouver Giants to the WHL final where they fell to the Prince Albert Raiders in seven games. A sub-2.00 goals against average and a .924 save percentage which were aided by playing on an outstanding team. A teammate of Byram, the Avalanche 4th overall pick, Miner is slightly undersized but shows promise in net.

Draft Recap

The Colorado Avalanche were able to take advantage of the poor situation that Matt Duchene our them in by getting the Ottawa Senators first round pick. That gave Colorado the opportunity to use the 2019 NHL Entry Draft to bolster their depth all over the ice despite experiencing some on-ice success. Having the 4th and 16th pick in the first round was an advantageous spot to be put in. After selecting Byram with the fourth pick they were fortunate to have Alex Newhook, a player often ranked in the top-10, with the 16th pick. Those two players will bolster this team in areas of need and they were also the best players available. Byram adds to the defensive prospect pipeline making it the best blue line group of prospects in the NHL. Newhook will likely solidify the second line center spot behind Nathan MacKinnon where he will be able to follow MacKinnon’s speed with a second wave of breath taking speed.

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After the first round Colorado continued to make good decisions, going with a mix of safe picks such as Helleson and riskier picks like Stienburg. Adding a defensive defender who can skate and make a solid first pass the way Helleson does in the second round was a smart choice and then they took risks as the puck certainty decreased. Balancing the risk of drafting Stienburg with a bit of a safer pick in the offensively gifted Beaucage was a strategy that could pay off in time. Mutala and Burzan are good upside picks where Colorado took a bit of a risk later in the draft as they should. Trent Miner is a goalie who has some winning pedigree and good statistics. He has some good tools and grabbing him in the 7th round may end up being a steal.

Overall, the Colorado Avalanche May be the team that won the draft as early on as day one. Acquiring two top-10 talents, one of which being the clear-cut best defender in the draft, means that they more than took advantage of the opportunity that they were presented with. Colorado had success on the ice this year, making it to the second round and pushing San Jose to a controversial game seven. Now, after pulling in the draft class that they did, they are starting the offseason with some success off the ice.

For more the draft, prospects and the NHL in general you can follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari

All statistics and information courtesy of Hockey Reference, the NHL, Elite Prospects and Prospect Stats.

Florida Panthers: Evaluating Their 2019 Draft

The Florida Panthers went into the 2019 National Hockey League Entry Draft in Vancouver with the 13th overall pick and came out with nine new names in their depth chart. 

 

Overall, the best word to describe the Panthers’ performance in Vancouver is: okay. Just okay.  Nothing phenomenal, nothing crippling.  Just… okay.  Personally, I am a big proponent of drafting the best available talent, but General Manager Dale Tallon and co. clearly went into the draft with team needs on their minds.  A team that struggled defensively and in net invested heavily in their own end with this draft; the Panthers only used one of their first five picks on a forward but tried to stock the cabinets in the later rounds.  So how did they do with each pick?

 

Round 1, Pick 13: Spencer Knight, G (US National U18 Team)

 

Spencer Knight was not just the top goalie prospect in this year’s draft, but one of the best goalie prospects the NHL has seen in a long time.  That said, drafting goalies is a very tricky business, as goalies are much harder to evaluate and generally take longer to develop. 

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The Panthers clearly wanted a defenseman with their first-round pick, but by the time they stepped up to the podium, Victor Soderstrom, Philip Broberg, and Moritz Seider were all off the board.  Tallon allegedly had some discussions with other GMs about trading down, but they proved fruitless and the Panthers ultimately used their given pick on Knight.  With the big-three defensemen off the board, I understand and am generally okay with the Panthers reaching a little bit for Knight.  Hopefully, he turns into every bit the franchise goalie that the analysts are projecting and the Panthers don’t regret passing on the likes of Cole Caufield and Peyton Krebs.

 

Pick feel: fine, given the circumstances

I would’ve picked: Cole Caufield

 

Round 2, Pick 52: Vladislav Kolyachonok, D (Flint Firebirds, OHL)

 

Drafted by the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League and traded to the Flint Firebirds, Kolyachonok had 30 points in 54 games as a rookie defenseman in the OHL, in addition to scoring five points in five games as Belarus’ captian at the World U18 Championship.  The Panthers may have lost out on Broberg, Seider, and Soderstrom, but Kolyachonok, described as a responsible, two-way defenseman who excels at moving the puck and moving himself, immediately becomes the best defensive prospect in their system.

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Pick feel: great

I would’ve picked: Mikko Kokkonen

 

Round 3, Pick 69: John Ludvig, D (Portland Winterhawks, WHL)

 

Undrafted in 2018, John Ludvig’s second Western Hockey League season, while an improvement on his first, still left much to be desired.  The 6’1” defenseman is known more for fighting than scoring, having recorded more penalty minutes than points in each of his seasons with Portland so far.  Many mocks had him going in the seventh round, if at all, and nothing I have seen in any stat sheet or highlight reel justifies this pick to me either.  This was easily the worst pick the Panthers made in Vancouver and possibly one of the worst overall picks of the entire draft.

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Pick feel: not nice

I would’ve picked: nearly anyone else, but especially Mikko Kokkonen, who was STILL on the board.

 

Round 3, Pick 81: Cole Schwindt, W (Mississauga Steelheads, OHL)

 

The Panthers followed up their worst pick in the draft by making one of their better picks in the draft. The 17-year-old 6’2” forward Schwindt might not have lit the OHL up himself, but he is a very effective play driver at five-on-five.  In significant minutes, Schwindt had a massively positive impact on his teammates’ (including fellow Panthers prospect Owen Tippett) possession stats, which is a very good sign moving forward.

 

Pick feel: much better than the last one

I would’ve picked: STILL MIKKO KOKKONEN

 

Round 4, Pick 106: Carter Berger, D (Victoria Grizzlies, BCHL)

 

The last of the defensemen with whom Florida left Vancouver, Berger is a skilled, though over-aged, defenseman.  He notched 27 goals and 36 assists (63 points) in his second draft-eligible season and is set to move up to the NCAA and play for UCONN this coming season.

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Pick feel: no strong feelings one way or the other

I would’ve picked: Antti Saarela

 

Round 5, Pick 136: Henrik Rybinski, W (Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL)

 

If any of the Panthers’ draft picks is eventually described as a diamond in the rough, it will be Hank Rybinski.  Rybinski began this season very slowly with the Medicine Hat Tigers, but exploded onto the scene after a trade to the Seattle Thunderbirds.  The 17-year-old finished his WHL season with 40 points in 47 games, but was a point-per-game player for Seattle.  Rybinski is strong on the puck, but is certainly more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer himself.  If Seattle continues to use him in more significant ice time, his development could be a pleasant surprise.

 

Pick feel: unreasonably excited for a fifth-rounder

I would’ve picked: Henrik Rybinski too.  Good job, team.

 

Round 5, Pick 137: Owen Lindmark, C (US National U18 Team)

 

The second American-born player that the Panthers drafted over the weekend will follow up a 14-point USHL and 25-point USDP campaign by playing at the University of Wisconsin this coming season. A reasonably sound winger, Lindmark did not particularly wow anybody in any facet of the game, but he didn’t cause much disruption either.

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Pick feel: good enough, he just seems happy to be involved

I would’ve picked: Mason Primeau if you really twisted my arm about it.

 

Round 6, Pick 168: Greg Meireles, C (Kitchener Rangers, OHL)/Round 7, Pick 199: Matthew Wedman, C (Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL)

 

I am going to lump Meireles and Wedman in with each other because the things I have to say about both are strikingly similar.  Both Meireles and Wedman are 20 years old and just completed their third season of draft eligibility.  Both outperformed their previous career highs by significant margins.  Meireles finished 10th in points in the OHL and Wedman 20th in the WHL, but that should be expected, given their age, development, and experience.  I certainly don’t hate taking a flyer on a pair of potential late-bloomers in the sixth/seventh round.

 

Pick feel: *shrug emoji*

I would’ve picked: Michael Gildon both times

Statistics provided by hockey-reference

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

 

NHL Draft Profile: Peyton Krebs

Krebs is a hard-nosed competitor who has a nose for points. The shifty forward mixes a high top-speed with the ability to stop-and-start like an NFL wide receiver. Krebs ability to get to top speed is a tool that helps him blow by defenders with ease and then change direction to open up space for him to make a play to his teammates. He produced at a high rate for a weak, underpowered Kootenay Ice team.

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Name: Peyton Krebs

Date of Birth: January 26, 2001

Nationality (Place of Birth): Canadian (Okotoks, AB, Canada)

Hieght: 5’11”

Weight: 181lbs

Shoots: Left

Position: C/LW

Ranking

Ranked #9 by TSN/McKenzie

Scouting Report

The above spider graph, courtesy of Kyle Pereira of Puck77, displays the available data from Will Scouch. As shown, Krebs’ INV% (involvement percentage gauges how involved a player is on goals by a team) is among the best in his peer group. The one galring weakness in the graoh above is Krebs goals for percentage (GF%). As a playmaker primarily, Krebs isn’t a huge goal scorer despite showing the tools to add it to his game. The interesting thing is that his GF% Relative to his teammates is actually the best of the group. This would imply that although Krebs doesn’t score a large quantity of goals, he is still a driving force on his team in that department which is a primary factor is Krebs having to carry the Ice throughout the season. 

Peyton Krebs is an outstanding skater. The play-making pivot is great at taking creative paths through the neutral and offensive zones, finding space between defenders. Krebs, one of the highest-motor players in the draft, is like a dog on a bone when the puck isn’t on his stick. His ability to shift his weight and change direction at a moments notice makes him incredibly difficult to defend one-on-one. His edge work in all three areas of the ice is excellent. His ability to change the pace of play, whether slowing it down or speeding it up, makes him difficult to read in translation. In the video below, the Canadian captain does a good job establishing position in front of the net. Once there, Krebs hold his ground and does a good job of getting his stick on the shot a tipping the go ahead goal.  

Tweet coutesy of @TSN_Sports

In the defensive end, he is a hard worker and a player who makes an effort to be in position to break up passes. Krebs isn’t bad in his own end of the ice, but his positioning can lose some lustre when hemmed into the defensive zone. He seems to get over-eager to get the puck back and, at times, gets running around a bit. His active stick does a good job at interrupting passing plays. He uses his advanced hockey-IQ to read a play, react and make the smart play most of the time. He is excellent at picking up a loose puck, turning up the ice and start a break out. His strong skating, rapid acceleration due to a great first stride and his ability to shift from left to right and stay balanced with the puck allows him to break the puck out with ease and efficiency.

When entering the offensive zone, he rarely does the expected, often taking a unique path to wherever he wants to go on the ice. His vision allows him to pass the puck at any moment, often making passes to dangerous areas from positions where he doesn’t have a scoring chance. He works extremely well from the half-wall and behind the net. These positions allow Krebs to see the ice and make the appropriate play. An adept passer, the slightly undersized pivot is excellent and putting saucer passes on the tape of teammates.

Krebs is a playmaker at heart but he does possess a quick release on his wrist shot. He often backs defenders off with his speed and then uses them as a screen. His wrist shot is hard and accurate but his slap shot and one-timer could use some work. The expectation is that they will both improve with physical maturity. In the video below, Krebs recovers the puck in the defensive zone behind his own net. He builds speed through the defensive zone and passes the puck off the the wall in the neutral zone. Receiving a return pass, Krebs burst of speed backs the defender off until Krebs passes right by him getting an excellent chance on net. 

Tweet courtesy of @AthaniouLater

Preseason Outlook

Heading into the season as the top scoring WHL rookie from the year prior, Krebs was making the transition from the left wing to center. His 54 points in 67 games were impressive and he displayed his playmaking ability with 37 assists in his freshman season. As the top pick in the 2016 WHL draft, Krebs is the centrepiece of the Kootenay Ice (Winnipeg Ice starting next season). Although the team has struggled, Krebs was able to produce at a good rate without much help around him.

Prior to this season, Krebs competed for Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky U18 tournament. There he displayed good quickness and excellent vision. He finished the tournament with five points in five games. Krebs could have easily had many more points as he was a set-up machine throughout the tournament and the recipients often missed open nets or fired the puck into the goalies chest. The excellent video below from Hockey Prospect Center shows many of the chances that Krebs generated throughout the tournament.

https://youtu.be/3HYz8jtiXA4

Carrying Kootenay, Receiving the “C”

Understanding that the season in Kootenay would be a trying one, Peyton Krebs did a good job at staying engaged in the season. His play this year never lacked effort or passion. Krebs pushed himself to continue to improve in all areas of the ice. Defensively he began to compete harder and was relentless at fighting for the puck. The ultra-competitive Krebs began the season producing at a point-per-game clip. This production, along with his constant drive to develop in all areas of the game, led the Ice to name the Okotoks, Alberta native the captain of the team. The leadership role was embraced by Krebs. The clear best player on a team that was struggling was also the hardest worker. Krebs was always the player for the Ice that pushed that extra gear to keep the team competitive in games throughout the year.

In the video below, Krebs does an excellent job driving to the net in control. Once in front, he does an excellent job establishing position by battling with a bigger defender. Winning the net front shoving match, Krebs was able to find the puck and get it to the back of the net. This showed off the fiery and competitive nature of the young Canadian center who proved throughout the season that he can play bigger than his physical make-up would suggest.

Tweet courtesy of @DraftAnalyst

Heading into the new year, Krebs had 43 points in 39 games. Krebs continued to produce on the struggling team. Without much help around him, Krebs continued to carry the Ice to the little success the team had. The team was often blown out and the losses piled up, picking up their 10th win of the season on January 16th. Finishing near the bottom of the WHL, Kootenay found their new captain but the dismal performance would lead to bigger picture changes for the Ice.

Kootenay Chapter Ends, Captain Canada Begins

The Ice were on the move to Winnipeg. A late January announcement confirmed the rumours and the final stages of the season were trying after the announcement. Winning only three of the final 18 games, the Ice closed out their final season in Kootenay in disappointing fashion. Despite the competitive drive and offensive production from Krebs, Kootenay‘s team was on its way to the Manitoba capital.

After Krebs season, knowing the next one would be spent in a different city, he turned his attention to national glory. Making the Canadian U18 team Krebs impressed in pre-tournament play, being named captain of a team for the second time in five months. Finishing as the tied for top Canadian scorer and fifth in the tournament with teammate Alex Newhook, with 10 points in just seven games.

Video courtesy of Puck Progidy Youtube channel

The Canadian team had a strong roster on paper but failed to gel. The chemistry never materialized and the skill carried them to the bronze medal game against the rival Americans. The stacked US team surprisingly lost to Russia in the semi-finals and took out their frustrations on Canada. Despite the game finishing 5-2, the game never get close for the Canadian squad. Krebs led the Canadians to a fourth place finish, losing the bronze medal game to another underachiever in the Americans.

What the Detractors Say

As with any prospect, there are weak spots in Krebs game and like many, one of them is size. At 5’11” and 181lbs, the Winnipeg Ice forward is stalky but could help himself with a good summer or two in the weight room. Bulking up a little bit by putting on good muscle mass will allow him to continue to play his game at the next level. His tenacious attitude and relentless style of play demands a lot of him physically, doing so against men will be even more difficult. Adding some size will aid him in that endeavor.

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The most glaring weakness in the young prospects arsenal is his lack of dynamic scoring ability. He has yet to hit 20 goals in the WHL, despite putting up 68 points this season. He has all the tools to get himself into position to score, his finishing ability isn’t terrible and he has an accurate shot. Krebs issue is that he often looks off shots and passes the puck. He could look to be more selfish in the future, allowing himself to score more goals to supplement his playmaking ability. Krebs biggest asset is his vision and ability to play off the rush using his speed, he will need to rely on both to create chances for himself by being more self reliant.

Peyton Krebs will be taken…

In the 8-12 range. Krebs is one of the players that sit near the back end of the second tier. He has tools that entice, but players ahead of him have a more complete set of tools. Krebs is really hurt in his lack of goal scoring. He was a play driver for Kootenay and created a lot more chances than they could have expected with the limited cast around him however his tendency to pass up on scoring opportunities to create for his teammates and a tendency to hold onto the puck for a bit too long can get him into trouble. Despite his flaws, Krebs will have a good shot at sticking in the middle come his NHL time because

For more on the NHL, prospects and the NHL Draft, follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari on twitter!

All stats and information provided by Elite ProspectsDobber Prospects and NHL.com

NHL Draft Profile: Bowen Byram

The top defender in the draft, Byram is a silky smooth skater. The WHL leading scorer, as a defenceman, has taken hold of the rankings and pulled himself ahead at every turn. The offensive skillset and defensive potential is what is separating Byram from the rest of the blue-line group.

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Name: Bowen Byram

Date of Birth: June 13, 2001

Nationality (Place of Birth): Canadian (Cranbrook, BC, Canada)

Hieght: 6’0″

Weight: 183lbs

Shoots: Left

Position: D

Scouting Report

The above spider graph, courtesy of Kyle Pereira of Puck77, displays the available data from Will Scouch. As shown in the graph, Byram excels in all areas. The CAT% (both offensive and defensive) are a product of even strength goals for percentage relative to their team. Will Scouch broke it down into offensive and defensive areas and renamed them catalyst percentage. For a more in-depth explanation from the man himself, you can watch the video here. As you can see, the NHL eScore is the highest among defenders in this draft making him most likely to make an NHL impact. 

As the only defenceman in this draft that projects as a true top-pairing defender, Byram excels or shows promise in every part of the game. In his own zone, Byram is able to use his excellent skating to close the gap on opposing players and isn’t afraid to close out along the boards. His ability to lay the body without losing sight of the puck and make a play without missing a step is the key to his defensive game. He doesn’t panic under pressure and confidently handles the puck. Makes the smart play in his own zone, often waiting the extra second as a play develops while a forecheck is barring down on him.

Byram is more than capable of winning battles both in the corners and in front of the net. He is strong on the puck and doesn’t get pushed off the puck against bigger forwards. The smooth skating defender is often able to take away passing lanes and prevent defenders in front of the net from making a difference. His strength will need to improve and mature over the next 18 months in order to truly have a chance make an impact on an NHL roster but the foundation of a smart, physical defensive game is there.

His skating is elite. He has the ability to go in any direction at a high rate of speed with efficiency. Able to transition from forward to backward, he is able to keep an opponent to the outside and has an active stick that forces the opposition to keep the puck in an ineffective position, often leading to a loose puck or poke check from Byram. He is able to transition from defence to offence is outstanding, displaying his high-end offensive awareness. With his NHL-ready first few strides and acceleration to his top-speed, Byram is able to change the pace of play and push the puck up the ice as a one-man wrecking machine through the neutral zone. In the video below, Bryam shows off his skating and edge work by changing directions to brush off a defending forward at the blue line before venturing deep into the zone. This draws in defenders and opens a passing lane which Byram takes advantage of without skipping a beat. 

Tweet courtesy of @Hockey_Robinson

In the offensive zone Byram uses his best tool, his skating, to his advantage. With the ability to run a power play as the quarterback, he is truly able to make a difference on special teams. Constantly gliding up and down the boards and across the blue-line to create an open look for a pass to a high danger area. His slap shot is good but his snap shot is the weapon that generates the best scoring chances. Whether it’s used as he pinches down to the circles or off the rush, he is able to put an heavy, accurate shot on net. He possesses outstanding vision and is able to pass to any area of the ice with efficiency. He is one of the true two-way defenders in this draft class and is high-level at both ends of the ice but his transitional play is what separates Byram from every other defender in this draft. In the video below, Byram shows an ability to read the play as it develops and gets to open ice to receive a pass that he was able to immediately fire into the back of the net. 

Tweet courtest of @TheDraftAnalyst 

Preseason Outlook

Preparing to take a leadership role on the Vancouver Giants of the WHL this season, the young blue-liner had a good summer prior to his draft-eligible season. He came into the Gretzky-Hlinka tournament in the summer as one of Canada’s best defenders. He provided Canada with a good two-way game with four points (1G, 3A) in five games on route to the gold medal. He showed all of his abilities in the tournament that made him the rookie of the year in the WHL as a 16-year-old in 2017-18. The promise that was flashed a ton in his rookie season was affirmed against the best of the best in his age group, setting the stage for an outstanding draft year.

Video courtesy of Hockey Prospect Center Youtube channel

Tearing up the WHL

The reigning rookie of the year began the season looking to build on a solid freshman year in 2017-18 where he had 27 points in 60 games. The silky skater began the season strong as he put up 14 points in the first 18 games, looking like a true number-one defenceman early into his sophomore campaign. His creativity offensively began to flourish and his confidence grew throughout the season.

The maturity of his game began to show as he learned to adapt his habits on both ends of the ice. Defensively he began to engage physically, showing his strength after a good summer of growth. Offensively he began to use his shot much more both on the rush and at the point. He used his lateral quickness to open shooting lanes and his phenomenal edge work allows him to pivot deeper into the zone at a moments notice or transition to defence and cut the angle off to the puck carrier.

Video courtesy of Hockey Prospect Center Youtube channel

His regular season was outstanding as he was named a first-team Western Conference All-star for the 2018-19 season. His impressive 71 points in 67 games was good for third in the WHL among all defenders and his 26 goals outpaced every blue-liner in the league. The only two rear guards to put up higher offensive totals were 19-year-old Josh Brook and 20-year-old Dawson Davidson, both with 75 points. As a 17-year-old, he was more than able to play an effective defensive game, engaging physically without taking himself out of plays like many young defenders do.

Leading the WHL playoffs in scoring

Whatever we thought of Byram’s game before the playoffs, the young D-man was an absolute stud for the Vancouver Giants run to the WHL final. Leading the entire playoffs in scoring from the backend with 26 points. Byram lead all players in scoring by edging Prince Albert Raiders over-ager Brett Leason by one point. The next closest defenceman was 10 points back, 20-year-old teammate Dylan Plouffe.

Bowen Byram was an absolute workhorse for Vancouver. He was a monster on both ends of the ice, making plays defensively and offensively. His game took a step that drove the Cranbrook, British Columbia native straight up draft boards. His play during the postseason inspired his top-pair defender projections, something no other defender in this class has.

What the Detractors Say

The most prominent complaints in Byram’s game are the excess minute that the Giants played him and the fact that he has sometimes been caught out of position. The later happened because he trusts himself to take risks due to his ability to get back into position with his elite skating ability. He will have to develop a better sense for when to jump into the rush at the next level but mistakes like this tend to work themselves out as a young defender matures. As for being overplayed and looking worn out once in a while, he took on the large role from the Giants coaching staff and developed into a leader during the season. He may have been playing a few too many minutes during the season but the point totals and skillset allowed him to do so while not looking too far out of his depth.

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Bowen Byram will be taken…

In the top-five. The last time a defender wasn’t selected in the top-five was the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. The first blue-liner selected that year was Ryan Suter at 7th overall by the Nashville Predators. The likelyhood that a team such as the Los Angeles Kings pass up on Byram is slim unless they fall in love with a forward. If for some reason Byram isn’t selected by the Kings, the Detroit Red Wings will be salivating as they run over other teams draft tables to get to the podium. Byram has the highest ceiling of all the defenders in this draft and he’s completely separated himself from all other rearguards in the class.

NHL Draft Profile: Dylan Cozens

The big and fast center was consistently one of the highest ranked forwards in this draft class. He generates outstanding speed with a long, powerful stride providing him the ability to blow by opposing defenders with ease. He matches a hard, heavy shot with solid, tape-to-tape passing ability to provide outstanding offensive potential.

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Name: Dylan Cozens

Date of Birth: February 9, 2001

Nationality (Place of Birth): Canadian (Whitehorse, YT, Canada)

Hieght: 6’3″

Weight: 181lbs

Shoots: Right

Position: C

Rankings

Scouting Report

 

The above spider graph, courtesy of Kyle Pereira of Puck77, displays the available data from Will Scouch. As shown, Cozens may not top any category, but he is quite good in every area represented. Producing at a high rate at even strength (ESP60) and doing an excellent job at maintaining a high goals for relative to his team (GF% Rel). Cozens is a difference maker and a close to pro ready center. While there is a chance he plays on the wing at the next level, he has a very strong chance of staying in the middle as a big bodied top-six center. The one area he could stand to improve in is his shot quantity. He doesn’t shoot in major volume but did show signs of improving in that area as the year wore on. 

The goal-scoring machine has all the tools to be a difference maker on the offensive end of the ice. Pairing a hard shot with great accuracy gives Cozens the ability to score from virtually anywhere. He has good vision around the ice and while playmaking isn’t his calling card, he makes good, crisp passes to his teammates and has the ability to make good plays to dangerous areas. His large frame does a good job at shielding the puck in junior hockey, but he will likely need to add some muscle to his 6’3″ frame to continue to succeed at the next level.

Cozens is an excellent skater, not just as a big player. He has exceptional top-end speed, a long and powerful stride to create quick acceleration and his edge work is a real plus as well. The ability for him to move like a player four inches shorter, while using his size to push his way past defenders, is a key reason that Cozens is one of the top prospects in the 2019 draft class. He is able to work in and out of traffic to find open ice and get into a dangerous position. He lives in the high-slot area of the ice. He sets up for one-timers and does an excellent job redirecting the puck on the net from the slot. He establishes position against more physically immature opponents with ease but will need to allow his own body to mature to reach the same level of success at the professional level. In the video below, Cozens receives a pass along the boards and begins to build speed through the neutral zone. Once across the blue-line, Cozens is faced with a defender who closes the gap. At this point, Cozens displays soft hands and a good burst as he blows by the defender with a good move and then cuts to the net. He fires a shot short side and beats the goaltender with a good shot.

Tweet courtesy of @DraftLook

Despite needing to add weight, the foundation for a solid defensive game are there. His positioning and knowledge of where he needs to be is good. He has the long frame that allows him to reach an disrupt the passing and shooting lanes. While he isn’t afraid to throw his body around defensively, or on the forecheck for that matter, he isn’t fully effective at it due to throwing himself off balance at times and getting lost behind the play. With a bit more weight and physical growth, this should change as he will be able to stay in position while delivering a hit and not getting lost behind the play. Overall the tools for a good defensive game are there, committing to it and working at it over the next couple years will go a long way.

Video courtesy of @StevenEllisTHN

His compete level is there at all times. He isn’t a player you have to consistently fire up. This is a skill that can’t be taught. In the video above, Cozens does an excellent job at staying with the puck after the initail chance in tight, potting the rebound by playing to the whistle and not allowing the defenders to get to the puck and clear it. A high-motor player who works his rear-end off is a player that can develop at a higher rate than most. While he has a higher floor than most, his ceiling isn’t as high. Cozens is a safe pick, likely to bottom out as a good third line center with two-way ability and scoring touch. The ceiling for Cozens is probably that of a high-end number two center possibly a low-end number one but the cards all have to fall exactly right for that to happen. The tools are there, as is the work ethic, pitting them all together will be key for the Lethbridge leading scorer.

Preseason Outlook

After finishing his rookie season in the WHL with Rookie of the Year honours, Cozens looked poised to explode into the scene this year. His 53 points (22 goals, 31 assists) in 57 games as a rookie meant that the scoring touch was prevalent early in his junior hockey career. Looking to build off the impressive debut season, Cozens would move to center full-time after playing it sparingly in his freshman year. The move was a welcome one, as it allowed the Whitehorse, Yukon native the ability to be engaged at both ends of the ice with the added defensive responsibility of playing center.

Video courtesy of Hockey Prospects Center Youtube channel

His season really began with the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament in the summer. With five points in five games, the Canadian with an “A” on his sweater helped lead them to a gold medal finish. Cozens was good in the tournament, starting the year off on the right foot. His draft stock began to rise even more significantly than expected to start the season. The long and lanky center was ready for a tough season of WHL play along with the possibility that he could again suit up for Canada at the World U18 Championship should his team not advance past the first round come playoff time.

Showing Top-line Potential to Open the Season

After a solid performance with Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament in the preseason, Cozens started the season strong for the Hurricanes. With 11 points in his first seven games, picking up points in each contest, Cozens began to establish himself as a leader and prime-time offensive threat in the Lethbridge lineup. He dominated competition and chewed through opposing defences in an effort to push his squad despite their poor win-loss total early in the season.

Cozens scoring touch was on display in a late-November game against the Brandon Wheat Kings. Man-handling the opposition at every turn, the high-skill Hurricane was a force to be reckoned with. Scoring three goals and adding three assists in an 8-4 throttling of the Wheat Kings. Cozens was a multi-talented man in the game, scoring in a variety of ways and making quite a few high level plays. His vision was on display all game, as was his spatial awareness in the offensive zone. He seemed to slide into pockets of space with just enough room to make a play. Cozens put on a show for fans and scouts alike.

Leading Lethbridge, Canada’s U18 team

Cozens had an outstanding first half of the season. Coming into January, he totalled 21 goals and 50 points in just 36 games and he was ready to have a big second half building to the playoffs. Cozens responsibilities lessened after the trade deadline, but he remained one of Lethbridge’s most dangerous players.

Video courtesy of Hockey Prospects Center Youtube channel

Despite a modest slow in the point accumulation, only 10 points in 12 games in the month of January, Cozens sat second in the Hurricanes in scoring and continued to play with speed and pace. The smooth skating Cozens was the Hurricanes MVP down the stretch as the entire team began to slow in the second half. Cozens helped maintain the teams standing in the playoffs powered by 24 points in his final 20 games, pushing the Hurricanes as a total offensive catalyst, both as a playmaker and a goal scorer.

Leading the Hurricanes to the second seed in the division, giving them a favourable match-up against the Calgary Hitmen, Cozens continued his strong play in the seven-game first round series. With four goals and four assists in the seven-game series, Cozens did everything in his power to help Lethbridge win. Despite that, a heartbreaking game-seven loss was in the cards for Cozens. This gave him the opportunity to participate at the World U18 Championships with Canada. There Cozens had a very quiet nine points in seven games which would be great if others around the tournament hadn’t outshone him, among many other solid performances. Cozens helped lead Canada to a 4th place finish, losing the the stacked team USA.

What the Detractors Say

The biggest flaw talked about with Cozens is his strength and sturdiness. Although he is 6’3″ he is only 181lbs. He’s very lanky and can be pushed off the puck by bigger opponents but Cozens should add weight as he matures physically over the next couple of years. It’s not particularly uncommon for a player to be “underweight” at this age because their metabolism is still kicking it in high gear and players often have a har stone putting on muscle mass.

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A secondary knock on Cozens has been his hockey IQ. While some have boasted about Cozens having an exceptional hockey IQ, others have argued that the speedy center has a tendency to have mental lapses. Where there’s smoke, there is generally fire and this isn’t an exception. While he does suffer from temporary lapses in judgement that have gotten him into trouble, be it turnovers or otherwise, Cozens doesn’t have elite hockey IQ, but it is good. It could be described as immature, likely to develop as he does.

Dylan Cozens will be taken…

Somewhere in the later half of the top-10. Don’t be shocked to see him squeeze his way into the top-five but the 6-10 range seems about where Cozens will go. The potential top-six center will be one of the more interesting prospects on draft night as his rankings have been everywhere from three to 12 throughout the season on many of the top draft rankings. Cozens has a few things going for him that will make sure that he likely sticks in the top-10. Size, speed and shooting ability paired with good playmaking and a decent 200-foot game are such tantalizing skills that a team could easily fall in love with. Teams like the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks and Vancouver Canucks would all be great spots for Cozen to be selected. Immediately becoming one of their top prospects, he would fill a need in the near future and could turn into a franchise building block with other young players each of those teams have already in their system.

For more on the NHL, prospects and the NHL Draft, follow me here at @TheTonyFerrari on twitter!

All stats and information provided by Elite ProspectsDobber Prospects and NHL.com