2016 NHL Draft: Alexander Nylander, Clayton Keller, or Logan Brown?

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?

Physical stats

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

All stats taken from the NHL.

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?

Basic numbers

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.

Situatonal circumstances

Player Games Played ES Points PP Points SH Points
Nylander 57 46 28 1
Keller 23 23 13 1
Brown 59 45 29 0

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.

Getting fancy

Player Games Played Primary Points % of Total ES Primary Points % of Total NHLe
Nylander 57 55 73% 33 44% 35
Keller 23 27 73% 18 49% 36
Brown 59 51 69% 33 45% 33

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.

Conclusion

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.

  • freethe flames

    Would anyone consider trading down for any of the following:

    our 6th to Colorado for 10th and Pickard.

    our 6th to Minn for 15th and Kuemper

    our 6th to the Ducks for 24 and Anderson

    our 6th to Dallas for Nichushkin

    • Kevin R

      :-} I gotta say you criticized my trade scenarios on other threads but wholly smokes, give your head a shake. The closest one you have is the #6 for Andersen & the 24th & I still feel wanting for more coming back. Goaltenders are taboo & the thought of giving the Ducks another impact player at #6 doesn’t sit well.

      • freethe flames

        Did I say I endorsed any of these trades? What I asked is would anyone do these trades? The answer was overwhelming no, which is fine. The reason I posted them is that it would not surprise me if something like these ideas may be offered. I completely agree that I would want more back from any of them.

        Sometimes I post things to gauge reaction not because I endorse them. When I do have a position or an idea that I am really strong about I build and try to defend the rational. When I am critical of another opinion I usually try to explain why and I never use the trash button; I either write a comment or move on.

        I think some of these ideas might have some merit if as you say other parts were included as a package deal. You have presented ideas I think have merit and others (like mine) that are sometimes things I disagree with.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    BB reiterated this week that the Flames must get bigger, For Tre not to draft big would suggest that a serious schism exists in the Flames’ FO about the direction this team should go.

    Like everything else, it depends if it works. If Keller never grows another inch but still becomes a stud, he was a great pick and nobody talks about his lack of size.

    Don’t think the ultra-conservative Flames will use their coveted 6th to draft a shrimpkin like Keller even if he is the best player at 6th.

  • supra steve

    Did you know, the largest player BB has drafted as a GM with a first round pick was…Chris Pronger-2nd overall in 1993.

    In 1999 he selected D & H Sedin at #2 & #3.

    In 2005 it was Bobby Ryan at #2.

    2008 Luke Schenn at #5, 2009 Kadri at #7, 2012 Morgan Rielly at #5.

    In Calgary as PHO–2013 Monahan #6, 2014 Bennett #4.

    That is BB’s history with top 10 picks in the annual NHL draft. Those of you who cannot get over the thought that BB will strong arm his staff into picking a giant who cannot play hockey with that #6 overall next Friday…learn your history.

    • Hubcap1

      I don’t believe Burke was with the Flames when they drafted Monahan.

      Also, I see a lot of people blaming Burke for a draft that hasn’t happened yet. Everyone should remember that he is not the GM or part of the scouting staff. He has a very strong voice but in no way have I ever herd that he has any final say on who the Flames take in the first round.

      • supra steve

        Yes, that’s right. I (now) remember Burke commenting after being hired about the Flames having had a strong draft that year with their 3 first rounders.

        I also agree with your thought that BB probably doesn’t have a large influence on the draft. He has a voice, but hopefully the scouting staff has the respect that they deserve from upper management, and have the larger say in who is selected.

      • Kevin R

        In fact, Burke can be an effective tool to redirect what BT is really up to & I think that is exactly what is happening here. I chuckle at all the paranoia of Burke calling the shots on the #6 pick. At best, Tre & Button may ask his opinion & he’ll give it to them. About it.

        I am really hung up on what to do. But my gut is leaning toward Nylander because I think we see Nylander sooner than anyone else. In fact, if we take Nylander, we will see him as one of the last cuts & maybe he may get a few regular season games in. What is weighing in on my decision is that there is a chance Nylander can start in Stockton next year.