Ottawa Senators Top 25 Under 25, #24: Joel Daccord

Daccord makes his first appearance on our coveted list after a strong season at Arizona State

24. Joel Daccord (Reader Rank: 29, Last Year: N/A)

With the addition of Filip Gustavsson through trade and Kevin Mandolese by way of draft pick, Daccord’s position in the Sens’ organizational depth chart is muddled at best. He’s not one of the best options in the system, but with a couple years of collegiate play under his belt, he’s less of an unknown compared to Mandolese and Medicine Hat’s Jordan Hollett. Organizational changes are something that Daccord has very little control over. What he can control — his play, to an extent — he has, and his steady improvement year after year is what helps him find his way onto our list.

Daccord, a seventh round pick (#199) in 2015, was drafted out of the U.S. high school circuit as an overager in part because of his ‘pro-like’ preparation. Daccord’s father, Brian, reportedly had a big part to play in that, given that he founded a goalie school called Stop It Goaltending and consulted for the Boston Bruins, among other pro teams. North America’s 10th ranked goaltender heading into the 2015 Draft according NHL’s Central Scouting, the consensus was as follows: Daccord is technically strong and has grown in his athleticism, which, in conjunction with his size (6-foot-2, 196 pounds) allows him to stop a lot of pucks. He’s also likely one of the best goalies at handling the puck that the Sens have ever had in their system, and if the antiquated trapezoid rule wasn’t in place, it would likely add a ton to Daccord’s value. Nevertheless, the stretch passes — some of which are included in the highlight pack below — help Daccord act as a third defender and could potentially get other teams thinking twice about dumping the puck into a poor location when he’s in net.

This combination sounds tantalizing, but wasn’t enough to get him drafted higher nor committed to a better calibre program than Arizona State, who started playing in the NCAA’s top division in 2016-17 with Daccord as their backstop after one season in Muskegeon in the USHL.

This prognosis, although initially poor, may end up working out in Daccord’s favour because he’s getting to do what most goaltenders presumably need to do in order to develop: face a lot of pucks. In his first year, the Sun Devils started a three-player rotation that included Robert Levin (13 starts) and Ryland Pashovitz (11 starts). All three goaltenders struggled as you would’ve expected them to on an expansion team — something Sens fans can appreciate — as Arizona State had 22 losses and just five wins in their first year. Daccord was in net for 49 of the 116 goals against over 29 games, and carried a save percentage of 0.892 — a median mark for his team but ranked 68 out of 75 league-wide. In comparison, his play last season was markedly better, with Daccord playing in 32 of Arizona State’s 37 games and improving his save percentage to 0.909 — 40th league-wide.

Now, I bolded the word presumably because we, the public, don’t really know much about player development in general. And, as always, we know even less about the play of goaltenders. The tracking of scoring chances and shot locations, the development of expected goals models, and metrics like goals-saved-above-average (GSAA) have made it easier to tease apart the play of ‘tenders in the NHL, but statistics like these are impossible to find at the lower levels. One thing that struck my eye every time I glanced at Daccord’s numbers is the amount of shots he was facing, and although College Hockey Inc. (my main source for NCAA stats) doesn’t have a “shots per minute” statistic, it was easy enough to create by dividing shots faced by minutes played. Lo and behold, Daccord ranked first in this new category in both 2016-17 (0.621 shots per minute) and 2017-18 (0.640 shots per minute). This may not sound like a big difference, but Daccord was one of just a handful of goalies to cross the 0.6 barrier; the average NCAA goaltender faced 0.501 shots per minute in 2016-17 and 0.492 in 2017-18.

Now, we could look at this a couple of ways. First, it is factual to say that compared to other collegiate goaltenders, Daccord is facing the most rubber on a per minute basis, and although goaltender workload is a concept that is usually limited to games started or minutes played, you could make the argument that something like shots per minute could factor in as well. It’s not a stretch to say that Daccord has to track more pucks and the bodies moving with those pucks, and this could be an important skill to hone (?). Certainly the Senators think that, with the team taking their goalie prospects to a vision training session at Amped Sports Lab and Ice Complex in Ottawa every year (which, according to the Sens communications team, is a certified “Dynamic Edge Sports Vision Training facility” — sounds fancy) and hockey teams around the world are looking at technology like this to get some sort of insight into optimizing goaltender performance.

But one of the initial questions that I like to ask is: “does it matter?” It’s hard to say, especially with the limited data available, but it’s worth noting that I ran some basic correlations between shots per minute and all-situations save percentage at the NCAA level and got r2 values of 0.01018 and 0.00029 respectively. Basically: if shots per minute does matter, it doesn’t appear that there’s any relationship with save percentage — our primary goaltending metric — at all. In comparison, just raw minutes played had a weak correlation with save percentage in both years (r2=0.14 and r2=0.13).

In any case, here’s what we know about Daccord: he plays behind a weak (especially defensively) Arizona State team and sees a lot of pucks. Chances are he’ll be doing so again this upcoming season, and when it concludes, the Sens will have to decide whether they want to let Daccord return for a penultimate senior year and risk free agency, or to sign him — signifying his eventual spot in Belleville or the ECHL. In my mind, the free agency risk is inconsequential here: if Daccord has a lights out season and improves his save percentage to a point where he ranks in the top third of collegiate goaltenders, sign him. If not, take the gamble with letting him play in his senior year, as a large change after three years in a similar environment isn’t likely and even if it is, he’s unlikely to have many suitors given that there’s a limited number of goalie spots in an organizational depth chart relative to skaters. Organizationally speaking, the Senators will be at a point next offseason where they’re ready to make a decision on Marcus Hogberg (“is he good enough for the NHL or are we letting him return to Sweden?”) and Daccord can potentially duke it out with Jordan Hollett for a backup AHL job or a starting ECHL job. The presence of Hollett and the forthcoming Mandolese means that there’s insurance here for Dorion and co., which makes it easier for them to resign themselves to the fact that they rolled the dice on a goalie in the seventh round — not the worst choice by any means — and it didn’t work out.

For Daccord, the goal is simple: take advantage of the environment you’re in — a starting job in one of the best developmental leagues in the world — and try your best to stop a lot of pucks. An improvement akin to year one would give Daccord a 0.926 save percentage, but a 0.920 would’ve ranked him 15th league-wide this year. If he gets there, I think there’s a decent evidence base to justify signing Daccord and seeing what he can do as a 23/24 year old at the pro level.

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