Each year I make a list of top players in the draft based on my down home list of priorities. I love the math if it’s good, a player with a range of skills always gets the nod and I’ll cheat some for a bigger player if he has skill. By the time my final list is ready, the order may be different but all of the usual suspects are there.
Not so this year in the case of Blake Speers, who I’ve stubbornly kept in the first round of the draft (final number: 26). I’m pretty sure this is an exceptional talent and a team taking him—even in the later part of round one—should be pleased with their effort. What IS it about Blake Speers that others are seeing that the math can’t show me? IS it ‘saw him good’ or is my math addled? Let’s have a look.
- Blake Speers Bob McKenzie rank: No. 72
- Craig Button NHL comparable: Ryan Callahan
- Craig Button Scouting Report: Speers is a very determined and purposeful player. He gets involved in all areas of the game, from the offensive parts to the defensive parts, and has a real determination to contribute whatever it may be. Always in the play and on the puck. Improving the explosive elements in his skating will allow him an even greater influence on the game.
In regard to his skating, I should mention that the word ‘elite’ was mentioned by a respected scouting service and another very good one talks about an impressive first step. Both services also mention a lack of strength but point out he’s a willing player and tries in all areas. His boxcar numbers (57GP, 24-43-67) are quality for a draft eligible in this era and at 5.11, 181 there seems to be a lot to like. He’s a center who does play the (left) wing—and that often means a pro winger—but I keep coming back to the point-per-game and the assist total. You may say ‘he’s probably getting it all on the power play’ but the numbers break out well compared to a player with similar point-per-game totals.
That’s pretty close, no? I don’t think we can say Speers is a cherry picker based on these numbers, and both services above rank Chlapik 30 spots higher than Speers AND both mention Chlapik’s two-way ability and physical presence.
CHLSTATS NHLE PROJECTIONS
Another way to look at the math side of things is NHLE. CHLStats takes the equivalency to a new level, estimating ice time and then projecting points. Here is the CHL NHLE for 17-year olds from 2014-15.
- Connor McDavid 62
- Mitch Marner 49
- Dylan Strome 46
- Timo Meier 31
- Evegny Svechnikov 30
- Blake Speers, Anthony Beauvillier, Anthony Richard 29
So offense isn’t the issue. I can’t really find a math reason to keep Speers out of the first round (all of the names here are in the first round save Richard who I have on my list but later due to one-dimensional resume). The reasons for Speers’ ranking can’t be math, because math loves Blake Speers. Here’s two scouting reports online and their source.
- Future Considerations: “A solid two-way winger, elite level speed with a very efficient skating stride…good lateral agility…lacks strength and can get knocked off the puck by bigger opponents…handles the puck well and has some deceptively good hands…makes crisp, accurate passes to teammates…has a decent shot…does all the little things to succeed…can kill penalties, work the power play, lead the rush or bring a strong forecheck…has good leadership qualities and possesses the intangibles that make pro aspirations a possibility in his future.” Source
- Shawn Reznik, The Hockey Writers: “Speers is lightning quick on his skates which helps him get out of the way of checks. At top speed, his hands are as fast as his feet and he can dangle with the best of them. I was most surprised by his shot. Speers looks for the perfect opening before wiring a wrister past a goalie. When he is not shooting, Speers is equally talented at dishing off the puck to his teammates.” Source
I think he’s a solid late first-round pick and believe he represents exceptional value based on his Bob McKenzie number. If No. 72 is the consensus, Edmonton could get this player with the No. 57 pick. Tremendous value. Once again, here are my reasons for ranking Speers No. 26 in the 2015 draft:
- The math loves him.
- He is a skill forward with a range of skills—including speed.
- The scouting report negatives are things all kids have to work on—strength, attention to detail. There are NO red flags.
- He’s not a small player (5.11, 181) and could grow to NHL average.
- His offense is not skewed because of a power-play push.
- He was not one of the top scoring players on his team.