By JAG – This piece is the second instalment in a season-long series about the 2022 later rounds draft picks. The first installment, published in early November, covered the first 15 games of the season based on the CHL calendar. This second one covers the 15 games that followed.
- Long shots: 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 available on the topic and they all point to the 33% range starting at about the 60th pick and go down after that.
- Players from other leagues and/or injured players will have different number of games played.
Why this particular draft matters?
A few good reasons to specifically write about the long shot prospects from the 2022 draft.
- First reason: It is the first draft of the Kent Hughes era. It should be a harbinger of things to come from this regime.
- Second reason: As a rule, perennial playoff teams haven’t had a 1st round pick better than a 17th pick in years …. if they haven’t traded that pick already, chances are high that they have. And maybe they’ve traded a few second rounders as well. The question begs, how can you remain a perennial contender in such condition? There is only one conclusion possible, perennial contenders draft well in the lower rounds and, of course, they also find valuable undrafted players and they trade well … consistently! That is why drafting well in the later rounds is a key factor for successful teams.
- Third: If the Habs win the Cup …. or give it a good shot for many years to come, they’ll be drafting last or very close to last more often than not. If you aspire to become a perennial contender, you implicitly endeavour to pick late …. and you must pick well!
- Consequently, the real acid test for a manager and his team is not measured by building a team loaded with high draft picks acquired through tanking, many have done it before and failed to win consistently! Well managed teams maintain the team in contention despite the low draft picks associated with becoming successful. This is why the 2022 draft is worth looking at, there is always a starting point in a trend and this is the start of the Hughes’ trend!
The 2022 long shots, from Miguel Tourigny to Lane Hutson.
Hail Mary-long shots: 7th and 6th rounds. 10%-12% probability of success
Miguel Tourigny, 7th round, 216th:
Overaged, undersized (5’8’’, 168 lbs), dynamic, offensive minded RD. Moved to Europe to play against men in the Slovak Extraliga, a league comparable to the ECHL instead of playing as an overager in the Q. He had 4 points in 8 games as of November 7 and now, he’s showing 10 points in 16 games with a differential of -3. I would say that it’s pretty good for a kid from Victoriaville who’s only played in the Q before. New country, new language(s), new food, new customs …. New everything! That is quite a challenge for anybody, let alone a 20 years old hockey player trying to get his footing in a new league for a new team. The fact that he is adapting and performing speaks to his maturity and fortitude.
He is justifying his European move and proving his point that he no longer belongs in Junior! He’s keeping me watching!
Verdict: Player’s development still on schedule.
Petteri Nurmi, 7th round, 194th:
Overaged, medium built (6’0’’, 167 lbs), mobile, two-way LD. Plays pro in the HPK system (Liiga) in Finland. Since the first report, he has secured a first pairing for HPK in Liiga and has 8 points in 20 games. To give it some perspective, he had 4 pts in 58 games in the same league last year, if prorated, it translates into a 6 folds increase in production. Not too shabby indeed!
Verdict: Player’s development definitely on target.
Emmet Croteau, 6th round, 162nd:
In the first report, I wrote: Tall goalie (6’3’’, 195 lbs) from the USHL, 8 games played, 2.91 GAA, 0.892 Sv%. Similar stats as last year, we may not have a true read on this prospect until next year when he gets to college. My verdict was: Too early to tell.
Well …. I stand corrected! I went back and took a second look at his progression. From 20-21 until now, he posted a 3.67 GAA with a 0.877 Sv% during the 20-21 season. Then, last year in the regular season, he posted a 3.00 GAA with a 0.899 Sv%. And he kept the best for last with a playoff performance in which he posted a 2.71 GAA with a 0.913 Sv%. So far this year, he is showing a 2.67 GAA with a 0.906 Sv%. Clearly, Emmet is trending up.
So, I am going to change my assessment.
Keep in mind that I still think that a goaltender’s potential development and development timelines are more difficult to predict for goalies than they are for defensemen. So, in many ways, predicting goalies may be a crap shoot but trending up is trending up so here’s the new verdict.
Verdict: Player’s development on schedule.
Just for fun, a quick example about goalies evading predictability. Habs fans should check Charlie Lindgren’s stats at 29 years old. After being let go by the Habs, he found his stride and a NHL home in Washington. Just one look and Habs fans will want him back …. right now!
Long shots: 5th and 4th rounds. 13%-25% probability of success
Jared Davidson, 5th round, 130th:
Overaged LC, good built (6’0’’, 181 lbs), plays the game with a motor that won’t quit. Plays for Seattle in the WHL. Has missed time with injuries but still maintains nearly 1.5 pts/game. He now has 39 points in 25 games, a winning face-off percentage at 59% and is dominating at 5 on 5 with a differential of +24 in 25 games. Still 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 (5’10’’, 178 lbs), quick and fast. He now has 38 pts in 31 games and hasn’t slowed down. General performance improved over last year, from 0.87 pts/game to 1.23 pts per game while winning more than half of the faceoffs. He can score and he can make plays for his linemates, he may not make it as a center in the NHL but he certainly has potential on the wing.
Verdict: Player’s development on target, scouting looks good.
Swing for the fences-long shots: 3rd and late 2nd rounds. 26%-33% probability of success
Adam Engstrom, 3rd round, 92nd:
Good size (6’2’’, 185 lbs), mobile LD who plays in the Rogle (SHL) system in Sweden. Has excellent numbers against his age group and, in his first year against men in the top Swedish hockey league, he has 5 points in 23 games. More importantly, he has secured a spot on the U20 for the World Junior tourney. We’ll get a chance to see him perform on the grandest stage of junior hockey, yeah!
For a proper perspective on his development this year, a quick comparison of his play at the U20 shows a jump from 28 points in 45 games (+13) last year to 13 points in 7 games (+5) this year. When prorated, it would give him, for the same number of games, 83 points and a +31 differential. That is a 3 folds increase in production. Again, not too shabby indeed!
Verdict: Player’s development has gained speed. Another one to watch. Scouting looks good again.
Vinzenz Rohrer, 3rd round, 75th:
Undersized (5’10’’, 167 lbs), agile, dynamic player. He already had 15 points in 13 games as of November 7 and now, he’s showing 32 points in 26 games with a differential of +19 …. and he is winning 54% of his faceoffs this year compared to 42% last year. He will proudly represent Austria at the World Junior and is another player that I can’t wait to watch.
Verdict: This player’s development has gained speed. Another one to watch. Scouting looks good again.
Lane Hutson, 2nd round, 62nd:
For a defenseman, this player is as blatantly undersized (5’8’’, 158 lbs) as he is blatantly brimming with talent. I don’t think he is in the ‘’home run’’ territory, nah, 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. Since the first report, when he already had 8 points in the 7 games he had played, he has maintained this incredible pace for a D-man in the NCAA and is now posting 18 points in 16 games.
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’’.
Lane will represent proudly represent the USA at the World Junior and he is a ‘’must watch’’ for all Habs fans.
Verdict: This is the one to watch. He may be the draft ‘’coup’’ of the decade for the Habs scouting.
Admittedly, 30 games or so into the season, we’re still basing judgement on anecdotal data. However, at this point, this whole class of Habs prospects that I have dubbed ‘’long shots’’ is either trending in the right direction or performing better than expected. Three of these six players will be at the World Junior which is pretty good for the ‘’long shot’’ section of draft. Kudos to the talent evaluation and scouting department.
A few things I really like about this draft:
- The positional split of the long shots: 1 RD, 3 LD, 1 G and 3 centermen. Add Slafs and Mesar on the wing and Owen Beck at center, they’re also doing very well, and it becomes very difficult to fault the Habs for this draft’s positional split, they have all angles covered. My only bone of contention is that I would have prefer one more RD but the Habs picked talent that is outperforming expectations, you can’t argue with success!
- The different timelines to reach the NHL: Slafs is already up in the show. At center, I think that, barring an injury, Owen Beck will play in Montreal next year and Jared Davidson should ply his trade in Laval. Mesar, Guindon and Rohrer are seemingly 2 to 4 years away from the NHL respectively. On defense, I think that Lane Hutson will play another 2 years in the NCAA before moving on to Laval, he needs to grow stronger and, if possible, somewhat taller and bigger. Petteri Nurmi might be ready to come over to America 2 to 3 years from now and Adam Engstrom in 3 to 5 years, both are under contracts and are developing nicely at this point. All in all, unless they all overachieve, there should be a steady, manageable influx of NHL ready players coming to the line-up. In this game, you don’t want all your prospect to become NHL ready at once.
- Clearly, not all these players will make it into a Habs uniform. However, most of them have already increased their value as desirable prospects. If they don’t play for the Habs, at least they’ll be tradeable, win-win situations are good!
- Both Scandinavian picks are showing a big uptick in their production. That’s a first! In my view, the Habs have wasted picks in that part of the world since picking Sebastian Colberg in the second round 10 years ago. Outside of Lehkie, they’ve picked nothing else but duds from Sweden and Finland, only Kapanen picked in 2021 is showing promises. BTW, he will also be playing for Finland at the World Junior.
Because 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. 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.