Draft Numbers: USHL Forwards and the First Round

The Draft Numbers series rolls on.  Today we’re going to branch outside of the CHL and take a look at the USHL forwards of this year’s draft class to see how they hold up against previous USHL first-rounders.

Quick refresher: what we’ll be doing is looking at every USHL forward
drafted in the top ten, between 11th and 20th, and between 21st and 30th
overall since the 2005 draft.  Then we’ll be plugging in the top USHL
forwards from this year’s draft class and seeing what sort of
company history puts them in.  From there, we’ll see if we can start to come to any meaningful conclusions about the top USHL forwards of this year’s draft.  Let’s begin:

THE TOP TEN

Here’s the only USHL forward to be taken in the top ten of the first round since 2005, with the only forward from this year’s draft class with a chance at being a top ten pick highlighted in yellow:

Top10USHLF

Full disclosure: Kyle Connor almost assuredly won’t be drafted in the top ten.  If he were to be though, he’d be in strong company as Kyle Okposo is the only other forward to have played USHL games that was drafted in the top ten of the draft since 2005.  Okposo has turned into a pretty good player, so Connor outscoring him by a 0.27 clip would bode well for him.

But Connor is a lot more likely to go in the next range of players, so let’s jump ahead to that:

11TH TO 20TH

Here is every USHL forward taken between 11th and 20th overall since 2005, with the players from this year’s draft class that may be taken in this range highlighted in yellow:

Top20USHLF

More good news for Kyle Connor, as he’s surrounded by Sonny Milano, Jaden Schwartz, and Trevor Lewis.  Milano was taken 16th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets last season and is considered up until this point to project favorably as a second-line forward in the NHL.  Schwartz as you probably know is a very good top-six forward for a very good St. Louis Blues team.  Trevor Lewis is a bottom-six forward for the L.A. Kings, but you could do worse for yourself than drafting someone who has played 349 NHL games (and counting).  Also note that Trevor Lewis had already been passed over in the draft once before the Kings took him in 2006.

Another forward who has a good shot of being taken in this range is Colin White of the U.S. National Team Development Program.  White’s company here is pretty inconclusive.  For one, he isn’t even within 0.12 points per game of any other forward.  When you open that range up, White does compare with the likes of Dylan Larkin (a very, very good prospect for the Detroit Red Wings), Louis LeBlanc (a bust), and J.T. Miller (a good young forward for the New York Rangers who probably ends up as a middle-six forward in the NHL).  All in all, not bad company, but not conclusive either.

Another name to keep in mind here would be Waterloo forward Brock Boeser, who is projected by most to get in the later stages of the first round.  He probably won’t be taken top 20, but you never know.  His 1.19 points per game would surround him with Alex Tuch (a B-level Minnesota Wild prospect taken in the first round last year) and Nick Schmaltz (another B-level prospect, property of the Chicago Blackhawks).

21ST TO 30TH

Here is every USHL forward taken between 21st and 30th overall since 2005, with the players who may be taken in this range from this year’s draft class highlighted in yellow:

Top30USHLF

Will Jack Roslovic or Jeremy Bracco be drafted in the first round?  I would lean towards no, but some have them in the first round, and it’s certainly a possibility.  If they did go in the first round, they would sort of be in uncharted territory here as far as outproducing any other comparables they might otherwise have.  I think you’d have to say that’s a good thing, if nothing else.

Boeser, who probably gets taken in this range, doesn’t have much of a comparable either.  If he did though, it would be Max Pacioretty, which is obviously very good.  But Pacioretty is a full two inches taller and had a points per game clip 0.14 below Boeser, a fairly wide range, so we shouldn’t get too excited.  But the fact that Boeser outscored him is definitely a plus.

Colin White has a reasonable chance of being taken here, and his company is again hard to be sure of.  Patrick White, Stefan Matteau, Tyler Biggs, and Michael McCarron – the forwards with a 0.75 points per game or worse in this range, is ugly company as far as I’m concerned.  That’s enough for me to conclude, “don’t take USHL forwards with really bad point totals”, but Colin White isn’t exactly in this range.  He’s a full 0.10 points per game above the highest-scoring player of that group, Patrick White, so I don’t think you can automatically conclude that Colin White is no good.  As we saw when looking at the last range of players, the company Colin White holds is pretty much inconclusive.

WRAP-UP AND CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

The player that the numbers back up the most is easily Kyle Connor.  Whether he’s taken top ten or in the middle portion of the first round, Connor passes both the eye test and the numbers test with flying colors and a team should feel confident using a top-fifteen pick on him.

Colin White and Brock Boeser fare well, but we also can’t draw many conclusions given the relative lack of company they hold.  Teams should rely on their eyes here.  I haven’t see Boeser play so I don’t know exactly what that means, but I have seen White play and he’s a pretty effective all-around player, so teams should feel comfortable drafting him.

As for Jack Roslovic and Jeremy Bracco, well, who can say?  They probably won’t be taken in the first round so it’s probably a moot point, but if nothing else teams should be encouraged by their hefty point totals.

All in all though, we can’t draw many conclusions from this group.  There just haven’t been enough high-end USHL forwards taken in the draft in recent years to have a substantial enough base of players to draw from.

Tomorrow we wrap this exercise up, heading overseas to take a look at the top Scandinavians of this draft class and of draft classes previous.

For now though, make sure to check out the other posts in this series:

  • Gary Empey

    I posted this once before but the thread was so old when I did and there is so much new and interesting stuff everyday, I don’t think anyone seen it.
    I am posting it here.

    Looking at all the coaching changes the Leafs have made this year I see a high value placed on the defensive side of the game with a BIG emphasis placed on speed.

    I don’t think they will be interested in a really exceptional “one dimensional” player with thoughts of teaching him two way game in the future.

    With these thoughts in mind who are the best two-way players ranked three through ten?

    Up front:

    MATHEW BARZAL, MITCHELL MARNER

    Backend:

    IVAN PROVOROV, NOAH HANIFIN

    Best two-way players with wheels ranked around the 24th pick .

    Up front:

    JANSEN HARKINS, JAKE DEBRUSK, DANIEL SPRONG, TRAVIS KONECNY, JOEL ERIKSSON EK

    Backend:

    JÉRÉMY ROY, JAKUB ZBORIL, THOMAS CHABOT, BRANDON CARLO, OLIVER KYLINGTON

    The biggest thing I don’t like about my own list is only one OHL players on the list.