The Flames didn’t have many draft picks at the 2017 draft, so they had to make them count.
Adam Ruzicka is one of the late round picks that could certainly be a high value payoff, though his projections are all over the place. When CanucksArmy looked at him for our Nation-wide prospect profiles, Ruzicka’s season had 90% or more similarity to players like Ron Francis (great), Todd Bertuzzi (pretty good), Bryan Bickell (okay), Scott Thornton (ehhh), and Mike Blunden and Nikita Alexeyev (who?).
That’s a pretty wide net to cast, but it echoes his entire draft year experience. He initially had hype as a potential lottery pick. Then they tempered that to first rounder. Then reeled back to second rounder. And then he was forgotten about until the fourth round.
So let’s dig in and see what exactly Ruzicka is and what we can expect from him next season.
Relative to team
Ruzicka finished fourth in scoring on his team, which is pretty good in and of itself (if you ignore that he still only tallied 46 points in 61 games). It’s even better when you learn that he finished seventh on the Sting in estimated 5v5 time on ice.
All stats from prospect-stats.
Relative to the top six Ruzicka averaged nearly one less minute than the rest of his teammates but had some pretty strong results nonetheless. He finished second in shots/60 and third in goals/60. He struggled in the assists department (not displayed on the chart for clarity purposes: sixth in primary assists/60, sixth in total assists/60), which dragged down his points/60 metric. Looking back on past career results, he has often been a goal scorer first and a playmaker second, so perhaps these results are not that surprising, although they are still something that requires work.
This is not to say that Ruzicka is not a great primary point producer, just that the majority of them come from goals. He still had good results at 5v5 and all situations when it came to primary points versus points. He only had nine secondary assists of 21 total this past year. Again, assist generation and general point volume are areas of improvement, but there are no major red flags when looking at Ruzicka (such as reliance on PP points and secondary assists) that give us the impression that he’s being dragged along by his team. He was up there with his teammates, who were across the board older and more experienced in the OHL than Ruzicka.
Relative to draft class
As the 17th OHL forward drafted, Ruzicka was perceived as one of the less quality OHLers, but diving into the data perhaps reveals something else:
|Category||AS value||AS rank (/87)||5v5 value||5v5 Rank|
Ruzicka isn’t at the highest end of the OHL’s crop this year, but he is still up there. He did finish top 10 in all situations for shots and goals, and finished just on the cusp of the top 10 for those stats at 5v5.
However, those numbers drop slightly at 5v5, and perhaps that’s due to ice time again. Adjusting for ice time (at 5v5) does put Ruzicka in a better light.
A lot of the same positives and negatives arise. Given that he saw way less ice time than most of his peers, his numbers dipped, but adjusting them allows us to be optimistic. He ranks top 10 in estimated goals and points per 60, and comes very close in primary points/60 and shots on goal/60. Of course, primary assists is the area of concern, where he nearly finds himself on the bottom half among first time eligibles.
There’s two conclusions to make. First, that Ruzicka is certainly a much better player than many would give him credit for. He’s not the best of the bunch in the OHL, but he’s certainly trending in the right direction. However, the one problem is his weakness with regards to primary assists. Ruzicka is lacking in that department, and it’s probably one of the major reasons he dropped down the draft rankings.
The majority of the data points to Ruzicka only being useful at one facet of offence, which is a negative. Pure goalscoring types typically have a hard time reaching the NHL unless strides are taken.
But he had quite a few asterisks attached to his stat line: North American rookie, middle sixer, young. All of those warts were visible at some time or another during the season; he started his year off with five points in three games and then went scoreless for the next seven games. Inconsistency plagued him throughout, and his stock plummeted. He’s admitted so himself.
We’re willing to wash that away and watch and see if the projected first rounder Ruzicka breaks out again. Next year is the big step forward. Sarnia’s centre competition will be tough, as he’ll duke it out with Drake Rymsha for that number one spot. I give Ruzicka the initial advantage based on 2016-17 results, but only time will tell. There are some very promising metrics from the past season that point to him having a major breakout this year.
But the improvement needs to be all around. Some of his critics note the one dimensional aspects to his game, and the stats verify those claims. If he can expand and become an all around playmaking centre for the Sting (alternatively, put up enough goals to make us forget about it), we’ll put out worries aside.