Edmonton - June 10, 2014 - The Vancouver Canucks are going to be using their 6th overall draft pick according to GM Jim Benning. The opportunity for the Canucks to pick a great young prospect is far too enticing for Benning to pass up. This is great news because the top of the draft this year is very talented, and very close in terms of overall projection. The top of the draft is too close to call so the Canucks will undoubtedly wind up with a great player. Who that player will be is unknown, there are a group of players that it could be. The focus here is on Nikolaj Ehlers, a draft eligible winger with elite speed, high level puck skills, and a penchant for scoring goals.
Mckeens Hockey released a reporting tool earlier this week that highlights different statistics for CHL players, and it is quite fascinating. It measures the usual stats, but also throws in On Ice even strength goals for and against, the percentage of team even strength goals for and against, and the percentage of team goals and points scored by draft eligible prospects.
One of the benefits of this tool is that it can tell us to a certain degree just how valuable individual players were in terms of production for their teams. One player that spiked my interest, who will no doubt be around when the Canucks make their selection is Nikolaj Ehlers.
Nikolaj Ehlers, QMJHL, Halifax Mooseheads
Ehlers is an interesting case. Playing in Halifax with Jonathan Drouin this past season, Ehlers put up 104 points in 63 Games as a rookie. One question surrounding Ehlers has been how much of his offense is as a result of playing with Drouin, who is destined for the NHL next season with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Drouin is an incredible talent, and so the worry is that he is pumping up Ehlers numbers. Since we don’t have exact numbers of how often they played together, there is no sure fire way to identify if this correlation does indeed exist. However, using this Mckeens Hockey tool, we can now see how significant an impact Ehlers had on the even strength scoring of the Halifax team.
This season the Mooseheads scored 195 even strength goals. Of those 195 goals, Ehlers was on the ice for 93 of them (scoring 49 himself, the most by a QMJHL rookie since one Sidney Crosby no less). Ehlers was on the ice for ~48% of the Mooseheads even strength goals for, and scored ~15% of these goals. It is important to consider that the Mooseheads were a very good team, and thus the numbers have to be considered with that in mind. However, Ehlers had a very good season, and his even strength goal differential of 3.32 is a very nice number.
The Drouin factor remains, but with Drouin only having played 46 games this past season, that means Ehlers was without a doubt playing without Drouin for 18 games. 18 games is a significant chunk, and if Drouin was the sole driver of Ehlers numbers, not playing with Drouin for 18 games would have had a significant impact on Ehlers season. On top of this, there are a variety of reports on the internet that while Ehlers and Drouin saw time together on the power play, they were on separate even strength lines. Meaning the 48% of even strength goals he scored for the Mooseheads is even more impressive.
The positives of Ehlers as a player are outstanding. He is a terrific skater (probably the best in the draft). He has incredible vision, playmaking abilities, and puck handling skills, which combined with his speed makes him a threat every time he steps on the ice. His skill and speed means that as he grows his game defensively he could become a very effective penalty killer. At just 6’0 and 163lbs. he has room to grow and mature physically, but this is not a factor as the Canucks wouldn’t be looking to rush him into the lineup next season regardless.
There are a lot of potential players that the Canucks will be looking at in the #6 spot, but Ehlers may be the best one available. With his speed, puck handling, and even strength scoring prowess, Ehlers looks like the real deal. The Canucks may have a draft day steal if they walk away with Ehlers.
This article uses information from mckeenshockey.com
Let me know on twitter @maddex19 who you hope the Canucks walk away with on Draft Day