As we inch closer towards the draft, the order in which prospects will go seems to be getting clearer. Of course, there are some wild cards present – will Edmonton trade the fourth overall selection? Can we really trust Jim Benning to follow convention? – but for the most part, we have some idea.
Following the top three of Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine, and Jesse Puljujarvi, the next three players were Matthew Tkachuk, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and Alexander Nylander. Three forwards, all of whom could help the Flames, should any of them fall to sixth.
Tkachuk and Dubois’ stocks have seemed to rise since then, while Nylander’s seems to have fallen. There isn’t necessarily any reason for this, but it’s the hand the Flames, with the sixth overall selection, have been dealt.
That, and the rising stocks of Clayton Keller and Logan Brown. So let’s assume the Flames are picking a forward, and let’s take a head-to-head-to-head look at this new group of three. Because chances are pretty good all three will be available at sixth overall – so who might the Flames value the most to select?
|Player||Height||Weight||Date of Birth|
|Nylander||6’0||180 lbs.||March 2, 1998|
|Keller||5’10||168 lbs.||July 29, 1998|
|Brown||6’6||220 lbs.||March 5, 1998|
Birthdays can be an important tool for measuring a prospect’s potential: a younger prospect could be playing against kids nearly a year older than him and, therefore, it stands to reason, nearly a year ahead in development. (Take a look at Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett: Monahan was one of the oldest of his draft class and able to step in immediately; Bennett was on the younger end and likely would have played in the OHL even if it wasn’t for his shoulder surgery.) Keller’s later birthday gives him the distinct advantage here in potential, while only three days separate Nylander and Brown.
Hockey is a game that values size, though, and that’s where Brown carries the advantage. It should be noted, however, that Nylander and Keller aren’t particularly small – a lot of the league’s best players fall in that 5’11 range – and are still growing. Size alone can’t be the deciding factor between these three players, even if Brown may be tempting. Nick Ritchie was listed as 6’2, 226 lbs. at his draft, and who in their right mind would take him over Bennett?
|Player||Games Played||Goals||Assists||Points||Points per Game||Team Rank|
|Nylander||57||28||47||75||1.32||1st, +14 on 2nd|
|Keller||23||13||24||37||1.61||1st, +5 on 2nd|
|Brown||59||21||53||74||1.25||2nd, -16 from 1st, +17 on third|
Please note Keller’s stats are somewhat incomplete, as he also played 62 games for the U.S. National U18 Team. He scored 37 goals and 70 assists for 107 points: 1.73 points per game. He led that team in scoring by 26 points.
Scoring isn’t everything, but if you’re a highly ranked forward playing in juniors, you’d better be doing a lot of it. All three players here are over a point per game, but Brown didn’t lead his team. Christian Fischer – who is 11 months older and was selected 32nd overall in last year’s draft – did.
Keller is the only non-OHL player on this list, so his numbers are a bit skewed; that said, he was clearly a scoring machine as well, and didn’t drop off too much between leagues.
Nylander, however, looks to be the safest pick. He played nearly a full season in the OHL and led his team in scoring, as well as at the World Juniors. Keller’s numbers may hint at more potential, but teams could be more confident in Nylander to reach his in the NHL.
|Player||Games Played||ES Points||PP Points||SH Points|
Keller’s numbers are USHL only.
All three players scored most often at even strength, which is good to see; that’s the circumstance they play in most often, after all. Nylander and Brown’s situational distributions are almost identical, so nobody really takes a clear lead over anyone else.
Once again, though, it’s important to note that Nylander led his team in scoring by a fair margin. His numbers likely would have been higher had he more talent to play with, as Brown did.
|Player||Games Played||Primary Points||% of Total||ES Primary Points||% of Total||NHLe|
Keller’s numbers are USHL only.
Again, all players are essentially doing what is expected of them. They’re creating much of their team’s offence, and aren’t overly reliant on the powerplay to get going. There isn’t much separation here – though Brown is a slight step behind, while Keller comes out looking the best.
NHLe is a very tricky metric with its fair share of questions surrounding it, especially when it comes to leagues overseas and even in the U.S. It is a part of the bigger picture, however, but these three prospects’ numbers are so close it shouldn’t be a deciding factor.
All three of these forwards should be available when the Flames pick, so it’ll be the Flames’ choice as to just who they value the most.
Brown, while putting up good numbers, is still a step behind Nylander and Keller. He has the size advantage over the two of them, but trailed his team’s leader in scoring by a fair margin. He’s still helping to create the offence – but at sixth overall, if there are team leaders available, they’re the guys to go after. You aren’t after supporting players this high in the draft: you’re after leaders.
Keller is a bit smaller than Nylander, but he put together greater offensive numbers. He’s younger, so it’s possible he just flat out has more potential – but is he going to reach it?
Nylander is likely the safest pick of the bunch. He’s been near the top of the rankings all season long, and he played in a league people are simply able to see more out of. He’s also got that extra bit of size, and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see him reach his potential, whereas Keller may be a bit more of a gamble.
At this point, it likely comes down to personal preference – but the Flames probably can’t go wrong with either Nylander or Keller.