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Draft Grades - North American Conference

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We’re about halfway through Season 66, which naturally means we’re going to levy a too-early verdict on how each team’s draft went. Now, I know what you’re thinking – “you always do articles about defense. Is this only going to be defense? My team didn’t draft defense.”


Astute observation, but I will be judging – nay, defending – each GM’s decisions for all players, including defensemen (of course), goalies, and forwards. But as with any ranking, we have to establish the criteria on which we’re judging these draft decisions to make our judgment fair. Those criteria are:


1)     Draftees’ TPE relative to position (per round, not pick)

2)     Draftees’ acquired TPE since draft (per round, not pick)

3)     Last update

4)     Performance in majors since draft, if applicable


Now, to be clear – these are draft grades, and they’re meant to hover around an average of a 5/10. I refuse to mince words or placate all fan-bases with “A” grades: if your team receives a 5/10, that means their draft was average relative to the league's other competitive, thoughtful GMs. Half of the league probably did better, and half of the league probably did worse. That’s not a bad place to be.


Having more vs. less picks did not affect grades. We're just looking for how effectively general managers sussed out player talent and growth at the picks they could draft.


For readers' convenience, I have provided a quik change in TPE figure so you can figure out how your player compares to others in your round. This data may be 24-30 hours out of date (sorry!), but compares players to their last VHL Scouting Center rank. Thanks rjfryman!




New York Americans 




C Maximilian Kirbsson (23rd)

LW Hunter Wagner (45th)

C Walter Clements (55th)


Our first team is one that’s traded away a majority of its picks – not only for this most recent draft, but nearly all of its picks for Season 67’s draft (save their own and Vancouver’s fourth-rounders). All three of their rookies are signed on to three-year deals, and they join a host of new players after a flurry of deals at the end of the season – including ones for Robert Malenko, Piotr Jerwa, and Kisshan Shan following blockbuster deals for star Leph Twinger at the end of S64 and Paolo Nano in the first half of last season.


But we’re here to look at draft picks, and the Americans only had three. The first is highly-touted center Maximilian Kirbsson @Kirby, who’s contributed 4 goals on 74 shots and 16 assists. He’s also contributed 64 hits thus far, which is excellent for a rookie and above-average for centers. He gets most of his ice-time with Carles Puigdemont and Kisshan Shan, but it’s as a winger rather than a center because of the abundance of talent at his position (Puigdemont and Ylonen). Unfortunately for the New York management, most scouts have fallen off of the Kirbsson hype train. He’s contributed meaningfully as a third option at center and most other times as a winger, but his trajectory from the minors (6th overall) to the VHL (third round, 23rd overall) as well as his practice hours since the last S66 rankings (+22 TPE vs. 42.1 average for second round) are a very worrisome sign for a team that was hoping to have him as a building block for the future. His last update was May 10.


The team’s other two picks – Hunter Wagner @Inf1d3l in the third round and Walter Clements @cpetrella in the fifth – were actually reasonably high value. Wagner, currently still in the minors, is nearly capped and has added 28 TPE; Clements is the Americans’ diamond in the rough, with a whopping 58 TPE since those same rankings and is nearly capped. We can probably attribute that both to the agent and the positive locker room culture in Philadelphia.


Final Grade: 4/10. Only three picks to talk about here: Kirbsson is probably a bust, but New York should feel good about their sixth-rounder. Wagner isn’t perfect thus far, but could be a depth piece.


Calgary Wranglers




C Tyler Barabash Jr (GM player)

RW John Frostbeard (12th)

RW Nethila Dissanayake (26th)

D Rhye Tyr (32nd)

C Raphael Nazarians (40th)

LW Cody Smith (42nd)

LW Dylan Doyle (52nd)

D Andreas Sundell (62nd)


The Wranglers had a pick in every round save the first, and have a nice mix of forwards and defensemen positionally. They picked up promising wingers John Frostbeard @FrostBeard and Nethila Dissanayake @nethi99 with their first couple of picks, then strangely picked up inactives Rhye Tyr and Raphael Nazarians in the fourth. Let’s take a look at those first few rounds.


In a move that puzzled many, Calgary opted for RW John Frostbeard – who had been projected to go mid-fourth round – high in the second. It was a bit of a puzzling pick – especially with high-rated forwards like Shawnomir Jagr, Bert Meyers, Kyle Sabertooth, Chico Smeb, and Valeri Morozov picked later in the very same round – but he had a promising aspect to him as part of the Philadelphia front office. At the time, it was assumed that he would be a solid, consistent addition to the team with a reasonable floor. Thus far he’s been outperformed by all others drafted in his round – with a +22 TPE to his name – and just 4 of those in the third round, one of which is teammate Nethila Dissanayake. But he’s still chugging along, and that’s enough to avoid calling him a bust.


While Frostbeard has performed below the expected second rounder, Dissanayake is much closer to that metric for his round (+35 vs. an average of 42.1). All of Calgary’s picks are still playing for minor league squads; Frostbeard has 59 points (nearly 1.5 ppg), good for a +30 on a thriving Philadelphia team. Dissanayake’s production is a bit slower (28 points with 13 goals, 15 assists) for a similarly-loaded Saskatoon.


There’s very little to talk about with Rhye Tyr and Raphael Nazarians. Neither has added a single point since the draft, and they’re 99%+ busts.


Strangely, like New York, Calgary’s late-round picks are a grab bag of “awesome!” and “yeah, that’s what we expected.” In particular, fifth- and sixth-round left wingers Cody Smith @cody73 and Dylan Doyle @zepheter have improved spectacularly since the draft. Smith, who plays for brand-new minors team Mississauga, has a whopping 50 points, with 27 goals on 196 shots, and 103 hits. He’s shown a versatile skill set and a nose for the net – clearly, he isn’t afraid to lay out opposing players either. In 40 games, he also has 5 game-winners, which is pretty exciting for the Calgary front office. Doyle’s production has been slower, as his ice time is much more limited; he was a mid-round minors draft pick and a late VHL draft pick, so that’s to be expected. However, his improvement on the ice has been remarkable as of late; we can likely expect him to thrive in the coming seasons with more ice time and eventual progression to the majors.


Those two mid-late round picks have vastly outperformed their classmates (+72 vs. +36.5 for Smith, +51 vs. +33.9 for Doyle) and will buoy Calgary’s draft score.


Defenseman Andreas Sundell went the way of Tyr and Nazarians – nothing to say here.


Final Grade: 6/10. Frostbeard is improving at his expected floor, and Dissanayake is acceptable as a third rounder. Calgary’s fourth round picks were 100% flops, but there is incredible promise in their late-round picks.


Vancouver Wolves




LW Julius Freeman (2nd)

RW Shawnomir Jagr (14th)

LW Kyle Sabertooth (18th)

C Hans Gruber (28th)

LW Ben Hafkey (53rd)

C BALLS McZehrl (63rd)


Next up is none other than the Vancouver Wolves, who had four picks in the first three rounds and currently sit sixth in the VHL standings (third among American conference teams). Held back somewhat by middling goalie play, it was expected that strong skaters like centers Beau Louth @Beaviss and Rauno Palo @jRuutu would bring this team to the top half of the table. That remains to be seen, but Vancouver is certainly in the thick of the playoff race.


The Wolves did an excellent job drafting the most talented players at any given pick, and in fact drafted only forwards. Provided their defensive talent (Wolfe, Mulligan, Harding, and Philliefan), that’s not entirely unreasonable. We start with first-rounder LW Julius Freeman @rjfryman, who was taken second overall and has continued excelling against the VHL’s best as a first-liner. At present, he has limited point production (8G on 118 shots, 16A) but has a net +5 in spite of facing players with years’ worth of experience on him. He’s also been incredibly disciplined, with just 8 penalty minutes through 49 games. It’s not quite the production we expected coming out of a 100-point Halifax season, but is in fact better than expected because of the role he’s expected to play. Most importantly, he’s stayed active (+82 vs. a 64.6 first round average), even more so than other top-ten picks.


Next are the second rounders and fellow wingers Shawnomir Jagr @TheLastOlympian07 and Kyle Sabertooth@uphillmoss. Jagr, as expected, gets plenty of time on the ice during practice (+58 vs. +55.8 average) but has had limited rookie point production, with just 11 in 49 games and a -19 plus-minus against major league opponents. Sabertooth opted to stay in the minors and has only modestly improved (+27) but has produced excellent numbers for an excellent Philadelphia team – 54 points in 40 games, on top of 95 hits. Of the two, Jagr definitely has the better upward trajectory.


It’s hard to blame GM Beaviss for picking Sabertooth, however, because even as a reach relative to his talent (ranked 29th), he was expected to improve rapidly and keep up with his peers.


Next up is in fact the most-improved member of the Wolves’ draftees, Hans Gruber @TheFlash. His luck against major league teams is again a bit limited (20 points, the same -17 plus-minus) like Jagr’s, but league scouts across the board have praised Gruber’s improvement (+89 vs. +42.1 average) as greatly outpacing his peers. He was one of two picks (like Jagr) that was drafted below his scouted talent (19th, drafted 28th), but the chip on his shoulder may have in fact motivated him more than just about any member of the draft class.


As we go a bit further down, we reach Vancouver’s late-round picks: LW Ben Hafkey @ItsMcLovin and BALLS McZehrl @Rent A McZ (Ed note: name capitalized for accuracy, not emphasis). While they’re both still minor leaguers, they are both still hits; Hafkey (+57 vs. 33.9 average) has served key depth minutes for Philadelphia as a two-way forward, and McZehrl (+33 vs. +9.2 average) has shown aptitude for just about everything you can think of – scoring, passing, defense, skating, and recovering loose pucks. Before coming to the majors, McZehrl will want to specialize his game a bit – but he’s doing good work for a struggling Minnesota team.


Final Grade: 9/10. Freeman and Gruber have shown up their classmates; Jagr produces better than most second rounders; and Hafkey and McZehrl could be long-time VHL depth players or even starters if they keep their pace over the next few seasons.


Toronto Legion






Well, that was fast. Good talk.


Final Grade: N/A /10


Seattle Bears




LW Shane Mars (3rd)

LW Valeri Morozov (20th)

G Clayton Park (27th)

LW Kari Jurri (48th)

LW John Perdue (58th)

G Luke Derion (68th)


The Seattle Bears are dead-last in the standings (12-30-6, 30 points) and have a -64 goal differential. But take a look at their trade page and try to tell me their management isn’t doing anything – go ahead. I’ll wait.


The Bears had most of their picks for this last draft, but will hope to add to their team with an astounding three first-rounders and four second-rounders in the S67 draft. We can expect this season’s draftees to get a huge boost next season, and they’ll likely be expected to start and mentor the upcoming draft class – and this makes the S66 picks somewhat important.


Their first rounder was LW Shane Mars @Spade18, who was ranked second overall but drafted third behind aforementioned winger Julius Freeman. Mars has had to take on an incredibly heavy load – playing the first and third lines for his team as a rookie, and as a result he hasn’t improved much (+25 vs. +64.6 average). His production has outclassed all other rookies other than Moscow’s Jet Jaguar – Mars has a whopping 27 goals and 57 points overall to his name off of a massive 331 shots, which is hardly surprising provided the ice time and offensive focus he’s needed to occupy. It’s concerning that he hasn’t improved that much: in fact hasn’t updated in about two weeks, a fact that should scare a Seattle front office that hoped to make him the cornerstone of their franchise.


Valeri Morozov @Dangles13 and Clayton Park @leafssteen were the next two picks for Seattle, and they’ve shown some promise. Morozov’s point production (11 G, 13 A) is decent for a rookie, but where he shines is his physicality. He leads all rookies with a whopping 176 hits – good for eighth in the league – and ‘just’ 112 penalty minutes to show for it. He’s definitely taken on more of an enforcer role for his team, consistent with his time in Yukon (230 hits in 72 games). He has limited practice time to show for all of his hits (+35 vs. +55.8 average) but can stay on as a depth piece if he keeps this pace. Unfortunately for Seattle, he hasn’t updated since May 12. Clayton Park, on the other hand, has had a rough time adjusting to the majors (89.7%), but that’s sort of to be expected from rookie goalies, especially ones with rebuilding rosters. He’s improved quickly (+61 TPE vs. +42.1) even compared to most second (and even some first) rounders, and will be the gem in this team’s draft.


All of Seattle’s 5th-7th round picks (Kari Jurri, John Perdue, and Luke Derion) have failed to thrive in the league, with just 1 TPE between all three of them since the draft. Most times, late round picks are really hit and miss; Seattle just got the short end of the stick on all except one: 8th-rounder Thomas Kennedy @Walter Fizz has been a surprise contributor to the Ottawa Lynx. He may be called up next season provided his recent and rapid improvement (+117). He’s produced 42 points, including 14 goals on 158 shots, and will be a prospect to watch come season’s end.


Final Grade: 4/10. Mars is teetering closer to bust than you ever want to see from a third overall pick; Morozov is below-average but salvageable; and nearly all of Seattle’s late-round picks were definitely misses. G Clayton Park and C Thomas Kennedy are the two redeeming factors for this team’s draft.


Thoughts? Did I get it right or wrong? Am I a garbage reviewer? I need to tag @GustavMattias at some point, so I figure the end is appropriate.


Want to write the European Conference companion article? Let me know!

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Both @Spade18 and @Dangles13 have had life hit them good right now. I know what I can expect from both players. Seattle draft to me was 10/10. Closed some holes, got some stud players and also got the biggest steal of the draft in @Walter Fizz.  





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11 minutes ago, Banackock said:

Both @Spade18 and @Dangles13 have had life hit them good right now. I know what I can expect from both players. Seattle draft to me was 10/10. Closed some holes, got some stud players and also got the biggest steal of the draft in @Walter Fizz.  





I'd heard about Spade but didn't know about Dangles.


I would 100% agree that Seattle's draft on draft night was 9/10+, and that's what I would have given them night-of. But with a retrospective I needed to go with what's happened since, and I have to go with numbers alone.


It's likely Seattle's draft grade will go up with future seasons, but for now objectively it's far from ideal.

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@Renomitsu I did read this when you first posted it but I just re read it and its a great analysis. Love the TPE earned by draft position(I might have to steal that for my scouting sheet).

Keep stuff like this coming as drafting analysis is my favorite articles to read.

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