The 2016 NHL Draft will not receive the same attention from the media as the 2015 version, that being said, there’s still a lot to be excited about.
As it stands right now, there looks to be a higher talent level when it comes to defenceman. Headlined by Jakob Chychrun, the list of 2016 defenceman is quite extensive and features more than just two way defenders like we saw in the first round of the 2015 draft. Beyond Chychrun, you will see names like Chad Krys, Charlie McAvoy, Sean Day, Jake Bean, and Dante Fabbro as guys who will likely rise and inhabit a top 20 spot. Aside from those more highly touted prospects, this is also the year we see Max Lajoie, Luke Green, Olli Juolevi, Kale Clague, and Victor Mete being selected. Whether or not they’re first round selections remains to be seen, but I do believe it’s possible that we see a draft with ten defenceman being selected in round one.
Here’s a brief synopsis of what to expect from the potential first round defenceman:
Jakob Chychrun – LD – Sarnia Sting: Expect Jakob to build on what was an impressive rookie campaign. After recording 33 points and playing more minutes as the season progressed, it’s clear that the 6’2 blue liner is ready to take over the blue line in Sarnia and dominate the OHL. He does have top pairing NHL potential, as well as NHL ready size so don’t be surprised if he puts up 50 points and is relied upon as the top shutdown guy.
Chad Krys – LD – USNTDP: The 5’11 blue liner is coming off a very strong offensive season. Being in the American system, Krys jumped around to five different teams as the season unwound, but never dropped below 0.70 ppg. If Krys wants to stay in the conversation as a top 5 talent, he needs to show a commitment to playing strong in his own end, as well as continue to be dominant in the offensive zone. Expect him to be a point per game guy at each level he plays at this season.
Charlie McAvoy – RD – Boston University: As one of my favourite players in this upcoming draft, it’s hard for me to find a flaw in his game. He could always get quicker and more agile, but as it stands now, the BU commit has shown both a strong defensive zone presence as well as the ability to control offensive zone play. As he takes the next step, I’d hope to see him bring his level up to the point that he’s a top four defender at the NCAA level.
Sean Day – LD – Mississauga Steelheads: Opinions differ a ton when it comes to the 229 pound defenceman. According to some opposing players Day is soft and his skating is the only reason he’s in the O. Others believe he brings a fairly well rounded game and has shown hints of dominance. If he’s going to be in the conversation for a top 10 spot come next July, Day has to commit to controlling his own end. If he can prove to be a reliable defender, the offensive side comes naturally to him. Going into the 2016 season, he’s my biggest wildcard.
Jake Bean – LD – Calgary Hitmen: After going undrafted in the WHL Bantam Draft, the Hitmen listed a potential top 20 NHL draft pick (further proving why I believe the WHL draft should be changed, but I digress), without knowing that he would progress this much. Jake had a good rookie campaign, proving he can be relied upon in both the offensive zone and defensive zone. Bean chipped in 39 points in 51 games and will look to build off that. He’s a skilled two way defender, and we’ll see if he can play at a similar level as Travis Sanheim did in his draft year.
Dante Fabbro – RD – Penticton Vees: It would be great to see the 6’2 right handed defender jump up to the WHL ranks, but he will spend the next year in Penticton meaning two things. First, there won’t be a ton of mainstream coverage. Secondly, for those who won’t get a look at him, he will likely be talked about as a two way defenceman who is good offensively. He’ll be a bit of a mystery but one thing is certain, the kid is good. He’s solid in almost every aspect, from his skating to passing. He should be able to dominate the BCHL this year.
Max Lajoie – LD – Swift Current Broncos: Lajoie had one hell of a coming out party this year as he posted 40 points in 72 games. It’s rare to see a player put up 40 points as a rookie defenceman, but it’s even more rare to see a guy play a full season without missing a single game. Lajoie looks to be rounding into a solid two way defender, but he will still need a strong outing in 2015-16 to be considered for a first round selection. Development in his case, much like the other defenders in the first round, will be seen if he is relied upon in key situations. I want to see him on the PK, and continue the offensive production we saw last season.
Luke Green – RD – Saint John Sea Dogs: After being selected first overall in the QMJHL draft, Luke Green had a decent rookie season. As an undersized defender, Green showed he’s a fairly strong offensive defender who has decent defensive instincts. The good thing for Luke is that he will be playing on a stacked Saint John team that will allow him to develop next to guys like Thomas Chabot and Jakob Zboril. I’d expect Green to post around 45 points and the Sea Dogs to finish top three in the league.
Olli Juolevi – LD – London Knights : As a player makes the transition from Europe, it’s hard to come up with an accurate prediction of how they may fair in North America. At the same age, Julius Honka posted 0.36 points per game where Juolevi (at the same age and level) recorded 0.65 ppg. Stats say very little about a player, but this is an interesting comparable. It’s a wait and see situation with Olli, but with his skating and puck moving ability, it’s likely he puts up pretty solid offensive totals in London.
Kale Clague – LD – Brandon Wheat Kings: Clague was dominant in his Midget and Bantam AAA years, but struggled with injuries in his rookie season. He’s a great – and I mean great – skater. He has good puck moving ability, and a pretty good shot. His biggest problem is the fact that he plays like he’s 5’10. In my viewings, I rarely saw him engage in body contact, and a few times saw him shy away from contact. This season will be a better test as he is likely to play more than 20 regular season games, and if Provorov ends up in Philly, he will take a larger role on a strong Wheat Kings team.
Victor Mete – LD – London Knights: After a decent rookie season, Mete looks like he will be one of the best offensive defenceman in the league in the coming years. He’s an aggressive, smooth skating defender who battles. I’d expect him to pick up his offensive numbers quite a bit given the fact he’s on a loaded London Knights squad. He’s drawn comparisons to Ryan Murphy which I find intriguing given the fact that Murphy dominated offensively during his draft season.
There are plenty more defenders who are going to be in the conversation come next June. It will be exciting to see who is the Provorov-like riser of this year, but one thing is certain, this will be a year where many teams walk away with a top four defenceman who they will be able to ride over the next 10-15 years.