Advanced statistics have permeated hockey so much that they now reside on NHL.com in their own category. We don’t need to repeat how many teams have hired experts. But that doesn’t mean the numbers game won’t evolve again. As Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas once told me, hockey’s analytics are 20 years behind baseball’s. Sooner or later, someone will invent a more accurate way to track statistics like possession.
Is Drake Berehowsky that someone?
It’s been a long time since we saw Berehowsky, 43, manning a blueline. He last suited up in the NHL for the Leafs, the team that took him 10th overall in 1990, late in the 2003-04 season. He bounced around the Swedish League, AHL and German League after that and retired in 2006. But Berehowsky stayed busy. He’s spent the better part of the past decade behind various benches, from OHL Barrie to AHL Peoria to ECHL Orlando and WHL Lethbridge, where he was head coach the past two seasons. Now he’s back in the OHL as an associate coach with the Sudbury Wolves.
Along the way, through the ups and downs helming all those different teams, ideas danced around in his head. Was there a better, faster, more accurate way to evaluate his players? Could he pinpoint what data would help him and others make wiser decisions, be they in-game line combinations or even just deciding who should and shouldn’t make the team?
Drake and his sister, Danielle, began work on an idea called StatsTrack, an application that tracks player and team events on the ice in real time. Drake provided the ideas and concepts behind what the program would track, Danielle ran the business side of things, and they worked with a team of digital technology specialists to develop the concept. The NHL Alumni Association also came on board as a partner.
Welcome to the rebirth of The Hot List. From now on, my weekly collection of top prospects will be known as Prospect Need to Know and the format will be a little different. The biggest changes involve star power and flexibility – there will be more of both. If your prospect knowledge is limited, I’ll have you covered with a steady dose of names such as Auston Matthews, Alex DeBrincat and Patrik Laine. If you like to go deeper, there will be categories on sleeper picks, major injury news and, as the season goes on, high risers in the draft rankings. Basically, I wanted to make sure I have a platform that would not limit me in bringing you the most essential prospect news. And for organizational purposes, players will now be listed in groupings, with those already drafted first (after the spotlight player, of course). So let’s get to it and have some fun:
Of all the 18-year-olds to clinch an NHL roster spot this fall, Pittsburgh’s Daniel Sprong is the most unlikely – on paper, at least. Forget the fact the right winger was born and raised in Amsterdam: he was also drafted in the middle of the second round by the Penguins, not hearing his name called until the 46th pick in the 2015 draft.
So how did this all happen?
Real hockey is here, folks. Erie’s Alex DeBrincat scored five goals against Niagara Thursday night and he did it without Connor McDavid or Dylan Strome – so he’s got that going for him. A lot of 2015 draft prospects seem to be sticking around for the start of the NHL’s regular season and one of those kids comes up in a question below. If you have a query about prospects and the draft, look me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy and include the hashtag #thnfutures. You may see the answer in the coming weeks. Let’s get to the bag.
When the timeline on Patrik Berglund’s recovery from shoulder surgery was announced as four months, the St. Louis Blues had to launch a plan of attack. The Swedish center may end up missing half the season, so a band-aid solution wouldn’t do. Fortunately, St. Louis has several options and really, two different ways to go from there.
Welcome back to my mailbag, where all manner of questions on prospects and the draft are answered. If you have something you want to know about, hit me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy and hashtag it #thnfutures. You might see the question here in a couple weeks.
In the meantime, let’s get to the latest round of inquiries, the first of which is very timely:
BUFFALO – The fourth annual All-American Prospects Game took place Thursday night, pitting the top 2016 NHL draft hopefuls from the USA against each other in a very entertaining showcase game. Consensus No. 1 prospect Auston Matthews was not there (he’s kinda busy in Switzerland right now), but since this will be a great draft for Americans, a lot of talent was on hand.
And though these all-star games can be fluky, the elite kids rose to the occasion. Jeremy Roenick, who coached one squad, saw Matthew Tkachuk and Luke Kunin catch fire, while Derek Plante, the other bench boss, had Max Jones and William Knierim to rely on.
It was a tough game for goalies (these contests usually are) and OHL London’s Tyler Parsons actually left five minutes in with a collarbone injury after catching a puck high – he had forgotten his neck protector, acccording to Roenick. Team Plante won the game 6-4. Here’s a look at the big names and the kids who stood out for me.
The Western League celebrates its 50th season this year, with Moose Jaw and Regina kicking off the festivities Thursday night. Full action gets going the next day and it will be interesting to see how things shake out in the ‘Dub.’ For starters, the Brandon Wheat Kings are the best team by consensus, even with New York Islanders pick Ryan Pilon stepping away from hockey just months after he was drafted.
Nevertheless, based on the experts out West that I surveyed, this is Brandon’s year. Below you’ll find my league rankings, plus a couple NHL prospects to watch from each franchise.