Position: Center, Calgary Hitmen
Last Year’s Ranking: Not in the Top 20
Drafted: 2018, 3rd Round 83rd overall
Why is Stotts a long shot?
Well, dang. I guess in the sense that most prospects are long shots, and while there has been a consistency about Stotts, we haven’t seen anything particularly electrifying from him. Being a 19 goal center, with 44 points as a center was decent in his draft year, but only jumping up to 57 points in the 2018-19 season, and not improving his goal total in his draft plus one year isn’t going to earn him a lot of fanfare.
To be clear, no one is suggesting writing off Stotts, who was solid on a less than stellar Calgary team last year. It’s just hard to make a case for him playing a role in the future of the Leafs, or even being guaranteed to receive an entry level contract at the end of this season without a significant leap forward.
— 51Leafs (@51Leafs) February 2, 2019
So clearly the kid knows what needs to be done on the powerplay as he finds open ice on the far side of the rink, and has a quick pass lined up to for the shot.
— 51Leafs (@51Leafs) February 7, 2019
A solid individual effort that would have seen him killed at least three times playing against pros.
Those numbers put Riley Stotts as a .92 point per game player last season and combined with the .87 ppg he had after his trade from Swift Current last season, he’s taken positive steps since his .14 ppg start with the Broncos in 2017-18. It’s becoming clear why the Leafs thought he was worth taking a chance on in the third round, but it remains to be seen whether he’s showing enough.
In the graphic above you can see that the Hitmen website has Stotts listed as a LW, but usage and faceoff counts (997 last season) point to him primarily being used as a center. In fact, Stotts has had a 52% win percentage last year, which I can tell has more than a few eyes rolling, but has the potential to help Riley carve out a bottom six role in professional hockey.
If we’re looking for a few more positives in Stotts’ game, it’s that his goal output is almost entirely at even strength, which, I mean might have you asking why he’s not scoring or used on the powerplay, but should make you feel better that he can score in the tougher of the two situations.
Stotts had 16 multi-point nights, with his best night being a 4 assist game against Moose Jaw. The flip side of that being was that there were 25 games last year when Stotts didn’t register a point (40% of his games.)
|Against Teams Over .500||27||11||23||0.85|
|Against Teams Under .500||35||8||34||0.97|
Stotts managed to preform pretty evenly regardless of the level of competition, and with his goal totals being significantly better against teams over .500 in the WHL, there might be some evidence that he’s worth a look at the next level.
Best Case Scenario for Stotts?
He becomes the greatest hockey player ever and in his free time brings about world peace, solves world hunger, and extends everyone’s life expectancy.
More realistically the best case scenario for Riley Stotts with the Leafs is that he steadily progresses as a project over the next couple of years, and earns his shot somewhere in the bottom part of the Leafs forward group.
Stotts having success in the WHL on faceoffs will probably help keep him in the middle of the ice as he starts his professional hockey career, and the fact that his greatest strength seems to be his offensive eye for the game, he could get a chance to development further by assuming a 2nd or 3rd line center role on the Marlies next season, if all goes well.
At this point, if there was a top six future for Stotts in the NHL, we would have seen something that sparks that dialogue, but we haven’t so any NHL career talk will probably be limited to the 3rd or 4th line. Stotts will need to take steps to add more defensive responsibility to his game, and that’s likely a step that won’t be taken until he reaches the pro ranks.
Worst Case Scenario for Stotts?
Well, this is generally pretty standard stuff, and that’s that Stotts fails to impress in his 2nd year after being drafted and fails to earn an entry level contract from the Leafs. It’s hard not to draw some similarities to Ryan McGregor, who recently failed to earn an entry level deal from the Leafs, in fact, McGregor had lower results in his draft year, and his post draft year and then put up a very respectable 77 point campaign in his draft plus 2 year, but didn’t earn a contract.
Of course, McGregor was a sixth round pick, not a pick specifically tied to Kyle Dubas, and two previous years that were less inspiring counting against him, but nevertheless it seems that draftees will need to standout in order to earn their place with in the Leafs organization.
Assuming that Stotts does come into the Leafs organization fold, the worst case would be he can’t hold a job on the Marlies, and the Leafs will have committed to using a standard player contract for three years on a player who doesn’t have a future with the team.
All of that is pretty grim for Stotts, so I’d prefer to focus on what seems to be the most likely outcome for him.
Stotts seems like he’ll be a very serviceable AHL center who may serve a depth NHL role as well. The realistic/favourable outcome for Stott’s career might be something along the lines of what new Leaf Nick Shore is stringing together.