The ledges of the 2016 NHL Draft don’t give the Flames much choice at 6th overall

draftledge

Ledge
noun
def.
  1. a horizontal surface projecting from a wall, cliff, draft ranking, or other surface.

Entry drafts in sport are often described using the word above: ledge. Going down the draft board there exist certain points where the quality of prospect decreases significantly, and thus creates a “ledge”. Though a relatively arbitrary term in this context, it stands to reason that in order to secure yourself the best prospect possible, it’s best to situate yourself above as many ledges as you can.

Take the 2016 NHL Draft for instance. According to Brad Treliving – who I guess we can sort of trust – there exist ledges after the third overall pick, sixth overall pick and 20th overall pick. 
Makes one feel a little better about only falling one spot in the draft lottery and managing to hold on, if not with only fingertips, to the second ledge. 
The thing is, almost every notable scouting publication and service (with the exception of McKeen’s which is on the funny stuff this season, it seems) acknowledges these ledges through their rankings, so it would suggest that the Flames then don’t actually have much of a choice to make. They just wait and see which of the six prospects considered to rest on the top two ledges slips and tumbles to them. Even if someone above them goes off the board, the decision still only needs to be made between two players.
Yet a debate still manages to sustain itself in forums, comment threads and on social media about who the Calgary Flames should take at sixth overall, ignoring all ledges.
This is strange to me, and here’s why. 

What Is A Ledge

Even if Brad Treliving hadn’t offered us this delicious tidbit of insight into his view on the draft, it still wouldn’t be terribly difficult to discern where the ledges in this draft are. All you need to do is look at how everyone’s rankings shake out and recognize a consensus or pattern. If everyone has the same block of players in the same slot range – they may be in a slightly different order but they’re all in the same number range – you’ve got yourself a ledge.
Thanks to the work of the Nation Network’s Shawn Reis, we already have compiled a nice list of every notable independent scouting service’s rankings for the 2016 NHL Draft. Let’s talk ledges.
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The first one is easily discernible, if not because everyone has been drooling over it all year. Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, more or less in that order, represent the first ledge. Go ahead and ignore McKeen’s because they appear to be on a Rob Ford inspired recreational regime, or something. 
Seeing nobody outside of them (except superstar Michael McLeod, apparently) crack anyone’s top three is not surprising if you’ve seen those kids play. They already look like NHLers, both in style and frame. 

The scouting services definitely got this one right. These services do a great job with their rankings, and put in a lot of time to compile their lists (it amazes me how much effort goes on behind the scenes at FutureConsiderations, alone), so when they’re all more or less in agreement on certain players, that’s when I feel comfortable declaring a ledge.

The next one isn’t as crystal clear as the previous one, but if you’re zeroing in on just forwards, it is. It’s represented by Matthew Tkachuk, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alexander Nylander – again, not necessarily in that order. Jakob Chychrun and/or Olli Juolevi could slot somewhere in between depending on who you talk to, but the Flames aren’t interested in drafting a rearguard. They need help up front. 
This is also confirmed in the weighted consensus rankings compiled by Reis. You can read about his method in his piece
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So there are Treliving’s first two ledges, confirmed by the independent scouting community en masse. Matthews, Laine and Pujujarvi represent the first one, and Tkachuk, Dubois and Nylander are the next best thing. 
The nice thing about Reis’ compiled rankings are also that the ledges can be literally seen by the point totals, and the difference between them.
Matthews, Laine and Puljujarvi are separated by 5-7 points, while Puljujarvi and Tkachuk are separated by 16. Ledge.
Tkachuk, Dubois and Nylander then are separated by 3-4 points, while Chychrun at seven is a whole 10 points behind Nylander at six. Another ledge.
As we move down the draft board, the discrepancies become larger, to the point where the 24th ranked player is nearly 100 points behind the 12th ranked player. This is where your scouting department really goes to work and we start seeing “off the board” picks and the like. 
Personal preference and the work scouting departments have put in all year starts to kick in midway through this draft, which is earlier than in past ones. Although there isn’t much of a consensus after the top 10 or so, the players ranked are still really quite good. It’s not like the talent level falls off a cliff, it’s just there exists a glut of very similar prospects in this gut of this draft, and that’s where the discrepancies come from.
What that tells me is there exists a strong depth of quality – though not exceptional – prospects and we’re going to see a number of value picks into the second and third rounds.
Despite not pulling a first round pick from Dallas, having three second round picks and a third is remarkably valuable currency, and teams will be scrambling to pick up an extra holler early on Day 2 of the draft. The Flames should be able to parlay these lottery tickets into extremely valuable assets whether they make the picks or trade them. Either way, Calgary is a very enviable position. The envy will only blossom further as we approach June 24.
But I digress. 

Back To The 6th Overall Pick

So, sitting on the edge of the ledge, the Calgary Flames shouldn’t theoretically have a choice to make. Both the Oilers and the Canucks have needs on defence, but writers in those respective cities have been reporting that both franchises have interest in one of the available forwards after the first ledge. Should that hold true, the Flames “pick” will be the equivalent of having the last pick in gym class football. 
You say “we take X” out loud but there’s only one person left to choose. The Flames will go up to the mic and “proudly select” one of the three forwards, but in this scenario everyone will know who it is and I’ll tweet it out immediately after Vancouver’s pick so I’m lauded as a draft insider. 
However, it’s not entirely certain things will shake out this way. As my namesake and fellow draft enthusiast Christian Tiberi has detailed in his Draft Speculation series (Edmonton and Vancouver), both teams might decide to go the blueline route and take one of Chychrun or Juolevi (or Sergachyov, although he’s generally considered to lag behind the first two), leaving the Flames with an actual choice at six.
That, however, is a discussion for another day (read: next week). The Flames could also look to deal the sixth overall pick for a young, franchise goaltender – a-la New Jersey trading the ninth overall pick in 2013 for Cory Schneider – but that’s also a discussion for another day (read: next few weeks).
In all likelihood, the Canucks and Oilers choose to solve their blueline woes via trade and free agency, and bolster their forward cores with two of the three second ledge guys, leaving the Flames with the third man left, whoever that may be. It seems like Alexander Nylander, looking at the consensus rankings, but as all the separated rankings above show, there exist differing opinions on Tkachuk, Dubois and Nylander, too. 
So this is where I get confused when I see names like Logan Brown and Clayton Keller and Tyson Jost being thrown around as possibilities for the sixth overall pick. I understand the value of debate, but there really isn’t one here. Those are all fine players, I’ve alluded to the depth of quality in this draft multiple times in this piece alone, but I’ve also talked about the layer of exceptional players available to the Flames, who just squeaked into that party. If you’re invited to the Grand Ball, why go to pub anyways? 

Conclusion 

Calgary is not in a spot where they can afford to reach. This is not a scenario that sets itself up for a Mark Jankowski-like surprise. Going off the board with the sixth pick in 2016 would be, well, stupid. 
It’s cut and dry, and even the General Manager agrees. Think what you will about me, but you have to respect Brad Treliving. Granted, while we don’t know what the Flames’ internal rankings look like, it’s extremely unlikely that the Flames have a different player on their ledge then the rest of the hockey world.
Should the Flames get tempted with a juicy offer to move down, then the discussion changes, but that’s a bridge to cross when we get there. 
In conclusion, though it seemed the Flames hit a skid of bad luck at the draft lottery, sandwiched between two lottery winners, they struck silver, as it were, managing to hang on to that second ledge, and guaranteeing themselves that bluechip forward prospect they so desperately crave. 
And if they don’t choose one of Tkachuk, Dubois or Nylander on June 24th, I will unequivocally floored. 
  • supra steve

    The Hockey News has at #4 Tkachuk 5 Dubois 6 Juolevi 7 Nylander 8 Sergachev.

    If the Flames like Nylander at #6 I’m fine with that, but I would not be at all shocked if Flames pass on him (and his bloodlines) to take another player they like better. I don’t think it’s all as simple as presented in the article. Scouting combine is also going to help with the decisions.

  • #97Train/McDavidCopperfield

    From all that i have seen and read on Tkachuck and Dubois its going to be hard not to draft Tkachuck at 4 based on his playoff this year.
    I’ll see him live at the Memorial cup this weekend coming up in Red Deer. It would be hard to pass up the sixe and skill of Dubios though.