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2016 NHL Draft: Defence Targets

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Who could the Senators be taking at #12? Here are a few options on defence.

Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, Trevor introduced our two-part series by looking at five forward prospects that the Senators could potentially draft at number 12. Today, my task is to introduce you to some of the defenders that might be available. Pierre Dorion and co. have always followed the "best player available" strategy in the first round, and I wouldn't say that there's an edge either way to whether the forwards or defenders that we're profiling are better than the other.

However, unlike the forwards, the first round targets on defence are pretty clearly separated into tiers. Olli Juolevi, Jakob Chychrun, and Mikhail Sergachyev make up Tier 1: the three most likely to be taken in the top-10. In most rankings, Jake Bean, Dante Fabbro, and Charlie McAvoy make up Tier 2: the three most likely to be taken between picks 10-20. Now, that's not to say there are other defenders with top-four calibre talent. Names like Logan Stanley, Adam Fox, Cam Dineen, Samuel Girard, Dennis Cholowski, Lucas Johansen are all capable prospects in their own right. None of them are consistently ranked in the first round like the folks in the first two tiers.

As a reward for a mediocre season, the Sens will likely have a shot at players in the first two tiers and thus, they will be the focus of these profiles. Let's begin!

Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia Sting: LD


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Jakob Chychrun

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Background:

Chychrun's been on the radar of many scouts for a couple of years now. Coming into the season, he was unanimously named the top draft-eligible defender by TSN, and many believed that he'd be a top-three pick with Auston Matthews. In fact, Sarnia head coach Trevor Letkowski named Chychrun an alternate captain... despite being a 16-year old rookie:

"He's a special kid," his coach said. "For us it doesn't matter how long you've been in the league, it's your daily habits, your behaviour, your work ethic, your approach to the game, and his is very impressive. We didn't factor age into it at all. He's a leader on our hockey club."

Jakob credits his parents for instilling his innate sense of maturity. His father, Jeff Chychrun, is a retired NHL defenceman, while his mother, Nancy, is president of Tire Guides Inc., a tire information and publication company that her father started.

With all the accolades, why has Chychrun fallen? It's a combination of two things: other players have stepped up, and he hasn't taken the "next step" as most scouts would've hoped. Chychrun's 0.77 PPG is better than the offensively talented Thomas Chabot's 0.62 in his draft year, but consistent with his 0.78 PPG in 2014-15. Yeesh, talk about high expectations. His strengths appear to lie in his mobility, both offensively and defensively, with apparent weaknesses (other than high expectations) coming mainly in scouts thinking that he may not have the upside to be a #1 or #2 defenseman.

This Season:

Chychrun had the fourth most points among defenders in the OHL this season, and had the usual top prospect treatment: a big role for Canada's U18 team and a spot in the OHL All-Star game. Chychrun wasn't named the top OHL defender of the year, with that honour going to Windsor rookie defender Mikhail Sergachyev - a big left defender who we'll profile in a bit. Where Chychrun could still improve is his offensive game at even-strength, as his 0.468 primary points per game (goals, primary assists) lags behind some other notable defenders in the league. To be clear, I am nitpicking here to try and find places where Chychrun can improve, but the numbers do support his status as a top draft eligible defender. Defensively, OHL scouting guru Brock Otten has Chychrun ahead of his OHL compatriots in terms of his ability, praising both his positioning and ability to seal off forwards on the rush.

Fit with the Sens:

It was just last year that scouts were raving about his ability to make an impact in the NHL right away, so don't underestimate Chychrun's ability. He easily projects as the second best defender in Ottawa's system, right behind the older Thomas Chabot, and would give the Senators an insurance policy on the left side. With Methot, Phaneuf, Chabot, Englund in the system, Chychrun would have the time to build his strength and explosiveness, two of his supposed weaknesses. None of the scouting services profiled above have Chychrun falling below 13th, making him an extremely enticing pick if he's still available for the Senators.

Mikhail Sergachyev, Windsor Spitfires: LD


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Mikhail Sergachyov

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Background:

Unconventional is probably the right word to describe Sergachyev. After spending his 2014-15 season as the jewel of the Russian National Team in the MHL (their junior league), the U-17s, and the U-18s, Sergachyev flew the coop and transitioned to North America. "Big, mean, physical" are often words stereotypically used to describe Canadian defenders (especially from the Western Hockey League) and rarely Russian ones, but all three apply to Sergachyev. "Skilled" is also a word that I'd use to describe him, and is primarily the reason why he's vaulted up the rankings as a member of the Big Three: Matthews, Laine, Puljujarvi Juolevi, Chychrun, Sergachyev.

This season:

Selected 5th in the annual CHL Import Draft, the Russian blueliner has flourished in the OHL. He finished third among OHL defenders in scoring (ahead of Juolevi and Chychrun) with his 0.85 PPG garnering him the OHL's Top Defender award. Unlike Chychrun, he paces all OHL blueliners in primary points per game with 0.597, serving as a strong indicator of both his shot, vision, and creativity in the offensive zone. Comparing the offensive ability of Chychrun and Sergachyev at even-strength leads to a small win for the Russian, with 25 of his 57 points coming at even-strength compared to 21 of Chychrun's 49. Again, small margins. Where could he have improved this season? Much like other defencemen with offensive skills, Sergachyev could choose his spots better in terms of his aggressiveness to lead the rush, and could work a bit more on his defensive coverage when opposing forwards enter the zone, according to Brock Otten.

Fit with the Sens:

Everything I've said about Chychrun applies here for Sergachyev, too. The other thing I'll note is that the Senators haven't picked a Russian player since Ruslan Bashkirov in the second round back in 2007. Much like Sergachyev, Bashkirov was an import player playing for Quebec. That is, however, a span of nearly 10 drafts with Pierre Dorion at the helm without a Russian selection. Let's not fool ourselves, the Murray's (Bryan AND Tim) generally avoid Russian prospects, mainly because they have a backup if things don't work out in North America. Upon arriving in Buffalo, Tim Murray traded away both Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Zadorov. That being said, Pierre Dorion is now the primary decision maker, and perhaps Sergachyev's North American game and willingness to come over early will sway him. I don't think he'll be available at 12, as like Chychrun, most scouting agencies rank him in the Top-10, but he's an automatic pick for me if he makes in there.

Jake Bean, Calgary Hitmen: LD


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Jake Bean

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Background:

It's a weak draft class for the WHL, but Jake Bean seems to be the cream of the crop. The Calgary Hitmen defender wasn't even selected in the WHL Bantam Draft, taking a while to develop the complete game that teams would like, but has been a revelation on the backend since joining the league in 2014-15. His strength appears to be his offensive game. The Hockey News states that his offensive IQ is incredible, with Bean consistently picking the right spots and maintaining possession when straddling the blueline. ESPN's Corey Pronman notes that his hockey sense also makes him a solid defensive player with ability to play on a PK unit, but that he lacks physicality and needs to work on his first step to transition successfully into the NHL.

This season:

Unable to play at the U-18s due to a broken foot, Bean still suited up for the Ivan Hlinka tournament, the WHL super series, and put up 64 points in 68 games with the Hitmen -- a mark good enough for 6th among all defenders in scoring. Of note, his 24 goals paced the league and showcases nicely his ability to get his shot through. Bean's 0.632 primary points per game is ahead of all other WHL defenders other than Flyers prospects Travis Sanheim (who also plays for Calgary) and Ivan Provorov. Although he's known as having the best point production among the players we're profiling in this piece, Bean's even-strength point percentage (29 of 64) is only a smidgen higher than the others. Thus, when you combine the fact that his defensive game isn't as complete and that his skating isn't as polished, you get a player that's likely to be available at 12, rather than a top-10 pick.

Fit with the Senators:

Bean is the first defender profiled that has a really good chance of being available when Ottawa picks, unless New Jersey really wants to select him over one of the many forwards expected to be there at pick #11. Bean's makeup seems really similar to that of Thomas Chabot - a great offensive defender who paced his draft eligible competition but doesn't have the upside of a top-pair prospect. Bean would look to push for a spot with Team Canada and try to work on his complete game while taking on a bigger role with the Hitmen this upcoming season with Sanheim graduating. He'd give the Senators an insurance option to Thomas Chabot, and would give the Senators a better chance of having two offensively capable defenders in their top-two pairs alongside Erik Karlsson for the foreseeable future (sorry, Dion Phaneuf and Marc Methot).

Dante Fabbro, Penticton Vees: RD


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Dante Fabbro

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Background:

As you can see from his rankings, Dante Fabbro is the boom/bust defender of the first round. I believe it mainly has to do with people believing that the BCHL is a lesser quality league than the CHL, so his (exceptional) performance is downplayed. Don't be mistaken, though, Fabbro possesses a tantalizing skillset to entice potential teams. Described as a high-end skater who's masterful at quarterbacking a powerplay, Dobber Prospects notes that Fabbro is more than capable defensively, using his speed to retrieve the puck effectively and move it quickly up the ice under pressure. ESPN's Corey Pronman, who has Fabbro ranked 10th among all players, emphasizes that his calmness and poise with the puck makes him a sound defensive option and praises his hockey IQ.

This season:

Fabbro won almost every honour he could this season in the BCHL, being named a First-Team All-Star, finishing with the most points on his way to being named Top Defenceman, and excelling when called upon to play for Team Canada. Not only was Fabbro named one of the top-3 players on Canada's U-18 team, where Fabbro was the offensive defensemen when paired with Chychrun, but he also won Gold at the World Junior A Challenge and the Ivan Hlinka tournament. Unfortunately, I'm unable to break down his statistics like I can with the other players showcased on this list, but Fabbro seems to be the type of player that can provide value in the middle of the first round.

Fit with the Senators:

Now, there's a couple of interesting points that make Fabbro an enticing option for the Senators compared to Jake Bean and Charlie McAvoy (below), the other defenders likely available at #12. Firstly, Fabbro is the youngest defender we've profiled, with a late June birthday coming him 7 less months of development than McAvoy. Secondly, unlike Jake Bean, Fabbro slots in as a right handed defender, giving the Senators a top-four option in the system - something they currently lack. Regardless of performance right now, Cody Ceci is the only young defencemen in the organization that shoots right and his top-four upside; Fabbro fills a need and will allow the team to be more creative if Ceci ends up stalling in his development. Committed to Boston University next year (interestingly fitting in on the second pair behind McAvoy and with fellow 2016 1st rounders in Clayton Keller and Kieffer Bellows), Fabbro will be afforded time to prove his doubters wrong. A pick with potentially more upside than Jake Bean, Fabbro is a bit more uncertain but could turn out extraordinary.

Charlie McAvoy, Boston University: RD




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Background:

I've already talked about him a little, but Charlie McAvoy may be the most developmentally advanced of the defencemen that the Senators could select in the 2016 NHL draft. With already one full year of college hockey under his belt thanks to his early birthday, McAvoy starred for the BU Terriers despite the struggles of the overall team. We see a fair bit of fluctuation in McAvoy's rankings, despite his status as a consensus first-rounder. What are his strengths and weaknesses? Most scouting reports ooze over his ability to get around the ice and lead the rush, with many stating that he has the vision to find his teammates through the seam when transitioning the puck up the ice. However, McAvoy is generally a risky player, and although he's been able to get away with his mistakes now, scouts are uncertain whether he'll be able to at the pro level. Now, getting caught out of position trying to generate scoring chances is a typical fault for young, offensive defencemen, but it's why McAvoy is lower down the rankings compared to the other defencemen in this piece who have a more complete defensive game.

This season:

Since I've used his older age as a weakness earlier in this piece, it would be unfair for me not to note that McAvoy was the youngest skater to suit up in the NCAA this year. Despite this, he finished 10th among all NCAA defenders (regardless of conference) in scoring, ahead of many drafted prospects. From AWheeler's draft profile of McAvoy over at Canucks Army:

Comparing him to the two most recent high profile NCAA defenseman picks, Zach Werenski and Noah Hanifin, McAvoy produced at a very similar rate to both in all situations, and outproduced them by a fairly significant margin at 5 on 5.

Despite putting up no points, McAvoy was the second youngest member of the USA's World Juniors team and helped them win a Bronze medal. He wasn't able to generate a ton of shots, with his 1.83 shots per game not up in the top-50 among NCAA defenders, but likely contributed to BU's 56% even-strength Corsi this year. With a newly revamped roster coming into 2016-17, the Terriers are looking to take the next step and will be counting on McAvoy to lead their defence corps.

Fit with the Senators:

Like Fabbro, McAvoy's positioning gives him a unique advantage over other prospects in the Senators system. The team could always use an offensively capable defender on the second pair that's able to play second unit powerplay time and help move the puck up the ice quicker. Impact, right-handed defenders are hard to find (most defenders shoot left) so drafting McAvoy and letting him continue on his advanced development path may lead to him being pro ready in 1-2 years.

That marks the end of our prospect profiles for this season! You'll notice that the only one of the top-six ranked defenders that I didn't include is Juolevi, and that's mainly because consensus rankings have him going way before Ottawa picks. That being said, stranger things have happened and there's a chance he falls to the Sens, or Pierre Dorion and co. feel highly about a defender ranked lower down the list. We hope this was an informative primer on the team's (potential) first-round pick!

(Special thanks to Elite ProspectsProspect Stats, The Hockey News, and other sources linked for providing information on these players)