CHL Forward Prospects

The decision on which player the Carolina Hurricanes should take with the eighth pick in the NHL Draft is anything but unanimous but one thing that can be agreed on is that it should be a forward. The Canes do have a decent future up front with Jeff Skinner and Brandon Sutter already contributing at the NHL level, but their prospect pool is very thin. The team’s best forward prospects who aren’t currently on the roster project to be 2nd/3rd liners in the NHL or have little chance to even make the league, so they definitely need to strengthen the depth of their forward corps and this draft is a great chance for them to do that. While there are a lot of defensemen projected to go in the first round, there are also a lot of very talented forwards who the Canes can take with any of their picks.

Carolina has ten picks this draft and while lower round picks never project to amount to much, you can never have too many good young players in your system, so the Hurricanes need to make their picks count. There are always a few late round picks who make the pros out of nowhere and it’s possible that there might be a few lurking in this draft. Countless times you will see a GM value things like talent, size and skill over their performance which leads to some guys falling in the draft. One way to find these players is to look at their point-per-game total at their current level and see who is playing well by this standard. 

Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to use this method for different leagues to evaluate certain players in the draft and see which ones might be available when it’s the Hurricanes turn to pick. It isn’t perfect because goals and points alone aren’t the best way to judge a player, especially ones who are in junior hockey. A player could have a great season that’s driven completely by a high shooting percentage or he might be used in more favorable situations compared to others among other complications. Unfortunately, the amount of data available in these leagues is very limited so this is the furthest amount of statistical analysis that can be done for a lot of prospects. I was also going to include their NHL Equivalency value, but that probably doesn’t mean much to the Hurricanes. There’s a 90% chance that all of the players they take will not make the team next year, so how their performance last season compares to the NHL level doesn’t mean much.

After the jump, we are going to take a look at the forward prospects who played in the Canadian Hockey League last season. This is the most popular junior league in the world and a good chunk of the players in the draft usually come from there, so we are going to get a decent sample of players to examine here. Are there any hidden gems coming from the CHL this year? Let’s find out.

Here are the goal and point totals from all the forwards from the CHL who were named in Corey Pronman’s Top 100 Prospects feature on Hockey Prospectus. Stats from Hockeydb and Elite Prospects.

Player Pos. GP G Pts P/G Team League
Nail Yakupov LW 42 31 69 1.64 Sarnia OHL
Tanner Pearson RW 60 37 91 1.52 Barrie OHL
Mikhail Grigorenko C 59 40 85 1.44 Quebec QMJHL
Tomas Hyka RW 50 20 64 1.28 Gatineau QMJHL
Matej Beran C 48 22 61 1.27 PEI QMJHL
Seth Griffith LW 68 45 85 1.25 London OHL
Alex Galchenyuk C 68 31 83 1.22 Sarnia OHL
Anton Zlobin RW 66 40 76 1.15 Shawinigan QMJHL
Charles Hudon LW 59 25 66 1.12 Chicoutimi QMJHL
Tanner Richard C 43 13 48 1.12 Guelph OHL
Radek Faksa C 62 29 67 1.08 Kitchener OHL
Tim Bozon LW 71 36 71 1 Kamploops WHL
Brendan Guance C 68 28 68 1 Belleville OHL
Gemel Smith C 68 21 60 0.88 Owen Sound OHL
Scott Kosmachuk RW 67 30 59 0.88 Guelph OHL
Martin Frk RW 34 16 29 0.85 Halifax QMJHL
Lukas Sutter C 70 28 59 0.84 Saskatoon WHL
Scott Laughton C 64 21 53 0.83 Oshawa OHL
Arturs Gavrus LW 45 15 37 0.82 Owen Sound OHL
Henrik Samuelsson RW 28 7 23 0.82 Edmonton WHL
Jarrod Maidens C 28 12 23 0.82 Owen Sound OHL
Denis Kamaev RW 67 21 55 0.82 Rouyn Noranda QMJHL
Coda Gordon LW 66 30 53 0.8 Swift Current WHL
Mike Winther C 71 32 56 0.79 Prince Albert WHL
Troy Bourke LW 71 18 56 0.79 Prince George WHL
Raphael Bussieres LW 56 21 44 0.79 Baie-Comeau QMJHL
Dane Fox C 28 10 22 0.79 Erie OHL
Brady Vail C 68 22 52 0.76 Windsor OHL
Chandler Stephenson LW 55 22 42 0.76 Regina WHL
Danill Zharkov RW 50 23 36 0.72 Belleville OHL
Colton Sissons RW 58 26 41 0.71 Kelowna WHL
Steven Hodges C 72 21 46 0.64 Victoria WHL
Andreas Athanasiou LW 63 22 37 0.59 London OHL
Matia Marcantuoni RW 24 9 14 0.58 Kitchener OHL
Ben Johnson C 68 18 38 0.56 Windsor OHL
Thomas Wilson RW 49 9 27 0.55 Plymouth OHL
Chris Tierney C 65 11 34 0.52 London OHL
Christoph Bertschy C 31 8 16 0.52 Bern NLA
Dominik Volek RW 70 14 32 0.46 Regina WHL
Brendan Troock RW 58 14 26 0.45 Seattle WHL

Nail Yakupov, Mikhail Grigorenko, Alex Galchenyuk and Radek Faksa are the players from the CHL who are projected to be Top 10-15 picks by most scouts and it’s easy to see why. The first three are likely off Carolina’s radar unless Grigorenko continues to fall for injury reasons. There are a lot of players to look out for here, though and the one who sticks out to me is Seth Griffith of the London Knights. He has put up some very impressive goal and point totals this season and isn’t even on some people’s Top 100 list. He was actually draft eligible last season and was completely passed over. His stats are impressive enough, so what concerns might be surrounding him?

I did some investigating to see what issues he had and there are a few things. He was only 18 when the season started so he isn’t an over-ager, but it’s understandable why he didn’t get drafted last year. Griffith wasn’t a point-per-game player last year and most 18 year olds who get drafted early are usually of pretty high caliber and Griffith didn’t fit in that class. Why he isn’t projected to go high this year is probably due to his age, as players like Yakupov and Galchenyuk and Grigorenko are a year younger than Griffith and producing at the same level. Again, I don’t think this is a major concern because Griffith is still only 19 right now and doesn’t immediately have to go to the NHL or the AHL after he is drafted. Size was the other concern with him because he is 5’10” and 185 lbs. That isn’t very big but he isn’t Brian Gionta either, so I think the speculations here are overblown. What might not be overblown is huge point total jump. Going from being a .91 to a 1.19 PPG player is a pretty big leap forward and it does make you wonder whether or not this is an aberration. Regardless, he seems to have the makings of a productive winger and the Canes could definitely use someone like him in their system.

Another player who sticks out on this list is Tanner Pearson. Like Griffith, he also was draft eligible last year and was passed over. The difference between the two is that Pearson is projected to be a late-first/early-second round pick and is slightly bigger. He has also scored at a much higher rate than all but one draft eligible forward in the CHL this season, which should definitely make him an attractive option for a team looking needing more up front. Why is he being projected to be taken earlier in the draft, though? My first guess would be because he turns 20 in August and still could return to junior but probably not after next season. He also suffered a big injury before the OHL playoffs and that could hurt his value even though he probably isn’t going to be in the NHL next year. Pearson isn’t someone who should be taken in the top 10 from the looks of things but if he’s available in the second round, Carolina should consider him.

Tomas Hyka and Matej Beran are two other players who were impressive statistically in the QMJHL this year and are projected to be 2nd/3rd round picks. They are completely different players, though. Hyka is a small, but effective playmaker while Beran is much bigger and assuming, a much more physical player. Beran appears to cater to the Hurricanes needs more because most of the wingers who they have drafted in the past are undersized and not many of them have had success in the NHL, Skinner not withstanding. However, winger is the one positive where you can succeed regardless of your size, so I don’t think it is as big of a deal as some people might make it out to be. Either way, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Hurricanes target both players in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.

As for who the Hurricanes take in the first round, Radek Faksa might be on the Hurricanes’ board. He had 67 points in 62 games in his first year in the OHL as a 17-18 year old. To add to that, he had 29 goals, played on both the powerplay and penalty kill and appears to be a solid physical player, as well. He is pretty big for his age at 6’3″ and 202 lbs, so the organization won’t shy away from him because he’s “undersized’ like a lot of people tend to do. The one red flag might be his age because Faksa is at least two years away from making the NHL but he’s been very impressive on a good Kitchener Ranger team, so I think the Hurricanes could have their eyes on him. With that being said, most draft experts have him going outside the Top 10.

There’s a very good possibility that the Hurricanes first round pick could be someone who was playing across the sea this year (that is, unless Grigorenko or Galchenyuk fall to them at #8) and we will find out more about these players in a few days when I go through this process with the European leagues.