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Ottawa Senators Draft Profiles: Other Interesting Defencemen

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Yesterday we focused on forwards, today we look for some defensive gems.

Canada v United States - 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship
Scott Perunovich is possibly the draft’s best overager.
Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

The draft coverage doesn’t stop, as there’s only two more days ‘till draft day! On Monday we looked at a handful of forwards of interest that might be available in the later rounds, and today we shift that to defencemen.

Let’s jump right in!

Nicolas Beaudin (LD)

Player Pronman Wheeler Scouch Robinson Davis Kournianos Button McKeen's NHL Central Scouting
Player Pronman Wheeler Scouch Robinson Davis Kournianos Button McKeen's NHL Central Scouting
Nicolas Beaudin 57 34 38 32 48 52 20 55 31 (NA)

If he was a little bit taller, and played in the OHL or the WHL, you could bet that Nicolas Beaudin would be a bonafide first-rounder. Instead, he’s expected to go in the second round, and could potentially slip to the third.

With 69 points in 68 games in the regular season, followed by 11 points in 10 games in the playoffs, Beaudin is a point producing machine, with great mobility and high-end hockey sense that allows him to carve up opposing defensive schemes. Beaudin started off on the Volts second-pair, but quickly ended up playing first-pair minutes and in the playoffs, was up to around 30 minutes per night. As a smaller defenceman in a league that isn’t very physical, Beaudin will need to do some adjusting to the style of play at the next level. That being said, he’s made great strides in defending with his stick, being in the right position, and most of all, transitioning the puck quickly so that he doesn’t even have to defend.

There are some good reasons as to why Beaudin isn’t ranked as a first-rounder though. Outside of the league-wide concern over players of Beaudin’s elk succeeding in the QMJHL, he’s an October 1999 birthday, and played on a really strong Drummondville squad. As you can see in Colin’s visualization below, almost all of Beaudin’s team win the goal scoring battle, with Beaudin’s GF/60 to GA/60 ratio ranking well in comparison to the Q as a whole, but not so well when he’s compared to his teammates. Moreover, only 16 of Beaudin’s 69 points were primary points, meaning that he got a ton of secondary assists. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — it shows that Beaudin’s able to start plays and transition the puck effectively — but given that secondary assists aren’t necessarily a repeatable stat and may be more indicative of team quality, it doesn’t help Beaudin’s case.

All of that being said, Beaudin’s lofty point totals shouldn’t be used against him. Playing for Dominique Ducharme, Team Canada’s U20 head coach and new assistant for the Habs, Beaudin was used a ton and played in all-situations. Any team drafting him — including Montreal or Ottawa — will get a defencemen capable of moving the puck, strong mobility, and the potential for smart defensive play.

Highlights

Alec Regula (RD)

Player Pronman Wheeler Scouch Robinson Davis Kournianos Button McKeen's NHL Central Scouting
Player Pronman Wheeler Scouch Robinson Davis Kournianos Button McKeen's NHL Central Scouting
Alec Regula NR (74) 97 102 101 86 136 79 102 72 (NA)

Playing for the OHL’s London Knights, we already profiled Regula’s defensive partner Evan Bouchard. While Bouchard could likely be chosen in the top ten and Regula outside the top 100, that shouldn’t be a slight on Regula as a player. While playing with the league’s best offensive defenceman may have boosted his point totals, he is still a solid defensive defenceman with NHL upside.

Regula has flip-flopped a bit when it’s come to his development path, originally playing in the USHL with a commitment to the University of Michigan. His 2016-17 season with the Chicago Steel proved to be a success winning the league championship, although in the off-season he decided to jump ship to the OHL. With 25 points in 67 games last year, he was named to the All-Rookie Team, along with potential first round pick Rasmus Sandin.

It’s already a bonus to know that he’s playing for the esteemed Knights organization, and it’s likely the Sens’ scouts have seen him plenty while watching Alex Formenton. Regula is a minute-muncher on the top pairing, and at 6’4” and 200 lbs, he uses his size effectively for closing down gaps. He’s a surprisingly mobile skater, who also uses his stick effectively on the back check. While it’s easy to get caught up watching Bouchard dazzle on the ice, Regula was right there with him setting him up and covering on some turnovers. Think of him as Marc Methot was to Erik Karlsson.

If you’ve been reading these profiles, you’ve probably figured out by now that I usually don’t like featuring prospects if they have some numbers to back them up. Here are two plots of OHL defencemen age 18 or younger — the first one shows on-ice goals for vs. on-ice goals against per 60 minutes, while the second one shows time on ice per game vs. primary points (i.e. goals + first assists) per 60 minutes.

Find more CHL stats here.

While Regula isn’t quite at Bouchard-level junior hockey stardom, he still comes in at the top right (i.e. good) quadrant for both plots. His relative GF% of 6.33 led all London defencemen. Combine this with his defensive toolbox, he could make for a solid addition to the Sens’ barren prospect pool of right shot defencemen.

Highlights

Jacob Bernard-Docker (RD)

Player Pronman Wheeler Scouch Robinson Davis Kournianos Button McKeen's NHL Central Scouting
Player Pronman Wheeler Scouch Robinson Davis Kournianos Button McKeen's NHL Central Scouting
Jacob Bernard-Docker 72 56 78 55 NR (100) 84 50 56 33 (NA)

A player who could very well be around for the Sens third-round pick, Jacob Bernard-Docker was the AJHL’s best defenceman this season, and has a modern skillset that’ll benefit many NHL teams. Just under the BCHL in terms of Canada’s best Junior A leagues, the AJHL is home to many 18, 19, and 20 year old forwards trying to keep their hockey dreams alive, and a prime scouting ground for collegiate programs in the States. Bernard-Docker’s 41 points in 49 games (0.84 PPG) ranked fourth among all U18 skaters this season, and first among defencemen. In fact, Bernard-Docker’s production this season as an U18 blueliner is only second to fourth overall pick Cale Makar in the last 15 years. It was enough to catch the attention of North Dakota, who will having Bernard-Docker join the BCHL’s Jonathan Tychonick on their blueline next season.

What kind of player is he? A slick, 6-foot-1 right-shot defenceman who anchored the top-pair for Canada at the World Junior A Challenge (alongside Tychonick). He’s got quick feet and the agility to navigate his blueline without issues, has decent strength when battling in the defensive zone, and strong hockey sense. He had 20 (!) goals this season, and likes to utilize both a slapshot from the point, as well as a snap shot after jumping into a dangerous scoring location. Of course, this means that Bernard-Docker takes many chances in the offensive zone and pinches quite a bit; his skating is good enough to help him at the AJHL level but will need to develop his reads at the NCAA, and then at the pro level to be able to do that effectively.

My worry with Junior A players is that the quality of competition is so different that it’s hard to get a read on how they’ll translate their play, but I’m less worried about Bernard-Docker and the previously-profiled Tychonick because not only have they excelled to historic levels, but they’ve also been identified by a strong collegiate program and will be surrounded by capable staff to help them succeed. By no means will Bernard-Docker be ready for the pro game in two years, but the Senators could have a real skilled player with top-four ceiling if they’re patient with his development.

Highlights

Jett Woo (RD)

Player Pronman Wheeler Scouch Robinson Davis Kournianos Button McKeen's NHL Central Scouting
Player Pronman Wheeler Scouch Robinson Davis Kournianos Button McKeen's NHL Central Scouting
Jett Woo NR (74) 68 47 54 32 60 52 41 28 (NA)

On top of having the best name in the entire draft (yes, ahead of Blade Jenkins and Nando Eggenberger), Jett Woo has made a name for himself in the WHL. Heading into the season as a potential first round pick, Woo lived up to the hype until he hit a wall in the second half. A separated shoulder injury in November set him back 20 games, and even upon his return, he was still having to get it treated. As a physically imposing player, it clearly had an impact on his ability to play. Before the injury, he had 17 points in 18 games (P/GP of 0.94). Afterwards, he had 8 points in 26 games (P/GP of 0.31), a third of what he was scoring previously.

Playing for the Moose Jaw Warriors, his team added junior superstar defenceman Kale Clague mid-season, reducing Woo’s role once he returned from injury. This drop-off is what has seen Woo falling down draft boards, which is why he could potentially be available as late as the Sens’ third pick at #95.

Woo definitely has offensive potential, although his strength lies in, well, his strength. At 6’0” and 200 lbs, he’s a physically mature player who can create space for himself and his teammates. An above-average skater, his passes mostly come in transition out of the defensive zone, with few carries. While he may have a lower ceiling because of his offensive limitations, he still has the ability to make a good read while breaking out the puck.

Using the same graphs that we used for Alec Regula, we can see that Jett Woo has some great underlying numbers.

More CHL stats can be found here.

A really interesting comparison to be made with Woo is Ty Smith, who could potentially be a top ten pick on Friday. You can spot Smith on the first graph as the Spokane Chiefs player right underneath Woo. While Smith may be a higher scorer than Woo and have more dynamic offensive abilities, Woo was also dragged down by injuries. Both had strong statistical seasons, and it’s interesting to see Woo next to someone who could be picked 40-80 picks higher.

In summary, Woo brings a strong physical presence, and although he has limited offensive upside, he still has the potential to be a key contributor at both ends of the ice. There’s some risk involved of potentially being an injury-prone player, as his play was significantly derailed in the second half, even upon his return.

Highlights

Scott Perunovich (LD)

Player Pronman Wheeler Scouch Robinson Davis Kournianos Button McKeen's NHL Central Scouting
Player Pronman Wheeler Scouch Robinson Davis Kournianos Button McKeen's NHL Central Scouting
Scott Perunovich 40 NR (100) 84 78 NR* NR* NR (100) 104 102 (NA)

*Indicates list doesn’t include overage players.

By now, many of you have heard of why we’re high on Christian Wolanin. He had a strong season for North Dakota, has some international pedigree, and looked effective in his small NHL sample. What if I told you that Wolanin wasn’t the best defencemen in his conference this year, and instead, that honour went to a 19 year old draft eligible player? Meet Scott Perunovich.

With 36 points (11G, 25A) in 42 games this year for the championship winning University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, Perunovich was awarded the following honours: NCHC All-Rookie Team, NCHC Best Offensive Defenseman, NCHC First All-Star Team, NCHC Rookie of the Year, NCAA (!) Top Collegiate Rookie, NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team. Pernovich’s points-per-game rate has him 10th in the NCAA among defencemen despite this just being his first NCAA season, and 58% of his points were at even-strength. He also has significant international experience, suiting up for the States at the Ivan Hlinka in 2015-16, and winning a bronze medal at the 2018 World Juniors with 3 points in 7 games.

Perunovich was ranked for both the 2016 and 2017 drafts, but didn’t make it through for a couple of reasons. First, his size: Perunovich is listed at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds and even that seems a little generous. With the league starting to accept undersized forwards, there’s still the prevailing archetype of the big, strong Ben Harpur-like defenceman, so Perunovich stands antithetic to that. Second, it’s not out of the ordinary for a player who went through the U.S. high school system to get undrafted in his first year of eligibility. Yes, we could expect the good players to be identified, but there are a lot of misses here too with teams finding it hard to evaluate the quality of competition differences. For the record, Perunovich controlled what he could control, playing in the state of Minnesota and putting up 68 points in 25 games to rank fourth in his league. Finally, there were more concerns about Perunovich’s defensive game. Teams questioned how he’d do against older, stronger players and didn’t think he had the ability to make up for his lack of size. It’s unfortunate for those teams now, because they’re likely going to have to spend a significantly higher pick to acquire Perunovich versus a 7th last year.

Although it’s hard to compare what Perunovich did to 17 and 18 year old top picks like Charlie McAvoy and Quinn Hughes, I’m hesitant to discount all of Perunovich’s performance due to him being a year older than his peers. Sometimes, players — especially those who have historically been undervalued — have to continue to prove themselves, and it looks like Perunovich continues to be the little engine that could. The Sens haven’t shied away from drafting overage players in the past, with the aforementioned Wolanin, Todd Burgess, and if we go all the way back to 2008, Zack Smith. He’s potentially around as an option in the third or fourth round.


MORE DRAFT COVERAGE

Top Forwards
Top Defencemen
Pick #22 Forwards
Pick #22 Defencemen
Other Interesting Forwards
Goalies