Brunman: The NHL prospects I was wrong about, from K’Andre Miller to Jesperi Kotkaniemi
I’m pretty much not perfect, especially when it comes to voicing my opinions on the future of teenage hockey players. I make a lot of mistakes, and I will continue to do so in the future.
So, every year I look at some of the major player reviews I got wrong. I’m not just looking to provide chuckles to my readers – I’m looking to take the key lessons and share them with the audience.
There are two criteria that I use to determine what is wrong. The first is that it must be a mistake that you can learn from. If all the information points one way at the time of the assessment and there is no convincing argument that I missed something essential at that time, it may be because of the high error rate inherent in adolescent prediction.
The second is the size of the error. If you offer a player as a two-and-two defenseman now, that’s not worth discussing on this forum.
I urge you to refer back to previous articles as I may have already discussed a player I messed up before you commented that it should have been included:
The NHL Predictions You Were Wrong About: 2021-22
The NHL Predictions You Were Wrong About: 2021
The NHL Predictions You Were Wrong About: 2019
The NHL odds you were wrong about: 2018
The NHL Predictions You Were Wrong About: 2017
The NHL prospects you rated are very low
Kandri Miller, LHD, New York Rangers and Matthias Samuelsson, LHD, Buffalo
Why would I include these two players on different NHL teams together? Miller and Samuelson were on the same NTDP All-American team, same draft year, and have similarities in their playing styles, so I thought it made sense to talk about them collectively even if you would rate Miller a good amount higher as a player.
I wasn’t particularly high when both players entered their draft and even a year or two after that. I’ve just seen great defensemen skate well with some physique, and I thought they were headed to a third NHL pair if they did. It couldn’t be more than that. They both look like the best four defensive players and Miller was an absolute rock in the playoffs for the Rangers last spring.
While neither of them would be a true PP1 in the NHL, I underestimated their offensive potential. Miller has skill and a great shot, while Samuelsson is smart enough to deliver a secondary attack on the outlets and blue line play.
Overall, though, over the past few years I’ve felt I’ve systematically devalued large, mobile, and physical defenders like these two in favor of smaller players with a flashier kit. I’m going to need to reset that from now on, given how few of the latter kind of players play key minutes on a blue line.
Sean Dorsey, RHD, Los Angeles
When I saw a young Dorsey I thought he had an excellent sense of hockey. He made several tough plays with the puck, showing quality vision in his outlets and in the offensive area. He was an obvious NHL puck, but I thought his skate wasn’t of NHL caliber to go with a medium-sized frame. You’ve seen a good prospect, but you’ve seen a lot of mid-sized and mid-level players skating in junior highs with a good offense who go straight into the AHL and never leave. I haven’t seen a guy who can defend like a professional and he’d have an offense that good, but not incredibly well. I might have taken him for returning to the CHL as a transgression despite being a youngster in the AHL as a late birth date. I’ve seen a potential AHLer who’s probably going to get some NHL games.
Since then, Durzi has made the NHL and shown he can help a team at this level. He played 22 minutes a night in the playoffs for the Kings last spring. His skating and defense are still uninspired, but his excellent hockey IQ has allowed him to help the NHL team and play at that level. Intelligent defensemen are always very tempting, and although not every one of them makes it with athleticism, I should have bet more on a defenseman who has a hockey sense and looks different than the other players.
Kaiden Guhle, LHD, Montreal
Guhle was a little player whose physical gadgets jump out at you. He was this huge defensive guy who had excellent gap control and was very physical. The attackers did not overpower him and he regularly punished those who tried. I’ve seen all of this, but I was totally hooked on his offense. I saw a guy who was fine with the puck, when I watched the Prince Albert team, he wasn’t sometimes on the first power play unit, and I didn’t see him make many plays with the puck.
Even if all of that was true, and I still think it mostly is to this day, he had no offense. Guhle still scored 11 goals and 40 points in 64 WHL games. This has been an adjustment to my process following Guhle, Samuelsson, Miller, and other similar cases over the past few years where I’ve been underestimating large defensemen and overestimating the smaller number. For big, mobile, physical defensemen, even if they have some That’s enough, given all the great things they can do defensively and in transition. I saw my first glimpse of this change in my process on my first 2023 NHL draft roster.
I thought Guhle was just a defensive third player in the NHL, but he clearly has the stamina and competitiveness to be a good player in the top four for a long time.
Janice Moser, LHD, Arizona
A little over a year after being drafted, Moser plays half the game for his NHL club. Yes, it’s on the Coyotes’ thin list, but it’s still impressive nonetheless, especially for a guy who listed it as having “a chance to play” his draft year. Part of how good Moser was at that speed was his age – he was recruited in his third qualifying season. I don’t know if there is any indication that he will become a very important player for his club right away, but in his draft year, Moser was very good against the guys. He captained his NLA team and played a major role and then went to the World Championships for Switzerland when he was 20 years old and he was over his game. Moser went undrafted twice because he was, and still is, a very skater. But he proved over time against the pros that he was very smart and competitive with a decent enough size to overcome those skating issues. Considering what he showed in that third scoring qualifying season at high levels of competition, he should have earned a higher rating.
The NHL prospects you rated are pretty high
Cody Glass, C, Nashville
I was far from the glass. I named him one of the best players in the 2017 NHL Draft and he’s basically been struggling to stay in the NHL lineup ever since. The mistake isn’t as frustrating to me as the reason it was made. I saw a lot of skill in Glass and loved his playmaking and hockey smarts, especially for a senior center. But truth be told some of the times I watched him I wasn’t thrilled about him because his game might lack pace and energy, and the scouts I was talking to were wondering if his game would work as a pro. It seems silly to say that, especially since I’ve never been shy about expressing my opinions (sometimes violently), but I felt like I was following the crowd a bit on Glass, who at the time was universally ranked as the top prospect in the draft and was the MVP in the draft. WHL. I thought especially after the U-18 World Championships in his recruiting season, where he laid an egg, that he didn’t look like an overly special player.
An NHL scout friend of mine once told me that the biggest mistake he and his team made was following the crowd and putting a player “where he belongs” on their roster even if they weren’t enthusiastic about the player. This is a lesson I learned with Glass. I’ve learned to trust my instincts a lot in the past few years when I can tell a notch feels right.
Jesse Ylonen, RW, Montreal
The Ylon case was difficult for me. I rated him very highly in his draft as a top 20 prospect. I thought he was an excellent skater, with a high level of skill and the ability to open a shift. I remember watching him as a minor in the under-18 worlds and being blown away by his talent. His draft year was solid but not impressive. He played in Finland’s professional second division, a league that historically doesn’t produce NHL players, and posted decent numbers but didn’t quite light it up.
I still rate him highly for the natural talent he has, even if his game lacked physicality and effort at times and scouts had questions about whether the way he played would translate to the big league. I remember talking to an NHL executive about Ylonen at the time who said he would be reluctant to rate a player with his output that high unless “the kit was simply off the charts”. It wasn’t for Ylonen – it was very good, just not at that level. It was a very aggressive classification, and I’ve learned to try not to fall in love with dynamic traits so easily if they don’t produce actual results.
Dominic Bok, RW, Carolina
This is a huge whiff. I loved Bock in his draft. I thought he was a dynamic offensive talent who had a chance to be a top-tier player in the draft. Yes, his production in order to qualify for draft in the Swedish Junior League was nothing short of amazing, and yes, when he went on to play for the U20 team in Germany, his form in the competition wasn’t very good and he did lay an egg in the Junior Team of the World. pool b. But look at the skill (which is what I thought)! He had a lot of skill. Poké games for the little ones were like watching one-man’s premium reels at times. This was a humbling example, an example of the limits of looking at pure offensive talent, learning to think about a player’s effort level and ability to play levels, and most importantly.
Ryan Merkley, RHD, San Jose
Merkley has had a lot of discussion and noise surrounding him over the past few years. That’s what his case boils down to: He’s an elite passer who skates well, but not incredibly, and he’s a small defensive lineman who doesn’t run well. I still rate him highly because of that skill and especially his passing ability. He would put on unique plays that few others could do at such a high rate. I still think he has a solid chance and has about 40 NHL games already, but the offense just wasn’t there as a pro as I thought. Combine that with the fact that there aren’t many 5-foot-11 linebackers in the NHL who are substandard linebackers and I’m clearly over Merkley.
Connor McMichael, C, Washington
McMichael is a funny case for me of not being a fan at one point. I didn’t rate him as a first-round pick in his 2018 draft and then in the seasons that followed raised his potential rating to a true first-class player. I was probably wrong either way, maybe the truth is in the middle! I’ve always respected that he has the skill, the feeling and the ability to score goals, but the discussion about McMichael has always been about his skating, especially for his size. I thought at first he was bad enough to keep him out of the league, which maybe was a bit harsh, but then I thought he was so dynamic offensively that it wouldn’t be a big deal, which was probably too ambitious and I got over the offense a bit. He’s a hard worker, but the lack of foot speed will likely keep him from becoming an impact professional, although I think over time as he matures physically, he’ll still be a good player in the NHL.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C, Carolina
Kotkaniemi is a player whose stock has continued to rise as the recruiting season progresses. I think our minds usually associate these cases with players who tend to be very successful, but this was a case of a stock that probably shouldn’t have gone so high. Kotkaniemi has always been interesting as a big center with very good skill and vision, but he has never produced truly huge numbers at any level or tournament. His stock peaked after the 2018 U-18 Worlds, where Finland won a gold medal; Their position was No. 1 and he played excellent. Even as he played great, there were still concerns about his skating, and he was still third on the team in scoring. I still see a very good player who could be a legitimate mid-line-up position for a while, but I’d rate him a top-five pick, and there’s probably a lot of modernity bias. I should have focused on his pure kit and overall record.
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