THE WHEEL PLAY

One of the players Edmonton chose at the 2016 draft (Markus Niemelainen) is turning into a fascinating study for this blog. Not long after the draft, I mentioned an interesting and curious comparison to first-round selection Logan Stanley:

  • Logan Stanley: 6.07, 220. 64gp, 5-12-17 107pims
  • Markus Niemelainen: 6.05, 189. 65gp, 1-26-27 28pims
  • Logan Stanley: Even-strength primary points per game: .094
  • Markus Niemelainen: Even-strength primary points per game: .108
  • Logan Stanley: Estimated even-strength points per 60: 0.655
  • Markus Niemelainen: Estimated even-strength points per 60: 1.133
  • Source

SCOUTING REPORTS

  • Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst: We see the reasons behind the hype — a 6’6 defenseman who can shoot the puck is understandably interesting in terms of upside. But the Finnish import is far from a finished product, as we’ve seen games where he makes poor choices in all three zones. From his dots down, he’s a monster — few can pin and hold like Niemelainin, who uses his long stick like a scythe to whip the puck away from trouble. North of the faceoff circles is where he needs help, and when his game finally matures, he may develop into a top-pairing shutdown defender with some added offense to boot. Source

Corey Pronman mentioned in his annual ranking (Niemelainen was No. 68) that the Finn was on loan this season—so Edmonton may choose to develop him in a pro league. Something to think about, especially in light of his handling when playing for the Saginaw Spirit this season.

A WRINKLE IN THE STORY

After the draft, I started finding some evidence that the big Finn didn’t get a lot of playing time for much of the season. Saginaw had a tough year and there were curious decisions in regard to deployment. I don’t normally pay too close attention to this kind of thing—if you know hockey people there is always something to bitch about—but in this case someone I trust mentioned it.

  • Kirk Luedeke: He was the nails at the U18s, even if he didn’t put up big offensive numbers and I find him criminally underrated by Central and other lists that have him in the 50’s and 60’s. He played for a gong show of a club in Saginaw this year, but he’s so nimble and quick for such a big man, and you can see that there might be some real untapped offensive potential with him. Of course- if Boston likes him and thinks they can get him in the early 2nd, they might move that 1st for more assets. Source

Luedeke is a tremendous resource, going back years and years (he wrote Bruins Draft Watch for a few years, that remains an insanely useful resource for the drafts he covered). I cannot publish the other reports in regard to playing time (they are published but not online) but the subject came up several times with another of the publications I trust.

LUEDEKE ABOUT NIEMELAINEN

  • Huge at 6-5 and a superb skater. Size and wheels alone isn’t a reason to take this Finn (the only 2016 draft eligible on a squad of seven D- all late ’98 or ’99-born guys) but his potential late-blooming offensive potential could push it over the edge. Anyone who has him ranked well out of the first-round is missing the boat on him in my view. Source

On draft day, the scouting reports indicated a raw, very talented big man with plus speed and shutdown ability. As the summer wears along, while reading some intelligent verbal from men like Luedeke and The Black Book, a more nuanced view of this player is emerging. Whenever I see a new arrow for a prospect, I always wheel back to scouting reports from the past. The one report I read that talked about him as a significant offensive player? Elite Prospects.

  • Curtis Joe: A complete all-around defenceman that makes the game look easy. Natural size and strength compliment his smooth stride. Very mobile skater who moves up and down the ice quickly, with acute recognition of puck and body position. His maturity and poise is actualized in his high-percentage decision-making, with and without the puck, as well as his proactive stick and body play. Very stable defensively and always takes his lane, but is quick to rush the puck up the ice as he recognizes and accounts for how much time his team is spending in their own end. All-in-all, a quick-thinking defenceman that, honestly lacking nothing, has the potential to develop into a reliable two-way defenceman. Source

We wait.

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35 Responses to "THE WHEEL PLAY"

  1. LadiesloveSmid says:

    hard to dispute the top 3 picks being warranted where they were chosen the past 2 drafts, something that can’t be said for many years prior

    I’m definitely especially excited for Benson

  2. leadfarmer says:

    One goal the entire draft year in the OHL. If he is anything more than a modern defensive defenseman I’d be shocked

  3. jfry says:

    hey lt, can you explain why you keep comparing him to logan stanley? on the surface the only thing that seems similar is their size. otherwise stanley brings a lot of pims and way less O. I’m not sure i see them as comparable. that said i’ve barely seen either play, but the numbers don’t ring out for me. thx

  4. John Chambers says:

    leadfarmer:
    One goal the entire draft year in the OHL.If he is anything more than a modern defensive defenseman I’d be shocked

    Lots of defensemen aren’t ‘shooters’ but yeah 1 goal doesn’t back up a claim of “all-around” defenseman.

  5. Frank the dog says:

    John Chambers: Lots of defensemen aren’t ‘shooters’ but yeah 1 goal doesn’t back up a claim of “all-around” defenseman.

    Unless he played for a gong show of a club…..

  6. Lowetide says:

    jfry:
    hey lt, can you explain why you keep comparing him to logan stanley? on the surface the only thing that seems similar is their size. otherwise stanley brings a lot of pims and way less O. I’m not sure i see them as comparable. that said i’ve barely seen either play, but the numbers don’t ring out for me. thx

    I had a bunch of OHL blue in a shutdown pile, those two men were among them. Niemelainen’s even strength primary points per game (.108) is better than Sean Day (.105), Logan Stanley (.094) and Connor Hall (.077)—so I was interested in seeing where they would go. Stanley was going to be the first guy off the board, I think Niemelainen may have a better career. I had him ahead of all of these guys but of course well back of where he want in the draft.

    https://lowetide.ca/2016/04/17/the-oilers-and-the-ohl-2016-edition/

  7. Ryan says:

    alejandro

  8. sliderule says:

    The analytic folks are going to be doing some rethinking of the effect of zone starts on Corsi.The analysis that Cane used to discount it is fatally flawed.
    Here are a few defenders that have had zone starts effect their Corsi

    Hedman
    11-12 47.9 Corsi 244 oz 365 dz
    12-13. 48.2 Corsi 223 oz 308 dz

    Every other season has had a positive Corsi combined with positive zone starts

    Reilly
    13-14. 44.4 Corsi 327 oz 355 dz
    14-15. 48.2 Corsi. 367 oz 448dz
    15-16. 49.8 Corsi 457 oz 523 dz

    A fine young D who can’t get a positive Corsi because of bad zone starts.

    Larsson

    11-12 51.2 Corsi 280 oz 257 dz
    12-13. 51.7 Corsi 143 oz 148 dz
    13-14 55.4 Corsi 135 oz 94 dz
    14-15. 47 . Corsi. 230 oz 347 dz
    15-16. 44.5 Corsi 348 oz 660 dz

    Young Larsson was protected his first few seasons with mostly positive zone starts and had a positive Corsi.He was buried with defensive starts in last two seasons and as should be expected had a very poor Corsi.

  9. teddyturnbuckle says:

    So far I like the 2016 draft. Peter C has changed this team from multiple approaches. He has drafted well with the picks he kept and he has added good players through free agency and trades (lost a few along the way). I spit out my coffee when I first heard the Hall trade but now I’m seeing that Peters team building approach is way bigger than one player could impact a team. If he can transform Bakersfield into a NHL player breeding ground it will benefit the Oilers far more than Taylor Hall ever could. The amount of impact NHL players that have come out of the Oilers farm team in the last ten years is shockingly poor.

    I feel bad for Taylor, he was a good soldier and the only thing he was guilty of was being the only player who anyone was interested in. That said he plays the least important position in the league and he is kind of a one dimensional player. He doesn’t hit, kill penalties, and he isn’t a good powerplay player. A lot has been said about how much he turns the puck over. Some argue that he has the puck a lot so he turns it over a lot. In the spring of 2016 after a bad Calgary game, Bruce McCurdy wrote on his post game analysis for the Journal that after 6 years he sometimes questions Hall’s hockey sense. I couldn’t agree more. He is very talented and a beast but I have never seen a player turn the puck over like Taylor. This is exactly what has kept him off team Canada for years.

  10. Kiltymcbagpipes says:

    This is going to sound ironic coming from me but watching Niemelainen play a couple of times and watching his highlight reels he reminded me of Ristolainen. Very similar skills IMO so I checked the stats. Clearly they don’t tell us everything we need to know but may shed some light on possible projections.

    Ristolainen draft year (2012), TPS – 52GP 3G 12A 15P
    Niemelainen draft year (2015) Saginaw – 65GP 1G 26A 27P

    Ristolainen 17 yr old (2011) Lilga – 40GP 3G 5A 8P, TPS U20 – 8GP 0G 4A 4P
    Niemelainen 16 yr old (2014) HPK U20 – 39GP 2G 14A 16P

    Point is, Ristolainen played a lot of hockey in Finland and didn’t put up many points ever. He then proceeded to score the most goals he has ever scored in any league in his first full season with Buffalo (8). Last year he scored 9 and doubled his point total. So its not unrealistic Niemelainen could follow a similar path. Both are regarded as 2 way prospects and have similar skillsets with Risto probably a bit better shot and Niemo the better skater. I’m not sure how Finnish teams play or what styles they incorporate but just based on Risto’s pedigree there I assume there is a chance Niemo could do the same.

    So while anyone could point to Niemelainen and his 1 goal output as being limited offensively, based on his skillset, lousy team and increase ice time I would expect a much greater output this year. This kid looks like a potential steal of a draft pick.

  11. Water Fire says:

    The Oilers now have 2 giant left D with strong 2 way potential, Nurse, Reinhart and Klefbom. All of these characters have size and can skate, you’d hope at some point they could swap one or two for some right side equivalent.

    All said some very nice drafting, to be proud of. Why do I feel strange saying that, hehe.

  12. Kiltymcbagpipes says:

    LadiesloveSmid:
    hard to dispute the top 3 picks being warranted where they were chosen the past 2 drafts, something that can’t be said for many years prior

    I’m definitely especially excited for Benson

    I hope you are right. Everything about the player that I have read just screams ‘can’t reach potential’ whether it’s injury or whatever. I admittedly haven’t watched him play a single game live and will be cheering for him but I have to admit I was hoping we took DeBrincat instead. Love his offensive ability and scrapiness for small guy. Hope I’m wrong….

  13. JimmyV1965 says:

    Kiltymcbagpipes: I hope you are right. Everything about the player that I have read just screams ‘can’t reach potential’ whether it’s injury or whatever. I admittedly haven’t watched him play a single game live and will be cheering for him but I have to admit I was hoping we took DeBrincat instead. Love his offensive ability and scrapiness for small guy. Hope I’m wrong….

    I think DeBrincat and Benson are very similar in terms of risk assessment. Both have huge offensive potential that is offset with some equally large flaws. I would have been happy with either of these guys in the second round. Of course I preferred Benson because it’s easier to overcome injury than small size. Either way, I’m all for these high risk high reward picks. It you hit a homerun every five years that had huge impact on the team.

  14. Pajamah says:

    Water Fire:
    The Oilers now have 2 giant left D with strong 2 way potential, Nurse, Reinhart and Klefbom. All of these characters have size and can skate, you’d hope at some point they could swap one or two for some right side equivalent.

    All said some very nice drafting, to be proud of. Why do I feel strange saying that, hehe.

    If Paigan comes over 17-18, and Niemalainen 18-19, and both project as middle pair defensemen, then the Oilers will be in fantastic shape on the blue line. The kind of shape where they can move a high end LHD and acquire a decent, young, high ceiling scoring left winger……..

  15. Lowetide says:

    In the years since Chiarelli-Green have been drafting (2015, 2016), eight of out 15 (53 percent) have been defenders. Four LHD, Four RHD. Oilers are going to have an area of strength. Music!

  16. Jethro Tull says:

    Lowetide:
    In the years since Chiarelli-Green have been drafting (2015, 2016), eight of out 15 (53 percent) have been defenders. Four LHD, Four RHD. Oilers are going to have an area of strength. Music!

    First comes drafting, then comes development.

    #chickens hatched/60

  17. Ryan says:

    Lowetide:
    In the years since Chiarelli-Green have been drafting (2015, 2016), eight of out 15 (53 percent) have been defenders. Four LHD, Four RHD. Oilers are going to have an area of strength. Music!

    What’s going to happen to the leftorium?

  18. Lowetide says:

    Ryan: What’s going to happen to the leftorium?

    Tear it down!

  19. Klima's_Bucket says:

    Lowetide: Oilers are going to have an area of strength. Music!

    I don’t know, from what I gather from the people here, they aren’t too fond of the DJ at the games.

  20. JDï™ says:

    Pajamah: and acquire a decent, young, high ceiling scoring left winger…

    By that time, wingers will be in demand and there will be a glut of defenders on the market.

  21. Mustard Tiger says:

    Since many stud d-men come from mid/late round picks (Weber, Keith, Subban), I wonder what their scouting reports looked like on draft day?
    Hopefully some of the Oilers recent picks have similar verbal.

  22. dustrock says:

    Just a reminder last year one blog (draft buzz?) ranked the Oilers #1 for drafts considering we went from #1 McDavid to 5th round.

    Again this year fairly consistently they were picking players who already should have been drafted.

  23. rickithebear says:

    “From his dots down, he’s a monster — few can pin and hold like Niemelainin, who uses his long stick like a scythe to whip the puck away from trouble. ”

    Is he the best HSCA protection d in the draft.

    I thought so!

    Can he get the puck to the top 260 goal scorers.

    I think so!

  24. rickithebear says:

    Mustard Tiger:
    Since many stud d-men come from mid/late round picks (Weber, Keith, Subban), I wonder what their scouting reports looked like on draft day?
    Hopefully some of the Oilers recent picks have similar verbal.

    guess who was the 1st Comp +ve Dman in Chicago’s 3 cup wins.
    Keith was 2nd or 3rd comp in 2.
    KEITH WAS SHELTERED.

  25. stevezie says:

    rickithebear,

    I’ll leave arguing your statement to more interested parties, but even if Keith was sheltered, what he does with that shelter is amazing.

  26. Woodguy says:

    Was farting around with WoodMoney.

    Here are the only players in the NHL last year to have over 100 min vs Elite and post a -10 RelDFFcomp (relative dangerous fenwick compared to team when off the ice vs elite)

    NOTE: 100min sample sucks, at least 300 min before anything is semi-reliable, but its fun to look at.

    Iiro Pakarinen -15.2%
    Brandon Bollig -14.3%
    Jarret Stoll -13.5%
    Drew Miller -12.2%
    Jordan Nolan -12.2%
    Vincent Lecavalier -11.8%
    Nathan Gerbe -11.3%
    Chris Tierney -11.3%
    Chris Porter -11.1%
    Ryan Carter -10.5%
    Mark Borowiecki -10.3%
    Brooks Laich -10.1%

    I think I may see why they gave Pitlick a contract.

    RW on the OIlers ranked in terms of RelDFFcomp Elite

    Eberle +2.4
    Kassian +2.1
    Yak -2.4
    Pakarinen -15.2

    They may be a real opening in camp.

  27. speeds says:

    Woodguy,

    They had no obligation to give him a 1 way. Would they have done so if they weren’t somewhat convinced he’s a player going forward?

  28. BONVIE says:

    I thought Letetsu was a decent Penalty Killer last year, and although I thought he was terrible and useless on the Power Play, all of the numbers I checked showed he was pretty much as good as any of the other forwards that get PP time. Even Strength though I thought he was just awful and he logged a lot of ice time. According to the numbers I have seen Gmoney and others post it pretty much proved that he was that bad. Especially that goal differential, I mean it’s not like he ever was matched up against any opposing teams top two lines but he absolutely got buried with the playing time he was given. If he was only on 4th line centre and played about 4 minutes or less of even strength maybe that would be acceptable.

    Watching him play with Yak was particularly painful as it looked like the two of them were working against each other and trying to play so bad that the coach would put them on another line much like you might see in Pee Wee or Bantam when a player that is used to playing on the top line gets new line mates and then pouts and tries to play bad enough thinking that the coach will put him back on the first line.

    I am surprised they didn’t pick up Holland I am assuming he must be horrible defensively because Letetsu sure was last year.

  29. Pouzar says:

    I cheer for Pitlick.
    He passes the eye test for me. Greatly improved puck skills. Just needs reps….and some bad luck suppression.

  30. Pouzar says:

    Woodguy: They may be a real opening in camp.

    There should be. If not, that’s a tell. I worry.

  31. Pouzar says:

    BONVIE: I am surprised they didn’t pick up Holland I am assuming he must be horrible defensively

    Horribly left handed. *shrug*

    I am no fan Test tube. This “well he is a good 4th line C” argument holds no water with me.
    Aim higher.

  32. BornInAGretzkyJersey says:

    After a few years reading scouting reports I’m a tad skeptical. They tend to be effusive in their praise, or contradictory. A good baseline, to be sure; but only one part of the foundation. I like to parse them in conjunction with video, stats, and fancy stats.

    That said, I’m rather excited about this guy… his work at the WJC was impressive.

  33. godot10 says:

    Woodguy:
    Was farting around with WoodMoney.

    Here are the only players in the NHL last year to have over 100 min vs Elite and post a -10 RelDFFcomp (relative dangerous fenwick compared to team when off the ice vs elite)

    NOTE: 100min sample sucks, at least 300 min before anything is semi-reliable, but its fun to look at.

    Iiro Pakarinen-15.2%
    Brandon Bollig-14.3%
    Jarret Stoll-13.5%
    Drew Miller-12.2%
    Jordan Nolan-12.2%
    Vincent Lecavalier-11.8%
    Nathan Gerbe-11.3%
    Chris Tierney-11.3%
    Chris Porter-11.1%
    Ryan Carter-10.5%
    Mark Borowiecki-10.3%
    Brooks Laich-10.1%

    I think I may see why they gave Pitlick a contract.

    RW on the OIlers ranked in terms of RelDFFcomp Elite

    Eberle +2.4
    Kassian +2.1
    Yak -2.4
    Pakarinen -15.2

    They may be a real opening in camp.

    But isn’t Pakarinen the Oiler rookie on the list. It is different to trash a rookie (Pakarinen, Nurse, etc) for getting subpar results when they are thrown in the deep end.

  34. godot10 says:

    Pouzar:
    I cheer for Pitlick.
    He passes the eye test for me. Greatly improved puck skills. Just needs reps….and some bad luck suppression.

    Pitlick always passes the eye test. Which was why scouting services had him as a concensus late 1st round pick.

    The guy just can’t seem to stay healthy.

    His offense has never matched the eye test.

    I’m glad they offered him a contract. This is now a desperate player.

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