Does NHLE help us identify NHL players? Does it offer insight to picks who are trending as future skill players in the world’s best league? Were there alarms going off about second-round picks that weren’t going to make it, and distant bells ringing loudly about depth picks who were on a high trajectory and had an NHL chance? Did NHLE inform us of these things?
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Pitlick was the early second-round pick, and in this three year run of picks should have been the fourth best forward (behind No. 1 overall picks Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov). He had one strong year (for the Medicine Hat Tigers) and I held out hope for him longer than anyone. He exceeded 2.00 pts-per-60 at five on five just once, in the strong Edmonton season of 2016-17.
Ewanyk and Moroz were never going to score enough in pro, that’s on the organization. Taking them early created hope that simply wasn’t there.
NHLE screamed Tobias Rieder throughout the piece, and as luck would have it he’s the one would didn’t sign in Edmonton. I had Rieder No. 7 and Pitlick No. 10 on the 2012 summer top 20.
This mid-decade run was far more promising than the early portion of the decade, and with the progress of young Puljujarvi should help the organization push to whatever heights the ’20s will bring to this northern city. Slepyshev won’t join the party, but Puljujarvi and Benson showed via NHLE they had enough talent to play top-9 minutes in the NHL. JP’s growth has allowed even greater dreams to take flight.
NHLE told us three of these men had enough talent to make the grade. The management fumbled, bumbled and stumbled, but the players stayed true.
The Oilers, according to NHLE, were shopping in some better aisles compared to the first portion of the decade. Kailer Yamamoto didn’t have the range of Pitlick, the physical reputation of Moroz or the checking of Ewanyk, but he posted big numbers in his draft year and beyond.
Maksimov also posted strong totals draft plus one, they are less reliable because he was an older player but there’s enough there to keep a light on. McLeod and Lavoie are tracking as NHL players, Lavoie looks like he might be the first-shot scorer Edmonton has needed since Miro Satan was sent away.
It’s possible Edmonton gets three productive forwards out of this group, a helluva thing.
Holloway spiked like a demon in his draft plus one, and his career trajectory looks grand. Best be careful of lofty thoughts, but NHLE is falling all over itself after last season. Savoie is also in a spot that would take him to the NHL, and as a marksman ala Lavoie. The Russians are a set, good but it’s uncertain we’ll ever see either man.
2021 Draft eligible (top forwards)
I had a difficult time with this year’s NHLE’s, there’s a certain rhythm to these numbers and I’m comfortable with the normal after all these years. I decided to tweak numbers I didn’t trust (Guenther played against only WHL Alberta, Eklund played in a stronger than normal SHL) and we are here. I think any of these men could end up being the best player in the group five years from now. Here is the second tier of forwards.
This year, more than ever, I had to structure the rankings in a way that reflected a reasonable result. Example: Xavier Bourgault has the second best NHLE among the top forwards, I have him No. 14. That would be outrageous in a normal year, but without being able to trust the numbers, I’ve placed players in tiers in an effort to reflect something close to normal. I will say that the QMJHL absolutely storms the palace gates here, and if we look back five years from now, a big Quebec league draft has been predicted. Final tier.
This is a group that cleans up much of the rest of the first round. European NHLE is often lower, that is a reflection of playing in his leagues with few minutes per game. The USHL number for NHLE has grown over the years and I’m not sure we have it surrounded.
Bottom line? This was a most difficult year for NHLE but I think we have the early picks in some semblance of order. In terms of value, I would look to the QMJHL. Bolduc, L’Heureux and Bourgault could be exceptional value based on what NHLE, in a most difficult year, is telling us.