By JAG – Long shots are quite often omitted by sports writers who focus on the sexy stuff, mainly the number one pick and prospects with a news worthy, sellable story. It’s just good business. Me, I enjoy following the progress of higher draft picks and I also have a thing for overachieving underdogs. Which means that I enjoy keeping track of everybody that is on the Habs prospect list, especially the long shots. Consequently, as a fan, I have had the pleasure of watching players like Jake Evans, Michael Pezzetta and a few others overcome massive odds and claim the big prize. Yeah, making it to the NHL is the big prize indeed!
Moreover, reporting on the sexy picks is already vastly covered from all kind of writers so this piece is about the long shots and more specifically, the 2022 later rounds draft picks.
Why this particular draft matters?
I have a few good reasons to specifically write about last year draft long shot prospects.
- First: It is the first draft of the Kent Hughes era. It should be a harbinger of things to come from this regime. This makes it worthy of following up on the results. Keep in mind that this is a team with a different philosophy, new analytic tools, new player development staff and new talent evaluation people. The perfect recipe for high expectations indeed!
- Second: Say you have been a perennial contender for a while, then, you haven’t had a first round pick better than a 17th pick in years …. And that only applies if you haven’t traded that pick already, chances are high that you have. And maybe you traded a few second rounders as well. How can you remain a perennial contender in such condition? There is only one conclusion possible, perennial contenders draft well in the lower rounds, they also find valuable undrafted players and they trade well … consistently! That is why drafting well in the ‘’long shot/home run zone’’ is a key factor for successful team. I want to see how this new regime is doing in the talent evaluation/scouting department.
- Third: It is my strongest wish that the Habs have the last pick of every round of every draft for years to come (let it sink through, it’s not as mean as it sounds). It is not as bad as it looks, the odds of getting serviceable NHL players from such a drafting position are the same as the odds for the team who finished last the same year …. Without a first-round pick, of course! If you aspire to become a perennial contender, you will have pick late …. And you must pick well!
- Consequently, the real acid test for a manager is not as much the building of a playoff team loaded with high draft picks, many have done it before, but rather successfully facing the constant challenge of maintaining a team in contention despite the low draft picks associated with becoming successful. This is why the 2022 draft is worth looking as a stand alone for now.
For the purpose of clarity, in this piece, long shots are defined as having a 33% probability, or less, of playing 100 games or more in the NHL. There are many charts on the topic and they all point to the 33% range starting at about the 60th pick and go down after that. Also, signed, undrafted free agents like Arber Xhekaj do qualify as long shots. So, Slafkovsky, Mesar or Beck are not included in this report. No worries there, they’re all doing exactly what they should be doing anyways.
Now, let’s look at this year’s long shots, from Miguel Tourigny with a 10% probability of success to Lane Hutson with a 33% probability.
Hail mary-long shots: 7th and 6th rounds. 10%-12% probability of success
Miguel Tourigny, 7th round, 216th
Overaged, undersized, dynamic, offensive minded RD. Moved to Europe to play against men in the Slovak Extraliga, a league comparable to the ECHL. He has 4 points in 8 games so far. Very interesting move for his development on the Habs’ part. The combination of a much bigger ice and the exposure to a different type of hockey may produce unexpected results. The early results seem to justify the gamble.
Verdict: Player’s development seems to be on schedule.
Petteri Nurmi, 7th round, 194th
Overaged, medium built, offensive minded LD. Plays junior and pro in the HPK system (Liiga) in Finland. Has 4 points in 8 games against men in a very defensive league.
Verdict: Player’s development on target.
Emmet Croteau, 6th round, 162nd
Tall goalie from the USHL, 8 games played, 2.91 GAA, 0892 Sv%. Similar stats as last year, we may not have a true read on this prospect until next year when he gets to college.
Verdict: Too early to tell.
Long shots: 5th and 4th rounds. 13%-25% probability of success
Jared Davidson, 5th round, 130th
Overaged, good built LC, plays the game with a motor that won’t quit. Plays for Seattle in the WHL. Has 19 points in 10 games and a winning face-off percentage north of 60%. Started the season at the same level of play that got him drafted, erasing doubts that last year success was a ‘’one-of’’ season. Looks like a good candidate for the Rockets in 2023.
Verdict: Player’s development better than expected, scouting looks good.
Cedrick Guindon, 4th round, 127th
Slightly undersized LC, quick and fast, 18 points in 14 games in the OHL. General performance improved over last year, has earned more ice time. No longer a ”sleeper” pick. One prospect I will watch.
Verdict: Player’s development on target.
Swing for the fences-long shots: 3rd and late 2nd rounds. 26%-33% probability of success
Adam Engstrom, 3rd round, 92nd
Good size, mobile LD who plays in the Rogle (SHL) system in Sweden. Has excellent numbers against his age group and has 2 points in 16 games against men in the top Swedish hockey league. Should be at the World Junior tourney. His game grew by leap and bounces in the second half of last year and he has not looked out of place in his first season against men.
Verdict: Player’s development has gained speed. Another one to watch. Scouting looks good again.
Vinzenz Rohrer, 3rd round, 75th
Slightly undersized, agile, dynamic player. Listed as a RW but he has taken almost 20 face-offs per game and is winning slightly more than 50% of them. He already has 15 points in 13 games and has improved in all facets of his game including face-offs which were a struggle last year. He was one of the youngest players drafted last year which gives him 3 more years of junior eligibility. My guess is that he will be in Laval before that.
Verdict: This player’s development has gained speed. Another one to watch. Scouting looks good again.
Lane Hutson, 2nd round, 62nd
This player is as blatantly undersized as he is blatantly brimming with talent. I don’t think he is in the ‘’home run’’ territory, I think he has ‘’grand slam’’ potential! His hockey IQ is off the scale, he creates open lanes with ease and he finds open space with the puck on a string. He is learning the defensive ropes at Boston U where he is in the process of eliminating any doubts about his ability of playing against bigger, more mature opponents. He already has 8 points in the 7 games he has played. This is a rather good result for a rookie defenseman in the NCAA. Realistically, he is only considered a long shot because of his draft selection, justified solely by his lack of size. Everything else about his play screams 1st rounder talent. The eye test is a treat, he is the absolute Mr. Dekes. When I watch his highlight clips, I replay his dekes more than I replay his goals and assists. This guy is reinventing ‘’shifty’’.
Verdict: This is the one to watch. He may be the draft ‘’coup’’ of the decade for the Habs scouting.
We are at about the 10 games marker for most of these players. Admittedly, it is a bit early and this report cannot be more than anecdotal impressions. However, this first report is about getting the ball rolling, it is meant to set the basis for the next report due for the 20 games marker. The goal is to report periodically on these prospects and build a more robust picture of who they are, how they progress through their seasons and where they could fit in the Habs future …. If there is one for them. That is the acid test for management. Remember, drafting well in the lower rounds is key to creating a perennial contender. This report is as much about assessing management performance as it is about assessing players’ progress.
That being said, at this point, the ‘’Long shot’’ draft of 2022 has no prospect off the rails and all of them are either on track or ahead of schedule in their development. While it is too early to call it anything else than being ‘’on track’’, what has been shown so far should keep us watching for more.
Thanks for reading
Keep your stick on the ice, the puck is coming.