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The Nation Network’s 2017 Top 100 Draft Eligible Prospects: #66 – #63

We’re eight days into out countdown, and we’ve come to our final group, as after this it’ll be solo articles for the final 62 prospects – the first and second rounds. Before we get to that, let’s finish off our prospective third round.

#66: Noel Hoefenmayer (D – OHL)

By J.D. Burke

Bio:

  • Age: 18-years-old, January 6th, 1999
  • Birthplace: North York, Ontario, Canada
  • Frame: 6’0″ / 190 lbs

If I were to use a single word to describe Noel Hoefenmayer’s game, exciting would definitely be in the mix. When Hoefenmayer was on the ice, the Ottawa 67’s generated a lot of offence; they also gave up a fair amount defensively, though.

I’d tend to focus on the former of those two aspects of Hoefenmayer’s game. He’s not a rock defensively — not by any means — but the 67’s weren’t the strongest team, and high-event or not, Hoefenmayer still led his team in GF%Rel with his team controlling 5% more of five-on-five goals with him than without him.

Scouts often point to Hoefenmayer’s skating as his biggest weakness — an interesting critique since the community seems to have reached a consensus on his strength as a puck-carrier.

I’m a draft writer, not a scout, so take this with a grain of salt, but I think I’ve an idea of what they’re striking at here. Hoefenmayer has good straight line speed and an adequate top gear, but he could stand to work on his edges and footwork.

Hoefenmayer does some of his best work in the offensive zone. Most point to Hoefenmayer’s shot as his best attribute in this regard, and while it’s certainly a strength, I’m more impressed by his anticipation. Hoefenmayer creates shooting lanes for himself by finding seams in the opposition’s defence and isn’t shy about exploiting them. He knows when to apply pressure with a timely pinch and when to back off.

The 67’s used Hoefenmayer on their first unit power play all season, where he scored 11 of his 40 points. The website www.Prospect-Stats.com estimates Hoefenmayer played almost a full four minutes more at five-on-five than the next most used 67’s other defencemen.

In spite of scoring as often as Hoefenmayer did, pGPS doesn’t look too fondly on his likelihood of carving out a full-time NHL career. You can probably attribute some of that to Hoefenmayer’s height, as he’s a modest 6’0″. The model gave him an expected success rate of 24.4% – based on the players in Hoefenmayer’s cohort that became full-time NHL defenceman, weighted by similarity – and an expected points per 82 game pace of 30.7.

#65: Alex Formenton (LW – OHL)

By Jeremy Davis

Bio:

  • Age: 17 – September 13th, 1999
  • Birthplace: King City, ON, CAN
  • Frame: 6’1″ / 159 lbs

Alex Formenton is first and foremost a speedster. His speed has been referred as elite by multiple analysts and he’s been labeled one of the fastest skaters in the 2017 draft class. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there aren’t many other well developed traits to speak of at this point. His hands can’t quite keep up with his feet, so while he can move the puck very quickly in straight lines, he doesn’t have the ability to maneuver quickly around defenders at high speeds to split or expose opposition with any sort of consistency.

He does have a decent wrist shot, fueled by a quick release that can get a jump on goaltenders despite a relative lack of power behind it.

Formenton was a rising prospect earlier in the season, and began to work his way through the second round and even into the first rounds in some rankings. This coincided with his appearance at the CHL Top Prospects Game, where, to my eyes at least, he looked out of place, struggling to keep up with a bevy of higher quality prospects. Formenton made no international appearances, and so he had only his time with London to impress scouts.

His popularity waned in the second half of the season, and plummeted in the OHL playoffs, after Formenton went all 14 games without scoring a point. Even during the regular season, the 34 points he scored in 65 games don’t really warrant consideration in the first two rounds. Statistical analysis through both SEAL and pGPS yielded underwhelming results, with an expected rate of success barely in the double digits. Those in his cohort that did stick in the NHL include the likes of Matt Halischuk, Chris Kelly, and Matt Stajan.

Formenton does have a couple of things going for him: one, he’s very young – if he’d been born a few days later, he wouldn’t even be eligible for this draft. That means that there are a slew of prospects in this draft that have nearly an extra full year of development. Second, Formenton was a little bit buried on a deep London Knights team, with prospect-stats.com estimating his 5-on-5 ice time at 12.77, he was firmly in the Knight’s bottom six. On the flip side, you could argue that, unlike teammate Robert Thomas for example, he didn’t do enough to warrant getting moved up the lineup.

At the right pick, Formenton could be a worthwhile acquisition. With more players graduating to the pro’s next year from London, there will be more opportunity for him, and some are hoping that he uses it to have a break out season, similar to what Cliff Pu did with the Knights this year. Any team that picks him will have to be patient – he needs to add strength and improve his consistency, as well as work on his puck handling at high speeds.

#64: MacKenzie Entwistle (RW – OHL)

By Jackson McDonald

Bio:

  • Age: 17 – July 14th, 1999
  • Birthplace: Mississauga, ON, CAN
  • Frame: 6’3” / 181 lbs

As boring as it sounds, what MacKenzie Entwistle really has going for him is that he doesn’t have any real weaknesses. He’s strong defensively, good along the boards, he can make the occasional play, and he’s not going to hurt you with mistakes or turnovers. The issue is that he doesn’t have any major strengths either. He does everything well, but he lacks an elite skill.

The thing you’ll commonly hear from a lot of scouts about Entwistle is that he has more offence to show than what we’ve seen from him, but I remain unconvinced that’s the case. His best offensive weapon is his shot, which is above average in release and accuracy, but his instincts and skating aren’t quit at the level where I can forsee him getting open often enough to utilize it with any level of frequency. He’s certainly better than the player who scored a single point in his final nine regular season games with the Bulldogs, but he’s also not the offensive dynamo his 9 points in 7 games at the World U18 Championships would imply. Entwistle will improve on his point totals next season, and may become a legitimate offensive threat as he matures in the OHL, but he won’t be a big producer at the pro level.

Teams won’t be looking at Entwistle because of his ostensible untapped offensive potential, though. They’ll be enticed by his size and defensive acumen, and think they have a good chance at landing an NHLer. When we look at his statistical cohorts according to pGPS, there’s probably something to that idea.

Entwistle carries a so-so expected success percentage of 15.2%, but he’s also being listed as a late second or early third-round pick by most publications. Considering Entwistle eye tests well, has a good work ethic, and plays the type of game that will endear him to old-school hockey people, it’s easy to see a path to relative success for a mid-round pick. Some of Entwistle’s closest statistical comparables are a murderer’s row of bottom-six grinders that includes Patrick Kaleta and Matt Stajan. That’s not exactly exciting, but it’s easy to see a path for him where he clears that bar.

Entwistle was considered a first-round talent heading into his draft year before contracting mono towards the middle of his season, so there’s a chance he proves me wrong. Don’t be a surprised if a team reaches on him for precisely this reason.

#63: David Farrance (D – USNTDP)

By J.D. Burke

Bio:

  • Age: 17-years-old, 1999-06-23
  • Birthplace: Victor, New York, USA
  • Frame: 5’11” / 187 lbs

David Farrance’s game is tailor made for the direction the NHL is going. He’s a fast, mobile puck-rushing defenceman who excels at transitioning play into the offensive zone.

Like most players with Farrance’s skill set, he’s an offence first kind of defenceman. He does a good job of using his speed and agility to create separation and open up holes in the neutral zone with ease. Farrance does a good job of protecting the puck in spite of his smallish frame and is a deft stick-handler.

Someone who pushes play as well as Farrance does should be a touch more productive than he’s been. That’s a concern the scouting community has with Farrance, and most think that’s related to his struggles with decision making. Farrance doesn’t have the greatest shot either, and he could stand to be a tad more judicious in how he uses it too. Whereas you’d want a player like Farrance to use his speed and puck-carrying ability to bring the puck into high-percentage parts of the ice, his shots often come from the furthest reaches of the offensive zone and bounce off the forward’s shinpads a little too regularly for most.

Scouts aren’t shy about using the word ‘raw’ to describe Farrance, and I think that’s a fair assessment. There are physical skills that tantalize and with careful development one could easily imagine Farrance becoming a fleet of foot, transitional NHL defenceman with a touch of offensive upside.

Farrance’s ability as a skater makes him a difficult defender to pin down defensively, and he regularly frustrates the opposition forecheckers with his elusiveness. He defends the neutral zone as well as he attacks it and I tend to think he’s a better positional defender than people give him credit for being.

When we view Farrance’s draft season through the pGPS lens, about a quarter of the players in his cohort developed into full-time NHL players. On average, the successful members of Farrance’s cohort produced 37.6 points per 82 game season. Keith Ballard and Torey Krug make an appearance as successful comparable players to Farrance.

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