Corey Pronman has been a long time prospect writer working previously at ESPN and now employed by The Athletic. On Thursday, he released an article looking back on the 2014 NHL Entry Draft and doing a re-draft. This isn’t all that dissimilar to the series I did over the past year re-drafting for the Tampa Bay Lightning, though obviously with a league wide viewpoint.
There are two points of interest for Lightning fans in this re-draft. Before I dig into that, let’s take a quick review of the Lightning’s 2014 draft class. The Lightning made seven draft picks. There were a number of trades made with draft picks from this draft class, including an extra first from the Martin St. Louis trade that was turned into two second round picks. In the end, the Lightning made an extra pick in the second round and one pick in each of the other rounds other than the fifth round.
Only two players from the Lightning’s 2014 Draft Class have made it to the NHL; Brayden Point and Anthony DeAngelo. And those are the two points of interest from the re-draft article for Lightning fans. The rest of the draft class was made up of Dominik Masin, John MacLeod, Ben Thomas, Cristiano DiGiacinto, and Cam Darcy. Point, Masin, and Thomas are the only players still with the Lightning organization.
Not a surprise that Brayden Point moved up from the third round into the first round. Not just into the first round, but right up to the top. In this re-draft, Pronman started with Leon Draisaitl to the Florida Panthers, David Pastrnak to the Buffalo Sabres, and then Brayden Point to the Edmonton Oilers.
I can’t really argue too much with this order. Draisaitl has been a horse for the Oilers over the past five seasons. Over the past two, he’s averaged over 22 minutes a night which is very rare for a forward. He scored 50 goals last year and is on pace for some where around 45 goals this year. Likewise, Pastrnak has been a consistent goal scoring machine the past four seasons hitting at least 34 goals since 2016-17. He started off this season incredibly hot and has already tied his career high of 38 goals he set last season and is just six points from his career high of 81.
I think it’s very reasonable to slot both of those forwards in ahead of Brayden Point. Point had a slower start to his career, but has really taken off with 32 and 41 goal seasons. He’s also a top center in the league and very deserving of the praise. I might be a bit biased in saying I’d still take him over Pastrnak because centers are harder to find, but probably not over Draisaitl.
This is the point where I disagree with Pronman’s evaluation. He’s worked through the list with Aaron Ekblad being the only defenseman going prior to the Lightning’s 19th overall pick where they originally took Anthony DeAngelo. He then picked DeAngelo again for the Lightning. Pronman rightly notes that DeAngelo is highly sheltered with a 57% offensive zone start percentage and doesn’t kill penalties. He brings offense on the blue line and otherwise, little else.
I was ok with the pick at the time, but was unsure of it because of the big questions about his defense. Those questions were further intensified when he made his professional debut with the Syracuse Crunch. He lasted only a season there before being shipped out to the Arizona Coyotes for a second round pick. There was plenty of rumors surrounding DeAngelo during his time in Syracuse: he didn’t care about the defensive side of the puck, he wasn’t taking to the lessons the coaches tried to teach him, he had character issuues.
Even seeing where DeAngelo is today, I still have to take a pass. I’d much rather have the next two players that Pronman slotted on the re-draft in Kevin Labanc and Danton Heinen who have become more than capable middle six forwards. But if we want to look at it through the lens of the Lightning and their priorities of drafting a defenseman at the time? Give me Travis Sanheim.
In this re-draft, Pronman has Sanheim going 23rd overall to the Colorado Avalanche. If you only look at points, then sure, DeAngelo makes sense. But if you dig a little deeper, Sanheim has more going for him. For one thing, Sanheim much more fits the profile of a two way defenseman with size that the Lightning have shown a preference for on the blue line. Sanheim also hasn’t been a slouch on the offensive side of the puck posting 35 points last season for the Philadelphia Flyers with only two goals and three assists coming on the power play.
DeAngelo is very reliant on the power play to put up his points. In 2016-17 with Arizona, he recorded three goals and three assists in 39 games at even strength, but had two goals and six assists on the power play. The next season was similar in 32 games with the New York rangers where he had six power play assists to just two even strength assists. Last year, DeAngelo started to turn that corner a little bit with four goals and 16 assists at even strength to 10 assists on the power play. He’s doing about the same this year, with nine goals and 18 assists at even strength and three goals and 11 assists on the power play.
Sanheim has been more productive at even strength than the offensive DeAngelo. Overall, his offense just isn’t that far behind what DeAngelo does on the ice. Where he really sets himself a part though is that he’s a capable defender. One way we can look at this is using Evolving-Hockey.com and the Goals Above Replacement and Wins Above Replacement metrics. This ingests a large amount of data and condenses it down to a single number to help judge players against each other.
Sanheim has gotten 735 more minutes of ice time since entering the league. For that reason, I’ve used Per 60 Rates to more fairly compare both players to each other. As expected, DeAngelo outperforms Sanheim on even strength offense (EVO/60) and power play offense (PPO/60). Also as expected, Sanheim beats out DeAngelo by a solid margin on even strength defense (EVD60). DeAngelo actually has a slightly positive shorthanded defense (SHD60), but has also only played about 17 minutes short handed. Sanheim has a bit more time with just over 135 minutes and has been a slight negative there.
Something that stands out is the penalties taken (Take/60). Sanheim demonstrates better discipline than DeAngelo and stays out of the box more. DeAngelo does well in drawing penalties though probably due to his skills in the offensive zone.
When everything is factored in though, Sanheim produces a higher GAR60 and WAR60 than DeAngelo. This has resulted in Sanheim being worth 3.9 WAR since entering the league compared to DeAngelo’s 2.4 WAR. That 3.9 WAR for Sanheim is the same time as Mikhail Sergachev in the same time span and both have a similar TOI, with just 150 minutes difference. Sanheim actually has produced a higher EVO60 than Sergachev.
I can understand where Pronman is coming from with having the Lightning draft DeAngelo again. But if the Lightning front office was making the pick with the same players available, I think they’re picking Sanheim every day of the week. He’s a more well rounded player, he doesn’t need to be sheltered (Philadelphia has pretty evenly divided his zone starts), and he fits what the Lightning want on their blue line far better than what DeAngelo would bring now.